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Language, Learning and Translation: Revision Notes


Bede discusses the bloody year-long reign of King Cadwalla, tyrant of Northumbria: "To this day, that year is looked upon as unhappy, and hateful to all good men; as well on account of the apostasy of the English kings, who had renounced the faith, as of the outrageous tyranny of the British king. Hence it has been agreed by all who have written about the reigns of the kings, to abolish the memory of those perfidious monarchs, and to assign that year to the reign of the following king, Oswald, a man beloved by God." (Ecclesiastical History, Bk. 3, Ch. 1)
"Bede was a severe and exacting teacher but he never wanted a proud academic learning for its own sake of any of his Anglo-Saxon pupils or readers. Bertha, first of the Christian queens, and her daughter Ethelburgh were 'literati', educated women, who received letters from Popes, but their learning held no central role as such in the account of Bede gave of them; that was reserved for their prayer." (Benedicta Ward S. L. G. 'To my dearest sister: Bede and the Educated Woman' in Lesley Smith and Jane H. M. Taylor (eds.) Women, the Book and the Godly (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1995) 109.)
"The evidence surviving from Anglo-Saxon England and from the Germanic cultures in general suggests that there is reason to believe that women may have played as much of a role in Anglo-Saxon literary production as they have in the later periods of English literature." (Fred C. Robinson, The Tomb of Beowulf and Other Essays on Old English (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993) 168-9.)


"Fela wundre wurdon geworhte ðurh ðone halgan Cuðberht, ac we wyllað for sceortnysse sume forsuwian, ðy-læs ðe ðeos racu eow to lang ðince." [Many miracles were performed through the holy Cuthbert, but we will leave some out for brevity, for fear that this explanation should seem too long to you] (Homily on St Cuthbert)
Ælfric's motivation for writing his Homilies: "ic geseah and gehyrde mycel gedwyld on mangeum Engliscum bocum, þe ungelærede menn þurh heora bilewitnysse to micclum wisdome tealdon; and me ofhreow þæt hi ne cuþon ne næfdon þa godspellican lare on heora gewritum." [I saw and heard much heresy in many English books, that unlearned men in their innocence took as great wisdom; and it seemed a pity to me that they did not know and could not have the teaching of the gospel in their own language.] (Preface to the Catholic Homilies)
"Ælfric thought of himself as offering elementary instruction to the simple and ignorant laity". (Malcolm Godden 'Ælfric and the Vernacular Prose Tradition' in P. Szarmach and B. Huppé (eds.) The Old English Homily and its Backgrounds (New York: State University of New York Press, 1978) 106.)

Wisdom Poetry

"Maxims are generalisations. They reflect the world view of the society which forms them". (Paul Cavill, 'Maxims in the Battle of Maldon', Neophilologus 82 (1998): 632.)
"Wærwyrde sceal wisfæst hæle breostum hycgan, nales breahtme hlud." [Wary with words, a wise man shall ponder in his breast, not with loud noise.] (Precepts 57-8)
"Gleawe men sceolon gieddum wrixlan." [Wise people should exchange words] (Maxims IA 1-4)


"Texts from the Middle Ages, we must remember, are usually the product not simply of an author but of collusion among medieval author, scribe, and manuscript illuminator on the one hand and the modern editor on the other." (Fred C. Robinson, The Editing of Old English (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994) vii.)
"The first editors of Old English were the Anglo-Saxons themselves. Changes of an editorial nature were imposed on texts each time that they were copied." (Alexander R. Rumble, 'Palaeography and the Editing of Old English Texts', in The Editing of Old English, ed. D. G. Scragg and Paul E. Szarmach (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1994), 39.)