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THE VERSE OF iETHELWEARD'S CHRONICLE

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THE VERSE OF iETHELWEARD'S CHRONICLE
THE VERSE OF
iETHELWEARD'S CHRONICLE
In Alistair Campbell's admirable edition of the Chronicon JEthelweardi
IV chapter 9 ends t h u s .
Book
1
Denique Eadgar coronatur in regnum, rex admirabilis.
Annis sextenis siquidem per regna meatus,
Bisque dies numero tenuit minus obice septem,
(Argiuae hebdómadas gentis posuere magistri,
Septimanas recitant post quas nunc uoce Latini.
Tingite nunc calamo, Musae, propriumque uocate
Carmen, et ignoto uentis properate secundis.
Cum placido steterint fontes, aperite poetam.)
Fungitur interea regno post anax in arce,
Akimannis Castrum a priscis iam nomine dieta,
Nec Bathum ab aliis non pro feruentibus undis.
Costis pentidies fuerat quam quondam honore
Bradifonus domino Moyses sacrarat amore.
Aduenit et populus pariter sine nomine turmae,
Quin etiam ferro syncipite rasi corona.
Porro a natiuitate domini saluatoris transactus est tunc annorum numerus nongentesimus et supra septuagesimus adhaerensque tenuis.
Sibi proles Eadmundi summa
(Properat equidem, numero bis denis
Super augent nouem) seculi prisca
Recolligens mente, ingenia forsan
Addens et recenti temporis noua
Ter monadis decern
Numero fluente coronatur anax.
Interea denis, sex et supra
Regimen sub ipso
1. A. CAMPBELL ed. & transl. Chronicon JEthelweardi, The Chronicle of JEthelweard, Medieval Texts (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons 1962) pp. 55-6.
Contentum rite
Stipulator passim praestiterat illi elementorum
Postque spiramen reddit authori
Telluris insultus, marcescens ab ea
Lumina cernit altitonantis,
Omissa tandem luce corrupta,
Anglorum insignis rex Eadgarus.
A Caesare quidem nominato mense Iulio (uulgus usitare solet
Potius pestis sublimare sollers uisum humanus
Quam magis diuorsi ab alto cuncta cernenti reddere uota)
In cursu ogdoi transeunte diei
Auri largus exanime corpus relinquit
Monarchus Brittannum
Nobilis, ex stirpe frondens Saxonum,
Eadgarus anax; namque sermone Latino
Fausti contim nuncuparunt beatam.
Fabii quaestoris patricii Etheluuerdi foeliciter explicit liber quartus.
Campbell successfully explained many features of ^Ethelweard's prose that had
puzzled earlier scholars. His arrangement of the hexameters needs no adjustment,
but his arrangement of the concluding lines makes them appear anomalous, diffi­
cult to classify as verse, and his translation omits some words and misrepresents
the sense of others. Let us make a few minor changes to his text, restoring the
Classical diphthong in saeculi 3, adding a syllable to reddit to restore the sequence
of tenses in praestiterat, reddidit, and cernit 10-13, reading eo 12, retaining insul­
tus 12, diuorsi as diuerse 19, Brittannum as Brittannorum 23, and namque as nam
25, all recommended for omission metri causa and not translated by Campbell,
scanning line 21 with elision in cursu ogdoi and synizesis in diei, for contim
beatam reading contum beatum 26, and arranging the poem in lines of rhythmic
syllabic verse.
Sibi proles Eadmundi summa
Properat equidem
numero bis denis
Super augent nouem
saeculi prisca
Recolligens mente ingenia forsan
5
Addens et recenti
temporis noua
Ter monadis decem
numero fluente
Coronatur anax. Interea denis
Sex et supra regimen sub ipso
Contentum rite Stipulator passim
10
Praestiterat illi
elementorum
Postque spiramen
reddidit Authori
Telluris insultus marcescens ab eo
Lumina cernit Alti Tonantis
Omissa tandem
luce corrupta
Anglorum insignis rex Eadgarus.
4
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5
5
10
12
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12
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12
12
10
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12
10
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23
29
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THE VERSE OF .ETHELWEARD'S
A Caesare quidem
nominato mense
Iulio uulgus
usitare solet
Potius pestis
sublimare sollers
Visum humanus
quam magis diuerse
Ab alto cuncta cernenti
reddere uota
In cursu ogdoi
transeunte diei
Auri largus exanime corpus
Relinquit monarchus
Brittannorum
Nobilis ex stirpe frondens Saxonum
nam sermone Latino
25 Eadgarus anax
Fausti contum
nuncuparunt beatum.
5
10
15
20
23
22
24
25
221
CHRONICLE
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4
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6
5
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3
5
5
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116
6
5
5
5
8
5
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6
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6
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6
6
6
6
5
6
6
4
5
7
7
12 27
11 23
11 28
11 28
13 31
11 26
10 23
10 30
11 30
13 28
11 29
290 708
For himself the lofty offspring of Eadmund
hastens, indeed, in number [of years] twice ten
increase above nine,
recollecting in mind the ancient things of the age,
and adding new mental powers, perhaps, in a recent period of time,
three single [years and] ten in number flowing away,
he is crowned lord. Meanwhile for ten [years]
and six beyond, contented rule under the same man
the Guarantor of the elements
had granted rightly to that man
and after he gave back his spirit to the Author,
the impact of the earth fading away from him,
he beholds the lights of the High Thunderer,
with the corrupted light [of this world] finally abandoned,
Eadgar the outstanding king of Englishmen.
In the month, however, named from Caesar
July, the crowd,
the ingenious human plague, is accustomed more to make use of, to elevate,
what is seen rather than diversely
to give back thanks to the One beholding all things from on high,
in the course of the eighth day passing
the monarch of the Britons
generous with gold left the formerly-spirited body,
noble, flourishing from the stock of the Saxons,
Eadgar the lord, for in Latin speech
fortunate men have named him 'blessed spear'.
Let us consider some of the ways in which ^Ethelweard fixed his text, first by
making his words for numbers exhibit their value. Bis is the second word from the
end of line 2, in which there are ten syllables before decern. The first word of bis
decern 'twice ten' or 'twenty' is the twentieth syllable of the poem. After ter
monadis decern there are thirteen letters in line 6. In line 8, which begins with sex,
there are six words. After numero 6 there are sixteen syllables to the last of denis
sex 8. In line 21 the eighth letter is the first of ogdoi, the last syllable of which is
eighth from the end of the line. The single sentence from A Caesare 16 to beatum
26 contains fifty words, which divide by sesquioctave ratio 9 : 8 at 26 and 24, so
that the epogdous of the sentence falls at I ogdoi.
^Ethelweard states clearly that Eadgar was crowned at the age of twenty-nine,
at coronatur I anax, the twenty-ninth word. In anax interea denis sex et supra reg­
imen sub ipso contentum rite Stipulator passim praestiterat illi elementorum there
are sixteen words. In A I Caesare quidem nominato mense lulio uulgus usitare
solet potius pestis sublimare sollers uisum humanus quam magis diuerse ab alto
cuncta cernenti reddere uota in cursu ogdoi transeunte diei I there are 189 letters
and spaces between words, 8 July being the 189th day of the year.
Reckoning letters as numerals, A = 1, B = 2, C = 3 ... X=2l, 7 = 2 2 , Z = 2 3 , the
value of the word ANAX is 1 + 13 + 1 + 2 1 or 36. There are twenty-nine words
before anax 1 and seven words after anax 25, together thirty-six. The value of
REX EADGARVS is 17 + 5 + 21 and 5 + 1 + 4 + 7 + 1 + 17 + 2 0 + 1 8 or 43 + 73 or
116, which is exactly the number of words in the poem.
Lines 1-8 exhibit metrical chiasmus of 10-12 and 12-10 syllables at the begin­
ning and the end and metrical parallelism of 11-12 and 11-12 syllables at the
centre. Lines 9-18 exhibit metrical parallelism of 11-11 and 10-10 and 11-11 syl­
lables at the beginning and the centre and the end and of 11-12 and 11-12 sylla­
bles in lines 11-12 and 15-16, which are eleven and twelve lines from the begin­
ning and eleven and twelve lines from the end of the poem. Lines 19-26 exhibit
metrical parallelism of 11-13-11 syllables at the beginning and 11-13-11 syllables
at the end and of 10-10 syllables at the centre.
The verses perceived thus are no longer anomalous but part of a long tradition
of metrical experiment in Anglo-Latin, Old English, and Anglo-Norman. The tra­
dition followed earlier experiments among Cambro-Latin and Hiberno-Latin writ­
ers, who understood fully the principles of quantitative metrical poetry but also
composed accentual hexameters and devised an astonishing variety of rhythmic
syllabic forms. As many of these earlier Insular Latin poems survive in English
copies, one infers that early Anglo-Latin poets knew them. But the English might
also have read poems like Boethius's O Stelliferi Conditor Orbis in De Consolatione Philosophiae Book I Metre V, composed in quantitative metrical anapestic
dimeters, as if they were syllabic. In the following text capital letters and punctu­
ation marks in boldface represent features of Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Auct.
F.1.15, folios 12v-13r, written during the second half of the tenth century at Saint
Augustine's in Canterbury.
2
3
2. D. HOWLETT, 'Anglo-Latin Poetry' (forthcoming).
3. For fuller analysis see D. HOWLETT 'Hebrew and Latin : Biblical Verse, Boethian
Metres' in Pillars of Wisdom : Irishmen, Englishmen, Liberal Arts (Dublin : Four
Courts, forthcoming 2002).
5
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25
30
35
O STELLIFERI CONDITOR ORBIS
Qui perpetuo nixus solio
Rapido caelum turbine uersas
Legemque pati sidera cogis
Vt nunc pieno lucida cornu
Totis fratris obuia flammis
Condat Stellas luna minores
Nunc obscuro pallida cornu
Phoebo propior lumina perdat ;
Et qui primae tempore noctis
Agit algentes Hésperos ortus
Sólitas iterum mutet habenas
Phoebi pallens Lucifer ortu ;
4
Omnia certo fine gubernans
Hominum solos respuis actus
Merito rector cohibere modo
Nam cur tantas lubrica uersat
Fortuna uices . Premit insontes
Debita sceleri noxia poena ;
At peruersi resident celso
Mores solio . sanctaque calcant
Iniusta uice colla nocentes .
Latet obscuris condita uirtus
Clara tenebris . iustusque tulit
Crimen iniqui
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10
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9
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11
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9
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10
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10
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10
2
5
Within the English literary tradition one may cite patterns composed from dif­
ferent types of verse line in Old English poems of the late seventh century and the
early eighth, 'Caedmon's Hymn', the Old Northumbrian translation of Aldhelm's
Enigma XXXIII, 'The Leiden Riddle', 'The Ruthwell Crucifixion Poem' and 'The
Dream of the Rood' from which it was extracted, and later the disposition of
hypermetric lines in 'The Wanderer'. To these one may add the systematic dis­
position of types of verse line in 'The Gnomic Verses' of The Exeter
Book.
Among Anglo-Latin poets who experimented with forms other than the usual
dactylic hexameters, elegiac couplets, and rhyming octosyllabic couplets are
Wulfstan Precentor of Winchester late in the tenth century, the eleventh-century
hagiographer Goscelin of Canterbury, particularly in his Vita Sanctae Edithae Vir4
5
6
4. D. HOWLETT, British Books in Biblical Style (Dublin: Four Courts 1 9 9 7 ) pp. 2 6 2 74, 280-301, 574-82.
5. HOWLETT, 'The Gnomic Poems of The Exeter Book' in Pillars of Wisdom.
6. R. SHARPE, A Handlist of the Latin Writers of Great Britain and Ireland before
1540, Publications of the Journal of Medieval Latin I (Turnhout: Brepols 1 9 9 7 ) no.
2 2 2 9 pp. 8 2 4 - 5 .
7
8
ginis, and the twelfth-century historian Henry of Huntingdon. The direct heirs
of this tradition of metrical experiment were Anglo-Norman poets from the early
twelfth century onward. The metrical irregularity with which they have been taxed
by nearly all modern editors, critics, and literary historians is a chimaera, issued
from failure to perceive easily recognizable patterns of varying syllabic length in
Le Jeu a"Adam, Jordan Fantosme's Chronicle, La Geste de Burch, The Rhymed
Apocalypse, The Holkham Bible Picture Book, and many other compositions pre­
viously undervalued, but now to be justly admired for metrical precision in won­
derfully varied forms. The concluding verses of his Chronicle reveal jEthelweard
as an articulate and competent exponent of this Insular tradition of metrical exper­
iment.
9
D. R . Howlett
Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources,
Bodleian Library, Oxford OX1 3BG
7. Ibid. no. 395 pp. 151-4.
8. Ibid. no. 461 pp. 171-2. A. G. RIGG, 'Henry of Huntingdon's Metrical Experi­
ments', The Journal of Medieval Latin I (1991) pp. 60-72. HOWLETT, British Books in
Biblical Style pp. 563-9.
9. R . C. JOHNSTON ed. and transl. Jordan Fantosme's Chronicle (Oxford: Clarendon
Press 1981). D HOWLETT, The English Origins of Old French Literature (Dublin: Four
Courts 1996) pp. 63-4, 105; 'Anglo-Norman Inscriptions' in Insular Inscriptions
(Dublin: Four Courts forthcoming 2001); Le Jeu dAdam' and 'Anglo-Norman Chro­
nicles' in Pillars of Wisdom.
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