Rivers of tears, softening stone

“Jesus wept.”  Famously the shortest verse in the Authorised English version of the Bible (John 11:35), when Jesus weeps at the death of his friend Lazarus, this is actually slightly longer in Latin, usually a more succinct language than English: Et lacrimatus est Iesus. A major focus of my work is on the circumstances surrounding…

From the Eagle’s talons to the Internet: the Book of Cerne goes online

As the British Library’s Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition draws to a close, I am thinking about how much I will miss the manuscripts which were loaned by other institutions, which I had heard about or even studied but never seen before.  One of these was the Book of Cerne, an early medieval collection of prayers, gospel…

Living on loaned time

Autumn has come to London: a mostly hot summer suddenly turned in the final week of September. I like early autumn, the time just before and just after the emniht (or ‘equal-night’, as an Anglo-Saxon would have called the equinox), when there is still some warmth and plenty of sunlight, but a slight nip in…

Not Angles but angels

According to the Venerable Bede, the evangelisation of the southern English was proposed by a Pope with a pun.  In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People,  the story goes that Pope Gregory I was walking through the market of Rome when he saw some slave boys with striking looks and hair.  What people, he…

God bless my epiglottis: why I love the Lorica of Laidcenn

In this blog, I have written a lot about Anglo-Saxon prayer, medicine and poetry. Of course, these aren’t exclusive categories: medicine sometimes involved prayer, and prayers could be in the form of poetry. And sometimes, the same text can be all three. The Lorica of Laidcenn is a good example of this. A lorica is…

Onwards I go: may I meet with friends

It’s always interesting to see which words other languages have which are missing from one’s own.  Old English, being somewhat similar to modern German, has a tendency to create compound words to a greater extent than modern English does, leading to words such as tidfara – a traveller whose time to journey has come.  So…

The Vespasian Psalter

As mentioned in my last post, I have a new publication out – an entry in the Wiley-Blackwell Encyclopedia of Medieval Literature in Britain, on the Vespasian Psalter, the manuscript now shelved as London, British Library Cotton MS Vespasian A. i.  So how better to celebrate this than by dedicating a blogpost to the manuscript…

In the Seven Sleepers’ den

There must have been many people who have come across this line from John Donne’s seventeenth-century poem and wondered who the Seven Sleepers might have been – or why the poet might have snorted there.  The second question has a quick answer: it simply means ‘snored’.  But who were the Seven Sleepers? In June last…

Faithful cross, gate of heaven

Today is Good Friday, the day which commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  For today’s blogpost, I’ve decided simply to post and translate some Anglo-Saxon texts dedicated to the Holy Cross: a hymn, a poem, and two prayers.  As my research is all about how texts were adapted and reused in different contexts, in each…

Have mercy, guide me, guard me: an eighth- (and eleventh-) century prayer

It’s Lent, and time for something a bit more penitential than some of the glorious manuscripts and linguistic fun that I have been writing about in recent posts.  It happens that a lot of my current work (adapting my doctoral thesis for publication) has been on confessional prayers of various kinds, which is pretty convenient. …