The St. Petersburg MS of Bede's Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum

Bede (c. 67227 May 735) was an Anglo-Saxon historian, theologian and scientific writer; often called "the Venerable Bede". His best-known work, the Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum was completed in 731.

SourcedEdit

Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum (Ecclesiastical History of the English People)Edit

  • Dicunt quia die quadam cum, advenientibus nuper mercatoribus, multa venalia in forum fuissent conlata, multi ad emendum confluixissent, et ipsum Gregorium inter alios advenisse, ad vidisse inter alia pueros venales positos candidi corporis ac venusti vultus, capillorum quoque forma egregia. Quos cum adspiceret interrogavit, ut aiunt, de qua regione vel terra essent adlati. Dictumque est quia de Britannia insula, cuius incolae talis essent aspectus.
    • Translation: It is reported, that some merchants, having just arrived at Rome on a certain day, exposed many things for sale in the marketplace, and abundance of people resorted thither to buy: Gregory himself went with the rest, and, among other things, some boys were set to sale, their bodies white, their countenances beautiful, and their hair very fine. Having viewed them, he asked, as is said, from what country or nation they were brought? and was told, from the island of Britain, whose inhabitants were of such personal appearance.
    • Book II, chapter 1
    • Bede's source for this story is an anonymous Life of Gregory the Great, written by a monk of Whitby Abbey.
  • Rursus ergo interrogavit quod esset vocabulum gentis illius. Responsum est quod Angli vocarentur. At ille: "Bene", inquit, "nam et angelicam habent faciem et tales angelorum in caelis decet esse cohaeredes. Quod habet nomen ipsa provincia, de qua isti sunt adlati?" Responsum est quod Deiri vocarentur idem provinciales. At ille: "Bene", inquit, "Deiri; de ira eruti, et ad misericordiam Christi vocati. Rex provinciae illius quomodo apellatur?" Responsum est quod Aelli diceretur. At ille adludens ad nomen ait: "Alleluia, laudem Dei creatoris illis in partibus oportet cantari".
    • Translation: He therefore again asked, what was the name of that nation? and was answered, that they were called Angles. "Right", said he, for they have an Angelic face, and it becomes such to be co-heirs with the Angels in heaven. What is the name", proceeded he, "of the province from which they are brought?" It was replied, that the natives of that province were called Deiri. "Truly are they De ira", said he, "withdrawn from wrath, and called to the mercy of Christ. How is the king of that province called?" They told him his name was Ælla: and he, alluding to the name said, "Hallelujah, the praise of God the Creator must be sung in those parts".
    • Book II, chapter 1
  • Talis...mihi uidetur, rex, vita hominum praesens in terris, ad conparationem eius, quod nobis incertum est, temporis, quale cum te residente ad caenam cum ducibus ac ministris tuis tempore brumali, accenso quidem foco in medio, et calido effecto caenaculo, furentibus autem foris per omnia turbinibus hiemalium pluviarum vel nivium, adveniens unus passeium domum citissime pervolaverit; qui cum per unum ostium ingrediens, mox per aliud exierit. Ipso quidem tempore, quo intus est, hiemis tempestate non tangitur, sed tamen parvissimo spatio serenitatis ad momentum excurso, mox de hieme in hiemem regrediens, tuis oculis elabitur. Ita haec vita hominum ad modicum apparet; quid autem sequatur, quidue praecesserit, prorsus ignoramus. Unde si haec nova doctrina certius aliquid attulit, merito esse sequenda videtur.
    • Translation: The present life of man, O king, seems to me, in comparison of that time which is unknown to us, like to the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein you sit at supper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad; the sparrow, I say, flying in at one door, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into the dark winter from which he had emerged. So this life of man appears for a short space, but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are utterly ignorant. If, therefore, this new doctrine contains something more certain, it seems justly to deserve to be followed.
    • Book II, chapter 13
    • This, Bede tells us, was the advice given to Edwin, King of Northumbria by his follower Coifi, when the king proposed to convert to Christianity.
  • Tanta eo tempore pax in Britannia fuisse perhibetur, ut, sicut usque hodie in proverbio dicitur, etiamsi mulier una cum recens nato parvulo vellet totam perambulare insulam a mari ad mare, nullo se laedente valeret.
    • It is reported that there was then such perfect peace in Britain, wheresoever the dominion of King Edwin extended, that, as is still proverbially said, a woman with her newborn babe might walk throughout the island, from sea to sea, without receiving any harm.
    • Book II, chapter 16

CriticismEdit

  • The quality which makes his work great is not his scholarship, nor the faculty of narrative which he shared with many contemporaries, but his astonishing power of co-ordinating the fragments of information which came to him through tradition, the relation of friends, or documentary evidence. In an age when little was attempted beyond the registration of fact, he had reached the conception of history. It is in virtue of this conception that the Historia Ecclesiastica still lives after twelve hundred years.
  • More and more, as the organic world was observed, the vast multitude of petty animals, winged creatures, and "creeping things" was felt to be a strain upon the sacred narrative. More and more it became difficult to reconcile the dignity of the Almighty with his work in bringing each of these creatures before Adam to be named; or to reconcile the human limitations of Adam with his work in naming "every living creature"; or to reconcile the dimensions of Noah's ark with the space required for preserving all of them, and the food of all sorts necessary for their sustenance. ...Origen had dealt with it by suggesting that the cubit was six times greater than had been supposed. Bede explained Noah's ability to complete so large a vessel by supposing that he worked upon it during a hundred years; and, as to the provision of food taken into it, he declared that there was no need of a supply for more than one day, since God could throw the animals into a deep sleep or otherwise miraculously make one day's supply sufficient; he also lessened the strain on faith still more by diminishing the number of animals taken into the ark—supporting his view upon Augustine's theory of the later development of insects out of carrion.

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Last modified on 9 April 2014, at 12:06