Category Archives: Old English

Great Find by bls

…well, ok, great if you’re an Anglo-Saxon liturgy geek… (so maybe “invaluable” is a little extreme, but since I don’t have consistent access to Milfull you have no idea how helpful this is to my dissertation.)

bls directs us to the Anglo-Saxon Hymnarium produced by the Surtees Society under the editorship of the Rev. J. Stephenson reprinted as the volume for 1851. (Here’s the alphabetical index if you want to check for any particular hymns. [Important note: this text contains only the Latin and the Old English gloss. It does not contain modern English translations/paraphrases/equivalents.])

What this means is that yes, it contains a transcription of the Durham Hymnal; no, it does not necessarily follow current editorial standards–caveat lector! So, for basic information this is a great reference to have sitting on your hard-drive; for academic citation, go look it up in Milfull first.

This is also helpful and fascinating for those with an interest in the history of the Ritualist/Anglo-Catholic movements. In terms of “what did they know and when did they know it”, this date establishes the available presence of a classical Anglo-Saxon hymn cycle before the first publication of Hymns Ancient and Modern (TOC here) which first appeared in 1861 (in planning since 1858) and which included some Anglo-Saxon options in the Sarum Office Hymn list of 1904.

For the Aelfric folk in the crowd, there are some interesting connections between the Durham Hymnal and Aelfric. For instance, I believe that the Hymnal was bound with an edition of Aelfric’s Grammar—which may make the glossing that much more interesting since his grammar included a glossary (a list of Latin words and their Old English equivalents). When the two texts were bound together I cannot answer and should look up… Furthermore, the order of hymns in this hymnal can be compared with the list that Aelfric gives in the Letter to the Monks at Eynsham the temporal cycle of which I mostly reproduced here. IIRC, they are similar but by no means identical (reminding us once again of the inevitable variation in medieval liturgy).

More Scholarly Goodness

Dr. Nokes points us to a great example of what scholars can be up to and how a blog can be pertinent for the dissemination of academic data. There are a spate of Beowulf films in various stages of production including a major studio effort coming out soon. As a result, people are asking Anglo-Saxonists about Beowulf and are searching the internet for more about it. Dr. Michael Drout does a great service to the general public by giving some helpful information to those wondering about Beowulf.

As Dr. Nokes has noted before, one of the factors that goes into how Google indexes hits is based on the number of links that a page has to it. The more links to it, the higher it goes. This is why he exhorts his readers to link to it; it’s a public service. The more links that lead to good data, the more that good data will be read…

Kalendrical Calculations

Caelius has a nice post up on the Golden Number and calculations for Easter and such.

Kalendar arithmetic (the art of the computus) was an important part of the liturgical arts back in the day. Isidore includes astronomy in Book 3 on Mathematics along with music and geometry but puts his section on the Paschal Cycle in Book 6 where he talks about the book and services of the Church. (Here’s a handy fully hyperlinked table of contents for the whole Etymologiae.) Bede wrote two books on time, De Temporibus and the later De Temporum Ratione (see the table of contents here), that teach calendar calculations. The second is the more complete treatment.

Furthermore, this was an important enough matter that the two great English translators of things ecclesiastical into the vernacular—Ælfric and Bryhtferth—both tackled the topic. Indeed, Bryhtferth’s Enchiridion is theoretically a work focused on the calendar and computus but he meanders through all sorts of areas to get there. Ælfric’s De Temporibus Anni is far more lucid, drawing primarily from Bede and supplementing with Isidore.

Where the rubber really hits the road, though are the tables like those that begin on folio 45v of the Leofric Missal… And, hey, as long as you’re poking around those parts of that manuscript, check out the Christ and Satan pictures too.

Great New(?) Blog

I’ve just discovered a great new(?) blog, East to West that will be of interest to some readers of this site. Its author is a PhD student at the University of Wales who writes on patristics, early medieval matters, and the like with an emphasis both on Anglo-Saxon England and the Eastern Church. His current set of posts is exploring the most natural link between the two which occures in the person of Theodore of Tarsus.

Feast of St. Bede

Blessed Feast of St. Bede to all! At haligweorc, it’s an important feast as he’s the patron here. There’s a note on him up at the Cafe as well, but–like most things written for popular consumption on Bede–it regards him primarily as an historian. History was just a small part of what he did. Here’s his reckoning of his accomplishments:

Thus much of the Ecclesiastical History of Britain, and more especially of the English
nation, as far as I could learn either from the writings of the ancients, or the tradition
of our ancestors, or of my own knowledge, has, with the help of God, been digested by me,
Bede, the servant of God, and priest of the monastery of the blessed apostles, Peter and
Paul, which is at Wearmouth and Jarrow; who being born in the territory of that same
monastery, was given, at seven years of age, to be educated by the most reverend Abbot
Benedict, and afterwards by Ceolfrid; and spending all the remaining time of my life in
that monastery, I wholly applied myself to the study of Scripture, and amidst the
observance of regular discipline, and the daily care of singing in the church, I always
took delight in learning, teaching, and writing
. In the nineteenth year of my age, I
received deacon’s orders; in the thirtieth, those of the priesthood, both of them by the
ministry of the most reverend Bishop John, and by the order of the Abbot Ceolfrid. From
which time, till the fifty-ninth year of my age, I have made it my business, for the use
of me and mine, to compile out of the works of the venerable Fathers, and to interpret and
explain according to their meaning these following pieces –

On the Beginning of Genesis, to the Nativity of Isaac and the Reprobation of Ismaal,
three books.

Of the Tabernacle and its Vessels, and of the Priestly Vestments, three books.

On the first Part of Samuel, to the Death of Saul, four books.

Of the Building of the Temple, of Allegorical Exposition, like the rest, two books.

Item, on the Book of Kings, thirty Questions.

On Solomon’s Proverbs, three books.

On the Canticles, seven books.

On Isaiah, Daniel, the twelve Prophets, and part of Jeremiah, Distinctions of Chapters,
collected out of St. Jerome’s Treatise.

On Esdras and Nehemiah, three books.

On the Song of Habacuc, one book.

On the Book of the blessed Father Tobias, one Book of Allegorical Exposition concerning
Christ and the Church.

Also, Chapters of Readings on Moses’s Pentateuch, Joshua, and Judges.

On the Books of Kings and Chronicles.

On the Book of the blessed Father Job.

On the Parables, Ecclesiastes, and Canticles.

On the Prophets Isaiah, Esdras, and Nehemiah.

On the Gospel of Mark, four books.

On the Gospel of Luke, six books.

Of Homilies on the Gospel, two books.

On the Apostle, I have carefully transcribed in order all that I have found in St.
Augustine’s Works.

On the Acts of the Apostles, two books.

On the seven Catholic Epistles, a book on each.

On the Revelation of St. John, three books.

Also, Chapters of Readings on all the New Testament, except the Gospel.

Also a book of Epistles to different Persons, of which one is of the Six ages of the
world; one of the Mansions of the Children of Israel; one on the Words of Isaiah,
“And they shall be shut up in the prison, and after many days shall they be visited;
” one of the Reason of the Bissextile, or Leap-Year, and of the Equinox, according to

Also, of the Histories of Saints. I translated the Book of the Life and Passion of St.
Felix, Confessor, from Paulinus’s Work in metre, into prose.

The Book of the Life and Passion of St. Anastasius, which was ill translated from the
Greek, and worse amended by some unskillful person, I have corrected as to the sense.

I have written the Life of the Holy Father Cuthbert, who was both monk and prelate,
first in heroic verse, and then in prose.

The History of the Abbots of this Monastery, in which I rejoice to serve the Divine
Goodness, viz. Benedict, Ceolfrid, and Huetbert, in two books.

The Ecclesiastical History of our Island and Nation in five books.

The Martyrology of the Birthdays of the Holy Martyrs, in. which I have carefully
endeavored to set down all that could find, and not only on what day, but also by what
sort of combat, or under what judge they overcame the world.

A Book of Hymns in several sorts of metre, or rhyme.

A Book of Epigrams in heroic or elegiac verse.

Of the Nature of Things, and of the Times, one book of each.

Also, of the Times, one larger book.

A book of Orthography digested in Alphabetical Order.

Also a Book of the Art of Poetry, and to it I have added another little Book of Tropes
and Figures; that is, of the Figures and Manners of Speaking in which the Holy Scriptures
are written.

Emphasis added to highlight what he considered to be his most important work; history is literally the smallest part…

As specifically his works on the gospels show, Bede saw his role to complement and complete. That is, his cycle of 40 homilies was specifically designed to fill out Gregory the Great’s own book of 40–the almost complete lack of overlap signals this. Too, Bede’s commentary efforts were not on the two gospels most often used in the liturgy for which good commentary already existed but, rather, Luke and Mark–the two used the least and for which good commentary was hard to find. He sought to plug the gaps, fill in the holes. That is, he saw himself as part of a team effort for edifying and building up the Church.

And that’s why he’s the patron here.

“Traditional” Office Hymns

One of my favorite words that gets thrown around–“traditional”–is inherently slippery… “Traditional” for whom? When is the ideal time when something stops and starts being traditional?

The notion of tradition is always a contemporary construct–an idea of how we view things and privilege things that appeared and/or happened in the past. There was discussion on Ship of Fools about whether the “Traditional Office Hymns” in my “traditional Anglo-Catholic” ordo were, in fact traditional. It’s a perfectly fair question and my response is that the list I give matches the list in the first edition of Ritual Notes supplemented and checked with the Anglican Breviary meaning that the list stands firmly documented within Anglo-Catholic tradition.

On the other hand…

Here’s another list:

From Nov 1 Matins: Primo dierum | Lauds: Aeterne rerum | Vespers: Lucis Creator (Sunday, O lux beata) | Compline: Christe qui lux es
Advent Matins: Verbum Supernum | Lauds: Vox clara | Vespers: Conditor alme siderum
Christmas Matins: A Patre unigenitus | Lauds: A solis ortus cardine | Vespers: Christe redemptor omnium
Epiphany Matins: A Patre unigenitus | Lauds: Iesus refulsit omnium | Vespers: Hostis Herodes impie
LXX Matins: Alleluia piis edite laudibus | Lauds: Almum sidereae iam patriae decus | Vespers: Alleluia dulce carmen
Lent Matins: Clarum deus ieiunii | Lauds: Iesu quadragenariae | Vespers: Audi benigne conditor
Passiontide Matins: Arbora decora | Lauds: Auctor salutis | Vespers: Vexilla Regis
Easter Matins: Iesu nostra redemptio | Lauds: Aurora lucis rutilat | Vespers: Ad cenam Agni prouidi
After Asc Matins: Optatus votis omnium | Lauds: Aeterne rex altissime | Vespers: Hymnum canamus gloriae
Pentecost Matins: Veni creator Spiritus | Lauds: Beata nobis gaudia | Vespers: Iam Christus astra ascenderat
Until Nov 1 Matins: Nocte surgentes | Lauds: Ecce iam noctis | Vespers: Deus creator omnium (Sunday, Lucis creator) | Compline: Te lucis ante terminum

There are a number of commonalities between this list and the other, the chief difference being static hymnody through the week in Ordinary time in this listing… But there are other differences as well. This list comes straight from a 10th century English Benedictine customary (Ælfric’s LME for the OE folk in the crowd)–so it’s pretty darn “traditional” too. But which is more traditional? How do we adjudicate?

If we push it further, though, we find that this isn’t even “the” Office Hymn cycle for 10th century English Benedictines. Rather, there were two different hymnal types in circulation, the Winchester-Worcester type and the Canterbury type, that reflect how continental influences shaped local practice during the Benedictine Revival (the 10th c. rebirth of monasticism in England after the Viking depredations of the previous centuries). This present list, while an important witness of actual(?) use, isn’t even a “pure” form of the Winchester-Worcester type. Furthermore, how we even define “pure” is up in the air–do we consider “pure” to be what is in the majority of the sources that have survived? And if so–we need to consider how representative the books are that have survived…

“Traditional” is simple until you start pushing on it and defining it;”tradition” is one of those things that becomes fuzzier the more you look at it.

Tradition isn’t a static thing and it isn’t a single thing. As any medievalist will tell you, there isn’t a common “medieval” anything. Rather, we can only talk about what certain texts represent about what was happening in certain places at certain times (…and discussions will ensue about whether any of it actually happened as it was represented…). Much of what appears as Anglo-Catholic tradition is a Victorian adjudication about what is properly medieval in light of their construct of the high medieval period as an English golden age. (Which is why the contemporaneous pre-Raphaelite paintings of the Arthurian cycle have the 5th century characters in 14/15th century accoutrements…)

Thoughtful discernment is key here. The answer on the Office Hymns is clearly that both lists—the Anglo-Catholic (presumably Tridentine) one and Ælfric’s one—have a place in the tradition. The one we choose positions us in relation to that tradition. Personally, I like Ælfric’s because it has more static elements and thus fits the peculiarities of my current Office practice. Too, it aligns me with the English Benedictine pre-Scholastic practice which I think most fully and properly illuminates the Anglican way. At the same time, I recognize that it falls outside of what is “traditional” for classic Victorian-inspired (heavily Scholastic) Anglo-Catholicism.

I guess if there’s a note I want to end on, it’s this: “tradition” often gets used in churchy circles as a rhetorical blunt instrument meant to end discussions. It doesn’t have to be. Tradition can also be a way of understanding the fullness of what we have received and understanding how adjudicating among the manifold options makes a difference for how we understand ourselves, our faith, and our practices of faith now.

Dissertation Work

Things have progressed to the point where I’ve been able to designate some brain cycles to dissertation work again. (I’ve had it–it *will* be finished by the end of the summer if it kills me. So far the odds are 50-50.)

Whereas before I started with more methodological stuff, I’ve dived into Æ’s sermons directly. What this has helped me see is that some of the stuff I pruned out before absolutely has to be put back into my re-formed chapters 2 and 3. Fr. Director thought that some of my work on patristic homilies was smoke-chasing; I’ve determined that it’s completely critical to the project.

Traditionally, early medieval homileticians have been accused of simple plagiarism. Indeed, Henri De Lubac’s only comment on Æ

is that he is a plagiarist of Gregory’s work. Rather, my work on the patristic material identifies not simply content but method and the purpose that derives from the method. What this let me do is to look at Æ’s sermons and to show that while, yes, he is recycling some content, he is using it in a very different way and with its own quite distinct method that throws light on what an early medieval preacher thought that he was creating.

My use of the Breviary has also been helpful. I now know I need to revisit some of my earlier liturgical work and look for some new evidence in different places.

Medieval Databases

No, silly, databases about medieval things…

There’s been some discussion about medievalist folks thinking about manuscript databases. I have a great deal of interest in the subject–but absolutely no time to do anything about it. If I may offer a few points of professional advice–since I am a database programmer in my day job:

  • Don’t choose a database because it happens to be the one on your computer. I.e., yes, you may well have MS Access on your computer if you’ve got the full Office Suite. No, don’t use it just because it’s there. Consider how you will use the database. Is it for merely personal use? Maybe Access will work for you. Do you want to put it on the web? Think about using MySQL instead. It integrates really well with a dynamic programming language called PHP. In fact, a whole lot of commercial websites are MySQL/PHP integrations. Limited project budget? You’re in luck–MySQL is free… (And so’s a good front-end for Windows here.)
  • Plan your database in advance. The biggest failing of most amateur databases is a lack of planning in the beginning stages. Think about you want to capture. Then, consider what fields make sense together in terms of tables, and what will tie those tables to one another.
  • A major issue that often comes back to haunt beginners is field normalization. In plain English, it means making sure that your data is in small enough bits. Thus, a shelfmark field shouldn’t contain “London, BL, Cotton Nero D IV” Rather, three different fields should have “London”, “British Library” and then “Cotton Nero D IV”. When in doubt, use multiple fields.
  • In terms of front-ends (that is, what a user will see as opposed to the back-end which is what the programmer interacts with) flashy is cool–but achieve stability first. Then go for cool. All the napkin drawing will be pointless if you can’t get your data out the way you want it…
  • Academics spend years learning dead languages and grappling with French poststructuralists, et al.; not all have invested the time in learning the technologies to disseminate what fruits they’ve gathered. When in doubt, talk with your IT department and their techies. Consider taking the money saved from buying a database and get a research assistant fluent in computer…

No, I haven’t been putting any thought into this recently. Why do you ask? Of course it had completely slipped my mind that Mediawiki works off a MySQL back-end… As does WordPress

I’m going to stop talking now…