From Aelfric's 'Life of King Oswald'

 

This passage is taken from one of Ælfric’s Lives of the Saints, a sermon-cycle composed in the last decade of the tenth century.  Ælfric wrote most of his works while he was a monk at Cerne Abbas, Dorset, before, in 1005, becoming abbot of Eynsham in Oxfordshire.  Ælfric was a prolific writer, composing not only three cycles of homilies (two sets of Catholic Homilies, and the Lives of the Saints), but also various other works of an educational nature, including a Grammar and a Colloquy, both designed to help in the teaching of Latin.  He is generally regarded as the most important and versatile prose-writer of late Anglo-Saxon England, only rivalled by his contemporary Wulfstan.  A convenient text of the Homily appears in H.Sweet (rev. D.Whitelock), Sweet’s Anglo-Saxon Reader (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967).  Translations of other works by Ælfric, accompanied by an account of his life are conveniently available in M.Swanton, Anglo-Saxon Prose (London: Dent, 1975).

King Oswald was the great royal saint of the Kingdom of Northumbria; his regnal dates are 633 - 641.  The Northumbrian kings had a special devotion to the cult of the Cross, demonstrated by the appearance of the cross-symbol on their coins and by their collection of relic-fragments allegedly taken from the True Cross on which Christ was crucified; Oswald’s raising of a cross at “Heavenfield” can be related to the erection of great stone crosses as hegemony symbols on the borders of the ancient Northumbrian kingdom.  The most famous of these crosses is of course that at Ruthwell; see (VI) above.

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(1) Æfter þan þe Augustinus to Engla lande becom, wæs sum æþele cyning, Oswold gehaten, on Norþhymbra lande, gelyfed swyþe on God.

 

(2) Se ferde on his iugoþe fram his freondum and magum to Scotlande on sæ, and þær sona wearþ gefullod, and his geferan samod þe mid him siþedon. 

 

(3) Betwux þam wearþ ofslagen Eadwine his eam, Norþhymbra cynincg, on Crist gelyfed, fram Brytta cyninge, Cedwalla geciged, and twegen his æftergengan binnan twam gearum; and se Cedwalla sloh and to sceame tucode þa Norþhymbran leode æfter heora hlafordes fylle oþ þæt Oswold se eadiga his yfelnysse adwæscte. 

(4) Oswold him com to, and him cenlice wiþ feaht mid lytlum werode, ac his geleafa hine getrymde, and Crist him gefylste to his feonda slege. 

(5) Oswold þa arærde ane rode sona Gode to wurþmynte, ær þan þe he to þam gewinne come, and clypode to his geferum: 

(6) “Uton feallan to þære rode, and þone Ælmihtigan biddan þæt he us ahredde wiþ þone modigan feond þe us afyllan wile. 

(7) God sylf wat geare þæt we winnaþ rihtlice wiþ þysne reþan cyning to ahreddenne ure leode.” 

(8) Hi feollon þa ealle mid Oswolde cyninge on gebedum; and syþþan on ærne mergen eodon to þa gefeohte, and gewunnon þær sige, swa swa se Eallwealdend him uþe for Oswoldes geleafan; and aledon heora fynd, þone modigan Cedwallan mid his micclan werode, þe wende þæt him ne mihte nan werod wiþstandan.

(9) Seo ylce rod siþþan þe Oswold þær arærde on wurþmynte þær stod, and wurdon fela gehælde untrumra manna and eac swilce nytena þurh þa ylcan rode, swa swa us rehte Beda. 

(10) Sum man feoll on ise, þæt his earm tobærst, and læg þa on bedde gebrocod forþearle, oþ þæt man him fette of þære foresædan rode sumne dæl þæs meoses þe heo mid beweaxen wæs, and se adliga sona on slæpe wearþ gehæled on þære ylcan nihte þurh Oswoldes geearnungum.

(11) Seo stow is gehaten “Heofonfeld” on Englisc, wiþ þone langan weall þe þa Romaniscan worhtan, þær þær Oswold oferwann þone wælhreowan cynincg. 

(12) And þær wearþ siþþan aræred swiþe mære cyrce Gode to wurþmynte, þe wunaþ a on ecnysse.

(1) Augustinus:  St Augustine, apostle to the Anglo-Saxons, brought Christianity to Kent in 597. 
gelyfed:  (who) believed.  Relative clauses without expression of the relative pronoun are fairly common in OE.

(2)  Se ferde: he travelled.  The determiner se is here being used instead of a pronoun. 
wearþ gefullod, and his geferan samod: was baptised together with his companions (lit. was baptised, and his companions as well). 


(3)  Betwux þam = Betwix þæm: meanwhile (lit. between those)

cynincg = cyning; heora = hiera

 

 

(4)  him com to:  came to him (lit. him came to)  The delayed preposition, especially with pronouns, is a characteristic OE usage.
 
(7)  to ahreddenne: to rescue.  This is an example of the inflected infinitive construction.

(8)  Hi = Hie
þæt him ne mihte nan werod wiþstandan: that no troop could stand up to him.  ne .. nan is a “double negative” construction.

 


(9)  wurdon fela gehælde untrumra manna and eac swilce nytena: many sick men and also likewise animals were healed. 
fela: many has here been separated from the elements it modifies, both of which are in the genitive plural.

(11)  wiþ þone langan weall þe þa Romaniscan worhtan: by the long wall which the romans made (ie. Hadrian’s Wall). 
worhtan = worhton.

(12)  cyrce = cirice

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