Monday, 5 September 2011



* Until the 9th century literary prose did not develop in England. Before this Anglo-Saxon prose started in the form of some laws, moral codes and the historical records. Basically with Alfred the great Anglo-Saxon prose makes the true beginning. The three great prose writers of this period are King Alfred, Aelfric and Wulfstan.


* He is known as the ‘father of English Prose’.
* He became the king of Wessex in 871 A.D. The successive raids of the Danes made the English miserable. The Danes burnt the books, destroyed the monasteries and ever destroyed the mental peace.

* As peace came to national life he started to repair the miserable condition of the learning. He at first learnt Latin and set himself translating the famous Latin works. He formed his prose on Latin, making his English follow Latin construction.

* He translated the five great works.

(a) Gregory’s- ‘Pastoral Care’ [It is a religions work which discusses the essentials of Christianity. It is to be noted that in the preface of it Alfred said why he had taken the task of translation.]

(b) Bede’s- ‘Ecclesiastical History of the England’ [It is about the religious development in England. Here Alfred wished his people, not just clergy but the laity, to know the history of their country.]

(c) Orosius’s- ‘History of the World’
[It is a study of the world from various aspects. His accounts of geography, the language and places of Germany make the reading interesting. Alfred’s desire was to see people acquainted not only with the country’s history but also that of the world beyond.]

(d) Boethius’s- ‘De Consolatione Philosophiac’
       [It is a fine study of the sorrows and suffering of human life and the way of their consolation. It is written in the from of dialogue between Boethius and Philosophy. Boethius also has written it in prison in order to console his sole in the dire hour of dejection and isolation. Here we find Alfred’s deep faith in Christianity finding reflection in his translation.]

(e)  St. Augustine’s- ‘Soliloquia’ [It is a highly philosophic work. Its preface overflows with emotions at the prospect of his departure from this world. Here he recalls all his good work done as a writer and educator and exhorts his fellow being to carry on the work he had begun.

Apart from his translations Alfred wrote –

·               Handbook: Alfred wrote it at the age of 35. It contains quotations which the young king culled from different sources. The book was written in 888A.D. and written in English.

 * Lawbook: Alfred wrote Lawbook which contained extracts from diverse          codes from Wessex, Kent and Mercia.


* Aelfric was a scholar of the monastic school founded by Aethelwold at Abingdon. He then became an abbot of Eynsham in 1005. Of his writings ‘Colloquium’ and ‘catholic Homilies’ deserve particular mention. These works basically have given him the position of a prose writer.


          It is meant for teaching Latin by means of conversation. There is a teacher in one side and on the other side there are a number of persons coming from the different fields and a novice. Through their interesting conversation the way of learning slowly comes out.

Catholic Homilies:

                 Aelfric wrote sermons in vernacular. The first two series of these sermons are known as ‘Catholic Homilies’ and the third are known as ‘Lives of the Saints’. Catholic Homilies comprises two series of forty (40) sermons suitable for delivery by the clergy.

* The first seven books of the Old Testament are supposed to be translated by Aelfric and that is why he can be called as the first English Bible translator.

* Aelfric’s prose has a rhythmic charm and shares the element of poetry. He writes in a conversational style full of impulse and sonority.

* To W.P.Ker- “Aelfric in the great master of prose in all its forms”.

3) Wulfstan:

* He was the Archbishop of York from 1002 to 1023. He had witnessed the Danish invasion which perhaps has stirred the patriotic zeal in him. His homilies are extant, but his fame mainly rests on a single homily- ‘Sermo Lupi ad Anglos’.

·               Sermo Lupi ad Anglos :

* In his homily Wulfstan predicts that the world is drawing nigh to the end and he is driven to this fateful conclusion by the evils of the time.

* His prose is simple and straight forward taking to the point. His style is fertile in concrete illustrations and lucidity. His style is more akin to the rhetorician than that of the philosopher.                                                                                                                                  
¨       It can be treated as the vernacular history of the Anglo-Saxons from the 8th century to the middle of the 12th century.
¨       It is originally a record of some important annals as well as the births and death of the West-Saxon kingdom.
¨       Under the patronage of King Alfred it becomes a full fledged history beginning with Julius Ceasers’ conquest in England. It his Alfred who gave the loose events and episodes of the chronicle a proper from and regular shape. Alfred is supposed to have written some portions of the chronicle.  

¨       As it is not the work of a single hand it can not be a consistent work. The growth of the chronicle comes to the summit during the 10th century.

¨       To Long – “The chronicle is extremely valuable not only as a record of events but as a literary movement showing the development of our language’’.