Online Library of Liberty

A collection of scholarly works about individual liberty and free markets. A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.

Advanced Search

Bede’s History of England

Related Links in the GSR:
Related Links:

Source: Introduction to Bede's The Eccesiastical History of the English Nation (and Lives of Saints and Bishops), with an Introduction by Vida D. Scudder (London: J.M. Dent, 1916).

INTRODUCTION

I

The sensitive reader handles these pages with reverence not untouched by amaze. For here are the first fruits of the Christian scholarship of England, and they read as if behind them lay a long tradition of gentle learning. Their spirit is sweetly reasonable as that of Westcott, tranquil as that of Keble or Stanley. While Bede was composing his History in the new monastery at Jarrow, built by Benedict Biscop, some brother-scribe in a Northumbrian monastery—quite conceivably in Jarrow itself—may have been at work, redacting the text of Beowulf, our precious Old English epic of the slayer of monsters and dragons. The father of Bede may, for all we know, have been in his youth a heathen fighter and sea-rover such as we encounter in that poem. In the verse of the so-called Cædmonian School, of the origin of which Bede tells the lovely legend, we see clearly the temper of seventh and eighth century England. It was a temper which, even when reconciled to Christianity, continued mournful and brooding. A turbulent exaltation pervades it, still echoing with the vague imaginative terrors that were slowly to vanish before the invasion of letters. Though it turns for theme to the Scriptures, it paraphrases the Old Testament rather than the New, gloats over scenes of battle and tempest, and opens its ears more readily to the screams of the raven than to the singing of heavenly choirs. Social conditions in many parts of England were still violent and unsettled when Bede wrote: we need indeed go no further than his own works to find pictures of Pagan manners and morals that recall the days of Saga. But these works are written in the scrupulous manner of the finished scholar, living secure laborious days. How balanced and disciplined is his spirit! With what serene pains does he cite authorities, sift testimony! What eagerness for knowledge of every order do his books display! So steady an intellectual light illumines them that we are tempted to hail the love of truth as the best gift of Christianity to the English nation. Bede tells the story of the conversion of England, and his books and his personality are among the best products of the process he describes.

To dwell on that process as here presented is to embrace an unique opportunity. One turns to modern histories for a more easily intelligible and consecutive account of the great story; but Bede has the freshness of the source. The Ecclesiastical History would be a treasure-house did it contain nothing but the charming tales of Alban and Augustine, of Edwin, Paulinus, Coifi, Cædmon, Cuthbert, Cedd and Aidan. But it holds far more than this. It presents the whole dramatic situation, not only in England, but in the civilized world. We contemplate the cosmopolitan power of the Church Catholic, pouring her riches with generous largesse into the little island of the North. A sketch, first, of physical conditions and of earliest history on that island; then come the Italian monks, headed by Augustine, and the story proper begins. We watch “the simplicity of their innocent life” and hark to the “sweetness of their heavenly doctrine.” We see their wise development of orderly system, their care for just administration down to the most trivial detail, the dignity and gentle force of their dealing with the noble native princes. Time passes on: we behold the arrival of the Greek Archbishop, Theodore, with Hadrian, his African deacon; they bring with them the best learning of the day, Greek letters, a love of art, music, and ordered peace. Presently the English themselves—docile pupils always—can continue the tradition. Benedict Biscop, with his ardour for books and buildings, follows Theodore and Hadrian; Wilfrid the Romanized prelate appears, full like Augustine of passion for administration. But an Englishman may be pardoned for rejoicing that the finest gifts come not from across the channel, but from the Northern portions of the island itself. Columba died in the very year of the landing of Augustine, and his Celtic followers had already done earnest work from Iona. The political sagacity of the Italians, aiming first at the conversion of the rulers, proved sterile and transitory, while the loving democracy and humble saintliness of the Celtic monks planted a seed destined to have fair permanent growth in English soil. Through Bede’s careful reticence and kindly pacific temper, we can easily discern the antagonism between the schools. He gives us a vivid study of Wilfrid—efficient, worldly, devout prototype of many princes of the Church, from Becket to Manning; on the other hand, we have the exquisite picture of Aidan and his Celtic brethren, living as holy anchorites or traversing on foot the drear country of Northumbria with their message of deliverance and love, united in curious mystic fellowship with man and beast. We cannot fail to perceive how inevitable was conflict between the two types: yet we gratefully recognize the necessity of both to the full life of the Church Catholic. We see that Church reconciling and energizing with new force the varying gifts and powers of those who embrace her; we watch the provincialism and faction born of ignorance, yielding slowly to that unity which is in Christ.

II

So Bede tells his thrilling story of a critical time: how England—always to him a unit, no mere congeries of warring tribes—was civilized and brought into union with the rest of Europe through the agency of the Church. Yet the central value of his work is not in the outward history so carefully narrated; we find it rather in his revelation of the secret life that was transforming the heart of the English. Here, in a practically contemporary account, it is our privilege to catch in the very act the re-creation of a primitive people by the power of an ideal. We in these latter days, sons of a civilization nominally Christian, accustomed to platitudes which we imperfectly observe, may well learn a fresh appreciation of the startling nature of the faith we profess, as we watch it in the pages of Bede, transforming a haughty and at times blood-thirsty race into the likeness of Jesus of Nazareth.

When Christianity, new-born, made its swift way around the shores of the Mediterranean, it brought its message of hope to ancient peoples, weary with much thinking and striving, among whom arts, philosophies and the science of dominion had reached perfection and were ripening to decay. But no sooner had the gifts of Rome and Greece become intimately one with the gift of Judæa, than a new act in the drama opened. The advancing tide of the Faith, setting from the East, encountered the tide of the Germanic invasion, sweeping down from the North in successive waves over the Roman Empire. From the blending of these two tides at the term of classic civilization arose the mediæval world.

Christianity was now called on to penetrate and possess a rude life in which neither the graces nor the vices of civilization existed. The process of converting our Germanic ancestors lasted long: from the fourth century, when the West Goths were won, to the eleventh, when the sturdy Vikings of Scandinavia finally succumbed. In England the fifth and sixth centuries witnessed the inundation of the old British peoples, already partially Christianized, by the heathen Germanic tribes. The seventh century is the century of the Conversion. The eighth, Bede’s own century, is, broadly speaking, the Golden Age of early English Christianity. In the ninth century came the fresh invasion of the heathen Danes, and the work was largely to be repeated.

Indeed, in one sense we may say that it has not been thoroughly done yet. Christianity has no easy task. It must prove the paradox that defeat may be the truest victory, and that “forgiveness is force at the height.” It must displace the Fighter from the heart of the world, and must put the Sufferer there. Since, from the national or social point of view, we are still so imperfectly Christian, we cannot wonder if the Danes in the century after Bede were to find plenty of Paganism surviving in England. Yet when all allowances are made it remains true that Bede shows us a land in which hundreds, nay thousands, of individuals have been literally “born again”: shaped, in a manner so marvellous that we hold our breath, by an ideal opposite at every point to that cherished by their fathers. Nowhere else are there records of this strange process richer in psychological interest. Through all their quietude and their matter-of-fact manner, the wonder of the change broods over them.

Fully to appreciate that change, we need a vivid impression of the temperaments and standards which Christianity encountered. Nor is this hard to gain. The dim days of the Folk-Wandering produced, to our profit, a luxuriant growth of Saga and Hero-Epic in which the hidden life of our forefathers is clearly seen. From England, Germany, Iceland, Scandinavia, Denmark, from the decorous pages of Latin chroniclers no less than from the precious survivals of authentic Lay and tale, scholars have gleaned an invaluable harvest. Having already seen how slow was the process of conversion, we need not be surprised to find that dark traditions of the Heroic Age lingered here and there even in the twelfth century. Saxo Grammaticus, for instance, a Danish historian of this century, tells us stories which may serve as well as any for a background to Bede. Here in stiff would-be Ciceronian Latin are traces of a life so primeval in practices and concepts that for analogues we have to turn to surviving savage tribes. As in Beowulf, we find a civilization suspicious, melancholy, peril-ridden, in which heroes find their sole pleasure in coarse brags at the flyting and grim slaughter at the fighting. In these pages, where we read the earliest story of Hamlet, are full details of the dreaded Bear-Sarks—unfortunate men endowed with the power of shape-shifting, a curse to the community into which they are born, helplessly subject to accesses in which they howled and bit themselves into frenzy. Here we may read of a hero who stands in the bitter winter sea till his wolf-skins freeze upon him and thus gain magic power to repel the venom of dragons. In Saxo’s time—four centuries after Bede—the old gods can still be seen by looking through the elbow of a witch held akimbo, and their power is vital in the land. A shudder runs through all the treatment of the supernatural world. Nowhere is there a more gruesome tale than that of the man who, with sad Germanic loyalty, had himself buried alive in the barrow of his dead blood-brother. Passers-by, who, lured by hope of treasure, lowered one of their number into the barrow with a basket, listened terror-stricken to the sounds of horrid conflict within the mound. And when the basket rose again it held the ghastly form of the buried comrade, who had won desperate escape from that underworld, where the ghost of his brother, turned vampire, had viciously torn off his ear. If Bede has no such horrors as this to chronicle—though similar tales attend everywhere the progress of the old Northern peoples—we can see even from the stories he himself tells such as that of the sons of Penda, how violent and fierce was the temper of the heathen world. The light of conflagration, which shines down the ages in such old poems as The Fight at Finnsburgh, is not absent from his pages. The England he shows us is a bleak country, in which rare cultivated oases break the expanse of forest and morass. An eyewitness told him of the small altar to Odin erected by King Redwald in a Christian Church:

“He, the ruler of North-folk and South-folk, a man open-browed as the skies,

Held the eyes of the eager Italians with his blue, bold, Englishman’s eyes;

To the priests, to the eager Italians, thus fearless he poured his swift speech:

‘O my honey-tongued fathers, I turn not away from the faith that you preach:

Not the less, hath a man many moods, and may ask a religion for each.

Grant that all things are well with the realm on a delicate day of the spring,—

Easter-month, time of hopes and of swallows—. The praises, the psalms that ye sing,

As in pleasant accord they float heavenward, are good in the ears of the King.

But a churl comes adrip from the rivers, pants me out, fallen spent on the floor:

‘O King Raedwald, Northumbria marches, and to-morrow knocks hard at thy door,

Hot for melting thy crown on the hearth!’ Then commend me to Woden and Thor!

. . . .

For my thought flashes out as a sword, cleaving counsel as clottage of cream

And your incense and chanting are but as the smoke of burnt towns and the scream:

And I quaff me the thick mead of triumph from enemies’ skulls in my dream!”1

III

But the England of Bede is one in which the White Christ has triumphed. Over it rises that Sign which the author of the greatest Early English poem, The Dream of the Rood, beheld with trembling adoration uplifted in the heavens. When saintly King Oswald planted the Cross with his own hands upon his battle-field, as we may read in the second chapter of Bede’s third book, a new day had dawned for the British Isles. Nor can we wonder that the spot where the trophy was erected should “in the English tongue” have been called “Heavenfield,” nor that old moss scraped from the surface of that Wood should have been potent to heal disease.

In the time of Bede, Christian kings are on the throne. Learning exerts its new and fascinating spell—from his own Jarrow the best extant text of the Vulgate, the Codex Amiatinus, comes to us. Music, far different from the wild song of the Scop at feast or funeral, is cultivated with delight. The painful isolation of hostile or unlettered tribes is replaced by a wide-spread community of interests in arts and sciences, in government and faith; so that Bede in his seclusion can know fruitful intercourse with ripe scholars in various countries, with statesmen, with travellers from distant lands. Above all, monasticism has attained the zenith of its power. England is dotted all over with monasteries in which women are experiencing new peace and freedom, and the sons of the heroes are dedicating themselves, like the holy Abbot Easterwine, to a life not only of prayer and contemplation, but of hearty labour in the fields. Abuses enough—sufficiently painful, naïvely natural—existed in the monasteries, as we may learn from Bede’s candid letter to Bishop Egbert; yet in the main no one can doubt the surprising beauty of life in these centres of labour, learning and love. A few centuries later it is possible to claim that monasticism suppresses and belittles human nature; in the time of Bede no critic can deny that its effect was to release and enrich. These Houses of Faith were centres of healthful democracy. “The monks,” it has been said, “cultivated and extended with enthusiasm all the knowledge and literature possessed by the world in their day. The distant places toward which they had first been led by a love of solitude, changed rapidly and, as if by force of circumstances, into cathedrals, cities, towns or rural colonies, and served as centres, schools, libraries, workshops and citadels of the scarcely converted families, parties and tribes.” In the midst of sterile turmoil, Order and Kindness, those two forces signalled by Ruskin as central impulses in a just society, ruled in the monastery and there alone.

As we watch this England, in which Christianity is at once so vital and so pure, the inner strength of the new life grows clear. First to strike us is the curious tone of joy, refreshing and awakening as a spring wind, that pervades the book. This joy has two sources. It arises from the release, purification and expansion of the natural affections, and it finds ultimate origin in the opening to mortal vision of those Heavens whence Eternal Love for ever watches and guides.

To pass from Dear’s Complaint, The Seafarer, or the fragmentary poems of The Edda, to Bede’s stories of the early saints, is to escape from Natural Maligna to Natural Benigna. We flee from a world of sad grey seas and menacing landscape where an arrogant yet affrighted race moves tragically, boasting of its prowess, to a kindly fostering earth. The very prose of this new order is more lyrical than heathen verse; it is illumined by a new and gracious light. Happiness, so rarely known in the old days apart from battle-rage, has gained subtlety and variety. Demons may fly on the wings of the wind, the far faint clang of their pinions recalling evil dragon-flights of old; but the former supernatural charged with terror is supplemented by another supernatural, full of sweet reassurance. Men may entertain angels unawares; celestial music echoes above those homes of prayer whence ascends in strange and piercing harmony the praise of a God who, by stooping to death, has won the world for love.

The range of feeling in Bede is indeed surprising. Here, says Aubrey de Vere, we see for the first time “the affections of Christianized humanity, affections founded on divine truths and heavenly hopes, and yet in entire harmony with affections of a merely human order which lie beneath them in an equal plane.” Tenderness has been called, as it were, out of the void; it heralds that literature of sentiment, growing even to our own day, so natural a product of Christianity, so unknown to Paganism except in faint foreshadowings. True, the ties which Bede describes are spiritual rather than natural; they relate rather to the cloister than to the family. Regretting this, we may yet realize that the time had not come for the full transfiguration by spiritual light of that bond between man and woman which had in the old days been passionate but rarely tender. All through the middle ages the romance of emotion obedient to law must be sought less in the world than under the control of religious rule. Spenser is perhaps the first English author in whom we catch the pure gleam of idealized domestic affections. If in Bede we see an ideal of fellowship more ascetic than our own, and rejoice that in the fulness of time the race has been trusted with a more generous conception, we may at least consider the cloister-life he shows, a training school for those softer and more disciplined emotions which were later to be transferred to the home. These new ties, unrelated to family, tribe or natural passion, carrying the fierce devotions and loyalties of the old Saga world into higher and purer regions, mark a strange enrichment of consciousness. We are present at an emancipation of hearts, which find in their own wondering depths, impulses and delights, directly born from above, unguessed before. How touching the story of the little cloister-bred boy who clung so lovingly to the young sister, Eadgyth, and, calling three times in death on her beloved name, summoned her to follow him to the land where love knows no parting! How everfresh the picture of the two dying brothers, placed in the same bed and helped to kiss each other; or the other tale of Cuthbert and Herebert, those long-severed friends content in the faith that the prayers ascending from Farne and Derwentwater met before the Heavenly Altar, yet asking and receiving the boon that their souls might depart together! In the pages of Bede we watch the birth of no less a gift and blessing than Christian friendship. Its light shines through the book: fair as moonlight, holy, temperate, released from the sad bonds of time or passion, of exacting greed or jealous fear. How gently do these people deal with one another! With what wise tenderness do the abbesses care for the welfare of their spiritual daughters, how fine the relations between the kings and their directors, as between Oswin and Aidan! Compassion, that virtue so rare in heathen times, is pervasive and compelling. Such sympathetic insight as prompted the remarkable instructions of Gregory to Augustine regarding the forbearance to be shown in methods of proselytizing, is everywhere visible. It implies a respect for others and a delicacy of feeling which leads, on the one hand, to such wise statesmanship as that of Paulinus, on the other to such friendly feeling for all animate life as we see in Cuthbert and Aidan. In these inward reactions of the Faith, in this extension, softening and elevation of the sympathies, we shall do well to see a fulfilment of the ancient promise: He shall take away the stony heart out of your breast, and shall give you a heart of flesh.

If Bede reveals a new comfort in human relations, he shows us also abundant gladness born of a deeper source. For fogs have lifted, and grateful eyes gaze outward to horizons before unseen, and upward to the open heavens. Into that fatalistic brooding of the North, which could only say at best and bravest that Wyrd sometimes saved an undoomed man when his courage was good, has come a vision of an eternity of joy. The soul might still be seen, as in Coifi’s famous apologue, in guise of a sparrow flying swiftly through the fire-lit Hall of Life: only outside that Hall no wintry storms of rain or snow now awaited it, but a homing flight under starry heavens to the Heart of Love. We are present in Bede’s story at many death-beds. This is not only because mortality was more in evidence then than now, but also, and chiefly, because at this point, so dark, so sad to the heathen world, the marvel of the new faith was clearest. These lights that hover softly over the homes of prayer, these angel songs heard especially at the shrouded moment of the soul’s passing, these sights of ascending spirits clothed in glory, betoken a conception of death and being that had been strange indeed to the old Germanic world. One notes the intimate relation of these phenomena to the new tenderness. They spring from no ascetic egotism, but from intensity of love; for they habitually concern, not the person to whom they are vouchsafed, but some one dear to him. Even while Bede wrote, or a little earlier, rainbow mosaics in the apse of churches at Ravenna and elsewhere were enshrining for all time symbols of the Christian hope. Those solemn fields of Paradise, where fair emblems of eternal life drawn from the world of beast and blossom surround the triumphant Cross, rise to memory as one reads of the mystic visions of the night revealed so often to devout men and women in the Northern Isles.

The widening of the Universe brought awe as well as joy. The Cædmonian poems and those of Cynewulf show the majestic sequences of a drama which sweeps beyond the range of mortal sight—beginning with Creation, enduring till Judgment; abysses of spiritual being into which the men of the eighth century gazed overwhelmed. Bede’s book is a rich repository of those imaginative concepts of the Other-World which were to dominate the middle ages. These concepts are here charged with the first free emotion and excitement that they inspired. The Visions of Fursey and of Drithelm, so naïvely and earnestly related, are original adventures of the pilgrim soul. They are among our earliest reports from those strange regions, beyond and within our mortal life, from which Dante, six centuries later, was to bring back perhaps the last authentic message. There is an interesting reticence in these stories. The four fires seen of Fursey in the air above the dark and obscure valley are not the fires of Hell, but the fires of falsehood, covetousness, discord and iniquity, which “would kindle and consume the world.” Nor does Drithelm, in all the picturesque and solemn variety in his experience, behold more than the mouth of the Pit and the far light of Heaven. This reserve is finer by far than the bold irreverence with which the later middle ages descanted on the ultimate secrets of the prison house. Nor is the Christian ethical feeling with which the tales are charged any the less impressive because they are full of haunting reminiscence of Celtic Other-World myths; for the power of Christianity is seen always less in its invention of new things than in its transformation of old. And again we note the light and grace of a new supernatural hope. If the folklorist be right, the Other-World of the Celt was the exclusive abode of the gods, opened only to an occasional hero favoured by the love of an Immortal. In this new legend, the idea has enlarged its bounds, and Paradise awaits, late or soon, all faithful souls.

Allied to the visions recorded by Bede are the frequent miracles, of which he tells with a grave simplicity full of innocent poetry. And here the reader will surely err if he indulge in any instinct of patronage toward monkish credulity, or any attempt to rationalize. For these Signs are of the very warp and woof of Bede’s narrative, a natural product of the new psychology. They belong to that Christian consciousness which was so lovingly and gratefully aware of the influx of deep mystical currents of love and healing through the channels of daily life. If we find that birds and beasts, the air and the sea obey the children of God, it behoves us less to marvel than to rejoice: “For it is no wonder,” says Bede of S. Cuthbert, “that the very creature should obey his wishes who so faithfully obeyed the great Author of all creatures. But we for the most part have lost our dominion over the creation that has been subjected to us, because we neglect to obey the Lord and Creator of all things.” The creation that has been subjected to us! How strangely had this quiet incidental phrase fallen on Pagan ears!

These miracles have for the most part a homely sweetness, quite dissimilar to the artificial marvels of later ecclesiasticism; their fragrance is natural as that of the blossoms to spring later around the footsteps of S. Francis and his companions in the Umbrian plain. Cuthbert takes refuge for the night in a deserted hut; his horse pulls at the straw of the roof, and there falls down a cloth wrapped round a portion of meat and half a hot loaf, which the saint shares with his faithful beast. He stands all night doing penance in the wintry sea, and when he emerges two friendly otters, crawling from the waves, warm his poor cold feet with their breath. A sick horse, rolling in the green grass that naturally grows from the dust of King Oswald, is restored to health. The post on which hangs a cloth containing dust from the grave of Aidan remains unburned when the cottage of wattles is consumed around it. Almost always the stories bear unconscious witness to the new fellowship. Crows, fishes, eagles gladly serve the saints. The careful accounts of the cure of a little maid’s headache, of healing wrought on children, poor people, servants, gain fresh cogency when we realize that we are dealing with a generation when the zest for wholesale slaughter must have been keen in memory of nerve and brain, and when, as Bede frankly tells us, it still got the better of men from time to time.

It is an interesting evidence of Bede’s honesty that he is chary of miracles in the periods where he had only tradition to guide him, and multiplies them as he approaches the time when he could sift his testimony himself. One also notes that they occur more often in connection with the Celtic than with the Roman side of the story. They flower in the pathway of Cuthbert and Aidan and over the dust of Oswald; of Wilfrid, that energetic prince of the Church—to whose party Bede none the less loyally adhered—we have only one dubious instance. The nearer we come to simple people, the more do the miracles abound. They are not, as a rule, political in nature, though we must make an exception of the impressive sign given to Edwin: they rise rather with perfect naturalness from the daily life of the times. They show us Christianity, even in its most mysterious reaches, practically and simply serviceable, and they afford a new evidence of the intimacy with which the faith had penetrated the popular heart.

IV

But perhaps we have dwelt too long on the poetic side of the book. For no one must suppose that Bede’s story is a mere tissue of fantasy, such as later hagiographers loved to weave. This element gains its effectiveness from the sober realism of the entire narrative. Character is the central miracle of the world, and the final value of Bede’s writings is that he shows us English character in the making. Our respect for this noble people rises as we read on. Critics have often pointed out how their distinctive traits shine out during the slow process of their conversion. A practical and ethical bent is central with them; not sentiment nor reasoning, but the spectacle of holy lives, converted the English folk. The grave hesitancy of Edwin, the tolerance and patience of other princes, the seriousness and freedom from impulsiveness in the whole proceeding, strikingly evince the honesty and judicial fairness and deep conscientiousness of the English temper. Other races placed the emphasis elsewhere. Even in pre-Christian times, emotion preponderated among the Irish just as truly as moral instinct among the Anglo-Saxons; nor is the distinction less true because Christianized emotion recreated the entire ethical life of the Celt, while, as we have just seen, the new moral ideal quickened a new emotional sensibility among the English. The fascinating legends of Irish saints, so rich in sentiment and fantasy—above all, that most entertaining and human document, the story of the hot-headed Irishman S. Columba—prove that the appeal of Christianity in the Celtic world was primarily to the imagination and the heart. If, on the other hand, the noble output of English prose and verse during the eighth century is poorer in elements of imaginative beauty than the literature of Ireland, it is correspondingly richer in the searching record of ethical experience. If we turn away from both Irish and Anglo-Saxon, toward that Roman genius already evident, and destined later to express itself through the Normans, we shall see a temper that delights in efficiency and administration, in the construction to the glory of God of great buildings and of theological systems equally firm. These instincts, like those of the Celt, Bede shows us at work, energizing and leavening the English race. But in this race the conscience had first to be won: it was the central citadel, and only when it had yielded did the whole nature of the man enter into faithful allegiance. If we see the deep temperamental gloom of the Anglo-Saxons softened and brightened, and the curious paralysis that sometimes seems to oppress them yielding to wise energy, it is because they have found in Christianity a sure and necessary stay for their moral nature. They were a people that could never attain true development till they rested on a sustaining force. That force, Law in the outer universe, was Duty within, and the faith in it once gained was destined never to fail through the long unfolding of national life.

    • “Thou who art destiny and law
    • When empty terrors overawe,
    • From vain temptations dost set free,
    • And calm’st the weary strife of frail humanity!
    • . . . . . .
    • Thou dost preserve the stars from wrong,
    • And the most ancient heavens through thee are fresh and strong!’

Works by the Venerable Bede:

Historia Ecclesiastica, first edition undated (Strasburg, 1475?). First edition published in England, ed. A. Wheloc, 1643, 1644 (with Anglo-Saxon version); ed. J. Smith (with Anglo-Saxon), 1722; B. Hussey, 1846; G. H. Moberley, 1869; C. Plummer, 1896; J. F. Welsh (second edition), 1893; C. S. Wallis and C. H. Gill, 1909.

Works enumerated by Bede himself in his Historia: on First Part of Genesis, on the Tabernacle, etc., on First Part of Samuel, Allegorical Exposition of the Building of the Temple, Thirty Questions concerning the Book of Kings, on the Proverbs, on the Song of Solomon, Extracts from S. Jerome, on Ezra and Nehemiah, on Habakkuk, on Book of Tobit, Readings in the Pentateuch, etc.; on the Books of Kings and Chronicles, on Job, on Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, on Isaiah, Ezra and Nehemiah, on Mark, on Luke, Homilies on the Gospel, Extracts from S. Augustine, on the Acts, on the General Epistles, on the Apocalypse, Readings in the New Testament, Letters (of the Six Ages, Resting-places of Israel, Words of Isaiah xxiv. 22, of Bissextile, of Anatolius on the Equinox), on Histories of Saints, and Life of S. Felix, Translation of Greek Life of S. Anastasius, Life of S. Cuthbert (prose and verse), History of Three Abbots, Martyrology, Book of Hymns, Book of Epigrams, on the Nature of Things, on Chronology, on Orthography, on the Art of Metre and Modes of Speech in the Scriptures. A Pœnitentiate, Retractationes, and a Work on the Holy Places, are also his. The translation of St. John’s Gospel is lost.

Works: ed. J. A. Giles (Patres Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ), 1843-44; Milne (Patrologiæ Cursus Completus), 1844; Historical Works (Eng. Hist. Soc.), 1841, etc.; Epistolæ (Caxton Soc.), 1844.

Translations: Ecclesiastical History, Stapleton, 1565; Stevens, 1723; Hurst, 1814; Stevens, revised by Giles (Bohn), 1840, 1847; L. Gidley, 1870; L. C. Jane (Temple Classics), 1903; A. M. Sellar, 1907.

Historical works, J. Stevenson, 1870; Life of S. Cuthbert, J. Stevenson, 1887; Explanation of the Apocalypse, G. Marshall, 1878.

The Early English Text Society has published the Anglo-Saxon Versions of the Ecclesiastical History, and of the Latin Hymn, De Die Judicii.

Life: Early, Anonymous, published by Caxton Society, 1844; by F. A. Gasquet, 1901; H. D. Raunsley, 1904.

[1 ]King Raedwald: Helen Gray Cove.

Last modified April 10, 2014