Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The King's Speech

The other day, Feaxede the fox excitedly loped towards me with something in his mouth. Could I possibly tell him what it was? I took a look at the object; it was immediately apparent that it was a scroll of vellum, which is a thin skin of hide used for manuscripts, books and documents. I asked him where he'd found it, and he told me that it was in the dump, where he does most of his researches. He asked me if I could read it. Since I was taught to read by Caedmon as part of my Christian education, I took a look at the document. It was rather dirty and sodden, but the writing was clear enough for me to discern that it was a transcript of King Alhfrith's Christmas message; it had probably been discarded by Beeby See - or one of her minions - following the Christmas season. Usually the soothsayers read out to the local populace the latest communication from the Great and the Good – and even our noble King. Since I was very tired this Christmas, I hadn't bothered to go to listen to the latest proclamation, so the content was new to me.
I read through it while Feaxede eagerly listened. I can't remember the full content verbatim, but as I recall, the speech started off with the King addressing his loyal subjects and talking about the Bible. It would appear that this year is an anniversary of the translation of the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into the Anglo-Saxon tongue. The monks at the Abbey still read the Latin version, so this was news to my ears. The King went on to say how the Bible brought people together. It would appear that the King then got some Viking, Bulgar and Frankish children to read a passage to him from the Bible, so one of them started with the words:
On frymðe wæs Word, and þæt Word wæs mid Gode, and God wæs þæt Word. Þæt wæs on fruman mid Gode. Ealle þing wæron geworhte ðurh hyne; and nan þing næs geworht butan him. Þæt wæs lif þe on him geworht wæs; and þæt lif wæs manna leoht. And þæt leoht lyht on ðystrum; and þystro þæt ne genamon.
Feaxede was puzzled. Why didn't the King read the passage himself? And why wasn't it read by Anglo-Saxon children? I explained that the old boy can't read; he always gets others to read to him. He uses his thumb to sign important documents and charters whenever a signature is needed. And in these days of diversity, it's important to exclude Anglo-Saxons, since they are mere incidentals in the unfolding political Plan of the Holy Roman Empire (which is neither holy, Roman, nor an empire).
When I read the next portion of the speech, I became as puzzled as Feaxede had been: the King then went on to talk about football, and how it – like the Bible - also brought people together. I can't understand how the Bible is supposed to bring people together in a day when the country is being systematically de-Christianised, and where signs of our Anglo-Saxon Christian heritage are being mocked or stealthily removed in favour of the Vikings and their Eddas. As I understand it, the Master in the Gospel said that He came to bring a sword rather than peace (by which He refers to division rather than unity).
And how on earth does football bring people together? Some people come together to watch Madcaster United and their star striker Wade Rune, but only to watch the game and to bellow unceremoniously when something happens on the pitch. When the game is over, they either go home or get drunk in the meadhouses, where I've heard the most acrimonious arguments between football supporters. Blood has been spilt. I also know that whenever Milwall supporters visit, the costumed thugs have to assiduously brain them with big sticks to keep them in check, and to prevent further outbreaks of violence.
So, what was the King waffling about? I'm blowed if I know. Mead and ale certainly bring people together; dances and entertainments do the same. Work – out of necessity - brings people together, whether they like it or not. Poverty and adversity also unite. But as I see it, the Anglo-Saxon Bible and football are unlikely companions in the task of uniting people.
Perhaps I'm missing something. Or maybe the King is losing his marbles. I suggested that Feaxede that he take the document back to the dump, where it could carry on doing what it had been communicating – rot.

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