Book 2, Chapter 5, 878 AD to 901 AD – Alfred’s Educational Efforts
” Wherefore I think it better, (if such be your opinion,) that we also should translate some books, such as we shall deem most necessary, and which I may be understood by all, into the tongue which is intelligible to everyone. And we will take care, moreover, (which we shall very easily accomplish, by Divine assistance, if we still enjoy peace,) that all the youth of the English nation, especially the sons of wealthy freemen, who are well able to give their children a fitting education, shall be brought up to learning, and shall enter upon no other employment until they can read accurately English writings. Moreover, let teachers instruct in the Latin language those who would wish to advance in learning, and to attain a higher position.
” When I considered how the knowledge of the Latin tongue had fallen in England, (albeit very many could read English writings,) then I began, amid other and manifold business of the kingdom, to turn into the English language ‘this book, which, in Latin, is called Pastoralis,’ in English, Hirde boc,’ (or, The Herdsman’s Book,’) sometimes translating it word for word, sometimes putting sense for sense, so as I had learned from Plegmund, my archbishop, and Asser, my bishop, and from Grimbald and John, my mass priests. After I had obtained from them a thorough understanding of the book, I turned it into English in such way as I could most easily express its meaning. I have sent one copy of the book to every bishop’s seat in my kingdom, and on every one there shall be an astel, which is of fifty mancuses. And I command, in the name of God, that no one remove this astel from the book, nor the book from the church, as it is uncertain how long there may be such learned bishops as we have now, thank God, everywhere. Wherefore it is my will that the books remain always in their places, unless the bishop should wish to have them, either for the purpose of lending them to any one, or of writing other copies from them.”
The father of his people, and the benevolent man, appear strikingly in the expressions which he continues to use, “Therefore I direct that you do, as I believe that you will, that you who have leisure for the things of this world, as often as you can, impart that wisdom which God has given you, wherever you can impart it. Think what punishments will come upon us from this world, if we shall have neither loved it ourselves, nor left it to others, we shall have had only the name of Christians, and very few of their proper habits. When I recollect all this, I also remember how I saw, before that everything was ravaged and burnt, that the churches through all the English nation stood full of vessels and books, and also of a great many of the servants of God.”
The astel was a case or covering, often richly embroidered, and in which the book was kept for preservation, manuscripts being very scarce and dear. This particular covering was so worked, as to be of the money value of three hundred Saxon shillings.
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Fortifications
Chapter 5, Revolt in the Danelagh
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Educational Efforts
His care for Internal Prosperity of the Country
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Industry and Zeal
Chapter 5, Saxon Laws
Chapter 5, Summary of Alfred’s Character
Categories: Book 2