Book 2, Chapter 5, 878 AD to 901 AD – Alfred’s Industry and Zeal
Alfred was not content with enjoining literary work upon his clergy and his people he illustrated and enforced his precepts by example. Having acquired the Latin tongue he diligently read the authors of ancient Rome, and made copious extracts and careful analyses of their writings. His friend and biographer records that “on a certain day (A.D. 887) we were talking, as we were wont, on divers subjects, and I chanced to read a quotation out of a book. He listened most attentively, and giving me a book which he carried in his bosom, in which the daily courses and psalms, and prayers, which he had read in his youth, were written, he commanded me to write in it the passage I had just quoted.
Hearing this, and perceiving his devout desire of studying the words of Divine wisdom, I gave, though in secret, boundless thanks to Almighty God, who had implanted such a love of wisdom in the king’s heart. But I could find no space in the book wherein to write the passage, for it was full of various matters, wherefore I made a slight delay, chiefly, however, that I might excite the bright intellect of the king to a deeper acquaintance with the Divine testimonies. Upon his urging me to make haste, and write it quickly, I asked him, ‘Do you wish me to write the quotation on a separate leaf, for, perhaps, we shall find one or more extracts which will please you, and in such a case we shall be glad that we have kept them apart?’ ‘
Your plan is good,’ replied the king, and accordingly I soon got ready a sheet, in the beginning of which I wrote what he commanded me, and on the same day I wrote therein, as I had anticipated, no less than three other quotations which pleased him, and from that time as we constantly talked together, other quotations pleased him, so that the sheet soon became full, and deservedly so, according as it is written, ‘ The just man builds upon a moderate foundation, and by degrees passes to greater things.’ Thus, like a most industrious bee, he flew here and there, asking questions as he went, until he had eagerly and unceasingly collected many various flowers of Divine Scriptures, with which he thickly stored the cells of his mind.” He kept in his chapel a wax taper continually burning before the relics of the Saints, which was divided into equal proportions, of three periods of eight hours each. He also appointed a servant, whose duty it was, as each of these portions was consumed and finished, in a loud voice, to warn the king of the portion about to succeed. A wax taper being thus consumed each day, a fresh one was lighted early in the morning and this was repeated every day. Of holy books and sacred reading he was so assiduous a student, that he always carried with him in his bosom the Psalter of David, or other edifying work.
” He could not equally distinguish the length of the hours by night, on account of the darkness, ofttimes by day, on account of the storms and clouds, but after long reflection, he commanded his chaplains to supply wax in a sufficient quantity, and he caused it to be weighed in such a manner that when there was so much of it in the scales, as would equal the weight of seventy two pence, he caused the chaplains to make six candles thereof, each of equal length, so that each candle might have twelve divisions marked longitudinally upon it. By this plan, therefore, those six candles burned for twenty four hours, a night and day, without fail, before the sacred relics of many of God’s elect, which always accompanied him wherever he went, but sometimes when they would not continue burning a whole day and night, till the same hour that they were lighted the preceding evening, from the violence of the wind, which blew day and night without intermission through the doors and windows of the churches, the fissures of the divisions.
The planking’s, or the wall, or the thin canvas of the tents, they then unavoidably burned out and finished their course before the appointed time, the king therefore considered by what means he might shut out the wind, and so by a useful and cunning invention, he ordered a lantern to be beautifully constructed of wood and white ox horn, and by night a candle was put into it, which shone as brightly without as within, and was not extinguished by the wind, for the opening of the lantern was also closed up, according to the king’s command, by a door made of horn. By this contrivance, six candles, lighted in succession, lasted four and twenty hours, neither more nor less, and, when these were extinguished others were lighted.”
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Fortifications
Chapter 5, Revolt in the Danelagh
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Educational Efforts
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Industry and Zeal
Alfred’s Industry and zeal
Chapter 5, Saxon Laws
Chapter 5, Summary of Alfred’s Character
Categories: Book 2