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

mandag 28. mai 2018

Time - a poem by Edward Kamau Brathwaite

This week is a busy week as the conference I have been organising for the past month is fast approaching, and there are countless little details to keep track of and to sort out in the few remaining days. In such a flurry of details and hours, it is good to be reminded of the bigger picture and to read Edward Kamau Brathwaite's poetry.


Time is the grey wood
streaked with grain
tears carve a trail down its grave pain

the eyes are in heaven
where the clouds are closed
darkness darkness darkness

breathes through the blind leaves
akee pods crack pollen explodes
the mango fruit falls with its wound

(Printed in Third World Poems, Longman, 1983)

søndag 27. mai 2018

The Dormitory - a poem by Derek Walcott

I have imbibed the poetry of Derek Walcott since my first year at university and I have read and re-read so many of his poems that they are embedded in me. But even after ten years of enthusiastic reading, there are still poems I haven't read, either because they are difficult to come by or because I am deliberately waiting so that I will still have things by him to read. Today I encountered one of Walcott's earliest poems, published in a collection titled Poems from 1957 and now out of print. The poem in question can be found in Glyn Maxwell's selection of Walcott's poetry, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux as The Poetry of Derek Walcott 1948-2013.

The Dormitory

Time is the guide that brings all to a crux,
Who hans his map will move
Out of the mere geology of books,
To see his valley's palm wrinkled with loves.

These sleep like islands, and I watch sleep lick
Their arms' flung promontories, remove
With individual erasure all their love
Of muscle. Now towards the sea there, I wlook

Where rippling signatures of water break
Over the sighing dormitories of
The drowned whom soft winds move,
Here these inquiet mouths like rivers speak.

Or from these boys, who in the uncertain luck
Of sleep, except to live,
The breath curls from their separated lips like
Mists of time that over valleys grieve.

torsdag 24. mai 2018

Working with liturgical manuscripts, part 11 - A sequence for the dispersion of the Apostles

Although I am no longer employed to work with liturgical manuscripts at the university library of University of Southern Denmark, I am nonetheless excited whenever I am alerted to a new find in the library's collection of old books. A few weeks back, my colleague Jakob Povl Holck sent me some pictures he had taken of a fragment he had just discovered, and I will share my research on these fragments with you. The pictures are all taken by Jakob, and I have his permission to reproduce these images here.

Syddansk Universitetsbibliotek, RARA K 246
Photo by Jakob Povl Holck

Syddansk Universitetsbibliotek, RARA K 246
Photo by Jakob Povl Holck

Syddansk Universitetsbibliotek, RARA K 246
Photo by Jakob Povl Holck

The fragment contains an incomplete sequence - performed during mass - for the feast of the dispersion of the apostles, Divisio Apostolorum, celebrated July 15 in commemoration of the apostles leaving Jerusalem to take up their missionary work. The earliest evidence for a celebration of this feast is a sequence composed by Godescalc (d.1098), a monk at Limburg. I do not know whether this sequence is the one found in the fragment of RARA K 246, however. The book containing this fragment was printed in Strasbourg in 1522, and so it is likely that the manuscript from which the fragment comes was kept at some ecclesiastical institution in Alsace.

The sequence found in this fragment is a long panegyric of the glory of God and a list of the apostles. In the fragment of RARA K 246, only a small part of this sequence has survived (the full text can be found here), and this contains the list of the apostles. I have transcribed the surviving text of the fragment, and this can be read here:

[uerbum] dei creature omni coram regibus [et] princibus. Sicut missit me pater et ego mitto uos in mundum estor[e] ergo prudentes sicut serpents est[ore ut columbe simplices]. H[inc petrus romam apostolorum princeps adiit Paulus greciam ubique docens gratiam ter quatuor hi proceres in plagis terre quatuor euangelisantes trinum et unum]. A[ndre]as iacobus uterque philippus ba[r]tholomeus. Symon tha[de]us io[ha]nnes thomas et matheus. Duodecim iudices non ab u[no sed in un]um diuisi per o[rbem] di[uisos in unum colligunt]

I have not yet had the time to translate this text or to write more carefully about it, but I hope to return to it in the near future.

fredag 18. mai 2018

Article - The North in the Latin History Writing of Twelfth-Century Norway

Earlier this week, I received a copy of my first printed, peer-reviewed article, titled The North in the Latin History Writing of Twelfth-Century Norway (available for download here). The article was published in the article collection Visions of North in Premodern Europe, edited by Dolly Jørgensen and Virginia Langum. The full table of content can be seen on the publisher's website. I was delighted to hold the physical copy in my hands and leaf through it to get a proper sense of the volume itself. I had seen the details of the book in the course of my correspondence with the editors, but being able to browse the physical book itself gave me a much better idea of how the volume worked, how the volume was organised, and how I as a reader might engage with it.

The book collects articles that engage with how various European cultures have engaged with the idea of north at different points in time, drawing on classical heritage, biblical typology, travelogues and various cultural encounters. My own article focussed on how history-writers of twelfth-century Norway described their own country in their efforts to record its history, and how these efforts relied on biblical and classical formulations of the north in an attempt to anchor Norway in the wider Christian history.

My then unopened copy, seconds before the plastic came off

I enjoyed writing the article, since I could combine several of my academic interests: History writing, identity construction, the cult of saints (because of the importance of Saint Olaf), and geographical descriptions. I was also very happy to hold the book two years after I submitted the first draft of my chapter, but I do not know when I will be able to read it. By the time I wrote the article, it contained the full extent of my knowledge on the subject, but a few months after it was submitted in an updated and improved form, I began writing my thesis chapter on Saint Olaf and the textual tradition of twelfth-century Norway. Since then I have learned many things that I would have included in the article if I were to rewrite it, and so my contribution to this wonderful volume is more of a work-in-progress article. Eventually, I hope I will be able to fill in the gaps through other publications, and until then I will enjoy reading the other articles of the book.