May 24, 2013

Old Englishman

On the feast of the Venerable Bede, I'm reminded of my undergraduate course in Anglo-Saxon, which my inimitable (and favorite) professor Dr. Sheets proudly noted was the only undergraduate level course on the subject offered in the Eastern US. One of our study documents, of course, was Bede's Ecclesiastical History translated into the vernacular Old English in the days of Alfred the King. I can still recite Cædmon's Hymn, the story of which Bede recounted, and which the class had to memorize.

When it came to writing an icon of Bede, I found a dearth of available models, particularly given my interest in trying to write icons that look like "real people." Then I remembered Dom Bede Griffiths, the great Benedictine namesake of his progenitor, and the image clicked.

Bede, through you we honor all historians who labor to preserve the traces of our past.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG

6 comments:

Grandmère Mimi said...

Splendid icon of Bede, Tobias. You must do a book with the icons and brief biographies of the saints.

WSJM said...

Well, that shows how undergraduate education (even in the Ivy League) must have degenerated in the era of you young folks. As an undergraduate at Harvard (back in the Good Old Days) I took Anglo-Saxon with William Alfred -- as I recall, the class was pretty well attended. We didn't read Bede, but I do remember reading The Dream of the Rood, among other things. I didn't have the good sense to stay for the second semester, when the text was Beowulf. Just listening to Professor Alfred read Anglo-Saxon was a major treat. Interesting to note that in the latter first-millenium it was a holy act to translate the Scriptures into the vernacular, not only in Anglo-Saxon England but elsewhere in Europe. A few hundred years later, vernacular translations were heresy. Oh, when will we ever learn....

Tobias Haller said...

Thanks, Mimi. I've had that thought. Perhaps I'll start with a calendar, with just 12, and then branch out!

W., yes, I think that's why it was such a point of pride for Dr Sheets, as most of the IV league had begun to phase out such classes. I assume the only reason my alma mater had the course was due to the presence of the good teacher, rather than any commitment to antiquarian interests. Dr Sheets also loved to recite, and did so beautifully, though with his restrained Virginia Gentleman accent; he also gave a blessing on my reading, which was a high honor, and declared that I was "Ælfric redivivus!" He was a wonderful teacher, bringing in much more than just the language -- the culture and the sociological and philosophical issues. I recall he used the opening of Bede's History to describe the difference between a paratactic and hypotactic linguistic style, as reflective of worldview!

WSJM said...

Well, I learned something new today! Thank you, Tobias! (I knew the difference in linguistic styles, but I didn't know they were called paratactic and hypotactic!)

Peter Schweitzer said...

Hmm. I may be a bit older than you, but in 1976, I took "Old English" at UMd (College Park) and there, on the first day, met my wife of (now) 33 years. And Caedmon's hymn remains one of my favorite OE passages.

Tobias Haller said...

Actually, Peter, you're a tad younger than I. I was in the class of 71, and took AS (OE) I think in my junior year... Maybe Sheets students inspired a spread in MD -- he was at Towson.