Vobis nota canam, fratres, quae fecerat olim
ecclesiae vestrae pontificalis apex.
praesulis egregii precibus se flamma retorsit
Aedani quondam Bebban ab urbe procul.
composuit precibus Eadberht minitantia mortem
flabra, pius praesul vester et ipse pater.
magnus et ipse pater, praesul pastorque sacerdos
Cudberhtus, vestrae iam decus ecclesiae,
quanta piis precibus, Domino donante, peregit,
non opus est nostris dicere versiculis,
dum prius heroicis praeclarus Beda magister
versibus explicuit inclita gesta patris,
laudibus ac celebrat quem tota Britannia crebris,
et precibus rogitat se auxiliare piis.
hi simul atque alii, si sic praecepta tenetis
illorum fixo semper amore Dei,
instanter precibus vestrum tueantur ovile,
hostibus expulsis moenia vestra favent.
posteriora vobis meliora prioribus esse
legistis, fratres: sic quoque vestra fient,
si in domino toto speratis pectore, qui post
iam maiora solet verbera dona dare.
at tu, sanctorum praesul successor avorum,
qui pascis populum, qui loca sancta tenes,
es magno, ut video, curarum pondere pressus,
quod tam dira fuit tempore plaga tuo.
tecum plango tuos casus, carissime frater,
ora fluunt lacrimis, pectora maesta dolent.
saepius ingeminans tanto sub murmure mecum,
omnibus, heu, quam sit illa dolenda dies,
qua pagana manus, veniens a finibus orbis,
navigio subito litora nostra petit
exspoliansque patrum veneranda sepulcra decore,
nec non foedavit templa dicata Dei
atque Dei Christi mundissima vinea Sorech
vulpinis subito dentibus esca fuit,
et lapides vivi pereunt altaria circum,
quapropter cithara plus gemit ecce mea.
victima facta fuit, Domino quae ferre solebat
munera; credo, pium munus et ipsa fuit.
felix illa dies illis, si tristia nobis
pectora fecisset; sic petiere polum.
et sanctis socii facti sunt sanguine sacro,
qui se pro Christo subiciunt gladiis.
hos puto quapropter nobis non esse gemendos,
quos melior caelo vita sibi rapuit.
desine quapropter lacrimis hos plangere, praesul,
quos sibi perpetuo Christus habet socios.
teque magisque tua facias virtute paratum,
ut, quo pervenias, tristia nulla fiant.
inclita perpetuam praestat patientia vitam,
ut vox veridica iusserat ipsa Dei.
fer patienter onus Christi tu triste sacerdos,
Iob exempla dabit victor et ipse sibi,
miles et ecclesiae Paulus per mille triumphos,
qui sua non doluit vulnera mente potens.
quis sine vel miles capiat certamine palmam?
bella nefanda dabunt praemia magna suis.
per gladios, mortes, pestes, per tela, per ignes,
martyrio sancti regna beata petunt.
stemmate iam gaudet belli, qui stemmate vincit,
proelia post terrae regnat in arce poli.
si quid displicuit Christo iam cuncta videnti,
moribus in vestris corrigite hoc citius.
ut pius egregium conservet pastor ovile,
ne rapidis capiat hoc lupus insidiis.
non est quippe Deus poenis culpandus in istis,
sed nostra in melius vita ferenda cito
et pia flectenda est precibus clementia nostris,
quatenus a nobis transferat ipse plagas
atque suis clemens praestet solacia servis,
tempora concedens prospera cuncta quibus,
hymnidicas laeta laudes et mente canamus
celsithroni cuncti semper ubique simul:
laus cui, cultus, honor, virtus, benedictio, carmen,
semper in aeternum gloria magna Deo.
(Alcuin, De rerum humanarum vicissitudine et clade Lindisfarnensis monasterii 165-240)
I shall speak, brothers, of deeds familiar to you
performed by the bishop who was head of your church.
The flame drew back at the prayers of the excellent bishop
Aidan and retreated afar from the city of Bamburgh.
Eadberht, your kindly bishop and father, quelled with his prayers
the gusts of wind which were threatening his flock with death.
That great father, bishop, pastor and priest,
Cuthbert, the paragon of your church,
achieved such prodigies by his holy prayers and God’s grace
that there is no need to speak of them in my paltry verses,
since Bede, the outstanding teacher, in heroic poetry
has described the distinguished deeds of that father
whom all of Britain celebrates with constant praise
and entreates to help her with pious prayers.
May these men and others, providing you always follow
their teachings with a steadfast love of God,
zealously protect your fold with their intercession,
guard your walls and rout the enemy.
You have read, brother, that what is to come will be better for you
than what has gone before, so too it shall be with you
if you wholeheartedly place your hope in God
who after striking you often grants you greater gifts.
And you, bishop, successor to holy forebears,
who feed the people and hold sway over hallowed places,
you are oppressed, I see, by a great weight of cares,
because such a dire blow has been struck in your lifetime.
Most beloved brother, I lament your disaster,
tears flow down my cheeks, my heart grieves with unhappiness,
often groaning to myself in a speechless murmur
of how painful to everyone was that day when, alas,
a pagan warband arrived from the ends of the earth,
descended suddenly bu ship and came to our land,
despoiling our fathers’ venerable tombs of their finery
and befouling the temples dedicated to God,
and Sorech, the most pure vine of the divine Christ,
was suddenly gnawed by the teeth of foxes.
The living stones perished about the alters
and so my lute groans, as you see, all the more sadly.
She who used to make offerings to the Lord, herself became the sacrifice,
and I believe that she was a holy offering.
Happy was that day for them, heavy-hearted
though it made us, for it provided them with a route to heaven.
Those who give themselves up to the sword for Christ’s sake
have become the companions of the saints by shedding their holy blood.
And so I do not think that we should groan for these men
who have been snatched away to a better life in heaven.
Cease, then, bishop, to lament for them with your tears,
since they are Christ’s companions forever.
Make yourself more ready by your virtue,
so that there shall be no sadness in the place to which you shall come.
Distinguished patience offers eternal life,
as God’s voice, speaking the truth, predicted.
Bear Christ’s sad burden patiently, priest:
Job in his victory sets you an example,
as does Paul, the soldier of the church, through a thousand triumphs;
his mighty spirit did not grieve for his wounds.
Without them what soldier culd win the palm of victory in the struggle?
Wicked wars will provide Christ’s followers with great prizes.
Through swords, death and plague, through weapons and fire,
the saints in the martyrdom seek the realms of blessedness.
He rejoices in a noble war who wins it nobly
and after battles on earth reigns in the heights of heaven.
If anything in your behavious displeased Christ
who sees all things, correct it swiftly,
so that the pious shepherd may save the excellent fold
and the wolf not capture it by his swift snares.
For God is not to be blamed for these our punishments,
but our lives should swiftly be improved
and our prayers should appeal to His kindly mercy,
so that He take tribulation away from us,
and grant solace in His clemency to His slaves,
bestowing prosperity at all times upon them,
that with joyous minds we may all sing hymns in praise
of Him who is enthroned on high everywhere at once.
Let there be praised, worship, honour, virtue, blessing and song
and great glory to God forever and ever.
(tr. Peter Godman)