The Anglo-Saxon Monk announces the latest translations from Textus Roffensis
I'm quite sure most of you are honest souls. At least I hope so. But every now and then in life we may meet with someone who thinks we are not, and they may accuse us publicly of some offense. What is to be done? Well, the Anglo-Saxons had a few things up their lawful sleeves designed to restore one's honour. Perhaps we may learn from them.
So please take a look at the most recent translations of texts from the great book of Rochester, Textus Roffensis, which sheds considerable light on the culture and history of early medieval England. The first of these texts deals with the matter of swearing oaths. The second to a related issue, that of defending your claim to land that has been bequeathed to you.
This third text tell a complicated story of tenth-century theft, lying and what appears to be a case of a good bishop being denied his right to defend his claim to land. I'm on the bishop's side, of course.
The final two translations relate to wergild, the value put on a person's life in matters of law. Though not directly mentioning oaths in these texts, it should be noted that the higher your wergild, the higher your rank, and hence the more valuable your oath. But please don't worry too much if you're a lowly ceorl (the lowest of the free ranks), or even a slave, for there is a way up the social ladder, at least that's what the last of these texts suggests.
For all twenty-five translations to date by the other Monk of this website, you can click on the link below.
Its quiz time with the Anglo-Saxon Monk. Can you identify the musical instruments?
I apologise profusely for my negligence. I have been so preoccupied with all my other spiritual duties that I've failed miserably as a blogger. I know, I'm always apologising; it's because I'm so humble. But my regret is sincere.
Well, to make up for my inadequacies, I've brought to you a judicious measure of lightheartedness, inspired by the work of the other Monk of this website, who's been scribing away for a new book to which he's contributing.
He's been writing on two subjects. The first I'm not sure I should even mention: 'In bed with the Anglo-Saxons' is the title. I was going to say I'll leave that to your imagination, but really you should completely scrub clean your filthy minds!
The other topic is more civilised: 'Rejoicing with the Anglo-Saxons'. It's true that his focus is not on spiritual joy (we shouldn't expect too much of him, I suppose) but at least he is addressing a matter close to my heart, the joy of music and dance.
What! You don't think monks should be enjoying such pleasures? Did not our Lord enjoy himself at the wedding at Cana? Did not King David the psalmist play his harp? Nothing more to be said.
Well, before I get too upset by your impertinence, I had better get the ball rolling, as you might say in the twenty-first century. So, blessed ones, please find below a series of images from the Harley Psalter (Canterbury, Christ Church Cathedral Priory, first half of the eleventh century). Your task is to identify the musical instruments. Enjoy yourselves. Let your hair down a little!
References to the Psalms are to the Vulgate version. I expect you to read all the verses, but don't be unduly ruled by the description of the instruments in the Psalms (if there is a description). It's what the Anglo-Saxon artists were depicting that matters here.
No. 1 and no. 2: With what two instruments are 'ye just' getting in the swing? Psalm 32:1-3. © British Library Board. London, British Library, MS Harley 603, f. 18v.
No. 3. Too easy? Well get technical then! Psalm 143:9. © British Library Board. London, British Library, MS Harley 603, f. 73v.
No. 4 The Psalmist meets Lady Joy with what instrument in his hand? Psalm 42:4. © British Library Board. London, British Library, MS Harley 603, f. 25r.
No. 5: With what instrument is the Psalmist arising at dawn? Just the one in his left hand, please. Psalm 107:3. © British Library Board. London, British Library, MS Harley 603, f. 55v.
No. 6 and no. 7: Aha, aha, it's party time! Identify the two instruments in red circles, which form part of the 'noise' of the feast. You need to imagine the strings for no. 7. Oh, and do check out those jazz hands on the dancers. Psalm 42:5.© British Library Board. London, British Library, MS Harley 603, f. 24v.
No. 8: All good things come to an end, and this lot look like it's all been just too much. But to what instrument is the still-capering fellow on the left pointing? Psalm 136: 1, 2. ♫♪By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, Yeah eh we wept, When we remembered Zion.♪♫ (1970s cultural reference provided by Dr Monk). © British Library Board. London, British Library, MS Harley 603, f. 70r.
All answers welcome in the comments section below. Anachronistic identifications and dubious humour are permitted on this occasion. Just this once, mind you.
A future post will provide you with well-informed answers.
The best respondent will receive an extra special blessing from yours truly.
The Anglo-Saxon Monk casts his eye over new translations of documents relating to William the Conqueror and William Rufus
It is my pleasure to announce that the other Monk has just completed a translation of two eleventh-century texts from Textus Roffensis, that wonderful medieval compilation, which I so often talk about, of laws and charters which date from 600 to the twelfth century. Along with his other translations thereof, it is published by Rochester Cathedral Research Guild.
The first of the texts is known as Articles of William I, and contains edicts issued by William the Conqueror.* Amongst these you will find rulings concerning murder, the selling of goods, trial by combat, and the preservation of the system of Anglo-Saxon hundred and shire courts.
For some inexplicable reason, Dr Monk's favourite, he tells me, is the forbidding of the penalty of hanging for crimes, though with the proviso that one may have instead one's eyes or testicles removed. Marvellous wisdom, I suppose.
*Scholars are not sure all the edicts can be directly attributed to William I.
The second text on offer is a remarkable story of royal sophistry. Going by the rather long title of William II grants the manor of Haddenham to Bishop Gundulf for which, in return, Gundulf builds Rochester Castle, it tells of the disobliging William Rufus (the Conqueror's third son and successor to his throne) who refuses to confirm a grant of land by Lanfranc, archbishop of Canterbury, to abbot-bishop Gundulf and his poor monks at Rochester, unless he gets a hundred pound of silver in return.
Well, the cheek of it! I wouldn't mind so much if it were not for the fact, as the text observes, that this particular land, the manor at Haddenham, was in reality already in the possession of Gundulf, for the king's father had given it to Lanfranc after the conquest of England (best not dwell on that too long), and, as it was up to Lanfranc to do with it as he pleased, he had generously granted it to Gundulf and the monks. May they be blessed, blessed ones.
Now, I wouldn't want to spoil the rest of the story but I will just add that the king gets a spanking brand new stone castle out of all this willful chicanery. What a snake!
Now, if you have any questions about the two Williams and their various rulings, please feel free to post a comment. Don't expect me to reply, however; I shall forward them to the other Monk. May you all be blessed!