And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

tirsdag 31. mai 2011

Selections from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

At first the inhabitants of this island were Britons, who came from Armenia and first occupied southern Britain. Then it happened that the Picts came from the south, from Scythia, with a few warships, and landed first in North Ireland.
- Preface to manuscripts D, E and F of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

The first page of the Peterborough Chronicle, also known as the E manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.

One of my modules in York was named England in Europe - which I kept referring to as Europe after Rome, thanks to Julia Smith - and it was in many ways a splendid class. As a part of the curriculm we had the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a historical record found in several and sometimes contradictory manuscripts, that was begun in the reign of Alfred the Great (871-900 AD). Its original language is Old English and it chronicles the events of English/British history starting with Gaius Julius Caesar's defeat of the Britons in the year 60 BC.

The chronicle is a complicated set of documents, partly due to inconsistencies and conflicting biases between the manuscripts, but also because of the authors' anonymity. I found it a very rewarding read for several reasons, perhaps most of all for some of its prose which occasionally is terse, pregnant and beautifully concise, although not historically reliable. Below is a selection of excerpts from the various manuscript - imaginatively called A, B, C, D, E, F and G for brevity - all of which struck a chord in me one way or another. Sadly I don't have many photographs of my own which are relevant to the period in question, but unless stated otherwise the pictures are either mine or taken from wikimedia.

Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus

Then after Claudius Nero succeeded to the thone, who finally abandoned the island of Britain because of his sloth.
- Entry for the year 47 AD in the D and E manuscripts

In this year there was an eclipse of the sun on 16 February from daybreak until nine o'clock in the morning.
- Entry for the year 538 in the E manuscript

Natural phenomena were often taken as portents of good or evil that would ensue and occur frequently throughout the chronicle. However, the scribes rarely draw clear connections between the portents and subsequent events, but by juxtaposing occurrences such as comets or eclipses with bad harvests or Viking attacks, the reader is allowed to make his or her own conclusion thanks to beautiful displays of parataxis. An example of this is found below in the entry for 664.

Anglo-Saxon helmet displayed at Yorkshire Museum.

In this year Ceawlin and Cutha fought against the Britons at the place which is called Fethanleag, and Cutha was killed there; and Ceawlin captured many villages and countless spoils, and in anger returned to his own land.
- Entry for the year 584 in the E manuscripts

The above entry is a good example of the clear-cut, terse prose that describes the events in a tone seemingly void of any emotion, but pregnant with meaning and content which come alive in the reader's mind. In addition there is the tongue-in-cheek disdain heavily embedded in the final sentence.

In this year there was an eclipse of the sun, and Eorcenberht, king of the people of Kent, died.
- Excerpt from the entry for the year 664 in the C, A and B manuscripts

Replica of a bird figure from the Sutton Hoo excavation.

In this year there was the great mortality of birds.
- Entry for the year 671 in the C, A, B and E manuscripts

This particular passage has fascinated me ever since I came across it. I suspect it may be a case similar to that of January this year, when dead birds fell to the ground in Louisiana, Arkansas and Sweden. I seem to recall that this stirred up minor occurrences of apocalyptic paranoia in some places, and I can't help wondering what impact a sight like this would have had on the people of 7th century England.

In this year the star called comet appeared; and Bishop Wilfrid was driven from his bishopric by King Ecgfrith.
- Entry for the year 678 in the C, A and B manuscripts

Abbess Hilda and King David as represented on a commemorative cross in the cemetery of St. Mary's Church, Whitby.

In this year Archbishop Theodore presided over a synod in Hatfield, because he wished to correct the faith in Christ; and the same year the Abbess Hilda died.
- Entry for the year 680 in the C, A, B and E manuscripts

Those of you who have read this blog more or less attentively will perhaps recongise Abbess Hilda from my blogposts on Whitby. She was evidently a very important figure, since few women apart queens or widow queens are mentioned in the Chronicle.

In this year there occurred in Britain bloody rain, and milk and butter were turned to blood.
- Entry for the year 685 in the F manuscript

Yes, I do have a certain fascination for the apocalyptic, especially when found in a Medieval milieu which adds extra social and religious dimensions to the horrid portents. The chronicle Annales Cambrenses, by the way, records this to have happened in 689 rather than in 685.

This church vessel was among the items of the archaeological find called the York Viking hoard. It was probably looted from a church by a Viking, or buried by a cleric to hide it from Viking invaders. It is now on display in Yorkshire Museum.

In this year Æthelbald occupied Somerton, and there was an eclipse of the sun.
- Entry for the year 733 in the C, A, B, E and D manuscripts

Much in the same vein as portents described above, yet with a slight reversal of the parataxis, either because the events are recorded to have happened in that chronological order, or maybe to blame Æthelbald for the eclipse. I also have a particular appreciation of an elaboration found in the F manuscript: "and all the circle of the sun became like a black shield." 
Durham Cathedral, where the remains of Bede are now buried.

In this year the moon looked as if it were suffused with blood, and Tatwine and Bede died.
- Entry for the year 734 in the C, A, B, E and D manuscripts

This entry is included mainly for the sake of Bede, whose tomb can be found in the Lady Chapel of Durham Cathedral and who was the hero of 12th century historian William of Malmesbury. In York I purchased his Ecclesiastical History of the English People and I hope it will not be too long until I can devote enough time to read it. His death, however, more likely occurred in 735 rather than in 734.

St. Mary Bishophill Junior, York. This tower is Anglo-Saxon and, if I remember correctly, the oldest remaining ecclesiastical structure in York, which in Anglo-Saxon times was named Eoforwick.

In this year York was burnt down.
- Entry for the year 741 in the D and E manuscripts

Anglo-Saxon bowl from c. 750, currently on display in Yorkshire Museum.

In this year occurred the great winter.
- Entry for the year 762 in the C manuscript, while the A, D, E and F manuscripts record this to have happened in 761. The scholarly edition sets it to 763

In this year a red cross appeared in the sky after sunset. And that year the Mercians and the people and the people of Kent fought at Otford. And marvellous adders were seen in Sussex.
- Entry for the year 774 in the C, D, E, F and G manuscripts, while the A manuscript records this to have occurred in 773. The year in the scholarly edition sets it to 776.

Such constantinian visions as crosses in the sky are reported to have happened later on as well, as was the case in 806 when, according to the F manuscript, "the sign of the cross was revealed in the moon".

If you look closely you may discern two adders intertwined on this Anglo Saxon nose flap. I find that quite marvellous.

Ruins of Lindisfarne Abbey.

In this year dire portents appeared over Northumbria and sorely frightened the people. They consisted of immense whirlwinds and flashes of lightning, and fiery dragons were seen flying in the air. A great famine immediately followed those signs, and a little after that in the same year, on 8 June, the ravages of heathen men miserably destoryed God's church on Lindisfarne, with plunder and slaughter. And Sicga died on 22 February.
- Entry for the year 793 in the D and E manuscripts

I include this entry primarily for the portents. It is the first time I have encountered dragons in the Chronicle, although invaders labelled Northmen are mentioned in several manuscripts already in 789. These Northmen are called Danish in the C and A manuscripts, whereas manuscripts D, E and F record that the heathens came from Hörthaland in Norway. Some people may find that slightly arousing, I don't. 
Part of the archaeological find named the York Viking hoard, a treasure unearthed a couple of years ago. Treasures like this were often buried to keep them away from the Vikings, or buried by Vikings to keep them away from other Vikings. The date of this hoard is set to 927/928 due to a coin with an inscription pertaining to king Athelstan of Wessex's claim to kingship of Britain in its entirety.

Brihtric had helped Offa because he had married his daughter.
- Excerpt from the entry for the year 839 in the C and A manuscripts

I decided to include this excerpt in order to illustrate what roles Anglo Saxon women could play in English politics, namely as manifestations of alliances. As stated above, women rarely feature in the Chronicle and when they do it is often as pawns in the game of Anglo Saxon politics. It should also be noted that the Offa mentioned above is not the famous Mercian king, he lived in the 8th century.

And the same year after Easter, at the Rogation days or before, there appeared the star which is called in Latin cometa. Some men say that it is in English the long-haired star, for there shines a long ray from it, sometimes on one side, sometimes on every side.
- Entry for the year 892 in the A manuscript

I find the above section very poetic in its terse brevity, and may very well be my favourite description of a comet I've ever come across in the Chronicle.

That same year a bloody cloud was often seen in the likeness of fire, and especially it was revealed at midnight, and it was formed in various shafts of light. When day was about to dawn, it disappeared.
- Entry for the year 979 in the C manuscript

These coins are from the York Viking hoard and come from Afghanistan and Samarkand.

And in this same year the sester of wheat rose to 55 pence, and even higher.
- Excerpt from the entry for the year 1040 in the E and F manuscripts

(...) and Leofgar who was Harold's priest was appointed bishop, and in his priesthood he had his moustaches until he was a bishop.
- Excerpt from the entry for the year 1056 in the D manuscript

I particularly like this brief glimpse into the world of ecclesiastical fashion. The scribe includes this detail clearly out of derision for Leofgar's vanity and unclerical behaviour, and for anyone interested in the mentalities of bygone ages this is gold.

In this year Earl Ælfgar was banished but he got back by violence forthwith through Griffith's help. And a naval force came from Norway. It is tedious to relate fully how things went.
- Entry for the year 1058 in the D manuscript

It appears scribes can sometimes be quite fed up with their work.

This year the king led an army into Wales and there liberated many hundreds of men.
- Entry for the year 1081 in the E manuscript

I wonder whether the Welsh were equally enthusiastic

William the Bastard, liberator of...gas?

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle draws on numerous historical works, ranging from monastery annals to solo-projects like Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People. The entries naturally vary greatly since this is a joint venture, and since it is written over a period of roughly 250 years. Although exaggerated at some points and frustatingly brief at others, it remains our key literary source to the late Anglo-Saxon period and the early Norman age.

søndag 22. mai 2011

London Letters - The Mystic Nativity

Already long before I came to England I had decided to spend some time in London, experience several of its cultural attractions and catching up with a friend of mine. However, as my stay in England hurried to its close I realised that rather than meandering the many sites of London, it would be a better use of my time to hang out with my friends in York until the very end. Of course, since I'm writing my master's dissertation on an office dedicated to Edward the Confessor, I felt compelled to at least visit his grave in Westminster Cathedral. An equally strong incentive was the National Gallery's collection of art by Sandro Botticelli, one of my favourite artists of all times. I knew, therefore, I could not omit London in my itinerary, but I decided to spend only one night in the city rather than the weekend I had envisioned in the planning.

I arrived in London at around noon Thursday March 24 and caught up with my friend who's studying Latin at King's College. We met at the foot of Nelson's column and went to the National Gallery, where we meandered the various exihibiton halls for about an hour or two, focussing on the Medieval and Renaissance works of art. There is a tremendous amount of treasures to admire in the National Gallery, and to me it was a true delight to behold masterpiece after masterpiece of historical craftsmanship. Some works I knew I would come across, others I discovered by chance, and I was very pleased to find several works of Andrea Mantegna (1430/1-1506) whose art I have come to admire more and more.

 The National Gallery.

For me the main attraction was Botticelli's The Mystic Nativity, a painting that has enchanted me ever since I came across it in a book last autumn. The painting dates from 1500/01 and contains rather unusual iconography for a nativity, particularly because it deals not only with the birth of Christ but anticipates also the Second Coming of Christ. This anticipation is most evident in the writing at the top of the painting, which speaks of the troubles in Italy and awaits the time when the Devil will be chained as foretold by Saint John in the Revelation. 

"The troubles in Italy" refers to the time of civil unrest following the expulsion of the Medici family from Florence. During the 1490s the Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola had gained control over the city and established something strongly reminiscent of a theocratic dictatorship. Savonarola was reportedly a very charismatic figure and greatly influenced Botticelli, an influence that can be seen in The Mystic Nativity due its several allusions to a sermon by Savonarola. Since this is the only painting Botticelli ever signed it must have had a particular significance for him. It is likely to presume that the apocalyptic mood of the 1490s and Savonarola's execution in 1498 still affected him greatly when the painting was composed. 

 The burning of Savonarola. Contemporary painting by an unknown artist. 

The Norwegian historian of ideas Trond Berg Eriksen exhibits a disturbing schadenfreude in his book Veien til Toscana (the Road to Tuscany), where he commends the Florentines for their perfect irony when burning the, already hanged, friar in Piazza della Signoria where his bonfire of vanities had taken place the year before. Eriksen also comments that Savonarola destroyed Botticelli who was such a lover of art and women. This may of course very well be true on a psychological level. It is beyond doubt that Savonarola's rule was a very hard rule, the rule of an iconoclast who preached penitence and impending apocalypse, and this can disrupt the minds of the best among us. Personally, however, I find Eriksen's singularly negative portrayal of Savonarola's influences to be narrow-minded at best, especially since it is evident from this painting that Botticelli's art did not diminish, but changed direction dramatically. I do not wish to commend Savonarola, nor do I seek to condemn him, but I do think that he responded to certain contemporary anxieties by which he must be understood and, to a certain degree, respected. 

 Girolamo Savonarola. Painting by Fra Bartolomeo, c. 1498.

It may of course be that I am positively biased towards Savonarola because I have a particular affection for the Mystic Nativity, or perhaps because as a Christian I acknowledge his virtues if not his methods and ideas. It may also be that I like the painting due to its apocalyptic foreshadowing that seems almost to yearn the liberation from mortal bondage and the union with God at the Second Coming. The Mystic Nativity illustrates the victory of life over death, God's conquest of demons and the heavenly concord so conspicuously absent in that troublesome era of Florentine history.

The Mystic Nativity resonates in me for various reasons; I can't discern them all and I don't know which reason is the most important. I would, however, like to think that what I appreciate the most is its message of hope for the righteous and salvation for mankind. I became particularly consumed by the painting around Christmas, suitably enough, and wrote a short poem on the subject. Being the constant exhibitionist I would like to share this poem with you. It is mainly a response to Botticelli's portrayal of the vanquished demons, pointing out that although Death no longer held sway over mankind, evil was still to be found even after the birth of Christ, a point that Botticelli probably acknowledged to be true of his own day and age.

Mystic Nativity

After Botticelli

So with an alleluia men and angels
Unite in an embrace to celebrate
The Word succumbed to substance, flesh of light
Born of a virgin to redeem this world, Selah!
Praise! Day of Jubilee and victory of Life,
Dance in effulgent splendour to adore
The little child upon whose fragile shoulders
Death pauses for a while and then retires,
Too old and soon defeated.
                                                  Yet the demons
Hides in the cracks of earth to shun the splendour,
Plucks darkness by its root to deck their visage
Whispering "we are not yet defeated."
- December 24-25 2010

søndag 15. mai 2011

Land of the Ammonites

Howbeit for all this he obtained not the principality, but at the last received shame for the reward of his treason, and fled again into the country of the Ammonites.
- 2. Maccabees 5:7

The Horn of Ammon, which is among the most sacred stones of Ethiopia, has a golden yellow colour and is shaped like a ram's horn. The stone is guaranteed to ensure without fail dreams that will come true.
- Natural History, Pliny the Elder

Were the beautiful volute and cone shells of the Eocene epoch, and the gracefully sculptured ammonites of the Secondary period, created that man might afterwards admire them in his cabinet? 
- The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin

As a part of the CMS excursion to Whitby in January we visited Whitby Museum, a charming and charmingly eclectic display of articles and items, covering the fields of natural history, Medieval history, modern history and what may be termed colonial history, all of which are on display in the main hall of the museum. It was a great delight to more or less randomly meander the various shelves and sections, and whenever the museum personnel noticed my interest in something particular, they would lecture me on the subject. It was in this way I learned a great deal about ammonites.

The coastline of Yorkshire is famous for its many fossils. It was due to the increasing amount of fossil discoveries caused by the alum mining of the early 19th century that local intellectuals decided to found the Whitby Literary & Philosophical Society in 1823, the main purpose being to establish a museum for the numerous finds.

into the country of the Ammonites.
- 2. Maccabees 5:7

I had previously never been exposed to large quantities of fossils in real life, so I became quite intrigued by the many beautiful specimens displayed in the museum. One of the museum guards perceived my interest and started lecturing me on the history of ammonites, a species found in great quantities in the Whitby area. As he told me how the ammonite shell was constructed and showed me how the ammonite had evolved through aeons and how their age could be established, I was immensely awestruck, first of all as a Christian, to behold the minute intricacies of Creation presented before me. Until then I had had only a vague interest in fossils, considering them fascinating yet not compelling to such an extent that I would give it a lot of thought, but all this changed as I learned about the ammonites and their history. To me it was a deeply religious and humbling experience to witness the complexity of primordial life, and this added another dimension to my appreciation of fossils.

When we were about to leave I rummaged through the souvenir shop and came upon a selection of ammonite fossils available for purchase. I was very excited to discover this, picked one I considered pretty and brought it to the counter. Fortunately it was the museum guard who had lectured me on ammonites who was behind the counter, and when he saw I wanted to buy an ammonite fossil he said he'd find an even prettier one. So he went into the backroom and returned with a box of nearly pristine ammonites of which I could pick the one I found to be the prettiest. I decided on one, paid the 3 pounds and left the Museum in many ways vastly richer than when I had entered.

Photographs taken by Ragnhild Birkeland.

The discovery of fossils is not solely a modern occurrence in Whitby. In the Middle Ages these petrified coils were found on the sea-shore, but naturally interpreted according to the worldview of the Medieval mind and given a legendary genesis that would explain their existence in plausible terms. Consequently there arose a legend claiming that Hilda, the founding abbess of Whitby Abbey in the 7th century, gathered the numerous serpents found on the site of the abbey and tossed them from the clifftop into the ocean, a story similar to that of St. Patrick and the expulsion of snakes from Ireland. In the process the serpents petrified and lost their heads, and the fossils of ammonites were therefore dubbed snakestones. Later, curiosity dealers used to carve serpent heads into the fossils in order to purvey these to credulous customers, hence the name Whitby snakestones. Snakestones, it is said, were used as charms agains snakebites, and three snakestones are found in the Whitby Town Arms.

How of a thousand snakes each one
Was changed into a coil of stone
When holy Hilda prayed.
- Marmion. A Tale of Flooden Field, Sir Walter Scott

Picture is taken from the Whitby Museum website

Picture taken from

The name "ammonite" derives from the fossils' similarity in shape to the coiled horns of the Egyptian god Ammon, as noted by the Roman natural historian Pliny the Elder (23-79 AD), and has no etymological connection to the Ammonite nation found in the Old Testament. Ammonites were squid-like carnivores harrowing the Mezosoic seas some 240 million years ago and onwards to their extinction, together with the dinosaurs, at the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. Due to their long duration they are considered one of the most successful species of world history. Among their living relatives are included the nautilus, whose shell is divided into chambers in the same manner as the ammonites. Also, like the ammonites, the nautuli lives only in the outermost chamber. Below is the shell of a nautilus exhibited in the Yorkshire Museum.

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sail the unshadowed main,--
The venturous bark that flings
On the sweet summer wind its purpled wings
In gulfs enchanted, where the Siren sings,
And coral reefs lie bare,
Where the cold sea-maids rise to sun their streaming hair.
- The Chambered Nautilus, Oliver Wendell Holmes

The Yorkshire Museum also has a nice selection of ammonites, along with other fossils, but not nearly as extensive as that of Whitby Museum. However, I enjoyed spending time in the fossil section there too, and on one occasion I remembered to take pictures, something I sadly forgot when in Whitby. 

Sign showing the entrance to the geology room at Yorkshire Museum. 

The dead body of an animal, particularly a shelly one like an ammonite, acts as a nucleus around which lime and other rock forming minerals tend to accumulate.
- Life Stories, David Attenborough

Modern rendition of an ammonite. The tube-shaped implement close to its shell is called a siphuncle and served as an air-pump that helped them move through the water.

As a consequence of this new-found fascination I began to discover ammonite shapes and forms in everyday surroundings. Whenever I stood on the top of the stairs in the Constantine annex I would see that its winding route strongly resembled the coiling features of the ammonite. It may also have been this tendency of noticing ammonite shapes that caught my attention in the bookshop at Durham cathedral, where I bought Alister McGrath's splendid book Why God won't go away, which, despite not mentioning neither nautili nor ammonites, has a cross section of a nautilus shell on its cover. I'm heartily glad for it, since the book is an excellent read. 

The Plenteous Ouse, pt. 2

When she's walking by the river and the railway line
She can still hear him whisper
Let's go down to the waterline
- Down to the Waterline, Dire Straits

He whispered "and a river lies
Between the dusk and dawning skies."
- The Anubis Gates, Tim Powers

To me there is something superbly and profoundly poetic about the reflection of the sun on water, especially when the sun is in descent or in ascent. The pictures below were taken in February when on my way back home I became aware of how magnificently beautiful the sunset glowed in the west. Sadly my camera is not of very high quality, and I have not yet familiarised myself fully with its sundry intricacies, so the photographs became rather blurry. Also, the camera rarely managed to reproduce the colours in their right shades, often rendering them more darker than what actually was the case, often substituting the blue tints with purple ones. However, although they are but imperfect replicas of reality, I trust that the colours and shades will prove pleasing to the eye and transmit at least a morsel of my feelings as I stood Lendal Bridge with the river reflecting the dying sun in a tender valediction.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark
- Crossing the Bar, Alfred Lord Tennyson

My pictures blacken in their frames
As night comes on
- Death of the Day, Walter Savage Landor

The Sunne that measures heauen all day long,
At night doth baite his steedes the Ocean waues emong.
- The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser

Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!
- The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe

Into that ominous tract which, all agree, 
Hides the Dark Tower. 
- Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came, Robert Browning

As stated in my previous blogpost I did, to my own disappointment, not venture far down the Ouse. The bridge seen in some pictures below is a pedestrian bridge found at the end of Marygate, and a few hundred metres further down is a railway bridge. I was told there were forests down there, beyond the railway line, and it was a constant ambition of mine to explore the area, to seek out that forest and finally experience some British woodland which York, despite its many glories, is sorely lacking. The ambition remains, however, as it was never consummated. 

When she's walking by the river and the railway line
She can still hear him whisper
Let's go down to the waterline
- Down to the Waterline, Dire Straits

The swans of Britain are the property of the queen and it is therefore illegal to kill any of them. Despite this, or perhaps precisely because of this, the headlines of British newspaper for a short period presented the public with the killings of swans performed by a sniper. I do not recall what became the end of it, but I'm heartily glad the swan shooter did not decimate the swans of the Ouse. I passed them on several occasions and I took delight in their grace and beauty, features often augmented when compared to the more boisterous geese.

into waters, which receive him gently
and which, as though with reverence and joy,
draw back past him in streams on either side;
while, infintely silent and aware,
in his full majesty and ever more
indifferent, he condescends to glide.
- The Swan, Rainer Maria Rilke (transl. by Stephen Mitchell)

"I am all that is and was and shall be,
My garment may no man put by."
-The Swan, Jay MacPherson

The Swan, with arched neck
Between her white wings mantling proudly, rows
Her state with oary feet.
- Paradise Lost, John Milton

Yet another thing I regret. I imagine the boat trips on the Ouse to be a splendid way of getting to know York from a certain perspective, but I never got around to taking a trip. This must be done next time. 

The river rolls away in the night
- Single-handed Sailor, Dire Straits

Richard Burton claimed in his Anatomy of Melancholy that "all our geese are swans." How I wish that was true.

But I see what it is, you are not from these parts, you don't know what our twilights can do. Shall I tell you?
- Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett

 At last about the setting of the Sunne,
Him selfe out of the forest did he wynd
- The Faerie Queene, Edmund Spenser

(...) and twilight, with the patience of alchemy, almost transmutes despair into virtue.
- What the Twilight Says, Derek Walcott

The following pictures were taken on my return from London and I remember being extremely pleased to the see the calm and gentle Ouse again after the big city life of the capital. This was, of course, partly due to the fact that I was familiar with this stretch of the Ouse, but I've never been a city-boy and it was therefore a nice transition to be met by these swans on my return to York. 

The swan on still St. Mary's Lake
Float double, swan and shadow!
- Yarrow Unvisited, William Wordsworth

With that I saw two Swannes of goodly hewe, 
Come softly swimming downe along the Lee;
Two fairer Birds I yet did neuer see:
The snow which doth the top of Pindus strew,
Did neuer whiter shew
- Prothalamion, Edmund Spenser