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From The English Correspondence of Saint Boniface: Being for the Most Part Letters Exchanged Between the Apostle of the Germans and His English Friends: Translated and Edited with an Introductory Sketch of the Saint’s Life by Edward Kylie, M.A.; London: Chatto & Windus: 1911; pp. 71-103.


Boniface commends himself to the love of Nothelm, Archbishop of Canterbury.1 He asks him to send the questions of Saint Augustine and Saint Gregory’s replies. He wishes to know if it is unlawful for a man to marry a woman whose son he has stood sponsor at baptism, and in what year the first priests were sent by Saint Gregory into England.  735.

To Archbishop Nothelm, dearly beloved master, wearing the robes of the highest priestly office, Boniface, poor servant of the servants of God, sends greetings of undying love in Christ.

I beseech your holy clemency with my most earnest entreaties, that you should deign to remember me in your holy prayers, and seek to make secure in a harbourage of unshakeable rock the ship of my mind buffeted by the waves of many storms among the people of Germany, and that, just as your predecessor, Archbishop Berhtwald of honoured memory, bestowed his parental love upon me 72 when I was leaving my native country, so I may be bound to you in fraternal communion by a spiritual bond and tie of love, and together with my comrades in the mission may deserve to be joined always with you in the unity of the Catholic faith and the sweetness of spiritual affection.

Likewise I earnestly beg you to have sent to me a copy of that letter wherein, it is said, are contained the questions of Augustine, the first bishop and first missionary of the English, and the replies of the Pope Saint Gregory. Among other points, it mentions that the faithful of the third degree of relationship are allowed to marry. Would you examine too, with all possible care, whether this letter can be proven to be that of Saint Gregory or not, because it was not found with other copies of the Pope’s letters, so the librarians say, in the library of the Roman church?

Moreover, I seek your advice about a sin which I have committed unwittingly, by yielding to a man in regard to his marriage. The case was this: A man took a woman’s son at baptism, as often happens, and raised him for his own son, and when the boy’s mother afterwards became a widow he married her. This the Romans claim is a sin, and a mortal sin at that, and require divorce under such circumstances. They declare that during the time of the Christian emperors a crime of this sort was to be punished 73 by death or perpetual exile. Wherefore, if you can find this counted such a great sin in the decisions of the Catholic Fathers or in canon law or in Holy Scripture itself, inform me of the reference, that I may understand by my own judgment whose authority supports this decree; I can in no way comprehend why in one case spiritual kinship in marriage is such a great sin, when all of us become in baptism sons and daughters of Christ and the Church, and thereby brothers and sisters.

I must ask you also to tell me in what year from the birth of Christ, the first missionaries sent by Saint Gregory came to England. Farewell.


1  735-739.


Boniface sends gifts to Pehthelm, Bishop of Hwiterne. He asks whether it is permitted for a man to marry a woman for whose son he has been sponsor at baptism. About 735.

To his venerable and beloved fellow-bishop, Pehthelm, Boniface, humble servant of the servants of God, kind greetings of love in Christ.

With heartfelt entreaty, we beg of your paternal clemency and goodness, that, as is needful amidst these dangers, we may be aided by your powerful prayers, and that since the German sea is dangerous for those who navigate it, we may come through your prayers and the guidance of the Lord, without spot or stain upon the soul, to the shore of eternal peace; and that while we are toiling to offer the light of the gospel-truth to the blind, who know not their own blindness and wish not to see, we may not be wrapped in the darkness of our own sins, nor ruin, nor have run in vain, but that, supported by your prayers, we may strive in purity and light towards the splendour of eternity. We have sent you some small 75 gifts in token of our love, a sacrament-cloth ornamented with white spots and a towel to wipe the feet of the servants of God. These we beg of you to accept as a remembrance of us.

About one thing too we wish to hear your counsel and judgment. The clergy through the whole of France and Gaul, as well as those who speak for them, declare, that a man is guilty of the greatest crime in marrying a widow for whose son he has stood sponsor in baptism. This kind of sin, if it really is one, I did not know of before, and I have not learned that in the canon law or in the decrees of the pontiffs, in the writings of the Fathers or the apostles it is put in the list of sins. Therefore, if you have found it discussed anywhere in the writings of the Church, be sure to tell me, and give me also your opinion on the matter.

That you may advance in all holy virtues and long enjoy health is my wish in Christ.


Boniface reminds Abbot Duddo of their old friendship. He asks him to send treatises on Saint Paul, and to inquire why a man should be forbidden to marry a woman for whose son he has stood sponsor in baptism.  735.

To his dear son Abbot Duddo, Boniface or Wynfrith, servant of the servants of God, kind greetings of love in Christ.

I desire thee, my beloved son, to remember the maxim of the wise man who said, “Hold fast to an old friend,”1 and not to forget in age that old friendship, which we began and kept in youth, but to hold in mind thy father now grown feeble, whose limbs are turning into the way of all earthly things. Though I was a teacher too little learned, yet as thou didst thyself allow, I sought to be devoted to you above all. Mindful of that devotion, have pity on an old man worn out by the storms of the German sea which buffet him on all sides; raise me up with thy prayers poured out to God, and aid me 77 with the Holy Scriptures, and especially with the spiritual treatises of the Fathers. The spiritual treatise is recognized as being the instructor of those who read the Sacred Scriptures. I ask thee to send me as an aid to my knowledge of divine things a part of a commentary on Saint Paul, which I lack. I have commentaries on two of his Epistles, the one to the Romans, and the first to the Corinthians. So too, whatever thou shouldst find in the library of thy church and think useful but unknown to me or not in my possession, inform me of it as a faithful son would an unlettered parent, and send me, as well, thine own notes. And should it please thee, let us so arrange between ourselves that whatever . . . . my son, Eaba, the priest who carries my letter will tell thee about the marriage of a mother to a man who has stood sponsor for her son at baptism. Search in the Scriptures why this is judged by the Romans to be a capital crime; and if thou findst any discussion of this sin anywhere in the writings of the Church be sure to make it known to me.

I wish thee health and prosperity in Christ.


1  1 Ecclesiasticus ix. 14: Ne derelinquas amicum antiquum.


Wynfrith describes to Eadburga, Abbess of Thanet, a vision seen in the monastery at Wenlock. About 717.

To the holy virgin and dear lady, Eadburga, who has already discharged her term of monastic life, Wynfrith, poor servant of the Lord, love and greetings in Christ.

Thou didst ask me, dear sister, to send you an account as the venerable Abbess Hildelida gave it to me of the wonderful vision seen by the man who recently, in the convent of Abbess Milburga, died and came back to life. I thank God that now I can the more fully meet thy wishes, because but lately I spoke with this brother myself, when he came back here from abroad; he set forth to me in his own words the marvellous spectacle which he beheld when rapt in spirit beyond the body.

He said that, amidst the pain of a sharp sickness he had been freed from the weight of the flesh. It was much as though one seeing and awake had his eyes veiled by a thick covering; this being suddenly taken away, everything would be clear which before had been invisible, 79 hidden and unknown. In like fashion when the covering of this mortal flesh had been thrown aside, before his gaze lay gathered the universe, so that in a single view he beheld all lands and peoples and seas. As he quitted the body, angels of such dazzling brightness that he could scarcely look upon them for their splendour, bore him up. With sweet and harmonious voices they were singing, “O Lord, rebuke me not in Thy wrath: neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure.”1 “They raised me,” said he, “high into the air, and circling the world I beheld a blazing fire, the mighty flame soaring terribly aloft, as though to grasp the whole mechanism of the world in its embrace, had not the holy angel calmed it with the sign of Christ’s holy cross. When he had made the sign of the cross before the threatening flame, it gradually retired. By its terrible heat I was sorely tried, while my eyes were burned, and my sight was shattered by the brightness of the gleaming spirits until an angel, splendid to behold, touched my head with a protecting hand, and brought me safe from harm in the flames.

He added that during the time while he was out of the body, such a multitude of souls leaving the body had gathered where he was as to exceed what he had thought 80 before to be the numbers of the whole human race. An innumerable band of evil spirits and a bright choir of heavenly angles had also assembled; and there was the greatest dispute between the demons and the angels over the souls leaving the body, for the demons were accusing the dead and making heavy the burden of their sins, while the angels were excusing them and lightening their load.

He had himself heard all his own sins, which he had committed since his youth, and had neglected to confess or forgotten, and some acts which he had scarcely thought sinful, cry out against him, each with its own voice, and make the most dreadful accusations. Each vice came forwards in its own person to speak; “I am thy cupidity, wherewith thou didst often desire what was unlawful and contrary to the commandments of God.” And another: “I am thy vainglory, wherewith thou didst boastfully exalt thyself above thy fellows.” And another: “I am falsehood, wherewith thou didst sin through lying.” And another: “I am the idle word, which thou spakest to no purpose.” And another: “I am the sight, which thou didst abuse in looking at unlawful things.” And another: “I am the contumacy and disobedience, wherewith thou wert disobedient to thy spiritual superiors.” And another: “I am the torpor and laziness shown in neglect of holy studies.” And another: “I am the wandering thought 81 and useless care with which thou didst concern thyself overmuch, either within the church or without it.” And another: “I am the sleepiness oppressed by which thou didst arise late to confess thyself to God.” And another: “I am the unprofitable journey.” And another: “I am neglect and carelessness, which made thee indifferent to the study of the divine word.” And the rest were like to these.

Everything which he did during the days of his life in the flesh and neglected to confess, and much which he had not known to be sinful, cried out bitterly against him. And the wicked spirits, joining in the accusations and bearing hard testimony, kept calling up the places and occasions of his wicked deeds, and confirmed with their cries what his sins said. He saw there too a man whom he had wounded before he had become a monk, and who was still in this life, brought to give testimony of his guilt. The bloody and open wound and the blood itself cried out with its own voice, and imputed to him the crime of shedding blood. When his sins were thus reckoned and heaped up, the old enemies declared, that as a guilty sinner he should come beyond a doubt under their sway and jurisdiction.

“Against them in excuse for me,” said he, “cried out the poor virtues of the soul, such as I, wretched one, had unworthily and imperfectly practised. One of them said: 82 ‘I am the obedience which he showed to his spiritual superiors.’ Another: ‘I am the fasting with which he chastised his body when warring against carnal desires.’ Another: ‘I am the sincere prayer which he poured out in the sight of God.’ ‘I am the kindly aid which he mercifully rendered to the sick.’ ‘I am the psalm which he sang to God in satisfaction for an idle speech.’ And so each virtue, excusing me, cried out against the rival sin in my defence. And the bright angelic spirits magnified and confirmed the virtues, and spoke in my behalf. Indeed, all these virtues were much increased and seemed much greater and more excellent than could have been practised worthily by any strength of mine.”

He told, too, how he had seen, as it were, in the depths of this earth many fiery pits, belching forth terrible flames, and as the awful blaze burst forth, the souls of miserable men, under the form of birds, flew through the flames lamenting and bemoaning, with human cries, their deserts and their present punishment. They rested, hanging for a little time on the edges of the pits, and then screaming, fell into the depths. One of the angels said, “This moment of rest shows that the Almighty God means to grant these souls on the Day of Judgment to come, relief from punishment and eternal rest.”

But under these pits in the lowest depths, in deepest 83 hell, he heard the awful weeping and wailing of sorrowful souls, terrible, beyond the power of words to describe. And the angel said, “The lamentations and weeping which you hear in the depths come from those souls to whom the mercy of God will never come. But everlasting flame will torture them without end.”

He saw, too, a place of marvellous beauty, in which a glorious multitude of beauteous men rejoiced with exceeding joy; and they invited him to come and share their happiness, if it were permitted him. There came thence a fragrance of surpassing sweetness, because it was the gathering of the blessed in their bliss. And this place, the holy angels told him, was the renowned paradise of God.

He beheld also a river of fiery pitch, boiling and blazing, wonderful and terrible to behold. Across it a beam was set for a bridge, to which the holy and glorious souls hastened as they left the assembly, eager to cross to the other bank. And some crossed with certain step. But others slipped from the beam and fell into the hellish stream. Of these some were entirely immersed, while others were only partially covered, it might be to the knees, or to the waist, or merely to the ankles. And yet each one of those who fell climbed from the river upon the other bank brighter and more beautiful than he 84 was before he had fallen into the river of pitch. And one of the blessed angels said of the souls who fell: “These are the souls who, after the end of their mortal lives, had a few trivial faults not entirely washed away, and needed bountiful castigation from a merciful God, that they might be worthily offered unto Him.”

Beyond the river he saw, shining with a great splendour, walls of astounding length and height immeasurable. And the holy angels said; “This is the holy and renowned city, the heavenly Jerusalem, in which these holy souls will find joy for ever.” He said that these souls and the walls of the glorious city to which they hurried after crossing the river, were resplendent with such a flood of dazzling light, that the pupils of his eyes were shaken by the exceeding splendour, and he could no longer look upon them.

He told how to that gathering there had come among the other souls the soul of a man who had died while abbot. It was a fair and beautiful soul. The evil spirits seized it, and claimed that it was under their rule and sway. Thereupon one of the choir of angels replied; “I will show ye quickly, ye abandoned and miserable spirits, that this souls is not proven to be under your power.” And at these words there suddenly intervened a great throng of white souls who said: “He was our 85 master and teacher, who, by his rule, has won us all for God. And by this price is his redemption purchased, and he is shown to be not of your law,” and they made as though they would join the angels in the struggle against the demons. By the aid of the angels they snatched away the soul, and freed it from the power of the evil spirits. And an angel, driving the demons, cried, “Know ye and understand, that ye took this soul unjustly; get ye gone, spirits of evil, into eternal fire.” When the angel has spoken, the demons raised a mighty lamentation and sound of weeping: in a moment, as in the twinkling of an eye, with baneful flight they hurled themselves into the pits of burning fire. But after an interval they came forth again into the assembly to dispute about the merits of souls.

The merits of different men who were still alive he had also beheld at that time. Those who were not slaves to crime, but who, by relying on holy virtues, had clearly won the favour of the Omnipotent God were kept safe by the angels and were joined to them in love and friendship. But those who were polluted with unspeakable vices and the stain of unclean lives, a hostile spirit constantly accompanied, always urging them on to sin; and, whenever they sinned in word or deed, the spirit proclaimed it to the other abandoned spirits that they 86 might be glad and rejoice. And when a man sinned the evil spirit made no delay by waiting until he should sin again, but brought each error singly to the notice of the other spirits. At one moment he pressed sinful deeds upon the man, and at the next announced among the demons their accomplishment.

He told, among other things, how he had seen a girl still in this earthly life grinding corn in a mill. She saw lying near her a new distaff adorned with carving which belonged to another. It seemed beautiful to her and she stole it. Then, as if filled with a great joy, five loathsome spirits bore news of this theft to the others in the assembly declaring the girl guilty. He added: “I saw there the sad souls of a brother who had died a short time before. I attended him in his last illness and performed the burial rites; when dying he bade me relying on his word to ask his brother to manumit, for his soul’s sake, a slave girl whom they owned in common. But the kinsman, bound by avarice, did not fulfil the request. And with deep sighs the soul kept accusing the unfaithful brother and making bitter complaint.”

And he bore witness likewise about Ceolred, King of the Mercians, who, there is no doubt, was still in the flesh when this vision was seen. He beheld the king protected against the onslaught of demons by a screen of 87 angels like a great book spread out above him. But the enraged demons kept demanding of the angels that this defence be taken away and that they be permitted to work their cruel will upon him. They imputed to him a multitude of horrible and unspeakable crimes, and threatened that he must be shut in the direst dungeons of hell and there, as his sins merited, be tortured by eternal torments. Whereupon the angels, more disheartened than was their wont, said: “Alas, that a sinner should not suffer his defence to stand, and that through his own fault we cannot afford him any aid.” And they took away the bulwark from above him. Then the demons with joy and exaltation gathering from all the universe in numbers he thought beyond all men who drew the breath of life harassed and tore him with infinite tortures.

Then the blessed angels enjoined him, who, rapt outside the body, had seen and heard all these things in spiritual contemplation, to return without delay to his own body, and to declare without hesitation everything which had been shown him, to those who believed and asked with good intention, but to refuse word of it to scoffers. They bade him relate to a certain woman who dwelt in a remote region, her past sins in order and intimate to her that she could still make satisfaction to the Omnipotent God if she would; and they commanded him to unfold 88 all this spiritual vision to a priest, Beggan by name, and afterwards, according as he was instructed by Beggan, to announce it to men; his own sins, which the unclean spirits had imputed to him, he should confess and make amends for, according to the judgment of this priest; and on the authority of the angelic precept he should testify of this priest that, for many years, without the knowledge of man and only out of love for God, he had worn an iron girdle about the loins.

He said that while he was absent from his body he came so to despise it that, in all his vision, nothing appeared to him so hateful, nothing so contemptible, nothing reeked with such an offensive odour as his body, save the demons and blazing fire. And the brethren, whom he beheld discharging the last offices, he despised because they took such care for his hateful body. Yet at the angels’ command he returned at the break of day to the body which he had quitted at the first cock-crow. After his return for a full week he could see nothing with his bodily eyes, for they were filled with tumours and frequently dropped blood.

And that everything which had been revealed to him by the angels concerning the holy priest and the sinful woman was true, he proved afterwards from their own lips. And the death of the wicked king, which soon 89 followed, showed beyond doubt that what he had seen concerning him was true.

He said that many other like things had been shown him which he had let slip from his memory and could not recall. Indeed after this wonderful vision his memory was less tenacious than before.

At his request I have written these things carefully as he told them to me in the presence of my holy and venerable brethren, who also heard the story; and they can be taken as witnesses to this letter.

Fare thee well; mayst thou live as a virgin the true angelic life and with good repute reign eternally in heaven with Christ.


1  Ps. xxxvii. 2.


Boniface asks Eadburga, Abbess of Thanet, to copy for him the Epistles of Saint Peter in letters of gold.  735.

To his revered and beloved sister, Abbess Eadburga, Boniface, poor servant of the servants of God, kind greetings of love in Christ.

I pray Almighty God, who rewards all good works, that He may grant thee in the heavenly mansions and the everlasting tabernacles, and in the court of the holy angels, an eternal recompense for all the kindnesses which thou has shown me, because, by helpful and consoling gifts of books and vestments, thou hast of thy goodness often relieved my distress. So now I beg thee to carry still further what thou hast begun, and to copy in gold the Epistles of my lord, Saint Peter, that the Holy Scriptures may be honoured and reverenced when the preacher holds them before the eyes of the heathen; and I long, above all else, to have with me, the words of him who guided me into this path. I have chosen the priest Eoba to write this request.

Deal then, my dear sister, with this request of mine, 91 as in they kindness thou hast always been wont to deal with my petitions, so that here also thy works may shine in letters of gold for the glory of the Heavenly Father.

It is my wish that thou mayst fare well in Christ and advance in holy virtues to still higher things.


Boniface thanks Eadburga, Abbess of Thanet, for books she has sent him. About 735.

To the Abbess Eadburga, beloved sister, now long bound to him in the kinship of spiritual love, Boniface, servant of the servants of God, sends constant greetings in Christ.

May the Eternal God, who rewards just deeds, grant that my dearest sister rejoice in the celestial choir of the angels, for by sending a gift of scriptural books she has consoled with spiritual light an exile in Germany, who must trace dark and unfrequented places among the German nations, and who, unless he have the word of God as a lamp unto his feet, and a light unto his path, will fall into the snare of death. But beyond this, trusting constantly in thy love, I beg thee, deign to pray for me, because, for my sins, I am assailed by the storms of a dangerous sea; ask Him who dwelleth on high and looketh down on the low things and pardoneth our faults, to put into my mouth the word, that the gospel of Christ’s glory may have free course and be glorified among the nations.1


1  2 Thess. iii. 1.


Cenae writes to Boniface of her good-will towards him. 723-754.

To the venerable Archbishop Boniface, lover of Christ, Cenae, unworthy one, greetings.

I confess to thee that though I behold thee but rarely with my bodily eyes, yet do I never cease to look upon thee with the eyes of the spirit and the heart. These small gifts are intended rather as a sign of my love than an offering worthy of thy holiness. This also I would have thee know, that to the very end of my life I shall always recall thee in my prayers; and I beg thee by our plighted friendship to be faithful to me in my weakness, as I trust in thee, and to aid me in thy prayers that God Omnipotent, may order my life according to His will. And I ask that if any one of thy people should ever come to this province he may call upon my poverty, and, if in anything I can give thee or any one of thy friends temporal or spiritual assistance, he may show me how, so that, as I believe, for the greater safety of my soul, I can fulfil thy bidding and command to the limit of my strength.

Farewell always in God.


Lul asks Boniface to grant him permission for the sake of his studies to remain longer in Thuringia. About 732-754.

To Boniface, dearest lord, my devoted master in my literary studies, wearing the robes of the highest priestly office, Lul, one of the many fruits of your piety, loving greetings of true affection in Christ.

We are warned by Holy Scripture not to do anything rashly without counsel, as it is written: “Do then nothing without counsel,” and the rest. Wherefore I think it proper to address a letter from my ignorance to the heights of your sagacity, and in it to intimate the occasion, nay more, the object of my petition — that, with both in view, my wise master may decide what seems best to him, and may graciously indicate to his servant the bidding of his pleasure, resting upon which I may gladly obey. I confess, to thee, dearest of masters, that if, since I came to Thuringia with the permission of your holiness to pursue my reading and study, the feeble spark of my poor intelligence avails to understand or investigate anything, I impute it first, after God, to your goodness. But 95 I could not apply myself to reading so zealously, as I knew to be necessary for I was hindered by two causes, weakness of the eyes and headache, and especially by a third, an inward failing, torpor of the mind. May your paternity, therefore, suffer me to remain here a little longer, so that you, who according to the apostle feed with milk your thirsty son, not yet accustomed to a solid diet of bread, may, when he has grown stronger by the help of the bountiful clemency of Christ and the intercession of your prayers, receive him at the fitting time for the discharge of his service to you. But if your discretion determines otherwise, and He to whom the infinite ages will not anything or from whom take aught away, gives me strength, at the very moment you bid me, I shall promptly return. Meanwhile, through the mercy of God, of which the earth is full, embracing thy feet as a suppliant on bended knees, I beseech thee, deign to intercede for my innumerable faults before the merciful and just Judge. I do not wish, however, to lessen hereby your highness’ favour towards me, since our Jesus, the glory of heaven and the salvation of the world, to whom all things are clear, and from whom things hidden are not concealed, commands us saying: “Ask, and it shall be given you,” and the rest.1 Nor do I think so much to efface the marks of my own swollen 96 audacity by these means as to find a saving remedy, when I know myself to be sick and seek a physician. The little verses written below I have sent thee, dear father, for correction, wishing to deserve your comments, that I may recognize from them, the ways of my errors.

May the divine Trinity, holy and undivided, keep your lofty dignity which presides ably, far and wide, over the people of the Catholic Church successful against all adversities to the very end of life’s course.

May God the Omnipotent, make thee increase
In pious deeds, with gain perpetual of many souls,
That rich in heaven’s wealth thou mayst deserve at last
To hear the gladsome voice of God: “Good and faithful
     servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord: thou hast
     been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler
     over many things.”2
This rest be it assured thee, this hope and this salvation,
Through grace of God, who all things made and lives
And reigns, before all ages, without end, without beginning
Whose bounteous mercy bade me, wretched, come
To thee as master, while beneath guilt’s heavy load oppressed,
With no light in my heart, I wandered far and loved my ease,
And thought things sweet which always threaten every soul.
But Christ the Saviour’s grace drove darkness from my laden
97 And gave my heavy wits His goodly gifts. To Him be
And honour without end. And, O my guide on straightest
May thy reward for toil increase on heaven’s heights
And thy great wisdom’s crown, of which I am the lowliest


1  Matt. vii. 7.

2  Matt. xxv. 1.


Some one [ Lul ] writes to an abbess and a nun, and tells of his pilgrimage to Rome, of his loneliness and sickness. He recalls that formerly he was carefully attended by them. Instructed in the art of poetry by Boniface, he sends them some verses of his own composition.  723-754.

To * * *, endowed with virgin chastity and refreshed from on high by the honey-sweet flood of heavenly dew, ennobled not merely by high birth, but also, as is better, by the dignity of her spiritual office, governess of the daughters of Christ who bear the light yoke of God, tireless guardian of the flock entrusted to her care, and of a rule of monastic life determined in accordance with the authentic opinions of the ancient Fathers; and to the young and distinguished * * *, adorned with the white garment of uncorrupted purity, steeped in the living and ever abundant waters of the broad-flowing heavenly stream, illumined not only by the outer brilliance of learning, but by the inner light of divine wisdom, * * *, who, without the prior claim of merit, discharges the duties of a 99 spiritual office, kindly greetings on the stone of the corner, which is Christ.

I confess to your love: when, touched as I think by the beneficent warning of the divine goodness, I departed from the famous kingdoms of Britain, leaving the fruitful soil of my native island whose craggy coasts the dark green waves of the foaming sea hem in on every side, and conscious of my weakness and mindful in some measure of my sins, together with a band of almost all my kindred, crossed, by the favour of Christ, the threatening hills of the raging sea, and happy in the fulfilment of my wish rejoiced in having reached the shores of this land; then I longed to present myself at the shrine of the blessed apostles, that I might pray to have put off from me the weight of innumerable sins, but there, after almost all my kindred had fallen into the long sleep of peace, I was left alone and widowed in this sad exile. None the less must I tell you in what distress and grief I remained. I did not escape the onslaught of the plague with my former health and robust strength of limb; but, praise and thanks to the Scourger, all the joints of my limbs were shaken and twisted, and I am still weak and outworn . . . from my experience, both new and old, I declare, not to flatter you, but relying on the strength of truth, that I have found, among all those of your sex who dwell here, none 100 more faithful: while for five times five long months the heat and cold of panting fever in turn tortured my sick body, I remember with what loving kindness I was cared for. This mercy, as I am aware, you showed me in my infirmity and sickness, obeying the precepts of the Lord, and hoping for the eternal reward; and to this day you have displayed towards me as towards a brother this same unwearying affection in consideration of the divine love.

Wherefore, when I have found fitting material for writing to you, I shall celebrate, in verse, the spiritual bond of your loving kinship with us. Since Christ, the giver of all good things, in His wonderful clemency, let me share in this gift through the heavenly dew of His grace, I long held it fixed in my mind, and dear to my heart, to send you some poor verses, composed in metrical sequence, because I knew none among those who read, to whom I should more gladly send them: for with you I am certain that the tooth of suspicion will not bite, nor the claw of harsh judgment rend the writer, though the contents be faulty and the composition rough. This poetic art I have but lately learned under the instruction of our common and my special master, our revered leader Boniface, to whom, — after the Heavenly Lightbearer, before whom the secrets of the heart are revealed, and from whom the dark and the hidden things do not lie 101 concealed — the eye of my mind is open, and by whom my dry heart is watered daily with the heavenly shower of nectar from on high.

The verses you will find designed after a droll fashion, if you will with care scan the capital letters, that is, those which every fourth line enclose with their embrace, the others placed in the centre. Those, with which I designated your name, as that of my spiritual mother, begin at the beginning and run on regularly to the end. My pupils begin from the end of those letters devoted to you, not improperly, because the pupil should follow her mistress as does the maid her lady:

Esto Susanna memor Domini regnantis in ede:

And so they begin at the end:

Ernklind esto memor Domini celorum in arce.

But if you find anything unsuited to the work, anything involved or contrary to the rules of grammatical art, this remember to polish, taking a file from the shop of the grammarians. And I beg of you with earnest prayers by that imperishable bond of spiritual love, not to show this work to any one without my consent, or to betray the author of it without my permission; that a dangerous crop of envy may not grow, where the concord of true peace 102 should flourish. But rather be mindful of the plighted troth and the intimacy formed between us by the firm link of our hands. And I do humbly beseech you, deign to lighten the burden of my toil with your pure and holy prayers.


Lul asks Dealwin, his master, to pray for him and to send him some works of Aldhelm.  732-746 (?).

To my trustworthy brother, Dealwin, long since my master, Lul, an unworthy deacon, who holds the office of deacon without the claim of merit, loving greetings in the Lord.

With earnest entreaties, I ask of thy loving mercy that thou shouldst deign to support the barque of my weakness with thy kindly prayers, so that covered by the shield of thy prayers and intercessions, I may deserve to arrive at the harbour of safety and to win pardon for my sins in this earthly prison; just as I asked thee in the past year through our brother Denewald, the bearer of my letter. Accompanying this letter are some trifling gifts, not worthy of thee but sent with a devoted mind. Likewise I pray thee to send me some works of Bishop Aldhelm, whether in prose or verse, as a consolation in my exile and in memory of that holy pastor. And do thou tell me in some of thy kindly words, what thy fatherly love can accomplish in answer to these petitions; for this I crave eagerly to hear.

That thou mayst enjoy health, increase in prosperity, and long intercede for me is my wish.

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