Thursday, 23 October 2008

The bright side

1. OK so these endless meetings give me a headache like my brain is full of very fine hot sand but there are occasional rays of bearability. Watching my boss, an old-style professor, react to a request for "an offline caucus", for example. (He did so warily.) Also just before our deliverables meeting my boss asked me if I knew what "deliverables" meant, and I enjoyed explaining it as those things which must be delivered -- once he knew it was a gerundive he was fine. I really don't know why I don't find American business-speak enjoyable. It's a muscular vernacular, where everything is a metaphor: we have roadmaps not plans; things are frozen not finished; we have to prioritise "low-hanging fruit". But it just annoys me. And it is unclear; my colleague whose first language is German finds it really hard to understand sometimes.

2. But it's over, and I am lucky that I can soothe my jaggled soul with manuscript 448. People are variously rude about Parker, but one of his endearing characteristics is that he loved his wife, Margaret. They got married before it was legal for a priest to do so, and there is a story that before that they had each made a vow not to marry anyone else. When you look through Parker's manuscripts you can see his three main interests from his notes and underlinings: [a.] Anglo-Saxon names and vocabulary [b.] the Protestant reformation as a return to the practices of the pre-degenerate Anglo-Saxon church, so things like King Edgar driving out the clerks from the New Minster at Winchester, and Ælfric's description that communion bread and wine are the flesh and blood of Christ not bodily (lichamlice) but spiritually (gastlice) [c.] priests' marriage. Parker sponsored a defence of priests' marriage, and argued for it vehemently all his life, even when it meant crossing his frightening sovereign. When Elizabeth ordered that married priests' wives could not live with them in cathedral precincts Parker quarrelled with her angrily, declared that he wished he had not accepted his position as archbishop, and would not enforce the decree. Parker and his wife seem to have been very happy together, and Parker never recovered from her death, five years before his. His body had to buried in the usual place, but he asked that his bowels should be removed and buried with Margaret. (Since he was disinterred under the Commonwealth and thrown on a dunghill, maybe it really is almost true that what will survive of us is love -- love, or perhaps bowels.)
Anyway this manuscript is a very beautiful product of late tenth-century Canterbury, one of their last gasps of Insularness. (That is Insular with a big I, meaning the style when it's pointless to distinguish between English and "Celtic", like with the Lindisfarne gospels; it is therefore somewhat less insular with a small i than the subsequent Anglo-Saxon style.) The initials wouldn't look out of place in a Welsh manuscript of the same date. It contains a poem by a certain Prosper to his wife, and Parker thought this was Bishop Prosper of Reggio, and took it as evidence for married priests in the late antique/early medieval church. Bound into this manuscript is the only surviving copy of a little printed book he had made of this poem, containing a facing page Latin and English translation. It's quite sweet. I find Parker's general ineptitude as a poet another of his endearing features. If you've ever heard Tallis's Tunes for Parker's Psalter (perhaps via the Vaughan Williams "fantasia on a theme" version of one of them, which is not a patch on the original) you might have gone so far as to look up Parker's Psalter on Early English Books Online, where you would discover Parker's rather plodding Psalms. (I don't know why they are never sung in college, since the music is fantastic.) I'm guessing that Parker translated Prosper's poem himself.
Age iam precor mearum
Comes irremota rerum
Trepidam, breuemque vitam
Domino Deo dicemus

gets turned into four stanzas of six lines each, starting "Come on O mate". Wherever Prosper says something nice about his wife, a little annotation in the margin of the Latin text says "ergo non reliquit uxorem". It finishes
Persist we styll
All one in wyll,
Rest we one fleshe to go,
Kynde hart doth moue
Eche others loue
Rule we one sprite in two

Vt caro non eadem tantum, sed mens quoque nobis
Vna sit, atque duos spiritus vnus alat.

Sadly our project omits printed material, so this unique little object will not be included.

3. Early English Books Online is brilliant anyway. Try searching on "lewd", or regard this distressing story:
Strange and VVonderful News from NEVVBERRY, Concerning a Youth that was Choak'd by Eating of Custard

No comments:

Post a Comment