Bede and Aethelthryth: An Introduction to Christian Latin Poetics (Medieval European Studies, Volume 18)

November 1, 2020
Bede and Aethelthryth: An Introduction to Christian Latin Poetics (Medieval European Studies, Volume 18)

Bede and Aethelthryth asks why Christians in Britainaround the year 700 enjoyed Latin poetry. What did they see in it?What did they get from it? This book attempts to reconstruct thehorizon of expectation of a highly learned, Latin-speaking nun asshe encounters a fifty-line poem by the Venerable Bede, theHymn to Aethelthryth.The reconstruction is hypothetical and derived from grammaticalmanuals, learned commentaries from the early medieval period(especially Servius’s commentary on Virgil), and a wide variety ofaesthetic observations by classical and medieval readers. The firstfour chapters describe basic expectations of a reader of ChristianLatin poetry. The fifth chapter places the hymn in its contextwithin Bede’s Ecclesiastical History. A few pages afterBede records his hymn, Caedmon will recite his own hymn under thewatchful eye of Whitby’s Abbess Hild, who was a friend ofAethelthryth.Both hymns are attempts to reform the lyric traditions of paganRome and pagan Anglo-Saxon England in the light of Christianteaching. The last three chapters contain a line-by-line commentaryon Bede’s alphabetic, epanaleptic elegy.