Monday, August 16, 2010

We too should translate some books

From King Alfred's preface to his own Anglo-Saxon translation of Gregory's Pastoral Rule:
When I then called to mind all this, then I remembered how I saw, ere that all in them was laid waste and burnt up, how the churches throughout all the English race stood filled with treasures and books, and also a great multitude of God's servants, but they knew very little use of those books, for that they could not understand anything of them, for that they were not written in their own language, such as they, our elders, spoke, who erewhile held these places; they loved wisdom, and through that got wealth, and left it to us. Here men may yet see their path, but we know not how to tread in their footsteps, inasmuch as we have both lost that wealth and wisdom, for that we would not with our minds stoop to their tracks.

When I then called to mind all this, I then wondered greatly about those good and wise men that have been of old among the English race, and who had fully learned all the books, that they have not been willing to turn any part of them into their own language. But then I soon again answered myself and said, "They did not think that men would ever become so reckless, and that learning should fall off in such a way. Of set purpose, then, they let it alone, and wished that there should be more wisdom in this land the more languages we knew."

Then I remembered how the Law was first found in the Hebrew tongue, and again, when the Greeks learnt it, then they turned the whole of it into their own language, and also all the other books. And again the Latins also in the same way, when they had learned it, turned it all through wise interpreters into their own language, and likewise all other Christian nations have translated some part into their own speech. Wherefore I think it better, if it also appears so to you, that we too should translate some books, which are the most necessary for all men to understand - that we should turn these into that tongue which we all can know, and so bring it about, as we very easily may, with God's help, if we have rest, that all the youth that now is among the English race, of free men, that have property, so that they can apply themselves to these things, may be committed to others for the sake of instruction, so long as they have no power for any other employments, until the time that they may know well how to read English writing. Let men afterwards further teach them Latin, those whom they are willing further to teach, and whom they wish to advance to a higher state.

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