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"Bede's" Envoi to the Old English

History:An Experiment in Editing


by FredC. Robinson
A

T the close of his EcclesiasticalHistory of the English People,'

following Bede's curriculum vitae and a list of his writings,


there appears in all versions of the work, both Latin and Old
English, the author's prayer for his soul's salvation. In some versions
of the History (Plummer's "C-type manuscript"2) this prayer is followed by a request that readers of the work support the author's
petition with their intercessory prayers. This second appeal originally
appeared as part of Bede's Preface at the beginning of his book but
was felt by some redactors to form such a suitable companion piece
for the prayer at the book's end that it was displaced thither. All
surviving manuscripts of the Old English translation of Bede have the
petition displaced to the end of the book. In one of the Old English
manuscripts, moreover, a third petition has been added in which
Bede continues speaking, apparently, this time addressing himself to
any rulers who may read the book, asking that they support with
their means the copying and promulgation of the book in the future.
By changing Bede's emphasis from simple concern for prayers to a
concern for the afterlife of his book, this final addition transforms the
supplicatory postlude into a kind of envoi, and I shall refer to the
unique, three-part statement henceforth as "the envoi." The author
of the third part of the envoi, which is written in Old English allitera1 For the Latin version I refer to the edition by Charles Plummer, VenerabilisBaedae
operahistorica, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1896). Two editions of the Old English translation will be
cited, that by Thomas Miller, The Old English Versionof Bede's EcclesiasticalHistory of the
English People, EETS o.s. 95, 96, nlo, and ill (London, 189o-8), and that by Jacob
Schipper, Konig Alfreds Ubersetzung von Bedas Kirchengeschichte, Bibliothek der angelsachsischen Prosa, vol. 4 (Leipzig, 1897-9). These three editions are cited hereafter
by the editors' last names.
2 Plummer, pp. civ-cxxxii.

? 1981 The University of North Carolina Press.


0039-3738

/81 / 050004-19$01

.6o/o

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Fred C. Robinson

tive verse, is unknown. Certainly we have no reason for thinking that


Bede composed it, although he may have provided the inspiration for
it, since his Preface to the History, which is addressed to King Ceolwulf, asks the king to promote the dissemination of the book. The
composer of the verses could have been following the example of
those who had removed the second petition from the Preface to the
close of the book when he generalized the petition to Ceolwulf into
an appeal to all rulers and moved this generalized appeal to the end
of the volume where it now follows the other transplanted petition.
The manuscript which alone contains this composite, three-part envoi
is the single most independent or revisionist version of the Old
English Bede, the eleventh-century codex Corpus Christi College,
Cambridge, 41 .3 The purpose of the present essay is to provide an
edition of the envoi, a text of composite authorship and mixed form,
prose followed by alliterative verse.
Readers who have noticed my subtitle may well ask how such a
routine editorial task as this could warrant the description "an experiment in editing." To answer the question we must review the publishing history of the envoi, a history which shows that the text has
never been allowed by editors to stand as the composite unit which it
was intended to be. In the two modern editions of the Old English
Bede which use C.C.C.C. MS. 41, both editors have carefully detached the verse-passage from its context and printed it hundreds of
pages away from the text of which it was meant to be a part: Miller
prints it near the end of his volume of "Various Readings" (p. 596)
rather than with the edition proper, while Schipper prints it in his
"Einleitung" (pp. xxv-xxvi). Scholars concerned primarily with Old
English verse, on the other hand, have consistently printed the alliterative portion of the envoi in isolation, giving no indication that it
was composed as the third part of a tripartite valediction.4 The invari3 An examination of the "Various Readings" listed in Miller's edition, Part 2, EETS
o.s. nio and 111 (London, 1898), pp. 1-597, will reveal how individual are C.C.C.C.
41's divergences from the other manuscripts. Raymond J. S. Grant discusses these in
his unpublished doctoral dissertation, "MS. C.C.C.C. 41, with Special Regard to the B
Version of the Old English Bede" (1970). Professor Grant is preparing a study of this
subject for publication.
4 Editions containing
the verses alone include F. Holthausen, "Altenglische
Schreiberverse," Anglia Beiblatt XXXVIII (1927), 191-2; E. Sievers, "Altenglische
Schreiberverse," Beitrdgezur Geschichte der deutschen Sprache und LiteraturenLII (1928),
310-11; The Anglo-Saxon Minor Poems, ed. Elliott Van Kirk Dobbie, Anglo-Saxon Poetic
Records, vol. 6 (New York, 1942), pp. cxvii-cxviii, 113, 203-4. The text of the verses is
transcribed by Humphrey Wanley in LibrorumVeterumSeptentrionalium ... Catalogus,

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"Bede's"Envoi to the Old English History

able dismemberment of the envoi has taken place, I believe, because


of two modern editorial assumptions: first, the assumption that
whenever one medieval author expands or completes the work of another the editor has a responsibility to disengage the two writers'
contributions and present them to readers as two independent compositions; second, the assumption that verse texts are normally to be
studied separately from prose texts.
For reasons which I have recently set out in some detail,5 I do not
believe these assumptions to be valid for medieval English literary
texts. In an age when authorship had not yet attained that high
degree of self-consciousness which it has in the modern profession of
letters, unified texts might develop quite naturally by accretion, one
writer humbly and anonymously adding his mite of wisdom to the
words of a precursor, strengthening a point here, expanding a point
there.6 Writers like Bede or kIlfric may express anxiety on occasion
over the bad copyist who idly corrupts their texts, but there was also
a feeling that if a later writer could improve the work of a predecessor,
he was free to do so. A notation in a tenth-century manuscript
recently described by N. R. Ker states this conviction succinctly: "A
scael gelaered smiM, swa he gelicost maeg, be bisne wyrcan butan he bet
cunne." (A learned artificer must always work from his exemplar as
closely as he can, unless he knows how to work better.)7
The assumption that verse texts should always be studied apart
from those in prose is an odd one to apply to a literary culture in
which alternate prose and verse composition within the same text
was a common practice. The interchanging prose and metrical sections of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy are the most obvious
example, and we may recall that the Anglo-Saxons not only translated
this popular text, reproducing the prose-verse alternations of the
original (in B.L. MS. Cotton Otho A.vi), but they seem to have
vol. 2 of George Hickes' Linguarum VeterumSeptentrionalium . . . Thesaurus (Oxford,
1705), p. 114.
5 "Old English Literature in Its Most Immediate Context," in Old English Literaturein
Context, ed. John D. Niles (Bury St Edmunds, 198o), pp. 11-29, 157-61. The edition
promised in n. 3, p. 157, is the one I am presenting here.
6 Nor were medieval writers hesitant to assume the voice and authority of the man
whose work they were expanding: for a discussion of this practice and its relevance to
our reading of the present text, see "Old English Literature in Its Most Immediate Con-

text,"pp. 22-5.
7 "A Supplement to Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon,"
England V (1976), 127.

Anglo-Saxon

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imitated its prose-verse form in such works as the Solomonand Saturn,


the Chronicle (where verse texts appear amid the prose entries), and
some homiletic texts. Several manuscripts (e.g., the Vercelli Book) are
made up of prose compositions alongside verse compositions (often
looser in meter than the strict verse of, say, Beowulf), although editors
are careful not to allow modem readers to see these texts in their
original juxtapositions. That Anglo-Saxons were accustomed to reading texts in which prose merges into verse and verse back into prose
again seems clear from the way modern scholars keep discovering
verse excerpts embedded in what had previously been taken as pure
prose texts.8 Nor is the Corpus version of the Old English Bede the
only "Alfredian" translation provided with a metrical conclusion:
most manuscripts of the Old English Pastoral Care contain a verse
epilogue as well as a preface composed partly in prose and partly in
verse. And in the Cotton Otho C.i manuscript of Gregory's Dialogues
the main text is introduced by a twenty-seven line poem.9 We should
perhaps also note that the metrical conclusion to the Corpus version
of the Old English Bede may not be the only alliterative verses in that
work.'0
The experiment in this edition, then, is to present a text of complex
authorship and prose-verse form in the composite, integral state that
its last shaper intended it to have. If this seems too banal to be called
an "experiment," I can only point out that it has never been done
before with this text and that it has rarely been done with similar texts
from the Anglo-Saxon period. My hope is that this specimen edition
along with my recent argument for reading Old English literature in
its medieval manuscript context rather than in modem fragmented
texts (see note 5 above) will encourage future study of Old English
literature in the integral form in which it has come down to us. I
should add that the envoi I am editing here is of course itself part of
the entire Old English Bede (Corpus version), a fact which readers
must keep in mind as they read the text presented here. That I have
not reprinted the entire History here will perhaps require no explana8 A number of these are mentioned in Madeleine Bergman, "Supplement to A Concordanceto The Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records"forthcoming in Medievalia.
9 See the recent reconstruction of the text of this poem in David Yerkes, "The Full
Text of the Metrical Preface to Waerferth's Translation of Gregory," Speculum LV (1980),
505-13.
10 See Fr. Klaeber, "Die altenglische Bedaubersetzung und der Denkspruch auf Oswald," Archiv CXLIV (1922), 251-3, and "King Oswald's Death in Old English Alliterative Verse," PQ XVI (1937), 214.

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"Bede's"Envoi to the Old English History

tion. It may be consulted in the edition by Schipper, who prints the


Corpus version in parallel columns with other manuscripts of the Old
English Bede.
INTRODUCTION

The manuscript in which this text is preserved is dated by N. R. Ker


to the first half of the eleventh century.'1 Like the preceding History
as a whole, the envoi, including the verse additions, is thoroughly
West Saxon. (Spellings like waldend and aldor alongside weard and
geweald in the poem cannot of course be taken to signify dialect mixture.12) The lateness of the entire manuscript is reflected in spellings
like synum and (perhaps) drihten in the metrical section and -ian, -an
for -ien, -en in the prose part.'3
The three sections of the text are closely integrated, both visually
and verbally. They are copied in the same elaborate hand, and each
section is introduced by capital letters. The last of the three sections
differs from the others in having altemate lines in red gilt and dark
brown ink.14 The three sections are linked verbally by repetitions like
ic bidde . . . ic ea;Ymodlice
bidde . .. biddeic and eac swylce . .. eac fbonne
... eac. The three-part envoi has considerable thematic coherence as
well. The author begins by acknowledging that he has written the
book with the support of God's wisdom and closes by saying that future production of the book will be a form of continual praise to God.
(See the critical note to line 27 for a discussion of the monastic ideal of
work as a form of prayer honoring God.) Within this framework the
author asks successively for God's support, his readers' support, and
the support of powerful rulers. The last petition specifically requests
support for the writre, and the poet exploits, I believe, the lack of distinction of sense which inheres in the word. The obvious meaning is
11 Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, 1957), pp. 43-5. Miller,
Part 2, pp. x, xxii, accepts a date of 1030-40 for the manuscript and attempts through a
study of place-names to establish a Hampshire provenance.
12 E. G. Stanley, "Spellings of the WaldendGroup," in Studies in Language, Literature,
and Culture of the Middle Ages and Later, ed. E. Bagby Atwood and Archibald A. Hill
(Austin, Texas, 1969), pp. 38-69.
13 Alistair Campbell, Old
English Grammar(Oxford, 1959), pp. 132, 157.
14 One
might conclude that the aural ornament of meter is here artfully complemented by the visual ornament of colored ink; but note that in other Bede manuscripts (e.g. Leningrad State Public Library MS. Lat. Q. v. I, 18, fol. 16jr) closing colophons are written in alternate lines of red and black ink.

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"scribe," but writre could also mean "author," and forms of (a)writan
referring to authorial composition occur not only in the immediately
preceding petition but also repeatedly in the long list of Bede's writings which precedes the envoi. In the Corpus version, moreover, this
repetition of the verb is further emphasized by having ic wrat occur
twice where the other manuscripts lack it. In view of this verbal context, writre in line 26 of the poem would seem to suggest both "scribe"
and "author," and since Bede describes himself as having served in
both capacities ("ipse mihi dictator simul notarius et librarius"'5), we
may suspect that the writer of the verse section-a scribe, most likely,
who is speaking in Bede's voice-may be humbly following Bede's
august example (after an interval of three centuries) in both
capacities. For the royal audience the implication of such literary
pietas is that support for the scribe is also support for the author, that
scribal work and authorship are equally worthy ways of extolling the
Lord, and that both are deserving of support from God, readers, and
rulers.
The innovations in the main text of the Corpus version have long
been recognized. Thomas Miller observed that "this scribe, or editor,
has a turn for rhetoric and often recasts whole passages,'16 while
Dorothy Whitelock suggests that he was given "to deliberate alterations in order to replace archaic or dialect words and archaic syntax.'"17The revisionary bent of "this scribe, or editor," may have
extended to his adding the verse petition which gave final shape to
our envoi. He could have adapted the verses to his purpose after
finding them in another context, or he may have composed them
himself, stumbling occasionally in his handling of the meter. Whatever the case, he clearly was not inclined to "be bisne wyrcan" when
"he bet cunne." For this reason I have not treated his deviations from
the other manuscripts of the Old English Bede as blunders, automatically emending his first two petitions into conformity with those in
the other versions. His independence of thought throughout his
copying of the History would seem to require that an editor retain
variant readings whenever they make sense on their own terms or at
Bedae venerabilisopera exegetica in Lucam et in Marcum, Corpus Christianorum vol.
ed. D. Hurst (Turnhout, 196o), p. 7.
16 Miller, Part i, p. xxxi.
17 "The List of Chapter-Headings in the Old English Bede," in Old English Studies in
Honour of John C. Pope, ed. Robert B. Burlin and Edward B. Irving (Toronto, 1974), p.
266.
15

120,

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10

least that the possibility of intentional change be acknowledged in the


critical notes.
The meter of the verse passage requires a special word. Ferdinand
Holthausen in 1927 remarked that several verses in the poem "metrisch nicht in Ordnung sind,"'8 and he presented a heavily emended
text to restore the presumed metrical regularity of the original, which
he thought the Corpus scribe had either miscopied or misremembered. Eduard Sievers, on the other hand, doubted whether the
poem ever had metrically regular form: "Was er [i.e., Holthausen]
in seinem text fur verse halt, sind keine wirklichen verse. . . . Das
stuckchen um das es sich handelt, ist namlich in ganz glatten, in
ublicher weise nur unregelmassig alliterierenden sagversen abgefasst,"19 and he proceeds to lineate the poem in conformity with
his theory of "sagvers." E. V. K. Dobbie also rejects Holthausen's
version, but on the grounds that we should not expect "too good a
metrical form for a poem of the eleventh century."20
In fact, the meter of the verses is not as loose as these scholars
would lead us to believe. Aside from a jarring lapse in the opening
verse (which will not scan at all) and two rather clumsy half-lines
later on, the poem is regular. The irregularity of the opening verse,
moreover, is easily rectifiable by a simple transposition of words to Ic
eac bidde, which scans as a C-line and alliterates properly with the offverse. Line 25a, in which a finite verb in second position alliterates
instead of the noun in first position, invites more drastic revision. If
bredu (which presents problems of interpretation on other grounds,
as the critical note to this line explains) could be replaced by fell (neut.
plur.) "hides, skins" (referring to parchment leaves), then all would
be well: and ,bafell befo. But the word for parchment leaves is bocfell;
there is no evidence that the simplex fell meant the same thing as the
compound, and so this reconstruction is dubious. The last troublesome line is 26a (fixt gefyr;6rigetone writre), which can be regularized
only by radical emendation of the kind practiced by Holthausen. This
being the case, and bearing in mind that all the bad verses make good
sense and grammar as they stand, we should probably conclude that
the poem is the work of an inattentive metrist rather than an originally smooth text corrupted by a scribe with a tin ear. But clearly it is
18

"Altenglische Schreiberverse," p. 191.

19 "Altenglische
20

Schreiberverse,"

p. 310.

The Anglo-Saxon Minor Poems, p.

204.

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11

not as formless as Sievers and Holthausen would have us believe. I


suspect that the poet was a man familiar with vernacular verse and
somewhat knowledgeable about it but not very practiced in it. He was
probably more at home in the world of Latin learning and religious
instruction than the world where scopas plied their craft. But like
many another, he had some knowledge and appreciation of both.2'
In the text that follows punctuation and capitalization have been
silently modernized. I have ignored the scribe's punctuation as well
as his occasional accent marks, as in geunne, mote, and wisd6mes (once
thus, elsewhere wisdomes). The standard nota for and is represented
thus (always in italic), and the abbreviation for fat is expanded thus:
Pxt. The nasal stroke over a vowel is represented by an italic m following the vowel. I have not recorded in the textual notes previous
editors' failures to indicate these abbreviations. Brackets around letters indicate that these are editorial insertions; changes of manuscript
forms are printed in italic and explained in the textual notes.
In lieu of a glossary, I have provided a literal translation of the text
in parallel columns.
The editions referred to by editors' last names in the course of the
textual and critical notes have all been cited in full above: Miller,
Plummer, and Schipper are cited in footnote l; Dobbie, Holthausen,
Sievers, and Wanley in footnote 4.

21
My analysis of the meter has benefited from a discussion of the poem's prosody
with Professor John C. Pope, but since he has not seen what I have finally written on
the subject, he is not responsible for any of the conclusions I have reached. I have
drawn heavily on learned and helpful criticism by Professor E. G. Stanley of Pembroke
College, Oxford University, and have been saved by Professor David Yerkes of Columbia University and Dr. Bruce Mitchell of Oxford from more than one error.

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"Bede's"Envoi to the Old English History


TEXT AND TRANSLATIQN

(p. 482) [A]nd ic bidde be nu goda


Halend Pat Pu me milde forgeafe swetlice drincan Pa word t5ines wisdomes
Pat Pu eac swylce forgyfe Jxt ic aet
5 nyhstan to be, Pam wylle ealles
wisdomes, becuman mote symle
aetywan beforan Pinre ansyne;
(p. 483) [elac Ponne ic eabmodlice
bidde PJt on eallum bam Pe 5isylce
1o staer tobecume ures cynnes to raedenne
oMe to gehyrenne, Jat hi for minum
untrumnessum modes and lichaman
gelomlice and geomlice Pingian mid
baere upplican arfaestnesse Godes
s
aelmihtiges and on gehwylcum heora
maegbe Pas mede heora edleanes me agyfan
Pet ic be be syndrigum maeg5um o5[e]
Pam hyhrum stowum, 5a Pe ic gemyndelice
and Pam bigengum Pancwyr5lice gelyfde
20 geomlice ic tilode to awritenne Pat
ic mid eallum Pingum Pone westm
arfaestre 7ingunge gemete;
[b]idde ic eac
bregorices weard,

aeghwylcne mann,
Pe Pas boc raede

1 [A]nd] MS Nd (with a spacefive lines deepfor a large capital A)


8 [ejac] MS AC (with a space three lines deepfor a large capital E)
10 cynnes] MS cynnnes
17 Pe be] MS be Pe
19 Pancwyrhlice] MS Pamcwyrblice (with first c written over final
minim of m)
20 geornlicel MS Geornlice
23 [blidde MS IDDe (with a spacefour lines deepfor a large capital B);
WanleyBidde eac; Holthausen supplies (to) eac(an)

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Fred C. Robinson

And I beseech Thee, Good Savior, now


that Thou hast graciously granted me
to drink sweetly the words of Thy wisdom,
that Thou also grant that I may
come at last to Thee, the fountain of
all wisdom, to appear eternally
before Thy face;
also, I humbly beseech further that among
those to whom this same history of our
nation may come, either to be read
or heard, that they will frequently and
zealously intercede with the celestial
mercy of God almighty for my weaknesses both
of mind and of body, and that in each
province of theirs they will bestow on me this
meed of their reward, so that I, who strove
zealously to record whatever I thought memorable
and worthy of the inhabitants' contemplation
concerning various provinces or the more
important places, might obtain the fruits of
their pious intercession in all things;

I also beseech each man-ruler of a


realm, lord of men-who might read this

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"Bede's"Envoi to the Old English History

14
25

30

fira aldor,
and Pa bredu befo,
writre
gefyrIrige
wynsum[uml craefte
Pone
Pat
awrat
handum
boc
bas
twam, (p. 484)
bam
Pe
mundum synum
Poet he mote manega gyt
his Aldre to willan;
geendigan,
se be ah ealles geweald,
and him Paes geunne
PJet he on riht mote
Rodera Waldend,
Drihten herigan.
ob his daga ende
Amen.
Geweorpe Pxet.
YaleUniversity

befo] After befo Holthausen supplies (burgum on innan)


writre] HolPone] Wanley,Holthausen, Schipper,Sievers bone
thausen writ(e)re
27 Pe] Wanleyb5e
28 synuml Sievers sinum
29 his] Holthausen deletes
30 and] Holthausen, Sievers Paet
31 on riht] Wanleyunriht
34 Geweorpe] Wanleygeworpe
25

26

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15

book and hold the covers that he support


with kindly power the writer who wrote
this book with his two hands so that he
may finish with his hands yet many
more according to his Lord's desire; and
may He Who has power over all, the Lord
of the Heavens, grant that to him, so that he
may properly extol his Lord until the end
of his days.
Amen.
May it come to pass.

All other manuscripts have present subjunctive forgife where Corpus


has forgeafe. I originally assumed that a relative pronoun was missing
after fbxt tu (see p. 19 of the article cited in footnote 5, where I supply
the translation, "that Thou [Who] hast graciously permitted
me . . ."). But since the word-order in the Corpus version is different
from that of the other manuscripts (ic bidde Se nu rather than nu ic fie
bidde), it may be that nu (and the following faxt) has here been interpreted as a conjunction correlative with /,at . . . eac swylce. (See
translation for the syntax.) Possibly more attractive, however, is the
translation suggested to me by Professor Stanley, who doubts that a
correlative construction is intended here: "And I now beseech Thee,
Good Savior that hast graciously granted me to drink sweetly the
words of Thy wisdom, that Thou also grant . . ." But cf. I. L. Gordon's note to 11.33b-35 of The Seafarer(London, 1960), pp. 37-8. Corpus's forgeafe, it should be noticed, is in closer conformity than the
other manuscripts with Bede's tenses in the Latin original, which has
donasti. . . dones.
6 In all other manuscripts the conjuction and appears after mote, and it
is possible that the Corpus scribe, who elsewhere omits and where it
seems indispensable (e.g., Miller, Part 1, p. 404, 1. 19 and "Various
Readings:" p. 505, and Part 1, p. 441, 11.4-5 and "Various Readings,"
p. 557) overlooked the nota for and in his exemplar. But sometimes
the Corpus scribe seems to reduce the number of ands as a stylistic
revision, and so I have rendered the passage as it stands in the manuscript, assuming for atywan the sense "to be present" rather than "to
come into view."

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Envoi to the Old English History


X"Bede's"

io The standard Old English dictionaries record no verb tobecuman,and


Miller and Schipper read to becume where I have read tobecume.The
word tobecumanis documented, however: Helmut Gneuss, "Erganzungen zu den altenglischen Worterbuchern," Archiv CXCIX (1962),
22, records the verb as a gloss to Latin advenire. In the Latin Bede
pervenireis the verb translated by Corpus's tobecume.
13-16 The verbs kbingianand agyfan are subjunctive plurals with late -an for
-en. Other manuscripts have Pingien . .. agefe, ,bingien . .. agife, tingian . . . agife.
The Corpus reading oY tam hyhrum stowum (where all other manu17-18
scripts have oMie tam ... ) could be a deliberate alteration ("as far as
the more important places"), but it is difficult to see the purpose of
such a revision, and the grammar is suspicious since o;Ywith dative
object is unusual. Earlier in the Corpus manuscript we find oY i5a
bryttas where other manuscripts have o;Y6ebrytta (Miller, Part :, p.
120, 1. 4, and "Various Readings," p. 109), and the present o5 is probably just another blunder of o;5 for oYYe.In either case, the reference
here to "more important places" (Latin locis sublimioribus)provides a
subtle transition to the final section's address to those who occupy the
miore important places, the rulers.
23 See the Introduction, p. lo, for comment on the metrical problems in
this line.
24 All editions except that of Sievers read bregoas a simplex noun syntactically parallel with rices weard. That Sievers' bregoricesis correct seems
confirmed by bregoricesfruma in Genesis 1633b. (The compound bregorice also occurs in the Lambeth Psalter glossing Ephrata in Psalm
131:6.) Bregoricesweard and fira aldor (1. 25) are accusatives apposed
syntactically with xghwylcne mann (1. 23). lEghwylc followed by appositives specifying only some members of the class modified by
xghwylc occurs also in Meters of Boethius 27:9-11: ". . . he symle
spyre/aefter aeghwelcum eorZan tudre, diorum and fuglum." To assume the same syntactical structure here seems preferable to reading
bregoricesweard and fira aldor as vocatives with a different referent
from xghwylcne mann. The latter is grammatically possible but less
logical in context.
25 To what does fia bredu refer? One would expect the reference here to
be to vellum pages, but the expected noun in that case would be leaf
"folio, leaf,' tramet "page,' ymele "leaf," boga "folded parchment
leaf;' or bocfell "parchment, vellum." As was noted in the Introduction above, the neuter plural fell in place of breduwould improve both

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17

sense and meter if fell could be used synonymously with bocfell, but
there is no firm evidence that it could. The common meanings of bred,
on the other hand, are "board, panel, (wax) tablet." One could posit a
semantic development from the last of these meanings to "book" (a
sense development parallel with that of Latin tabellaeand codex), but
there is no documentary evidence that bredu ever came to mean
"book." If bredu is retained, it must refer to the board covers of the
book. (Note that the Riddles of the Exeter Book make reference to a
book's being bound in hleobordum:see the discussion of this passage
in the editions of the Riddles by Frederick Tupper [Boston, 1910], pp.
126-31, and by Craig Williamson [Chapel Hill, N.C., 1977], pp.
211-15.) But the book in our verses would not have been bound at the
time the scribe was finishing his job of copying and writing his closing
verses. One must therefore assume that he was thinking ahead to the
form that the book would have after it left his desk and passed
through the hands of the illuminator to the binder. That he was indeed thinking ahead to the book's future state when it would be
bound within boards is evidenced, perhaps, by the contrasting demonstratives in the sentence: Pas boc "this book" refers to the text
which the versifier has just completed and has before him; pa bredu
"those boards" refers to the board covers which the versifier assumes
will be covering the book by the time the bregoricesweard is holding it
in his hands. (Compare the way that the writer of the Metrical Preface
to Wxrferth's Translationof Gregory's Dialogues thinks forward to the
time when his reader will actually be holding his book: "5as boc ...
Pe ) u on Pinum handum nu hafast and sceawast" [11.16-17].) If the
present interpretation is correct, then we must add to the semantic
range of bred the specific meaning "book-cover," a meaning
elsewhere expressed by hleobordand spelt in Old English.
26a Contrary to C. L. Wrenn's interpretation in A Study of Old English Literature (London, 1967), p. 192, the request here is not for prayers but
for material support. The verb (ge)fyr5rian is commonly used in reference to men of high estate promoting the faith or giving support to
deserving subjects. E.g., "Da caseras woldon 5a cenan men ... fyr5rian" (Homilies of Elfric, ed. J. C. Pope, vol. 2, p. 730); "Eadgar
cynincg Pone Cristendom gefyr5rode" (AElfric'sLives of the Saints, ed.
W. W. Skeat, vol. 1, p. 468); "Cristenum cyninge ... gebyre5, Jaet he
. .. Godes cyrcean aeghwar fyr5rie" (Homilies of Wulfstan, ed. A.
Napier, p. 266). That the meter of this verse is inept was mentioned
above in the Introduction. It could be construed, perhaps, as type A

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-i8

"Bede's"Envoi to the Old English History

with anacrusis, but its unaccented syllables seem uncontrolled, and


the alliteration on the second stressed syllable rather than the first is
awkward. Holthausen, p. 192, divides this half-line into two verses
and composes another verse (see the textual note to 1. 25) to even out
the long lines.
26b The scribal error of wynsum for wynsumum is a typical instance of
haplography. That the intended reading was wynsumum seems especially likely when we notice that this scribe has a marked propensity
for using -um to signal the instrumental singular of adjectives where
the other manuscripts have -e. For example, he has innlicum hete,
gerxdum worde, missenlicum metere, mid godcundum maegenege mid menniscum, sarlicum wale and earmlicumwhere the other manuscripts have
inlice hete, geraxdeworde, missenlice metre, mid godcunde mxgene ge mid
mennisce, sarlice wxle ond earmlice(see Miller, "Various Readings," pp.
586, 590, 594, and 595). Surprisingly, every previous edition of the
poem retains the manuscript's wynsum, either through oversight or,
conceivably, because the editors tacitly assumed wynsum to be
nominative singular modifying mann, weard, and aldor. Disturbingly
awkward under any circumstances, this reading seems especially unlikely when we recall that (ge)fyr;Yrigewould almost routinely call for
an accompanying instrumental: cf. "eallum magene . . . Godes cyrcean aeghwar fyrbrie" (Homilies of Wulfstan, p. 266), "mid heora fultume us gefyrbriun" (Homilies of AElfric,ed. Pope, vol. 1, p. 423), and
"hi sind mid gifum and gestreonum gefyrprode" (King Alfred's Old
English Versionof Boethius, ed. W. G. Sedgefield [Oxford, 1899], p. 46).
Wynsumum crafte may be translated either "with cheerful virtue" or
"with joyous, kindly power."
27 Schipper's theory (pp. xxv-xxvii) that bam handum twam signifies that
an ambidextrous scribe copied the manuscript fails to take account of
the scribal formula discussed on pp. 14-15 of the article cited above in
footnote 5. Notice also that mid baxmhandum and mid his handum twam
occur, respectively, in Elene 804 and Instructions for Christians 68, in
neither instance with reference to ambidexterity. The phrase may
have had a faintly Biblical ring (Deuteronomy 9:15-17, Micah 7:3), but
our poem's peculiar emphasis on work with the hands (bam handum
twam ... mundum synum) being a way of praising God (see 11.31b2b) would seem to require a more specific context for this topos.
This context is provided, I suspect, by the old Benedictine ideal of
"opus Dei ... opus manuum" (see Chapter 48 of the BenedictineRule
"De opere manuum quotidiano"). A passage in Defensor develops

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Fred C. Robinson

19

the topos appropriately: "Cor enim cum manibus levat qui orationem
cum opere sublevat....
Quisquis orat, et non operatur, cor levat et
manum non levat." (For the full text along with the Old English
translation, see Defensor's Liber Scintillarum with an InterlinearAngloSaxon Version, ed. E. W. Rhodes, EETS o.s. 93 [London, 1889], pp.
34-5.) That the precept was a commonplace before Defensor used it
seems clear from the earlier occurrences cited by E. Marshall, Notes
and Queries, 6th series, vol. 1i (1885), 477-8, while its survival late into
the Anglo-Saxon period is attested in Instructions for Christians 7ff.
("an is monnes geswinc, ober [is] mubes gebede"). Bede's deep
commitment to this monastic ideal has been eloquently described by
Father Genadio Sanmiguel in his "San Beda el Venerable en el XII
centenario de su muerte," Monasticon 2 (1935), 114: "Uniendo en consorcio estrecho el trabajo y la oracion, [Bedal logro plasmar el tipo
acabado, el ideal perfecto del monje, cuyos trazos encontramos en su
vida con mayor realce y exactitud que en ninguna otra figura de la historia monacal."
28a Manega gyt refers, perhaps, to further copies of the Old English
translation of Bede. Cf. Bede's Preface to the History where he tells
King Ceolwulf he is sending him a copy of the book so that it may be
transcribed and promulgated. "In this lending of copies for purposes
of transcription consisted the medieval process of publication," according to Plummer, vol. 2, p. 1.
29b Holthausen's deletion of his causa metri is unnecessary. Anacrusis in
the off-verse is permissable in A-lines with the caesura falling as it
does here. See A. J. Bliss, The Metre of Beowulf (Oxford, 1958), pp.
40-1.
33-4 Dobbie, Miller, and Schipper, print "Amen geweorpe Paet" as part of
the poetic text, where the words are an extrametrical embarrassment.
Holthausen and Sievers delete "geweorpe PJet" but include "Amen"
in the last half-line, where it will not scan. But the words are not part
of the verse text at all: they are the conclusion to the entire three-part
envoi.

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