Friday, September 25, 2009

1066, and all that.

The big news for me this week has been the discovery of an absolute tsunami of Anglo-Saxon treasure.

I'm excited about this, the way that space buffs are excited about the prospect of a Mars mission. Like, if had been announced today.

In my third year of university, I was mentored by the remarkable Dr. Elizabeth Epperly, who advised me to drop the education program (which I was enrolled in because I loved English literature, and the only way to study the subject you loved in Newfoundland was to become a teacher of it, because purely academic pursuits of a subject were unknown to us - you had to "learn a trade") and enroll in the English Honours Programme.

What a world opened up to me then! I learned to read and write Old English. I read - and understood - Beowulf. I learned about the Romans, and the Angles, and the Saxons, and the Normans. I learned about "1066, and all that". I learned about the thorn, and that "Ye Olde Publick Howse" was actually pronounced "Thee Old Public House". I learned about Æthelred, and Æthelred the Unready (what a monicker to go down in history with), and the Venerable Bede, and all they had left for us to study and learn.

My life after graduation took me away from all that, and for the past 20 years I've been immersed in the non-profit sector, and these days, government.

But the news of this discovery has thrilled the hell out of me, and I simply can't get enough of reading about the details of the incredible - literal - treasure trove that has been discovered.

There is writing engraved on many of these pieces. Imagine what this will teach us about Old English. And about the life and culture of the Anglo-Saxons.

I want there to be a book. Right now! I know it will take at least a year for them to produce a gorgeous coffee-table book with loving photographs and explanations of what each artifact may mean. But I want it now!

impatiently,

ronnie

9 Comments:

Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

This is a tremendously exciting development, and you're the second person to bring it to my attention today. The first wasn't one of my colleagues at the College; she was my checkout clerk at the supermarket, who was engaging everyone she served (and was willing to talk) about it.

Funny thing about the thorn: one of the things to Diane and me about English the way she is spoke in Ireland today is the utter abandonment of the tongue-on-incisors sound. "Th" becomes "d" or "t" or just dropped altogether. "County Meath," for example, is pronounced "County Meat," which was confusing for a little bit.

Oh, and since you can read Old English, this bit of Middle English should be a walk in the park for you:

"YO, I HAVE MUCHEL JOYE FOR YOWER SUCCESS, AND YE SHAL MAKE AN ENDE OF YOWER SERMONYNG, BUT BIFORE THAT DO BIFALLE, YET ICH MOOT SEYE THAT BEYONCEE HATH A BETTIR BLOGUE THAT MAKETH MOORE JAPES CONCERNYGNGE SPARKLIE VAMPYRES AND IT YS THE BEEST MIDDEL YNGLISSHE PARODIE BLOGG OF ALL TYME, OF ALL TYME, IN SECULA SECULORUM.
-QUANJE WESTE"

That's from Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog, which -- if you don't already know about -- you might enjoy checking out.

9:27 PM  
Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

*grumble*

Second paragraph of above comment: insert "most striking" between "the" and "things" in the first line.

9:31 PM  
Blogger Nostalgic for the Pleistocene said...

Isn't this amazing?! Larry found it and sent me a link to it, and i can't wait for a big tome on it either!

More pictures (some duplicates) at CNN !

9:32 PM  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

what news! it hasn't reached the washington rags yet. they're too busy arguing about healt' care....

12:24 AM  
Blogger Xtreme English said...

Sherwood: wot on earth was yr checkout in California doing talking about a big gold find in England? is she into metal detecting? i had to go to BBC.com for news of this.

and ha...the one piece with writing in the pictures is in Latin! it's truly gorgeous stuff. worthy of royalty, they say....

12:47 AM  
Blogger Sherwood Harrington said...

Mary Ellen, I'm as flummoxed as you about why my grocery clerk would be so jazzed about this -- but she sure was -- or where she found out about it.

Just another manifestation that a) current global communications are astonishing, b) people are sharper than we generally give them credit for, and c) people are just astonishingly interesting.

All of them.

2:19 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

From that article on "1066, and all that" ...

"The book also contains five joke 'Test Papers' interspersed among the chapters, which contain nonsense instructions including ... "How far did the Lords Repellent drive Henry III into the arms of Pedro the Cruel? (Protractors may not be used.)"

oh dear.

7:59 AM  
Blogger ronnie said...

Thanks for all the comments, and Sherwood, I'm happy for you, and imma let you finish, but this guy had the best riff on Kanye's rant of all time.

I did edit the post to take out a thoughtless anachronism - since tobacco wouldn't show up for another 500 or 600 years, using a tobacco shop for the "Ye Olde" example was pointlessly confusing. However, the Publick Howse was well-established by the time these treasures turned up.

Still can't wait for the catalogue and scholarship on these pieces. And yes, M.E., they say the pieces are worthy of royalty - perhaps the stash of Æthelred of Mercia himself!

7:49 PM  
Blogger ronnie said...

PS Sherwood, thanks for Geoffery Chaucer Hath a Blog, one of my best web discoveries ever!

7:51 PM  

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