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Title: Asser's Life of Alfred
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Transcriber’s Note

Italics are indicated by _underscores_, boldface by =equals signs=.









  The Athenæum Press
  · BOSTON · U.S.A.



The issue of Stevenson’s long and eagerly expected edition of Asser’s
_Life of King Alfred_ has provided an opportunity to supply the ever
increasing number of the great king’s admirers with a more satisfactory
rendering into English of this, perhaps the most precious document,
notwithstanding all its faults, for the comprehension of his life and

The authenticity of the Life was impugned by Thomas Wright in 1841, by
Sir Henry Howorth in 1876–77, and by an unknown writer in 1898, and it
had become somewhat the fashion to regard it as a production of a later
period, and therefore entitled to but little credence. The doubts as to
its authenticity have been satisfactorily dispelled by the two eminent
scholars who have most recently discussed the difficulties, Plummer and

The former, in his _Life and Times of Alfred the Great_, Oxford, 1902,
says (p. 52): ‘The work which bears Asser’s name cannot be later than
974, and the attempt to treat it as a forgery of the eleventh or
twelfth century must be regarded as having broken down. I may add that
I started with a strong prejudice against the authenticity of Asser,
so that my conclusions have at any rate been impartially arrived at.’
The latter, in his noble edition (Oxford, 1904), remarks (p. vii):
‘In discussing the work I have attempted to approach it without any
bias for or against it, and throughout my endeavor has been to subject
every portion of it to as searching an examination as my knowledge and
critical powers would permit. The net result has been to convince me
that, although there may be no very definite proof that the work was
written by Bishop Asser in the lifetime of King Alfred, there is no
anachronism or other proof that it is a spurious compilation of later
date. The serious charges brought against its authenticity break down
altogether under examination, while there remain several features that
point with varying strength to the conclusion that it is, despite its
difficulties and corruptions, really a work of the time it purports
to be. This result is confirmed by the important corroboration of
some of its statements by contemporary Frankish chroniclers. Thus the
profession of belief in its authenticity by such eminent historians as
Kemble, Pauli, Stubbs, and Freeman agrees with my own conclusion.’

Notwithstanding their general rehabilitation of the work, however,
neither critic is prepared to trust it implicitly. Plummer says (p.
52): ‘On the whole, then, Asser is an authority to be used with
criticism and caution; partly because we have always to be alive
to the possibility of interpolation, partly because the writer’s
Celtic imagination is apt to run away with him.’ And thus Stevenson
(p. cxxx): ‘The work still presents some difficulties. Carelessness
of transcription may possibly explain those that are merely verbal,
but there still remain certain passages that lay the author open
to the charge of exaggeration, such as his mention of gold-covered
and silver-covered buildings, if that be the literal meaning of the
passage, and his statement that Alfred might, if he had chosen, have
been king before his elder brother Æthelred, with whom, it is clear, he
was on most intimate terms.’

The style of the book is not uniform. The passages translated from the
_Chronicle_ are simpler, while in the more original parts the author
displays an unfortunate tendency to a turgid and at times bombastic
manner of writing. Indeed, it displays, in many passages, the traits
of that Hesperic Latinity which, invented or made fashionable in the
sixth century, probably by a British monk in the southwestern part of
England, was more or less current in England from the time of Aldhelm
until the Norman Conquest. This Hesperic, or Celtic, Latinity has
been compared to the mock euphuism of Sir Piercie Shafton in Scott’s
_Monastery_ (Professor H. A. Strong, in _American Journal of Philology_
26. 205), and may be illustrated by Professor Strong’s translation
into English of certain sentences from the _Hisperica Famina_, the
production, as it is believed, of the monk referred to above: ‘This
precious shower of words glitters, by no awkward barriers confining
the diction, and husbands its strength by an exquisite balance and by
equable device, trilling sweet descant of Ausonian speech through the
speaker’s throat by this shower of words passing through Latin throats;
just as countless swarms of bees go here and there in their hollow
hives, and sip the honey-streams in their homes, and set in order, as
they are wont, their combs with their beaks.’

With the passage just quoted may be compared an extract from chapter
88 of Asser, the translation of which is given below (pp. 49, 50):
‘Ac deinde cotidie inter nos sermocinando, ad hæc investigando aliis
inventis æque placabilibus testimoniis, quaternio ille refertus
succrevit, nec immerito, sicut scriptum est, “super modicum fundamentum
ædificat justus et paulatim ad majora defluit,” velut apis fertilissima
longe lateque gronnios interrogando discurrens, multimodos divinæ
scripturæ flosculos inhianter et incessabiliter congregavit, quis
præcordii sui cellulas densatim replevit.’ Such Latin as this is
difficult to translate into satisfactory English. If one renders it
literally, the result is apt to look rather absurd; and beyond a
certain point condensation is impracticable, or else misrepresents the
original, faults and merits alike.

Hitherto there have been three translations of Asser into English--that
by J. A. Giles in Bohn’s _Six Old English Chronicles_, London,
1848; that by Joseph Stevenson in _Church Historians of England_,
Vol. 2, London, 1854; and that by Edward Conybeare, _Alfred in the
Chroniclers_, London, 1900. As the basis of my work I have taken the
translation of Giles, sometimes following it rather closely, and at
other times departing from it more or less widely.

The reader familiar with the traditional Asser will miss some matter
with which he is familiar, such as the story of Alfred and the cakes,
that of the raven-banner of the Danes, etc. These are derived from
interpolations made in the manuscript by Archbishop Parker, which
modern critical scholarship has at length excised. For all matters
regarding the manuscript, the earlier editions, etc., as well as for
copious illustrative notes on the text, the reader is referred to
Stevenson’s edition.

Insertions made in the text by Stevenson, on what he considers
sufficient grounds, are indicated by < >. The chapter-divisions and
-numbering are Stevenson’s; the chapter-headings mine. Where modern
forms of proper names exist, I have not hesitated to adopt them, and
in general have tended rather to normalize them than scrupulously to
follow the sometimes various spellings of the text. The notes have
almost always been derived from Stevenson’s edition, whether or not
explicit acknowledgment has been made, but now and then, as in the case
of the long note on chapter 56, are my own.

        July 4, 1905



    1. Alfred’s Birth and Genealogy                                    1

    2. Genealogy of Alfred’s Mother                                    2

    3. The Danes at Wicganbeorg and Sheppey                            3

    4. The Danes sack Canterbury                                       3

    5. Battle of Aclea                                                 4

    6. Defeat of the Danes at Sandwich                                 4

    7. Æthelwulf assists Burgred                                       4

    8. Alfred at Rome                                                  5

    9. Other Events of 853                                             5

   10. The Heathen winter in Sheppey                                   6

   11. Æthelwulf journeys to Rome                                      6

   12. Rebellion of Æthelbald                                          6

   13. Judith’s Position in Wessex                                     7

   14. Offa and Eadburh                                                8

   15. Eadburh’s Further Life                                          9

   16. Æthelwulf’s Will                                               10

   17. Æthelbald marries Judith                                       11

   18. Æthelbert’s Reign                                              12

   19. Æthelbert’s Death                                              12

   20. The Danes in Kent                                              12

   21. Æthelred’s Accession                                           13

   22. Alfred’s Rearing                                               13

   23. Alfred and the Book of Saxon Poems                             14

   24. Alfred’s Handbook                                              14

   25. Alfred’s Love of Learning                                      15

   26. The Danes occupy York                                          16

   27. Defeat of the Northumbrians                                    16

   28. Death of Ealhstan                                              17

   29. Alfred marries                                                 17

   30. The Danes at Nottingham                                        17

   31. The Danes at York                                              18

   32. The Danes at Thetford                                          18

   33. The Danes triumph                                              18

   34. Ceolnoth dies                                                  18

   35. The Danes defeated at Englefield                               19

   36. Battle of Reading                                              19

   37. Battle of Ashdown                                              20

   38. Alfred begins the Attack                                       20

   39. The Heathen Rout and Loss                                      21

   40. Battle of Basing                                               22

   41. Æthelred’s Death                                               22

   42. Alfred comes to the Throne; Battle of Wilton                   22

   43. Peace made                                                     24

   44. The Heathen winter in London                                   24

   45. The Heathen winter in Lindsey                                  24

   46. The Danes in Mercia                                            24

   47. The Danes in Northumbria and Cambridge                         25

   48. Alfred’s Battle at Sea                                         25

   49. Movements of the Danes                                         25

   50. Halfdene partitions Northumbria                                26

   51. Division of Mercia                                             26

   52. The Danes at Chippenham                                        26

   53. Alfred in Somersetshire                                        27

   54. The Danes defeated at Cynwit                                   27

   55. Alfred at Athelney                                             28

   56. Battle of Edington, and Treaty with Guthrum                    28

   57. The Danes go to Cirencester                                    30

   58. Danes at Fulham                                                31

   59. An Eclipse                                                     31

   60. The Danes in East Anglia                                       31

   61. The Smaller Army leaves England                                31

   62. The Danes fight with the Franks                                31

   63. The Danes on the Meuse                                         31

   64. Alfred’s Naval Battle with the Danes                           31

   65. The Danes at Condé                                             32

   66. Deliverance of Rochester                                       32

   67. Alfred’s Naval Battle at the Mouth of the Stour                32

   68. Death of Carloman, of Louis II, and of Louis III               33

   69. The Danes in Old Saxony                                        33

   70. Charles, King of the Alemanni                                  34

   71. Death of Pope Marinus                                          34

   72. The Danes break their Treaty                                   34

   73. Asser makes a New Beginning                                    34

   74. Alfred’s Maladies                                              35

   75. Alfred’s Children and their Education                          37

   76. Alfred’s Varied Pursuits                                       38

   77. Alfred’s Scholarly Associates: Werfrith, Plegmund, Æthelstan,
           and Werwulf                                                41

   78. Grimbald and John, the Old Saxon                               42

   79. Asser’s Negotiations with King Alfred                          42

   80. The Welsh Princes who submit to Alfred                         44

   81. How Alfred rewards Submission                                  45

   82. The Siege of Paris                                             46

   83. Alfred rebuilds London                                         47

   84. The Danes leave Paris                                          47

   85. Division of the Empire                                         47

   86. Alfred sends Alms to Rome                                      48

   87. Alfred begins to translate from Latin                          48

   88. Alfred’s Manual                                                48

   89. Alfred’s Handbook                                              50

   90. Illustration from the Penitent Thief                           51

   91. Alfred’s Troubles                                              51

   92. Alfred builds Two Monasteries                                  54

   93. Monasticism was decayed                                        55

   94. Monks brought from beyond Sea                                  55

   95. A Crime committed at Athelney                                  55

   96. The Plot of a Priest and a Deacon                              56

   97. The Execution of the Plot                                      57

   98. The Convent at Shaftesbury                                     58

   99. Alfred divides his Time and his Revenues                       58

  100. The Threefold Division of Officers at Court                    59

  101. The Distribution for Secular Purposes                          59

  102. The Distribution for Religious Purposes                        60

  103. Alfred’s Dedication of Personal Service                        61

  104. Alfred’s Measure of Time                                       61

  105. Alfred judges the Poor with Equity                             63

  106. His Correction of Unjust and Incompetent Judges                63

  APPENDIXES                                                          67

      Appendix  I: Alfred’s Preface to his Translation of
        Gregory’s Pastoral Care                                       69

      Appendix II: Letter from Fulco, Archbishop of Rheims,
        to Alfred                                                     72

  INDEX                                                               79


  _To my lord Alfred, king of the Anglo-Saxons, the worshipful
      and pious ruler of all Christians in the island of Britain,
      Asser, least of all the servants of God, wisheth thousandfold
      prosperity for both lives, according to the desires of his

=1. Alfred’s Birth and Genealogy.=[1]--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 849, Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, was born at the
royal vill of Wantage, in Berkshire (which receives its name from
Berroc Wood, where the box-tree grows very abundantly). His genealogy
is traced in the following order: King Alfred was the son of King
Æthelwulf; he of Egbert; he of Ealhmund; he of Eafa; he of Eoppa;
he of Ingild. Ingild and Ine, the famous king of the West Saxons,
were two brothers. Ine went to Rome, and there ending the present
life honorably, entered into the heavenly fatherland to reign with
Christ. Ingild and Ine were the sons of Cœnred; he of Ceolwald; he of
Cutha[2]; he of Cuthwine; he of Ceawlin; he of Cynric; he of Creoda;
he of Cerdic; he of Elesa;  he of Gewis, from whom the
Welsh name all that people Gegwis[3];  he of Brond; he of Beldeag; he of Woden; he of
Frithowald; he of Frealaf; he of Frithuwulf; he of Finn<; he of>
Godwulf; he of Geata, which Geta the heathen long worshiped as a god.
Sedulius makes mention of him in his metrical _Paschal Poem_, as

    If heathen poets rave o’er fancied woe,
    While in a turgid stream their numbers flow--
    Whether the tragic buskin tread the stage,
    Or waggish Geta all our thoughts engage;
    If by the art of song they still revive
    The taint of ill, and bid old vices live;
    If monumental guilt they sing, and lies
    Commit to books in magisterial wise;
    Why may not I, who list to David’s lyre,
    And reverent stand amid the hallowed choir,
    Hymn heavenly things in words of tranquil tone,
    And tell the deeds of Christ in accents all my own?

This Geata was the son of Tætwa; he of Beaw; he of Sceldwea; he of
Heremod; he of Itermod; he of Hathra; he of Hwala; he of Bedwig; he of
Sceaf[4]; he of Noah; he of Lamech; he of Methuselah; he of Enoch; ; he of Mahalalel; he of Kenan[5]; he of Enosh; he of Seth; he
of Adam.

=2. Genealogy of Alfred’s Mother.=[6]--The mother of Alfred was
named Osburh, an extremely devout woman, noble in mind, noble also
by descent; she was daughter to Oslac, the famous cupbearer of King
Æthelwulf. This Oslac was a Goth by nation, descended from the Goths
and Jutes--of the seed, namely, of Stuf and Wihtgar, two brothers and
ealdormen. They, having received possession of the Isle of Wight from
their uncle, King Cerdic, and his son Cynric their cousin,[7] slew the
few British inhabitants whom they could find in that island, at a place
called Wihtgaraburg[8]; for the other inhabitants of the island had
either been slain or had escaped into exile.

=3. The Danes at Wicganbeorg and Sheppey.=[9]--In the year of our
Lord’s incarnation 851, which was the third of King Alfred’s life,
Ceorl, Ealdorman of Devon, fought with the men of Devon against the
heathen at a place called Wicganbeorg,[10] and the Christians gained
the victory. In that same year the heathen first wintered in the island
called Sheppey, which means ‘Sheep-island,’ situated in the river
Thames between Essex and Kent, though nearer to Kent than to Essex, and
containing a fair monastery.[11]

=4. The Danes sack Canterbury.=[12]--The same year a great army of
heathen came with three hundred and fifty ships to the mouth of the
river Thames, and sacked Dorubernia, or Canterbury,[13]  (which lies on the north bank of the river Thames, on the
confines of Essex and Middlesex, though in truth that city belongs to
Essex); and they put to flight Beorhtwulf, King of Mercia, with all the
army which he had led out to oppose them.

=5. Battle of Aclea.=[14]--Having done these things there, the
aforesaid heathen host went into Surrey, which is a shire situated
on the south shore of the river Thames, and to the west of Kent. And
Æthelwulf, King of the Saxons, and his son Æthelbald, with the whole
army, fought a long time against them at a place called Aclea,[15]
that is, ‘Oak-plain’; there, after a lengthy battle, which was fought
with much bravery on both sides, the most part of the heathen horde
was utterly destroyed and slain, so that we never heard of their being
so smitten, either before or since, in any region, in one day[16]; and
the Christians gained an honorable victory, and kept possession of the

=6. Defeat of the Danes at Sandwich.=[17]--In that same year Æthelstan
and Ealdorman Ealhere slew a large army of the heathen in Kent, at a
place called Sandwich, and took nine ships of their fleet, the others
escaping by flight.

=7. Æthelwulf assists Burgred.=[18]--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 853, which was the fifth of King Alfred’s life, Burgred,
King of the Mercians, sent messengers to beseech Æthelwulf, King of
the West Saxons, to come and help him in reducing to his sway the
inhabitants of Mid-Wales, who dwell between Mercia and the western sea,
and who were struggling against him beyond measure. So without delay
King Æthelwulf, on receipt of the embassy, moved his army, and advanced
with King Burgred against Wales[19]; and immediately upon his entrance
he ravaged it, and reduced it under subjection to Burgred. This being
done, he returned home.

=8. Alfred at Rome.=[20]--In that same year King Æthelwulf sent his
above-named son Alfred to Rome, with an honorable escort both of nobles
and commoners. Pope Leo at that time presided over the apostolic see,
and he anointed as king[21] the aforesaid child[22] Alfred in the town,
and, adopting him as his son, confirmed him.[23]

=9. Other Events of 853.=[24]--That same year also, Ealdorman Ealhere
with the men of Kent, and Huda with the men of Surrey, fought bravely
and resolutely against an army of the heathen in the island which is
called Tenet[25] in the Saxon tongue, but Ruim in the Welsh language.
At first the Christians were victorious. The battle lasted a long
time; many fell on both sides, and were drowned in the water; and both
the ealdormen were there slain. In the same year also, after Easter,
Æthelwulf, King of the West Saxons, gave his daughter to Burgred, King
of the Mercians, as his queen, and the marriage was celebrated in
princely wise at the royal vill of Chippenham.

=10. The Heathen winter in Sheppey.=[26]--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 855, which was the seventh of the aforesaid king’s life,
a great army of the heathen spent the whole winter in the aforesaid
island of Sheppey.

=11. Æthelwulf journeys to Rome.=[27]--In that same year the aforesaid
worshipful King Æthelwulf freed the tenth part of all his kingdom from
every royal service and tribute, and offered it up as an everlasting
grant to God the One and Three, on the cross of Christ, for the
redemption of his own soul and those of his predecessors. In the same
year he went to Rome with much honor; and taking with him his son, the
aforesaid King Alfred, a second time on the same journey, because he
loved him more than his other sons, he remained there a whole year.
After this he returned to his own country, bringing with him Judith,
daughter of Charles, King of the Franks.[28]

=12. Rebellion of Æthelbald.=[29]--In the meantime, however, whilst
King Æthelwulf was residing this short time beyond sea, a base deed
was done in the western part of Selwood,[30] repugnant to the morals
of all Christians. For King Æthelbald, Ealhstan, Bishop of the church
of Sherborne, and Eanwulf, Ealdorman of Somerset, are said to have
formed a conspiracy to the end that King Æthelwulf, on his return from
Rome, should not again be received in his kingdom. This unfortunate
occurrence, unheard-of in all previous ages, is ascribed by many to
the bishop and ealdorman alone, since, say they, it resulted from
their counsels. Many also ascribe it solely to the insolence of the
king, because he was headstrong in this matter and in many other
perversities, as I have heard related by certain persons, and as was
proved by the result of that which followed. For on his return from
Rome, Æthelwulf’s son aforesaid, with all his counselors, or rather
waylayers, attempted to perpetrate the crime of repulsing the king from
his own kingdom; but neither did God suffer it, nor did the nobles of
all Wessex consent thereto. For to prevent this irremediable danger to
Wessex of a war between father and son, or rather of the whole nation
waging civil war more fiercely and cruelly from day to day, as they
espoused the cause of the one or the other,--by the extraordinary
clemency of the father, seconded by the consent of all the nobles, the
kingdom which had hitherto been undivided was parted between the two,
the eastern districts being given to the father, and the western to the
son. Thus where the father ought by just right to have reigned, there
did his unjust and obstinate son bear rule; for the western part of
Wessex is always superior to the eastern.

=13. Judith’s Position in Wessex.=[31]--When Æthelwulf, therefore,
returned from Rome, the whole nation, as was fitting, so rejoiced[32]
in the arrival of the ruler that, if he had allowed them, they would
have expelled his unruly son Æthelbald, with all his counselors, from
the kingdom. But he, as I have said, acting with great clemency and
prudent counsel, would not act in this way, lest the kingdom should be
exposed to peril. He likewise bade Judith, daughter of King Charles,
whom he had received from her father, take her seat by his own side on
the royal throne, without any dispute or enmity from his nobles even
to the end of his life, though contrary to the perverse custom of that
nation.[33] For the nation of the West Saxons does not allow the queen
to sit beside the king, nor to be called queen, but only the king’s
wife; which refusal, or rather reproach, the chief persons of that land
say arose from a certain headstrong and malevolent queen of the nation,
who did all things so contrary to her lord and to the whole people
that not only did the hatred which she brought upon herself bring to
pass her exclusion from the queenly throne, but also entailed the same
corruption upon those who came after her, since, in consequence of
the extreme malignity of that queen, all the inhabitants of the land
banded themselves together by an oath never in their lives to let any
king reign over them who should bid his queen take her seat on the
royal throne by his side. And because, as I think, it is not known to
many whence this perverse and detestable custom first arose in Wessex,
contrary to the custom of all the Germanic peoples, it seems to me
right to explain it a little more fully, as I have heard it from my
lord Alfred the truth-teller, King of the Anglo-Saxons, who often told
me about it, as he also had heard it from many men of truth who related
the fact, or, I should rather say, expressly preserved the remembrance
of it.

=14. Offa and Eadburh.=[34]--There was in Mercia in recent times a
certain valiant king, who was dreaded by all the neighboring kings
and states. His name was Offa, and it was he who had the great dike
made from sea to sea between Wales and Mercia.[35] His daughter, named
Eadburh, was married to Beorhtric, King of the West Saxons. The moment
she had possessed herself of the king’s good will, and practically
the whole power of the realm, she began to live tyrannically, after
the manner of her father. Every man whom Beorhtric loved she would
execrate, and would do all things hateful to God and man, accusing to
the king all whom she could, thus depriving them insidiously either of
life or of power. And if she could not obtain the king’s consent, she
used to take them off by poison, as is ascertained to have been the
case with a certain young man beloved by the king, whom she poisoned,
seeing that she could not accuse him to the king. It is said, moreover,
that King Beorhtric unwittingly tasted of the poison, though the queen
had intended to give it, not to him, but to the young man; the king,
however, was beforehand with him, and so both perished.

=15. Eadburh’s Further Life.=[36]--King Beorhtric therefore being dead,
the queen, since she could no longer remain among the Saxons, sailed
beyond sea with countless treasures, and came to Charles,[37] King of
the Franks. As she stood before the dais, bringing many gifts to the
king, Charles said to her: ‘Choose, Eadburh, between me and my son,
who stands with me on this dais.’ She, without deliberation, foolishly
replied: ‘If I am to have my choice, I choose your son, because he
is younger than you.’ At which Charles smiled and answered: ‘If you
had chosen me, you should have had my son; but since you have chosen
him, you shall have neither me nor him.’ However, he gave her a large
convent of nuns, in which, having laid aside her secular habit, and
assumed the dress worn by the nuns, she discharged the office of abbess
for a few years. As she is said to have lived irrationally in her own
country, so she appears to have acted much more so among a foreign
people; for, being finally caught in illicit intercourse with a man
of her own nation, she was expelled from the monastery by order of
King Charles. Henceforward she lived a life of shame in poverty and
misery until her death; so that at last, accompanied only by one slave,
as I have heard from many who saw her, she begged her bread daily at
Pavia,[38] and so wretchedly died.

=16. Æthelwulf’s Will.=[39]--Now King Æthelwulf lived two years after
his return from Rome; during which, among many other good deeds of
this present life, reflecting on his departure according to the way of
all flesh, that his sons might not quarrel unreasonably after their
father’s death, he ordered a will or letter of instructions to be
written,[40] in which he commanded that his kingdom should be duly
divided between his two eldest sons; his private heritage between his
sons, his daughter, and his relatives; and the money which he should
leave behind him between his soul[41] and his sons and nobles. Of this
prudent policy I have thought fit to record a few instances out of many
for posterity to imitate, namely, such as are understood to belong
principally to the needs of the soul; for the others, which relate
only to human stewardship, it is not necessary to insert in this
little work, lest prolixity should create disgust in those who read or
wish to hear. For the benefit of his soul, then, which he studied to
promote in all things from the first flower of his youth, he directed
that, through all his hereditary land, one poor man to every ten
hides,[42] either native or foreigner, should be supplied with food,
drink, and clothing by his successors unto the final Day of Judgment;
on condition, however, that that land should still be inhabited both
by men and cattle, and should not become deserted. He commanded also a
large sum of money, namely, three hundred mancuses,[43] to be carried
annually to Rome for the good of his soul, to be there distributed
in the following manner: a hundred mancuses in honor of St. Peter,
especially to buy oil for the lights of that apostolic church on Easter
Eve, and also at cockcrow; a hundred mancuses in honor of St. Paul, for
the same purpose of buying oil for the church of St. Paul the apostle,
to fill the lamps for Easter Eve and cockcrow; and a hundred mancuses
for the universal apostolic Pope.

=17. Æthelbald marries Judith.=[44]--But when King Æthelwulf was dead
,[45] his son Æthelbald, contrary to God’s
prohibition and the dignity of a Christian, contrary also to the custom
of all the heathen,[46] ascended his father’s bed, and married Judith,
daughter of Charles, King of the Franks, incurring much infamy from all
who heard of it. During two years and a half of lawlessness he held
after his father the government of the West Saxons.

=18. Æthelbert’s Reign.=[47]--In the year of our Lord’s incarnation
860, which was the twelfth of King Alfred’s life,  Æthelbald
 was buried at Sherborne. His brother Æthelbert, as was
right, added Kent, Surrey, and Sussex to his realm. In his days a great
army of heathen came from the sea, and attacked and laid waste the city
of Winchester. As they were returning laden with booty to their ships,
Osric, Ealdorman of Hampshire, with his men, and Ealdorman Æthelwulf,
with the men of Berkshire, faced them bravely. Battle was then joined
in the town, and the heathen were slain on every side; and finding
themselves unable to resist, they took to flight like women, and the
Christians held the battle-field.

=19. Æthelbert’s Death.=[48]--So Æthelbert governed his kingdom five
years in peace and love and honor; and went the way of all flesh, to
the great grief of his subjects. He rests interred in honorable wise at
Sherborne, by the side of his brother.

=20. The Danes in Kent.=[49]--In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 864
the heathen wintered in the isle of Thanet, and made a firm treaty with
the men of Kent, who promised them money for observing their agreement.
In the meantime, however, the heathen, after the manner of foxes, burst
forth with all secrecy from their camp by night, and setting at naught
their engagements, and spurning the promised money--which they knew
was less than they could get by plunder--they ravaged all the eastern
coast of Kent.

=21. Æthelred’s Accession.=[50]--In the year of our Lord’s incarnation
866, which was the eighteenth of King Alfred’s life, Æthelred, brother
of King Æthelbert, undertook the government of the West Saxon realm.
The same year a great fleet of heathen came to Britain from the
Danube,[51] and wintered in the kingdom of the East Saxons, which is
called in Saxon East Anglia; and there they became in the main an army
of cavalry. But, to speak in nautical phrase, I will no longer commit
my vessel to wave and sail, or steer my roundabout course at a distance
from land through so many calamities of wars and series of years, but
rather return to that which first prompted me to this task: that is to
say, I think it right briefly to insert in this place the little that
has come to my knowledge about the character of my revered lord Alfred,
King of the Anglo-Saxons, during the years of infancy and boyhood.

=22. Alfred’s Rearing.=[52]--He was extraordinarily beloved by both
his father and mother, and indeed by all the people, beyond all his
brothers; in inseparable companionship with them he was reared at the
royal court.[53] As he advanced through the years of infancy and youth,
he appeared more comely in person than his brothers, as in countenance,
speech, and manners he was more pleasing than they. His noble birth
and noble nature implanted in him from his cradle a love of wisdom
above all things, even amid all the occupations of this present life;
but--with shame be it spoken!--by the unworthy neglect of his parents
and governors he remained illiterate till he was twelve years old or
more, though by day and night he was an attentive listener to the Saxon
poems which he often heard recited, and, being apt at learning, kept
them in his memory. He was a zealous practiser of hunting in all its
branches, and followed the chase with great assiduity and success; for
his skill and good fortune in this art, and in all the other gifts of
God, were beyond those of every one else, as I have often witnessed.

=23. Alfred and the Book of Saxon Poems.=[54]--Now on a certain day
his mother was showing him and his brothers a book of Saxon poetry,
which she held in her hand, and finally said: ‘Whichever of you can
soonest learn this volume, to him will I give it.’ Stimulated by these
words, or rather by divine inspiration, and allured by the beautifully
illuminated letter at the beginning of the volume, [55] spoke
before all his brothers, who, though his seniors in age, were not so
in grace, and answered his mother: ‘Will you really give that book to
that one of us who can first understand and repeat it to you?’ At this
his mother smiled with satisfaction, and confirmed what she had before
said: ‘Yes,’ said she, ‘that I will.’ Upon this the boy took the book
out of her hand, and went to his master and learned it by heart,[56]
whereupon he brought it back to his mother and recited it.

=24. Alfred’s Handbook.=[57]--After this [55] the daily
course, that is, the celebration of the hours, and afterwards certain
Psalms, and many prayers, contained in a book[58] which he kept day and
night in his bosom, as I myself have seen, and always carried about
with him, for the sake of prayer, through all the bustle and business
of this present life. But, sad to relate, he could not gratify his
ardent wish to acquire liberal art,[59] because, as he was wont to say,
there were at that time no good teachers in all the kingdom of the West

=25. Alfred’s Love of Learning.=[61]--This he would confess, with
many lamentations and with sighs from the bottom of his heart, to
have been one of his greatest difficulties and impediments in this
present life, that when he was young and had leisure and capacity for
learning, he had no masters; but when he was more advanced in years,
he was continually occupied, not to say harassed, day and night, by so
many diseases unknown to all the physicians of this island, as well as
by internal and external anxieties of sovereignty, and by invasions
of the heathen by sea and land, that though he then had some store of
teachers and writers,[62] it was quite impossible for him to study.
But yet among the impediments of this present life, from childhood to
the present day [and, as I believe, even until his death],[63] he has
continued to feel the same insatiable desire.

=26. The Danes occupy York.=[64]--In the year of our Lord’s incarnation
867, which was the nineteenth of the aforesaid King Alfred’s life, the
army of heathen before mentioned removed from East Anglia to the city
of York, which is situated on the north bank of the river Humber.

=27. Defeat of the Northumbrians.=[64]--At that time a violent discord
arose, by the instigation of the devil, among the Northumbrians, as
always is wont to happen to a people who have incurred the wrath of
God. For the Northumbrians at that time, as I have said,[65] had
expelled their lawful king Osbert from his realm, and appointed a
certain tyrant named Ælla, not of royal birth, over the affairs of the
kingdom. But when the heathen approached, by divine providence, and
the furtherance of the common weal by the nobles, that discord was
a little appeased, and Osbert and Ælla uniting their resources, and
assembling an army, marched to the town of York. The heathen fled at
their approach, and attempted to defend themselves within the walls
of the city. The Christians, perceiving their flight and the terror
they were in, determined to follow them within the very ramparts of
the town, and to demolish the wall; and this they succeeded in doing,
since the city at that time was not surrounded by firm or strong walls.
When the Christians had made a breach, as they had purposed, and many
of them had entered into the city along with the heathen, the latter,
impelled by grief and necessity, made a fierce sally upon them, slew
them, routed them, and cut them down, both within and without the
walls. In that battle fell almost all the Northumbrian troops, and
both the kings were slain; the remainder, who escaped, made peace with
the heathen.

=28. Death of Ealhstan.=[66]--In the same year, Ealhstan, Bishop of the
church of Sherborne, went the way of all flesh, after he had honorably
ruled his see fifty years; and in peace he was buried at Sherborne.

=29. Alfred marries.=[67]--In the year of our Lord’s incarnation 868,
which was the twentieth of King Alfred’s life, the aforesaid revered
King Alfred, then occupying only the rank of viceroy (_secundarii_),
betrothed[68] and espoused a noble Mercian lady,[69] daughter of
Æthelred, surnamed Mucill, Ealdorman of the Gaini.[70] The mother of
this lady was named Eadburh, of the royal line of Mercia, whom I often
saw with my own eyes a few years before her death. She was a venerable
lady, and after the decease of her husband remained many years a chaste
widow, even till her own death.

=30. The Danes at Nottingham.=[71]--In that same year the above-named
army of heathen, leaving Northumbria, invaded Mercia, and advanced to
Nottingham, which is called in Welsh Tigguocobauc,[72] but in Latin
‘The House of Caves,’ and wintered there that same year. Immediately
on their approach, Burgred, King of the Mercians, and all the nobles
of that nation, sent messengers to Æthelred,[73] King of the West
Saxons, and his brother Alfred, entreating them to come and aid them
in fighting against the aforesaid army. Their request was readily
granted; for the brothers, as soon as promised, assembled an immense
army from every part of their , and, entering Mercia, came to
Nottingham, all eager for battle. When now the heathen, defended by the
castle, refused to fight, and the Christians were unable to destroy the
wall, peace was made between the Mercians and the heathen, and the two
brothers, Æthelred and Alfred, returned home with their troops.

=31. The Danes at York.=[74]--In the year of our Lord’s incarnation
869, which was the twenty-first of King Alfred’s life, the aforesaid
army of heathen, riding back to Northumbria, went to the city of York,
and there passed the whole winter.

=32. The Danes at Thetford.=[74]--In the year of our Lord’s incarnation
870, which was the twenty-second of King Alfred’s life, the
above-mentioned army of heathen passed through Mercia into East Anglia,
and wintered at Thetford.[75]

=33. The Danes triumph.=[74]--That same year Edmund, King of the East
Angles, fought most fiercely against that army; but, lamentable to say,
the heathen triumphed, for he and most of his men were there slain,
while the enemy held the battle-field, and reduced all that region to

=34. Ceolnoth dies.=[76]--That same year Ceolnoth, Archbishop of
Canterbury, went the way of all flesh, and was buried in peace in that

=35. The Danes defeated at Englefield.=[77]--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 871, which was the twenty-third of King Alfred’s life, the
heathen army, of hateful memory, left East Anglia, and, entering the
kingdom of the West Saxons, came to the royal vill called Reading,
situated on the south bank of the Thames, in the district called
Berkshire; and there, on the third day after their arrival, their
 ealdormen, with great part of the army, rode forth for plunder,
while the others made an entrenchment between the rivers Thames
and Kennet, on the southern side of the same royal vill. They were
encountered by Æthelwulf, Ealdorman of Berkshire, with his men, at a
place called Englefield[78] .[79] Both sides fought bravely, and made long resistance
to each other. At length one of the heathen ealdormen was slain, and
the greater part of the army destroyed; upon which the rest saved
themselves by flight, and the Christians gained the victory and held
the battle-field.

=36. Battle of Reading.=[77]--Four days afterwards, King Æthelred
and his brother Alfred, uniting their forces and assembling an army,
marched to Reading, where, on their arrival at the castle gate, they
cut to pieces and overthrew the heathen whom they found outside the
fortifications. But the heathen fought no less valiantly and, rushing
like wolves out of every gate, waged battle with all their might. Both
sides fought long and fiercely, but at last, sad to say, the Christians
turned their backs, the heathen obtained the victory and held the
battle-field, the aforesaid Ealdorman Æthelwulf being among the slain.

=37. Battle of Ashdown.=[80]--Roused by this grief and shame, the
Christians, after four days, with all their forces and much spirit
advanced to battle against the aforesaid army, at a place called
Ashdown,[81] which in Latin signifies ‘Ash’s[82] Hill.’ The heathen,
forming in two divisions, arranged two shield-walls of similar size;
and since they had two kings and many ealdormen, they gave the
middle[83] part of the army to the two kings, and the other part to
all the ealdormen. The Christians, perceiving this, divided their army
also into two troops, and with no less zeal formed shield-walls.[84]
But Alfred, as I have been told by truthful eye-witnesses, marched
up swiftly with his men to the battle-field; for King Æthelred had
remained a long time in his tent in prayer, hearing mass, and declaring
that he would not depart thence alive till the priest had done, and
that he was not disposed to abandon the service of God for that of men;
and according to these sentiments he acted. This faith of the Christian
king availed much with the Lord, as I shall show more fully in the

=38. Alfred begins the Attack.=[85]--Now the Christians had determined
that King Æthelred, with his men, should attack the two heathen kings,
and that his brother Alfred, with his troops, should take the chance of
war against all the leaders of the heathen. Things being so arranged
on both sides, the king still continued a long time in prayer, and the
heathen, prepared for battle, had hastened to the field. Then Alfred,
though only second in command, could no longer support the advance of
the enemy, unless he either retreated or charged upon them without
waiting for his brother. At length, with the rush of a wild boar, he
courageously led the Christian troops against the hostile army, as he
had already designed, for, although the king had not yet arrived, he
relied upon God’s counsel and trusted to His aid. Hence, having closed
up his shield-wall in due order, he straightway advanced his standards
against the foe. [86]

=39. The Heathen Rout and Loss.=[87]--But here I must inform those
who are ignorant of the fact that the field of battle was not equally
advantageous to both parties, since the heathen had seized the higher
ground, and the Christian array was advancing up-hill. In that place
there was a solitary low thorn-tree, which I have seen with my own
eyes, and round this the opposing forces met in strife with deafening
uproar from all, the one side bent on evil, the other on fighting
for life, and dear ones, and fatherland. When both armies had fought
bravely and fiercely for a long while, the heathen, being unable by
God’s decree longer to endure the onset of the Christians, the larger
part of their force being slain, betook themselves to shameful flight.
There fell one of the two heathen kings and five ealdormen; many
thousand of their men were either slain at this spot or lay scattered
far and wide over the whole field of Ashdown. Thus there fell King
Bagsecg, Ealdorman Sidroc the Elder and Ealdorman Sidroc the Younger,
Ealdorman Osbern, Ealdorman Fræna, and Ealdorman Harold; and the whole
heathen army pursued its flight, not only until night, but until the
next day, even until they reached the stronghold[88] from which they
had sallied. The Christians followed, slaying all they could reach,
until it became dark.

=40. Battle of Basing.=[89]--After[90] fourteen days had elapsed King
Æthelred and his brother Alfred joined their forces, and marched to
Basing[91] to fight with the heathen. Having thus assembled, battle was
joined, and they held their own for a long time, but the heathen gained
the victory, and held possession of the battle-field. After this fight,
another army of heathen came from beyond sea, and joined them.

=41. Æthelred’s Death.=[92]--That same year, after Easter, the
aforesaid King Æthelred, having bravely, honorably, and with good
repute governed his kingdom five years through many tribulations, went
the way of all flesh, and was buried in Wimborne Minster,[93] where he
awaits the coming of the Lord and the first resurrection with the just.

=42. Alfred comes to the Throne; Battle of Wilton.=[94]--That same
year the aforesaid Alfred, who had been up to that time, during the
lifetime of his brothers, only of secondary rank, now, on the death
of his brother, by God’s permission undertook the government of the
whole kingdom, amid the acclamations of all the people; and indeed, if
he had chosen, he might easily have done so with the general consent
whilst his brother above named was still alive, since in wisdom and
every other good quality he surpassed all his brothers, and especially
because he was brave and victorious in nearly every battle. And when
he had reigned a month almost against his will--for he did not think
that he alone, without divine aid, could sustain the ferocity of the
heathen, though even during his brothers’ lifetimes he had borne the
calamities of many--he fought a fierce battle with a few men, and on
very unequal terms, against all the army of the heathen, at a hill
called Wilton, on the south bank of the river Wiley,[95] from which
river the whole of that shire is named; and after a severe engagement,
lasting a considerable part of the day, the heathen, seeing the whole
extent of the danger they were in, and no longer able to bear the
attack of their enemies, turned their backs and fled. But, shame to
say, they took advantage of their pursuers’ rashness,[96] and, again
rallying, gained the victory and kept the battle-field. Let no one
be surprised that the Christians had but a small number of men, for
the Saxons as a people had been all but worn out by eight battles in
this selfsame year against the heathen, in which there died one king,
nine chieftains, and innumerable troops of soldiers, not to speak of
countless skirmishes both by night and by day, in which the oft-named
 Alfred, and all the leaders of that people, with their men,
and many of the king’s thanes, had been engaged in unwearied strife
against the heathen. How many thousand heathen fell in these numberless
skirmishes God alone knows, over and above those who were slain in the
eight battles above mentioned.

=43. Peace made.=[97]--In that same year the Saxons made peace with the
heathen, on condition that they should take their departure; and this
they did.

=44. The Heathen winter in London.=[98]--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 872, being the twenty-fourth of King Alfred’s life, the
aforesaid army of heathen went to London, and there wintered; and the
Mercians made peace with them.

=45. The Heathen winter in Lindsey.=[98]--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 873, being the twenty-fifth of King Alfred’s life, the
oft-named army, leaving London, went into Northumbria, and there
wintered in the shire of Lindsey; and the Mercians again made peace
with them.

=46. The Danes in Mercia.=[99]--In the year of our Lord’s incarnation
874, being the twenty-sixth of King Alfred’s life, the above-named army
left Lindsey and marched to Mercia, where they wintered at Repton.[100]
Also they compelled Burgred, King of Mercia, against his will to leave
his kingdom and go beyond sea to Rome, in the twenty-second year of
his reign. He did not live long after his arrival at Rome, but died
there, and was honorably buried in the Colony of the Saxons,[101] in
St. Mary’s church,[102] where he awaits the Lord’s coming and the first
resurrection with the just. The heathen also, after his expulsion,
subjected the whole kingdom of Mercia to their dominion; but, by a
miserable arrangement, gave it into the custody of a certain foolish
man, named Ceolwulf, one of the  thanes, on condition that he
should peaceably restore it to them on whatsoever day they should wish
to have it again; and to bind this agreement he gave them hostages, and
swore that he would not oppose their will in any way, but be obedient
to them in every respect.

=47. The Danes in Northumbria and Cambridge.=[103]--In the year of our
Lord’s incarnation 875, being the twenty-seventh of King Alfred’s life,
the above-mentioned army, leaving Repton, separated into two bodies,
one of which went with Halfdene into Northumbria, and having wintered
there near the Tyne, and reduced all Northumbria to subjection, also
ravaged the Picts and the people of Strathclyde.[104] The other
division, with Guthrum,[105] Oscytel, and Anwind, three kings of the
heathen, went to Cambridge, and there wintered.

=48. Alfred’s Battle at Sea.=[106]--In that same year King Alfred
fought a battle at sea against six ships of the heathen, and took one
of them, the rest escaping by flight.

=49. Movements of the Danes.=[107]--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 876, being the twenty-eighth year of King Alfred’s life,
the oft-mentioned army of the heathen, leaving Cambridge by night,
entered a fortress called Wareham,[108] where there is a monastery of
nuns between the two rivers Froom , in the district which
is called in Welsh Durngueir,[109] but in Saxon Thornsæta,[110] placed
in a most secure location, except on the western side, where there was
a territory adjacent. With this army Alfred made a solemn treaty to the
effect that they should depart from him, and they made no hesitation
to give him as many picked hostages as he named; also they swore an
oath on all the relics in which King Alfred trusted next to God,[111]
and on which they had never before sworn to any people, that they
would speedily depart from his kingdom. But they again practised their
usual treachery, and caring nothing for either hostages or oath, they
broke the treaty, and, sallying forth by night, slew all the horsemen
[horses?] that they had,[112] and, turning off, started without warning
for another place called in Saxon Exanceastre, and in Welsh Cairwisc,
which means in Latin ‘The City ,’ situated on the eastern bank
of the river Wisc,[113] near the southern sea which divides Britain
from Gaul, and there passed the winter.

=50. Halfdene partitions Northumbria.=--In that same year Halfdene,
king of that part of Northumbria, divided up the whole region between
himself and his men, and settled there with his army.

=51. Division of Mercia.=[114]--The same year, in the month of August,
that army went into Mercia, and gave part of the district of the
Mercians to one Ceolwulf,[115] a weak-minded thane of the king; the
rest they divided among themselves.

=52. The Danes at Chippenham.=[116]--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 878, being the thirtieth of King Alfred’s life, the
oft-mentioned army left Exeter, and went to Chippenham, a royal vill,
situated in the north of Wiltshire, on the east bank of the river
which is called Avon in Welsh, and there wintered. And they drove
many of that people by their arms, by poverty, and by fear, to voyage
beyond sea, and reduced almost all the inhabitants of that district to

=53. Alfred in Somersetshire.=--At that same time the above-mentioned
King Alfred, with a few of his nobles, and certain soldiers and
vassals, was leading in great tribulation an unquiet life among the
woodlands and swamps of Somersetshire; for he had nothing that he
needed except what by frequent sallies he could forage openly or
stealthily from the heathen or from the Christians who had submitted to
the rule of the heathen.[117]

=54. The Danes defeated at Cynwit.=[118]--In that same year the
brother[119] of Inwar[120] and Halfdene, with twenty-three ships, came,
after many massacres of the Christians, from Dyfed,[121] where he had
wintered, and sailed to Devon, where with twelve hundred others he met
with a miserable death, being slain, while committing his misdeeds,
by the king’s thanes, before the fortress of Cynwit,[122] in which
many of the king’s thanes, with their followers, had shut themselves
up for safety. The heathen, seeing that the fortress was unprepared
and altogether unfortified, except that it merely had fortifications
after our manner, determined not to assault it, because that place is
rendered secure by its position on all sides except the eastern, as
I myself have seen, but began to besiege it, thinking that those men
would soon surrender from famine, thirst, and the blockade, since
there is no water close to the fortress. But the result did not fall
out as they expected; for the Christians, before they began at all to
suffer from such want, being inspired by Heaven, and judging it much
better to gain either victory or death, sallied out suddenly upon the
heathen at daybreak, and from the first cut them down in great numbers,
slaying also their king, so that few escaped to their ships.

=55. Alfred at Athelney.=[123]--The same year, after Easter,
King Alfred, with a few men, made a stronghold in a place called
Athelney,[124] and from thence sallied with his vassals of Somerset
to make frequent and unwearied assaults upon the heathen. And again,
the seventh week after Easter, he rode to Egbert’s Stone,[125] which
is in the eastern part of Selwood Forest (in Latin ‘Great Forest,’ and
in Welsh Coit Maur). Here he was met by all the neighboring folk of
Somersetshire and Wiltshire, and such of Hampshire as had not sailed
beyond sea for fear of the heathen; and when they saw the king restored
alive, as it were, after such great tribulation, they were filled, as
was meet, with immeasurable joy, and encamped there for one night. At
daybreak of the following morning, the king struck his camp, and came
to Æglea,[126] where he encamped for one night.

=56. Battle of Edington, and Treaty with Guthrum.=[127]--The next
morning at dawn he moved his standards to Edington,[128] and there
fought bravely and perseveringly by means of a close shield-wall
against the whole army of the heathen, whom at length, with the divine
help, he defeated with great slaughter, and pursued them flying to
their stronghold. Immediately he slew all the men and carried off all
the horses and cattle that he could find without the fortress, and
thereupon pitched his camp, with all his army, before the gates of the
heathen stronghold. And when he had remained there fourteen days, the
heathen, terrified by hunger, cold, fear, and last of all by despair,
begged for peace, engaging to give the king as many designated hostages
as he pleased, and to receive none from him in return--in which manner
they had never before made peace with any one. The king, hearing this
embassage, of his own motion took pity upon them, and received from
them the designated hostages, as many as he would. Thereupon the
heathen swore, besides, that they would straightway leave his kingdom;
and their king, Guthrum, promised to embrace Christianity, and receive
baptism at King Alfred’s hands--all of which articles he and his men
fulfilled as they had promised. For after [129] weeks Guthrum,
king of the heathen, with thirty[130] men chosen from his army, came to
Alfred at a place called Aller, near Athelney, and there King Alfred,
receiving him as a son by adoption, raised him up from the holy font
of baptism. On the eighth day, at a royal vill named Wedmore, his
chrism-loosing[131] took place. After his baptism he remained twelve
days with the king, who, together with all his companions, gave him
many rich gifts.[132]

=57. The Danes go to Cirencester.=[133]--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 879, which was the thirty-first of King Alfred’s life, the
aforesaid army of heathen, leaving Chippenham, as they had promised,
went to Cirencester, which is called in Welsh Cairceri, and is situated
in the southern part of the kingdom of the Hwicce,[134] and there they
remained one year.

=58. Danes at Fulham.=[135]--In that same year a large army of heathen
sailed from beyond sea into the river Thames, and joined the greater
army. However, they wintered at Fulham, near the river Thames.

=59. An Eclipse.=[136]--In that same year an eclipse[137] of the sun
took place between nones and vespers, but nearer to nones.

=60. The Danes in East Anglia.=[138]--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 880, which was the thirty-second of King Alfred’s life,
the oft-mentioned army of heathen left Cirencester, and went to East
Anglia, where they divided up the country and began to settle.

=61. The Smaller Army leaves England.=[139]--That same year the army of
heathen, which had wintered at Fulham, left the island of Britain, and
sailed over sea to East Frankland, where they remained for a year at a
place called Ghent.

=62. The Danes fight with the Franks.=--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 881, which was the thirty-third of King Alfred’s life, the
army went further on into Frankland, and the Franks fought against
them; and after the battle the heathen, obtaining horses, became an
army of cavalry.

=63. The Danes on the Meuse.=[140]--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 882, which was the thirty-fourth of King Alfred’s life, the
aforesaid army sailed their ships up into Frankland by a river called
the Meuse, and there wintered one year.

=64. Alfred’s Naval Battle with the Danes.=[141]--In that same year
Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, fought a battle at sea against the
heathen fleet, of which he captured two ships, and slew all who were on
board. Two commanders of the other ships, with all their crews, worn
out by the fight and their wounds, laid down their arms, and submitted
to the king on bended knees with many entreaties.

=65. The Danes at Condé.=[142]--In the year of our Lord’s incarnation
883, which was the thirty-fifth of King Alfred’s life, the aforesaid
army sailed their ships up the river called Scheldt to a convent of
nuns called Condé, and there remained one year.

=66. Deliverance of Rochester.=[143]--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 884, which was the thirty-sixth of King Alfred’s life, the
aforesaid army divided into two parts: one body of them went into East
Frankland, and the other, coming to Britain, entered Kent, where they
besieged a city called in Saxon Rochester, situated on the east bank
of the river Medway. Before the gate of the town the heathen suddenly
erected a strong fortress; but they were unable to take the city,
because the citizens defended themselves bravely until King Alfred
came up to help them with a large army. Then the heathen abandoned
their fortress and all the horses which they had brought with them out
of Frankland, and, leaving behind them in the fortress the greater
part of their prisoners on the sudden arrival of the king, fled in
haste to their ships; the Saxons immediately seized upon the prisoners
and horses left by the heathen; and so the latter, compelled by dire
necessity, returned the same summer to Frankland.

=67. Alfred’s Naval Battle at the Mouth of the Stour.=[144]--In that
same year Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, shifted his fleet, full of
fighting men, from Kent to East Anglia,[145] for the sake of spoil. No
sooner had they arrived at the mouth of the river Stour than thirteen
ships of the heathen met them, prepared for battle; a fierce naval
combat ensued, and the heathen were all slain; all the ships, with all
their money, were taken. After this, while the victorious royal fleet
was reposing,[146] the heathen who occupied East Anglia assembled their
ships from every quarter, met the same royal fleet at sea in the mouth
of the same river, and, after a naval engagement, gained the victory.

=68. Death of Carloman, of Louis II, and of Louis III.=[147]--In that
same year also, Carloman, King of the West Franks, while engaged in a
boar-hunt, was miserably slain by a boar, which inflicted a dreadful
wound on him with its tusk. His brother Louis, who had also been King
of the Franks, had died the year before. Both these were sons of
Louis,[148] King of the Franks, who also had died in the year above
mentioned, in which the eclipse of the sun took place.[149] This
Louis was the son of Charles,[150] King of the Franks, whose daughter
Judith[151] Æthelwulf, King of the West Saxons, took to queen with her
father’s consent.

=69. The Danes in Old Saxony.=[152]--In that same year a great army
of the heathen came from Germany[153] into the country of the Old
Saxons, which is called in Saxon Eald-Seaxum. To oppose them the same
Saxons and Frisians joined their forces, and fought bravely twice in
that same year.[154] In both these battles the Christians, by God’s
merciful aid, gained the victory.

=70. Charles, King of the Alemanni.=[155]--In that same year also,
Charles, King of the Alemanni, received with universal consent the
kingdom of the West Franks, and all the kingdoms which lie between the
Tyrrhene Sea and that gulf[156] situated between the Old Saxons and the
Gauls, with the exception of the kingdom of Armorica.[157] This Charles
was the son of King Louis,[158] who was brother of Charles, King of the
Franks, father of Judith, the aforesaid queen; these two brothers were
sons of Louis,[159] Louis being the son of Charlemagne, son of Pepin.

=71. Death of Pope Marinus.=[160]--In that same year Pope Marinus, of
blessed memory, went the way of all flesh; it was he who, for the love
of Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, and at his request, generously
freed the Saxon Colony in Rome from all tribute and tax. He also sent
to the aforesaid king many gifts on that occasion, among which was no
small portion of the most holy and venerable cross on which our Lord
Jesus Christ hung for the salvation of all mankind.

=72. The Danes break their Treaty.=[161]--In that same year also the
army of heathen which dwelt in East Anglia disgracefully broke the
peace which they had concluded with King Alfred.

=73. Asser makes a New Beginning.=[162]--And now, to return to that
from which I digressed, lest I be compelled by my long navigation
to abandon the haven of desired rest,[163] I propose, as far as my
knowledge will enable me, to speak somewhat concerning the life,
character, and just conduct, and in no small degree concerning the
deeds, of my lord Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, after he married
the said respected wife of noble Mercian race; and, with God’s
blessing, I will despatch it concisely and briefly, as I promised, that
I may not, by prolixity in relating each new event, offend the minds of
those who may be somewhat hard to please.

=74. Alfred’s Maladies.=[164]--While his nuptials were being honorably
celebrated in Mercia, among innumerable multitudes of both sexes, and
after long feasts by night and by day, he was suddenly seized, in the
presence of all the people, by instant and overwhelming pain, unknown
to any physician. No one there knew, nor even those who daily see him
up to the present time--and this, sad to say, is the worst of all, that
it should have continued uninterruptedly through the revolutions of so
many years, from the twentieth to the fortieth year of his life and
more--whence such a malady arose. Many thought that it was occasioned
by the favor and fascination of the people who surrounded him; others,
by some spite of the devil, who is ever jealous of good men; others,
from an unusual kind of fever; while still others thought it was the
_ficus_,[165] which species of severe disease he had had from his
childhood. On a certain occasion it had come to pass by the divine will
that when he had gone to Cornwall on a hunting expedition, and had
turned out of the road to pray in a certain church in which rests Saint
Gueriir [and now also St. Neot reposes there],[166] he had of his own
accord prostrated himself for a long time in silent prayer--since from
childhood he had been a frequent visitor of holy places for prayer and
the giving of alms--and there he besought the mercy of the Lord that,
in his boundless clemency, Almighty God would exchange the torments of
the malady which then afflicted him for some other lighter disease,
provided that such disease should not show itself outwardly in his
body, lest he should be useless and despised--for he had great dread
of leprosy or blindness, or any such complaint as instantly makes men
useless and despised at its coming. When he had finished his praying,
he proceeded on his journey, and not long after felt within himself
that he had been divinely healed, according to his request, of that
disorder, and that it was entirely eradicated, although he had obtained
even this complaint in the first flower of his youth by his devout and
frequent prayers and supplications to God. For if I may be allowed to
speak concisely, though in a somewhat inverted order, of his zealous
piety to God--in his earliest youth, before he married his wife, he
wished to establish his mind in God’s commandments, for he perceived
that he could not abstain from carnal desires[167]; and because he saw
that he should incur the anger of God if he did anything contrary to
His will, he used often to rise at cockcrow and at the matin hours,
and go to pray in churches and at the relics of the saints. There he
would prostrate himself, and pray that Almighty God in His mercy would
strengthen his mind still more in the love of His service, converting
it fully to Himself by some infirmity such as he might bear, but not
such as would render him contemptible and useless in worldly affairs.
Now when he had often prayed with much devotion to this effect,
after an interval of some time he incurred as a gift from God the
before-named disease of the _ficus_, which he bore long and painfully
for many years, even despairing of life, until he entirely got rid of
it by prayer. But, sad to say, though it had been removed, a worse
one seized him, as I have said, at his marriage, and this incessantly
tormented him, night and day, from the twentieth to the forty-fifth
year of his life. But if ever, by God’s mercy, he was relieved from
this infirmity for a single day or night, or even for the space of
one hour, yet the fear and dread of that terrible malady never left
him, but rendered him almost useless, as he thought, in every affair,
whether human or divine.

=75. Alfred’s Children and their Education.=[168]--The sons and
daughters whom he had by his wife above-mentioned were Æthelflæd, the
eldest, after whom came Edward, then Æthelgivu, then Ælfthryth, and
finally Æthelward--besides those who died in childhood. The number of
...[169] Æthelflæd, when she arrived at a marriageable age, was united
to Æthelred,[170] Ealdorman of Mercia. Æthelgivu, having dedicated her
maidenhood to God, entered His service, and submitted to the rules
of the monastic life, to which she was consecrate. Æthelward, the
youngest, by the divine counsel and by the admirable foresight of the
king, was intrusted to the schools of literary training, where, with
the children of almost all the nobility of the country, and many also
who were not noble, he was under the diligent care of the teachers.
Books in both languages, namely, Latin and Saxon, were diligently
read in the school.[171] They also learned to write; so that before
they were of an age to practise human arts, namely, hunting and other
pursuits which befit noblemen, they became studious and clever in the
liberal arts. Edward and Ælfthryth were always bred up in the king’s
court, and received great attention from their tutors and nurses; nay,
they continue to this day, with much love from every one, to show
humbleness, affability, and gentleness towards all, both natives and
foreigners, while remaining in complete subjection to their father.
Nor, among the other pursuits which appertain to this life and are
fit for noble youths, are they suffered to pass their time idly and
unprofitably without liberal training; for they have carefully learned
the Psalms[172] and Saxon books, especially Saxon poems, and are in the
habit of making frequent use of books.

=76. Alfred’s Varied Pursuits.=[173]--In the meantime, the king, during
the wars and frequent trammels of this present life, the invasions
of the heathen, and his own daily infirmities of body, continued to
carry on the government, and to practise hunting in all its branches;
to teach his goldsmiths[174] and all his artificers, his falconers,
hawkers, and dog-keepers; to build houses, majestic and rich beyond
all custom of his predecessors, after his own new designs; to recite
the Saxon books, and especially to learn by heart Saxon poems,[175]
and to make others learn them, he alone never ceasing from studying
most diligently to the best of his ability. He daily attended mass
and the other services of religion; recited certain psalms, together
with prayers, and the daily and nightly hour-service; and frequented
the churches at night, as I have said, that he might pray in secret,
apart from others. He bestowed alms and largesses both on natives and
on foreigners of all countries; was most affable and agreeable to all;
and was skilful in the investigation of things unknown.[176] Many
Franks, Frisians,[177] Gauls, heathen,[178] Welsh, Irish,[179] and
Bretons,[180] noble and simple, submitted voluntarily to his dominion;
and all of them, according to their worthiness,[181] he ruled, loved,
honored, and enriched with money and power, as if they had been his
own people.[182] Moreover, he was sedulous and zealous in the habit of
hearing the divine Scriptures read by his own countrymen, or if, by
any chance it so happened that any one arrived from abroad, to hear
prayers in company with foreigners. His bishops, too, and all the
clergy, his ealdormen and nobles, his personal attendants and friends,
he loved with wonderful affection. Their sons, too, who were bred up in
the royal household, were no less dear to him than his own; he never
ceased to instruct them in all kinds of good morals, and, among other
things, himself to teach them literature night and day. But as if he
had no consolation in all these things, and suffered no other annoyance
either from within or without, he was so harassed by daily and nightly
sadness that he complained and made moan to the Lord, and to all who
were admitted to his familiarity and affection, that Almighty God had
made him ignorant of divine wisdom and of the liberal arts; in this
emulating the pious, famous, and wealthy Solomon, King of the Hebrews,
who at the outset, despising all present glory and riches, asked wisdom
of God, and yet found both, namely, wisdom and present glory; as it
is written, ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and
all these things shall be added unto you.’[183] But God, who is always
the observer of the thoughts of the inward mind, the instigator of
meditations and of all good purposes, and a plentiful aider in the
formation of good desires--for He would never inspire a man to aim at
the good unless He also amply supplied that which the man justly and
properly wished to have--stirred up the king’s mind from within, not
from without; as it is written, ‘I will hearken what the Lord God will
say concerning me.’[184] He would avail himself of every opportunity
to procure assistants in his good designs, to aid him in his strivings
after wisdom, that he might attain to what he aimed at; and, like a
prudent bee,[185] which, rising in summer at early morning from her
beloved cells, steers her course with rapid flight along the uncertain
paths of the air, and descends on the manifold and varied flowers of
grasses, herbs, and shrubs, essaying that which most pleases her, and
bearing it home, he directed the eyes of his mind afar, and sought that
without which he had not within, that is, in his own kingdom.[186]

=77. Alfred’s Scholarly Associates: Werfrith, Plegmund, Æthelstan,
and Werwulf.=[187]--But God at that time, as some consolation to the
king’s benevolence, enduring no longer his kindly and just complaint,
sent as it were certain luminaries, namely, Werfrith,[188] Bishop
of the church of Worcester, a man well versed in divine Scripture,
who, by the king’s command, was the first to interpret with clearness
and elegance the books of the _Dialogues_ of Pope Gregory and Peter,
his disciple, from Latin into Saxon, sometimes putting sense for
sense; then Plegmund,[189] a Mercian by birth, Archbishop of the
church of Canterbury, a venerable man, endowed with wisdom; besides
Æthelstan[190] and Werwulf, learned priests and clerks,[191] Mercians
by birth. These four King Alfred had called to him from Mercia, and he
exalted them with many honors and powers in the kingdom of the West
Saxons, not to speak of those which Archbishop Plegmund and Bishop
Werfrith had in Mercia. By the teaching and wisdom of all these the
king’s desire increased continually, and was gratified. Night and
day, whenever he had any leisure, he commanded such men as these to
read books to him--for he never suffered himself to be without one of
them--so that he came to possess a knowledge of almost every book,
though of himself he could not yet understand anything of books, since
he had not yet learned to read anything.

=78. Grimbald and John, the Old Saxon.=[192]--But since the king’s
commendable avarice could not be gratified even in this, he sent
messengers beyond sea to Gaul, to procure teachers, and invited from
thence Grimbald,[193] priest and monk, a venerable man and excellent
singer, learned in every kind of ecclesiastical discipline and in
holy Scripture, and adorned with all virtues. He also obtained from
thence John,[194] both priest and monk, a man of the keenest intellect,
learned in all branches of literature, and skilled in many other arts.
By the teaching of these men the king’s mind was greatly enlarged, and
he enriched and honored them with much power.

=79. Asser’s Negotiations with King Alfred.=[195]--At that time I also
came to Wessex, out of the furthest coasts of Western Wales; and when I
had proposed to go to him through many intervening provinces, I arrived
in the country of the South Saxons, which in Saxon is called Sussex,
under the guidance of some of that nation; and there I first saw him in
the royal vill which is called Dene.[196] He received me with kindness,
and, among other conversation, besought me eagerly to devote myself to
his service and become his friend, and to leave for his sake everything
which I possessed on the northern and western side of the Severn,
promising he would give me more than an equivalent for it, as in fact
he did. I replied that I could not incautiously and rashly promise such
things; for it seemed to me unjust that I should leave those sacred
places in which I had been bred and educated, where I had received the
tonsure, and had at length been ordained, for the sake of any earthly
honor and power, unless by force and compulsion. Upon this he said:
‘If you cannot accede to this, at least grant me half your service:
spend six months with me here, and six in Wales.’ To this I replied: ‘I
could not easily or rashly promise even that without the approval of
my friends.’ At length, however, when I perceived that he was really
anxious for my services, though I knew not why, I promised him that,
if my life were spared, I would return to him after six months, with
such a reply as should be agreeable to him as well as advantageous to
me and mine. With this answer he was satisfied; and when I had given
him a pledge to return at the appointed time, on the fourth day we rode
away from him, and returned to my own country. After our departure, a
violent fever seized me in the city of Cærwent,[197] where I lay for
twelve months and one week, night and day, without hope of recovery.
When at the appointed time, therefore, I had not fulfilled my promise
of visiting him, he sent letters to hasten my journey on horseback to
him, and to inquire the cause of my delay. As I was unable to ride to
him, I sent a reply to make known to him the cause of my delay, and
assure him that, if I recovered from my illness, I would fulfil what
I had promised. My disease finally left me, and accordingly, by the
advice and consent of all my friends, for the benefit of that holy
place and of all who dwelt therein, I devoted myself to the king’s
service as I had promised, the condition being that I should remain
with him six months every year, either continuously, if I could spend
six months with him at once, or alternately, three months in Wales and
three in Wessex. It was also understood that he should in all ways
be helpful to St. Davids, as far as his power extended.[198] For my
friends hoped by this means to sustain less tribulation and harm from
King Hemeid--who often plundered that monastery and the parish of
St. Davids, and sometimes expelled the bishops who ruled over it, as
he did Archbishop Nobis, my relative, and on occasion myself, their
subordinate--if in any way I could secure the notice and friendship of
the king.

=80. The Welsh Princes who submit to Alfred.=[199]--At that time, and
long before, all the countries in South Wales belonged to King Alfred,
and still belong to him. For instance, King Hemeid, with all the
inhabitants of the region of Dyfed,[200] restrained by the violence
of the six sons of Rhodri,[201] had submitted to the dominion of the
king. Howel also, son of Ris, King of Glywyssing,[202] and Brochmail
and Fernmail, sons of Mouric, kings of Gwent,[203] compelled by the
violence and tyranny of Ealdorman Æthelred and of the Mercians, of
their own accord sought out the same king,[204] that they might enjoy
rule and protection from him against their enemies. Helised, also,
son of Teudubr, King of Brecknock, compelled by the violence of the
same sons of Rhodri, of his own accord sought the lordship of the
aforesaid king; and Anarawd, son of Rhodri, with his brothers, at
length abandoning the friendship of the Northumbrians, from whom he had
received no good, but rather harm, came into King Alfred’s presence,
and eagerly sought his friendship. The king received him with honor,
adopted him as his son by confirmation from the bishop’s hand,[205] and
bestowed many gifts upon him. Thus he became subject to the king with
all his people, on condition that he should be obedient to the king’s
will in all respects, in the same way as Æthelred and the Mercians.

=81. How Alfred rewards Submission.=[206]--Nor was it in vain that
they all gained the friendship of the king. For those who desired to
augment their worldly power obtained power; those who desired money
gained money; those who desired his friendship acquired his friendship;
those who wished more than one secured more than one. But all of them
had his love and guardianship and defense from every quarter, so far as
the king, with all his men, could defend himself. When therefore I had
come to him at the royal vill called Leonaford,[207] I was honorably
received by him, and remained that time with him at his court eight
months; during which I read to him whatever books he liked, of such as
he had at hand; for this is his peculiar and most confirmed habit, both
night and day, amid all his other occupations of mind and body,[208]
either himself to read books, or to listen to the reading of others.
And when I frequently had sought his permission to return, and had
in no way been able to obtain it, at length, when I had made up my
mind by all means to demand it, he called me to him at twilight on
Christmas Eve, and gave me two letters in which was a manifold list of
all the things which were in the two monasteries which are called in
Saxon Congresbury and Banwell[209]; and on that same day he delivered
to me those two monasteries with everything in them, together with a
silken pallium of great value, and of incense a load for a strong man,
adding these words, that he did not give me these trifling presents
because he was unwilling hereafter to give me greater. For in the
course of time he unexpectedly gave me Exeter, with the whole diocese
which belonged to him in Wessex and in Cornwall, besides gifts every
day without number of every kind of worldly wealth; these it would be
too long to enumerate here, lest it should weary my readers. But let
no one suppose that I have mentioned these presents in this place for
the sake of glory or flattery, or to obtain greater honor; I call God
to witness that I have not done so, but that I might certify to those
who are ignorant how profuse he was in giving. He then at once gave
me permission to ride to those two monasteries, so full of all good
things, and afterwards to return to my own.

=82. The Siege of Paris.=[210]--In the year of our Lord’s incarnation
886, which was the thirty-eighth of King Alfred’s life, the army so
often mentioned again fled the country, and went into that of the West
Franks. Entering the river Seine with their vessels, they sailed up it
as far as the city of Paris; there they wintered, pitching their camp
on both sides of the river almost to the bridge, in order that they
might prevent the citizens from crossing the bridge--since the city
occupies a small island in the middle of the stream. They besieged the
city for a whole year, but, by the merciful favor of God, and by reason
of the brave defense of the citizens, they could not force their way
inside the walls.

=83. Alfred rebuilds London.=[211]--In that same year Alfred, King of
the Anglo-Saxons, after the burning of cities and massacres of the
people, honorably rebuilt the city of London, made it habitable, and
gave it into the custody of Æthelred, Ealdorman of Mercia. To this
king[212] all the Angles and Saxons who hitherto had been dispersed
everywhere, or were in captivity with the heathen,[213] voluntarily
turned, and submitted themselves to his rule.[214]

=84. The Danes leave Paris.=[215]--In the year of our Lord’s
incarnation 887, which was the thirty-ninth of King Alfred’s life,
the above-mentioned army of the heathen, leaving the city of Paris
uninjured, since otherwise they could get no advantage, passed under
the bridge and rowed their fleet up the river Seine for a long
distance, until they reached the mouth of the river Marne; here they
left the Seine, entered the mouth of the Marne, and, sailing up it for
a good distance and a good while, at length, not without labor, arrived
at a place called Chézy, a royal vill, where they wintered a whole
year. In the following year they entered the mouth of the river Yonne,
not without doing much damage to the country, and there remained one

=85. Division of the Empire.=[216]--In that same year Charles,[217]
King of the Franks, went the way of all flesh; but Arnolf, his
brother’s son, six weeks before he died, had expelled him from the
kingdom. Immediately after his death five kings were ordained, and
the kingdom was split into five parts; but the principal seat of the
kingdom justly and deservedly fell to Arnolf, were it not that he had
shamefully sinned against his uncle. The other four kings promised
fidelity and obedience to Arnolf, as was meet; for none of these four
kings was heir to the kingdom on his father’s side, as was Arnolf;
therefore, though the five kings were ordained immediately upon the
death of Charles, yet the Empire remained to Arnolf. Such, then, was
the division of that realm; Arnolf received the countries to the east
of the river Rhine; Rudolf the inner part of the kingdom[218]; Odo the
western part; Berengar and Wido, Lombardy, and those countries which
are on that side of the mountain. But they did not keep such and so
great dominions in peace among themselves, for they twice fought a
pitched battle, and often mutually ravaged those kingdoms, and drove
one another out of their dominions.

=86. Alfred sends Alms to Rome.=[219]--In the same year in which
that army left Paris and went to Chézy,[220] Æthelhelm, Ealdorman of
Wiltshire, carried to Rome the alms of King Alfred and of the Saxons.

=87. Alfred begins to translate from Latin.=[221]--In that same year
also the oft-mentioned Alfred, King of the Anglo-Saxons, by divine
inspiration first began, on one and the same day, to read and to
translate; but that this may be clearer to those who are ignorant, I
will relate the cause of this long delay in beginning.

=88. Alfred’s Manual.=[222]--On a certain day we were both of us
sitting in the king’s chamber, talking on all kinds of subjects, as
usual, and it happened that I read to him a quotation out of a certain
book. While he was listening to it attentively with both ears, and
pondering it deeply with his inmost mind, he suddenly showed me a
little book[223] which he carried in his bosom, wherein were written
the daily course, together with certain Psalms and prayers which he
had read in his youth, and thereupon bade me write the quotation in
that book. Hearing this, and perceiving in part his active intelligence
and goodness of heart, together with his devout resolution of studying
divine wisdom, I gave, though in secret, yet with hands uplifted to
heaven, boundless thanks to Almighty God, who had implanted such
devotion to the study of wisdom in the king’s heart. But since I could
find no blank space in that book wherein to write the quotation, it
being all full of various matters, I delayed a little, chiefly that
I might stir up the choice understanding of the king to a higher
knowledge of the divine testimonies. Upon his urging me to make haste
and write it quickly, I said to him, ‘Are you willing that I should
write that quotation on some separate leaf? Perhaps we shall find one
or more other such which will please you; and if that should happen,
we shall be glad that we have kept this by itself.’ ‘Your plan is
good,’ said he; so I gladly made haste to get ready a pamphlet of four
leaves, at the head of which I wrote what he had bidden me; and that
same day I wrote in it, at his request, and as I had predicted, no less
than three other quotations which pleased him. From that time we daily
talked together, and investigated the same subject by the help of other
quotations which we found and which pleased him, so that the pamphlet
gradually became full, and deservedly so, for it is written, ‘The
righteous man builds upon a moderate foundation, and by degrees passes
to greater things.’[224] Thus, like a most productive bee, flying far
and wide, and scrutinizing the fenlands, he eagerly and unceasingly
collected various flowers of Holy Scripture, with which he copiously
stored the cells of his mind.[225]

=89. Alfred’s Handbook.=[226]--When that first quotation had been
copied, he was eager at once to read, and to translate into Saxon,
and then to teach many others--even as we are assured concerning that
happy thief who recognized the Lord Jesus Christ, his Lord, aye, the
Lord of all men, as he was hanging on the venerable gallows of the
holy cross, and, with trustful petition, casting down of his body no
more than his eyes, since he was so entirely fastened with nails that
he could do nothing else, cried with humble voice, ‘O Christ, remember
me when thou comest into thy kingdom!‘[227]--since it was only on the
cross that he began to learn the elements of the Christian faith.[228]
Inspired by God, he began the rudiments of Holy Scripture on the sacred
feast of St. Martin.[229] Then he went on, as far as he was able, to
learn the flowers[230] collected from various quarters by any and all
of his teachers, and to reduce them into the form of one book, although
jumbled together, until it became almost as large as a psalter. This
book he called his Enchiridion[231] or Handbook,[232] because he
carefully kept it at hand day and night, and found, as he then used to
say, no small consolation therein.

=90. Illustration from the Penitent Thief.=[233]--But, as it was
written by a wise man,[234]

    Of watchful minds are they whose pious care
    It is to govern well,

I see that I must be especially watchful, in that I just now drew a
kind of comparison, though in dissimilar manner,[235] between the
happy thief and the king; for the cross is hateful to every one in
distress.[236] But what can he do, if he cannot dislodge himself or
escape thence? or in what way can he improve his condition by remaining
there? He must, therefore, whether he will or no, endure with pain and
sorrow that which he is suffering.

=91. Alfred’s Troubles.=[237]--Now the king was pierced with many
nails of tribulation, though established in the royal sway; for from
the twentieth year of his age to the present year, which is his
forty-fifth,[238] he has been constantly afflicted with most severe
attacks of an unknown disease, so that there is not a single hour in
which he is not either suffering from that malady, or nigh to despair
by reason of the gloom which is occasioned by his fear of it. Moreover
the constant invasions of foreign nations, by which he was continually
harassed by land and sea, without any interval of quiet, constituted a
sufficient cause of disturbance.

What shall I say of his repeated expeditions against the heathen, his
wars, and the incessant occupations of government? Of the daily ...
of the[239] nations which dwell on[240] the Tyrrhene[241] Sea to the
farthest end of Ireland? For we have seen and read letters, accompanied
with presents, which were sent to him from Jerusalem by the patriarch
Elias.[242] What shall I say of his restoration of cities and towns,
and of others which he built where none had been before? of golden and
silver buildings,[243] built in incomparable style under his direction?
of the royal halls and chambers, wonderfully erected of stone and
wood at his command? of the royal vills constructed of stones removed
from their old site, and finely rebuilt by the king’s command in more
fitting places?

Not to speak of the disease above mentioned, he was disturbed by
the quarrels of his subjects,[244] who would of their own choice
endure little or no toil for the common need of the kingdom. He
alone, sustained by the divine aid, once he had assumed the helm of
government, strove in every way, like a skilful pilot, to steer[245]
his ship, laden with much wealth, into the safe and longed-for harbor
of his country, though almost all his crew were weary, suffering them
not to faint or hesitate, even amid the waves and manifold whirlpools
of this present life. Thus his bishops, earls, nobles, favorite
thanes, and prefects, who, next to God and the king, had the whole
government of the kingdom, as was fitting, continually received from
him instruction, compliment, exhortation, and command; nay, at last, if
they were disobedient, and his long patience was exhausted, he would
reprove them severely, and censure in every way their vulgar folly and
obstinacy; and thus he wisely gained and bound them to his own wishes
and the common interests of the whole kingdom. But if, owing to the
sluggishness of the people, these admonitions of the king were either
not fulfilled, or were begun late at the moment of necessity, and so,
because they were not carried through, did not redound to the advantage
of those who put them in execution--take as an example the fortresses
which he ordered, but which are not yet begun or, begun late, have not
yet been completely finished--when hostile forces have made invasions
by sea, or land, or both, then those who had set themselves against
the imperial orders have been put to shame and overwhelmed with vain
repentance. I speak of vain repentance on the authority of Scripture,
whereby numberless persons have had cause for sorrow when they have
been smitten by great harm through the perpetration of deceit. But
though by this means, sad to say, they may be bitterly afflicted, and
roused to grief by the loss of fathers, wives, children, thanes, man
servants, maid servants, products, and all their household stuff, what
is the use of hateful repentance when their kinsmen are dead, and they
cannot aid them, or redeem from dire captivity those who are captive?
for they cannot even help themselves when they have escaped, since they
have not wherewithal to sustain their own lives. Sorely exhausted by a
tardy repentance, they grieve over their carelessness in despising the
king’s commands; they unite in praising his wisdom, promising to fulfil
with all their might what before they had declined to do, namely, in
the construction of fortresses, and other things useful to the whole

=92. Alfred builds two Monasteries.=[246]--Concerning his desire and
intent of excellent meditation, which, in the midst both of prosperity
and adversity, he never in any way neglected, I cannot in this place
with advantage forbear to speak. For, when he was reflecting, according
to his wont, upon the need of his soul,[247] he ordered, among the
other good deeds to which his thoughts were by night and day[248]
especially turned, that two monasteries should be built, one of them
being for monks at Athelney.[249] This is a place surrounded by
impassable fens and waters on every hand, where no one can enter but by
boats, or by a bridge laboriously constructed between two fortresses,
at the western end of which bridge was erected a strong citadel, of
beautiful work, by command of the aforesaid king. In this monastery
he collected monks of all kinds from every quarter, and there settled

=93. Monasticism was decayed.=[250]--At first he had no one of his own
nation, noble and free by birth, who was willing to enter the monastic
life, except children, who as yet could neither choose good nor reject
evil by reason of their tender years. This was the case because for
many years previous the love of a monastic life had utterly decayed in
that as well as in many other nations; for, though many monasteries
still remain in that country, yet no one kept the rule of that kind of
life in an orderly way, whether because of the invasions of foreigners,
which took place so frequently both by sea and land, or because that
people abounded in riches of every kind, and so looked with contempt on
the monastic life. On this account it was that King Alfred sought to
gather monks of different kinds in the same monastery.

=94. Monks brought from beyond Sea.=[251]--First he placed there
John[252] the priest and monk, an Old Saxon by birth, making him abbot;
and then certain priests and deacons from beyond sea. Finding that he
had not so large a number of these as he wished, he procured as many as
possible of the same Gallic race[253]; some of whom, being children, he
ordered to be taught in the same monastery, and at a later period to be
admitted to the monastic habit. I have myself seen there in monastic
dress a young man of heathen birth who was educated in that monastery,
and by no means the hindmost of them all.

=95. A Crime committed at Athelney.=[254]--There was a crime committed
once in that monastery, which I would ,[255] by my silence,
utterly consign to oblivion, although it is an atrocious villainy, for
throughout the whole of Scripture the base deeds of the wicked are
interspersed among the reverend actions of the righteous, like tares
and cockle among the wheat. Good deeds are recorded that they may be
praised, imitated, and emulated, and that those who pursue them may be
held worthy of all honor; and wicked deeds, that they may be censured,
execrated, and avoided, and their imitators be reproved with all odium,
contempt, and vengeance.

=96. The Plot of a Priest and a Deacon.=[256]--Once upon a time,
a certain priest and a deacon, Gauls by birth, of the number of
the aforesaid monks, by the instigation of the devil, and roused
by jealousy, became so embittered in secret against their abbot,
the above-mentioned John, that, after the manner of the Jews, they
circumvented and betrayed their master. For they so wrought upon two
hired servants of the same Gallic race that in the night, when all men
were enjoying the sweet tranquillity of sleep, they should make their
way into the church armed, and, shutting it behind them as usual, hide
themselves there, and wait till the abbot should enter the church
alone. At length, when, as was his wont, he should secretly enter the
church by himself to pray, and, bending his knees, bow before the holy
altar, the men should fall upon him, and slay him on the spot. They
should then drag his lifeless body out of the church, and throw it down
before the house of a certain harlot, as if he had been slain whilst
on a visit to her. This was their device, adding crime to crime, as it
is said, ‘The last error shall be worse than the first.’[257] But the
divine mercy, which is always wont to aid the innocent, frustrated in
great part the evil design of those evil men, so that it did not turn
out in all respects as they had planned.

=97. The Execution of the Plot.=[258]--When, therefore, the whole of
the evil teaching had been explained by those wicked teachers to their
wicked hearers, and enforced upon them, the night having come and
being favorable, the two armed ruffians, furnished with a promise of
impunity, shut themselves up in the church to await the arrival of the
abbot. In the middle of the night John, as usual, entered the church
to pray, without any one’s knowledge, and knelt before the altar.
Thereupon the two ruffians rushed upon him suddenly with drawn swords,
and wounded him severely. But he, being ever a man of keen mind, and,
as I have heard say, not unacquainted with the art of fighting, if he
had not been proficient in better lore, no sooner heard the noise of
the robbers, even before he saw them, than he rose up against them
before he was wounded, and, shouting at the top of his voice, struggled
against them with all his might, crying out that they were devils and
not men--and indeed he knew no better, as he thought that no men would
dare to attempt such a deed. He was, however, wounded before any of
his monks could come up. They, roused by the noise, were frightened
when they heard the word ‘devils’; being likewise unfamiliar with
such struggles, they, and the two who, after the manner of the Jews,
were traitors to their lord, rushed toward the doors of the church;
but before they got there those ruffians escaped with all speed, and
secreted themselves in the fens near by, leaving the abbot half dead.
The monks raised their nearly lifeless superior, and bore him home with
grief and lamentations; nor did those two knaves shed tears less than
the innocent. But God’s mercy did not allow so horrible a crime to pass
unpunished: the desperadoes who perpetrated it, and all who urged them
to it, were seized and bound; then, by various tortures, they died a
shameful death. Let us now return to our main narrative.

=98. The Convent at Shaftesbury.=[259]--Another[260] monastery also was
built by the aforesaid king as a residence for nuns, near the eastern
gate of Shaftesbury; and over it he placed as abbess his own daughter
Æthelgivu, a virgin dedicated to God. With her many other noble ladies,
serving God in the monastic life, dwell in that convent. These two
edifices were enriched by the king with much land, and with all sorts
of wealth.

=99. Alfred divides his Time and his Revenues.=[261]--These things
being thus disposed of, the king considered within himself, as was his
practice, what more would conduce to religious meditation. What he
had wisely begun and usefully conceived was adhered to with even more
beneficial result; for he had long before heard out of the book of the
law that the Lord[262] had promised to restore to him the tenth many
times over; and he knew that the Lord had faithfully kept His promise,
and had actually restored to him the tithe manyfold. Encouraged by this
precedent, and wishing to surpass the practice of his predecessors, he
vowed humbly and faithfully to devote to God half his services, by day
and by night, and also half of all the wealth which lawfully and justly
came every year into his possession; and this vow, as far as human
discretion can perceive and keep, he skilfully and wisely endeavored
to fulfil. But that he might, with his usual caution, avoid that which
Scripture warns us against, ‘If thou offerest aright, but dost not
divide aright, thou sinnest,’[263] he considered how he might divide
aright that which he had joyfully vowed to God; and as Solomon had
said, ‘The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord’[264]--that is, his
counsel--he ordered with a divinely inspired policy, which could come
only from above, that his officers should first divide into two parts
the revenues of every year.

=100. The Threefold Division of Officers at Court.=[265]--After this
division had been made, he assigned the first part to worldly uses, and
ordered that one third of it should be paid to his soldiers and to his
officers, the nobles who dwelt by turns at court, where they discharged
various duties, for thus it was that the king’s household was arranged
at all times in three shifts,[266] in the following manner. The king’s
attendants being wisely distributed into three companies, the first
company was on duty at court for one month, night and day, at the end
of which they were relieved by the second company, and returned to
their homes for two months, where they attended to their own affairs.
At the end of the second month, the third company relieved the second,
who returned to their homes, where they spent two months. The third
company then gave place to the first, and in their turn spent two
months at home. And in this order the rotation of service at the king’s
court was at all times carried on.

=101. The Distribution for Secular Purposes.=[267]--To these,
therefore, was paid the first of the three portions aforesaid, to
each according to his standing and peculiar service; the second to
the workmen whom he had collected from many nations and had about him
in large numbers, men skilled in every kind of building; the third
portion was assigned to foreigners who came to him out of every nation
far and near; whether they asked money of him or not, he cheerfully
gave to each with wonderful munificence according to their respective
worthiness,[268] exemplifying what is written, ‘God loveth a cheerful

=102. The Distribution for Religious Purposes.=[270]--But the second
part of all his revenues, which came yearly into his possession, and
was included in the receipts of the exchequer, as I mentioned just
above, he with full devotion dedicated to God, ordering his officers
to divide it carefully into four equal parts with the provision that
the first part should be discreetly bestowed on the poor of every
nation who came to him; on this subject he said that, as far as
human discretion could guarantee, the remark of Pope Gregory on the
proper division of alms should be followed, ‘Give not little to whom
you should give much, nor much to whom little, nor nothing to whom
something, nor something to whom nothing.’[271] The second share to the
two monasteries which he had built, and to those who were serving God
in them, as I have described more at length above. The third to the
school[272] which he had studiously formed from many of the nobility
of his own nation, but also from boys of mean condition. The fourth to
the neighboring monasteries in all Wessex and Mercia, and also during
some years, in turn, to the churches and servants of God dwelling in
Wales, Cornwall,[273] Gaul,[274] Brittany, Northumbria, and sometimes,
too, in Ireland; according to his means, he either distributed to them
beforehand, or agreed to contribute afterwards, if life and prosperity
did not fail him.

=103. Alfred’s Dedication of Personal Service.=[275]--When the king
had arranged all these matters in due order, he remembered the text of
holy Scripture which says, ‘Whosoever will give alms, ought to begin
from himself,’[276] and prudently began to reflect what he could offer
to God from the service of his body and mind; for he proposed to offer
to God no less out of this than he had done of external riches.[277]
Accordingly, he promised, as far as his infirmity and his means would
allow, to render to God the half of his services, bodily and mental, by
night and by day,[278] voluntarily, and with all his might. Inasmuch,
however, as he could not distinguish with accuracy the lengths of the
night hours in any way, on account of the darkness, nor frequently
those of the day, on account of the thick clouds and rains, he began
to consider by what regular means, free from uncertainty, relying on
the mercy of God, he might discharge the promised tenor of his vow
undeviatingly until his death.

=104. Alfred’s Measure of Time.=[279]--After long reflection on these
things, he at length, by a useful and shrewd invention, commanded his
clerks[280] to supply wax in sufficient quantity, and to weigh it in a
balance against pennies. When enough wax was measured out to equal the
weight of seventy-two pence, he caused the clerks to make six candles
thereof, all of equal weight, and to mark off twelve inches as the
length of each candle.[281] By this plan, therefore, those six candles
burned for twenty-four hours, a night and a day, without fail, before
the sacred relics of many of God’s elect, which always accompanied
him wherever he went. Sometimes, however, the candles could not
continue burning a whole day and night, till the same hour when they
were lighted the preceding evening, by reason of the violence of the
winds, which at times blew day and night without intermission through
the doors and windows[282] of the churches, the sheathing, and the
wainscot,[283] the numerous chinks in the walls, or the thin material
of the tents; on such occasions it was unavoidable that they should
burn out and finish their course before the appointed hour. The king,
therefore, set himself to consider by what means he might shut out
the wind, and by a skilful and cunning invention ordered a lantern to
be beautifully constructed of wood and ox-horn, since white ox-horns,
when shaved thin, are as transparent as a vessel of glass. Into this
lantern, then, wonderfully made of wood and horn, as I before said, a
candle was put at night, which shone as brightly without as within, and
was not disturbed by the wind, since he had also ordered a door of horn
to be made for the opening of the lantern.[284] By this contrivance,
then, six candles, lighted in succession, lasted twenty-four hours,
neither more nor less. When these were burned out, others were lighted.

=105. Alfred judges the Poor with Equity.=[285]--When all these things
were properly arranged, the king, eager to hold to the half of his
daily service, as he had vowed to God, and more also, if his ability
on the one hand, and his malady on the other, would allow him, showed
himself a minute investigator of the truth in all his judgments, and
this especially for the sake of the poor, to whose interest, day
and night, among other duties of this life, he was ever wonderfully
attentive. For in the whole kingdom the poor, besides him, had few or
no helpers; for almost all the powerful and noble of that country had
turned their thoughts rather to secular than to divine things: each was
more bent on worldly business, to his own profit, than on the common

=106. His Correction of Unjust and Incompetent Judges.=[285]--He
strove also, in his judgments, for the benefit of both his nobles and
commons, who often quarreled fiercely among themselves at the meetings
of the ealdormen and sheriffs, so that hardly one of them admitted the
justice of what had been decided by these ealdormen and sheriffs. In
consequence of this pertinacious and obstinate dissension, all felt
constrained to give sureties to abide by the decision of the king, and
both parties hastened to carry out their engagements. But if any one
was conscious of injustice on his side in the suit, though by law and
agreement he was compelled, however reluctant, to come for judgment
before a judge like this, yet with his own good will he never would
consent to come. For he knew that in that place no part of his evil
practice would remain hidden; and no wonder, for the king was a most
acute investigator in executing his judgments, as he was in all other
things. He inquired into almost all the judgments which were given
in his absence, throughout all his dominion, whether they were just
or unjust. If he perceived there was iniquity in those judgments, he
would, of his own accord, mildly ask those judges, either in his own
person, or through others who were in trust with him, why they had
judged so unjustly, whether through ignorance or malevolence--that is,
whether for the love or fear of any one, the hatred of another, or the
desire of some one’s money. At length, if the judges acknowledged they
had given such judgment because they knew no better, he discreetly
and moderately reproved their inexperience and folly in such terms as
these: ‘I greatly wonder at your assurance, that whereas, by God’s
favor and mine, you have taken upon you the rank and office of the
wise, you have neglected the studies and labors of the wise. Either,
therefore, at once give up the administration of the earthly powers
which you possess, or endeavor more zealously to study the lessons
of wisdom. Such are my commands.’ At these words the ealdormen and
sheriffs would be filled with terror at being thus severely corrected,
and would endeavor to turn with all their might to the study of
justice, so that, wonderful to say, almost all his ealdormen, sheriffs,
and officers, though unlearned from childhood, gave themselves up
to the study of letters, choosing rather to acquire laboriously an
unfamiliar discipline than to resign their functions. But if any one,
from old age or the sluggishness of an untrained mind, was unable to
make progress in literary studies, he would order his son, if he had
one, or one of his kinsmen, or, if he had no one else, his own freedman
or servant, whom he had long before advanced to the office of reading,
to read Saxon books before him night and day, whenever he had any
leisure. And then they would lament with deep sighs from their inmost
souls that in their youth they had never attended to such studies. They
counted happy the youth of the present day, who could be delightfully
instructed in the liberal arts, while they considered themselves
wretched in that they had neither learned these things in their youth,
nor, now they were old, were able to do so. This skill of young and old
in acquiring letters, I have set forth as a means of characterizing the
aforesaid king.





King Alfred bids greet Bishop Wærferth with his words lovingly and
with friendship; and I let it be known to thee that it has very
often come into my mind what wise men there formerly were throughout
England, both of sacred and secular orders; and what happy times
there were then throughout England; and how the kings who had power
over the nation in those days obeyed God and His ministers; how they
preserved peace, morality, and order at home, and at the same time
enlarged their territory abroad; and how they prospered both with war
and with wisdom; and also how zealous the sacred orders were both in
teaching and learning, and in all the services they owed to God; and
how foreigners came to this land in search of wisdom and instruction,
and how we should now have to get them from abroad if we were to have
them. So general was its decay in England that there were very few on
this side of the Humber who could understand their rituals in English,
or translate a letter from Latin into English; and I believe that
there were not many beyond the Humber. There were so few of them that
I cannot remember a single one south of the Thames when I came to the
throne. Thanks be to Almighty God that we have any teachers among us
now. And therefore I command thee to do as I believe thou art willing,
to disengage thyself from worldly matters as often as thou canst, that
thou mayest apply the wisdom which God has given thee wherever thou
canst. Consider what punishments would come upon us on account of this
world, if we neither loved it [wisdom] ourselves nor suffered other
men to obtain it: we should love the name only of Christian, and very
few the virtues. When I considered all this, I remembered also that
I saw, before it had been all ravaged and burned, how the churches
throughout the whole of England stood filled with treasures and books;
and there was also a great multitude of God’s servants, but they had
very little knowledge of the books, for they could not understand
anything of them, because they were not written in their own language.
As if they had said: ‘Our forefathers, who formerly held these places,
loved wisdom, and through it they obtained wealth and bequeathed it to
us. In this we can still see their tracks, but we cannot follow them,
and therefore we have lost both the wealth and the wisdom, because we
would not incline our hearts after their example.’ When I remembered
all this, I wondered extremely that the good and wise men who were
formerly all over England, and had perfectly learned all the books, had
not wished to translate them into their own language. But again I soon
answered myself and said: ‘They did not think that men would ever be so
careless, and that learning would so decay; through that desire they
abstained from it, since they wished that the wisdom in this land might
increase with our knowledge of languages.’ Then I remembered how the
law was first known in Hebrew, and again, when the Greeks had learned
it, they translated the whole of it into their own language, and all
other books besides. And again the Romans, when they had learned them,
translated the whole of them by learned interpreters into their own
language. And also all other Christian nations translated a part of
them into their own language. Therefore it seems better to me, if you
think so, for us also to translate some books which are most needful
for all men to know into the language which we can all understand, and
for you to do as we very easily can if we have tranquillity enough,
that is, that all the youth now in England of free men, who are rich
enough to be able to devote themselves to it, be set to learn as long
as they are not fit for any other occupation, until they are able to
read English writing well: and let those be afterwards taught more in
the Latin language who are to continue in learning, and be promoted
to a higher rank. When I remembered how the knowledge of Latin had
formerly decayed throughout England, and yet many could read English
writing, I began, among other various and manifold troubles of this
kingdom, to translate into English the book which is called in Latin
_Pastoralis_, and in English _Shepherd’s Book_, sometimes word by word,
and sometimes according to the sense, as I had learned it from Plegmund
my archbishop, and Asser my bishop, and Grimbald my mass-priest,
and John my mass-priest. And when I had learned it as I could best
understand it, and as I could most clearly interpret it, I translated
it into English; and I will send a copy to every bishopric in my
kingdom; and in each there is a book-mark worth fifty mancuses.[287]
And I command in God’s name that no man take the book-mark from the
book, or the book from the monastery. It is uncertain how long there
may be such learned bishops as now, thanks be to God, there are nearly
everywhere; therefore I wish them[288] always to remain in their
places, unless the bishop wish to take them with him, or they be lent
out anywhere, or any one be making a copy from them.



To Alfred, the most glorious and most Christian King of the Angles,
Fulco, by the grace of God Archbishop of Rheims, and servant of the
servants of God, wisheth both the sceptre of temporal dominion, ever
triumphant, and the eternal joys of the kingdom of heaven.

And first of all we give thanks to our Lord God, the Father of lights,
and the Author of all good, from whom is every good gift and every
perfect gift, who by the grace of His Holy Spirit hath not only been
pleased to cause the light of His knowledge to shine in your heart,
but also even now hath vouchsafed to kindle the fire of His love, by
which at once enlightened and warmed, you earnestly tender the weal of
the kingdom committed to you from above, by warlike achievements, with
divine assistance attaining or securing peace for it, and desiring to
extend the excellency of the ecclesiastical order, which is the army
of God. Wherefore we implore the divine mercy with unwearied prayers
that He who hath moved and warmed your heart to this would give effect
to your wishes, by replenishing your desire with good things, that in
your days both peace may be multiplied to your kingdom and people, and
that ecclesiastical order, which as you say hath been disturbed in many
ways, either by the continued irruptions and attacks of the pagans,
or by lapse of years, or by the negligence of prelates, or by the
ignorance of subjects, may by your diligence and industry be speedily
reëstablished, exalted, and diffused.

And since you wish this to be effected chiefly through our assistance,
and since from our see, over which St. Remigius, the apostle of the
Franks, presides, you ask for counsel and protection, we think that
this is not done without divine impulse. And as formerly the nation of
the Franks obtained by the same St. Remigius deliverance from manifold
error, and the knowledge of the worship of the only true God, so doth
the nation of the Angles request that it may obtain from his see and
doctrine one by whom they may be taught to avoid superstition, to cut
off superfluities, and to extirpate all such noxious things as bud
forth from violated custom or rude habits, and may learn, while they
walk through the field of the Lord, to pluck the flowers, and to be
upon their guard against the adder.

For St. Augustine, the first bishop of your nation, sent to us by
your apostle St. Gregory, could not in a short time set forth all the
decrees of the holy apostles, nor did he think proper suddenly to
burden a rude and barbarous nation with new and strange enactments; for
he knew how to adapt himself to their infirmities, and to say with the
Apostle, ‘I have given milk to you to drink, who are babes in Christ,
and not meat’ (1 Cor. 3. 2). And as Peter and James, who were looked
upon as pillars (Gal. 2. 9), with Barnabas and Paul, and the rest who
were met together, did not wish to oppress the primitive Church, which
was flowing in from the Gentiles to the faith of Christ, with a heavier
burden than to command them to abstain from things offered to idols,
and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood (Acts
15. 29), so also do we know how matters were managed with you at the
beginning. For they required only this for training up the people in
the knowledge of God, and turning them from their former barbarous
fierceness, namely, that faithful and prudent servants should be placed
over the Lord’s household, who should be competent to give out to
each of their fellow-servants his dole of food in due season, that is,
according to the capacity of each of the hearers. But in process of
time, as the Christian religion gained strength, the holy Church felt
it neither to be her inclination nor her duty to be satisfied with
this, but to take example from the apostles themselves, their masters
and founders, who, after the doctrines of the Gospel had been set forth
and spread abroad by their heavenly Master Himself, did not deem it
superfluous and needless, but convenient and salutary, to establish the
perfect believers by frequent epistolary exhortations, and to build
them more firmly upon the solid foundation, and to impart to them more
abundantly the rule as well of manners as of faith.

Nevertheless, she too, whether excited by adverse circumstances, or
nourished by prosperous ones, never ceased to aim at the good of her
children, whom she is daily bringing forth to Christ, and, inflamed
by the fire of the Holy Spirit, to promote their advancement, both
privately and publicly. Hence the frequent calling of councils, not
only from the neighboring cities and provinces, but also, in these
days, from regions beyond seas; hence synodal decrees so often
published; hence sacred canons, framed and consecrated by the Holy
Spirit, by which both the Catholic faith is powerfully strengthened,
and the unity of the Church’s peace is inviolably guarded, and its
order is decently regulated: which canons, as it is unlawful for any
Christian to transgress, so it is altogether wicked, in clerk and
priest especially, to be ignorant of them; the wholesome observance and
the religious handing down of which are things ever to be embraced.
Seeing that, for the reasons above stated, all these matters have
either not been fully made known to your nation, or have now for the
most part failed, it hath appeared fit and proper to your Majesty and
to your royal wisdom, by a most excellent counsel--inspired, as we
believe, from above--both to consult us, insignificant as we are, on
this matter, and to repair to the see of St. Remigius, by whose virtues
and doctrine the same see or church hath always flourished and excelled
all the churches of Gaul since his time in all piety and doctrine.

And since you are unwilling to appear before us, when you present these
your requests, without a gift and empty-handed, your Majesty hath
deigned to honor us with a present that is both very necessary for the
time and well suited to the matter in hand; concerning which we have
both praised heavenly Providence with admiration, and have returned
no slender thanks to your royal munificence. For you have sent unto
us a present of dogs, which, of good and excellent breed, are yet
only in the body and mortal; and this you do that they may drive away
the fury of visible wolves, with which, among other scourges, wielded
against us by the righteous judgment of God, our country abounds; and
you ask us, in return, that we should send to you certain watch-dogs,
not corporeal, that is to say, not such as those with whom the prophet
finds fault, saying, ‘Dumb dogs, not able to bark’ (Isa. 56. 10), but
such as the Psalmist speaks of, ‘That the tongue of thy dogs may be
red through the same’ (Ps. 68. 23), who know how and are qualified to
make loud barkings for their Lord, and constantly to guard His flock
with most wakeful and most careful watchings, and to drive away to a
distance those most cruel wolves of unclean spirits who lie in wait to
devour souls.

Of which number you specially demand one from us, namely, Grimbald,
priest and monk, to be sent for this office, and to preside over the
government of the pastoral charge. To whom the whole Church, which
hath nourished him, gives her testimony from his childhood, with
true faith and holy religion, and which hath advanced him by regular
steps, according to ecclesiastical custom, to the dignity of the
priesthood. We affirm openly that he is most deserving of the honor of
the episcopate, and that he is fit to teach others also. But indeed
we wished that this might rather take place in our kingdom, and we
intended some time ago, with Christ’s permission, to accomplish it in
due time, namely, that he whom we had as a faithful son we might have
as an associate in our office, and a most trustworthy assistant in
everything that pertained to the advantage of the Church. It is not
without deep sorrow--forgive us for saying so--that we suffer him to
be torn from us, and be removed from our eyes by so vast an extent
of land and sea. But as love has no perception of loss, nor faith of
injury, and no remoteness of regions can part those whom the tie of
unfeigned affection joins together, we have most willingly assented to
your request--for to you we have no power to refuse anything--nor do
we grudge him to you, whose advantage we rejoice in as much as if it
were our own, and whose profit we count as ours: for we know that in
every place one only God is served, and that the Catholic and Apostolic
Church is one, whether it be at Rome or in the parts beyond the sea.

It is our duty, then, to make him over to you canonically; and it is
your duty to receive him reverentially, that is to say, in such way and
mode as may best conduce to the glory of your kingdom, to the honor
of the Church and our prelacy; and to send him to you along with his
electors, and with certain nobles and great personages of your kingdom,
as well bishops, presbyters, deacons, as religious laymen also, who
with their own lips promise and declare to us in the presence of our
whole church that they will treat him with fitting respect during the
whole course of his life, and that they will inviolably keep with the
strictest care the canonical decrees and the rules of the Church,
handed down to the Church by the apostles and by apostolic men, such
as they could then hear from us, and afterwards learn from him their
pastor and teacher, according to the form delivered by us to him. Which
when they shall have done, with the divine blessing and the authority
of St. Remigius, by our ministry and the laying on of hands, according
to the custom of the Church, receiving him properly ordained, and in
all things fully instructed, let them conduct him with due honor to his
own seat, glad and cheerful themselves that they are always to enjoy
his protection, and constantly to be instructed by his teaching and

And as the members feel a concern for each other, and when even one
rejoices they rejoice with it, or if even one suffer all the other
members sympathize with it, we again earnestly and specially commend
him to your Royal Highness and to your most provident goodness, that
he may be always permitted, with unfettered authority, without any
gainsaying, to teach and to carry into effect whatever he may discover
to be fit and useful for the honor of the Church and the instruction
of your people, according to the authority of the canons and the
custom of our Church, lest, haply--which God forbid!--any one, under
the instigation of the devil, being moved by the impulse of spite and
malevolence, should excite controversy or raise sedition against him.
But should this happen, it will be your duty then to make special
provision against this, and by all means to discourage by your royal
censure all such persons, if they should chance to show themselves, and
check barbaric rudeness by the curb of your authority; and it will be
his duty always to consult for the salvation of the people committed to
his pastoral skill, and rather to draw all men after him by love than
to drive them by fear.

May you, most illustrious, most religious, and most invincible king,
ever rejoice and flourish in Christ the Lord of lords.


[1] Based on the _Chronicle_ under 855.

[2] MS. _Cudam_. So always, but see the _Chronicle_.

[3] Bede, _Eccl. Hist._ 3. 7: ‘The West Saxons, formerly called
Gewissae.’ Plummer comments in his edition, 2. 89: ‘It is probably
connected with the “visi” of “Visigoths,” meaning “west,” and hence
would indicate the western confederation of Saxon tribes; ... “Gewis”
is probably an eponymous hero manufactured out of the tribe-name.’ The
_gw_ of _Gegwis_ is a Welsh peculiarity (Stevenson).

[4] MS., Stev. _Seth_ (but Stevenson suggests _Sceaf_ in his variants,
referring to the _Chronicle_ under 855).

[5] MS. _Cainan_, but see Gen. 5. 12 in R. V.

[6] Partly from the _Chronicle_, but the whole account of Alfred’s
father and mother is original.

[7] From the _Chronicle_ under 530 and 534.

[8] Unidentified.

[9] From the _Chronicle_.

[10] Possibly Wigborough, in the parish of South Petherton in
Somersetshire (Stevenson).

[11] Minster in Sheppey, founded by St. Sexburh in the seventh century;
it disappeared during the Danish ravages (Stevenson).

[12] From the _Chronicle_.

[13] MS. _Cantwariorum civitatem_; Chron. _Cantwaraburg_.

[14] Based upon the _Chronicle_.

[15] Stevenson is inclined to reject this customary identification with
Oakley, in Surrey.

[16] The source--the _Chronicle_--says: ‘And there made the greatest
slaughter among the heathen army that we have heard reported to the
present day.’

[17] From the _Chronicle_.

[18] Mainly from the _Chronicle_.

[19] The ‘North Welsh’ of the _Chronicle_.

[20] Based upon the _Chronicle_.

[21] MS. _in regem_.

[22] MS. _infantem_.

[23] ‘A letter from the pope to Alfred’s father, regarding the ceremony
at Rome, has been fortunately preserved for us in a twelfth-century
collection of papal letters, now in the British Museum.... The letter
is as follows: “_Edeluulfo, regi Anglorum_ [marginal direction for
rubricator]. ilium vestrum Erfred, quem hoc in tempore ad Sanctorum
Apostolorum limina destinare curastis, benigne suscepimus, et, quasi
spiritalem filium consulatus cingulo  honore
vestimentisque, ut mos est Romanis consulibus, decoravimus, eo quod in
nostris se tradidit manibus”’ (Stevenson). The _Chronicle_ has: ‘...
consecrated him as king, and took him as bishop-son.’ See p. 29.

[24] Based upon the _Chronicle_.

[25] Thanet.

[26] From the _Chronicle_.

[27] Based upon the _Chronicle_.

[28] Charles the Bald.

[29] Original.

[30] Comprising Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall.

[31] Chiefly original.

[32] From the _Chronicle_.

[33] Prudentius of Troyes (in _Annales Bertiniani_, an. 856, ed. Waitz,
p. 47), says of Bishop Hincmar: ‘Eam ... reginæ nomine insignit, quod
sibi suæque genti eatenus fuerat insuetum.’

[34] Original.

[35] Offa’s Dike; it extended from the mouth of the Dee to that of the

[36] Original.

[37] Charlemagne.

[38] ‘Pavia was on the road to Rome, and was hence frequented by
English pilgrims on their journey to the latter’ (Stevenson). The
_Chronicle_ says under 888: ‘Queen Æthelswith, who was King Alfred’s
sister, died; _and her body lies at Pavia_.’ ‘With this story of
Eadburh’s begging in that city we may compare the statement of St.
Boniface, written about 747, as to the presence of English prostitutes
or adulteresses in the cities of Lombardy, Frankland, or Gaul (Dümmler,
_Epistolæ Karolini Ævi_ 1. 355; Haddan and Stubbs, _Councils_ 3. 381).
At the date of this letter the Lombards still spoke their native
Germanic tongue, and it is probable that as late as Eadburh’s time it
was still the predominant speech in Lombardy’ (Stevenson).

[39] Mostly original.

[40] In Alfred’s will (_Cart. Sax._ 2. 177. 9) he refers to this as
‘Aþulfes cinges yrfegewrit’ (Stevenson).

[41] That is, for the good of his soul.

[42] Lat. _manentibus_.

[43] A mancus was thirty pence, one-eighth of a pound.

[44] Original.

[45] From Florence of Worcester. The _Annals of St. Neots_ have: ‘and
buried at Steyning’ (_Stemrugam_).

[46] This last statement is incorrect.

[47] From the _Chronicle_ under 860. As Æthelbert was already in
possession of Kent, Surrey, and Sussex, it should rather be said that
he added Wessex.

[48] From the _Chronicle_ under 860.

[49] Chiefly from the _Chronicle_ under 865 and 866.

[50] The earlier part from the _Chronicle_.

[51] Probably meaning the mouths of the Rhine (Stevenson).

[52] Original.

[53] _Curto_, a word showing Frankish influence.

[54] Original. Stevenson would refer this event to a date earlier than

[55] From Florence of Worcester.

[56] So Pauli and Stevenson interpret _legit_.

[57] Original.

[58] Cf. chap. 88.

[59] The liberal arts were seven, consisting of the _trivium_--grammar,
logic, and rhetoric--and the _quadrivium_--arithmetic, geometry,
music, and astronomy. This course of study was introduced in the sixth
century. Asser here employs the singular, _artem_, which might be
translated by ‘education.’

[60] See Alfred’s own statement in Appendix I, p. 69.

[61] Original.

[62] Alfred says (Preface to the _Pastoral Care_): ‘Thanks be to
Almighty God that we have any teachers among us now.’ In this same
Preface he mentions, among those who aided him in the translation,
Archbishop Plegmund, Bishop Asser, our author, and the two priests
Grimbold and John. Cf. chaps. 77, 78, 79, 81, 88, and Appendix I, p. 71.

[63] Stevenson brackets this clause.

[64] Mostly from the _Chronicle_.

[65] This clause must refer to the first line of the chapter, as there
is no previous mention of the Northumbrians.

[66] From the _Chronicle_.

[67] Original.

[68] ‘_Subarravit_, formed from _sub_ and _arrha_, represents literally
the English verb _wed_, which refers to the giving of security upon the
engagement of marriage.... [It] is glossed by _beweddian_ in Napier’s
_Old English Glosses_’ (Stevenson).

[69] William of Malmesbury calls her Æthelswith.

[70] Of the Gaini nothing is known.

[71] Largely from the _Chronicle_.

[72] ‘A compound of _tig_ (Modern Welsh _tŷ_, “house”), and
_guocobauc_ (Modern Welsh _gogofawg_), an adjective derived from
_gogof_, “cave.” ... The name ... is certainly applicable to
Nottingham, which has long been famous for the houses excavated out
of the soft sandstone upon which it stands’ (Stevenson). The word
Nottingham itself, however, has not this meaning.

[73] Here and elsewhere in the text often spelled Æthered.

[74] From the _Chronicle_.

[75] In Norfolk.

[76] Mostly from the _Chronicle_.

[77] Chiefly from the _Chronicle_.

[78] Five and one-half miles southwest of Reading.

[79] Added from Florence of Worcester by Stevenson.

[80] Chiefly from the _Chronicle_.

[81] The Berkshire Downs (Stevenson).

[82] Stevenson is convinced that Æscesdun, though interpreted as ‘mons
fraxini,’ cannot mean ‘the hill of the ash,’ but that Ash is here a
man’s name.

[83] Perhaps _mediam_ is a scribal error for _unam_ or _primam_

[84] There is a note on the Germanic shield-wall in my edition of
_Judith_ (305ª), in the Belles Lettres Series.

[85] All original except final clause.

[86] Supplied by Stevenson from Florence of Worcester.

[87] Mostly original.

[88] Probably Reading.

[89] From the _Chronicle_.

[90] Before this sentence occurs the following in the Latin: _Quibus
cum talia præsentis vitæ dispendia alienigenis perperam quærentibus
non sufficerent._ This may represent a sentence in the author’s draft
that was intended, owing to change of construction, to be omitted

[91] In Hampshire.

[92] Mostly from the _Chronicle_.

[93] In Dorsetshire.

[94] Paraphrased and amplified from the _Chronicle_.

[95] A tributary of the Nadder, which it joins near Wilton.

[96] Or, perhaps, ‘fewness,’ reading _paucitatem_ for _peraudacitatem_

[97] Mostly from the _Chronicle_.

[98] From the _Chronicle_.

[99] Chiefly from the _Chronicle_.

[100] In Derbyshire.

[101] Among the Germans there were Colonies (_Scholæ_) of the Frisians,
Franks, and Lombards, as well as of the Saxons.

[102] Now Santo Spirito in Sassia, near the Vatican.

[103] From the _Chronicle_.

[104] The valley of the Clyde.

[105] Here spelled Gothrum.

[106] From the _Chronicle_.

[107] Chiefly from the _Chronicle_.

[108] In Dorsetshire.

[109] Dorchester.

[110] For the usual Dornsæte.

[111] Here the _Chronicle_ has ‘on the holy arm-ring,’ on which the
Danes, it would seem, were accustomed to swear.

[112] Here the _Chronicle_ has: ‘They, the mounted army, stole away
from the fierd [the English forces] in the night into Exeter.’ This, of
course, is the true account, while the statement in Asser is incredible.

[113] Exe.

[114] From the _Chronicle_.

[115] See chap. 46.

[116] Largely from the _Chronicle_.

[117] At this point Archbishop Parker interpolated, from the _Annals
of St. Neots_, the story of Alfred and the cakes. This story, however,
cannot be proved to antedate the Norman Conquest.

[118] The first clause from the _Chronicle_; the rest original.

[119] Name unknown.

[120] Hingwar.

[121] Or South Wales. See chap. 80.

[122] Site unknown.

[123] Mostly from the _Chronicle_.

[124] In Somersetshire.

[125] Unknown.

[126] Or perhaps better, Iglea; see Stevenson’s note on the word,
p. 270 of his edition. He says: ‘It is probably an older name of
Southleigh Wood, or of part of it.’

[127] Based upon the _Chronicle_.

[128] In Wiltshire.

[129] Supplied by Stevenson from the _Chronicle_.

[130] Properly, as one of thirty, according to the _Chronicle_.

[131] Chrism is the term employed for the mixture of oil and balsam
employed in the rite of confirmation, and sometimes for the ceremony
of confirmation itself. In the early church, this ceremony immediately
followed baptism, and was performed by the laying on of hands. In the
Roman church it is obligatory on all Catholics, and no baptism is
theoretically complete without it. It is performed by a bishop (only
exceptionally by a priest). The ceremony begins with the bishop’s
rising and facing the person or persons to be confirmed, his pastoral
staff in his hand, and saying: ‘May the Holy Ghost come upon you, and
the power of the Holy Ghost keep you from sins’ (_Handbook to Christian
and Ecclesiastical Rome: Liturgy in Rome_, London, 1897, pp. 169–171).
The rite is described in Egbert’s _Pontifical_, which may be taken
as representing the custom in the church of Alfred’s time. Lingard
says (_Anglo-Saxon Church_, London, 1858, 1. 297): ‘According to that
pontifical, the bishop prayed thus: “Almighty and Everlasting God, who
hast granted to this thy servant to be born again of water and the Holy
Ghost, and hast given to him remission of his sins, send down upon him
thy sevenfold Holy Spirit, the Paraclete from heaven, Amen. Give to him
the spirit of wisdom and understanding, Amen--the spirit of counsel and
fortitude, Amen--the spirit of knowledge and piety, Amen. Fill him with
the spirit of the fear of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, and mercifully
sign him with the sign of the holy cross for life eternal.” The bishop
then marked his forehead with chrism, and proceeded thus: “Receive this
sign of the holy cross with the chrism of salvation in Christ Jesus
unto life eternal.” The head was then bound with a fillet of new linen
to be worn seven days, and the bishop resumed: “O God, who didst give
thy Holy Spirit to thine apostles, that by them and their successors he
might be given to the rest of the faithful, look down on the ministry
of our lowliness, and grant that into the heart of him whose forehead
we have this day anointed, and confirmed with the sign of the cross,
thy Holy Spirit may descend; and that, dwelling therein, he may make it
the temple of his glory, through Christ our Lord.” The confirmed then
received the episcopal blessing, and communicated during the mass.’

The chrism-loosing was the ceremony of unbinding the fillet, apparently.

[132] MS. _ædificia_; Stevenson, _beneficia_.

[133] Chiefly from the _Chronicle_.

[134] Gloucester, Worcester, etc.

[135] Mostly from the _Chronicle_.

[136] Mostly from the _Chronicle_.

[137] See Stevenson’s interesting note.

[138] From the _Chronicle_.

[139] _Ibid._

[140] _Ibid._

[141] _Ibid._

[142] Mostly from the _Chronicle_.

[143] Largely from the _Chronicle_.

[144] Mostly from the _Chronicle_.

[145] Cf. chap. 60.

[146] The MS. has _dormiret_, but perhaps for _domum iret_, since the
_Chronicle_ has _hāmweard wendon_ (Stevenson); so perhaps we should
read ‘was on its way home.’

[147] Chiefly from the _Chronicle_.

[148] Louis the Stammerer.

[149] Cf. chap. 59.

[150] Charles the Bald.

[151] Cf. chaps. 11 and 13.

[152] From the _Chronicle_.

[153] From Duisburg, about January, 884 (Stevenson).

[154] There was a battle in Frisia, about December, 884, and a later
one in Saxony (Stevenson).

[155] Mainly from the _Chronicle_.

[156] The North Sea.

[157] Brittany.

[158] Louis the German.

[159] Louis the Pious.

[160] Mainly from the _Chronicle_.

[161] From the _Chronicle_.

[162] Based upon the preface to Eginhard’s _Life of Charlemagne_.

[163] See chap. 21.

[164] Original.

[165] Perhaps the hemorrhoids.

[166] Interpolated some time between 893 and 1000 A.D.

[167] In Alfred’s prayer at the end of his translation of Boethius,
one of the petitions is: ‘Deliver me from foul lust and from all

[168] Original.

[169] This is the beginning of a corrupt sentence, of which nothing has
been made.

[170] MS. _Eadredo_.

[171] See Appendix I, p. 70.

[172] See chaps. 24 and 88.

[173] Original.

[174] Cf. Alfred’s jewel, and the book upon it by Professor Earle.

[175] See chaps. 23 and 75.

[176] Our first accounts of Arctic exploration are from his pen. For
his interest in geographical discovery see the narratives of Ohthere
and Wulfstan, in his translation of Orosius. In 897, according to the
_Chronicle_, he was experimenting with new war-galleys: ‘They were
almost twice as long as the others. Some had sixty oars, some more.
They were swifter, steadier, and higher than the others, and were
built, not on a Frisian or Danish model, but according to his personal
notions of their utility.’

[177] There were Frisians in his fleet in 897 (_Chronicle_).

[178] Northmen; such were Ohthere and Wulfstan (see note 1, above).

[179] Three such came to him in 891 (_Chronicle_).

[180] MS. _Armorici_. See chap. 102.

[181] Or, ‘degrees’; cf. p. 60.

[182] See chap. 101.

[183] Matt. 6. 33.

[184] Ps. 85. 8.

[185] Cf. chap. 88; Stevenson gives a number of parallels from ancient
and mediæval authors, beginning with Lucretius (3. 9) and Seneca
(_Epist._ 84.3).

[186] Cf. chap. 24.

[187] Original.

[188] See Appendix I, p. 69. In Alfred’s will he gives Werfrith
(Wærferth) a hundred marks.

[189] See Appendix I, p. 71.

[190] Perhaps Bishop of Ramsbury (909 A.D.). The later MSS. of the
_Chronicle_ say, under the year 883: ‘And in the same year Sighelm and
Æthelstan took to Rome the alms that King Alfred sent, and also to
India to St. Thomas’ and St. Bartholomew’s.’

[191] Or, ‘chaplains.’ See p. 61, note 6.

[192] Original.

[193] Probably from the monastery of St. Bertin, at St. Omer
(Pas-de-Calais). See Appendix I, p. 71, and Appendix II, pp. 75 ff.

[194] Cf. chap. 94, and Appendix I, p. 71.

[195] Original.

[196] Perhaps Dean, near Eastbourne, in Sussex.

[197] Five miles southwest of Chepstow. ‘There was an abbey there,
where a traveling ecclesiastic would be likely to stay, and it was on
the great Roman road to South Wales, by which a traveler from Wessex to
St. Davids would proceed’ (Stevenson).

[198] The MS. seems to be corrupt at this point, so that what I have
given is a loose conjectural rendering of the Latin: ... _et illa
adjuvaretur per rudimenta Sancti Dequi in omni causa, tamen pro

[199] Original.

[200] Pembrokeshire and part of Carmarthenshire.

[201] ‘Rhodri Mawr (the Great), King of Gwyneth, who acquired the rule
of the whole of North and Mid-Wales and Cardigan’ (Stevenson).

[202] Old name of Glamorgan and part of Monmouthshire.

[203] In Monmouthshire.

[204] Alfred.

[205] See chaps. 8 and 56.

[206] Original.

[207] Perhaps Landford in Wiltshire.

[208] In Alfred’s Preface to his translation of Boethius we are told:
‘[He made this translation as well as he could], considering the
various and manifold worldly cares that oft troubled him both in mind
and body.’ The similarity of phrase is striking.

[209] Both in Somersetshire; these monasteries are otherwise unknown.

[210] Largely from the _Chronicle_.

[211] Largely from the _Chronicle_.

[212] Namely, Alfred.

[213] A mistranslation from the _Chronicle_; it should read, ‘were not
in captivity,’ etc.

[214] Here follows Camden’s famous (forged?) interpolation about
Grimbald and Oxford.

[215] Much expanded from the _Chronicle_.

[216] From the _Chronicle_.

[217] Charles the Fat.

[218] Burgundy.

[219] Chiefly from the _Chronicle_.

[220] Cf. chap. 84.

[221] Original.

[222] Original.

[223] Cf. chap. 24.

[224] Author unknown.

[225] Cf. chap. 76.

[226] Original.

[227] Luke 23. 42.

[228] The following phrases, introduced at this point, seem to be
corrupt: _Hic aut aliter, quamvis dissimili modo, in regia potestate._

[229] November 11.

[230] Alfred calls the passages which he translated from St.
Augustine’s _Soliloquies_ by the name of ‘flowers’ or ‘blossoms’
(_blōstman_). See Hargrove’s edition (_Yale Studies in English_ XIII),
and his version into modern English (_Yale Studies in English_ XXII).

[231] The application of the word to a work of St. Augustine’s gave it
great currency in the Frankish Latin of the period.

[232] The Handbook seems to have been known to William of Malmesbury
(d. 1143); cf. his _Gesta Pontificum_, pp. 333, 336.

[233] Original.

[234] Unknown.

[235] Cf. note 5, chap. 80.

[236] ... _unicuique ubicumque male habet_.

[237] Original.

[238] Cf. chap. 74.

[239] MS. corrupt: _De cotidiana nationum_.

[240] This makes no sense; yet the Latin is: _quæ in Tyrreno mari usque
ultimum Hiberniæ finem habitant_.

[241] Cf. chap. 70.

[242] Perhaps Elias III, patriarch from about 879 to 907; the MS.
reads _Abel_. Stevenson’s emendation is supported by the fact that
certain medical recipes are related to have been sent to Alfred by the
patriarch Elias (Cockayne, _Leechdoms_ 2. 290).

[243] Stevenson says: ‘Possibly he intended to refer to the use of
the precious metals in sacred edifices. We are told, on the doubtful
authority of William of Malmesbury, that King Ine built a chapel of
gold and silver at Glastonbury. A ninth-century writer records that
Ansegis, abbot of Fontenelle, 806–833, partly decorated a spire of
the abbey with gilt metal, and another writer of that period mentions
the golden doors of the “basilica” of St. Alban in his description of
the imperial palace at Ingelheim. Giraldus Cambrensis ascribes the
use of golden roofs or roof-crests to the Romans at Caerleon-on-Usk.
The idea that a king’s palace ought to be decorated with the precious
metals is probably an outcome of the late Roman rhetoric and Byzantine

[244] The early part of the sentence is corrupt in the MS.

[245] The figure is found as early as Sophocles and Aristophanes.

[246] Original.

[247] This corresponds to the OE. _sāwle þearf_.

[248] The Latin has: _inter cetera diuturna et nocturna bona_.
Stevenson does not emend, but it seems as though we should read
_diurna_. Compare, for example, in Stevenson’s edition, =78.= 14, 35,
39; =99.= 10; =100.= 11; =103.= 9.

[249] Cf. chap. 55. The second monastery was for nuns, and at
Shaftesbury; see chap. 98.

[250] Original.

[251] Original.

[252] Cf. chap. 78.

[253] Cf. chap. 78.

[254] Original.

[255] Supplied by Stevenson.

[256] Original.

[257] Matt. 27. 64.

[258] Original.

[259] Original.

[260] Cf. chap. 92.

[261] Original.

[262] This passage is somewhat corrupt.

[263] Gen. 4. 7, in the old Latin version, following the Septuagint.

[264] Prov. 21. 1.

[265] Original.

[266] Cf. the _Chronicle_ under 894: ‘The King had divided his forces
into two, so that one half was constantly at home, the other half in
the field.’

[267] Original.

[268] Or, ‘rank’ (_dignitatem_), as in line 3 of the chapter.

[269] 2 Cor. 9. 7.

[270] Original.

[271] Incorrectly quoted from the _Pastoral Care_ 3. 20: ‘Ne quædam
quibus nulla, ne nulla quibus quædam, ne multa quibus pauca, ne pauca
præbeant quibus impendere multa debuerunt.’

[272] See chaps. 75 and 76.

[273] See chaps. 74 and 81.

[274] See chaps. 78 and 94.

[275] Original.

[276] Not from the Bible, but from St. Augustine’s _Enchiridion de
Fide_, chap. 20: ‘Qui enim vult ordinate dare eleemosynam, a se ipso
debet incipere.’

[277] Reading _divitiis_ for the _divinis_ of the text.

[278] Cf. chap. 99.

[279] Original.

[280] Or, ‘chaplains.’ See p. 41, note 5.

[281] ‘As these six candles weighed 72 pennyweights, each one was of
the weight of 12d. The weight of the OE. penny was 22½ Troy grains,
so that each candle would weigh roughly ⅝ oz. avoirdupois. As the
candles were twelve inches long, they would be very thin in proportion
to their length. A modern beeswax candle burns at a considerably
quicker rate than is here assumed, but we do not think this condemns
the figures given in this chapter as imaginary. The candle of Alfred’s
time was probably not moulded, and the wick would not be made of
cotton, as in the modern ones. Rushes, tow, and the hards of flax were
used for wicks. Aldhelm refers to the use of linen or flax wicks,
but also to those made of rushes. It is therefore hardly possible to
reproduce the candles used by Alfred for the purpose of testing this
chapter’ (Stevenson).

[282] Reading _fenestras_ for the _fenestrarum_ of the text.

[283] Meanings doubtful.

[284] ‘Ducange objected that horn lanterns were known to the Greeks
and Romans long before Alfred’s time. But the passages adduced by
Salmasius, to whom he refers, and such others as we have been able to
gather, do not clearly describe a horn lantern lit by a candle, but
rather screens formed of horn to place round oil lamps. It is possible,
therefore, that Alfred may really be the inventor of the horn lantern
as we know it. The door in the side, which would be rendered necessary
by the change of the candles every four hours, is here described, and
seems to be a new feature’ (Stevenson).

[285] Original.

[286] The name of the diocese and of the bishop of course varied in the
different copies.

[287] Cf. p. 11, note 2.

[288] The books.

[289] From Rev. Joseph Stevenson’s translation of _The Book of Hyde_,
in _Church Historians of England_ (London, 1854), Vol. 2, Part 2, pp.
499–503. The translator states that the text of the letter printed by
Wise in his edition of Asser (see Stevenson’s edition of Asser, p. 308)
‘has been employed in correcting the many obscurities and errors of the
copy inserted in the _Liber de Hida_.’ Of the letter our editor says:
‘It ... seems to be genuine. There is no conceivable motive for forging
such a letter. We can discover no grounds for Pauli’s condemnation
of it.... As Malmesbury, _Gesta Regum_, c. 122 (p. 130), states that
Grimbald was sent to Alfred at his request by the Archbishop of Rheims,
he would seem to have been acquainted with this letter.’


[The numbers refer to pages.]

  Aclea, 4

  Adam, 2

  Æglea, 78

  Ælfthryth, 37, 38

  Ælla, 16

  Æthelbald, 4, 6, 7, 11, 12

  Æthelbert, 12, 13

  Æthelflæd, 37

  Æthelgivu, 37, 58

  Æthelhelm, 48

  Æthelred (King of Wessex), 13, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22

  Æthelred (Alfred’s father-in-law), 17

  Æthelred (Alfred’s son-in-law), 37, 44, 45, 47

  Æthelstan (under-king of Kent), 4

  Æthelstan (priest), 41

  Æthelward, 37

  Æthelwulf (King of Wessex), 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 33

  Æthelwulf (Ealdorman of Berkshire), 12, 19

  Alemanni, 34

  Alfred, 1, _and passim_

  Aller, 29

  Anarawd, 45

  Angles, 19, 47, 72.
    _See also_ East Angles

  Anglo-Saxons, 1, 8, 13, 31, 32, 34, 35, 47, 48.
    _See also_ East Saxons, Saxons, South Saxons, West Saxons

  Anwind, 25

  Armorica, 34.
    _See also_ Brittany

  Arnolf, 47, 48

  Ashdown, 20, 22

  Ash’s Hill, 20

  Asser, 1, [8, 10, 13–15, 17, 20, 21, 27, 34, 35, 42–46, 48, 49, 51,
    52], 71

  Athelney, 28, 29, 54

  Augustine, 73

  Avon, 26

  Bagsecg, 22

  Banwell, 46

  Barnabas, 73

  Basing, 22

  Beaw, 2

  Bedwig, 2

  Beldeag, 2

  Beorhtric, 8, 9

  Beorhtwulf, 3

  Berengar, 48

  Berkshire, 1, 12, 19

  Berroc Wood, 1

  Brecknock, 44

  Bretons, 39

  Britain, 1, 13, 26, 31, 32

  British, 3

  Brittany, 60.
    _See also_ Armorica

  Brockmail, 44

  Brond, 2

  Burgred, 4, 5, 18, 24

  Cærwent, 43

  Cairceri, 30

  Cairwisc, 26

  Cambridge, 25

  Canterbury, 3, 18, 41

  Carloman, 33

  Ceawlin, 1

  Ceolnoth, 18

  Ceolwald, 1

  Ceolwulf, 25, 26

  Ceorl, 3

  Cerdic, 1, 3

  Charlemagne, Charles (the Great), 9, 34

  Charles (the Bald), 6, 11, 33, 34, 67

  Charles (the Fat), 47, 48

  Charles (son of Louis the German), 34

  Chézy, 47, 48

  Chippenham, 5, 26, 30

  Cirencester, 30, 31

  Cœnred, 1

  Coit Maur, 28

  Condé, 32

  Congresbury, 46

  Cornwall, 35, 46, 60

  Creoda, 1

  Cutha, 1

  Cuthwine, 1

  Cynric, 1, 3

  Cynwit, 27

  Danes, [3–5, 12, 13, 15–34, 39, 46, 47, 55]

  Danube, 13

  David, 2

  Dene, 42, 62

  Devon, 3, 27

  Dorubernia, 3

  Durugueir, 25

  Dyfed, 27, 44

  Eadburh, 8, 9, 17

  Eafa, 1

  Eald-Seaxum, 33

  Ealhere, 4, 5

  Ealhmund, 1

  Ealhstan, 6, 17

  Eanwulf, 6

  East Angles, 18

  East Anglia, 13, 16, 18, 19, 31, 32, 33, 34

  East Frankland, 31, 32.
    _See also_ Frankland

  East Saxons, 13.
    _See also_ Anglo-Saxons, Saxons, South Saxons, West Saxons

  Edington, 28

  Edmund, 18

  Edward, 37, 38

  Egbert, 1

  Egbert’s Stone, 28

  Elesa, 1

  Elias, 52

  England, 69, 70

  Englefield, 19

  English, 19, 69, 70, 71

  Enoch, 2

  Enosh, 2

  Eoppa, 1

  Esla, 1

  Essex, 3

  Exanceastre, 26

  Exeter, 26, 46

  Fernmail, 44

  Finn, 2

  Fræna, 22

  Frankland, 31, 32, 60.
    _See also_ East Frankland

  Franks, 6, 7, 9, 11, 31, 33, 34, 39, 47, 68, 72, 73, 77.
    _See also_ West Franks

  Frealaf, 2

  Freawine, 1

  Freothegar, 1

  Frisians, 33, 39

  Frithowald, 2

  Frithuwulf, 2

  Froom, 25

  Fulco, 72

  Fulham, 31

  Gaini, 17

  Gallic, 55, 56

  Gaul, 26, 28, 42, 60, 74

  Gauls, 34, 39, 56

  Geata, 2

  Germanic, 8

  Germany, 33

  Geta, 2

  Gewis, 1

  Ghent, 31

  Glywyssing, 44

  Godwulf, 2

  Goths, 3

  Great Forest, 28

  Greeks, 70

  Gregory (the Great), 41, 60, 73

  Grimbald, 42, 71, 75

  Gueriir, 35

  Guthrum, 25

  Gwent, 44

  Halfdene, 25, 26, 27

  Hampshire, 12, 28

  Harold, 22

  Hathra, 2

  Hebrew, 70

  Hebrews, 40

  Helised, 44

  Hemeid, 44

  Heremod, 2

  Hingwar. _See_ Inwar

  Howel, 44

  Huda, 5

  Humber, 16, 69

  Hwala, 2

  Hwicce, 31

  Ine, 1

  Ingild, 1

  Inwar, 27

  Ireland, 52, 61

  Irish, 39

  Itermod, 2

  James (the apostle), 73

  Jared, 2

  Jerusalem, 52

  Jews, 56, 57

  John (the Old Saxon), 42, 55, 56, 57, 71

  Judith, 6, 7, 11, 33, 34, 35

  Jutes, 3

  Kenan, 2

  Kennet, 19

  Kent, 3, 4, 5, 12, 13, 32

  Lamech, 2

  Latin, 17, 19, 26, 28, 37, 69, 70, 71

  Leo (IV), 5

  Leonaford, 45

  Lindsey, 24

  Lombardy, 48

  London, 3, 24, 47

  Louis (the Pious), 34

  Louis (the German), 34

  Louis (the Stammerer), 33

  Louis (III), 33

  Mahalalel, 2

  Marinus, 34

  Marne, 47

  Martin, 50

  Medway, 32

  Mercia, 3, 4, 8, 17, 18, 24, 26, 35, 37, 41, 47, 60

  Mercian, 17, 35, 41

  Mercians, 4, 5, 18, 24, 26, 41, 44, 45

  Methuselah, 2

  Meuse, 31

  Middlesex, 3

  Mid-Wales, 4

  Mouric, 44

  Mucill, 17

  Neot, 35

  Noah, 2

  Nobis, 44

  Northumbria, 17, 18, 24, 25, 26, 61

  Northumbrian, 16

  Northumbrians, 16, 45

  Nottingham, 17, 18

  Odo, 48

  Offa, 8

  Old Saxon, 55

  Old Saxons, 33, 34

  Osbern, 22

  Osbert, 16

  Osburh, 2

  Oscytel, 25

  Oslac, 2

  Osric, 12

  Paris, 46, 47, 48

  Paul, 11, 73

  Pavia, 10

  Pepin, 34

  Peter, 11, 41, 73

  Picts, 25

  Plegmund, 41, 71

  Reading, 19

  Remigius, 73, 74, 76

  Repton, 24, 25

  Rheims, 72

  Rhine, 48

  Rhodri, 44, 45

  Ris, 44

  Rochester, 32

  Romans, 70

  Rome, 1, 5, 6, 7, 10, 11, 24, 48, 76

  Rudolf, 48

  Ruim, 5

  St. Davids, 44

  Sandwich, 4

  Saxon, 5, 7, 13, 14, 25, 26, 32, 33, 37, 38, 41, 42, 46

  Saxon Colony, 24, 34

  Saxons, 4, 9, 23, 24, 32, 33, 47, 48.
    _See also_ Anglo-Saxons, East Saxons, Old Saxons, South Saxons,
    West Saxons

  Sceaf, 2

  Sceldwea, 2

  Scheldt, 32

  Sedulius, 2

  Seine, 46, 47

  Selwood (Forest), 6, 28

  Seth, 2

  Severn, 42

  Shaftesbury, 58

  Sheppey, 3, 6

  Sherborne, 6, 12, 17

  Sidroc the Elder, 22

  Sidroc the Younger, 22

  Solomon, 40, 59

  Somerset(shire), 6, 27, 28

  South Saxons, 42.
    _See also_ Anglo-Saxons, East Saxons, Saxons, West Saxons

  South Wales, 44

  Stour, 33

  Strathclyde, 25

  Stuf, 3

  Surrey, 4, 5, 12

  Sussex, 12, 42

  Tætwa, 2

  Tarrant, 25

  Tenet, 5.
    _See also_ Thanet

  Teudubr, 44

  Thames, 3, 4, 19, 31, 69

  Thanet, 12.
    _See also_ Tenet

  Thetford, 18

  Thornsæta, 25

  Tigguocobauc, 17

  Tyne, 25

  Tyrrhene Sea, 34, 52

  Wærferth, 69.
    _See also_ Werfrith

  Wales, 4, 8, 43, 44, 60.
    _See also_ Mid-Wales, South Wales, Western Wales

  Wantage, 1

  Wareham, 25

  Wedmore, 29

  Welsh, 1, 5, 17, 25, 26, 28, 30, 39

  Werfrith, 41.
    _See also_ Wærferth

  Werwulf, 41

  Wessex, 7, 8, 42, 44, 46, 60.
    _See also_ West Saxon(s)

  Western Wales, 42

  West Franks, 33, 34, 46

  West Saxon, 13

  West Saxons, 1, 4, 5, 8, 12, 13, 15, 18, 19, 33, 41.
    _See also_ Anglo-Saxons, East Saxons, Saxons, South Saxons, Wessex

  Wicganbeorg, 3

  Wido, 48

  Wig, 1

  Wight, Isle of, 3

  Wihtgar, 3

  Wihtgaraburg, 3

  Wiley, 23

  Wilton, 23

  Wiltshire, 26, 28, 48

  Wimborne Minster, 22

  Winchester, 11, 12

  Wisc, 26

  Woden, 2

  Worcester, 41

  Yonne, 47

  York, 16, 18

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in the original book; otherwise they
were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; unbalanced quotation
marks were remedied when the change was obvious, and otherwise left

Footnotes, originally at the bottoms of pages, have been collected,
renumbered, and moved to precede the Index.

The index was not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page

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