In the brief breathing space between the end of classes and the onset of grading, I have tried to use the few days respite to write. Getting back into the fiction side is like plunging into a pool–once I am in, I am fine, but getting there takes some effort of will. [And indeed, I have also gotten back into the pool to swim laps, a good place to contemplate.]
In addition, I began a couple of weeks ago transcribing the original collectar of Durham A.IV.19 with Aldred’s gloss, to make it accessible online in the same way that I recently did for the manuscript additions by uploading my book appendix critical edition (ScholarSpace). I did use Corrêa’s Latin edition as a base text, but am checking it word for word against the facsimile, putting italics in for Latin expansions, and omitting all of her very useful apparatus. Then I add Aldred’s gloss from the facsimile and check it against Lindelöf’s 1927 version. Very tedious.
And my point of boredom became the trigger. As I procrastinated on the fiction effort, a sentence came to mind: Aldred was bored. And that started a new chapter, now in progress, tracking his glossing effort in the original collectar and imagining his thought processes. I have just arrived, with Aldred, at the readings and prayers for the Purification of Mary (Feb. 2), and am wondering how the exotic verses from ben Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) and the Song of Songs form part of his mental furniture–the smell of fruit, honey, and spices; the vision of breasts and necks; the feel of kisses and embraces. All have spiritual symbolism of great potency, but based on tangible human experience.
It also raises the unanswered question whether Aldred was a married cleric or a celibate monk. Historical arguments can go either way (or first one and then the other). Clearly the stained glass artist at the Church of St. Mary and St. Cuthbert Chester-le-Street (left) saw him as a monk, befitting a guardian of St. Cuthbert. However, other than Symeon of Durham’s later assertions of a monastic core around the body of St. Cuthbert at all times, most of the evidence for the Chester-le-Street era points to a secular community of clergy untouched by the tenth century monasticizing reform.
I could cast Aldred as a monastic from the outset, or as either an unmarried cleric, a married cleric, or a married cleric who, perhaps after some tragedy, takes on the monastic vocation (many of the “monks” escorting the body of Cuthbert on its sojourn from Lindisfarne before arriving at Chester-le-Street were prominent nobles with families who apparently took on a monastic vow in their senior years as guardians of the saint). However, I have already written a scenario where Aldred’s mother dedicates him to the church, so I may stick with an unmarried state. Does that affect his reading of the Song of Songs?
Meanwhile, I am also enjoying St. Cuthbert’s Final Journey, a pilgrimage journal coinciding with the Lindisfarne Gospels Durham celebration. Although I cannot follow the entire path of Richard Hardwick and his companions, they are hitting some of the same sites I intend to visit on my own Cumbrian pilgrimage exploring sites in Aldred’s tenth century world. So I am learning a lot from their descriptions, as well as their misadventures. I will have a car and am planning three day excursions from a base in Penrith. I have a set of Ordnance Survey maps and, I hope, a GPS in the car!