Posted by: kljolly | February 16, 2015

hungering and thirsting

Samantha1mo2Hard to believe two months since my last post, but the holidays, birth of our second grandchild, and the start of a new semester have kept me busy.

Yet I have continued my slow paleographic way through Aldred’s gloss to the Beatitudes in the Lindisfarne Gospels.

Another mystery presented itself after the added “nunc.”

Beati qui esuriunt et sitiunt iustitiam quoniam ipsi saturabuntur

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness because they will be filled.

which Aldred glossed:

eadge biðon ða ðe hyncgrað 7 ðyrstas soðfæstnisse forðon ða ilco gefylled biðon ł geriorded

and then added in the margin:

eadge biðon ða ðe ðyrstas 7 hyncgras æfter soðfæstnisse f[or]ðon ða gefylled biðon in ece lif


Three things caught my attention:  the erasure of a letter near the beginning of the second line; the -að ending to hyncgrað rather than -as in the other verbs; and the reversal of hunger and thirst to thirst and hunger in the marginal commentary.

Zooming into that second line (thank you, British Library online digital images!) and playing with my calligraphy pen led me to conclude that Aldred had made an insular “x” above and slightly after the Latin “et” that begins the line.


No other letter could have left behind the lower left extender flourish plus the upper right extender.  Note the original scribe’s letter “x” in the canon numbers to the left.  Although insular majuscule, it is not that different from a presumed insular minuscule “x” that Aldred might do (I have not found a letter “x” from him yet, since the letter does not occur is not common in Old English, but see Seumus’ comment below for examples).

The question is why he initially thought to add an “x” to the Latin text, since it is unlikely to be an Old English word.  I can only guess, in my fictional world, that he expected to read a word beginning “exs…” and not “et sitiunt,” but exsitiunt is not a Latin word unless he wished to coin it for thirst, and his erasure indicates he changed his mind about the need for “x” once he looked at it properly. But perhaps he was getting ahead in the verse to saturabuntur and wanting it to be exsaturabuntur, to be overfilled (which he subsequently double-glossed, see below).  Either it is a case of line/eye skip or he was thinking of the shorter version in Luke where there is no thirsting, just hungering and being filled.

So, he could have erased the “x,” started over with the “7” ond abbreviation before it, then glossed sitiunt with ðyrstas and went on.  I should note that the other side of the manuscript (34v) has a wet looking blotch suspiciously close to the erased “x” on the recto, but slightly below.  I can’t tell if the two are related, unless his wet knife scraping on 34r caused ink bleeding on the verso (although the ink at the 34v blotch and on facing page 35r do not look smeared).


Second is the -að ending to hyncgrað where he normally would have -as for third person plural:  with gemænas, those who mourn above, ðyrstas, those who thirst in the next line, and  more remarkably ðyrstas 7 hyncgras to the right in the marginal translation commentary.

Solving this anomalous -að took some sleuthing among the grammatical arguments surrounding Aldred’s Northumbrian dialect and its import for later changes in Middle English.  The short answer is that Northumbrians began using -as instead of -að, perhaps due to Norse influence and/or ease of pronunciation, but also involving the syntax of a plural noun subject plus a relative clause. Marcelle Cole discusses these possibilities in Old Northumbrian Verbal Morphosyntax and the (Northern) Subject Rule (John Benjamins, 2014), fragments of which are visible in GoogleBooks (cf. pp. 26-33), but I await the full volume from InterLibraryLoan.

That Aldred slipped into the older or Southumbrian spelling could mean that his is a transitional phase and that the pronunciation was for him the same either way.  The possibility I explore in my fictional narrative is that he has the MacRegol Gospels there, in which the Mercian Farman has already added his Old English gloss to Matthew, and he had written the non-Northumbrian hyngriþ.

I have placed Owun, Farman’s Northumbrian companion from Harewood, at Chester-le-Street.  Owun is the scribe who continued the gloss to the other three MacRegol Gospels by copying Aldred’s gloss from the Lindisfarne Gospels.  So I have Owun bringing the MacRegol Gospels to Chester-le-Street after Farman did Matthew.  Aldred doesn’t copy Farman’s work, but it certainly might influence him on occasion, as it suits me.

This brings the third item, the marginal comment where Aldred translates the beatitude freely into Old English.

eadge biðon ða ðe ðyrstas 7 hyncgras æfter soðfæstnisse f[or]ðon ða gefylled biðon in ece lif

Two things vary here.  Aldred puts thirst first, perhaps because he wrote the comment while reflecting on that initially neglected line where he erased the “x.”  Or maybe he wanted to revert to his Northumbrian verb endings, -as.

But he also adds the notion that the filling of that thirst and hunger will be in eternal life (ece lif).  This addition is similar to his spiritual interpretations in the other beatitudes (explored by Cavill in my nunc post).  In this case it also builds on his double gloss in the main text of saturabuntur with gefylled biðon ł geriorded.  Not just filled, but feasted, or filled to overflowing, seems to be his intention.

I have set this glossing work on a cold fall day after a bitter summer and autumn of viking attacks (952).  The beatitudes are assigned to All Saints Day on Nov. 1 and Aldred is supposed to preach on the text.  For that, I may borrow from Ælfric’s Catholic Homilies (1:  XXXVI), following Derek Olsen‘s explication in his forthcoming Reading Matthew with Monks:  Liturgical Interpretation in Anglo-Saxon England (Michael Glazier Books at Liturgical Press).  But that is a different post.




  1. Congratulations on the latest addition to your family!
    Good luck, too, with Marcelle Cole’s latest book: it is a fascinating read although some of the formulae in chapter 4 are a bit scary. You get a mention (p17): ‘Jolly (forthc.) has shown that…the Durham Ritual gloss was, at least in parts, clearly used for educational purposes’. The ‘forthc.’ refers to the essay you so ‘shamelessly plugged’ on your NUNC page.
    I like the idea of Aldred being influenced by Farman’s gloss. This could explain the origin of the intrusive NUNC, as it is an integral part of the MacGregol text (folio 6v).
    There are several instances of the letter X in Aldred’s English. You’ll find one close by on folio 38va6 in ‘wæxas’ glossing ‘crescunt’ (the lilies of the field etc.). Apart from the multiple combinations with -wæx-(wax, grow), there are some words which are still quite familiar: fox- (fox), ox- (ox), sexti- (sixty); as well as proper nouns like Alexander, in St. Jerome’s epistle, and Wessex, ‘on westsæxum’ in the colophon to the four collects for St. Cuthbert.

  2. Thanks, Seumas, for the “x” references. I had not searched beyond Aldred’s field prayers in Durham and was hoping to find one somewhere else but hadn’t searched beyond the pages I had open in Lindisfarne.
    What do you think of the erasure?
    Yes, I do have Aldred consulting the MacRegol Gospels for the nunc. Owun is now becoming a character in this chapter.
    Cole’s book already scared me with its grammatical analyses, but I am mainly interested in her overall argument for the -as ending.

    • I must admit, until you pointed it out as an X, I had read that erased letter as a Y. But I think you are right and I can’t help but link it to the canon number on the left.
      This opens up a whole range of possibilities in both fact and fiction. Is this the Boge syndrome: a novice scribe practising his Xs in inappropriate places? Is it a sort of Freudian slip telling us that the canon number reference to Luke was under discussion? Is the second gloss on SATURABUNTUR (geriorded) inspired by the single gloss on SATURABIMINI (gie biðon gehriorded) in the corresponding passage in Luke? If so, was Luke glossed before Matthew?

  3. I did consider “y,” but even angled the way Aldred does his insular “y,” it still didn’t come out right.
    Yes, the canon number pops into mind, but why put it there in the line rather than in the margin?
    I think the gloss and margin comments definitely show that Aldred is actively comparing Luke and Matthew. I don’t know that it means we can deduce he glossed Luke first. Perhaps he plays with two words when he first thinks about it, then settles on one when he gets to the second passage.
    I would love to have him glossing out of sequence in the Gospels, moving around with the liturgical readings. But I don’t think the nib, ink, and other evidence for writing stints will support it.

  4. I don’t know if Cole’s book will help you solve the mystery of ‘the -að ending to hyncgrað rather than -as in the other verbs’. I suspect the clue lies in the difference between the natural language of a free-style marginal comment and the metalanguage of an interlinear gloss. As it is statistically insignificant for her purposes, Cole does not make the distinction.
    ‘Hyncgrað’ is part of an alternation on the bound morpheme –ð or –s. As with ‘subiecta’ in the prayer against poison, instead of repeating a double gloss, alternative single glosses are used on words occurring closely together. There is a –ð/-s double gloss later in the sermon: ‘vel doeð ł doas’ on ‘benefacite’ (Mt 5.44, f36v).
    The difference between natural language and metalanguage can be seen on your ‘About’ page. Your free-style translation is natural Standard English; your gloss is not: it only makes sense in relation to the underlying Latin. Like Aldred you use a conventional archaism to emphasise a grammatical point: the Latin vocative ‘alme’ glossed as ‘O kind one’. This precise detail cannot appear in the translation, as English does not have a vocative case.

  5. Your explanation makes sense. I always wondered why the doeð ł doas kind of thing happens. The Norse influence explanation for Northumbrian preference for -as suggests the alternative -eð when it occurs is accommodating non-Northumbrians. But in this case, the unusual -að in the Beatitude gloss suggests adhering to or influence from a non-Northumbrian source, like MacRegol, while reverting to natural speech in the marginal comment.

    • I find it quite plausible that the interlinear glosses are influenced by an older or Southumbrian source (like Farman’s gloss in MacRegol), as you say, while the marginal comments reveal Aldred expressing himself in his own words. I also like the idea of Aldred writing to accommodate non-Northumbrians. In the marginal comment to Matthew 7.6 (pearls before swine), Aldred alternates (North) Anglian ‘aron’ with (West) Saxon ‘sindon’:
      þ’ aron ða meregrotta þ’ sindon godspelles bebodo… ðæt sindon ða mæstelbergas þ’ aron ða gehadade menn…(f39r)
      The alternation ‘aron…sindon//sindon…aron’ produces a mirrored pattern similar to ‘hunger and thirst//thirst and hunger’!

  6. I love your intended setting for this section–that’s the perfect setup for how this text gets read. I’ve been away from the blogs since the start of Lent (busyness, not discipline)–thanks for the links!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: