The Feast of St. Edmund

Wolf with the head of St. Edmund

Wolf with the head of St. Edmund

I only discovered A Clerk of Oxford this month, but it’s quickly become one of my favorite blogs. The blogger is a medievalist who writes long, fascinating posts highlighted by her excellent translations from Old English.

Today, for the Feast of St. Edmund, she offers generous selections from Ælfric’s Life of Edmund (10th Century), both in the original, so you get the sense of its beautiful alliteration, and then in modern English.

Here’s just a taste to whet your appetite. It has all the elements that make medieval hagiography so utterly fascinating. In this excerpt, the Saint’s head is recovered in a miraculous fashion:

‘Then there was a great wonder, that a wolf was send by the guidance of God to protect the head against other wild beasts by day and night. They went seeking and constantly crying out, as is common for those going through the woods, “Where are you now, friend?” And the head answered them, “Here, here, here!” And so it repeatedly called, answering them as often as any of them cried out, until they all came to it because of its calling. There lay the grey wolf which had guarded the head, and it had the head clasped between its two feet – greedy and hungry, and yet for God’s sake it dared not eat the head, but protected it against wild beasts. They marvelled at the guardianship of the wolf and carried the holy head home with them, thanking the Almighty for all his marvels, but the wolf followed with the head until they reached the town, just as if he were tame, and then went back again to the woods. Then the people of that region laid the head with the holy body, and buried him as best they could in such haste, and soon built a church over him.’

Do read the whole thing, and add her to your RSS feeds. You won’t regret it.