Posted by: kljolly | September 16, 2013

Truth Coming

I have been puzzling over a gloss translation Aldred did in the Durham Collectar, where he glosses Lat. procedere (“proceed”) with Old English soðcuman (truth/truly come).

Jolly side yard with papaya, lilikoi (passion fruit) on carport, and some vegetables

Jolly side yard with papaya, lilikoi (passion fruit) on carport, and some vegetables and marigolds

Let me preface this by saying that I am engaging in what my colleague at Leeds is titling a session for next summer’s conference:  slow scholarship.  Like slow food’s antithesis to fast food, my slow scholarship involves the tedious business of transcribing letter by letter Aldred’s gloss of the original collectar prayers, taking about the same amount of time he probably took to do his gloss, save that I am typing into a computer and he was dipping quill into ink (which I also engage in from time to time).  My appetite for slow scholarship balances out my participation in digital humanities initiatives with their data mining and number crunching:  I aim to create a searchable database of Aldred’s work in Durham A.IV.19 so that others can conduct some fast scholarship.  I suppose this attraction to the slower paced work also reflects my gardening and cooking preferences for homemade food.

Now for the tedious slow scholarship.  Some garden pictures are interspersed to give patient readers a reward.

On folio 6r, Aldred is glossing a series of Bible verse incipits used in the daily round of prayers in his religious community.  This particular set all start with Fratres, brothers, and come from Paul’s letters in the New Testament.  Lines 14-16 from Eph. 4:29 read:

broð’      ælc word yfel of mvðe iuerv’ ne soðcyme

Fratres. omnis sermo malus ex ore uestro non procedat.

ah gif hvoelc god to gihríne gibyredlices

sed si quis bonus ad edificationem oportunita-

 þ/te giselle geafa ðæm herendv

tis ut det gratiam audientibus.

In modern English:  “Brothers, any evil word out of your mouth should not proceed, but only what is good for edification of a suitable [need], that it may give grace to those hearing.”

Now the verb procedere in Latin seems fairly straightforward for us since we derive “proceed” from it, but that borrowing occurred after Aldred’s time. This is not the only instance where Aldred glossed procedere with soðcuman, but it helps to go back to his earlier gloss of the Lindisfarne Gospels to see how he has translated it before.

Pineapple (it was delicious)

Pineapple (it was delicious once it grew up)

At John 12:13 in the story of the triumphal entry of Christ on Palm Sunday, he encountered processerunt (past tense) describing how the people came out to meet Jesus. Aldred glossed it with three Old English words: feollon vel cuomon vel foerdon. He does the same thing again at John 18:4 when Jesus went out (processit) to speak with his accusers led by Judas, using fall or come or go forth. It would seem he had a hard time either understanding Latin procedere OR finding an appropriate Old English word to fit.

In between these two instances in John, he glosses John 15:26 procedit with soðcymes, describing the Holy Spirit as the spirit of truth (gaast soðfæstnises) proceeding from the Father (a verse where he also uses an unusual word to describe the paraclete, rummode, grace rather than comforter or helper, cf my book, p.  170). Here the closeness of soð in the sentence may have inclined him to describe the spirit of truth as coming in truth from the Father (the same thing happens in Eph. 4:29–the word soð occurs in the previous line). Possibly, given the context of Ephesians 4:29, he uses soðcuman for verbal procedere, where words proceed or come forth, and the Holy Spirit is also thought to proceed from the mouth of the Father.

Lilikoi flower

Lilikoi flower

Elsewhere in the Durham Collectar, Aldred seems to have settled on cuman rather than feollon or foerdon to gloss procedere most of the time. But in three instances, one of them Eph. 4:29, he prefixes it with soð. The other two are soðcom at fol. 1v11 in an Epiphany collect and at fol. 27v12 in a prayer celebrating the birthdays of apostles John and Paul.  Here is the Epiphany collect:

gilef allm’ god þ/te halwende ðin nive heafna lehte

Concede omnipotens deus. ut salutare tuum noua cælorum lu

wvndvrlic’ þ/ to hælo middang’des ece[dæg] symbelnis’

ce mirabili. quod ad salutem mundi hodierna fes

 soðcvomvsvm symle in niwvngvm heartvm

tiuitate processit nostris semper Innouandis cordibus

sie arisen  ðerh

oriatur  per dominum.,

What proceeds here comes from God, an Epiphany.  Likewise the John and Paul celebration, which I have not yet transcribed, is a festival of praise.  So perhaps when it involves a verbal procession, or something coming from God, or both, he adds the word truth or truly to indicate that it is authentic, not false.

Lilikoi fruit, one of many, made into lilikoi butter, bars, cake, sorbet....

Lilikoi fruit, one of many, made into lilikoi butter, bars, cake, sorbet….

Which brings us back to Eph. 4:29 where it is, first, a prohibition of evil words coming from the mouth, followed by the recommendation of good words instead.  The verse that comes to mind is “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matt. 12:34, 15:18, Luke 6:45).  So the mouth is a truth-teller: what comes out tells a lot about your heart.  Just go ask a politician who thought he was speaking off camera or with the mike off….


  1. There is another meaning of ‘procedere’ used for events etc: turn out, succeed. So one could interpret ‘soðcuman’ as literally ‘come true’ like a dream, a prayer, a wish or, indeed, a curse!

    • Thanks. In this case I am convinced that Aldred uses ‘soðcuman’ almost exclusively for words spoken or the Holy Spirit. Words have power, so they literally do come true or reveal truth (revealing words!).

      • Yes, ‘soothcoming’ is the outcome of soothsaying in its original sense of speaking the truth.
        The triple glosses are interesting, too, as they do not really enhance our understanding of the Latin: a single gloss with a verb of motion is perfectly adequate. Mechthild Gretsch calls the phenomenon of the multiple gloss “some sort of Roget’s Thesaurus for Old English”. This sits nicely with the idea of glossing being an interactive, pedagogical experience which you expound so convincingly in your Scribe B scenario.

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