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Power, skill and virtue in the Old English Boethius

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 September 2008


In Alfred's famous Preface to his translation of the Regula pastoralis, the king writes that he translated ‘hwilum word be worde, hwilum andgit of andgiete’ (7.19–20); a similar phrase occurs in the proem to the Boethius (1.2–3). Yet words in different languages are rarely exact equivalents. Translators select words which they feel capture the primary sense of source words and match secondary meanings and connotations only if they can. Similarities between two terms in different languages can reveal where the conceptual systems of the source and target cultures overlap and which denotations and connotations of a complex word were most important to the translator. Differences can indicate how cultures differ and what other conceptual systems might have influenced the translator. In a well-established system of translation, certain terms become accepted as standard equivalents to particular terms in other languages. Alfred, however, was in the position not of employing accepted equivalidents but of trying to create them. By the time he worked on the Boethius, Wærferth had probably translated Gregory's Dialogi, and Alfred's own Regula pastoralis was most likely complete, but no other models were availabel. As one of the earliest Anglo-Saxon translators, producing translations of the De consolatione, Gregory's Regula pastoralis, Augustine's Soliloquia and the first fifty psalms, Alfred had to solve translation problems himself.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1997

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1 ‘sometimes word for word, sometimes sense for sense’: King Alfred's West-Saxon Version of Gregory's Pastoral Care, ed. Sweet, H., 2 vols. EETS os 45 and 50 (London, 1871).Google Scholar All translations are my own, and in what follows I use these abbreviations for Old English texts: Bo, CP, El, Guth, MSol, Or and GD (Gregory's Dialogues).

2 King Alfred's Old English Version of Boethius De consolatione Philosophise, ed. Sedgefield, W. J. (Oxford, 1899).Google Scholar Abbreviations have been expanded and brackets and italics omitted.

3 For a good summary of these issues, with bibliography, see Bassnett, S., Translation Studies (London, 1980).CrossRefGoogle Scholar Polysystems Theory proved very fruitful in this study; see Toury's, G.In Search of a Theory of Translation (Tel Aviv, 1980)Google Scholar and his Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond (Philadelphia, PA, 1995).Google Scholar

4 See Toury, G., ‘Translational Solutions and Translational Relations: Towards a Description of Translated Texts’, in his In Search of a Theory of Translation, pp. 102–6.Google Scholar

5 These works have long been attributed to Alfred, except the psalms; for those, see Bately, J. M., ‘Lexical Evidence for the Authorship of the Prose Psalms in the Paris Psalter’, ASE 10 (1982), 6995.Google ScholarBede and Or, once thought Alfred's, are now ascribed to anonymous translators; see Batelz's, Old English Prose before and during the Reign of Alfred’, ASE 17 (1988), 93138.Google Scholar The translations were probably composed in the order given above, although the date of the psalms is less certain. See below, p. 91, n. 52.

6 See Fischer, O., ‘A Comparative Study of the Philosophical Terms in the Alfredian and Chaucerian Boethius’, Neophilologus 63 (1979), 622–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Bately, J. M., ‘An Alfredian Legacy? On the Fortunes and Fate of Some Items of Boethian Vocabulary in Old English’, From Anglo-Saxon to Early Middle English: Studies presented to E. G. Stanley, ed. Godden, M., Gray, D. and Hoad, T. (Oxford, 1994), pp. 832Google Scholar; Godden, M. R., ‘Anglo-Saxons on the Mind’, Learning and Literature in Anglo-Saxon England: Studies presented to Peter Clemoes, ed. Lapidge, M. and Gneuss, H. (Cambridge, 1985), pp. 271–98Google Scholar; and Otten, K., König Alfreds Boethius, Studien zur englischen Philologie ns 3 (Tübingen, 1964), esp. 158–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

7 Kroesch, S., ‘The Semantic Development of OE Cræft’, MP 26 (19281929), 433–41Google Scholar, sketches its development briefly. Käsmann, H. comments on the word in Studien zum kirchlicben Wortschatz des Mittelenglischen 1100–1350: Ein Beitrag zum Problem der Sprachmiscbung (Tübingen, 1961), p. 243.Google ScholarFischer, O. mentions it in ‘A Comparative Study’ at pp. 636–7.Google ScholarHitch, S. J. treats it briefly in ‘Alfred's Craft: Imagery in Alfred's Version of Augustine's Soliloquies’, Jnl of the Dept of Eng., Univ. of Calcutta (19861987), pp. 130–47Google Scholar but concentrates on other images. Clemoes, P. treats me term in more detail in ‘King Alfred's Debt to Vernacular Poetry: The Evidence of Ellen and Cræft, Words, Texts and Manuscripts: Studies in Anglo-Saxon Culture presented to Helmut Gneuss on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday, ed. Korhammer, M. (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 213–38.Google Scholar After drafting this article I read Girsch's, E. B. S. ‘A Semantic Analysis of the Old English Cræft and Related Words’ (unpubl. PhD dissertation, Univ. of Toronto, 1988).Google Scholar Her study of the word is more complete than any other and she notes Alfred's unusual usage, but she focuses on the word's long history more than on its significance in any particular work or writer.

8 Microfiche Concordance to Old English, ed. Healey, A. diP. and Venezky, R. (Toronto and Newark, DE, 1980).Google Scholar

9 Amos, A. C. concludes, in Linguistic Means of Determining the Dates of Old English Literary Texts (Cambridge, MA, 1980)Google Scholar, that very few linguistic tests accurately date poems and most of the corpus must remain undated. Fulk, R. D. argues in his History of Old English Meter (Philadelphia, PA, 1992)Google Scholar that while individual tests may not be conclusive, a combination of tests can date many poetic texts with precision and accuracy. Fulk's work remains controversial, however, and the dates which he assigns to poems have not been universally accepted. Moreover, he does not date many texts in which the word Cræft occurs because they offer too small a sample for his tests or because they are prose. Thus this study does not use linguistic dating methods.

10 The Dictionary of Old English, Fascicle, C (Toronto, 1988), p. 837.Google Scholar

11 Ibid. pp. 837–8. Only the most important of the subdivisions are given here, because there are too many to list them all; others will be mentioned as they arise.

12 Personal communication from A. diP. Healey.

13 The Dictionary lists ‘ca. 650’ occurrences (p. 837).Google Scholar The discrepancy between the two counts is due to different ways of counting. Some variants between manuscripts of the same text were different enough to be counted separately here. Two occurrences in the same entry, or authors reusing their own passages, were also counted as separate entries here. Finally, some occurrences which appear as two separate words in the Concordance are listed as compounds in the Dictionary, and so are entered under a different headword (personal communication from A. diP. Healey).

14 Clemoes, , ‘King Alfred's Debt’, p. 231.Google Scholar

15 ‘It seemed to him that he had more strength and power of war-companions than the holy God might have’: The Junius Manuscript, ed. Krapp, G. P., ASPR 1 (New York, 1931), 11.Google Scholar Unless noted otherwise, citations of poetry are from ASPR. All translations are my own.

16 ‘On that same morning so many men came to him that no one could count the host, and they began to fight resolutely with strength, and they did not know that Maccabeus was with those men’: Ælfric's Lives of Saints, ed. Skeat, W. W., 4 vols., EETS os 76, 82, 94 and 114 (London, 18811900).Google Scholar

17 ‘and in that fight the strength of the Medes and their host failed’. Citations are from King Alfred's Orosius, ed. Bately, J. M., EETS ss 6 (London, 1980).Google Scholar

18 Dictionary, p. 837.Google Scholar

19 Leechdoms, Wortcunning and Startraft of Early England, ed. Cockayne, T. O., 3 vols., RS (London, 18641866).Google Scholar

20 Although MSol cannot be dated precisely, general consensus places it at the end of the ninth or beginning of the tenth century; see Menner, R. J., The Poetical Dialogues of Solomon and Saturn (New York, 1941), pp. 1617Google Scholar, and ASPR 6, lix–lx. See also the discussion by O'Neill, P. P., below, pp. 139–68.Google Scholar

21 Die Gesetze der Angelsacbsen, ed. Liebermann, F., 3 vols. (Halle, 19031916), vol. I. In vol. II, Liebermann defines Cræft as ‘Macht, Kraft’ (p. 41).Google Scholar

22 Kroesch distinguishes mental and physical skills and argues that the former sense came first (‘The Semantic Development’, p. 440Google Scholar). Yet his arguments rely on unsupported assumptions about dating and he gives no evidence that distinctions between mental and physical abilities were in use at the time. Girsch concludes in her dissertation (‘A Semantic Analysis’, pp. 8990Google Scholar), that the distinction between physical and mental skills is not useful.

23 Dictionary, p. 837.Google Scholar

24 ‘No art is learned without a master’: ibid. p. 841.

25 ‘The chief thing (head) is to teach of the art which you do’: ibid. p. 844.

26 ‘But he urges different kinds of people to different kinds of glory and gives his gifts: to one, in virtues; to one, in arts; to one, in beauty; to one, in war…’ (ASPR 3, 140).

27 ‘I would seek that you teach me one Craft only, noble saviour, now that the King, Lord of men, has given you fame and might: how you guide the swimming for the wave-floater drenched by the sea, the sea-horse’ (ASPR 2, 16).

28 ‘What do you ask me, dearest lord, with wondrous words, when you always know the truth of events through the Craft of wisdom?’ (ASPR 2, 20).

29 ‘What did Peter relinquish? He was a fisherman, and with that Craft he made his living.’ Citations are from The Sermones Catholici or Homilies of Ælfric, ed. Thorpe, B., 2 vols. (London, 18441846)Google Scholar; the present citation is from I, 394, lines 1–2.

30 ‘in those days no man might prosper unless he had learned the heathen books, and knew those arts which the caesars loved’ (ibid. 2, 378).

31 Ælfric's Colloquy, ed. Garmonsway, G. N. (London, 1939).Google Scholar

32 The Concordance includes: Die angelsächsischen Prosabearbeitungen der Benediktinerregel, ed. Schröer, A., repr. with appendix by H. Gneuss, Bibliothek der angelsächsischen Prosa 2 (Darmstadt, 1964)Google Scholar; Die Winteney-Version der Regula sancti Benedicti, ed. Schröer, A., repr. with appendix by M. Gretsch (Tübingen, 1978)Google Scholar; and The Rule of St. Benet, ed. Logeman, H., EETS os 90 (London, 1888)Google Scholar and the glosses on them in Napier's, A. S.Old English Glosses, Anecdota Oxoniensia, Med. and Mod. Ser. 11 (Oxford, 1900).Google Scholar

33 Besides the Orosius, these were The Old English Version of Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, ed. Miller, T., 2 vols. in 4 pts, EETS os 95–6 and 110–11 (London, 18901898)Google Scholar and Bischof Wærferthsvon Worcester Übersetzung der Dialoge Gregors des Grossen, ed. Hecht, H. (Leipzig, 19001907)Google Scholar; Das altenglische Martyrologium, ed. Kotzor, G., 2 vols., Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften, phil.-hist. Klasse, Abhandlungen 88 (Munich, 1981).Google Scholar

34 It occurs in ‘The Death of Edgar’; see Two of the Saxon Chronicles Parallel, ed. Plummer, C., 2 vols. (Oxford, 18921899) I, 118–20Google Scholar; the Meters of Boethius (ASPR 5); the metrical portion of the Paris Psalter (Ps. LXXXIV; see ASPR 5); Andreas; and Daniel.

35 It should of course be noted that virtus itself is not identical to modern ‘virtue’. It has a broader range of meanings; Lewis, C. T. and Short, C. define it in their Latin Dictionary: ‘manliness, manhood … strength, vigor; bravery, courage; aptness, capacity; worth, excellence, virtue, etc.’ (Oxford, 1879), p. 1997.Google Scholar The Latin virtus thus overlaps with other senses of cræft: power and talent. Late antique and early medieval works tend to use virtus more in its moral sense than for manliness or physical strength or courage (see Kroesch on its use in Christian literature, ‘The Semantic Development’, p. 437Google Scholar); in Gregory's Dialogi and Regula pastoralis the word clearly means right conduct, and in the De consolatione the primary sense is also that of moral and intellectual rectitude. The overlap between multiple senses of virtus and cræft makes it all the more surprising that Alfred is the only one to translate the former by the latter.

36 The Dictionary, pp. 843–4.Google Scholar Kroesch, while saying ‘it regularly translates the Lat. virtus’ (‘The Semantic Development’, p. 437Google Scholar) also gives examples only from CP and Bo. Girsch's dissertation is inconsistent on the matter. Throughout she deems the usage typical of Alfred (‘A Semantic Analysis’, esp. pp. 124 and 799800Google Scholar). Her first mention of this translation attributes it only to Alfred, Apollonius of Tyre and Ælfric (p. 124).Google Scholar When she examines those texts individually, however, she offers ‘virtue’ only as a translation for one specific passage in Ælfric and then rejects it as an inferior translation (p. 301); she does not translate any of its appearances in the Apollonius as ‘virtue’. She does translate cræft as ‘virtue’ in a few other texts, but these translations are unconvincing in context. There is not space here to discuss each of these instances, but in each case where she suggests ‘virtue’, it seems an inaccurate translation and I prefer the alternative translations she gives (see pp. 363–4, 471–2, 516 and 767). It should also be noted that Girsch herself seems unconvinced of these readings, for she concludes, ‘The use of cræft to mean “a specific virtue” is a hallmark of Alfredian usage. It appears elsewhere only in two texts, PPs and GD …’ (p. 800); she makes no mention of the other two texts she cites for this usage on p. 124 and gives two occurrences not mentioned there. In short, there remains no convincing evidence for any other Old English writer using the word cræft to mean ‘virtue’, and no evidence at all of the former ever being used to translate the word virtus.

37 Dictionary, p. 837.Google Scholar

38 ‘with the trick which was most shameful’.

39 Dictionary, p. 438.Google Scholar

40 See Girsch, , ‘A Semantic Analysis’, esp. pp. 262311, on Ælfric.Google Scholar

41 Girsch notes that Alfred avoids negative senses of the word, in contrast to most prose writers and even the translators and writers working under his patronage (ibid. pp. 256 and 772–3).

42 Dictionary, p. 837.Google Scholar

43 Æfrics Grammatik und Glossar, ed. Zupitza, J., repr. with introduction by H. Gneuss, Sammlung englischer Denkmäler 1 (Zürich, 1966)Google Scholar; Byrhtferth's Enchiridion, ed. Baker, P. S. and Lapidge, M., EETS ss 15 (Oxford, 1995).Google Scholar

44 There is insufficient space to quote examples of all Alfred's different uses here, but for ‘power’, see 108.27–9; for physical and mental skill, 40.12–41.1, 46.17–20 and 72.13–15; for God's creation, 80.22–4. Other examples could be given as well. Girsch notes that Alfred uses nearly the full range of cræft (‘A Semantic Analysis’, p. 158).Google Scholar

45 The Dictionary only recognizes the use of plural forms of cræft to represent plural forms of virtus, but Alfred connects the singular forms to concepts of virtue as well. In 62.21–4, 133.21–7 and 134.2–4 he translates a singular form of virtus with the singular form cræft. Several of the additions also seem to have the meaning ‘virtue’ for a singular form of cræft, as at 62.24, ‘Swa swa wisdom is se hehsta cræft’ (‘Just as wisdom is the highest virtue’). In the absence of evidence for the manuscript Alfred used, we must assume that his exemplar more or less matched texts used by modern editors; I have used Anicii Manlii Severini Boethii Philosophiae Consolatio, ed. Bieler, L., CCSL 94 (Turnhout, 1957).Google Scholar The Boethius matches the Latin very closely in places and the early texts of the De consolatione which Bieler edited have relatively few and small discrepancies, indicating a stable textual tradition. (Alfred's CP is also close enough to the Latin in modern editions to warrant a similar assumption.)

46 Cræft translates virtus in these passages: 10.19–21, 22.6–10, 44.31–45.3, 45.7–8, 61.7–9, 62.21–4, 69.11–15, 104.4–9, 104.18–24, 108.29–30, 133.7–8, 133.21–7, 134.2–4, 138.2–4, 149.5–7. It appears for vis at 18.5–11, 106.1–4, 108.27–9 and 110.1–4; potentia at 37.10–13 and 110.19–22; vigor at 116.29–30 and 116.30–2. It is added to 30.7–10; 30.22–3; 35.13–15; 37.30–38.2; 38.9–11; 40.12–14; 40.14–15; 40.18–19; 40.25–7; 40.27–41.1; 41.1–3; 45.22–4; 46.17–20; 54.20–2; 61.9–15; 62.24–6; 62.29–31; 63.29–64.2; 69.1–4; 69.4–6; 72.6–13; 72.13–15; 80.22–4; 81.23–5; 87.7–9; 93.3–6; 109.3; 109.6–8; 122.1–4; 122.4–10; 127.10–14; 132.9–10; 132.10–13; 141.13–16. By contrast, the two instances of cræft in the Bede translate peritia (304.10) and ars (328.8). In Or, it translates vis three times (31.2–10, 34.21–4 and 42.22–4), virile (33.4–9), victoria (51.24–5) and ingenio (103.8–12) once each; eight times it does not translate any Latin word (23.27–30, 30.12–16, 30.24–8, 30.33–31.2, 33.11–12, 42.28–30, 51.19–24 and 85.12–19). (Kroesch's footnote in ‘The Semantic Development’, p. 440Google Scholar which says that cræft is only used once in Or for vis is in error; he only cites 34.21–4.) In the GD the word translates ars six times (counting one Hatton occurrence with its corresponding Cotton occurrence), 62.7–16, Hatton 73.28–74.6 and Cotton 73.29–74.7; 180.21–2; 180.22–4; 342.3–7; and 342.11–14. It translates arx once (188.16–19). (Kroesch suggests that the translation for arce arose from the misreading arte, or from a flawed exemplar; a Verona manuscript of Gregory's works has arte here.) Yerkes's, D.Two Versions of Warferth's Translation of Gregory's Dialogues: An Old English Thesaurus (Toronto, 1979)Google Scholar, supports my findings that no systematic substitution between cræft, mægen and miht occurs in that text.

47 ‘Then he who is prospering in each virtue and merit, as we said before, and then too strongly refuses authority, let him guard himself lest he knit up that property he has received in the napkin about which Christ spoke in his gospel.’

48 ‘because always the virtues struggle against the vices’.

49 ‘the virtue of mercy’.

50 ‘no virtue is more precious to God than love…’

51 Cræft occurs for virtus in these passages: 41.9–10, 43.5–8, 59.11–14, 163.1–3, 163.5–9 (in the same passage it is used again with mægen), 220.25–222.3, 222.18–22, 251.2–6 (twice), 289.12–14, 291.9–12, 307.10–13, 345.7–10, 347.9–13, 347.15–17, 359.18–21, 359.21–3, 359.23–4 (twice), 383.36–385.5, 385.7–9, 433.27–8, 447.17–19, 463.21–2, 463.23–6, 463.26–8, 465.6–9, 465.20–2, 465.30–3, 467.8–10 and 467.10–14. It is an addition to the text in these: 227.5–10, 231.7–8, 231.9–10, 269.2–4, 345.23–347.2, 385.26–9, 409.19–22, 463.5–9 (twice; also in the same passage, mægen & cræft appears for virtus) and 463.11–15.

52 Alfred uses the word cræft for virtus in his psalms but prefers mægen there; he uses the doublet mægen 7 cræft for virtus twice in Ps. XVII (XVII.31 and 37) and mægen alone several times (XX.1 and XXIX.7, XXX.12, XXXII.14, XLV.1, XLV.6, XLV.10, XLVII.11, XLVIII.6). He uses cræft alone once (XXXII.15); see Liber Psalmorum: The West-Saxon Psalms, ed. Bright, J. W. and Ramsay, R. L. (Boston, 1907).Google Scholar For Alfred's authorship of the text, see Bromwich, J. I'A., ‘Who Was the Translator of the Prose Portion of the Paris Psalter?’, The Early Cultures of North-West Europe: H. M. Chadtvick Memorial Studies, ed. Fox, C. and Dickins, B. (Cambridge, 1950), pp. 289303Google Scholar, and Bately's, ‘Lexical Evidence’Google Scholar and her bibliography. It is difficult to know what to make of the difference between Alfred's usage of cræft and mægen here and elsewhere, for two reasons. Without knowing when Alfred worked on the Psalter, we cannot tell whether it was before or after he had established a consistent usage. We also cannot be sure which version of the psalms Alfred was following. O'Neill, P. P., in ‘The Old English Introductions to the Prose Psalms and the Paris Psalter: Sources, Structure, and Composition’, SP 78 (1981), 2038Google Scholar, uses the Roman for purposes of comparison, but various texts circulated. The question of source is crucial for this text, for in every instance that the Roman and Gallican versions have virtus, the version iuxta Hebraeos has fortitudo – which Alfred translates elsewhere as mægen. In one place the Gallican version has virtus where the Roman has fortitudo. Because of these uncertainties no conclusion can be drawn about Alfred's usage from this text.

53 He uses mægen alone in these passages: 83.9–13, 83.22–85.1, 87.3–5, 87.21–5, 95.15–19, 101.1–3, 149.3–4, 163.14–18, 163.23–4, 215.15–21 (twice), 220.18–22, 233.14–16, 311.9–10, 311.12–13, 313.3–6, 315.8–12, 321.25–323.3, 323.3–6 and 443.3–6. He uses mægen 7 cræft in these: 27.15–19, 41.11–13, 163.5–9, 463.5–7, 463.15–19, 465.3–6 and 467.5–6.

54 The word virtus occurs with monotonous frequency in the Regula, and Alfred may also have been aiming for variation in his own text by using two different words for it.

55 Mægen appears for virtus at 21.10–11. Cræft appears for virtus in: 10.19–21, 22.6–10, 44.31–45.3, 45.7–8, 61.7–9, 62.21–4, 69.11–15, 104.4–9, 104.18–24, 108.29–30, 133.7–8, 133.21–7, 134.2–4, 138.21–4 and 149.5–7.

56 ‘My customs are wisdom and virtues and true wealth.’

57 ‘for that man is full of judgement and virtue, and secure enough’.

58 ‘why they do not want to follow after virtues and after wisdom?’

59 Clemoes, , ‘King Alfred's Debt’, p. 236.Google Scholar

60 Bosworth–Toller defines the word primarily as ‘custom, usage’, etc. (pp. 1042–3). The word was usually used in the sense of good custom or habit — what one might well call virtue. Hall, J. R. Clark, A Concise Anglo-Saxon Dictionary, 4th ed., rev. H. D. Meritt (Cambridge, 1960)Google Scholar, s.v., gives ‘usage, custom, habit, conduct, disposition … (in pi.) virtues, (good) manners, morals, morality’ (p. 356). Holthausen includes ‘Tugenden’ in his translations for the plural (Holthausen, F., Altenglisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (Heidelberg, 1934), p. 361Google Scholar). The definition which Bosworth–Toller gives for unÞeaw does include ‘vice’ (p. 1132). See also Alfred's own Preface to the Regulapastoralir. ‘ðone naman anne we lufodon ðætte we Cristne wæren, & swiðe feawe ða ðeawas’ (5.6–8; ‘the name alone we loved, that we were Christians, and very few of the virtues’). In the Regula pastoralis he sometimes uses ðeaw for virtus; see 81.24, where he substitutes weorcum 7 ðeawum for morum uirtute, and 149.2 and 149.4, where gode ðeawas translates virtutes. At 149.17 ðeawas alone translates virtutes.

61 ‘that he should acquire some of the best of their customs and their virtues’.

62 ‘Does power have the custom that it pulls up vices and uproots them from the minds of rulers of men, and plants virtues there?’

63 ‘foolishness and unrighteousness now reign over all this world, and wisdom and other virtues as well have no love and no worship in this world, but lie despised just as dung under a privy’.

64 ‘Just so wisdom is the highest virtue, and has in it four other virtues: one is reverence, another moderation, the third is zeal, the fourth, righteousness.’

65 ‘Then is the good of the soul reverence and moderation and patience and righteousness and wisdom and many other such gifts; and yet the soul is one thing, its virtues another.’

66 ‘The same can be said of all the goods of this present life which ayrdbrings both in talents and in possessions, for they sometimes come to the most depraved.’

67 ‘Which indeed can be said of all the goods of fortune, which come more richly to the most wicked.’ It may also be noted that Alfred softens the passage to say that goods come ‘some-times’ to the wicked instead of ‘more richly’ to them.

68 There is no evidence that Alfred translated the text in order, but it is a reasonable supposition.

69 Käsmann, , Studien zum kirchlichen Wbrtschatz. p. 243Google Scholar; Clemoes, , ‘King Alfred's Debt’, pp. 224–6.Google ScholarGneuss, H., Lehnbildungen und Lehnbedeutungen im Altenglischen (Berlin, 1955) offers megen, mægen as the usual translation for virtus and does not mention cræft (p. 72)Google Scholar; he also discusses mægen and miht as translations for virtus in The Origin of Standard Old English and Æthelwold's School at Winchester’, ASE 1 (1972), 6383, esp. 76–9.Google Scholar See also Gretsch, M., Die Regula Sancti Benedicti in England (Munich, 1973), pp. 347–9.Google Scholar

70 Bosworth-Toller, , mægen, p. 655Google Scholar; meaht, pp. 672–3.Google Scholar Clark Hall also gives ‘virtue’ as a definition for these (see p. 224 for mægen and p. 237 for miht). Holthausen gives ‘Tüchtigkeit’ as one of the definitions for both (p. 210 for mægen, p. 216 for meaht).

71 The Vespasian Psalter, ed. Kuhn, S. M. (Ann Arbor, MI, 1965)Google Scholar; Ker, N. R., Catalogue of Manuscripts containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, 1957), no. 203.Google Scholar

72 Only once does he use it to translate uirtus in Bo, at 21.10–11; it occurs ten fortitudo at 38.2–4 and to potentia at 67.4–6. The other four occurrences of the word do not correspond to any Latin word (41.9–12, 53.16–18, 112.30–1 and 147.11–13), but the context makes it clear that each means strength or power (as in the first definition of cræft) rather than virtue.

73 Mægen is overwhelmingly used in these two works for virtus: forty-seven of its fifty-two occurrences in Bede are for virtus (along with three for vis and one each for auxiliarii and signum), as are twenty-six of the thirty-two occurrences in the Hatton manuscript of GD and eighty-six of the 115 in the Cotton manuscript. (Most Hatton occurrences are duplicated by Cotton occurrences.) In Or, mægen occurs only six times, once each for virtus, auxilium and strenuus, and three times without a Latin equivalent but where the word clearly means virtue. Miht occurs once in Bo, four times in GD, three times in Or and twice in Bede, but never for virtus and always in the more general sense of power; it was apparendy not an accepted word for virtus for these translators as it was for some of the psalter glossators.

74 Clemoes, , ‘King Alfred's Debt’, p. 232.Google Scholar

75 ‘Alfred's Cræft’, p. 145.Google Scholar

76 Clemoes, , ‘King Alfred's Debt’, p. 237.Google Scholar

77 Clemoes gives as evidence primarily Elene and Gutblac. Only Cynewulf's El even approaches Alfred's usage, but there it seems clear that cræft is merely the first step to true wisdom, and that it can even be a hindrance. Judas possesses cræft long before the poem begins, but it takes threats, torture and conversion for him to put that cræft to proper use. Elene and Constantine use their cræft properly; but again, the faculty seems to be an intellectual one, and not virtue itself. Guth uses cræft to indicate strength of mind, a unified intellectual and military strength which is not quite the same as Alfred's cræft as virtue. Nor is the word cræft as pervasive or thematically important in Gutb as in either El or Bo. Moreover, these two poems are not representative of the Old English poetic corpus, which generally uses the word cræft in other senses. Alfred's conception of cræft may have been pardy inspired by poems, but it goes well beyond the poetic tradition.

78 ‘How happy was the former age, content with faithful fields, not lost in degenerate luxuries, which was accustomed to late meals of simple nuts.’

79 ‘Alas, how happy was that former age of the earth, when the produce of the earth seemed enough for each.’

80 ‘For no man comes to virtues and excellence because of his kingdom …’

81 This is not to say that it was wholly unavailable. As noted above, virtus itself can mean physical strength, and the word carries these implications even though Boethius does not explore them fully, using potentia for power instead. Nor does Boethius leave them wholly unlinked linguistically; as A. Astell notes, at IV pr. vii. 19, Philosophy gives an etymology deriving virtus from vis, virtue from strength; see Job, Boethius, and Epic Truth (Ithaca, NY, 1994), p. 43.Google Scholar

82 ‘“First therefore”, said Philosophy, “it is fitting that you know that the good always have power and the evil are always deserted by every strength, of which indeed the one shall be demonstrated by the other.”’

83 ‘Then he said: “You shall first understand that the good always have power, and the evil never have any, nor any cræft”’ The Latin word which most closely matches cræft in this passage is uiribus, but a simple translation of cræft here is difficult, as the following discussion indicates.

84 It might be tempting to dismiss the distinction between anveald and cræft in this passage as insignificant or to say that this is merely a doublet or word pair. Yet formally it does not look like a doublet, and not all doublets are tautologous.

85 ‘“But for the same reason this must follow: sufficiency, power, fame, reverence and happiness, indeed are diverse in name, but in no way can one distinguish their substance.” “It must be”, I said. “Therefore human depravity has dispersed what is one simple nature …”’

86 ‘“Therefore we must conclude that the five things about which we spoke before, although they are named with different words, that is all one thing, when they are gathered; that is, power and sufficiency and fame and worship and happiness. These five things, when they are all gathered, then that is God… and he is one, undivided, although he was named before as many.” Then I answered and said: “I agree with all this.”’

87 The compound drycræft does occur twice, 116.14 and 116.27, and drycræftig once, at 116.3, but the simplex cræft as such is never used for trick or vice in the text.

88 For Christianity in the work, see Chadwick's, H. fourth chapter, ‘Christian Theology and the Philosophers’, in his Boethius: The Consolations of Music, Logic, Theology, and Philosophy (Oxford, 1981), pp. 174222Google Scholar and Starnes, C. J., ‘Boethius and the Development of Christian Humanism: The Theology of the Consolation’, in Congresso internazionale di studi Boeziani (Pavia, 5–8 ottobre 1980), ed. Obertello, L. (Rome, 1981), pp. 2738.Google ScholarO'Daly, G. lists some possible Christian influences on Boethius, particularly the psalms, in The Poetry of Boethius (Chapel Hill, NC, 1991), p. 59.Google Scholar

89 ‘Hate evil and flee it as much as you can; love virtues, and follow them. You have great need that you always act well, for you always do all that you do before the eternal and the Almighty God; and he sees it all, and he rewards it all.’

90 ‘The workman is God; I praise his craft there.’

91 ‘With wonderful craft you have designed it so that the fire does not incinerate the water and the earth…’

92 Clemoes, , ‘King Alfred's Debt’, pp. 232–3.Google Scholar

93 ‘Then I said, “You know yourself how little ambition for mortal things has dominated me; but I hoped for the opportunity for accomplishments, lest virtue, silent, decay.” And she said, “But there is one thing which is able to lure minds which are outstanding in nature indeed but have not yet come to the farthest point in perfection of virtue, namely, the desire for glory and fame for the best merits in public life. Consider how feeble and empty of all importance this is.”’

94 ‘the desire for false glory and wrongful power and immoderate reputation for good works’. (My emphasis.) This passage, crucial to understanding Alfred's view of fame, has been neglected by some scholars. A. Frantzen focuses on a passage four pages later in the Old English and declares, ‘Wisdom discourages Mod from the pursuit of fame, claiming that the desire for fame makes men yearn for unrighteous power and distorts their reason and judgment…’ (King Alfred (Boston, 1986), p. 54Google Scholar). K. Proppe is right to emphasize the earlier passage instead: ‘I read this as a caution against a specific kind of fame – leases 7 unryhtes 7 ungemetlices’: King Alfred's Consolation of Philosophy’, NM 74 (1973), 635–48, at 647–8.Google ScholarOtten makes a similar point in his König Alfreds Boethius, p. 101.Google Scholar

95 O‘Daly, , The Poetry of Boethius, p. 44.Google Scholar

96 Hitch, , ‘Alfred's Craft’, p. 144.Google Scholar

97 See Gneuss, H., ‘A Preliminary List of Manuscripts Written or Owned in England up to 1100’, ASE 9 (1981), 160.Google Scholar Gneuss lists a handful of works or fragments by Martianus Capella and Porphyry and glosses on them (nos. 48, 67, 96, 127 and 795) that are of tenth-century date or earlier; there is no evidence for use or general knowledge of them. Nothing in any form by Aristotle or Plato, the two philosophers named in the De consolatione, are among Gneuss's items. J. D. A. Ogilvy finds two references to Aristotle (Books Known to the English, 597–1066 (Cambridge, MA, 1967), p. 77Google Scholar) but concludes that Alcuin's mention of Aristotle probably refers to the pseudo-Augustinian Categoriae Decent and that the Worcester booklist's Kategoriae is probably Boethian.

98 Augustine might also be cited, but his influence is much more problematic. P. Szarmach argues that the Augustinian concept of sapientia strongly influenced Alfred's programme in ‘Anglo-Saxon Letters in the Eleventh Century’, Acta: The Eleventh Century, ed. Ferber, S. and Sticca, S., Proceedings of the SUNY Regional Conferences in Med. and Renaissance Stud. 1 (Binghamton, NY, 1974), 114.Google Scholar Yet there is no evidence that Alfred knew De trinitate and De doctrina Christiana, the two works which Szarmach uses to define sapientia in a second article, The Meaning of Alfred's Preface to the Pastoral Care’, Mediaevalia 7 (1980), 5786.Google Scholar Without access to these works it is doubtful that Alfred could have fully understood the Augustinian concept. The Soliloquia was an early and heavily dualistic work and could not have given Alfred an understanding of Augustine's mature concept of sapientia. Szarmach's earlier article, which argues not for a specific conception of wisdom but for a Christian as opposed to a wholly practical notion of wisdom, is much more convincing. See, however, Shippey's, T. A.Wealth and Wisdom in King Alfred's Preface to the Old English Pastoral Care’, EHR 94 (1979), 346–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar, which responds to ‘Anglo-Saxon Letters’ by reading wisdom as practical knowledge, not sapientia.

99 ‘Mine is counsel and equity, mine prudence, mine is strength; through me kings rule and the makers of laws discern justly; through me princes reign and potentates discern justice; I love those who love me and who, keeping vigil, find me early. With me are wealth and glory, the riches of the proud and justice. Better is my fruit than gold and precious stone and my gems are better than choice silver. I walk in the ways of justice in the middle of the paths of judgement.’

100 See, for instance, Prov. XXV.2–3 and Wisdom I.I, VI and VIII.

101 ‘the art of the teacher is the art of all arts’. Here cræft translates ars.

102 ‘But there are many who are honoured with many gifts of virtues (Latin: uirtutum) and strengths, so that they should teach many, and for other men's needs they receive such gifts.’

103 ‘If then the feeding of the sheep is a sign of love, why then would anyone whom God has given such virtues (Latin: uirtutibus) refuse to feed his herd, unless he wants to say that he does not love the Lord and the high Shepherd of all creation?’

104 Nor can the influence of Gregory's imagery be discounted. The familiar figure of the shepherd pervades the Regula pastoralis, supporting Alfred's linkage of physical, mental and spiritual work.

105 See, for example, Tierney, B. and Painter, S., ‘Carolingian Culture’, Western Europe in the Middle Ages 300–1475 (New York, 1983), pp. 141–5.Google Scholar For the Carolinginan Reform and education in particular, see Riché, P., Education et culture dans l' Occident barbare (Paris, 1962).Google Scholar

106 Nelson, J. L., ‘The Political Ideas of Alfred of Wessex’, Kings and Kingship in Medieval Europe, ed. Duggan, A. J. (London, 1993), pp. 125–58, at 129.Google Scholar

107 For Alfred's use of Carolingian precedents, see Frantzen, , King Alfred, pp. 20–1.Google Scholar For his recruitment of continental scholars, see Keynes, S. and Lapidge, M., Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources (Harmondsworth, 1983), pp. 26–8.Google Scholar

108 MGH, Legum Sectio II: Capitularia Rtgum Francorum i, ed. Boretius, A. (Hanover, 1883), p. 58.Google Scholar

109 Ibid. p. 79.

110 Ibid.

111 Bolton, W. F., ‘How Boethian is Alfred's Boethius?’, Studies in Earlier Old English Prose, ed. Szarmach, P. E. (Albany, NY, 1986), pp. 153–68Google Scholar, argues that Alfred was well aware of the details of the programme and particularly Alcuin's role in it, and specifically imitated the thinking of his expatriate countryman. One need not accept all his points to see that Bolton does argue convincingly for a conscious imitation at least of parts of the Carolingian plan.

112 For Asser and his life of Alfred, see Keynes, and Lapidge, , Alfred the Great, as well as J. Campbell, ‘Asser's Life of Alfred’, The Inheritance of Historiography 350–900, ed. Holdsworth, C. and Wiseman, T. P., Exeter Stud, in Hist. 12 (Exeter, 1986), 115–35Google Scholar; Kirby, D. P., ‘Asser and His Life of King Alfred’, Studio Celtica 6 (1971), 1235Google Scholar; and Schütt, M., ‘The Literary Form of Asser's “Vita Alfredi”’, EHR 72 (1957), 209–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

113 ‘If you then want to have that measure, and want to know what you must have, then is it food and drink and clothes and tools to such craft as you know that is natural for you and right for you to have.’

114 See especially Lefevere, A., ‘Why Waste Our Time on Rewrites? The Trouble with Interpretation and the Role of Rewriting in an Alternative Paradigm’, The Manipulation of Literature: Studies in Literary Translation, ed. Hermans, T. (New York, 1985), pp. 215–43Google Scholar; and his ‘Translation: Its Genealogy in the West’, Translation, History and Culture, ed. Bassnett, S. and Lefevere, A. (London, 1990), pp. 1428.Google Scholar

115 It is difficult to get a sense of who the ‘people’ were. Presumably Alfred was not actually writing for commoners but for the less educated clergy (whose Latin might get them through mass but would not avail with Boethius) and perhaps a small group of educated nobles and literate officials. Whoever his audience was, he does seem to be inviting identification between himself and them; everyone, from the king down, has his or her own cræft to perform.

116 Hitch, , ‘Alfred's cræft’, p. 144.Google Scholar

117 See Keynes, and Lapidge, , Alfred the Great, pp. 1618Google Scholar; in the same volume see Alfred's, Will, pp. 174–7Google Scholar, which is somewhat defensive about the settlement of the inheritance. See also the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle s.a. 900; the revolt of Alfred's nephew probably occurred because of resentment over what was seen as a usurpation.

118 ‘For it is that no man comes to virtues and excellence because of his kingdom, but because of his virtues and his excellence he comes to the throne and authority. Thus no one is the better for his power; but for his virtues he is good, if he is good, and for his virtues he is worthy of power, if he is worthy of it.’

119 To be fair, it must also be noted that in CP, Alfred actually deletes a perfectly good piece of propaganda. Gregory explains in III.5.1–7 that subjects cannot reject their lords because to do so would be to reject God, who appointed them: ‘Serui ammonendi sunt ne Deum despiciant, si ordinationi illius superbiendo contradicunt’ (III.5.5–7; ‘servants are to be admonished lest they despise God, if in their pride they contradict his ordering’); Alfred briefly says that servants should obey their masters (201.13–5), but he does not translate the reason. He does keep the idea that lords should stay humble (III.5.8–17, 201.14–8). It is not clear why he does not take advantage of Gregory's statement of support for worldly hierarchy, but this omission makes Alfred look less calculating in his use of translations for political purposes.

120 Many thanks to Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe and Antonette diPaolo Healey, who read drafts of this article and made valuable suggestions. All remaining errors and infelicities are my own.

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