Today is a propitious day to return to blogging, even as I realize my last post was over a month ago. March 20 is St. Cuthbert’s feastday, and Lent as it is, we can celebrate his ascetic life and legacy.
I have hit a writer’s wall (partly built from semester teaching duties) in my effort to place the 19-year old Aldred at the Battle of Brunanburh in 937. I am stuck at the place where the battle itself is beginning and how to visualize what Aldred would experience as a non-combatant.
Without experience of such violence myself, and with a strong antipathy to graphic realism in film and print, I am not sure quite how to proceed. In some ways I am writing against the glorification in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle poem about the Battle of Brunanburh, and leaning more to the heroism and sadness found in the tone of Beowulf.
On the other hand, my mind’s eye recalls the realism of the battle of Agincourt in Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V: some scenes are so graphic I turn away, but at the end, the ironic (to me) singing of the Non nobis (not to us, O Lord, but to you be the glory) while walking among the dead, dying, and grieving is what I am picturing for Aldred. Before that point, I am not sure where to place him in relation to the battle, which goes on all day, sunrise to sunset according the sources, and is the bloodiest on record. Perhaps assisting clergy with the dead and dying, on one side or the other (or both).