Solomon and Saturn – Boiling Blood

The passage in Solomon and Saturn I where the Paternoster is used to heat the blood has received varying interpretations. Editors either read the passage as describing the effect of the prayer on the devil’s blood (Krapp & Dobbie, Anlezark) or on the blood of a wizard (Kemble). In this piece I suggest a reading where the blood being heated is that of the person reciting the prayer.

Relevant passage lines 43-48 (MS A)

1. Swylce ðu miht mid ðy beorhtan gebede         blod onhætan,
2. ðæs deofles dry,         þæt him dropan stigað,
3. swate geswiðed,         seofan intingum
4. egesfullicran         ðonne seo ærene gripu,
5. ðonne heo for XII fyra         tydernessum
6. ofer gleda gripe         gifrust wealleð.

For completeness, the variant readings in MS B are:

2. ðæs deofles dream,         þæt him dropan stigað,
3. swate geswiðed,         sefan intingan
4. egesfullicra         ðonne seo ærene gripu,

These variant readings have been assessed and I have resolved to ignore them. Dream makes no sense, and sefan intingan (a matter of the mind) is not sufficiently strong an image for the context. In no case do they offer a simpler reading and the B MS is much later and less reliable than MS A.

Below is a translation of the lines from MS A. As can be seen, there are three possibilities for line 2, giving 3 different objects for the heating effects of the prayer.

1: So you might with the bright prayer heat the blood
– gore( or dross) of the devil so that in him (him = devil) drops rise (requires amendment dry to dreor, or dros)
(NB: can’t use dry = drige here because if the devil’s blood is dry, not just dry of something, the drops won’t rise.)
– of the devil’s wizard (dry = dat.) so that in him (him = wizard) drops rise
– dry (dry for drige, neut. acc.) (i.e. his own blood) of the devil (remove the devil from the blood) so that its (him = blood) drops rise. (blod drige onhætan takes genitive of separation or want)
3: made more potent (i.e. rising drops) by sweat  and the seven petitions (i.e. of the PN)
4:  more terrible (i.e. rising drops) than the brass cauldron
5:  when it for 12 generations of men
6:  above the grip of flames most greedily boils

There are 3 scenarios, according to whose blood is being heated.

A. Devil’s blood:

1: So you might with the bright prayer heat the blood,
2: the devil’s gore, so that in him (devil) the drops (of blood) rise

B. Saturn’s own blood:

1: So you might with the bright prayer heat the blood (Saturn’s)
2: dry (i.e. blood) of the devil so that its (blood) drops rise

C. Wizard’s blood:

1: So you might with the bright prayer heat the blood
2: of the devil’s sorcerer (dry = dat.) so that in him (sorceror) drops (of blood) rise

Although plausible, scenario A can be rejected on the grounds that it requires departure from the MS by substitution of a word (dreor or dros for dry).

Scenario C has the advantage of using the exact word and spelling in MS A. However the sudden introduction of a wizard here seems incongruous.

Scenario B requires only a minor spelling assumption (dry = drige). Moreover, it has the advantage of fitting with the subsequent question asked by Saturn, which refer to purification of the spirit by heat and Saturn’s burning, welling enthusiasm for learning.

    Ac hulic is se organ         ingemyndum
    to begonganne         ðam ðe his gast wile
    meltan wið morðre,         mergan of sorge,
    asceadan of scyldum?         Huru him scippend geaf
    wuldorlicne wlite.         Mec ðæs on worolde full oft
    fyrwit frineð,         fus gewiteð,
    mod gemengeð.         Nænig manna wat,
    hæleða under hefenum,         hu min hige dreogeð, (dreoseð)
    bysig æfter bocum;         hwilum me bryne stigeð,
    hige heortan neah         hædre* wealleð.

The parallels are indeed striking. For this reason, it is more probable that the blood being heated is Saturn’s. (* See ‘Postscript on hædre’ below)

Suggested Translation:

So you might with the bright prayer boil the devil from your blood so that its drops rise, forced by sweat and by the seven petitions of the PN, bubbling more terribly than the brass cauldron which for 12 generations of men boils greedily above the grasping flames.

Postscript on hædre:

Manuscript A has hædre, MS B has hearde. Hædre (also hadre) normally means ‘clearly’, ‘brightly’ – it comes from hador, which is German heiter. Hearde means ‘hard’ (adv).

The only other occurrence of this word is in the phrase hædre gehogode from Resignation l. 63 (Exeter Book).

                           geoca þonne,
mihtig dryhten,      minre sawle,
gefreoþa hyre ond gefeorma hy,      fæder moncynnes,
hædre gehogode,      hæl, ece god,
meotod meahtum swiþ.

The meaning of this phrase is unclear. If gehogode is p. part, then by virtue of the -e ending it cannot qualify the preceding reference to God. The ending could be f. acc. sing. and, as hælan takes a direct object, hædre gehogode must refer to sawol. Because it needs to be healed or saved (hæl), it has been felt that the context requires hædre gehogode to have a negative meaning and it has been read ‘oppressed by anxious thoughts’ (B-T). But neither hogian nor gehycgan, which have gehogod as p. part., are semantically the sort of verb to have a passive p. part., only an active p. part. (mostly used in perfective constructions with ‘have’). So gehogode must mean something like ‘having intended’, ‘having planned’, ‘minded’. In this case, hædre might mean ‘brightly or clearly’, perhaps in the sense of ‘with clear intentions’. Alternatively, it can be read as the dative of the noun hador, ‘bright sky’, perhaps ‘heaven’, and the phrase as meaning ‘resolved on heaven’. Still rather obscure, I must say.

Daniel P. O’Donnell, in his excellent article “Hædre and hædre gehogode (Solomon and Saturn, Line 62B, and Resignation, Line 63A).” [N&Q 46 (1999), 312-16] makes a strong case against the meanings of ‘anxiously’, ‘oppressively’ ascribed to hædre in Resignation and Solomon and Saturn. Still he insists on prefering the Solomon and Saturn MS A reading of hædre, over MS B’s hearde because MS A is older and generally better. Up to this point I must agree with the man. The meaning of ‘brightly’ contested for by O’Donnell (“my mind wells brightly near the heart”) does not fit the meaning of hædre and does not work in the context of boiling. But is there another possible reading for hædre?

I recently obtained a copy of “Prognostics An Edition and Study of Texts from London, British Library, MS Cotton Tiberius A. iii”, Liuzzi ed., 2010 Brewer. This fascinating edition of Anglo-Saxon Prognostics, texts for predicting the future from dreams, events and dates, contains a significant sample of general non-poetic late O.E. vocabulary, mostly in the (semantically reliable) form of glosses. A significant number of these texts have not been previously published and so are not found in the Bosworth-Toller or Clarke Hall dictionaries. Checking Liuzzi’s glossary, I immediately noticed an entry hadlað for adlað ‘ails’. This supports a reading by Krapp and Dobbie of hadl for adl in Maxims I l. 117, in a passage I have previously examined. Interestingly enough, this is not the only example of h-insertion in the Prognostics texts. We find:

hadlað for adlað
hamacgað for amagiað
hærende for ærend
hearmas for earmas
heðhylde for eðhylde
hyfele for yfel

It seems that h-insertion may have been more common in O.E. than is apparent from the standard grammars. Accordingly I would propose that hædre in Solomon and Saturn I line 67 should be read as a variant of ædre, artery, German Ader.But how then is the sentence to be construed? If hædre is the subject of wealleð, where does that leave hige? It is best read as in apposition to bryne. Reading hædre as artery gives a much better sense:

                Nænig manna wat,
hæleða under hefenum,         hu min hige dreogeð,
bysig æfter bocum;         hwilum me bryne stigeð,
hige heortan neah         hædre wealleð.

Loosely translated:
”                         No man knows
No human under heaven,    how my head strains
Busy after books;       at times a burning rises in me
a feeling near the heart,     my bloodstream foams.”

Ah, now there was someone who really understood the thrill of scholarship!


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