Thursday, February 17, 2005

A bishop in the arms of a king

I've been reading David Crystal's book The Stories of English (see my reading list in the panel at right). Though I once tried to work my way through Chaucer in all it's original glory, I've generally been content to read modern versions of the very oldest English literature and have rarely had the patience to decode more than little bits Old and Middle English. Still, the history of the language is interesting and Crystal does it full justice. In a section I just finished reading he uses the Peterborough Chronicle to tell the story of the transition from Old to Middle and one of the passages he chooses is striking. Here's the translation into Modern English (on an odd web site called "The Pebrite of Miercinga Ríce"this site):
A.D. 1123. In this year was the King Henry, at Christmastide at Dunstable, and there came to him the ambassadors of the Earl of Anjou. And thence he went to Woodstock; and his bishops and his whole court with him. Then did it betide on a Wednesday, which was on the fourth day before the ides of January, that the king rode in his deer-fold; the Bishop Roger of Salisbury on one side of him, and the Bishop Robert Bloet of Lincoln on the other side of him. And they rode there talking together. Then sank down the Bishop of Lincoln, and said to the king, "Lord king, I die." And the king alighted down from his horse, and lifted him betwixt his arms, and let men bear him home to his inn. There he was soon dead;
The image is of King Henry I

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