Second paragraph of third chapter (a long one, spread across two pages, which is why the footnote numbers are repeated):
It is true that thanks to the dangers and squalors of the [tenth] century, invasion, rebellion and faction, there is no longer, at any rate in France and England, an educated society. One misses the voluminous correspondence of the ninth century, of Alcuin and his Venerable Fowl, of Hrabanus Maurus, of Servatus Lupus, hoarding manuscripts like a magpie and clamouring like Petrarch for more. There is scholarship, but it is not present diffusedly. Bruno, young brother of Otto the Great and Archbishop of Cologne, does his best to maintain a school of the humanities there, and summoned to it an Irish bishop from Trier to teach Greek; there are colonies of Greek and Irish monks at Toul and at Verdun.1 From Toul, indeed, or rather from a monastery prison in Toul, comes the odd little tale of the calf that ran away, and his adventures with the wolf and the hedgehog and the lion and the otter—the first rough draft of the Roman de Renard. The writer of it says frankly that he himself had misspent his youth nor plied his book, and the calf is his vagrant self, and that is why the metre is so clumsy.2 At Glastonbury, Dunstan was brought up by Irish scholars (William of Malmesbury pauses to reflect on their continuing reputation in music and geometry, though their Latinity—he writes in the twelfth century—is no longer so pure as it was).3 Begging letters addressed to his successor from Liege prove that the fire still burns there. One clerk with humility and confusion of metaphor pleads that as an unworthy pup he had licked up sufficient crumbs from under the bishop's table (Notker of Liege was a sound scholar) to qualify him to enter the English apiary as an obedient bee;1 and another, about a journey and a loan of money and a borrowed horse, bears out the Vicar of Wakefield's experience that the conjunction of a scholar and a horse is not always fortunate.2 The light never quite goes out; though Gerbert in quest of it flickers across Europe like a will-o'-the-wisp.
1 Sandys, History of Classical Scholarship, i. 503, 505.
2 Ecbasis Captivi (Grimm and Schmcller, Lateinische Gedichte des X and XI Jahrhunderts).
3 Vita S. Dunstani, i. 4 (Stubbs, Memorials of St. Dunstan, pp. 256-7).
1 Vita S. Dunstani, i. 4 (Stubbs, Memorials of St Dunstan, p. 387).
2 Ib. p. 390.
This was the book that made the reputation of Helen Waddell, the medievalist from my own corner of County Down. It's a study of the lyrical tradition of poetry in the Middle Ages in Europe, tracing influences across geographies and cultures. I found the writing very dense; written very chattily as if these were all people whose reputations we already knew, with minimal context and footnotes mostly to works available only in well-equipped university libraries. I'm really surprised that it did so well on publication in 1927; perhaps the readers of the 1920s were more au fait with early medieval literature than I am.
Still there are some fascinating details in there. It's always interesting to be reminded of the career of Gerbert of Aurillac, which is crying out for an accessible biographical treatment, either factual or fictional. The same goes for the murky story of the Viking Siegfried (or Sifrid, as Waddell calls him). There's the mysterious figure of the Archpoet. And more locally it's interesting to see Liège popping up as an important centre of culture.
She supplies a lot of translations of the lyrics, to which she brings her own good ear for a phrase; here's the Archpoet's Estuans Interius, as set to music by Carl Orff in the Carmina Burana a few years later, with the original text (which fairly bounces along) and Helen's translation.
loquor mee menti:
factus de materia,
similis sum folio,
de quo ludunt venti.
Cum sit enim proprium
Feror ego veluti
Mihi cordis gravitas
Via lata gradior
|Seething over inwardly
With fierce indignation,
In my bitterness of soul,
Hear my declaration.
I am of one element,
Levity my matter,
Like enough a withered leaf
For the winds to scatter.
Since it is the property
Hither, thither, masterless
Never yet could I endure
Down the broad way do I go,
I'm glad I have read this at last, and I'll put some of Helen Waddell's other works on my reading list now. You can get it here.
This was my top unread book acquired in 2018. Next on that pile is 84k by Claire North.