Look on my works

11 February, 2023

A few years ago I read Ivanhoe and, as intended, ended up suitably grumpy at the French and felt sorry for the Saxons.

Last weekend some roadworks forced me to drive through Cricklade for the first time. Cricklade was founded in 878 by the Saxons, and its church is dedicated to Samson of Dol, one of the Seven Founder Saints of Brittany.

One of the other notable British missionaries to Brittany was Gildas, who died in about 570, and who wrote the frankly wonderful De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (“On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain”) – an excoriation of the kings and priests who failed to stand up to the Saxons when they invaded and allowed the country to fall into what he considered ruin when the culture of Sub-Roman Britain was overthrown. The following is from a 19th century translation:

>KINGS Britain has, but they are as her tyrants: she has judges, but they are ungodly men: engaged in frequent plunder and disturbance, but of harmless men: avenging and defending, yea for the benefit of criminals and robbers. They have numerous wives, though harlots and adulterous women: they swear but by way of forswearing, making vows yet almost immediately use falsehood. They make wars, but the wars they undertake are civil and unjust ones. They certainly pursue thieves industriously throughout the country, whilst those thieves who sit with them at table, they not only esteem but even remunerate.

I keep thinking about how genuinely upset GIldas must have been to have written these screeds against the immorality of the country’s leaders. I guess nothing really changes.

See other posts tagged with general and all posts made in February 2023.