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the tower of Babel.” The extensive interpolations which frequently occur are usually in the same sense. As it is only by these that Alfred's style as an original author can be appreciated, we give one from Dr. Sedgefield's version :
“All creatures Thou hast made alike, and in some things also not alike.
Extract from Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in English and Latin of the Eleventh Century
showing brief mention of Alfred's death :
British Museum, Cott. MS. Dom. A 8 “DCCCCI in this year died King Alfred on the 26th of October ; and he held the kingdom twenty-eight years and a half;
and then Eadward his son took the kingdom"
Though Thou hast given one name to all creatures, naming them the World when taken together, yet Thou hast parted the single name among four creatures : one is Earth, the second Water, the third Air, the fourth Fire. To each of them Thou hast appointed its own separate place ; each is kept distinct from the other, and yet held in bonds of peace by Thine ordinance, so that none of them should overstep the other's bounds, but cold brooketh heat, and wet suffereth dry. Earth and water have a cold nature ; earth is dry
ALFRED'S PROSE AND VERSE
and cold ; water wet and cold. Air is defined as both cold and wet and also warm. This is not to be wondered at, for air is created half-way between the dry cold earth and the hot fire. Fire is uppermost above all these worldly creatures. Wonderful is Thy contriving to have done both things : namely, to have bounded things one over against the other, and likewise to have mingled the dry cold earth beneath the cold wet water, so that the yielding and flowing water hath a home in the solid earth, being unable to stand alone. The earth holdeth the water and in some degree sucketh it in, and is maintained by what it sucketh, so that it groweth and beareth blossoms and likewise fruits ; for, if the water did not moisten it, it would dry up and be scattered by the wind like dust or ashes. No living thing could enjoy the land or the water, nor dwell in either for the cold, if Thou hadst not in some measure mingled them with fire. With marvellous skill Thou hast so ordered that fire doth not burn up water and earth, when mingled with either ; nor again do water and earth wholly quench fire.”
The Anglo-Saxon prose of the day was thus very straightforward and simple, neglectful of ornament, and little capable of expressing abstruse thought. The impressiveness which it possesses arises mainly from the character of the writer. If he be a man like Alfred, the force of the personality will irradiate the artlessness of the phraseology. It must be remembered that this was almost the first prose that had been written in English, and that a distinction between lettered and colloquial speech was hardly recognised. Prose is always younger than her sister Poetry, and her beginnings are more timid and awkward. Whether Alfred can claim the title of poet is doubtful. The numerous poetical compositions interspersed through the Consolation are in his version rendered into prose ; but the work is accompanied by a metrical translation of them, or rather a metrical elaboration of the old version, distinctly attributed to him by the writer of an anonymous preface. “These cares are very hard for us to reckon that in his days came upon the kingdoms to which he had succeeded, and yet when he had studied this book and turned it from Latin into English prose, he wrought it up once more into verse, as it is now done." The editor, therefore, wrote at some subsequent period of tranquillity: if under Athelstan or even Edgar his testimony deserves respect, even though apparently contrary to a short prelude in verse prefixed to the metrical renderings, hardly so if under Edward the Confessor. Without doubt, however, the version is of the age of Alfred, and extracts may serve well as specimens of the Anglo-Saxon poetry of his time :
O Thou Creator of bright constellations
And with her pale beams the bright stars
That shall be ours to own after these hardships.
Alfred's history and geography
55 appear in comparison with the great authors of the past, he had lived at the period when history first became ripe for philosophical treatment, and was in fact the mouthpiece of no less remarkable a genius than St. Augustine. Augustine's narrow theory of history was, with all its defects, the first theory of history that had ever been broached; nor indeed was any theory possible until material for thought should have been provided by greater mutations in the world's affairs than had been beheld by
ticipuut Thucydides or Tacitus. The speculations of St. Augustine
go lelfieous Hey hec mol thus indicated distinct advance in the evolution
legs fatulatapuri of the human mind, and
mula coy guo predraffo by their recognition of a
resmi tetuerunt 7 mich divine plan and purpose in
placuiunt'Ammia que history became invested with
mchi appliquerunt abre a moral value which in Alfred's eyes
doubt c confilio saprettimen aaltor obfer transcended their utility as udve preceni ufnufa uolui &e mes da a mere record of events,
paulis motivo poneto dubtosms gus Even from this latter point
pofteris mis toe placeret 9 gruie tepi of view Orosius's jejune abstract probably gave Alfred's
su puebus (Jne Begus agnati me uel countrymen as much infor- offe mira non fegis uel Aelbriches mation as they were able to guipmus m unglon gente baptizatus turn to account. Orosius was
Mest que mkona funt roja hic collega cetags a geographer as well as an historian, and the geographi
omni. Ego Alfies effekomi Pev om cal portion of his treatise in
mbus sapienabus meis hec oftena et spired Alfred with the happy Decrunt omnes plantes cuftosivos idea of himself drawing up
Beginning of the Laws of Alfred a geographical account of
From a MS. in the British Museum the Northern lands unknown to his author. This little treatise, excellent in every way, entitles Alfred to the fame of the first English geographer. It is accompanied by accounts of voyages related to him by visitors to his court-Ohtere the Norwegian, who had doubled the North Cape and explored the White Sea; and Wulfstan, a Dane, who had visited Esthonia. These documents, most interesting in themselves, sufficiently attest Alfred's insatiable curiosity and zeal for the publication as well as the acquisition of knowledge.
The most remarkable feature of Alfred's translation of Gregory's
Pastoral Care is the well-known preface in which he laments the decay of learning owing to the Danish invasions, and makes the remarkable statement that when he came to the throne not a single priest to the south of the Thames was acquainted with Latin. “In former days," he says, “people from abroad came to this land for wisdom and instruction, and now we should have to get them abroad if we were going to have them.” The existence of any scholarly class apart from the clergy being in Alfred's day impossible, the elevation of the general standard of culture must necessarily begin by the elevation of the clergy, and probably no better first step could have been taken than the translation and dissemination of the treatise of the greatest of the Popes. After a while the paths of Gregory and Alfred would diverge. Gregory wished to make the clergy supreme in the State: Alfred would make them instruments for the general good. For a while they could travel on together ; but could Alfred have lived to the time of Dunstan he must have appeared in a new character, and the voice of the ecclesiastics who then monopolised history would not have been so uniformly favourable to him. It was his marvellous good fortune to live exempt from controversies, to have no enemies except the enemies of his people; no rivals to dispute his throne; no ministers to challenge a share of his glory; no foreign interference; no inward temptation ; no hostile critics; no jealous detractor ; to be one not too far in advance of his times nor in any respect behind them ; a unique example of a man whom none could wish in any respect other than what he
Before parting with Alfred, it should be pointed out that the life of him by his teacher, Bishop Asser, has been so largely interpolated that Mr. Thomas Wright and Sir Henry Howorth have doubted its authenticity. Such romantic legends as the burning of the cakes, and such unhistorical statements as the foundation of the university of Oxford by Alfred exist, however, only in late MSS., and were not found in a nearly contemporary manuscript of the tenth century, which unfortunately perished in the fire which consumed so much of the Cottonian Library in 1732, but not until it had been edited by Francis Wise (Oxford, 1722). These interpolations are not noticed by Florence of Worcester, who wrote at the beginning of the twelfth century, and continually copies Asser without naming him. Professor Freeman, moreover, has pointed out little touches of internal evidence almost proving that the author must have been a Celt.
Nothing is more noteworthy in the history of English literature and education in Alfred's time than the degree in which all intellectual impulse is imparted by the King, at once the mechanist and the mainspring of the entire machinery. He is his people's sole teacher and their sole legislator. Asser, Plegmund, and the other eminent men around him would apparently have remained undistinguished without him ; great as the desert must have been the merit which brought Asser out of a Welsh monastery and Plegmund out of a hermitage. Alfred's history repeats