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For this, I would that they always should be at their place, unless the bishop will have them with him, or they be anywhere lent, or some one write others by them.
Alfred the Great was born, according to the commonly accepted authorities, in 849, and died in 901. As a result of the celebration of the millennial of his birth, at Wantage, his birthplace, in Berkshire, in 1849, a Jubilee edition of his complete works was undertaken; and these two large volumes, published a few years later, contain not only substantially all of Alfred's own writings, but illustrative essays and historical and literary notes by many of the leading Anglo-Saxon scholars of the time. This edition remains the great resource for the student of Alfred, although there are various editions of the several works, both in Alfred's Anglo-Saxon text and in modern English translation. See the article on Alfred by Freeman in the Dictionary of National Biography.
We have in the two volumes of Alfred's writings the great king's Will, the various Charters which bear his signature, his version of the historian Orosius, his version of the Venerable Bede's "Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation," his version of Boethius's "Consolations of Philosophy," a portion of his version of Gregory's "Pastoral Care," his Blossom Gatherings from Saint Augustine, his Laws, and the preface to his version of Gregory's "Dialogues." A few other works have been ascribed to Alfred. Their authenticity is discussed by Professor Earle in his essay upon "King Alfred as a Writer" in the little volume on Alfred edited by the mayor of Winchester, published in 1899.
Alfred's work is almost entirely translation. His preface to Gregory's Pastoral Care" is a plea for the education of the people, especially in their own English tongue, by giving them the best literature in good translations. But Alfred was the freest of translators. Sometimes, he tells us himself, he gives us word for word, sometimes meaning for meaning. Sometimes, too, he makes important interpellations, short and long, his author simply serving him as a text or point of departure; and he often omits sections which he thinks will not be of service to his people. At a time when learning was almost dead in England, he looked about for the things which would give his people the most valuable information and the best inspiration; and these things he translated into the language of the people, with the help of the best scholars whom he could summon, and circulated by the best means which the conditions of the time made possible. We know that a copy of his translation of Gregory's "Pastoral Care" was sent to every bishop in England. On the whole, perhaps he could not have made a better selection for his purpose. A glance at the list will show that he gave to his people something in their own English history, something in general history, something in geography, in philosophy, and in religion.
In Old South Leaflet No. 113 is published the section from Alfred's translation of Bede which gives the account of Augustine's mission to England. In the present leaflet is given the first chapter of his version of Orosius, a large portion of which chapter, the main description of Europe, is an original insertion of his own, his account, made up from the best information he could collect, of Europe in his time. It is not only most valuable and interesting as Alfred's work, but as the only authentic contemporary record of the Germanic nations so early as the ninth century. It is perhaps the most important contribution made to geographical science in Alfred's time. His account of the voyages of Ohthere, a Norwegian of his time, around the North Cape, and of Wulfstan in the Baltic Sea, and his general description of Europe or, as he calls it, Germania, are of unique value.
No general history of the world was so well known or so highly esteemed in the time of Alfred as that by Orosius. Indeed, it continued to be held in high esteem down to the time of the invention of printing, being one of the first works that was selected for the press. Orosius was a learned Spanish priest, born in the latter part of the fourth century, the friend of Jerome and of Augustine. When Rome was captured and pillaged by Alaric the Goth in 410. the Romans accused Christianity of being the cause of the affliction and ruin which had befallen the empire. It was to meet this charge that Augustine wrote his "City of God," which is really a philosophy of history, pointing out the increasing providential purpose which runs through the ages and the actual amelioration which had come through Christianity. At Augustine's request and to strengthen the argument, Orosius wrote his compendium of history in the same spirit, covering human history from the beginnings down to his own time; and this is the work, occupying two hundred pages of the Jubilee edition, which Alfred translated into Anglo-Saxon. The translation into modern English is by Joseph Bosworth, and the notes - some of which are used in the preceding pages are his.
Perhaps the most careful and thorough of the biographies of Alfred is that by the German Pauli, published about 1850. He says in his preface that it was written by a German for Germans." Twenty years later Thomas Hughes wrote the life of Alfred which most of us love best. His work, he said, remembering Pauli's word, was the work of "an Englishman for Englishmen." There are also lives by Giles, Macfadyen, and others. In preparation for the commemoration of the millennial of Alfred's death at Winchester in 1901, a little volume, "Alfred the Great, was published in 1899, by direction of the committee on the celebration, edited by Alfred Bowker, secretary of the committee and former mayor of Winchester; and this is one of the most useful books on Alfred. The general introduction is by Sir Walter Besant, and this is followed by a series of special essays on the
various aspects of Alfred's life and work: Alfred as King," by Frederic Harrison; "Alfred as a Religious Man and an Educationalist," by the Bishop of Bristol; Alfred as a Warrior," by Charles Oman; "Alfred as a Geographer," by Sir Clements Markham; "Alfred as a Writer," by Professor John Earle; "English Law before the Norman Conquest," by Sir Frederick Pollock; and "Alfred and the Arts," by Rev. W. J. Loftie. Mr. Markham's essay, from which brief passages are printed on a preceding page, will be read with special interest by students of this leaflet, as will also the essay on The Geography of King Alfred the Great," by R. T. Hampson, in the Jubilee edition of Alfred's works.
We come into first-hand touch with Alfred in the old Saxon Chronicle and in the Life of Alfred, by Asser, his friend and bishop, whose authenticity is now generally concede. The various chronicles relating to Alfred are brought together in the Jubilee edition of Alfred's works, also in a recent volume by Conybeare, and partially elsewhere. Alfred was the deliverer of Saxon England from the Danes. The long story of his humiliations and defeats is like the story of Washington's Jersey campaigns. Athelney was like Valley Forge; and the fortitude and patience of Alfred through it all were like the fortitude and patience of Washington. Ethandune was his Yorktown. He was the founder of the English navy. He was the real founder of London as it was during the Middle Ages and as it is to-day. His code of laws stands out pre-eminent. He desired universal education, and worked strenuously for it,-the education of the people, based not on Latin, but on English. He sought to bring his island people into touch with the general civilization of Europe. He was, in a very real sense, the founder of English literature.
No other character in history has been the subject of loftier praise than Alfred the Great. "Amidst the deepest gloom of barbarism," wrote Gibbon, "the virtue of Antoninus, the learning and valor of Cæsar, and the legislative genius of Lycurgus shine forth united in that patriot king." Says Green in his " History of the English People":"Alfred was the noblest as he was the most complete embodiment of all that is great, all that is lovable, in the English temper. He combined, as no other man has ever combined, its practical energy, its patient and enduring force, its profound sense of duty, the reserve and self-control that steadies in it a wide outlook and a restless daring, its temperance and fairness, its frank geniality, its sensitiveness to affection, its poetic tenderness, its deep and passionate religion." Says Freeman, in his "History of the Norman Conquest": Alfred is the most perfect character in history. . . . A saint without superstition, a scholar without ostentation, a warrior all whose wars were fought in the defence of his country, a conqueror whose laurels were never stained by cruelty, a prince never cast down by adversity, never lifted up to insolence in the day of triumph, there is no other name in history to compare with his." He institutes comparisons with Saint Louis of France, with Charles the Great, and with the English Edward, all to the advantage of Alfred. "The virtue of Alfred," he says, "like the virtue of Washington, consisted in no marvellous displays of superhuman genius, but in the simple, straightforward discharge of the duty of the moment. But Washington, soldier, statesman, and patriot, like Alfred, has no claim to Alfred's further characters of saint and scholar. William the Silent, too, has nothing to set against Alfred's literary merits; and in his career, glorious as it is, there is an element of intrigue and chicanery utterly alien to the noble simplicity of both Alfred and Washington.'
These tributes could be paralleled by passages from Hughes, Pauli, Giles, Frederic Harrison, and a score of students of Alfred. "Alfred," wrote Sir Walter Besant, looking forward to the dedication of the monument at Winchester at the millennial celebration in 1901, 'is and will always remain the typical man of our race,-call him Anglo-Saxon, call him American, call him Englishman, call him Australian,- the typical man of our race at his best and noblest. When our monument takes shape and form, let it somehow recognize this great, this cardinal fact. Let it show somehow by the example of Alfred the Anglo-Saxon at his best and noblest,- here within the circle of the narrow seas or across the ocean, wherever King Alfred's language is spoken; wherever King Alfred's laws prevail; into whatever fair lands of the wide world King Alfred's descendants have penetrated.
THE DIRECTORS OF THE OLD SOUTH WORK, Old South Meeting-house, Boston, Mass.
FROM KING ALFRED'S VERSION OF THE VENERABLE BEDE'S ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH NATION, LITERALLY TRANSLATED FROM THE ANGLO-SAXON BY E. THOMSON.
BOOK I. CHAPTER XV.
That the English nation was invited by the Britons into Britain; and they soon at first drove their enemies far [off]. But not a long time after they covenanted with them, and turned their weapons against the Britons, their allies.
1. Then it was about four hundred and forty-nine years from [our] Lord's incarnation that Marcianus, the emperor, undertook the government, and held it seven years; he was the forty-sixth from Augustus, the emperor. Then the nation of the English and Saxons was invited by the foresaid king, and came into Britain in three great ships, and received a dwellingplace in the eastern part of this island, by command of the same king who invited them hither, that they should war and fight for their country. And they soon made war against their enemies, who had oft before harried on them from the north; and the Saxons then got the victory. Then they sent home messengers, and bade them tell of the fruitfulness of this land and the sloth of the Britons; and they soon sent hither a greater ship-force of stronger warriors, and there was an invincible host when they were joined together. And the Britons gave them a dwelling-place among them, that they should war and strive against their foes for the peace and safety of their country, and they should give them a livelihood and honor for their labor.
2. They came from the three strongest nations of Germany, that [is] from the Saxons, the Angles, and the Geats (Jutes). From the Jutes' origin came the Kentish men and the Wight
setters; that is, the nation which inhabits the Isle of Wight. From the Saxons, that is, from the land which is called Old Saxony, came the East Saxons and South Saxons and West Saxons. And from the Angles (or English) came the East Anglians and Middle Anglians and Mercians, and all the Northumbrian kin; the country which is named Angulus is betwixt the Jutes and the Saxons. It is said that from the time when they went thence until to-day it lies waste. Their leaders and generals then at first were two brothers, Hengist and Horsa. They were the sons of Wightgilse, whose father was called Witta, and his father was called Wihta, whose father was named Woden, from whose stock the kingly kin of many tribes drew its beginning.
3. There was then no delay, so that greater hosts came heap-meal from the nations which we mentioned before; and the folk which came hither began to wax and spread so much that they were a great terror to the same inhabitants of the land who had formerly invited and called them hither.
4. After these things they made a truce for some time with the Picts, whom they had formerly driven far away by fighting; and then the Saxons sought causes and opportunities of their separation from the Britons, and showed openly and told them, unless they gave them a greater livelihood, that they would themselves take and harry where they could find it; and they soon fulfilled the threat with deeds,- burnt and harried and slew from the east sea on to the west sea, and none withstood them. The vengeance was not unlike that by which the Chaldeans long ago burnt the walls of Jerusalem, and destroyed the kingly buildings with fire for the sins of God's people. So, then, here by that wicked nation, yet by the righteous judgment of God, nearly every city and land were forharried. Royal buildings and private rushed and fell, and everywhere priests and mass-priests together were struck and killed among the altars; bishops with the people, without any respect of dignity, were consumed with steel and flame, nor was there any who might give burial to those who were so cruelly killed; and many of the miserable remnant were seized in waste places and stabbed heap-meal; some for hunger went into the hands of their foes, and promised perpetual servitude on condition that food should be given to them; and some went sorrowing over sea; some abode in their country, fearing, and, in wretched life, always dwelt in woods and wastes and on high cliffs, with sorrowing mind.
That the Britons at first got a victory over the English nation. Their general was one Ambrosius, a Roman.
I. And then after the army returned home, and had driven out and scattered the inhabitants of this island, then began they piece-meal to take mind and main, and went forth of the dark places in which they formerly were behid, and all with one-minded consent prayed for heavenly help, that they might not be everywhere blotted out even to utter destruction. Their general and leader at that time was Ambrosius, by surname Aurelianus. He was a good man, and a moderate man of Roman kin. In this man's time the Britons took mind and main, and he called them forth to the fight, and promised them victory, and they also in the fight through God's help got the victory; and then from that time, sometimes the Britons, sometimes the Saxons obtained the victory, until the year of the besetting of Baddesdown [hill], when they made a great slaughter among the English kin, about four and forty years after the English kin's coming into Britain.
That Germanus, the bishop, coming to Britain in a ship with Lupus, by divine might stilled first the rage of the sea, afterwards [that] of the Pelagians.
That the same [prelate] enlightened the alderman's blind daughter, and after that, coming to the holy Alban, there first received his reliques, and also set thereto the reliques of the holy Apostles and of other martyrs.
That the same bishop by reason of infirmity was detained there, and by prayer quenched the burnings of the houses, and was himself healed of his illness by a vision.
That the same bishops gave the Britons divine help in a fight, and so returned home.
That the twigs of the Pelagian pestilence sprouting again, Germanus, coming back to Britain with Severus, first renewed the steps of a halt youth, and after that, having condemned and reformed the heretics, he renewed the steps of right belief to God's people.