From The Peterborough Chronicle

In comparison with the passages from the Canterbury Tales, Text (4) dates from the very earliest part of the ME period.  The Peterborough Chronicle (MS Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 636) is a version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which was copied and continued after the Norman Conquest.  It thus spans the transition between OE and ME, and indeed there are parts of the Peterborough Chronicle which seem to be more OE than ME in character. The passage given below is the annal for the year 1135, part of the so-called Final Continuation to the Peterborough Chronicle.  Examination of the passage soon reveals many features which point back to the OE period, notably in word-order; but there are also features which point forward.  Thus in spelling, w and uu appear instead of the OE “wynn”; there are features which indicate that the OE ancestor of the dialect of the Peterborough Chronicle was not West Saxon but Old Anglian (eg. ald OLD for WS eald); there are French loanwords, eg. Pais PEACE; and even in word-order there are indications of new patterns (eg. se king Henri THE KING HENRY beside Henri cyng; cf OE Ælfred cyning KING ALFRED). The author of the Final Continuation was not a simple, objective annalist of events; he had a particular (monastic, local) point of view to put across and this sometimes led him into exaggeration.  But the annals for this period, when combined with evidence from other sources, indicate that the mid-twelfth century was indeed a turbulent time when, as a phrase from elsewhere in the Peterborough Chronicle puts it, Christ slep, and his halechen CHRIST AND HIS SAINTS SLEPT. The standard edition of the text is that by C.Clark (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970).  The text here differs only in some minor details of presentation; eg. for the “Tyrrhonian” 7 AND, and appears throughout this passage.  A literal translation of this passage appears immediately after it.  There are three biographical notes, signalled by small Roman numerals in the text (eg. (i), (ii) etc.), appended after the translation.

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(1)  Millesimo cxxxv.  On þis gære for se king Henri ouer sæ æt te Lammase (i).  (2)  And Ðat oþer dei þa he lai an slep in scip, þa þestrede þe dæi ouer al landes and uuard þe sunne suilc als it uuare thre niht ald mone, an sterres abuten him at middæi.  (3)  Wurþen men suiðe ofuundred and ofdred, and sæden ðat micel þing sculde cumen herefter: sua dide, for þat ilc gær warth þe king ded ðat oþer dæi efter Sancte Andreas massedæi on Normandi.  (4)  Þa þestreden sona þas landes, for æuric man sone ræuede oþer þe mihte.  (5)  Þa namen his sune and his frend and brohten his lic to Engleland and bibirieden in Redinge.  (6)  God man he was and micel æie wes of him: durste nan man misdon wið oðer on his time.  (7)  Pais he makede men and dær.  (8)  Wua sua bare his byrthen gold and sylure, durste nan man sei to him naht bute god.  (9)  Enmang þis was his nefe cumen to Engleland, Stephne de Blais (ii); and com to Lundene; and te Lundenisce folc him underfeng and senden æfter þe ærcebiscop Willelm Curbuil; and halechede him to kinge on Midwintre Dæi.  (10) On þis kinges time wes al unfrið and yfel and ræflac, for agenes him risen sona þa rice men þe wæron swikes, alre fyrst Balduin de Reduers; and held Execestre agenes him and te king it besæt, and siððan Balduin acordede.  (11)  Þa tocan þa oðre and helden her castles agenes him.  (12)  And Dauid king of Scotland (iii) toc to uuerien him.  (13)  Þa, þohuuethere þat, here sandes feorden betwyx heom and hi togædere comen, and wurðe sæhte, þoþ it litel forstode.

1135.  In this year, the king Henry went over sea at Lammas (i).  And the second day when he lay asleep on (his) ship, then the day darkened over all lands and the sun became such as if it were a three-nights’ old moon, and stars about it at midday.  Men were greatly astonished and afraid, and said that a great matter ought to follow hereafter: so it did, for that same year the king died the second day after Saint Andrew’s mass-day in Normandy.  Then at once these lands darkened, for every man who could at once ravaged another.  Then his son and his relatives took and brought his body to England and buried (it) at Reading.  He was a god man, and there was much fear of him: no man dared do evilly with another in his time.  He made peace for men and beasts.  Whosoever carried a gold and silver burden, no man dared say to him anything except good.  At this time his nephew, Stephen of Blois (ii), had come to England; and (he) came to London; and the people of London received him and sent for the archbishop Wiliam Cubeil; and (he) sanctified him as king on midwinter’s day.  In this king’s time, everything was strife and evil and thievery, for against him rose at once the powerful men who were treacherous ones, first of all Baldwin de Redvers; and he held Exeter against him and the king surrounded it, and afterwards Baldwin came to an agreement.  The the others seized and held their castles against him.  And David, king of Scotland (iii) started to attack him.  Then, despite that, their messengers travelled between them and they met together, and became at peace, although it lasted briefly.


(i) se king Henri Henry I (1068-1135), youngest son of William the Conqueror.  Posthumously (and rather generously) styled Beauclerc SCHOLAR, Henry was an able if somewhat grasping monarch whose reign saw the establishment of certain significant institutions of government, such as the Exchequer.  The blending of OE se with the ME word-order se king Henri is notable; cf characteristically OE constructions such as Ælfred cyning.

(ii) Stephne de Blais  King Stephen (c.1097-1154) was a grandson of William the Conqueror.  Contemporaries regarded him as too genial to make a successful king, and his kingship was contested by Henry I’s allegedly somewhat ferocious daughter, Matilda.

(iii) Dauid king of Scotland David I (c.1080-1153) was one of the great reforming Kings of Scots.  During his reign, monarchical authority was asserted, the first royal coinage struck, a Scottish common law produced, the Scottish church reformed, trade encouraged and the system of fortifications known as the “burgh”-system was developed.  David also owned lands in England, and was therefore for part of his property a vassal of the English rulers; as such he played an important part in the affairs of the neighbouring kingdom. 


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