Times and Seasons

BL Cotton MS Tiberius B I, the C-text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

BL Cotton MS Tiberius B I, the C-text of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

Yesterday, I read some people complaining that Trump hasn’t stopped DACA yet. This is Wednesday, he was inaugurated last Friday, so give me a break. He’s accomplished more in the part of the last week than most presidents do in their first term. Take a deep breath and relax, he’s not going to do everything we want, anyway, but it looks like he’s going to do an incredible part of it.

My friend, The Clerk of Oxford says this in her latest post.

We don’t have to think about history only as a stream of events down which we helplessly drift, talking and fretting solely about the very latest thing to happen, without a moment for reflection or memory. (We’ll call this the ‘social media timeline’ model of history). There are other options, even if they’re not very fashionable ones: paying mindful attention to the details of the natural world, listening to the voices of poets of the past, thinking about patterns and constants and the changeless, instead of being solely fixated on the present.

Yeah, I know, it’s not always easy in our very noisy world, not for any of us. But there are ways. In that post, she’s talking about an old English poem called Menologium, which is bound with a copy of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, along with a copy of a wisdom poem called Maxims II.

All deal with time, but in different ways, The Chronicle starts with the Incarnation of Christ (Cristes geflæscnesse) and traces history by use of the feast days of the church. This version end with the Battle of Stamford Bridge on ‘the Vigil of St Matthew the Apostle’.

[T]he Menologium, though one might more poetically call it ‘The Beauties of the Year’, since that is really its subject. The poem moves through the calendar year, month by month, feast by feast, finding something to praise about every season in the traditional language of Old English poetry. It marks saints’ days, the 12 months, the two solstices and equinoxes, and the beginning of each of the four seasons, which are dated to the days halfway between each solstice and equinox. Every significant date or season receives its own brief lyrical description…

Maxims II  … begins by musing on kings, power, and the passage of the seasons:

Cyning sceal rice healdan. Ceastra beoð feorran gesyne,
orðanc enta geweorc, þa þe on þysse eorðan syndon,
wrætlic weallstana geweorc. Wind byð on lyfte swiftust,
þunar byð þragum hludast. Þrymmas syndan Cristes myccle,
wyrd byð swiðost. Winter byð cealdost,
lencten hrimigost – he byð lengest ceald –
sumor sunwlitegost – swegel byð hatost –
hærfest hreðeadegost, hæleðum bringeð
geres wæstmas, þa þe him god sendeð.
Soð bið switolost, sinc byð deorost,
gold gumena gehwam, and gomol snoterost,
fyrngearum frod, se þe ær feala gebideð.
Weax bið wundrum clibbor. Wolcnu scriðað.

A king should defend a kingdom. Cities are seen from afar,
the skilful work of giants, which are on this earth,
wondrous work of wall-stones. The wind in the sky is swiftest,
thunder is loudest in season. Great are the powers of Christ.
Fate is the most powerful thing, winter is coldest,
spring frostiest – it is the longest cold –
summer sun-brightest – the sun is hottest –
harvest most glory-blessed; it brings to men
the year’s fruits, which God sends them.
Truth is most treacherous, treasure is dearest,
gold to every man, and an old man is most wise,
made wise with years gone by, he who has experienced much.
Sorrow is wondrously clinging. Clouds glide on.

via A Clerk of Oxford: Times and Seasons, do read it all.

And that is important, I think. No matter the pressures of the day, life goes on, much as before. The seasons come, each in their turn, babies are born, people die or move on, but such things move at the older, slower pace, that our ancestors knew so well, living close to the land as they did. Marking off their life by the feast days of the church, which likely was often the only thing that penetrated their life from outside. It would make us crazy, to be without the constant noise, movement, and controversy, for a time. But I suspect, in the end, we would be more peaceful in our lives.

In Beowulf, the poet tells us

Metod eallum weold
gumena cynnes, swa he nu git deð;
forþan bið andgit æghwær selest
ferhðes foreþanc. Fela sceal gebidan
leofes ond laþes se þe longe her
on ðyssum windagum worolde bruceð. (1057-62)

The Measurer governed all for mankind, as he now does yet;
and so understanding is best everywhere,
forethought of mind. Much must he endure
of love and hate, who long here
in these days of strife enjoys the world.

Seems to me, that depending on how you live your life, those may be some of the most comforting, or the most disconcerting words you will ever read.

She ends her post, as I will mine with a quote from Maxims II.

gomol snoterost,
fyrngearum frod, se þe ær feala gebideð.
Weax bið wundrum clibbor. Wolcnu scriðað.

an old man is most wise,
made wise with years gone by, he who has experienced much.
Sorrow is wondrously clinging. Clouds glide on.

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7 Responses to Times and Seasons

  1. the unit says:

    In due time. Got a whole lot of CACA to flush first. Like the talkin’ head pundits on MSM alphabet networks. I.e. I just heard on CNN while walking through the TV room. “How can Trump govern when he disregards the truth.”
    Caca, again another word the https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/caca asks me “What made you want to look up caca? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).”
    I witnessed a lot of it Saturday all over the news. Wanted a nice synonym to use instead. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Quite so. Mostly I’m ignoring them, they screwed up the last decade, that’s enough. You’re Fired, so to speak. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • the unit says:

        May the axe fall on their heads, also so to speak. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. the unit says:

    Yep rejoice and be thankful for the seasons and with what they bring. Suppose Hillary had won in the fall of 2008 and won again in 2012. Then Obama is there to run in 2016. Who knows? Old Biden is still around to say “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” Biden said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” We could just be starting with Obama!

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      Indeed, we could be. Glad we did what we did then, I guess. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. For a while now I’ve been interested in the concept of cyclical (i.e seasonal) rather than linear time: it does make you see life in a different way. To put my lit-student hat on, if you liked these poems you will probably also like another famous Old English work, ‘The Wanderer’; it touches upon similar themes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • NEO says:

      I probably would, and will look it up. I grew up in a farming community and now live in one along with ranching. It’s completely different when you realize that calving season, planting, or harvest, are some of the most important things on the calendar. A much more human scale, somehow. And welcome. 🙂

      Like

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