The Northern Way

Part 3: A.D. 920 - 1014

Page 3

A.D. 970. This year died Archbishop Oskytel; who was first consecrated diocesan bishop at Dorchester, and afterwards it was by the consent of King Edred and all his council that he was consecrated Archbishop of York. He was bishop two and twenty winters; and he died on Alhallow-mas night, ten nights before Martinmas, at Thame. Abbot Thurkytel, his relative, carried the bishop's body to Bedford, because he was the abbot there at that time.

A.D. 971. This year died Edmund Atheling, and his body lies at Rumsey.

((A.D. 972. This year Edgar the etheling was consecrated king at Bath, on Pentecost's mass-day, on the fifth before the ides of May, the thirteenth year since he had obtained the kingdom; and he was then one less than thirty years of age. And soon after that, the king led all his ship-forces to Chester; and there came to meet him six kings, and they all plighted their troth to him, that they would be his fellow-workers by sea and by land.))

A.D. 973. Here was Edgar,

          of Angles lord,
          with courtly pomp
          hallow'd to king
          at Akemancester,
          the ancient city;
          whose modern sons,
          dwelling therein,
          have named her BATH.
          Much bliss was there
          by all enjoyed
          on that happy day,
          named Pentecost
          by men below.
          A crowd of priests,
          a throng of monks,
          I understand,
          in counsel sage,
          were gather'd there.
          Then were agone
          ten hundred winters
          of number'd years
          from the birth of Christ,
          the lofty king,
          guardian of light,
          save that thereto
          there yet was left
          of winter-tale,
          as writings say,
          seven and twenty.
          So near had run
          of the lord of triumphs
          a thousand years,
          when this was done.
          Nine and twenty
          hard winters there
          of irksome deeds
          had Edmund's son
          seen in the world,
          when this took place,
          and on the thirtieth
          was hallow'd king. (44)
Soon after this the king led all his marine force to Chester; and there came to meet him six kings; and they all covenanted with him, that they would be his allies by sea and by land.

A.D. 975. Here ended

          his earthly dreams
          Edgar, of Angles king;
          chose him other light,
          serene and lovely,
          spurning this frail abode,
          a life that mortals
          here call lean
          he quitted with disdain.
          July the month,
          by all agreed
          in this our land,
          whoever were
          in chronic lore
          correctly taught;
          the day the eighth,
          when Edgar young,
          rewarder of heroes,
          his life -- his throne -- resigned.
          Edward his son,
          unwaxen child,
          of earls the prince,
          succeeded then
          to England's throne.
          Of royal race
          ten nights before
          departed hence
          Cyneward the good --
          prelate of manners mild.
          Well known to me
          in Mercia then,
          how low on earth
          God's glory fell
          on every side:
          chaced from the land,
          his servants fled, --
          their wisdom scorned;
          much grief to him
          whose bosom glow'd
          with fervent love
          of great Creation's Lord!
          Neglected then
          the God of wonders,
          victor of victors,
          monarch of heaven, --
          his laws by man transgressed!
          Then too was driv'n
          Oslac beloved
          an exile far
          from his native land
          over the rolling waves, --
          over the ganet-bath,
          over the water-throng,
          the abode of the whale, --
          fair-hair'd hero,
          wise and eloquent,
          of home bereft!
          Then too was seen,
          high in the heavens,
          the star on his station,
          that far and wide
          wise men call --
          lovers of truth
          and heav'nly lore --
          "cometa" by name.
          Widely was spread
          God's vengeance then
          throughout the land,
          and famine scour'd the hills.
          May heaven's guardian,
          the glory of angels,
          avert these ills,
          and give us bliss again;
          that bliss to all
          abundance yields
          from earth's choice fruits,
          throughout this happy isle. (45)

((A.D. 975. The eighth before the ides of July.

          Here Edgar died,
          ruler of Angles,
          West-Saxons' joy,
          and Mercians' protector.
          Known was it widely
          throughout many nations.
          "Thaet" offspring of Edmund,
          o'er the ganet's-bath,
               honoured far,
          Kings him widely
          bowed to the king,
          as was his due by kind.
          No fleet was so daring,
          nor army so strong,
          that 'mid the English nation
          took from him aught,
          the while that the noble king
          ruled on his throne.
And this year Edward, Edgar's son, succeeded to the kingdom; and then soon, in the same year, during harvest, appeared "cometa" the star; and then came in the following year a very great famine, and very manifold commotions among the English people.
          In his days,
          for his youth,
          God's gainsayers
          God's law broke;
          Eldfere, ealdorman,
          and others many;
          and rule monastic quashed,
          and minsters dissolved,
          and monks drove out,
          and God's servants put down,
          whom Edgar, king, ordered erewhile
          the holy bishop
          Ethelwold to stablish;
          and widows they plundered,
          many times and oft:
          and many unrighteousnesses,
          and evil unjust-deeds
          arose up afterwards:
          and ever after that
          it greatly grew in evil.
And at that rime, also, was Oslac the great earl banished from England.))

A.D. 976. This year was the great famine in England.

A.D. 977. This year was that great council at Kirtlington, (46) after Easter; and there died Bishop Sideman a sudden death, on the eleventh day before the calends of May. He was Bishop of Devonshire; and he wished that his resting-place should be at Crediton, his episcopal residence; but King Edward and Archbishop Dunstan ordered men to carry him to St. Mary's minster that is at Abingdon. And they did so; and he is moreover honourably buried on the north side in St. Paul's porch.

A.D. 978. This year all the oldest counsellors of England fell at Calne from an upper floor; but the holy Archbishop Dunstan stood alone upon a beam. Some were dreadfully bruised: and some did not escape with life. This year was King Edward slain, at eventide, at Corfe-gate, on the fifteenth day before the calends of April. And he was buried at Wareham without any royal honour. No worse deed than this was ever done by the English nation since they first sought the land of Britain. Men murdered him but God has magnified him. He was in life an earthly king -- he is now after death a heavenly saint. Him would not his earthly relatives avenge -- but his heavenly father has avenged him amply. The earthly homicides would wipe out his memory from the earth -- but the avenger above has spread his memory abroad in heaven and in earth. Those, Who would not before bow to his living body, now bow on their knees to His dead bones. Now we may conclude, that the wisdom of men, and their meditations, and their counsels, are as nought against the appointment of God. In this same year succeeded Ethelred Etheling, his brother, to the government; and he was afterwards very readily, and with great joy to the counsellors of England, consecrated king at Kingston. In the same year also died Alfwold, who was Bishop of Dorsetshire, and whose body lieth in the minster at Sherborn.

A.D. 979. In this year was Ethelred consecrated king, on the Sunday fortnight after Easter, at Kingston. And there were at his consecration two archbishops, and ten diocesan bishops. This same year was seen a bloody welkin oft-times in the likeness of fire; and that was most apparent at midnight, and so in misty beams was shown; but when it began to dawn, then it glided away.

((A.D. 979. This year was King Edward slain at even-tide, at Corfe-gate, on the fifteenth before the kalends of April, and then was he buried at Wareham, without any kind of kingly honours.

          There has not been 'mid Angles
          a worse deed done
          than this was,
          since they first
          Britain-land sought.
          Men him murdered,
          but God him glorified.
          He was in life
          an earthly king;
          he is now after death
          a heavenly saint.
          Him would not his earthly
          kinsmen avenge,
          but him hath his heavenly Father
          greatly avenged.
          The earthly murderers
          would his memory
          on earth blot out,
          but the lofty Avenger
          hath his memory
          in the heavens
          and on earth wide-spread.
          They who would not erewhile
          to his living
          body bow down,
          they now humbly
          on knees bend
          to his dead bones.
          Now we may understand
          that men's wisdom
          and their devices,
          and their councils,
          are like nought
          'gainst God's resolves.
This year Ethelred succeeded to the kingdom; and he was very quickly after that, with much joy of the English witan, consecrated king at Kingston.))

A.D. 980. In this year was Ethelgar consecrated bishop, on the sixth day before the nones of May, to the bishopric of Selsey; and in the same year was Southampton plundered by a pirate-army, and most of the population slain or imprisoned. And the same year was the Isle of Thanet overrun, and the county of Chester was plundered by the pirate-army of the North. In this year Alderman Alfere fetched the body of the holy King Edward at Wareham, and carried him with great solemnity to Shaftsbury.


(44) This poetical effusion on the coronation, or rather consecration, of King Edgar, as well as the following on his death, appears to be imitated in Latin verse by Ethelwerd at the end of his curious chronicle. This seems at least to prove that they were both written very near the time, as also the eulogy on his reign, inserted 959. Back

(45) The following passage from Cotton Tiberius B iv., relating to the accession of Edward the Martyr, should be added here -- In his days, On account of his youth, The opponents of God Broke through God's laws; Alfhere alderman, And others many; And marr'd monastic rules; Minsters they razed, And monks drove away, And put God's laws to flight -- Laws that King Edgar Commanded the holy Saint Ethelwold bishop Firmly to settle -- Widows they stript Oft and at random. Many breaches of right And many bad laws Have arisen since; And after-times Prove only worse. Then too was Oslac The mighty earl Hunted from England's shores. Back

(46) Florence of Worcester mentions three synods this year; Kyrtlinege, Calne, and Ambresbyrig. Back

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