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An Interview with the Mumble

Poetry


Damian Beeson Bullen’s definitive 2019 collection has been described as ‘The Sgt. Pepper’s of Poetry.’


Me - Profile (2).jpgHello Damo, so when did you realise you were a poet?
My first poetical moment came when I was like 7 or 8 – there was a poetry competition at Lowerhouse Junior school in Burnley. I won I think, & the opening couplet I still remember; ‘The river flowing by is often wide & high.’ Roll on a few years & I won a Christmas story competition at Gawthorpe high school – it was the story of a leaping being who turned out to be a snowflake. There was no technical poetics, but it was a visionary metaphorical piece. A few years later I was studying music in Barnsley Music College, & it was there one night while reading through William Butler Years that I realised I was actually a poet. I quit college soon after & set off for the English South Coast with a guitar & a yellow suitcase full of poetry books.

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What are your thoughts on the poetic art itself?
There’s a passage in Plato’s Euthyphro which always piqued my interest, I really feel it defines what the poetic art is all about. ‘He (Daedalus) only made his own products mobile, while I apparently make other people’s mobile as well as my own.’ This ‘mobility’ is what makes the magical energy of the best poetry fly on the wings of inspiration into the poems of others. To my mind, poetry works on two levels, basically the local ‘zeitgeist’ & then the eternal tradition. If you look back to the 18th century, English poetry was essentially rhyming couplets in iambic pentameter. In the same way, some modern poetry editors wont even look at rhyming poetry – according to them we dwell very much the age of free verse. But like the fashion for the Georgian couplet became a busted flush during the Romantic period, free verse is also only a fashion & will inevtibaly be superceded at some point by something else. To be honest, this proliferation of Free Verse masks the fact that there are a lot of poets out there claim to be poets, but don’t really know anything about the craft. I find technique extremely important. I’m always trying to be a complete poet & I’ve realised I have to be serious about studying & experimenting with form – including free verse, of course, which I think is just a small piece in a big jigsaw.

What do you think is the poet’s role & do you identify with it?
Good question. Well, the poet has always been a teacher, but also an entertainer. I like the blend myself, keeps things interesting. A poet should also be connecting with their readers/listeners on two levels; inviting them to think is the intellectual, & inviting them to feel intuitively is the spiritual. The latter is the seer element to poetry, what the Romans called the Vates. Some say poets are merely the human receptacles of divine inspiration, & there’s probably some truth in that. As Horace says in his Ars Poetica, ‘It is not enough for poetry to be beautiful; it must also be pleasing & lead the hear’s mind where it will.’ I also love Phillip Sydney’s, ‘this purifying of wit, this enritching of memory, enabling of judgementy, & enlarging of conceyt, which commonly we call learning, under what name soever it com forth, or to what immediat end soever it be directed, the final end is to lead & draw us to as high a perfection as our degenerate soules, made worse by theyr clayeye lodgings, can be capable of.’

What is it about composing poetry you love the most?
Its difficult to explain. Its part validation, part duty, part pleasure – there’s nothing like exercising the mind. I also do most of my formal composition, lets say, out in the fields, up in the hills, walking with notebook, paper & my thoughts. There is also nothing like the feeling of knowing you’ve just written a poem which contains the pure juice of Parnassus – you can just tell when it happens. As an artist, I am fascinated with the prosodic elements of poetry – the Welsh call it cynghanned, & its not called composition for nothing. You’ve got to create a symphony in the mind. I do love my music & poetry is, to me, an instrument as important as my bass guitar.

Can you tell us about Completely Novel?
Completely Novel is a brilliant way to circumvent the cliquey world of publishing. They are a fabulous self-publishing service who facilitate print-on demand copies being sent anywhere in the world at a few clicks of a button. I pay a wee hosting fee every much – its not much at all – & get to publish ten books, all with shiny ISBN numbers. Its brilliant. They’re really nice folk to work with too. There’s nothing to stop me ordering as many books as I want, as well, to sell independently or through bookstores.

You have just released a collection of poetry through Completely Novel called MUSICALS. How did you choose the poems to be included?
I selected the poems from 20 years of composition. Some, especially the sonnets, are just as they were composed originally. Others can be quite edited-down versions of longer epyllia. The poem about Pendle Hill, for example, is about 5 percent of the full piece – it contains the quintessence of my inspirations ,if you will. Over the years I’ve always had moments of editorial, when I’d look at my all work in the bank, & see where my new compositions fitted in to the overall scheme. Its a bit like a crawling snake – the ancient symbol for wisdom by the way –  after every pulse forward it pauses & half recedes, & from the retrogressive movement collects the force which again carries it forward. With Musicals I think I’ve finally reached my destination, or at least a place to hang out for a while, promote the book, do some readings & stuff, maybe even some slams. It’s been over a decade since I performed my poetry in public.

Are there any unifying themes?
There sure are. Poetry is about bringing all of its constituent parts into harmony. With Musicals the same principles apply, & the book is flush with harmonizing forms & themes. At its core the text is an autobiographical journey across the world. I’ve also got a nice sub-plot with a romantic interest called ‘Rosie’ – its a Stone Roses thing, big fan. She’s actually an amalgamation of a number of ‘love poems’ what I’ve written over the years. The lady I’m with now, however, provided most of these – she’s my proper soul-mate, like, my muse. As for the title, of course we have the ‘muse’ embedded in the name, but I also feel like each of the chapters is a bit like a musical – a combination of narrative, drama & lyricisim.

You have put Musicals online for anyone to read – what’s all that about?
Well, Lord Byron said a true gentleman shouldn’t make any money from writing. He did make a fortune the sale of Newstead Abbey, though, enough to fund an army in the Greek War of Independence, so he would say that. The idea is essentially they same, tho, anyone can read my work online – but, if I sell copies that’s a bonus. I am not alone in appreciating the true beauty of proper books is their tactility – so I’m catering for both worlds here, the modern internet-haunter & the traditional lover of the page. You’ve also gotta go with the times, & my online versions will eventually all have youtube videos of me reading the poetry. Another bonus to doing it online is that I can make corrections & improvements at any point. My plan is to release fresh editions of the book by uploading a new file & replacing the old one – its quite a simple process really. So in 2020 there will most probably by a second edition of Musicals.

Musicals has been described as ‘the Sgt. Pepper’s of poetry,’ why is that?
Well, I think it’s the mixture of form & content. With Pepper’s you have English country garden vibes, Indian mysticism, proper rock & Roll, all complemented by a wide variety of instruments & musicianship. In a similar war Musicals expresses political terza rima, transcreations of Tamil love paeans, reworkings of English folk songs, free verse sonnets, French sonnets composed in Italian – I could go on. There’s loads of influences in there, its packed.

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What other titles have you released?
Musicals is the ninth book in what I call the Pendragon Collection. A few years ago I kinda realised I had actually embark’d on something like the classical bardic training as described by Julius Ceasar. This passage I basically took to heart & soul & it became my mantra; ‘In their schools they are said to learn by heart an extraordinary number of lines, and in sometimes to remain under instruction for as many as twenty years.’ I started to take the poetic vocation seriously in in 1997/98 – I was 21 years old at the time – so as my own twenty years of training began to climax, I thought it prudent to draw a line in the sand of my studies. The final collection has 9 titles, of course; alongside Musicals there are another five collections of poetry, including my main epic, Axis & Allies, which I pretty much worked on during the full twenty years.

The vast majority of poems in the Musicals collection are taken from these five volumes, excepting Axis & Allies – essentially, this epic is for posterity, but Musicals for the now. The Pendragon Collection also includes essays on poetry, personal epistles telling the stories of my adventures, & the final volume of the nine, which I’ll be re-releasing later this year, an assemblage of historical studies called The Chisper Effect.

So what have people to expect from Musicals?
Well for a start its the very best of my very best work, & that means colour. I try & put a lot of colour in my poetry – so much modern stuff is like a twilight sky of opalescent grey! There’s also the travelling element – people get to go to Italy, Greece, India, America & even beautiful Burnley. I enjoy poems of place, Byron’s Childe Harold & Wordsworth’s Tours of Europe for example, so it was natural that I’d create something similar. Along the way its a composite blend of all the ‘Ms’ – theres a mixture of music, moods, moulds (ie forms) & measures Just as a poem’s form can be divided into MEASURE & MOULD, so a poet’s voice is divided into two composite halves; the MOOD & the MUSIC. The Mood can be defined as a trance which envelops the poet as they compose their piece. The Music is the pure artifice of linguistic creation as the poets translate their Mood into words. Understanding such a pretext, the order of poetical creation is as this; Mood (then) Music (then) Measure (then) Mould.

What is the poetical future of Damian Beeson Bullen?
Well, I’ve just set up a youtube channel into which I’m going to pour as much poetry knowledge as possible (subscribe here). At some point I’ll be filming me reading every poem from Musicals, which I’ll put on the channel… mult-media presentation of the material & all that. Compositionwise, I’m just coming towards the end of the American Epic – Stars & Stripes. I’ve been composing it since September 2017, & as of the 20th March 2019 I’ve got about 25 stanzas left out of 245. Its funny being a Burnley boy writing the American Epic. But no-one else has done was or was doing it – I guess there’s not many epic poets about these days. Anyways, my lady is American & directly descended from a colonel who fought with George Washington against the British. That was the catalysts & I’ve produced some good stuff I think. When that’s finished I’ve got a sneaky suspicion I’m gonna write something about The Troubles in Northern Ireland, maybe have Seamus Heaney guiding me like Virgil led Dante through Hell.


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American Tinderwolves

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Yes! Yes! Yes! Very excited at the moment. I’m just putting the finishing touches to a definitive collection of my poems. The best bits of twenty years of writing, plus some really good stuff that has been blossoming into my mind recently like fields of Winter cale. Last night I powered on into & through my notes, & came up with the final new piece for the collection – American Tinderwolves – a landscape portrait of the social media dating phenomenon.

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AMERICAN TINDERWOLVES

Fifteen years since Facebook,
Seven since Tinder,
Deft swipe left, swipe right on Mr Right,
Millennials’ howitzer love,
Orgasmless orgies of unorganic matches,
Fyre Festival, Baby!

The great American city,
Melting pots of broken egos,
Perfect Mexican food,
Favignana tuna-girls waiting to be spear’d
By stray Tamil peacocks
Buffeting unhomeopathic streets.

In the south west of Arkansas
A reddish factory chimney totters,
The old gal who once work’d their sighs;
So many memories, good & bad,
Nearby her grandaughter’s on her phone,
Lost in the Now’s ever-enticing grap.

After Humanity’s greatest revolutions;
Agricultural, industrial, technological,
Masturbating with strangers on Skype,
Heteroflexible, genderfluid jargonelles
No-one knows who they are anymore,
Scattersouls titching day to day.

Like the colony-forming smooth sumac
An epidemic of opioid dimesions
Sweeps thro’ Californian beanfields,
Flaps along Manhattan skylines,
Twitterbirds & Tinderwolves,
Isolated with patiences of puppies.

When I was dating, wearing slippers
I used to take the family phone
The door-cubicle at Seven Arran Street,
& natter for hours,
Meet up later, kiss, then meet again,
& maybe, just maybe, get married!

Humanity steers towards sex,
Human evolution needs sex,
Do drunken frat guys ever grow up,
Penis pics & bits of sleazy text,
‘I would love to ride you!’
‘Hey wanna suck my dick?’

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Tinder, OkCupid, Bumble, Hinge, Meash
Match.com, Revealr, Tastebuds, Hapn;
‘Australian/British/Canadian
Having a blast travelling round the world –
In London for a couple of days,
I’m looking for someone to explore with.’

Are women merely body parts?
Bastillions in an uneven playing field,
Scrolling thro’ blogs of beautiful peers
For hours of futile hours,
Never gonna be, never gonna have,
By low self esteem envelop‘d.

In these Barbie & Ken technocultures,
Unreal, ideal relationships
Stelliferous perfection for all to see,
Overwhelming physical appearances,
Everything & so much of what you are
Depends on looks & smiling.

Packs of Tinderwolves leave the woods,
Guys flashing engorged fish,
Sexually provocative gals
Puckering out cleavage,
Breast flesh & friendliness,
Sex always sells.

It’s a turkey shoot at the Turkey Dump,
Sliding superficially into fossick DMs;
Pay money, improve emojis, get laid quicker,
White pecking pigeons loving the game,
The out-of-body ‘its a match’ jackpot,
Or going back & try your luck again.

She’s large-glass tispy for her date.
He’s late, shes drunk, thinking of bailing,
*frantic group Whatsapp*
Umm he’s here ohmygod.
‘I thought he had blonde hair?
DON’T NOTICE ME

‘My roommate would love you!’
Out goes the emergency text,
In comes the emergency call,
‘Your brother’s in the hospital…’
‘Your dog just died!’
Running in heels. Far.

The allure of sex keeps us consuming,
Everybody’s multi-messsaging,
Termites in a mound of shite,
Cushioning back-up prospects,
Protecting peripheral phantasies,
Polyamorous buffet love.

Ruthless romeos, predators pouncing,
Supersensitve issueladens;
Guys are balls in a pinball machine,
Girls are flippers defending the hole,
Pushing them in right directions
To stack up pussy-points.

Can a clitiris commit
To only one tongue?
Early morning dipouts,
Sympodial confusions,
When one little phone call
Could clear up everything.

Guys open the Kittenfish Catalogue,
Looking for half-night hook-ups,
Thinking they deserve perfect tens,
When of course they’re only sixes,
Unleasing Tinder Tsunamis
In fourteen-pages of vulgarity.

Where floateth intimacy’s preciousness,
Established by passion-trysts inseperable?
Swamp’s by dates of sexual obligation,
Tin-kettle time, innoculated chemistry,
& then we start making out like fish,
Ignorant of pneumatological desires.

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Sometimes situationships develop,
After a successful Cuffing Season ;
Southern Belles looking for their Cowboys,
I’ve never fucked a black girl –
Breadcrumbing becomes Benching,
Until Netflix Chills the norm!

He tells her he loves her, lactescently,
Lovebombing like a hardshell stalker,
But stashing her into non-existence
Until 4 AM – ‘Hey you wake up
Time to come & sit on my face now!’
Slow Fade follows, then dismettl’d Ghost.

I walk hand-in-hand with my Rosie
The great American city on our ears
She says she loves me as much as New York
Well, as much as its Harlequinade
We fell in love in a natural environ
As on West Thirty-Ninth, near pier Seventy-Nine

As she’s messaging someone else’s fuckbuddy
As she’s walking down a sunlit street,
She bumps into her one true soul mate,
But with both of them focuss’d on little screens,
They move on without the slightest of glances –
Unmatch’d, unromanced, & sad… forever!

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COMING SOON

DAMIAN BEESON BULLEN’S

‘MUSICALS’

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Saint Patrick’s Boyhood Home

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Getting out the Tithe Parish map of Briercliffe, 1845 (Burnley Library)

Using the secret histories locked within words, Damian Beeson Bullen identifies the boyhood home of Saint Patrick


I have been often startled by the latent powers of words, when even the smallest & most innocuous of place-names can be an eternal storehouses of so much history. I urge anyone this day to take a walk in the countryside, note the names of the cloughs & the hills, & let us weave a secret history, drawn from the phonetical landscape. SW Partington, in his ‘Danes in Lancashire,’ writes of this most pleasurable of literary past-times;

An eloquent modern writer has declared, with a good reason, that even if all other records had perished, “anyone with skill to analyse the language, might re-create for himself the history of the people speaking that language, and might come to appreciate the divers elements out of which that people was composed, in what proportion they were mingled, and in what succession they followed one upon the other.” From a careful analysis of the names of the more prominent features of the land; of its divisions, its towns and villages, and even its streets, as well as the nomenclature of its legal, civil, and political institutions, its implements of agriculture, its weapons of war, and its articles of food and clothing, — all these will yield a vast fund of history.

In recent days, while looking at the places & names of places around my home town of Burnley in Lancashire, to which I added a rather copious amount of reading, I believe I have made a discovery of some significance – the location of Saint Patrick’s boyhood home. Before he spread the name of Jesus throughout pagan Ireland, the young Saint Patrick was just doing the things that young lads do in a place called by him Bannavem Taburniae. He tells us as much in a precious, self–penn’d ‘Confessio’ in which we may read;

I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, … had for my father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest of the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villula nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen year of age… I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people.

Here we learn how Patrick was taken to Ireland by some kind of slave raid – so his home must have been within striking distance of the coast. We also discover that his father, Calpurnius, was a Christian official called a ‘deacon,’ & he was connected to the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae. Finally, we learn that near Bannavem lay was the family villula, which translates as the country house of a farmstead.

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On first examination, the name Bannavem Taburniae seems corrupt, & indeed c.700 AD, the situation was clarified by Patrick’s hagiographer, Milúch, who tells us, ‘this place, as I am informed beyond hesitation or doubt, is Ventre.’ This lets us create a new name-combination for the boyhood home of Patrick, being; Banna Venta Burniae. There is another Bannaventa in Britain, near the village of Norton in Northamptonshire, & is named thus in the mid-second century ‘Itinerary’ of Antonius Pius. What we may logically conclude is that the second Bannaventa came later, with an addition of ‘Burniae’ applied for the purpose of differentation.

I would now like to point our investigation in the direction of 10th century in England, when the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle spells the same person’s name differently in succeeding entries;

A.D. 931. This year died Frithstan… and Brynstan was blessed in his place.
A.D. 932. This year Burnstan was invested Bishop of Winchester

What we can infer here is that during the 930s Burn & Bryn (Brun) were interchangeable, & the alteration may have been brought about by Athelstan himself for he was recorded by Layamon’s Brut (c.1200) as instigating etymological changes during his reign;

How Athelstan here arrived out of Saxland
& how he set all England in his own hand…
& the names of the towns in saxish speech…
& in Saxish he gan speak the names of the men.

Numismatic support for an earlier ‘burn’ comes upon coins minted by Athelstan’s father & grandfather – Alfred the Great – which give the moneyer’s name as Bernvald.

 

h1411x22.jpgSuch knowledge allows us now to create with confidence a slightly different name for Patrick’s boyhood home; Banna Venta Bruniae. Later in the 930s, in 937, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the Battle of Brunanburh. This epic conflagration saw King Athelstan of England defeat a confederacy of Vikings, Scots & Northern Britons. Variant names for the battle are given by Symeon of Durham – Wendune/Weondune – & the anonymous Scandinavian text, Egil’s Saga – Vinheath. These alternative names have proven problematic to academic inquiry, but may now be reconciled with the Brunanburh name through Patrick’s Banna Venta Burniae, locking these two historical jigsaw pieces fast together. Furthermore, both the ‘dune’ & ‘heath’ elements of Wendune & Vinheath mean the same as banna: pinnacle, peak, mountain, bare hill, etc. A little extra glue comes from the fact that just as Milúch describes Banna Venta as being ‘a place not far from our sea’ – i.e. The Irish Sea – so after the battle of Brunanburh, the defeated Vikings fled to their ships & entered the Irish Sea on the same day as the battle.

The West-Saxons pushed onward
all day; in troops they pursued the hostile people.
They hewed the fugitive grievously from behind

Departed then the Northmen in nailed ships.
The dejected survivors of the battle,
On Dingesmere, sought Dublin over the deep water,
to return to Ireland, ashamed in spirit.

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I don’t have the space to offer a complete survey of the Brunanburh case, but there can be no doubt that wherever the battle was fought, on account of covering both Dark Age bases, the boyhood home of Patrick must be now be the leading location. As to where this was situated, there is a great deal of evidence both subtle & blatant that points to Burnley as being the area in which the Saxon fortified ‘burh’ of Brunanburh once stood. Quite tangibly, its trenches can still be made out to this day at a place called Castle Hill near Townley Hall.

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Castle Hill lies on the round hill just behind Townley Hall.
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The Western Trench @ Castle Hill…

An Anglo-Saxon burh formed the central administrative point of the administrative ‘Tun,’ from which we get the name Tunlay, & thus, Townley. In the 12th century, Towneley formed part of an ancient township called ‘Tunlay-with Brunshaw,’ with the latter name meaning ‘Brun’s Wood.’ The clearing, or ‘lea,’ in this wood would eventually become Brunlea, & if my calculations are correct, the name-flip from Burn to Brun instigated by Athelstan in the 10th century would last last more than three centuries 0 before reverting to its original form in the late 13th century as Burnley.

Further back in the first millennium AD, evidence for Roman settlement in the Burnley area leading up to the birth of Patrick comes in the name of the town of Colne, which appears as Calna in a charter of Henry I. This leads to the the Ravenna Cosmography Calunio, placed in the right area of Lancashire between Ribchester & Ilkley. When analyzing its history, we should  notice that in the lists of Northern Roman camps, Calunio was not in existence in the time of Ptolemy (2nd century AD), but exists in the 6th century, when it appears in the Ravenna Cosmography.

To the north, at Barnoldswick, ran a major arterial Roman road, from which minor roads branched into the Burnley area, such as the one that goes past Portfield on Pendle – the ‘Ad Alpes Peninos’ given in Richard of Cirencester Itineray –  passing the villages of Sabden & Newchurch on the slopes of the same hill, down into Barrowford, along Wheatley Lane, up again to Castercliffe hill fort  – which may have been Calunio itself – & then on into Yorkshire where it concludes at Ilkley, given as Alicana in the Roman geographies. There are also traces of another road that goes through Burnley itself, up to Cliviger, then over the moors to Slack, near Huddersfield, where the ‘Cambodnum’ Roman fort is sited.

Numerous Roman coins have been found in the Pendle-Burnley area; in the sunken lane at the foot of Castercliffe, at Wheatley lane, in Burnley & finally at Emmot, near Colne, where according to TT Whitaker, writing in the year 1800, ‘a large silver cup filled with them was turned up by the plough in the latter end of the 17th century.’ Speculating further, Roman forts were generally attended on by the local population, who lived next to or near the fort in a settlement described as a vici – the semantics of which can be observed in the name, Wycoller, a time-capsule village just to the east of Colne.

Returning to the investigation of Patrick’s boyhood home, there is more information given in his ‘Confessio’ which proves relevant. To carry the investigation further, let us analyze the names Venta, Ventry, & by association, Wen. All these names suggest that by Patrick’s time a group of Roman foedarati from a tribe known as the Wends had settled in the Burnley area. According to Wulfstan, they heralded from a place called Weonodland,’ as in; ‘Weonodland was on his starboard side and to portside, he had Langeland, Lolland, Falster and Scania. These countries all belong to Denmark.’ Clearly, when Symoen of Durham named ‘Weondune,’ he was referring to the ‘dune’ of the ‘Weonds.’ Other names for the tribe include;

Old English: Winedas
Old Norse: Vindr
German: Wenden, Winden
Danish: Vendere

These variants connect neatly with the Vinheath of Egil’s Saga, which in Burnley terms links to the hamlet of Winewall near Colne, & I am quite sure the Battle of Winwead was fought at Barrowford.

The arrival of the Wends seems connected to their defeat in Europe by the Romans in 277 AD, after which they were given lands in Britain. Zosimus writing of a Roman general called Probus, states, ‘his second battle was with the Franks, whom he completely conquered with the help of his generals. Then he fought the Burgundians & Vends… When the armies engaged each other, some of the barbarians were slain, others were taken prisoner by the Romans, & the rest sued for peace, accepting the condition that they surrender their booty & prisoners, but since, although their request was granted, they did not hand over everything, the emperor angrily punished them by attacking them on their retreat. Many were killed & their leader, Igillus, taken prisoner, & all the captives were sent across to Britain where they proved very useful to the emperor in subsequent revolts.’

The last sentence is key, for it places the Wends in Britain at a place well-sited for handling a rebellion, suggesting a northern location. If this was in Lancashire, we can understand the proper origins of a number of Probus coins found in the county; such as at Worden, on the outskirts of Leyland, whose name also seems a variation of ‘weodune’ Similar coins were also discovered at Burnley itself, where WT Watkin describes 126 copper coins known as ‘radiates’ of the late third century AD, while the coins found at Castercliffe were minted at the same period.

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My wife at Pendle, a couple of miles from Roughlee.

Wendish tribal sub-groups included the Sorbs & the Ruggi, both of whose names are present at Pendle Hill, the great whale-back peak which dominates the Burnley skyline. The village of Sabden (Sapedene 1296) means ‘long, narrow valley of the Sabs,’ the ‘Sab’ phonetic of this name being quite rare in Britain, & of unknown origin. Yet it is easy to introduce the idea that Sabden was once ‘Sorbden.’ ‘The present-day Sorbs,’ writes Gerald Stone, ‘may be regarded as descendants of the Slavs who moved into Lusatia in the 6th & 7th centuries… it seems likely that the ethnic name srbi was then in use among them & was later retained both by the Sorbs & by those other Slavs (the Serbs) who moved southwards to the Danube.

Another Wendish subgroup were known as the Rugii, whose name seems to have inspired the Pendleside village of Roughlea, known formely as Rugelea. In the 8th century, the venerable Bede stated that the Rugii formed part of the composite Anglo-Saxon layer to the English gene-pool;

The Angles or Saxons, who now inhabit Britain… are still corruptly called ‘Garmans’ by the neighbouring nation of the Britons. Such are the Frisians, the Rugini, the Danes, the Huns, the Old Saxons, and the Boructuari

We may also detect the Rugi element in an alternate slave-name given to saint Patrick; Fiacc’s hymn tells us; ‘He was six years in slavery; Human food he ate it not. Cothraige he was called.’ At the other side of the valley in which Burnley lies, we come to the hamlet of Roggerham. This is where things get interesting, because hard by the modern village there are the remains of a building, dated to the mid 4th century, given the name Ring Stones Camp. The Wends are known for building circular camps such as the this one, a visit to which was recorded over centuries ago, by  TT Wilksonson;

Passing through Thursden Valley, to a corresponding crest on the opposite ridge called Bonfire Hill, at the distance of about a mile, we find another circular intrenchment, 130 feet in diameter… This encampment is surrounded by an earthwork rampart, which is still comparatively perfect on three of its sides, and easily traceable on the fourth. The rampart measures 700 feet in length by 450 in average breadth

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Ringstones

At once we gain a semi-hit to the final variant name given for Patrick’s boyhood home by the ancient sources. The Hymn of Fiacc, traditionally ascribed it to a fifth century bard, tells us Patrick was born at ‘Nemthur.’ Now this does not necessarily mean it was the same place as Banna Venta, but the ‘thur’ element does appear in the ‘Thursden,’ which may have once been called ‘Nemthur’s den.’ The name seems to derive from nemeton, which means ‘sacred space’ in Brythonic, & which easily becomes Eamoton, a place where Athelstan received fealty from the petty kings of Britain – & then Emmot. This place lies near Colne, where a sacred well called ‘Hallown’ has been sited since deep antiquity supporting the Nemeton link. There is also the intriguingly tantalizing possibility that ‘Bonfire Hill’ derives from Bannaventa, as in;

Bonfire
Bannafire
Bannave
Bannaventa

Another early antiquarian visit to Ring Stones was made by James Stonehouse’s in the mid-19th century;

As we pursue our ramble along the road towards Roggerham, we arrive at a farm house on the right hand called “Rotten”; and a short way beyond it find a gate on the same side. Opening this gate we discover a narrow road, having in the centre a pavement of large boulder stones, the footway on one side being skirted by a stone wall which enclose portions of the moor; on the other a thick hedge. An unobservant person even would notice something unusual in the appearance of this bye-road. The mystery of it-if there be such a thing as a mystery-is soon made manifest. The road is found to lead upon the open moor land, and where the enclosure walls end it gradually becomes lost in the moorland and herbage, although its track can be really discovered rising over the hill before us. But before it becomes so hidden in the heather and the thick grass it passes an enclosure of some 200 feet by 160 feet, that the antiquary and the archaeologist would not fail to gaze upon with deep and absorbing interest. The road is Roman. As the Romans left it, there it is. The enclosure is Roman. As the Romans constructed it, there it is; at least what remains of their handywork. The enclosure is the remains of a fort erected by this great nation, when occupying this part of Britain. The fort is known by the people of the vicinity as “Ring Stones Camp.” The walls, at least as much as is left of them, are about a foot high from the interior surface. Outside the Vallum is a foss or ditch. It is deep in some portions, and filled up in others. It seems to be of the true V shape by the inclinator of the sides. The walls appear as strong as when the soldier mason laid stone upon stone and spread the strong concrete that has hardened till it rivals the stone in durability. At one of the sides, there is an opening where stood the Decuman gate. On the side facing it is another opening. This is the Proetorian gate, so called as being near where the Praetor fixed his quarters. In the centre of the enclosure are great inequalities of ground which, if carefully examined, will perhaps exhibit some of the arrangements of the encampment or fort.’

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Ring Stones camp is located near a certain Swinden Resevoir, whose name clearly contains the ‘wendune’ semantics. It has been dated to the Fourth century on account of its great physical similarity – especially an identical gateway – with ‘Bomber Camp,’ sited by a Roman road near Gisburn, where a collection of early to mid Fourth Century pottery was unearthed. Just to the north of Swinden reservoir, at Twist Hill, there also stands another Roman-British farmstead, 44m by 40m. A bronze coin of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-180) was reportedly found here in 1888, which is much earlier than Patrick, but shows an even earlier settlement of the area.

It is at this point that I will add a wee drop of speculation into my theory, I always enjoy finishing thusly, for the close connection between the camps at Gisburn & Roggerham may be in fact down to an actual human familial relationship. Where the Hymn of Fiacc tell us Patrick was; ‘Grandson of Deochain Odissus,’ a few miles to the west of Gisburn, in the delightful Forest of Bowland, we may see a River Dunsop – possibly connected to the ‘Sorbs’ – flowing into the River Hodder, which might just have been named after Odissus.

To summarise, a large Romano-British farmstead building was erected at Roggerham in the 4th century which fits the country estate image given by Patrick’s ‘villula.’ Roggerham lies near Burnley, which matches the Burniae element of Patrick’s boyhood home. Burnley seems to have been the site of the Battle of Brunanburh, also named Wendune, which translates perfectly as Patrick’s ‘Banna Venta.’ The only speculative thought is Burnley’s identification as Brunanburh – but if the battle was fought near that bonnie Lancashire town, then its clearly a case of killing two birds of mystery with one scholarly stone – & a few archaic words.

Upper Hell

Botticellis-Inferno-e1528782824541

 

Strophe

 

Around me grew the pathless shadows of life’s dark wood

Three Beasts block’d my way

Leopard on the path clad in light revealing lingerie

Lion fills my ears with fear, roaring modern cacophony

She-wolf eyes my rucksack daring to rid me of money

 

 

At the point of defeat I heard a human voice,

I am the shade of Virgilius of Rome,

                 Poet to Augustus & the false & lying gods!

     You must take another road & if you follow I will guide you,

The place eternal waits, where shrieking ancyents wail for second death

 

 

THRO’ ME THE WAY INTO THE WOEFUL CITY

THRO’ ME THE WAY TO THE ETERNAL PAIN

THRO’ ME THE WAY AMONG THE LOST PEOPLE

ABANDON ALL HOPE THOSE THAT ENTER HERE

         Clapping hands *  Screams of anguish

     Haunted sighs  *   Lamentations

             Loud Wailings  *   Strange Tongues

         Horrible Lingua  *  Words of Pain

 

 

 

Behind a shifting banner I saw so many people,

A train of wretched shades by black & loathsome river

Where daemon upon hovercraft beams eyes of burning coal

This is the Acheron,” said the poet, “& that is Charon!

Father of the livid marsh, watcher of its river crossing!”

 

 

Souls, like leaves of Autumn, ping into his craft

Driven on by divine justice, until the tree drew bare

&, as a new crowd gathers while the pilot sped away,

A red blaze shone, dark winds struck up, my senses overcome,

I shudder & fall like one seiz’d with sudden sleep

 

 

Heavy thunder awakens me

Rested eyes survey the Valley of Pain

Deep & dark & blanketed in vapours

The poet turns to me, painted death-pale with pity,

Let us descend into the blind world down there…”

 

 

We stepp’d into that abysmal place

Serpent-realms girdling the infernal world

Where countless wailings rise, & sighs forever tremble

Where swell vast crowds of men, women & little children

 

The Poet turns to me with sad, sad eyes,

 

 

These did not sin, they have merit enough,

But were born before the Harrowing of hell

Faith’s gateway by them never meant to know

& so… are lost…”

 

 

 

 

Epode

 

 

A blazing light shone beyond that forest of thronging spirits

& we went thither to a noble castle set apart;

Seven walls of intelligence protected from immorality

A gentle stream of eloquence stood watch over the dark

Guarding a gallant tribe, gazes of grand authority

Observe us as we drift there, men like the dashing Aeneas,

Ceasar, Cicero, souls of science & philosophy;

Aristotle, Plato…

then turned back to their playstations

Apart from an old man who came over to greet us

His name was Homer, & we talked of poetry & of

Our noble school of eagle-song, then when converse done

We pursued a sloping drawbridge to a place without light.

 

 

Here Minos stands guard

Horrible, snarling, Judge of the Dead

 

 

Encircled by his spiral tail his sinners are hurl’d below

To a place of muted light where a restless, hellish storm

Blows them hither, thither, upward, downward,

Lamenting & blaspheming the great Power of God

 

 

“These are the carnal sinners that forever reap LUST’S whirlwind

                                    Of a life subjected to their heart’s desires,

      No hope of rest or comfort from the lust which drives their souls”

 

 

Thro’ battling winds long line of shades pass like hungry cranes,

 

When you abandon yourself to a love that is nothing but love

                                         You are in hell already!”

 

Three-headed Cerberus perceives us

Bares bloody fangs, fierce & hideous

Groveling in the sunken mire

About the Great Worm of Hades

Dante 6

 

My master throws handfuls of dirt into three ravenous gullets

Calming the devouring Beast,

Who, mumbling, lets us pass to a pitiful place,

 

Upon this spot falls an eternal, cursed rain

Unceasing measure, cold & heavy hail, foul water, snow,

Fallen souls lie hungry & helpless in the mud

 

 

“These know a strange & loathsome penalty,

Flesh-loving fools, far from luxurious banquetry,   

Yielded their souls to food without spiritual motive!”

 

 

Then we went around that curving road, lost in conversation

To come on Pluto at the point where path fell steep

 

“Pape Satan, Pape Satan, Aleppe!”

 

 

Clucking monotone warning from the old god of Hades,

The baron of Zeus, Lord of the Grecian underworld,

Who once lost his kingdom to the arch-villain’s armies,

Not now forced into lowly lieutenant-hood

 

 

“Pape Satan, Pape Satan, Aleppe!”

 

 

My Master rants,

“Silence accursed wolf, our journey has been willed on high!”

As wind-swollen sails fall aheap when tall masts snap,

The cruel beast fell

 

            Antistrophe

 

 

Passing beyond the whimpering God of Wealth,

We follow the serpentine tail

Scampering down the dismal slope

To where fresh toils founder & pain is newborn

 

 

God’s justice flings sinners into wild tormenting whirlpools

Jostling & jousting & dueling with sharp credit cards

 

 

Who are these souls that pierce my heart?”

“They are the hoarders & squanderers of Avarice,

Who embroil’d their lives worshipping material existence,

Now all the gold that ever was beneath the moon

Will never grant them rest!”

 

We left that circle & its endless scuffle

To walk on ever deeper thro’ the flame

Descending to a greater wretchedness

Entering marshy STYX beside a gloomy stream,

Gurgling Purple

 

 

This circle’s inhabitants are the Angry

Smiting each other in the sucking slime

Head, hand, breast

 

Virgilius turns to me & sings,

“These signal wings will sweep us deeper through the grand malign”

 

 

Phylegyas crosses the dismal hollow in his dirty, little boat

Single silent oarsmen guides us down a stagnant channel…

gustave-dore-digital-art-cutting-the-waves-from-dantes-inferno-by-gustave-dore

Defiant fallen angels mount approaching iron walls

Our poet pipes a ballad of Christ’s Harrowing of Hell

Whose memory demands those daemons let us pass this day

Thus we found unhappy Dis, woeful Satanic stronghold

                                      

From tower’s top three blood-stain’d furies wail

Tesiphore, Alecto & Megaera

Naked-breasted, Hydra-hair’d, black tongues rasping

                 “Summon Medusa to turn these fools to stone!”

 

Turn thy back,” said the poet, “& shut thine eyes,

           Lest the Gorgon show herself & trap us here forever!”

 

Hand-blinded we hurried on ‘til they were safe to open

Before a flamey plain full of pain & torment

tumblr_nie6z3bspm1u7v5k3o1_1280

 

                         “Who are these buried in those open, funerary chests?”

                         “They are the self-deluding, messianic, arch-heretics,

Tardisesque their followers are buried deep beside them”

 

 

Further into the Morning Star’s domain

Scatter’d massive mountains of red & ruin’d rocks

One was thus inscribed,

                                      ‘I hold pope Urban II

                Whom Adolfus Hitler drew from the straight path’

 

     ‘This marker means we soon shall reach darkest depths of evil

                        Come let us rest awhile beside this unbelieving pope.”

 

 

Our spirits scent-adjusted to the vile stench of the Devil

We drew a breath of stagnant air & puked into the Pit

Gunk tumbling down a cliff face, three terraces divided

When Tasso met Shakespeare

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Good golly, is it that time of year already? Gosh, what a summer that was, probably the best in my decade & a half of living in Scotland. But yes, it is now early September, the brambles are out & its time to get back to work. I’m in the process of getting my two epics properly online (update to come), while over the summer I have decided to present my Chisper Effect book as a series of chronicles, very much easier on the eye & doubles the informativeness of the materielle. Of course, the Shakespeare sections are already in said format, which leads me to this next essay, which I hope to compose in the next day & a bit in the NLS. A couple of days back, while working on the final stages of Axis & Allies, I had in front of me several epic poems to dip into; The Kalevala, the Kalevipoeg, Don Juan, The Inferno, & also Tasso’ Jerusalem delivered. Casually glancing at his brief biodates, as we got closer to the Shakespearean Grand Tour period, my sense began tingling, & then BOOM! Tasso was in the Venuto Plain in the exact period as Shakespeare (according to my calculations). A couple of googles later & there were enough linking strands to support a fresh hyperfact – Shakespeare & Tasso met each other in 1586.

The following chronicle entries are the results of my studies between 3PM on Thursday the 6th September 2018, & 5PM on Friday the 7th. With three hours to go I discovered, from a nineteenth century life, that Tasso left prison in early July. Through this I was able to reach the conclusion that after Algiers, Shakespeare returned to northern Italy ,en route to Prague, which is indeed the natural route.

330px-Torquato_Tasso5th or 6th July 1586: Tasso released from the asylum

After seven years of poor mental health, Torquato Tasso is finally released from Hospital of St. Anna at Ferrara at the request of Vincenzo I Gonzaga, Prince of Mantua. Gonzago was a major patron of the arts and sciences, and turned Mantua into a vibrant cultural center.
On his release, Tasso was given a beautiful apartment in the palace of the old duke of Mantua, William, furnished with all the conveneinets & comforts he would need. Perfect conditions for poetry, then, & such an encouraging climate inspired Tasso to rework his 1573 tragedy Galealto Re di Norvegia into a new drama, Torrismondo.

1586: Shakespeare & Tasso meet in Mantua

Also appearing in Mantua (on inheritance business) in August 1586 was the great musician & librettisT, Allesandro Striggio. Just as he was about to leave for Florence,  Duke William invited him to stay & reside in Mantua as a gentleman of the table, ‘including the expenses of three servants and three horses, and the salary which he usually gives to his other gentlemen.’ Analyzing the letters of Striggio, in the one sent to Federico Cattaneo, Mantua, 21 August 1586, we learn that Duke William was looking for young instrumentalists, &  gives a lovely flavour of the age;

I have received from Messer Flavio Riccio Your Illustrious Lordship’s note and I have informed him that in Florence there are two lads, aged 16 or 17, but they are poor and brought up by Franzosino of the Abandonati. They play cornett, transverse flute, viola and trombone. Franzosino has them play constantly, every day on the Grand Duke’s balcony [on the Palazzo Vecchio; or the Loggia de’ Lanzi] and at table. They also performed at the comedy which the Grand Duke put on for the Ferrara wedding (Florence, 1586). They do not have a regular salary from His Highness, although they are constantly in service. But they go about playing in churches, accompanied by the organ, wherever necessary, in Lucca and Pistoia and elsewhere, as requested. One of them would be suitable for His Highness [Guglielmo Gonzaga], and although they are not altogether excellent they are at least more than passable. Because they are dependent and obligated to Franzosino, who has taught them, it is necessary to refer to and come to an agreement with him; also to clothe and provide shoes for them, for they are still supplied with clothes from the Ospedale, and they still eat and sleep there, unless things have changed since I left Florence.

There are several pointers which suggest that Shakespeare encountered Tasso while visiting Mantua. Tasso’s sister was called Cornelia, the same name as Titus Andronicus which I suspect Shakespeare was comping at the time. The birth of the bard’s version of Hamlet may have also been born from this prodigious meeting. We have the dramatical Scandinavian regal motif, the clear connections between Hamlet’s madness & that of Tasso – both occasionaly feigned – & we can trace a connection between Hamlet’s drawing of his sword in his stepmother’s chamber, where he killed the chief counseller Polinus; & Tasso’s drawing of a knife on a servant in the Duchess of Urbino’s apartment in 1577. The famous play-within-a-play embedded within Hamlet concerns the very family into which Tasso had been released. It appears in Act 3 scene 2 as a play called The Murder of Gonzago (or The Mousetrap), during which we hear;

He poisons him i’ th’ garden for ’s estate. His name’s Gonzago. The story is extant, and writ in choice Italian. You shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife.

It is a delightful thought to imagine the Italian poet reciting some of his magnificent poem, Jerusalem Delivered, to Shakespeare in Mantua. One character in the epic that may have stuck was the Saracen sorceress, Armida, who in the strongest moments of emotion forgot her spellcraft & resorted to tears & prayers & persuasions. A few years later, when Shakespeare was writing Anthony & Cleopatra, he has the latter do just the same;

CLEOPATRA
O my lord, my lord,
Forgive my fearful sails! I little thought
You would have follow’d.

MARK ANTONY
Egypt, thou knew’st too well
My heart was to thy rudder tied by the strings,
And thou shouldst tow me after: o’er my spirit
Thy full supremacy thou knew’st, and that
Thy beck might from the bidding of the gods
Command me.

CLEOPATRA
O, my pardon!

MARK ANTONY
Now I must
To the young man send humble treaties, dodge
And palter in the shifts of lowness; who
With half the bulk o’ the world play’d as I pleased,
Making and marring fortunes. You did know
How much you were my conqueror; and that
My sword, made weak by my affection, would
Obey it on all cause.

CLEOPATRA
Pardon, pardon!

MARK ANTONY
Fall not a tear, I say; one of them rates
All that is won and lost: give me a kiss;
Even this repays me. We sent our schoolmaster;
Is he come back? Love, I am full of lead.
Some wine, within there, and our viands! Fortune knows
We scorn her most when most she offers blows.

index1586: Tasso inspires Hamlet

I would now like us to look introduce Hamlet into the mix, a play supposedly from Shakespeare’s middle period. The Hamlet story initially burst into literary life with Saxo Grammaticus in the 13th century. Could it be that during Shakespeare’s time with Tasso that he began to court the same affection for Scandinavian royal dramas of the Middle Ages as the Italian poet. Perhaps Shakespeare had picked up a copy of François de Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques (published in 1574) while in France, in which Saxo’s story was given great embellishment. Perhaps meeting Tasso was the catalyst for Shakespeare to create what is called by scholars the ‘Ur-Hamlet’ (the German prefix means primordial). No copy of the Ur-Hamlet has survived, but its existence must date to before  1589, when Thomas Nashe in his 1589 preface to Greene’s prose work Menaphon entitled To The Gentlemen Students of Both Universities, referred to the ‘English Seneca read by candlelight yields many good sentences, as ‘Blood is a beggar,’ and so forth; and if you entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches.’ The Seneca-Hamlet connection can be clearly seen with;

the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns (Hamlet, III. i. 78-80)

sera nos illo referat senectus.
nemo ad id sero venit unde numquam,
cum semel venit, potuit reverti (HF. 864-6)

dic sub aeternos properare manes
Herculem et regnum canis inquieti
unde non umquam remeavit ullus.
(HO. 1525-7 altera versio, remeabit ill)

By 1596, Thomas Lodge would be writing of ‘the Visard of the ghost which cried so miserably at the theatre, like an oister-wife, Hamlet, revenge.’ Two years later, Dr Gabriel harvey recorded, ‘the younger sort take much delight in Shakespeare’s Venus & Adonis; but his Lucrece, & his tragedy of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke, have it in them to please the wiser sort.’ Finally, & after a long road of development which began in the 1580s, Hamlet as we know it would eventually be entereed into in the Register of the Stationers’ Company in 1602.

Back in Mantua – or Bergamo – let us imagine Shakespeare being inspired by Tasso’s work on the Torrismondo to create Hamlet. Louise George Clubb describes in both plays, ‘a preoccupation with genre, with experimentation with hybrids & structure is made manifest by conducting a critical action simultaneously with a dramtic fable, underlaid with a paradigmatic myth calling attention to genre. In both, the choice of Scandinavian medieval chronicle is the sign of the sequence to come: from history to myth to genre to critical contemplation of structure. In short, Shakespeare & Tasso were upping their game with some pretty innovative drama, whose familial offerings in the history of theatre are with each other & each other only. ‘The materials of Torrismondo & Hamlet, adds Club, ‘allowed for a confrontation of ostensible history with undeclared myth in plots which silently claimed kinship with the very arguments cited by Aristotle.’ It certainly feels as if Shakespeare was inspired by Tasso’s Torrismondo, which was being created in the very moment & the very city where I am placing the William Shakespeare of 1586.

1586: Tasso & Shakespeare in Bergamo

It is distinctly possible perhaps that Shakespeare’s knowledge Shakespeare’s knowledge of sail-making at Bergamo given in The Taming of the Shrew came from a visit there with Tasso. It was Tasso’s paternal town & the reception was said to be splendid.

1586: Shakespeare sees Tasso’s ‘Aminta’ at the Mantua Carnevale

Following its quiet debut in Ferrara in 1573, & more public performance at the 1574 Pesaro Carneveal, Tasso’s Aminta became a highly influential success, with Lisa Sampson observing, ‘Aminta was rapidly seized upon for scenarios, episodes & characterisation by a wide range of writers from all over the peninsular.’ A 5 act play, it seems that Shakespeare witness, & was enriched by, the play at first hand. Love’s Labours Lost borrows from the Intermedio II chorus of Aminta, which first appears in a printed edition in 1665, while As You Like It also contains direct translations & numeorus echoes. Shakespeare must have witnessed the play at first hand. Shakespeare seems also to be heavily influenced by Tasso’s mythology-steeped Renaissance Pastoralism, described by Cody as, ‘the Platonic theory of a good inner life, accomodated to the literary myth of the courtier as lover & poet. In the Italian Renaissance… pastoralism becomes the temper of the aristocratic mind: the reconciling of discors & contradictions in the medium of the work of art, that shadow of the ideal.’ Cody also describes Shakespeare as integrating Love’s Labours Lost into the, ‘Elizabethan aesthetic Platonism under its pastoral-comical aspect,’ adding, ‘the advantage of recognizing that the orthodox, elegaic Italians & the festive English comedian speak a common language of pastoral Neo-Platonism is considerable.’

Other plays to possess a strong streak of this consciously artificial, highly allegorical, hyper-mythomemed Pastoralism are Twelfth Night & the Two Gentleman of Verona, the latter worldscape described by Cody as ‘clearly the Italianate courtier-lover’s world, translated,’ adding, ‘the series of groups into which the play resolve sitself is pastoral & kinetic in the  manner of the Aminta.’ There is a clear connection, for just as in Aminta, the heroine is called Sylvia; & just as in 2GV Silvia is pursued & threatened with rape by Proteus, so in Aminta a satyr kidnaps & nearly rapes Sylvia. Cody also compares 2GV’s Silvia scene to Tasso’s work, stating, ‘it is the one scene in which Shaksepeare successfully invokes the ‘magic potency of the theatre,’ seeking as Tasso does in his third intermedio in the Aminta to gather up his audience into the art of his play by reminding them of  a reality beyond their own.’ Perhaps the most pastoral of the plays, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream was created in 1595 – for William Stanleys wedding – & includes a passage heady in the language of pastoral myth, which also seems to nod at the early death of Tasso, also in 1595,

The battle with the Centaurs, to be sung
By an Athenian eunuch to the harp.”
We’ll none of that: that have I told my love
In glory of my kinsman Hercules.
“The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals,
Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.”
That is an old device, and it was played
When I from Thebes came last a conqueror.
“The thrice three Muses mourning for the death
Of Learning, late deceased in beggary.”

The passage above also makes reference to Hercules, allusions to whom also crop up in the other two early Pastoral comedies, LLL & 2GV. ‘Not that the comedies are the earliest of his plays,’ writes Cody, ‘in which pastoralism appears. In the histories there is at least one important pastoral theme among the cluster of commonplaces concerning Fortune, Nature, & the Prince: it has been termed ‘the rejection of the aspiring mind.’ It is central to the Henry VI trilogy, as witness the scene on Towton Field (2.5); & Shakespeare continues to develop it, more satisfyingly than anywhere perhaps in Henry IV.’ Cody also connects the garden scene of Richard II to the Renaissance habit of observing nature on a divine plane, stating, ‘It is to this aspect of the tradition – a Neo-Platonic landscape of the mind, mythopoeically conceived, as by Tasso in his Aminta – that appears to have been the model for Shakespeare’s orginiative experiments in romantic comedy.’

NOVEMBER 1586
Shakespeare sketches the Tempest
One word in the play particularly stands out, ‘amazement,’ used in a context as confusion in a labyrinth. This same usage appears in both Venus & Adonis & The Rape of Lucrece, supporting an early date for at least an Ur-Tempest. Gary Schmidgall describes Prospero’s, ‘guiding & moderating task‘ with, ‘Tasso’s old wizard for the mariners, whose reason has been baffled by human frailty, greed & ambition. The mariner’s maze is ultimately of their own making, & Prospero’s project has been to cure them of this ‘affliction’ through the power of reason. Shakespeare’s allegory is the same as Tasso’s: reason (Tasso’s ‘soveraigne part of the minde’) is the only true guide in the labyrinth of human expoerience.’
Shakespeare’s recent brush with Tasso & Pastoralism also worked its way via osmisis into the bellyflesh of The Tempest in the form of the Arcadian romancings of Ferdinand & Mranda.

 

Bibliography
Butchart, David: The Letters of Alessandro Striggio (in) Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle, No. 23 (1990),

Clubb, Louise George – Genre in Torrismondo & Hamlet (in) Shakespeare and the Literary Tradition (1999)

Cody, R : The Landscape of the Mind (1969)

Lawrence, Jason : Tasso’s Art and Afterlives in England: The Gerusalemme Liberata in England (2017)

Leavis, FR:  The Common Pursuit (1952)

Preeshl, Artemis Shakespeare and Commedia dell’Arte: Play by Play (2017 )

Sampson, Lisa : Pastoral Drama (in) A History of Italian Theatre (2006)

Schmidgall, Gary: Shakespeare and the Courtly Aesthetic ( 1981 )

Ward, AW: History of English Dramatic Literature, v2 (1899)

Wiffen, JH: The Life of Tasso (1859)

 

 

Chispology 8: Shakespeare’s Blossom

 —————————————————————————————–

chisp cover

Continuing the serialization of

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

CHISPOLOGY

In which a few more of the world’s greatest mysteries… are finally solved

Available to buy in book form

Autumn 2018

 ————————————————-

This next chapter represents a continuation of my Shakesperean studies, focusing upon the years 1588-92. In the Chisper Effect I spent two whole chapters on Shaskespeare’s Grand Tour, while we have just seen the prelude to the moment our bard join’d the Earl of Derby’s retinue on its way to Paris. In the Chisper Effect, the last of my chronological entries in the Dark Lady chapter showed how, fresh from his European tour in the company of Shakespeare, William Stanley returned to his home in Lancashire. Did he return in a state of mild arrogance as suggested by William Harrison (1587);

 The usual sending of noblemen’s and mean gentlemen’s sons into Italy, from whence they bring home nothing but mere atheism, infidelity, vicious conversation, and ambitious and proud behaviour, whereby it cometh to pass that they return far worse men than they went out….. they have learned in Italy to go up and down also in England with pages at their heels finely apparelled, whose face and countenance shall be such as sheweth the master not to be blind in his choice

For ease of dictate I shall repeat the final entry of the Dark Lady, & continue in the same chronological fashion until the moment Shakespeare’s star has truly risen over the world of London theatre in the spring of 1592

1587
DECEMBER
Stanley spends Christmas in Lancashire

In the year of 1587 the plague came to the good folk of Lancashire. This was bad, but the return of our gallant & sun bronzed adventurers cheered up the county no end. Stanley, especially, would have cut a dashing image; 25 years old, fully tanned & full of exciting tales from his travels. He may even have taken his great friend Shakespeare with him to Lancashire. Our young bard was 23, fresh from a Grand Tour, & flush with the creativity that would soon manifest itself as some of the greatest plays the world has ever seen. As our party arrived at Knowsley, Shakespeare’s knapsack would have contained the manuscript copies of his & Stanley’s co-written plays, such as Titus Andronicus, & Pericles. They may even have been performed that Christmas at Knowsley when the Household Books record ‘Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers.’ No evidence exists for these players having performed the early Stanley-Shakespeare plays, but it certainly feels right, & if so, the events surrounding their debut as playwrights were recorded in December 1587;

On fryday my Lord the earle came home from cowrte & the same night came my Lord bishoppe, mr stewarde mr recyver mr foxe, on saturday Sir Thomas hesketh plaiers went awaie

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1588
SPRING
Shakespeare in London

On the 24th April 1588, William Shakespeare turn’d 24. He was now in the full prime of youth & beauty, bubbling with that particular propensity for sheer genius. As for his sexuality, falling in love with William Stanley seems to have had a hand in some kind of alteration, for it must be noted that from this moment on Shakespeare sires no more children, & would eventually leave his bequeath his wife their ‘second best bed’ in his will. The timing of his return coincided with an epoch of great national importance, for the Spanish were assembling a huge fleet ready to sail up the channel in order to help ferry across the Channel a great army of invasion they were massing at the French coast.

Shakespeare’s England was on the rise; possessing a fledgeling colony in America & mercantile interests across the globe. Just as it is today, London was both a thriving international sea-port & a cosmopolitan national capital. The city was fueled by such a melting-pot of culture, attracting the best of the provincial talents, that the Elizabethan theatre would evolve into its capsules of dramaturgical, philosophical brilliance, helped no end by having the genius of Shakespeare in the mix. ‘He began early to make essayes at Dramatique Poetry,’ recorded Aubrey, ‘which at that time was very lowe; and his Playes tooke well. He was a handsome, well-shap’t man: very good company, and of a very readie and pleasant smoothe Witt.’

1588
SUMMER
Shakespeare enters Thomas Watson’s circle

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Enter Thomas Watson. The English College diary at Douay records on October 15, 1576, ‘Dominus Watson went from here to Paris.’ Like Shakespeare, who also benefitted from the poetically-charged atmosphere of the English College, Watson would become a profound & prolific poet. In a verse preface to his Latin version of the Antigone (1581) he gives us a little gloss concerning his life;

I spent seven or eight years far from my homeland, and learned to speak in diverse tongues. Then I became well versed in Italy’s language and manners, and also thy our tongue and ways, learned France. Wherever I was wafted, I cultivated the Muses as best I could

It seems very much that Watson’s time on the continent was a surreptitious escapade in Catholic scholarship. It is also likely that he met the Italian Jesuit Metteo Ricci during this period, for a system of local memory training Watson would publish as a treatise in 1585 was identical to the one used by Matteo to wow the Chinese when he was there.

the year after he went to Paris, Watson is back in Douay, where we read ‘August: on the seventh day Master Watson, Master Robinson, Master Griffith, and some others left for England because of the riots.’ On his return to England, Watson was living in Westminster, where he began to write poems for his ‘Passionate Century of Love’ (1582) – the first significant sonnet sequence of the age. These sonnets were actually three comblended sestets – ABABCC – the form which Shakespeare would us for his Venus & Adonis. Indeed, in the Polimanteia (1595) a certain WC describes a ‘Wanton Adonis’  (Shakespeare had just published Venus & Adonis) as ‘Watson’s heyre.’  In addition, Watson’s 1585 Latin poem, Amyntas, ends with their heroes transforming into flowers (as in V&A), while Watson’s translation of Coluthus’ erotic Raprus Helenae (1586) may also have influenced the poem.

By 1589 Watson had become the tutor to John Cornwallis, son of William, a high-ranking, yet Catholic, advocate of the Queen’s Bench. William Cornwallis described Watson as being able to, ‘deuise twenty fictions and knaveryes in a play, which was his daily practyse and his liuing.’ Watson’s theatrical bent is confirmed in the Palladis Tamia of Francis Meres in 1598, which places him among such eminent company as Shakespeare, Marlowe, Drayton, Johnson & Kyd as being ‘our best for tragedie.’  Only one of Watson’s plays survives, from 1589, called ‘The Trewe Misterie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke’ with its obvious Shakesperean connotations.  That Shakespeare was actually Watson’s friend can be discerned thro’ analyzing a line in sonnet 32, the full text of which reads;

If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bett’ring of the time,
And though they be outstripped by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O! then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
‘Had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage:
But since he died and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love.

The key line is ‘march in ranks of better equipage’ which connects to a statement by Nash, in his preface to Greene’s Menaphon (1589) which expresses that Watson’s works, ‘march in equipage of honour.‘ Watson died in 1592, & if I am right, then this sonnet was written after that occasion, & when Shakespeare writes, ‘had my friend’s Muse grown with this growing age, A dearer birth than this his love had brought, To march in ranks of better equipage: But since he died and poets better prove, Theirs for their style I’ll read, his for his love,’ he is stating that tho’ better exist than Watson, the love he professes in his poetry is worth emulating.

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In the National Archives there is the Prerogative Court of Canterbury copy of the will of Sir William Cornwallis, from 1611, which tells us that he became owner of an enormous mansion known as Fisher’s Folly in 1588, on the site of the present Devonshire Square. Described as a huge structure with ‘gardens of pleasure, bowling-alleys and the like,’ it had up til then been in possession of the Earl Of Oxford, who made the place the, ‘headquarters for the school of poets and dramatists who openly acknowledged his patronage and leadership,’ a fertile breeding ground indeed. In 1588, Cornwallis’ daughter, Anne, became the transcriber of a short anthology of sixteenth century poetry known as the Cornwallis-Lysons manuscript. This leather-bound quarto bears the large feminine signature, “Anne Cornwaleys her booke,” & contains an attribution to a certain WS. After coming into the possession of James Orchard Halliwell in 1852. He soon became convinced that one poem in particular would appear as Shakespeare’s in the 1599 collection of poems attributed to Shakespeare known as the Passionate Pilgrim.

Now hoe, inoughe, too much I fear;
For if my ladye heare this songe,
She will not sticke to ringe my eare,
To teache my tongue to be soe longe;
Yet would she blushe, here be it saide,
To heare her secrets thus bewrayede.
Cornwallis-Lysons

But soft; enough, too much I fear,
Lest that my mistress hear my song;
She’ll not stick to round me i’ the ear,
To teach my tongue to be so long:
Yet will she blush, here be it said,
To hear her secrets so bewray’d.
Poem XIX, The Passionate Pilgrim

1588
SEPTEMBER
Shakespeare in court

On Michalemas (September 29th), 1588, the Court of Common Pleas in London heard a case between William Burbage of Stratford and John Shakespeare, the poet’s father. The matter concerned was John Shakespeare’s remortgaged property at Wilmcote. John Lambert had taken on the property, but had refused to pay £20 that he owed our poet’s father. This saw John Shakespeare bring a ‘bill of complaint’ against him, naming William as a partner in the suit.

…et quod dictus Johannes Shackespere et Maria vxor eius, simulcum Willielmo Shackespere filio suo…”

What is fascinating about the case, is that of all the attorneys in London John Shakespeare could have chosen, he selected John Harborne, the son of William Harborne, the very ambassador in Constantinople where we have placed William Shakespeare. Scholars have brushed over John Harborne, imagining there to be no relevance in the quest for the historical Shakespeare. That Harborne’s father was an ambassador in Constantinople would have been irrelevant, for the academic community has scoffed at Shakespeare’s presence in Italy, let alone Turkey. Instead, it is through John Harborne that we gain support for the Shakespeare–Stanley–Constantinople factochain. Harborne was trained at Clement’s Inn, & he seems to be satirised as Justice Shallow in Henry IV Part 1, who is also said to have studied law at Clements. One passage in particular relates to our investigation

SHALLOW
By yea and nay, sir, I dare say my cousin William is
become a good scholar: he is at Oxford still, is he not?

SILENCE
Indeed, sir, to my cost.

SHALLOW
A’ must, then, to the inns o’ court shortly. I was
once of Clement’s Inn, where I think they will
talk of mad Shallow yet.

Where Justice Shallow refers to ‘my cousin William’ who was at Oxford and who ‘must then to the Inns of Court shortly,’ we gain a complete match for William Stanley, also an Oxford man, that ‘good scholar’ who enrolled at Lincoln’s Inn in late 1588.

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1588
AUTUMN
Shakespeare gets to work

On his return to England, Shakespeare began to convert all the materials he had collected on his travels into theatrical gold dust. His mind would have been burgeoning with ideas; a few rough sketches of scenes & storylines, & perhaps a number of drafted passages of poetic speech, for in the words of William Wordsworth, ‘poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.’ In 1588, George Puttenham entered his Arte of English Poesie at the Stationers’ Hall, published by Richard Field the following year, which Shakespeare was definitely familiar with. WL Rushton has identified over 200 literary links between Puttenham’s Arte & the works of Shakespeare, & there is one passage in particular that seems to be the Shakesperian manifesto;

There were also poets that wrote openly for the stage, I mean plays & interludes, to recreate the people with matters of disport, & to that intent did set forth in shows & pagaents common behaviours & manner of life as were the meaner sort of men, & they were called comical poets, of whom among the greeks Meander & Aristophanes were most excellent, with the Latins Terence & Plautus. Besides those poets comic there were others, but meddled not with so base matters: for they set forth doleful falls of unfortunate & afflicted princes, & were called poets tragical. Such were euripedes among the others who mounted nothing so high as any of them both, but in based & humble style, by manner of dialogue, uttered the private & familar talk of the meanest sort of men, as shepherds, haywards & such like

As Shakespeare entered his mid-twenties in April 1588, his dramatic muse was starting to explode in lights & sound & colour. Our budding bard would have been inspired by the growing popularity of the profession; the likes of Thomas Kyd, whose Spanish Tragedy had just taken London by storm, & Christopher Marlowe, the writer of such fantastic pieces as Dido, Queen of Carthage, Tamburlaine the Great, & Doctor Faustus. Of Shakespeare’s ease of composition, ‘Ben Jonson writes, ‘I remember the players have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a line.’

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The keen-eyed Shakespearian scholar, TW Baldwin, highlights allusions in the Comedy of Errors play to the Armada & Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine, which was published in 1588. There is also a clever pun about France, ‘making war against her hair,‘ referring to the civil war fought in 1589 in which Henry of Navarre allied with King Henry III of France following a public uprising over the French king’s assassination of the Duke of Guise. Baldwin points to a passage in the play which seems to describe Finsbury Fields, one of the sites of London’s public executions;

The Duke himself in person
Comes this way to the melacholy vale
The place of death & sorry execution
Behind the ditches of the abbey here

In the 16th century, Finsbury Fields were separated from Holyrood Abbey by ditches. Baldwin goes on to say, ‘It would appear that on Saturday morning, October 5, 1588, William Shakespeare attended the execution of William Hartley, seminary priest, in Finsbury Fields, near the Theatre & Curtain; & there received certain impressions which shortly afterward appeared, transmuted by the magic of his imagination, in the Comedy of Errors.’

 That Love’s Labours Lost is one of Shakepeare’s earliest plays was recognized early on. Charles Gildon wrote in 1710, ‘since it is one of the worst of Shakespeare’s Plays, nay I think I may say the very worst, I cannot but think that it is his first.’ To this, Clare Asquith adds, ‘now the first and dominant conviction at which we arrive in a rapid reading of the text is that Loves Labours Lost was written as a topical play; that it bristles throughout with topical allusion; and that most, if not all, of its characters were meant by shakespeare to be portraits or caricatures of living persons.’ The name ‘Armardo’ is a clear reference to the armada, while the play also makes reference to the Martin Marprelate controversy which raged from 1588-89.

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1588-89
CHRISTMAS
Shakespeare at Knowsley

The Stanleys were Oxford University boys, & would had grown up with the long-standing tradition of plays being acted out over the festive season. MJ Davis writes, ‘Christ Church & St Johns were the two colleges where drama flourished most. At Christ Church there was a decree that two comedies & two tragedies – one of each in Greek &, the others in Latin – were to be acted during the Christmas season each year. Whereas Cambride excelled in comedy, Oxford excelled in tragedy, with Seneca’s plays prominent towards the end of Elizabeth’s reign.’ In the same fashion, over the Festive season of 1588-89, two different plays were acted to a great pantheon of northern dignitaries. The Household Accounts book describe the events of the theatrical festive seasons;

29 December 1588 – 4th January 1589

Sondaye Mr Carter pretched at which was dyvers strandgers, on mondaye came mr stewarde, on Tuesday the reste of my lords cownsell & also Sir Ihon Savadge, at nyghte a play was had in the halle & the same nyght my Lord strandge came home, on wednesdaye mr fletewod pretched, & the same daye yonge mr halsall & his wiffe came on thursedaye mr Irelande of the hutte, on frydaye Sir Ihon savadge departed & the same daie mr hesketh mr anderton & mr asheton came & also my lord bushoppe & sir Ihon byron

This tells us that ‘a play was had in the halle’ on New Years Eve, on the very same night ‘Lord strandge came home.’ When Four days later Thomas Hesketh also arrives at Lathom, we get the idea that Shakespeare was also in the vicinity. The play would have been performed in the Derby’s private theatre at Knowsley, which survived until 1902 as ‘Flatiron House.’ It had been built on the waste by Richard Harrington, a tennant of Prescot Hall, of which place Richard Wilson writes, ‘The Elizabethan playhouse at Knowsley, near Liverpool, remains one of the dark secrets of Shakesperian England. Very few commentators are aware of even the existence of this theatre, built by the Stewards of Henry Stanley, Earl of Derby, on the site of his cockpit, some time in the 1580s.’ 

Other visitors that Christmas include some of the most important men in the north of England, such as the Bishop of Chester, William Chanderton & Sir John Byron, an ancestor of the poet Lord Byron.  It is clear that they came to see a play, for the next entry in the household book reads; 

5th January to 10th January

sondaye mr caldwell pretched, & that nyght plaiers plaied, mondaye my Lord bushop pretched, & the same daye mr trafforth mr Edward stanley, mr mydleton of Leighton came on Tuesdaye Sir Richard shirbon mr stewarde my Lord bushoppe Sir Ihon byron & many others departed, wednesdaye my lord removed to new parke, on frydaye mr norres & mr tarbocke & mr Tildesley came & went

The key information here is that a second play was performed on the evening of 5th January –  a time known to the Church of England as ‘Twelfth Night.’ A similar timed performance was played at court & recorded as, ‘1583. Jan. 5. A mask of iiadies on Twelfth Eve.’

Looking at the Shakespearean ouevre, it makes sense that his early-feeling Twelfth Night was played on this occasion. Samuel Pepys recorded on January 6th, 1662; ‘Dinner to the Duke’s house, & there saw ‘Twelfth-Night’ acted well, though it be but a silly play, & not related at all to the name or day.’ There is another ‘lost play of Shakespeare’s, whose nsole mention comes in the 1598 Palladis Tamia, Wits Treasury, by Francis Meres. The passage basically tells us what Shakespeare had produced by that time;

As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras, so the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece his sugared Sonnets among his private friends…. As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latins, so Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage…. for Comedy, witness his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Love Labours Lost, his Love Labours Won, his Midsummer Night’s Dream, and his Merchant of Venice; for Tragedy his Richard the 2, Richard the 3, Henry the 4, King John, Titus Andronicus, and Romeo and Juliet.

The presence of Loves Labour Lost right next to Loves Labours Won suggest that they were originally played in sequence, which fits in perfectly with the festivities at Knowsley. Loves Labours Lost would have been performed at Christmas, with Love’s Labours Won/Twelfth Night being performed on the evening of January 5th.  Stylistically & linguistically, the frantic energetic comedy of Love’s Labours Won/Twelfth Night resembles the Comedy of Errors, which we have dated to 1588. Twelfth night is also full of sexually unusual pairings, a feast of homerotic feelings erupting from its chief author & its muse, who seem mirrored in the absolute bonding between Antonio & Sebastian. There are many subtextual echoes of the sonnets in Twelfth Night, especially in its handling of the humiliation of rejected love. Interestingly, the romantic wool seems to have fallen from Antonio’s eyes, whose god seems now more of a ‘vile idol.’ There is also an echo of the sonnets’ menage a Trois in the Orsino, his boy & his lady triangle.

Sebastian & Antonio
Sebastian & Antonio

As for Loves Labours Lost, ‘it abounds in jokes for the elect,’ writes Alfred Harbage,’ were you not numbered among them you laughed, for safety, in the likeliest places. A year or two later the elect themselves might be hard put to it to remember what the joke was…. it’s a time-sensitive play for a very specific and select audience. Once we figure out who that audience is, we’ll know when the play was first written.’  When we observe tthere are a number of nods to the Stanleys throughout the play, surely we can answer Mr Harbage’s question. The play contains, for example, several references to the eagle; an important Stanley symbol as found on the family crest to the Eagle Tower at Latham.

What peremptory eagle-sighted eye
Dares looke upon the heaven of her brow
That is not blinded by her majestie

Earl Henry would loved to have heard about his beloved Navarre, the play’s setting, while Ferdinando would have been amused by his name being used as the main character. The Stanley household would have noticed that Malvolio was based upon steward, William Farrington. The play also contains a masque – the Nine Worthies – identical to the one performed annually at nearby Chester. This gives us a firm link to William Stanley, whose tutor, Richard Lloyd, wrote, ‘A brief discourse of the most renowned acts and right valiant conquests of those puissant Princes called the Nine Worthies.’ Shakespeare must have seen Lloyd’s mask at some point in order to import the songs into his own play.

There is an extremely famous & charming sonnet-reading scene, which shows how much the art form was on Shakespeare’s mind at the time. Examples include;

So sweet a kiss the golden sun gives not
To those fresh morning drops upon the rose,
As thy eye-beams, when their fresh rays have smote
The night of dew that on my cheeks down flows:
Nor shines the silver moon one half so bright
Through the transparent bosom of the deep,
As doth thy face through tears of mine give light;
Thou shinest in every tear that I do weep:
No drop but as a coach doth carry thee;
So ridest thou triumphing in my woe.
Do but behold the tears that swell in me,
And they thy glory through my grief will show:
But do not love thyself; then thou wilt keep
My tears for glasses, and still make me weep.

Did not the heavenly rhetoric of thine eye,
‘Gainst whom the world cannot hold argument,
Persuade my heart to this false perjury?
Vows for thee broke deserve not punishment.
A woman I forswore; but I will prove,
Thou being a goddess, I forswore not thee:
My vow was earthly, thou a heavenly love;
Thy grace being gain’d cures all disgrace in me.
Vows are but breath, and breath a vapour is:
Then thou, fair sun, which on my earth dost shine,
Exhalest this vapour-vow; in thee it is:
If broken then, it is no fault of mine:
If by me broke, what fool is not so wise
To lose an oath to win a paradise?

The composition of LLL would have taken place not long after Shakespeare had experienced the turmoil of his Turkish menage a trois as depicted in his sonnets. This explains how the Dark Lady of the sonnets found her way into LLL, when the beauties of a certain sable-skinned lady called ‘Rosaline’ are described.

FERDINAND – By heaven, thy love is black as ebony.
BIRON – Is ebony like her? O wood divine!
A wife of such wood were felicity.
O, who can give an oath? where is a book?
That I may swear beauty doth beauty lack,
If that she learn not of her eye to look:
No face is fair that is not full so black.
FERDINAND – O paradox! Black is the badge of hell,
The hue of dungeons and the suit of night;
And beauty’s crest becomes the heavens well.
BIRON – Devils soonest tempt, resembling spirits of light.
O, if in black my lady’s brows be deck’d,
It mourns that painting and usurping hair
Should ravish doters with a false aspect;
And therefore is she born to make black fair.
Her favour turns the fashion of the days,
For native blood is counted painting now;
And therefore red, that would avoid dispraise,
Paints itself black, to imitate her brow.
DUMAIN – To look like her are chimney-sweepers black.
LONGAVILLE – And since her time are colliers counted bright.
FERDINAND – And Ethiopes of their sweet complexion crack.

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1589
SPRING
Shakespeare joins the Queen’s Players

The parallels between Shakespeare’s plays & the Queen’s plays,’ writes Terence G Schoone-Jongen, ‘are substantial & intricate,’ & that Shakespeare was a member of the Queen’s Players seems likely. A number of their recorded plays were rewritten by Shakespeare, with lines & phrases popping all across the his extensive ouvre. Where the Queen’s Players produced & acted in Richard III & King Leir, so Shakespeare wrote a version of Richard III & the slightly differently spelt King Lear. Where The Two Gentlemen of Verona shares much with the Queen’s Players’ Felix & Philomena, so the playlet of the mechanicals in Act V of A Midsummer Night’s Dream bears a strong resemblance to the Players’ Clyomon and Clamydes. Likewise, while The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth forms the entire foundation for the material of 1 Henry IV, 2 Henry IV and Henry V; their Troublesome Reign of King John is simply a redaction of Shakespeare’s King John. So much so, that in the 1611 quarto printing of the Troublesome Reign, the authorship was assigned to ‘W. Sh’ which was elongated in the 1622 printing into ‘W. Shakespeare.

Among the many similarities which have been observ’d, Launce’s rebuking of his dog, Crab, in Two Gentlemen, finds a precedent in Sir Clyomon & Sir Clamydes. Regarding the two Leirs, Sir Walter Greg suggested that, ‘ideas, phrases, cadences from the old play still floated in his memory below the level of conscious thought, &… now & again one or another helped to fashion the words that flowed from his pen.’ Elsewhere, Brian Walsh remarks on Shakespeare’s acute familiarity with the ‘recitation of genealogy from plays in the Queen’s Men repertory,’ & also observes how Shakespeare’s King John keeps the line, ‘For that my grandsire was an Englishman,’ & the Hamlets share, ‘the screeking Raven sits croking for revenge.’ We have also seen how Richard Tarleton died in September 1588, a West Midlands lad just like Shakespeare, he could well be creoshisped into the court jester Yorrick in Hamlet, to whose skull is spoken the the famous line, ‘alas poor Yorick, I knew him so well.

1589
SUMMER
Shakespeare gets involved with the Blackfriars Theatre

Blackfriars2

All his life Shakespeare would be involved in all aspects of the stage, taking part shares in theatres, writing the bloody plays, & even acting them. He was Mr. Theatre. His first venture into the financial side of things was in 1589, when he took a share in the Blackfriars Theatre. Evidence came through a manuscript which passed into the hands of Lord Ellesmere, then attorney-general, turning up in the 1840s at Bridgewater House. The manuscript reveals how Shakespeare’s name stands twelfth in the enumeration of the members of the company;

These are to certifie your right Honble Lordships, that her majesty’s poore playeres, James Burbadge, Richard Burbadge, John Laneham, Thomas Greene, Robert Wilson, John Taylor, Anth. Wadeson, Thomas Pope, George Peele, Augustine Phillipps, Nicholas Towley, William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Johnson, Baptiste Goodale, & Robert Armyn, being all of them sharers in the black Fryers playehouse, have never given cause of displeasure, in that they have brought into their playes maters of state & Religion, unfitt to be handled by them, or to be presentved before lewde spectators: neither hath anie complaynte in that kinde ever bene preferrd against them, or anie of them. Wherefore, they trust most humblie in your Lordships consideration of their former good behaviour, being at all tymes readie, & willing, to yeelde obedience to any command whatsoever your Lordships in your wisdome may thinke in such case meete, &c.

1589
SUMMER
Shakespeare reads out Venus & Adonis

One hot summer’s day in London 1589, perhaps on the lawn of Fisher’s Folly, Shakespeare was reading Venus & Adonis to a select crowd. He would have turned 25 – a fun-loving age if ever there was one – & drunken evenings filled with the early stanzas of Shakespeare’s erotic masterpiece would have been great fun to have attended. One man that did hear the poem was Thomas Lodge, whose 1589 poem ‘Scillaes Metamorphosis,’ has many captivating echoes of V&A. Lodge also spent time in the Earl of Derby’s household in the same decade, which ensures his admission into the private circle about Stanley & Shakespeare. As for his ‘Scillaes Metamorphosis, Shakespeare’s words are taken almost wholesale;

But like a stormy day, now wind, now rain,
Sighs dry her cheeks V&A

And when my tears had ceas’d their stormy shower
He dried my cheeks Lodge

Sometimes she shakes her head, and then his hand,
Sometime her arms infold him like a band  V&A

Some chafe his temples with their lovely hands,
Some weep, some wake, some curse affection’s bands Lodge

Lodge’s poem uses the same 6-lined stanza & rhyme scheme of Venus & Adonis, & even pays tribute to Shakespeare’s master-class with the following stanzas;

He that hath seen the sweet Arcadian boy
Wiping the purple from his forced wound,
His pretty tears betokening his annoy,
His sighs, his cries, his falling on the ground,
The echoes ringing from the rocks his fall,
The trees with tears reporting of his thrall:

And Venus starting at her love-mate’s cry,
Forcing her birds to haste her chariot on;
And full of grief at last with piteous eye
Seeing where all pale with death he lay alone,
Whose beauty quail’d, as wont the lilies droop
When wasteful winter winds do make them stoop:

Her dainty hand address’d to daw her dear,
Her roseal lip allied to his pale cheek,
Her sighs, and then her looks and heavy cheer,
Her bitter threats, and then her passions meek;
How on his senseless corpse she lay a-crying,
As if the boy were then but new a-dying.

1589
AUGUST-SEPTEMBER
Shakespeare tours with the Queen’s Players

Richard Tarleton
Richard Tarleton

Since their formation in 1583, the Queen’s Players had been the leading troupe of actors in the land, travelling widely, & also performing at court over the prestigious festive season. One of its principle members was the not physically attractive, yet highly acclaimed comic actor, Richard Tarelton. After his death in Shoreditch in September 1588, the company was a man down, which at some point in the coming months would be filled by William Shakespeare. Coincidence or not, a certain trustee of Tarleton’s will, William Johnson, would one day become a trustee on Shakespeare’s purchase of a house in Blackfriars.

Shakespeare joined the Queen’s Players at a time when they sometimes divided into sub-troupes. ‘By 1589,’ writes Terence G Schoone-Jongen, ‘each branch – one apparently led by John & Laurence Dutton, the other by John Laneham – was sometimes identified by its leader as well as patron. Initially, the divided branches may have been a touring practice.’ An entry in the Ancient Treasury Book of Dublin reveals that in 1589, four pounds was paid to troupes called The Queen’s Players and The Queen and Earl of Essex Players ‘for showing their sports.’ These two troupes then travel to Knowsley, where the Queen’s Men performed in the evening of 6th Sept. and in the afternoon of 7th Sept., and then Essex’s players performed in the evening of 7th Sept.

1589
SEPTEMBER
The Queen’s Players are sent to the court of King James

King James VI of Scotland clearly loved the theatre, surrounded himself with artists and musicians, collectively known as the Castalian Band, & composed many quite decent poems of his own. Thus enamour’d with the literary arts, to help celebrate his upcoming marriage to a princess of Denmark called Anna, he asked Queen Elizabeth of England if he could borrow some of her actors. It is her majesty’s granting of her royal cousin’s request that begins Shakespeare’s first visit to Scotland. The statement of the Revels tells us in September 1589 money was paid; ‘ for the furnishing of a mask for six maskers and six torchbearers, and of such persons as were to utter speeches at the shewing of the same maske, sent into Scotland to the King of Scotts mariage, by her Majestieís commanundement.’ We are here going to place William Shakespeare as one of the ‘six maskers,’ ie a member of one of the half-troupes into which the Queen’s Players sometimes divided.

Not long after the request, the governor of Carlisle, Baron Scroop of Bolton, found himself involv’d. This shows that Shakespeare was in Carlisle on September 20th. After the request had reached Knowsley, & after their last performance there on the afternoon of the 7th, it seems that it took the Queen’s Players three days to travel the 100 miles or so between Knowsley & Carlisle by the 10th September.

After my verie hartie comendacions: vpon a letter receyved from Mr. Roger Asheton, signifying vnto me that yt was the kinges earnest desire for to have her Majesties players for to repayer into Scotland to his grace : I dyd furthwith dispatche a servant of my owen unto them wheir they were in the furthest part of Langkeshire, wherevpon they made their returne heather to Carliell, wher they are, and have stayed for the space of ten dayes, whereof I thought good to gyve yow notice in the respect of the great desyre that the king had to have the same Come unto his grace: And withall to praye yow to gyve knowledg therof to his Majestie. So for the present, I bydd yow right hartelie farewell

Carlisle
The xxth of Septemre, 1589
Yowr verie assured loving friend
H Scrope

 

1589
OCTOBER
Shakespeare in Scotland

Because of stormy seas, Princess Anna could not make the treacherous crossing of the North Sea, & James had camped up at Seton Castle to watch the Firth of Forth for any ships from Denmark. A letter from William Asheby to Walsingham. [Sept. 8, 1589) reads;

With the first wind the Queen is expected out of Denmark. It is thought that she embarked about the 2nd instant, but that contrary winds keep the fleet back. Great preparation is made at Leith to receive her, and to lodge her till the solemnity, which shall be twelve days after her arrival. The King is at Seaton till her arrival.

A very impatient & romantically-minded James decided instead to risk the crossing & marry his young bride in Norway instead. With him went Shakespeare, but before they sailed from Leith on October 24th, Shakespeare clearly spent time perusing the Royal Library in Edinburgh. It is that place that the single manuscript copy of William Stewart’s Chronicle of Scotland. 43,000 lines long, and written in the Scottish vernacular, there are positive parrallels with Macbeth, including one of sixty-five lines which elucidates the murderous motives of Macbeth and his wife. Wilson notes that, ‘Boece and Holinshed have nothing corresponding to this, and yet how well it sums up the pity of Macbeth’s fall as Shakespeare represents it.’ Another chronicle-marker is a 26 line tirade by Lady Macbeth as she taunts her husband as being a coward and unmanly and breaking his vow to seek the crown (1.7.36–61). ‘In every case in which Stewart differs from Holinshed,’ says Stopes, ‘Shakespeare follows Stewart.’

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Other source for Macbeth which Shakespeare studied in the Royal Scottish Library include Andrew Wyntoun’s metrical ‘Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland’ & the ‘Flyting betwixt Montgomerie and Polwart,’ which contains the three wyrd sisters. In this poem, after their cursings come to a close, they begin to speak to each in turn, just as they deliver their prophecies in Macbeth.

The first said, ‘surelie of a shot;’
The second, ‘of a running knot;’
The third, ‘be throwing of the throate,
Like a tyke ouer a tree.

1589
OCTOBER
Shakespeare sails to Norway

That Shakespeare & the Queen’s Players went with James in the large wedding entourage can be discerned through an epigram in John Davies of Hereford’s The Scourge of Folly (c.1610). Dedicated to, ‘our English Terence Mr. Will: Shake-speare,’  it begins;

SOME say good Will (which I, in sport, do sing)
Had’st thou not plaid some Kingly parts in sport,
Thou hadst bin a companion for a King

Scholars have scratched their heads over this passage for centuries, but there is a starkness to it which fits with consummate ease into Shakespeare & the Queen’s Player’s accompanying King James VI to Denmark. On October 30th James landed at Flekkefjord in Norway. He and his entourage then proceeded to Oslo. In the Danish Account of the day, translated by Peter Graves, we may observe how Shakespeare first became acquainted with the figure who be creochisped into ‘Hamlet’ as Guildenstern, the friend of Rosencrantz.

When his majesty arrived, he went to to Old Bishop’s palace to meet her ladyship. this was the order of the procession: first walked two Scottish noblemen (who were his majesty’s heralds) each bearing a white stick as a sign of peace; next came Steen Brahe, Henning Gioye, Axel Gyldenstierne, Hans Pederson, Ove Juel, Captain Noimand & Peter Iversen; then came his majesty between the Scottish earl & another Scottish lord; after them came the king’s courtiers & the Scottish nobility, all with their hats in their hands

As for Rosencrantz, he would have been about somewhere, for among the Danish signatories to the prenuptual demands made by Scottish enjoys on behalf of the king (9th July 1589), we may observe a certain ‘Jørgen Rozenkrantz.’

1589-90
WINTER
Shakespeare visits Kronborg Castle

James and Anne wre married November 23rd, after which most of the entourage returned to Scotland, but others – including Shakespeare – accompanied the royal couple to Kronborg Castle in Denmark from where, wrote James, ‘we are drinking & dryving (killing time) in the auld manner.’ Kronborg is the very place in which Hamlet as we know it was set, yet the original story as given by Saxo Grammaticus, shows how Hamlet’s father was the govenore of Jutland – Kronborg, however, is on Zealand.

download1I am inclined to think that during his visit to Denmark, Shakespeare began to revise his Hamlet, adding genuine on-the-spot location stuff to an earlier verision of the play. Shakespeare’s presence at Kronborg as part of a wandering troupe of players seems to echo out into Hamlet’s famous ‘play-within-the-play.’ In this passage from Hamlet, the traveling players enact a ‘Dumb-Show;’

Enter a King and a Queen, very lovingly: the Queen embracing him, and he her. She kneels and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck: lays him down upon a bank of flowers: she, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the Kingís ears, and exit. The Queen returns;  finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The Poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts; she seems loath and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts his love.

Just as Hamlet’s father, the King in the Dumb-Show, was murdered by having poison administered to his ear, in a similar fashion a French surgeon, Ambrosie Parex, was suspected of killing the French King, Francis II, by giving him an ear infection during the course of treatment. Francis, of course, was the first husband of James’ mother, Mary Queen of Scots. It must be noted that while some of the Queen’s Players are in Denmark, the others are performing over the festive season for Queen Elizabeth, where for a performance at Richmond court on the 26th December, they recieved the princely sum of £20.

 

1590
SPRING
Shakespeare returns to Scotland

Later in 1590, James returned to Scotland with his new wife. During the coronation ceremonies, the mask ordered by James the previous September finally got its chance to be aired. Although Shakespeare is not mentioned by name, the clothes He & his five other maskers are, as given in Lansd.MSS 59.

A maske of six coates of purple gold tinsell, garded with purple & black clothe of silver striped. Bases of crimson clothe of gold, with pendants of maled purple silver tinsell. Twoe paire of sleves to the same of red cloth of gold, & four paire of sleves to the same of white clothe of copper, silvered. Six partletts of purplee clothe of silver knotted/ Six hed peces, whereof foure of clothe of gold, knotted, & twoe of purple clothe of gold braunched. Six fethers to the same hed peces. Six mantles, whereof four of oringe clothe of gold braunched, & twoe of purple & white clot of silver braunched. Six vizardes, & siz fawchins guilded.

Six cassocks for torche bearers of damaske; three of yellowe, & three of red, garded with red & yellow damaske counterchaunged. Six paire of hose of damaske; three of yellow, & three of red, garded with red & yellowe damaske counterchaunged. Six hatts of crimson clothe of gold, & six fethers to the same. Six vizardes.

Four heares of silke, & four garlandes of flowers, for the attire of them that are to utter certaine speeches at the shewing of the same maske.

The mask may have been part of the luscious celebrations made during the procession up the royal mile made by the new queen, or perhaps performed at the festivities in Edinburgh castle. That Shakespeare was under the Stuart wing at this time seems to reflect itself into Macbeth again, in particular the 1590 witch trials of Denmark & North Berwick, near Edinburgh. The poor ‘witches’ had been given the blame for the bad weather keeping Anna from James, & also the terrible storms they had to endure on the return voyage. No-one dared to mention it had actually been Winter, & so more than a hundred suspected witches in North Berwick were arrested, and many confessed under torture to having met with the Devil in the church at night, and devoted themselves to doing evil, including poisoning the King and other members of his household, and attempting to sink the King’s ship. In Macbeth, Shakespeare adapted many concepts from the trials, including the rituals confessed by the witches & the borrowing of  quotes from the treaties, such as spells, ‘purposely to be cassin into the sea to raise winds for destruction of ships.’

1590
AUTUMN
Shakespeare in Titchfield

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton
Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton

According to Aubrey,  Shakespeare had been, ‘in his younger yeares a schoolmaster in the countrey.’ On returning to Britain in 1590, Shakespeare’s ‘younger years’ are running out somewhat, & we only have two more years to go until he is a smash-hot dramatist & the talk of all London. There is a trail that does lead to a possibility of Shakespeare tutoring a younger person, for in 1594 our bard would dedicate venus & Adonis to Henry Wriothesley, the young Earl of Southampton. Nicholas Rowe describes how Shakespeare, ‘had the honour to meet with many great and uncommon marks of favour and friendship from the Earl of Southampton, famous in the histories of that time for his friendship to the unfortunate Earl of Essex.’ Rowe adds;

There is one instance so singular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakespeare’s, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William D’Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted, that my Lord Southampton, at one time, gave him a thousand pounds to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great and very rare at any time, and almost equal to that profuse generosity the present age has shown to French dancers and Italian eunuchs

In 1590 Edmund Spenser had settled for a while near Alton in Hampshire, with Samuel Woodford telling Aubrey how ‘Mr. Spenser lived sometime in these parts, in this delicate sweet air; where he enjoyed his muse, and wrote a good part of his verses.’ Some of these verses were included volume of poems called The Tears of the Muses, registered on the 29th December, 1590. They were dedicated to a relation, Alice Spencer of Althorp, who had married Ferdinando Stanley, with Spenser referring in his dedication to, ‘some private bands of affinity which it hath pleased your ladyship to acknowledge.’ In one of the stanzas we see the return of the very ‘Willy’ who inhabited Spenser’s Calendar.

And he, the man, whom Nature self had mad
To mock herself, and Truth to imitate,
With kindly counter under mimic shade,
Our pleasant Willy, ah! is dead of late:
With whom all joy and jolly merriment
Is also deaded, and in dolour drent.

But that same gentle spirit, from whose pen
Large streams of honey and sweet nectar flow
Scorning the boldness of such base-born men,
Which dare their follies forth so rashly throw;
Doth rather choose to sit in idle cell,
Than so himself to mockery to sell

Spenser’s ‘large streams of honey and sweet nectar,’ is reminiscent of Francis Meres own description of Shakespeare, in the Palladis Tamia: Wit’s Treasury, as ‘the witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous & honey-tongued Shakespeare.’ That Shakespeare was dead of late indicates he is between creative periods, while the ‘cell’ mentioned by Spenser points to Shakespeare having taken up the position of tutoring the Earl of Southampton. Fresh from Cambridge, he was spending the summer only twenty five miles away in Titchfield, where his mother, Countess Mary, was in residence in Titchfield House. Plans of 1737 show a large room on the upper level of Titchfield House labelled as ‘Play House Room,’

1591
Shakespeare’s creative output

Despite Spenser assuming Shakespeare was ‘dead of late,’ in reality our bard was working on The Taming of the Shrew, & the cycle of History plays which would soon be making his name & fame. Henry VI had married Margaret Anjou in Titchfield Abbey in 1445, which is of course relevant, while his relationship with the Stanleys cemented the theme of his pro-Tudor dramatical paeans. ‘There is general agreement, writes Lefranc, ‘that Shakespeare, in the historical dramas he devoted to the wars of the Roses, in spite of his usual impartiality, shows himself Lancastrian.‘ Similarily, Honigmann relates that, ‘Shakespeare rearranged history so as to make Stanley’s services to the incoming Tudor dynasty seem more momentous than they really were.’ The Stanleys had helped Henry VII gain victory on the fields of Bosworth back in 1485, earning them great earldom of the north in the process. The first Earl of Derby, Thomas Stanley, was even said to have crowned Henry on the battlefield;

Then therle of Darby without taking more reade, Straighte set the crowne on King Harry the Seaventh his heade The Rawlinson Poet

The coat of arms can be seen on Shakespeare’s monument, above his grave in Holy Trinity Church, and versions of it can be seen on Shakespeare’s Birthplace, above the entrance to the Shakespeare Centre and at Shakespeare's New Place.
The coat of arms can be seen on Shakespeare’s monument, above his grave in Holy Trinity Church, and versions of it can be seen on Shakespeare’s Birthplace, above the entrance to the Shakespeare Centre and at Shakespeare’s New Place.

Shakespeare’s own great-grandfather also fought at Bosworth a fact we know through a record made by Shakespeare’s father when he applied to the College of Heralds for a family coat of arms in 1596. A draft prepared by William Dethick, the garter king-of-arms, declared by ‘credible report’ that John Shakespeare’s, ‘parentes & late antecessors were for their valeant & faithfull service advanced & rewarded by the most prudent prince King Henry the seventh of famous memorie, sythence whiche tyme they have contiewed at those partes in good reputacion & credit.’ One imagines a solid & immutable bond between Shakespeare & the Stanleys, based upon sharing such a seminal event in their ancestral history. As the years progressed, the bard & his sponsors would have conversed upon many occasions; great fuel for the epic Historical Cycle that Shakespeare was destined to write. ‘Richard the Third,’ writes Richard Wilson, ‘is constructed around a series of tributes to the Stanleys that exaggerates their importance in the invasion of 1485 which brought the Tudors to power.’

The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare’s hilarious man versus woman romcom, with its spectacular ‘Kiss Me Kate’ conclusion, seems to have been written before 1592. In Antony Chute’s poem Beawtie Dishonoured written under the title of Shores Wife (printed 1593) we read ‘He calls his Kate and she must come and kisse him.’ There are, in fact, two versions of the play –Taming of a Shrew & Taming of the Shrew. Of these, the first is set in Greece, & Shakespeare’s version is set in Italy, suggesting a relocation by our Italy-loving bard. In A Shrew there is a stage direction of Enter Simon, Alphonsus. Since the play’s character ‘Simon’ is already on stage, we may presume that Simon was the real name of ‘Alfonsus’, thus making him Simon Jewell of the Queen’s Players who died in August 1592. We may also discern verbal parallels between ‘A Knack to Know a Knave’ and both Shrew plays. A Knack was first performed by Strange’s Men at the Rose on 10 June 1592 and marked ‘ne’ (meaning ‘new’) in Henslowe’s diary.

1592
FEBRUARY
The Battle of Alcazar

In early 1592, it seems that one of the plays he had work’d on with Stanley on the Continental tour was also being prepared for performance. When in North Africa, Shakespeare would have listened to tales of the Battle of Ksar El Kebir, fought in northern Morocco on the 4th of August 1578. Brian Vickers shows the numerous verbal echoes between the co-authored parts of Titus Andronicus & the Battell of Alcazar. Macdonald P Jackson (1996) has highighted quite expertly how the weird formalities of the first Act of Titus are mirrored by those of the Battle of Alcazar, while Vickers highlights the highly similar double consonantal alliteration found in Titus & Alcazar

Honor the spurre that prickes the princely minde
Blacke in his looke, & bloudie in his deeds Titus

Give us the proudest prisoner of the Goths
But if you hunt these bear-whelps then beware Alcazar

‘The Battell of Alcazar,’ was more properly titled, as printed in its quarto edition, ‘The Battell of Alcazar, fought in Barbarie, between Sebastian king of Portugal, and Abdelmelec king of Marocco.’ Topical references to the Armada suggest the play was written 1588-1589. One of the characters in the pay is called ‘Muly Molucco,’ & a play going by that very name was first performed by Lord Strange’s Men on the 21 February 1592.

shakespeare

1592
MARCH
A Star is Born

 In the March of 1592, the world at large became witness to Henry VI part 1, performed by Ferdinando Stanley’s Lord Strange’s Men. After an unprecedented six performaces at court over the winter season,  they began playing in the capital’s theatres, including the Rose, which opened on February 19th, 1592. In his diary, the Rose’s theatre manager, Philip Henslowe recorded quite succinctly that on the 3rd March 1592,  he had seen a ‘ne’ play called ‘Harey the vj.’ This was one of only 105 performances of 24 different plays performed by Lord Strange’s Men between 19 February & 22 June 1592. In the August of that year, when in his Pierce Penniless, Thomas Nashe refers to a play he had recently seen which featured a rousing depiction of Lord Talbot, a major character in Henry VI part 1, supporting the hyperfact that ‘Harey the vj’ was indeed Henry VI part 1.

The paying public would have been amazed, & with this play & its prequels/sequels, Shakespeare thrust himself onto the public imagination in much the same way George Lucas did with his Star Wars trilogy. Takings for the run were three pounds, sixteen shillings & eightpence, which equates to 16,444 pennies in the ‘box’ – a clear hit! There was a new kid on the block, with this box-office smash, Shakespeare began his journey to the highest peaks of fame.

1592
SUMMER
Shakespeare attacked by Greene

Shakespeare’s plays were clearly a hit, but true fame is laced with a bit of envious spite, thus enter fellow playwright, Robert Greene. Writing practically on his deathbed in his Groatsworth of Wit, he vilifies Shakespeare as, ‘an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.’  By parodying Shakespeare’s line ‘O tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide,’ (Henry VI, part 3), it is clear Greene is alluding to Shakespeare in quite jealous tones. In the same pamphlet, Greene castigates Shakespeare & Thomas Kyd with, ‘it is pity men of such rare wits [Nashe, Marlowe and Peele] should be subject to the pleasures of such rude grooms.’ On their formation in 1583, the Queen’s Players were given the title, ‘grooms of the chamber.’ This provides further eevidence to place Shakespeare with Her Majesty’s players.

The old order was dying – Greene passed away on the 2nd September – & a completely new theater was springing up about the marvellous & remarkable quill of an ‘uneducated’ Warwickshire yeoman. By the end of the year, even Greene’s publisher was climbing aboard the bandwagon, when in a preface to Kind-Harts Dreame by Henry Chettle, we find;

220px-greenes-groats-worthAbout three moneths since died M. Robert Greene, leauing many papers in sundry Booke sellers hands, among other his Groatsworth of wit, in which a letter written to diuers play-makers, is offensively by one or two of them taken, and because on the dead they cannot be auenged, they wilfully forge in their concietes a liuing Author: and after tossing it two and fro, no remedy, but it must light on me. How I haue all the time of my conuersing in printing hindred the bitter inueying against schollers, it hath been very well knowne, and how in that I dealt I can sufficiently prooue. With neither of them that take offence was I acquainted, and with one of them I care not if I neuer be: The other, whome at that time I did not so much spare, as since I wish I had, for that as I haue moderated the heate of liuing writers, and might haue vsde my owne discretion, (especially in such a case) the Author beeing dead, that I did not, I am as very, as if the originall fault had beene my fault, because my selfe haue scene his demeanor no lesse ciuill than he exclent in the qualitie he professes: Besides, diuers of worship haue reported, his vprightnes of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writting, that aprooues his Art. For the first, whose learning I reuerence, and at the perusing of Greenes Booke stroke out what then in conscience I thought he in some displeasure writ; or had it beene true, yet to publish it, was intollerable: him I would wish to vse me no worse than I deserue. I had onely in the copy this share, it was il written, as sometime Greenes hand was none of the best, licensd it must be, ere it could bee printed which could neuer be if it might not be read. To be breife I writ it ouer, and as neare as I could, followed the copy, onely in that letter I put something out, but in the whole booke not a worde in, for I protest it was all Greenes, not mine nor Master Nashes, as some unjustly haue affirmed.

It seems that Mister William Shakespeare, gent., had arrived, & at 28 his youth, his true youth, was over.

 

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Next Wednesday, 21/03/18

Chapter 9:  The Badon Babel Tree

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CHISPOLOGY

Chapter 1: The Exodus
Chapter 2: The Aryan Invasion
Chapter 3: The Mahabharata
Chapter 4: Agastya
Chapter 5: The Picts
Chapter 6: Brunanburh
Chapter 7: The Young Shakespeare
Chapter 8: Shakespeare’s Blossom
Chapter 9: The Badon Babel Tree
Chapter 10: The Saxon Advent

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THE CHISPER EFFECT

chisper_effectChapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang

Chispology 7 : The Young Shakespeare

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chisp cover

Continuing the serialization of

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

CHISPOLOGY

In which a few more of the world’s greatest mysteries… are finally solved

Available to buy in book form

Autumn 2018

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In the Chisper Effect, I focuss’d my attention on the period of the Grand Tour undertaken by Shakespeare with the young English nobleman, William Stanley. Plunging in media res, I very much neglected to deposit any information as to how  Shakespeare ended up in such a situation. However, just as it was possible to trace Shakespearse course across the continent, so shall we be able to follow the course of Shakespeare’s youth up to the moment in 1585 when he finds himself in the retinue  the Earl of Derby, William Stanley’s father. An important key to unlocking the puzzle can be found with another of the great Elizabethan poets, Edmund Spenser of the Faerie Queen fame, to whom chispology may also unearth some long lost knowledge. As in the Chisper Effect I shall present the information in chronological order…

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1525: Shakespeare’s family lands

In 1525, Richard Shakespeare, our poet’s grandfather, possessed lands at a place called Wroxall, between Coventry & Birmingham. Eight miles to the north of Wroxall lies the manor of Meriden, known to have belonged to the Earl of Derby, who possessed, according to Thomas Aspden;

The ancient seats of Lathom and Knowsley, with all the houses, lands, castles, and appurtenances in Lancashire, Cumberland, Yorkshire, Cheshire, and many in Wales ; also the manor of Meriden, in the County of Warwick, with the old seat in Cannon Row, Westminster (afterwards called Derby Court), and also the advowson of the Parish Church of the Holy Trinity, in the city of Chester.

It is only a loose connection, but we can positively determine how the ‘antecessors’ Stanley & the Shakespeare were, in essence, nieghbours.

Image_3674

1552: Edmund Spenser born

Edmund Spenser was born to Lancastrian parents, but down in the nation’s capital. Spenser’s father, John, originally from the Burnley area (like me), had moved to London to seek work, appearing in the Merchant Taylor’s school annals as a free ‘journeyman, clothworker.’ In the Spenserian epoch, East Lancashire was simply teeming with Edmunds & John Spensers, the two names alternating from generation to generation, as seen in a will made by Margaret Spenser of Hurstwood in 1605;

Mary, Margaret, and ffrances Nutter daughters of the said Henry, Edmund Spenser son and heir of John Spenser, deceased, ” to him ” all my manure or worthinge,”  Henry Spencer base son of John Spenser, Nicholas Towne and Grace Towne now his wife ” “one churn one Masheknoppe” ” Mary Spenser daughter of John Spenser deceased, Richard Cowcrofte to whom I am Aunt, Henry Cowcrofte of Birchecliffe, John Spenser, of Hurstwood, Ellinor now his wife, Edmund Spenser son of the said John Spenser

In the gorgeous wee hamlet of Hurstwood, near Burnley, there is a tudor building known as ‘Spenser’s House’ still standing today. In and around Hurstwood, & at Extwistle-and-Briercliffe in Burnley, the Spensers, formerly Le Spensers, had long held property. In the Gentleman’s Magazine of August 1842, Dr Craik cites the research of a certain FC Spenser of Halifax, who declared;

The poet always spelt his surname with an s; and it appears from the registers that it was spelt in the same manner by the family at Hurstwood; not only in the reign of Elizabeth, but for a century afterwards; while even at Kildwick, near Skipton, only about ten or twelve miles distant, it is spelled with a c, in the manner as did, and do, the Spencers of Althorpe.

1557: John Shakespeare marries into the Arden family

Shakespeare’s father turns up in Stratford on June 17, 1556, brought to court by a certain Thomas Such for the recovery of £8. He is described as, ‘John Shakyspere of Stretforde, in the county of Warwick, glover.’ After three hearings that summer, the case was eventually dismissed when Thomas Such, ‘did not complete the action he embarked on.’ A year later he marries Mary Arden in Stratford-upon-Avon, whose family were staunch Catholics under a Catholic queen, Mary Tudor. The excellent essay, To Be or Not to Be (Catholic, That is),’ by Daniel Wackerman shows how Shakespeare’s maternal grandfather, Edward Arden, ‘was said to have secretly kept his own catholic priest, disguised as the family gardener,’ adding that Shakespeare’s mother, ‘made specific mention of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her will, a practice long out of fashion for all save Catholics in 16th-century England.’ It seems the old faith would never really leave their son, William, whom according to the Rev. Richard Davies, the rector of Sapperton (1695), ‘dyed a papist.’

1558: Familists

Mary Tudor died in November 1558. During her time as queen she had reversed her father’s establishment of the Protestant Church of England & ruled as a Catholic, burning a whole heap of Protestants along the way. Her sister & successor Elizabeth would re-establish her Henry VIII’s ‘Church of England,’ which at a stroke sent Catholic families such as the Ardens into secret worship once again. In the middle of this religious schizophrenia that was western Christendom in the 16th century, one sect fluttered about like a butterfy in a hurricane, preaching peace & unity of faith. The Familists were a radical, non-sectarian religious group known as the ‘Family of Love,’ who embraced both Catholics AND Protestants – the perfect alternative for the schismatic psyche of the Tudor state.  Familism began to take hold in England during the 1550s, led by a certain Christopher Vittels, who had been a disciple of the Dutch Familist leader, Henry Niclaes. Worshipping in secret, the Familists would conceal their true beliefs while putting on a show of conformity for the outside world. If they were ever outed, they would stringently deny it, realizing it was better to briefly lie & stay alive in order to continue the worship of God, rather than let pride lead them to the bonfire.

1559: The establishment of Douay University

The small town of Douay lies on the River Scarpe, twenty miles south of Lille in northern France. A flourishing, medieval conurbation; it had become stuffed full of English Catholics in exile, hoping to save their country from the ‘heathen’ protestant church. In1559 the town established a university, with its first chancellor being the exiled Dr. Richard Smith, former Fellow of Merton and regius professor of divinity at Oxford.

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 1560: John Shakespeare signs his Catholic Spiritual Testament

In the 18th century, in the rafters of the house on Henley Street, Stratford, was found ‘The Sacred Testament,’ a handwritten personal dedication to the Catholic faith, signed by Shakespeare’s father himself. That our bard at some point in his life encountered the Testament seems quite likely, based upon the strikingly similar parallels between Article I of the Testament and the Ghost’s words in Hamlet;

I may be possibly cut off in the blossom of my sins, and called to render an account of all my transgressions externally and internally, and that I may be unprepared for the dreadful trial either by sacrament, penance, fasting, or prayer, or any other purgation whatever
Testament

Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousel’d, disappointed, unanel’d,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head:
Hamlet

In the Testament, where John Shakespeare beseeches,‘all my dear friends, parents, and kinsfolks,’ the pluralization of parents means the testament must have been made before 1561, the year when John’s father Richard, died.

1564: Birth of William Shakespeare

In April 1564, just as the season of spring was beginning to flood the British Isles with scent & colour, a certain Mary Shakespeare has just given birth to a boy. Holding her hand is her husband, John Shakespeare, excited at the prospect of their baby, but nervous as to whether he would survive the rigors of infancy. Their first two swaddling baby girls had pass’d away before they could walk, & it would have been with doubtless trepidation when ‘Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere’ was scribbl’d in the Baptismal record of Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church on the 26 April 1564. It turned out that John & Mary had no need to worry, even when three months later the plague struck Stratford. By the end of the year over 200 people had been buried, about one fifth of the population of the town, but thro’ fate or fortune baby Will survived the outbreak, & would eventually grow up into one of the finest young men in the kingdom.

1566: Sir John Townley imprisoned for Catholicism

This countri as yett is verie backward in religion’ wrote Thomas Mead,’they that have the sword in there handes vnder her maiestie to redresse abuses among vs, suffer it to rust in the scabarde,’. He was talking about Lancashire, probably the most staunchly Catholic county in England. Lancashire was a superstitious, underpopulated region, where almost all of the gentry refused to accept the new religion imposed on them by Henry VIII & his daughter Elizabeth. They were more than willing to pay fines to the state rather than join a parish congregation onto which a Genevan vicar had been foisted. Of these nobles, the most prolific offender was Sir John Townley of Towneley Hall, whose gorgeous mansion was situated in the most serendipitous grounds just to the south-east of Burnley.

Anybody who did not attend the regular Anglican services was termed a recusant, & Sir John was to be imprisoned several times for his open defiance, paying over £5000 in fines throughout his lifetime in order to avoid attending the Protestants. He would worship the Old Faith in secret at Towneley Hall – now a museum & art gallery – where one can still see the secret chambers where the Catholic priests were hidden. The hall also possesses a beautiful painting of Sir John Towneley sitting with his family, which is imbibed with the following inscription, dated to 1601.

This John, about the 6th or 7th year of her Majesty that now is, for professing the Apostolic Catholic Roman faith, was imprisoned first at Chester Castle, then sent to the Marshalsea, then to York Castle, then to the Blockhouses in Hull, then to the Gatehouse in Westminster, then to Manchester, then to Broughton in Oxfordshire, then twice to Ely in Cambridgeshire; and so now of 73 years old, and is bound to appear and keep within 5 miles of Townley his house; and who hath, since the statute of 23 Elizabeth, paid into the exchequer 20 the month and doth still, so that there is already paid above £5,000. A.D. thor.

1568: The English College founded in Douay

This year sees a bunch of Lancastrian Catholics make a sideways attempt at bringing their country back under the fold of the Vatican. The plan was to train up hundreds of Jesuit priests in Douay, who would return to England as the vanguard of a spiritual reconquista. The brains behind the scheme was a certain Lancastrian Catholic called William Allen, while funding for the college also came from Lancashire, where a certain gentleman called Thomas Hoghton diverted profits from his Alum mines to France. In a flash Douay was filled with cardinals, scholars & would-be priests, a hectic band whose sole purpose was to reclaim English spirituality in defiance of Protestant law. There would be blood, but there would be prayer.

Henley Street
Henley Street

1568: John Shakespeare becomes chief bailiff of Stratford

The first decade of William’s life saw his father grow in influence & affluence all about their home town. In July 1565 he was elected one of the 14 alderman of Stratford, becoming chief bailiff between the autumns of 1568 & 1569. It was on his watch that the Stratford corporation paid for its first ever set of travelling actors to perform in the town, the Queen’s Players. One can imagine the very young Shakespeare observing the theatrical spectacle for the first time, a lightning bolt of electricity which would sear his soul with the sheer wonder of it all.

1569: Death of Robert Nowell

 Another member of the Lancastrian Catholic community was Robert Nowell, a half-brother of Sir John Townley. Upon his death in 1569, to satisfy the requirements of the will both Sir John & Robert’s full brother, Alexander Nowell, distributed linen and woollen cloth among the poor of the parish-dwellers of Burnley. Among the ‘poor kynsfolkes’ who benefited from other parts of the will were Lyttis Nowell of Castle Parish in Clitheroe, who had married a certain Lawrence Spenser. Another Spenser to benefit would be our young poet down London, for Robert Nowell was also the headmaster of the Merchant’s School in which the young Spenser was attending. The 19th century antiquarian J McKay writes of the will;

At folio 25 there is an entry of ‘Gownes geven to certeyn poor scholler (s) of the scholls aboute London, in number 32, viz., St. Paul’s, Merchant Taylor’s, St Anthony’s Schole, St. Saviour’s Gramar Schole, & Westminster Schole. Cost of cloth, with making, xixll. Xs. Vijd.’ First on the list of the scholars of Merchant Taylors’ who recived these gifts stands ‘Edmunde Spenser.’

 1570+: Spenser enters Familist Circles

Throughout the 1570s, the writings of the de facto Familist leader, Henry Niclaeus, were translated by Christopher Vettels & disseminated throughout England. The brains behind the move, according to popular feeling at the time, were the Jesuits, whom the Welsh clergyman Meredith Hanmer (1543–1604) declared did ‘shaketh hands’ with their ‘brethren’ the Familists, a ‘detestable’ society of ‘like antiquity… who say that God is hominified in them & they deified in God.’ That a certain Dutch poet, Sir Jan van der Noot, was among their number can be discerned through his 1576 book, ‘Das Buch Extasis,’ which contains many Familist elements. In 1569 we gain the first hint of Spenser’s own connection to the group, for as a young man he became the English translator of der Noot’s ‘Theatre for Wordlings.’ Spenser admitted to such in 1591 when he reworked & reprinted the verses under his own name, stating them as being ‘formerly translated.’ Van der Noot’s use of embletic woodcuts throughout the 1570s would also inspire Spenser’s series which decorate the months of his Shepheard’s Calendar. We may also observe that in the extreme vicinity of Pendleside – where a Lawrence Spenser who died in 1584 seems to have been the poet’s grandfather – the hamlet of Grindleton was home to one of only two known nests of Familists in the north of England.

1570 : Shakespeare starts school

Of Shakespeare’s schooling, Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718) writes, ‘his Father…. had bred him, ’tis true, for some time at a Free-School.’ This statement comes from Rowe’s introduction to his 1709 edition of Shakespeare’s plays in which he acknowledges, ‘the most considerable part of the passages relating to this life,’ were given him by the actor Thomas Betterton (1634-1710), who had made, ‘a journey to Warwickshire on purpose to gather up what remains he could, of a name for which he had so great a veneration. Founded in the 14th century, Stratford Grammar School is still standing today, kept in a good condition by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. In 1568, according to the chamberlain’s accounts of the town for that year, we see money being spent on ‘repairing the scole,’ ‘dressing and sweeping the scole-house,’ ‘ground-sellynge the old scole, and taking down the sollar over the school,’ which means Shakespeare’s schooling had begun just after a big paint job. He would have started attending from about the age of 6, force fed a diet of endless Latin repetitions with a heavy emphasis on the Roman writers Ovid, Plautus & Seneca. He would also have been made to learn Greek in order to study the scriptures in their original form, being drilled in the Bible until it became second nature to him. Shakespeare even gives us an accurate glimpse into his own schooldays, one expects, when in The Merry Wives of Windsor the headmaster tests the knowledge of a pupil named, appropriately, William.

Sir Hugh Evans
Show me now, William, some declensions of your pronouns.

William Page
Forsooth, I have forgot.

Sir Hugh Evans
It is qui, quae, quod: if you forget your ‘quies,’ your ‘quaes,’ and your ‘quods,’ you must be preeches. Go your ways, and play; go.

 1570: Queen Elizabeth excommunicated

Since Elizabeth took the throne, Catholocism had been more or lass banned in England by a paranoid English government. In 1569 a rebellion of Catholic Northern Earls was brutally quashed by Elizabeth, & a year later the Pope excommunicated the Queen, which initiated, according to Stephen Greenblatt (Will in the World 2005), ‘a nightmarish sequence of conspiracy & persecution, plot & counterplot that continued throughout Elizabeth’s long reign.’

1574: John Shakespeare is doing rather well for himself.

John Shakespeare’s profession, as tradition holds, was a butcher (Aubrey), a glover (official records), a wool merchant (Rowe), or most likley he was employed in all three. By 1574, enough money had been made to pay Edmund & Emma Hall £40 for two freehold houses, complete with lovely tudor-style gardens & orchards. Also in the property portfolio, the family home was still at Henley Street, while the Shaksepeare’s  were still the owners of properties which Mary had inherited.

1574 : Shakespeare writes for the Familists

When Joseph Walford Martin described certain Elizabethan references as being, ‘explicit in their charge that Familist at least incline toward Rome,’ we may now plant a hyperbasis of the pro-Catholic Shakespeares, in fear of persecution but hardly wanting to conform to the Anglian church, beginning to  dabble with this new-fangled ‘Familsm’ in the early 1570s. It is in this year of his John Shakespeare’s greatest financial prosperity that the first official works of William Shakespeare came to light. He was ten at the time, an age where massive minds such as his should have been revealing their first glimmers of genius. Only two years ago, in 2016, a certain Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu became the youngest ever International Master (the level below Grandmaster) in history, at the age of 10 years, 10 months & 19 days. It makes sense that the greatest ever writer in the English language would have shown some intimations as to his talent at an early date. If we see creative output as vegetation, Shakespeare’s would be something akin to the vast & ancient yew tree found on the Whittinghame Estate, East Lothian; with a tangled canopy of green & a root system spreading half a mile or more. Such roots run deep, & when analyzing the Shakespearean metaphysic, we must assume that his own would have ran stretched into startlingly far corners.

There are two ballads printed in 1574 which reflect Shakespeare’s youthful knowledge of the Bible as aqcuired at school. Accredited to a certain W.S., each contains a number of rather neat, but not amazingly written stanzas. The ballads are packed full of semi-quotations from the bible, & it seems to be a learning tool straight from the cloisters of grammar school academe. Printed in Cologne, they made their way to Germany & into the hands of the Familist Hendrik Niclaes, who printed these along with many of his own poems that year, such as his Exhortatio, Evangelium Regni & Epistola. Margaret Healy highlights some of the influence that Niclaean teaching had on Shakespeare;

We might look again in this context at the line in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 124, which seems to designate religious martyrs (those who ‘die for goodness’), rather unheroically, as ‘fools of Time.’ One’s inner spiritual state was crucial, outward appearance was mere show (it is intriguing to recall the line in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 102, ‘I love you not less, though less the show appear’, in relation to this). H.N. believed that through Christ & the Resurrection every man could become spiritually regenerated & godded with god or ‘deified’ (an odd word, which appears in A Lover’s Complaint, line 84).

Almost 450 years later, only single copies of the ballads remain, housed in the Bodleian library at Oxford. The first two stanzas from each poem are given here, when the author, W.S., is named in the Latin statement; Per W.S. Veritatis Amatorem. Anno. 1574.  Reading through these ballads, one can feel the youth of their composer, while also sensing the indescribable talent burgeoning with the promise of beautiful verses yet to come. Note the appearance of the initials of Henry Niklaes (HN).

A new balade or songe of the Lambes feast

I Hearde one saye:
Coma now awaye /
Make no delaye:
 Alack / why stande yee than?
All is doubtlesse
 In redynesse /
 There wantes but Gesse /
 To the Supper of the Lamb.
For Hee is now blest // in verye deede /
Thats found ad Gest // in the Mariage-weede.

THE Scriptures all /
 Perfourmede shall
 Bee, in this my Call /
 Voyced-out by H.N. (than):
I am Gods Love /
Com from above /
All Men to move /
 To the Supper of the Lamb.
 For Hee is now blest // in verye deede /
Thats found ad Gest // in the Mariage-weede

Another, out of goodwill

The Grace from God
     the Father hye /
Which is of Mightes most a /
The Mercye eake from Christ our Lorde /
     And Peace from the holye Gost a /
Com to All // That now shall /
     In Love with us agree a /
And consent // With whole Intent /
     To the Loves Soscietee a 

LOVE the Lorde above al-thinge /
     Is the first Precept by name a:
Love thy Neyghbour as thy-selfe /
     The seconds lyke the same a.
Thus wee see // Love to bee,
     Written with Gods-his owne Hande a /
Toe geeve us Light // And guyde us right /
     Eaven out of that darke Lande a.

It has been long-observed how the writings of the Familist,  Justus Lipsius, had a profound effect on our bard’s political thought, especially his 1584 translation of the treatise De Constantia. In that text, when Lipsius quotes Petronius’ ‘the whole world is a stage-play’ we get the seedlings of one of Shakespeare’s most famous passages, As You Like It’s;

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

c-l-doughty-shakespeare-being-disciplined-as-a-boy

1574 : Italian  actors in England

As we shall see soon enough, Italian theatre would have a major influence on the art & output of our bard. In 1573 & 74, a troupe were in England performing for the queen & in the provinces. The Chamberlains accounts in Nottingham read;

4 or 14 September for serteyne pastyems ‘Italians’… were paid five shillings to ‘make a shewe of an instrument of strange motions within the citie’ before Maister Meare & his brethren

Regarding Queen Elizabeth’ sprogress to Reading & Windsor, we may also trace ‘pastoral’ costumes & props in the Revel Accounts.

a plank of ffyrr… Golde lether for cronettes… shepherdes hookes. maskynnes for Shepperds. Horstayles for the wilde mannes farment… Hoopes for Garlandes. Baye Leaves & flowers… a Syth.

These actors may have been ‘The Gelosi,’  who could well have been performing Torquata Tasso’s recently penned & highly inspirational ‘Aminta.’ We shall see more of Tasso later…

1575: Shakespeare taken out of school

What comes up must come down, & in 1575 John Shakespeare began to tighten his belt, pulling his eldest son out of school. Rowe tells us; ‘the narrowness of his Circumstances, and the want of his assistance at Home, forc’d his Father to withdraw him from thence.’ Confirmation of Shakespeare’s premature departure from grammar school is found in a pleasant eulogy made by Shakespeare’s fellow playwright, Ben Jonson, which reads, ‘and though thou hadst small Latin and less Greek, from thence to honour thee I would not seek.’ Later on in the 17th century, Thomas Fuller adds ‘he was an eminent instance of the truth of that rule, poeta non fit, sed nascitur; one is not made, but born a poet. Indeed his learning was but very little.’

1575
Shakespeare at Kenilworth

In July 1575, in the queen’s royal train on the procession to Kenilworth palace, not far from Stratford, were the Children of the Chapel, a troupe of child actors led by William Hunnis. The outlandish celebrations, especially Hunnis’ device of the Lady of the Lake, would turn up again in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, where plays plays within plays weave with delight through phantasmagorical mythscapes, where Oberon;

Sat upon a promontory
& heard a Mermaid on a Dolphin’s back
uttering such dulcet & harmoinous breath
That the rude seas grew civil at her song
& certain starres shot madly from their spheres
to hear the sea-maids music

This matches a section in George Gascoigne’s ‘The Princely Pleasures, at the Court at Kenilworth’ (1576), where at the Station of the song of Protheus: a water pageant begins with Protheus appearing on a dolphin float with a musical consort inside: “the Dolphyn was conueied vpon the boate, so that the Owners seen to bee his Fynnes. With in the which Dolphyn a Consort of Musicke was secretly placed, the which sounded, and Protheus clearing his voyce, sang his song of congratulation.”

1575: Shakespeare leaves Stratford

In 1575, two events conspired to propel the eleven-year-old Shakespeare out of his hometown. The first echoes the modern truanting teenager, whose idle, juvenile sporting lands them in trouble with the local authorities. In the case of Shakespeare, it was a spot of poaching that landed him in hot water, when according to Rev. Davies our young bard, ‘was much given to all unluckiness in stealing venison & rabbits, particularly from Sir Thomas Lucy, who had him oft whipt, & sometimes imprisoned, & at last made him fly from his native county to his great advancement.’ A transchispering remembrance of these incidents with Sir Thomas bubble to the surface in both Henry IV pt.2 & the Merry Wives of Windsor, in which a certain vain & self-delusional character known as Justice Shallow seems very much modelled on Lucy. Where Shallow says his coat-of-arms depicted ‘luces’, i.e the fish called pikes, so did the Lucy’s of Charlecote. This was not the first time that Lucy would inspire Shakespeare’s words, as discern’d from Rowe’s account of the poaching episode,

He had, by a Misfortune common enough to young Fellows, fallen into ill Company; and amongst them, some that made a frequent practice of Deer-stealing, engag’d him with them more than once in robbing a Park that belong’d to Sir Thomas Lucy of Cherlecot, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that Gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too severely; and in order to revenge that ill Usage, he made a Ballad upon him. And tho’ this, probably the first Essay of his Poetry, be lost, yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled the Prosecution against him to that degree, that he was oblig’d to leave his Business and Family in Warwickshire, for some time, and shelter himself in London

Rowe is here seguing into one story two known facts about Shakespeare’s early life, that he (i) left Stratford after getting into trouble & (ii) settled in London. Between these events I believe that Shakespeare did a lot more living. The trail begins in 1575, when Lancashire-born Simon Hunt gave up his post as Stratford schoolmaster after three years in the post. The First Douay-train’d Jesuits had arrive in England in 1574, cavorting from priest-hole to priest-hole, giving masses in secret to all the favorable nests of papistry. Arriving in Stratford, they struck had been struck to his holy Catholic core, who decided to enroll at the English College in Douay. Accompanying him was Stratford youth, Richard Debdale of Shottery, & also,  we shall here conject, Shakespeare, whose early blossoming in the poetic arts, such as the Familist ballads & the satire pinned at Charlecote, marked him out as a special talent. This faculty for the Muses would have defined him as the perfect student for a certain Douay Jesuit called Edward Campion, who described the imbecabillity of writing poetry (but not love poetry) during one’s youthful studies, while at the same time becoming intimate with, ‘the majesty of Virgil, the festal grace of Ovid, the rythm of Horace, & the buskined speech of Seneca.’

149433-004-6B64985E

1575-76: Shakespeare attends the English College in Douay

Douay was to be a fertile bedsoil in which our poetical prodigy suddenly found himself; heated & passionate rhetoric would have abounded on all sides, infiltrating our wee bard’s psyche with the rhythmic pulsations of intelligent conversazione. The academic atmosphere he found himself among is perfectly described by a grandee at the English College, Rev. Gregory Martin, who described how at mealtimes;

The reader from the pulpit reads aloud the portion of the old Testament which occurs in the Roman breviary at the time… so that the whole bible is easily gone through in one year. Twice a day at the end of each meal they will have the usual explanation of a chapter; only it is done more perfectly than formerly, not merely on account of the pains which Richard Bristow takes, and his knowledge which was always very great, but also because of the increased authority and maturity which is implied in the degree of doctor in divinity lately conferred on him.

That the creative sponge of Shakespeare’s young mind was occupied by Douay is suggested by Cardinal Allen, who stated, ‘we preach in English, in order to acquire greater power and grace in the use of the vulgar tongue’. Of all those listening in 1575, there was one wide-eyed boy in a corner who was acquiring that very‘greater power & grace’ by the minute.

1576: Shakespeare returns to England

After a six-month stint at the English College, the intellectual capacity of our young bard would have been swollen no end. This period was one of the first stages of a unique course of education which just so happened to create one of the greatest poets to have ever lived. His time abroad would have helped mould a mind capable of such epic feats of linguistics that would, later in his career, expand his native tongue with hundreds of loan-words from foreign languages, including French. His departure from Douay, I believe, was with a certain Cuthbert Mayne, who had qualified as a Bachelor of Theology on the 7th February 1576. Two months later, on the 24 April 1576, Shakespeare turn’d twelve. The following day, Cuthbert Mayne set out for England with another priest called John Payne; & let us hyperfact Shaksepeare in that small party also. On arrival in England, Payne went to the South East, while Mayne spent a short period in Cornwall. As for Shakespeare, he suddenly finds himself thrust into the world of child acting in the nation’s capital.

Edmund_Spenser_oil_painting
Edmund Spenser

1576: Theaters spring up across London

While Shakespeare was in East Lancashire, three theaters were built just outside the city limits of London (a fourth, the Curtain, would be built in 1577), where beaurocratic regulations did not apply. The first to be erected was the Newington Butts Playhouse, a mile south of the Thames, which stood roughly on the east side of Walworth Road near the junction with New Kent Road. The landlord was Richard Hickes, one of Queen Elizabeth’s bodyguards – the Yeomen of the Guard – most of whom were secret Familists. Hickes sublet the theatre on the 25th March 1576 to a certain Stratford man called Jerome Savage, described by his contemporary, Peter Hunningborne, as a, ‘verrie lewed fealowe’ who ‘liveth by noe other trade than playinge of staige plaies and Interlevde.’ Very much a man of the vernal Elizabethan theatre, Savage also ran a troupe of actors for the Earl of Warwick, known as Earl of Warwick’s Players.

Three weeks after the Newington Butts Playhouse began its life, a second permanent playhouse was erected at Shoreditch, called rather appropriately the ‘Theatre.’ Later that year, the third London dramahouse was built by court composer & master of the Children of the Chapel acting troupe, Richard Farrant. The location was Blackfriars, upon a section of the site of the monastery dissolved by Henry VIII. Circular & made of wood, these theaters could comfortably hold several thousand people, who would drop a penny into a box (2 for a cushion) as they entered. Later on, this box would be taken to a room, the contents emptied & leading to the phrase ‘Box Office’ of modern theater. The atmosphere created by the circular auditorium, & the closeness of the audience, manifested itself into something akin to that of a modern football match – theater was now popular entertainment, when the lowest & the highest born would rub shoulders together for a couple of hours of fantasy & drama. Just as today, they would had their opinions as to what they were watching – some of the poorer actors & productions had abuse & rotten vegetables hurled at them.

 

1576: Edmund Spenser writes the Shepheard’s Calendar in East Lancashire

On graduating from Pembroke College in Cambridge, like any other student making their first steps into the world, Edmund Spenser went home. Proof comes from the contemporary gloss to the June eclogue of the Shepheard’s Calendar, Spenser’s first major work written in 1576. Provided by a certain ‘E.K.,’ the gloss describes Spenser as composing his poem among, ‘those hylles, that is the North countrye, where he dwelt,’ adding that after the poem’s composition Spenser removed, ‘out of the Northparts’ & then, ‘came into the south.’ According to the ‘Letterbook’ of Gabriel Harvey – the same gentleman to whom the Calendar is dedicated – Spenser’s home ‘shier ‘ is described as being, ‘the middle region of the verye English Alpes.’  It seems certain that the Lancashire sections of the Pennines are meant, which chain stretches from Cumberland down to Derbyshire.

It is while staying at Hurstwood, near Burnley, that Spenser created his sophisticated mini-masterpiece. The Shepheard’s Calendar is pregnant with a wide array of references, & the first real original English poetic production of any merit since Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Wishing to emulate the dorick transfusions as enacted by Theocritus in his own Roman pastorals, Spenser also daubed his creation with a great deal of the lilting local patter of East Lancashire. Where John Dryden describes Spenser as a,‘master of our northern dialect,’ Dr Grosart identified 550 words in the Calendar unique to East Lancashire & West Yorkshire. TT Wilkinson, in a speech to the Historic Society of Lancashire on January 10th 1867, listed forty-five words in that ‘folkspeech’ used by Spenser that were still in circulation in his day. As I can personally attest, some of these words have survived in the locality even to the 21st century, such as;

Brag – boast proudly
Chips – fragments cut off
Clout – blow with flat of hand
To crow over – to boast over someone
Dapper – pretty smart
Latch – temporary fastening of a door
Smirke – smile in a smugly winning manner

There is even a passage in the Calendar which shows how Spenser had come into contact with Sir John Townley, who is given a quiet cameo. We get the sense that Spenser is alluding to Sir John’s enforced silence in the face of a Protestant England, & that the Shepherds mentioned by Spenser are actually Catholic priests.

Truly Piers, thou art beside thy Wit,
Furthest fro the Mark, weening it to hit.
Now I pray thee, let me thy Tale borrow
For our Sir John, to say to-morrow,
At the Kirk, when it is Holiday:
For well he means, but little can say.
But and if Foxes been so crafty, as so,
Much needeth all Shepherds hem to know.

In the Calendar, Hobbinol’s mentions of wastefull hylls, bogs & glens, invokes quite accurately the East Lancashire Pennine landscape. We also have the following exchange which indicates that in the locality of the Calendar, a few Wolves were still clinging to English soil.

Hobbinoll
Fye on thee Diggon, and all thy foule leasing,
Well is knowne that sith the Saxon king,
Neuer was Woolfe seene many nor some,
Nor in all Kent, nor in Christendome:
But the fewer Woolues (the soth to sayne,)
The more bene the Foxes that here remaine.

Diggon
Yes, but they gang in more secrete wise,
And with sheepes clothing doen hem disguise,
They walke not widely as they were wont
For feare of raungers, and the great hunt:
But priuely prolling too and froe,
Enaunter they mought be inly knowe.

The publish’d poem contains a woodcut for each month, painted by the enigmatic ‘E.K.,’ whose pictorial accuracy is proclaimed by Spenser in a 1580 letter to Gabriel Harvey;

Therin be some things excellently, and many things wittily discoursed of E.K., and the pictures so singularly set forth, and purtrayed, as if Michael Angelo were there, he could (I think) nor amende the beste, nor reprehende the worst.

When comparing the woodcuts with photographs I have made of Pendle from similar angles, even the staunchest opponents of Spenser coming from Lancashire must become visibly silent.

pendle - february.

Pendle is to the left of the picture next to the guy's head - notice the lines are a match for the gouges in the flanks of Pendle in the photograph
Pendle is to the left of the picture next to the guy’s head – notice the lines are a match for the gouges in the flanks of Pendle in the photograph
Pendle’s distinctive slope (from the south)
Pendle's very distinctive slant can again be seen to the left of the picture, next to the kirk
Pendle’s very distinctive slant can be seen to the left of the picture, next to the kirk
December
December’s woodcut – more Pendle Hill – compare with the next image…
…of Pendle by K Melling

I’ve also been looking at the Familist connection to Spenser. Its growing clear that the ‘Family of Love’ was kicking about Shakespeare, a quite masonic sect that infiltrated the private bodyguard of the Queen herself. Now then, in all the corners of the north they could have set up shop it is amazing that other than in the metropolis of York, the only place they got to was Pendle. They went on to form a little subsect of their own known as the Grindletonians, of whom McKay writes; Grindleton, at the foot of the big end of Pendle, is a place of note, being the birthplace of that strange fanatical set in the Grindletnoians, whose queer performances made a great stir in the country some centuries ago. Roger Brearley, who was for some six years incumbent of Burnley, was in his day a conspicuous man, an author & a poet.’

1577: Spenser encounters Shakespeare

While Spenser is writing his Calendar, it appears that Cuthbert Mayne & Shakespeare arrived in the area, most probably staying at the pro-Catholic Townley Hall. The previous year, in a letter written by Bishop Downham on the 1st Feb 1575 to the Privy Council, Sir John Townley is placed alongside other notables in Lancashire who, ‘in our opinion of the longest obstanancy against religion & if by your lord’s good wisdoms they would be reclaimed, we think others would as well follow their good example in embracing queen majesty’s most goodly example as they have followed their evil example in contemprising their duty in that behalf.’ That Townely was receiving Jesuit priests such as Cuthbert Mayne is suggested by Spenser’s August eclogue, where we see a certain Cuddy – northern dialect English for Cuthbert. With him are shepheards boyes’ called Perigot & Willye, who also conduct a rhymed discussion in the March eclogue. The youthful appearance of Willye clearly matches the 12-year-old Shakespeare. Spenser would even use the same nick-name for Shakespeare over a decade later, when referring to the bard in a poem known as The Tears of the Muses.

Woodcut to the August eclogue – Willy, Perigot & Cuddy in conversation – note the hill in the far left background with the rolling arm & compare it with Pendle Hill (the lady is my wife)

My bird at Pendle, a couple of miles from Roughlee.

In the August eclogue, ‘Willye’ is speaking in a poetic form known as the Roundelay. This 24-line form had been devised in France only in 1570, & while in Douay a young & poetically minded Shakespeare would have been keen to have kept abreast of the latest developments in the poetic arts.

 PER. It fell upon a holy Eve,
WILL. Hey ho Holiday!
PER. When holy Fathers wont to shrive:
WILL. Now ‘ginneth this Roundelay.
PER. Sitting upon a Hill so high,
WILL. Hey ho the high Hill!
PER. The while my Flock did feed thereby,
WILL. The while the Shepherd self did spill
PER. I saw the bouncing Bellibone;
WILL. Hey ho Bonnibel!
PER. Tripping over the Dale alone,
WILL. She can trip it very well.

Old_St._Paul's_Cathedral_from_the_Thames_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_16531

1576 : The Protestant authorities came down hard on the Catholic Mystery Plays

The Mystery plays were the medieval fore-runners to the theatrical tradition forged in the late Elizabethan era by Shakespeare & his contemporaries. These early proto-plays were especially popular in Wakefield, Yorkshire, & it is the populace of that town that the Diocesan Court of High Commission at York ordered;

In the said play no pageant be used or set further wherein the Ma(jest) ye of God the Father, God the Sonne, or God the Holie Goste or the administration of either the Sacrementes of baptism or of the Lordes Supper be counterfeited or represented, or anything plaid which tend to the maintenance of superstition and idolatry or which be contrary to the laws of God or of the realm.

This really ripped the stuffing out of the heavily iconographied Mystery Plays, a death knell that saw this once massively popular national theatre all but banished from the noble Halls & bustling market places of the land. The last play performed in Wakefield was, May 17th 1576, was the ‘commonlie called corpus christi plaie,’ after which the Mysteries were never heard in the town again.

Towneley Hall

1577 : Shakespeare works on the Towneley Manuscript

While at Townley Hall, Shakesepare & Spenser are given the task of copying various Catholic ‘Miracle Plays’ recently banned by the Government. A manuscript was prepared which stored the entire cycle of 32 plays for posterity, with the press-mark on the first page of the only manuscript stating Christopher Townley (1604-74) was the owner of the book. I believe his father, Sir John, was the instrumental force behind preserving the plays for the Townleys & the other twenty or so recusant families in & around the Burnley area.

The anonymous author has been monickered the ‘Wakefield Master,’ for he peppers the text with local topography such as the reference in the manuscript’s Second Shepherds’ Play to Horbery Shrogeys – with Horbery being a town near Wakefield.  Scholars have calculated that the original plays – dating to about 1400  – were rewritten & added to towards the end of that century. The new plays were Caesar Augustus, The Talents, Noah, the First Shepherds’ Play, The Second Shepherds’ Play, Herod the Great, and The Buffeting of Christ.

The unique mansucript was sold by auction in 1814, & is now housed at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, & it just so happens to contain the handwriting of William Shakespeare. This is evinced by the matches on the MS with the three & a half letters on Shakespeare’s will – the only samples of his formal handwriting to have survived. Orthographically speaking, we cannot use his flourish-heavy signature as proper evidence, which means all that the Bard left in his own true hand are the four letters of ‘by me’ or even ‘by mr’ that preceed a signature on his will. These letters were written in 1616, four decades after the Townley MS was created, yet individual handwriting styles are set in stone at an early stage, & linger throughout one’s life.

Of the four letters, only B, Y & M can be used to any satisfaction. At this point you can decide for yourselves by checking out the graphology below & making your own mind up, while taking into consideration that four decades would have passed between the inscriptions.

by me

Shakespeare’s ‘By Me’

Some Ms & Ys from the Townley MS
Some Ms & Ys from the Townley MS
A few Bs & a couple more Ys
A few Bs & a couple more Ys

The presence of some North Midland forms, rather than the northern forms, supports the Warwickshire-born Shakespeare as working on the manuscript. Spenser may have assisted at some point, for in the Cycle’s impressive Second Shepherd’s Play, a Nativity burlesque, the regular dialect is north-midlands, while that of a character called Mak heralds from Spenser’s south. A remembrance of Spenser’s his time with the Towneley manuscript seems to have inspired the Despair episode of his Faerie Queene, which contains the almost identical essence of the Cycle’s Hanging of Judas.

 While working on the Cycle, we can see how Shakespeare was to be profoundly affected by the Mystery Plays. In later years, Gloucester’s blinding in King Lear appears very much like the brutal treatement of Christ found in the Towneley Cycle, where Caiaphas is stricken with an overwhelming desire to put out the eyes of Christ: ‘Nay, but I shall out-thrist / Both his een on a raw.’  Highlighting another Shakespeare-Cycle connection,  Glynne Wickham, referring to the Cycle’s ‘Deliverance of Souls,’ states, ‘in the Townley play Rybald receives his orders from Belzabub, in Macbeth, the porter’s first question is, “‘Who’s there, I th’name of Belzebubit was Rybald in the Towneley ‘Deliverance’ who cried out to Belzabub on hearing Christ’s trumpets at Hell-gate

… come ne,

ffor hedusly I hard hym call

 Thunder, cacophony, screams & groans were the audible emblems of Lucifer & hell on the medieval stage. Those same aural emblems colour the whole of II-iii of Macbeth &, juxtaposed as they are with the thunderous knocking at a gate attended by a porter deluded into regarding himself as a devil, their relevance to the moral meaning of the play could scarcely have escaped the notice of its first audiences.’

Shakespeare would continue to be influenced throughout his career by the Mysteries motifs. Dramatic actions; the providential structurality of history; the emblemeatic allusions to moralties such as Time, Death & the Wheel of Fortune; all appear in some form or another. The Mysteries were also bloody, visceral affairs; in the mid-seventeenth century the preacher, John Shaw, remembers seeing in his childhood, a Corpus Christi play, where there was a, ‘man on a tree, & blood ran down.’ Such gruesome scenes would permeate Shakespeare’s own work.

Valiant “RedCross Knight” enters the Cave of Despair

1577 : Shepheard’s Play performed at Chester

Despite being banned in Yorkshire the previous year, one of the Mystery plays was performed in Chester in 1577.Archdeacon Rogers upon Chester recorded (Harl. MS. 1944)

1577, the Earle of Darbie did lye 2 nightes at his [the mayor of Chester’s] house; the Shepheardes play, was played a the highe crosse, with other triumphes

Accompanying the 4th Earl that day was his son Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange. If this particular version of the Shephearde’s Play was taken from the Townley MS, we gain our first possible theatrical connection between the Stanleys & Shakespeare.

1577:  Shakespeare goes to London

In 1576, Sir John Townley was imprisoned once again for his stubborn devotion to recusancy. The authorities were coming down hard on the Catholics in Lancashire, forcing Cuthbert Mayne to return to Cornwall where he would be arrested in Probus, June 1577. For Shakespeare, the flight from Lancashire occurred with the assistance of  Sir John’s half-brother, Alexander Nowell, under whose wings he now found himself at the tender age of 13. To the modern world, Alexander Nowell should be immortally famous as the first man to discover the benefits of bottling beer. In his own day, however, he was more famous for being the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, & by proxy the ultimate boss of the St Pauls Boys troupe of actors. Their leader was a certain Sebastian Westcott, the cathedral’s organist who had converted the site’s Almoner’s hall into a playhouse.

 ‘Master Sebastian’ as he was more famously known, was an avowed Catholic who had arranged the music for the formal restoration under Queen Mary of Catholicism at St. Paul’s, in November 1553. In the Repertories of the Court of Common Council (December 8th 1575), a complaint was lodged against Westcott, who was admonished for not communicating, ‘with the Church of England’ & that he ‘kepethe playes & resorte of the people to great gaine & peryll of the Coruptinge of the Chyldren with papistrie.’ A perfect place, then, for the son of John Shakespeare to go. At least as far as the authorities were concerned Alexander Nowell was a staunch Protestant, but nothing is clear cut in the religious conflict of those days, & for him to keep on an obvious & obstinate heretic at the cathedral suggests a hint of papal compliance. The anonymity of a cosmoplitan city was a far safer place to practice one’s secret Catholocism, a far cry from the whispering heaths of the hilly north country.

We may ask the question how Westcott could get away with being a Catholic, despite being a very public figure in the heart of the nation’s heart-beat. An explanation comes through Queen Elizabeth’s secret leniency towards the Familists, among whom the yeomen of her personal guard were to be counted.  The only time he got into trouble for recusancy was in 1577, when he was imprisoned in the Marshalsea. Luckily for him, the Queen missed her customary Christmas plays by the choristers of St. Paul’s, which led to Westcott’s release the following March. If you could please the queen with a good enough play, it seemed, even the vile phantom of Rome would be tolerated.

1577: Shakespeare writes a poem for John Grange

The London that Shakespeare came to as a boy held 300,000 inhabitants, cramming into two-storey timber houses with high, gabled red rooves. Most of London lay upon the north bank of the river, but there was also Southwerke, connected to London via a single bridge across the Thames, the original London Bridge. Not far away rose the first Saint Paul’s Cathedral, stood only a stone’s throw from the Inns of Court where a certain John Grange, a ‘Student in the Common Lavve of Englande,’ was making his studies in 1577. Shakespeare would have already met John Grange the previous year in Douay, where recognizing our young poet’s talents Grange asked Shakespeare to add a few lines of poetry to his 1577 book of prose & poetry, The Golden Aphroditis.

W.S. in Commendation of the author begins

Of silver pure thy penne is made, dipte in the Muses well
They eloquence & loftie style all other doth excell:
Thy wisedom great & secrete sense diffusedly disguysde,
Doth shew how Pallas rules thy minde, & Phoebus hath devisde
Those Golden lines, which polisht are with Tagus glittering sandes.
A pallace playne of pleasures great unto the vewers handes.
Thy learning doth bewray itselfe and worthie prayse dothe crave,
Who so thee knew, did little think such learning thee to have.
Here Vertue seems to checke at Vice, & wisedome folly tauntes:
Here Venus she is set at naught, and Dame Diane she vauntes.
Here Pallas Cupid doth detest, & all his carpet knightes:
Here doth she shew, that youthfull impes in folly most delightes.
And how when age comes creeping on, with shew of hoary heares,
Then they the losse of time repent, with sobbes & brinish teares.
Thou Ambodexter playste herein, to take the first rebounde,
And for to shew thy minde at large, in earth doth the same compound.
So that Apollo Claddes his corps all with Morycbus clothes,
And shewes himself still friendliest there, wher most of all he lothes.

Here we can see a marked development of Shakespeare’s poetry. It is still Juvenilian, yes, but is starting to expand in scope & metre. Some scholars have wondered whether W.S. was William Shakespeare based upon the juvenilian feel to the poem, but its sheer earliness has left many doubters. Yet, if another illustrious, epoch-breaking genius such as Mozart could have composed Apollo et Hyacinthus, at the age of 11, & Bastien und Bastienne at twelve, the Golden Aphroditis poem was well within the capabilities of the world’s finest poet. We may even see the young Shakespeare being described by Grange in a little anecdote appertaining to the title of his work, where ‘certen young Gentlemen, and those of my professed friendes, … requested me earnestly to haue it intituled A nettle for an Ape, but yet (being somevvhat vvedded as most fooles are to mine ovvne opinion vvho vvould hardly forgoe their bable for the Tovver of London) I thought it good (somevvhat to stop a zoilous mouth) to sette a more cleanly name vpon it, that is, Golden Aphroditis.’

1577: Shakespeare gets a job in the London theaters

Shakespeare’s first entry into the London theatre scene could be connected to Cibber’s comment that, ‘some of the players, accidentally conversing with him, found him so acute, & master of so fine a conversation, that, struck therewith, they recommended him to the house, in which he was first admitted in a very low station.’ In his Prolegomena to Shakespeare (1765), the megalithic literary giant of 18th century Britain, Dr Samuel Johnson, recalled a long-standing tradition that Shakespeare’s first taste of the London theatre world was holding the horses of the playgoers, something of the nature of a modern-day car-park attendant.

Shakespeare, standing outside a playhouse and holding the horses of the actors as they arrived

In the time of Elizabeth, coaches being yet uncommon, and hired coaches not at all in use, those who were too proud, too tender, or too idle to walk, went on horseback to any distant business or diversion. Many came on horseback to the play, and when Shakespeare fled to London from the terrour of a criminal prosecution, his first expedient was to wait at the door of the play-house, and hold the horses of those that had no servants, that they might be ready again after the performance. In this office he became so conspicuous for his care and readiness, that in a short time every man as he alighted called for Will. Shakespeare, and scarcely any other waiter was trusted with a horse while Will. Shakespeare could be had. This was the first dawn of better fortune. Shakespeare finding more horses put into his hand than he could hold, hired boys to wait under his inspection, who, when Will. Shakespeare was summoned, were immediately to present themselves, “I am Shakespeare’s boy, Sir.” In time Shakespeare found higher employment, but as long as the practice of riding to the playhouse continued, the waiters that held the horses retained the appellation of Shakespeare’s boys.

The ‘terrour of a criminal prosecution’ experienced by Shakespeare was not the Charlecote incident, but was instead connected to his & his Lancashire hosts’ Catholicism. That horses were needed to attend the theatre points towards the Newington Butts Playhouse ran by Jerome Savage, situated more than a mile to the south of the Thames. The main patron of the theatre was the Earl of Warwick, suggesting Shakespeare got the job through familial or social connections based in Stratford. These backscratching links would run deep, for Jerome’s nephew, Thomas Savage, would in 1599 take a part share in the Globe Theatre alongside Shakespeare. Thomas Savage owned two houses which we may offer Shakesperean connections; a house in the parish of St Olave Silver Street, the same locality in which Shakespeare lodged for a time in Silver Street at the house of Christopher Mountjoy; & another which was occupied by the actor John Heminges, who also edited the First Folio.

1579: Shakespeare commences his acting career

The timing of Shakespeare’s arrival in London, at just that point in history when stage-crafted drama was beginning its primal blossoming, was impeccable in the sweetest sense. The burgeoning dramaturgy would penetrate the puberty of our budding dramatist at just the right moment in his development; a fusion of zeitgeist & genius that would soon mean that Elizabethan theatre & William Shakespeare of Stratford were one & the same spirit. Aubrey tells us that Shakespeare eventually outgrew his horse-tending job, & reinvented himself as an actor; ‘this William, being inclined naturally to Poetry and acting, came to London… and was an Actor at one of the Play-houses, and did acte exceedingly well.’ That Shakespeare was a boy actor  left an indelible imprint on his his art. According to Stanley Wells & Sarah Stanton, ‘Shakespeare’s dramatic persona include more boys than any other major body of drama: Sir John’s page in Henry IV, Merry Wives & Henry V, one ‘young Lucius’ in Titus & another in Ceasar, young Martius in Coriolanus, William Page in Merry Wives, & many anonymous pages in other plays.’  It must be noted that int he same year that Shakespeare began to act, his Stratford nieghbour Richard Field, arrived in London to begin his career as a book-printer… which would lead a decade & a half later to him publishing Shakespeare’s long poems, Venus & Adonis & Lucrece.

1580: Shakespeare goes to Lancashire

Throughout the 1570s, a series of Anti-familist trachts had galivinsed popular opinion against the group. Come 1580, the Elizabethan government began to crack down against the Familists, which may have been the trigger for the Earl of Warwick’s pulling out of London for ‘health reasons.’ Also that year we see the disappearance of Jerome Savage from London, most likely connected to the Earl of Warwick’s departure. Savage’s whereabouts for the next seven years are unknown, after which, according to William Ingram in ‘The Business of Playing,’ Savage’s will tells us he had returned to London. His departure from London, however, provides a missing piece of the jigsaw of Shakespeare’s early years. I believe that the now 16-year-old Shakespeare. went north with Jerome, staying with Jthe latter’s brother, Geoffrey Savage, who had married into the minor gentry of Lancashire. His wife was Jennet Hesketh of Rufford Old Hall, near Preston, the illigitimate sister of a minor gentryman called Thomas Hesketh, described as ‘bastard brethren’ in his will.

While staying in that part of Lancashire, Shakespeare was introduced into the service of a neighbour of the Heskeths, Alexander Hoghton. Other neighbours,  at Dilworth in Ribchester, were the Cottam family, of whom John, perhaps not so suprisingly, had become the headmaster of Stratford Grammar School in 1579. It seems that Shakespeare’s hometown was being used a secret sanctuary for the Jesuit Reconquista, with the Shakespeares very much a part of the chain, for John’s brother, Thomas, was training to be a Jesuit priest during the very period that Shakespeare was in Douay. Indeed, when Thomas Cottam was arrested at in May 1580, he was on his way to Shottery near Stratford with messages for the Debdale family from Shakespeare’s schoolmate, Robert Debdale, now a seminarian in Rome.

Douai-Rheims_New_Testament_(1582)

1580 – Shakespeare receives the Jesuit New Testament

In 1580 a couple of the Douay big-hitters were in England preaching the cause, namely Robert Parsons & Edward Campion. Three decades later Parsons would be associated with Shakespeare by historian John Speed (The Theater of the Empire of Great Britain 1611), as ‘this papist and his poet.’  Parsons’ father-in-law was an Arden, & related to Shakespeare, while his wife was a Throckmorton, recusants who lived 8 miles from Stratford. With Parsons & Campion came copies of a freshly translated version of the New Testament known as the Douay-Rheims.  When in June 1581, William Allen, rector of the English College at Rheims wrote to Alphonsus Agazarri at the English College in Rome, reporting that Father Robert Parsons in England, ‘wants three or four thousand or more of the testaments, for many people desire to have them.’ These would be distributed throughout England en masse in 1582.

The Douay-Rheims contains great deal of latinized English words, a fore-runner of Shakespeare’s own etymylogical experiments in the language.  Nassed Shaheen lists; ‘supererogate for spend more; prefnition of worlds for eternal purpose; exin-anited for made himself of no reputation; depositum for that which is committed; neophyte for novice & prescience for foreknowledge.’ A number of passages in the plays match moments in the Rheims, such as the word ‘cockle’ (Matt 13.24-25) which appears in Coriolanus as ‘the cockle of rebellion.’ John Henry De Groot’s ‘Shakespeare and the ‘Old Faith’ showed how the phrases ‘narrow gate,’ and ‘not a hair perished‘ were also peculiar to both Shakespeare & the Rheims. That Shakespeare used this as well as protestant versions such as the Geneva has always baffled scholars, but with Shakespeare’s upbringing being influenced by the non-sectarian Familists, he would have used both texts freely without pricking his religious conscience.

Clara Longworth de Chambrun’s Shakespeare Rediscovered (Scribner’s, 1938) : “A small circumstance, but one of singular interest, indicates that when William Shakespeare made use of the Parable of the Sowers from the Gospel of St. Matthew he had the Reims translation in mind, and not either the socalled ‘Breeches’ or ‘Bishops’ Bible. Though verbal, the evidence is striking. Down to the present day all Protestant Bibles employ the word tares in speaking of the ill-weeds sown among the wheat, whereas the Catholic texts use cockle. Now, in the whole course of Shakespeare’s work the word tares is never found, but when he recalls the parable of the sowers the word cockle appears in its place, as in the Reims translation. . . . In Love’s Labour’s Lost we find : ‘Sowed cockle reaps no corn,’ and again in Coriolanus the same term appears in similar connection : ‘That cockle of Rebellion, Insolence, Sedition, Which we ourselves have ploughed for, sowed and scattered.'”

1580 – Edward Campion visits Lancashire

In sonnet 124, Shakespeare refers to ‘the fools of time, which die for goodness, who have lived for crime,’ which certainly feels like the doomed reconquista Jesuits on a mission to topple Elizabeth. In 1580, Edward Campion stayed at Lapworth Park in Warwickshire, the seat of Sir William Catesby, a friend of John Shakespeare. On reaching Lancashire he  stayed at the home of Alexander Houghton’s brother, Richard. The Jesuit was in the Hoghton-Hesketh locality in order to use the libraries of the Catholic noblemen to prepare tracts with which he could argue the Catholic cause. ‘The day is too short, and the sun must run a greater circumference,’ wrote Campion, before he would be able to, ‘number all the Epistles, Homilies, Volumes and Disputations,’ which lay in the Hoghton libraries.

Campion’s influence on Shakespeare may be traced through our bard’s familiarity with the Mulberry tree in plays such as Coriolanus and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. One wonders how such an exotic and rare specimen, introduced to England by Queen Elizabeth or James I depending on which story is to be believed, would find its way into the imagery of the rustic bard Shakspeare writing in London surrounded by the dirt and grime of city streets. Later, when he retired to Stratford, he is rumoured to have planted a specimen which was later chopped down by a subsequent owner of “ New Place”. Campion also wrote a poem on the nature of the human soul.  subject in Latin called De Anima, a concept which finds its way into such plays as Twelfth Night, Hamlet and Troilus and Cressida.

1580: John Shakespeare fined

There is an event of 1580 relates directly to the religious persuasion of Shakespeare’s poppadom. He had been summoned to the Queen’s Bench in London in June 1580 alongside 220 probable Catholics to answer for a mysterious ‘breach of the peace.’ That he didn’t attend was met with heavy fines, a personal £20 & another £20 for the non-attendance of the Nottingham hat-maker, John Audley, who was in turn fined £60 for non-attendance plus £10 for not bringing John Shakespeare to court. Earlier in the year his name headed a list of ‘gentlemen & freeholders’  expected to contribute financially to the government’s anti-papal efforts of that year, the ‘musters.’ Queer doings indeed, & the two indictments may be connected, as also there may lie in the depths of those fellow 220 a number of Familists. A fertile field for future investigations, one expects.

Campion
Campion

1580: The Capture of Campion

Campion was soon enough caught by the authorities, followed not long after by Thomas Cottam, leading to the Stratford council’s sacking of John Cottam from his post at the Kings School. By 1581, Catholocism would be banned outright in England, & with the execution of Campion, the Jesuit Reconquista of England was dead-in-the-water. If Shakespeare was involved in the Jesuit cause, this was the time he would have buried his head in the sand, the brutal beheadings of Campion & co. putting him off any public outpourings of pro-Catholicism for the rest of his life. Yet, we do hear a faint echo of Campion’s Trial Speech in The Winter’s Tale;

Since what I am to say must be but that  Which contradicts my accusation and  The testimony on my part no other But what comes from myself, it shall scarce boot me  To say ‘Not guilty’. (4.3..2)

1581 – The English government comes down hard on the Familists

In 1581 a bill was introduced for the ‘punishment of the Hereticks called the Family of Love… the professors of the Familye of Love may for the first offence be whipped & for the second branded with this lettre H.N., & the third time judges a felon.‘ About this time the Queen’s Familist bodyguard are removed, while the rest went underground, so to speak. Christoper W Marsh tells us, ‘Familists were inconspicuous. Following Niclaes’s in junctions, they became part of the social fabric, obeying magistrates, serving in ecclesiastical & public offices, being good neighbours & good citizens, but remaining secretive about their religious view & usually only sharing them only within the family.’ The identities of those high-ranking Familists remains a mystery, but in 1645 John Etherington at least tells us, ‘there have been & are great doctors of divinitie, so called, yea, and some great peers.‘ Perhaps one of the peers was the Earl of Warwick, whose ‘illness’ was nothing but a cover to get him out of London, while  there is one Doctor of Divinity who we have connected to Shakespeare already, who is described by Fuller as, ‘Alexander Nowell, Doctor of Dvinity, & Dean of St Pauls in London, born in Lancashire…’

Shakeshafte

1581 – Alexander Houghton names Shakespeare in his will

Alexander Hoghton was a clear recusant, whose brother, Thomas, had helped to fund the English College in Douay. His will is of great interest to us, dated August 3rd 1581, attended by John Cottam, who was an actual legate attending Alexander Houghton’s will. The timing of the will-making is important. Three days earlier, on July 31st Campion, finally gave up his secrets on the rack, while on August 2nd the Sheriff of Lancaster wrote a letter to Sir John Biron asking him to search certain houses, ‘for books & other superstitious stuff; & especially the house of Richard Houghton, wherein it is said the said Campion left his books & to enquire what is become of said books.’ It was in this quite uncertain climate that Hoghton made his will. In it we obtain a rare glimpse of the young Shakespeare.

 Item. It is my mind and will that the said Thomas Hoghton of Brynescoules my brother shall have all my instruments belonging to music, and all manner of play clothes if he be minded to keep and do keep players.

 And if he will not keep and maintain players then it is my mind and will that Sir Thomas Hesketh knight shall have the same instruments and play clothes.

 And I most heartly require the said Sir Thomas to be friendly unto Fluke Gyllome and William Shakeshafte now dwelling with me and either to take them into his service or else to help them to some good master as my trust is he will

Of Shakespeare’s variant family name, EAJ Honigmann observed that in the Court rolls of College St Mary in Warwick (1541-42), the poet’s grandfather, Richard, ‘seems to be both Shakstaff and Shakeschafte, as well as Shakspere …in the Snitterfield manor records.’  That this ‘Shakeshafte’ is considered to be a ‘player,’ fits perfectly with our young bard having just strutted his stuff on the London boards. . Of a players functions, Giovanni Della Casa, in his amply-titled, ‘The rich cabinet furnished with varietie of excellent discriptions, exquisite charracters, witty discourses, and delightfull histories, deuine and morrall’ (1616) writes;

Player hath many times many excellent qualities: as dancing, activity, music, song, elocution, ability of body, memory, vigilancy, skill of weapon, pregnancy of wit, and such like: in all which he resembleth an excellent spring of water, which grows the more sweeter and the more plentiful by the often drawing out of it: so are all these the more perfect and plausible by the often practice.

 Fulk Gyllome and his father, Thomas Gyllome, were from an old family of pageant organisers. The Gyllome’s were responsible for producing the mystery plays in Chester, which I have already flagged up as interesting in 1577.

viol-tenor_guitar-held_Elizabethan-consort_deta

1581: Shakespeare & the Heskeths

If the young Shakespeare was working as William Shakeshaft in Lancashire, his job would have been very much like that of a musician on a modern cruise-liner, & Shakespeare’s wages were probably sent home to Stratford to support his father’s growing family – another son, Edmund, was born in 1580, bringing the total number of dependancies to six. That Shakespeare was taken on by Hesketh has no official record, but a family tradition dating to at least 1799 says that he acted at Thomas Hesketh’s seat at Rufford Old Hall.

It is here that we find ourselves a significant step closer to William Stanley & the Grand Tour. The Hesketh’s were the noble neighbours of the Stanleys, that great northern court of Elizabethan England, whose seat at Lathom Hall, near Ormskirk, was a stone’s throw from Rufford. There is a record in 1587 of ‘Sir thomas hesketh plaaiers,’ in the Earl of Derby’s Household Book, showing that the Heskeths provided theatrical entertainment for the Stanleys in that period. We should also notice the link between the Heskeths & the Townleys, whose families were united in the early 16th century.  The mother of Sir Thomas was Grace Townley, which reinforces the idea of our Shakespeare being connected to the Catholic north where Alexander Nowell’s mother, Douse, was also a Hesketh.

Oblique support for the Shakespeare-Hoghton connection comes through John Weever’s Epigrammes (1599), in which the poet ingratiates himself with a literary clique centred upon Thomas Houghton’s brother, Sir Richard. Alongside literary paeans such as that on the death of Stanley’s brother, Ferdinando, Weever dedicates this delectable sonnet to Shakespeare.

Honey-tongued Shakespeare, when I saw thine issue
I swore Apollo got them, and none other,
Their rosy-tainted features clothed in tissue,
Some heaven-born goddess said to be their mother.
Rose-cheekt Adonis with his amber tresses,
Fair fire-hot Venus charming him to love her,
Chaste Lucretia virgine-like her dresses,
Proud lust-stung Tarquine seeking still to prove her:
Romea-Richard; more, whose names I know not,
Their sugred tongues, and power attractive beauty
Say they are Saints, although that Sts they show not
For thousands vows to them subjective dutie:
They burn in love thy children Shakespear let them
Go, wo thy Muse more Nymphish brood beget them.

1582 Debdale returns to Shottery

In September 1581 a young woman called Anne Hathaway became evidently more attractive, for her father left a clause in his will giving her £6 13s 4d if and when she married. Of Shakespeare’s wife-to-be, Rowe tells us she, ‘was the Daughter of one Hathaway, said to have been a substantial Yeoman.’ The Hathaways were from Shottery, a hamlet close to Stratford, as was Richard Debdale who had gone with Shakespeare to Douay in 1575. On Debdale’s return to England in 1580, he was immediately arrested & imprisoned for two years, being discharged on the 10th September 1582. Going home directly home to Shottery, he would have arrived on September 12th or 13th, whose homecoming party the young Shakespeare may have attended. Doing the natal maths on ovulation dates & periods & stuff, if Shakespeare & Anne got down to it at this occasion for festivity, then any babies thay had conceived in a drunken corner of party would have been due roundabout the 5th June. This virginial moment was surely remembered when he wrote of the seven stages of life in As You Like It;

At first the Infant
Mewling and puking in the Nurse’s Arms:
And then, the whining School-boy with his Satchel,
And shining Morning-face, creeping like Snail
Unwillingly to School. And then the Lover
Sighing like Furnace, with a woful Ballad
Made to his Mistress’ Eye-brow.

anne-hathaway-shakespeares-wife-759x1030

  A possible glimpse into the budding love of Shakespeare & Anne Hathaway can be found in Shakespeare’s sonnets. Printed in 1609 – when he was forty-five – they are a compilation of both individual poems & sequences written throughout his early years. Of these, sonnet 145 sticks out like a sore thumb, both technically & artistically. Although fine enough verse, when compared to the other masterpieces in the collection, Andrew Gurr calls it, ‘arguably the worst of all the Shakespeare sonnets.’  Sonnet 145 is written in a different meter to the rest (Iambic Tetrameter), while the versification, vocabulary, syntax & stylistics seem less mature. It reads;

Those lips that Love’s own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said “I hate”
To me that languished for her sake.
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that, ever sweet,
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
“I hate” she altered with an end
That followed it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away.
“I hate” from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying “not you.”

Gurr proposed this sonnet was actually written for Anne Hathaway, noticing a possible pun in ‘hate away’ & Hathaway, while ‘and saved my life’ was a phonetic match to ‘Anne saved my life.‘ The editor of Gurr’s essay, FW Bateson, adds, ‘in Stratford in 1582 Hathaway & hate-away would have been a very tolerable pun.’ With Shakespeare’s name appearing elsewhere as ‘Shagspere,’ pronunced with a short vowel like the ‘a’ in cat, we can see how the Warwickshire vowel lengths were interchangeable, & that Hathaway could easily have become Hate-away. If Shakespeare is writing this sonnet to Anne, we can see how he had developed a teenage crush for her, after which he, ‘languished for her sake.’ His advances seem to have at first been spurned, gaining a few verbal backlashes from Anne’s, ‘tongue that, ever sweet / Was used in giving gentle doom.’ The sonnet then describes how Anne, seeing his ‘woeful sake’ seems to have taken pity on the pining lad, when, ‘in her heart did mercy come.

Nov 1582 – Shakespeare marries Anne Hathaway

Like any any other 18-year-old, Shakespeare had found a great romance in his earliest carnal occasions, a romantic dalliance which had resulted in Anne’s pregnancy. As soon as she began to show, a rapid wedding between the two youngsters was organised. The Episcopal register at Worcester, dated to November 28th, 1582, gives us a record of the marriage.

The condicion of this obligacion ys suche that if herafter there shall not appere any Lawfull Lett or impediment by reason of any precontract consanguinitie affinitie or by any other lawfull meanes whatsoeuer but that William Shagspere on thone partie, and Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the Dioces of Worcester maiden may lawfully solennize matrimony together and in the same afterwardes remaine and continew like man and wiffe according vnto the lawes in that behalf prouided

Six months later, the baptism record tells us that Shakespeares’ first child, Susanna, was christened on May 26th, 1583.

1583-4: The Arraignment of Paris

There are two events of 1584 which we may apply to Shakespeare. We can at least pin him to April 1584, when he conceived the twins with his wife, Anne. It was also in this year that a play known as the Arraignment of Paris was printed. On account of evidence internal & external, it seems that one of the first ever pastoral plays in English, The Arraignment of Paris, was co-author’d by our prodigal young bard & George Peele. Of the latter, William Beloe wrote (Anecdotes of Literature I: 1807) “This writer flourished in the time of Elizabeth. He was a very good Poet, and produced four plays, or as some say, five; all are remarkably rare…. {The Arraignment} piece has been attributed to Shakspeare; but its real author was George Peele.

The earliest authorship attributions were indeed to Peele; in his preface to Greene’s Menaphon, Nashe describes the Arraignment as Peele’s ‘first increase,’ while in 1600, a book called England’s Helicon printed selections over the name Geo. Peele. Set against this are the records of mid seventeenth century booksellers such as Kirkman & Winstanley who recorded Shakespeare as the author. The simple solution is here is that both writers were involved in the creation of the play, a hyperbasis which remains firmly standing upon further scrutiny. It may be of significance that Peele’s sister, Isabel, had married a certain Mathew Shakespeare, with whom she sired eight children. They lived in Clerkenwell in London, & if Matthew was a relation of Shakespeare then we have a crucial familial link between the two playwrights.

‘The position of the Arraignment of Paris on Table 10.1,‘ we read in The New Oxford ‘Shakespeare: Authorship Companion (ed. Gary Taylor, Gabriel Egan), ‘makes it strikingly anomalous. Did we not know better, we might suppose it was by Shakespeare.‘ The same opinion was given by seventeenth century booksellers such as Kirkman In 1691, Gerard Langbaine recorded (Account of the English Dramatick Poets: 1691), “Arraignment of Paris, a Pastoral, which I never saw; but it is ascribed by Kirkman to Mr. W. Shakespear.”

The Arraignment of Paris is a heavily mythologized piece based on the Judgement of Paris which led to the Trojan war, heavy influenced by Ovid’s Metamorpheses, especially the Heroides sections. The play utilizes a great number of variant poetic forms, including  euphonius blank verse & charming lyrics, & also contains an elongated speech by Paris of 100 lines plus, which only a child actor of some genius could have tackled – our young Shakespeare fitting the bill perfectly. The majority of the play bares the stamp of Peele, but there are sections which undoubtedly belong to the hand of our young bard. The follwing section, for example, remembers Shakespeare’s time with Spenser when he was composing the Calendar; the poetic forms are also identical to those we have already ascribed to Shakespeare as the W.S. author of the ‘songe of the Lambes feast’ & the fourteeners of the Golden Aphroditis.

ACT. III. SCENA. I.
COLIN THENAMORED SHEEPHERD SINGETH HIS PASSION OF LOVE.
THE SONG.
O gentle Love, ungentle for thy deede,
Thou makest my harte
A bloodie marke
With pearcyng shot to bleede.
Shoote softe sweete love, for feare thou shoote amysse,
For feare too keene
Thy arrowes beene,
And hit the harte, where my beloved is.
Too faire that fortune were, nor never I
Shalbe so blest
Among the rest
That Love shall ceaze on her by sympathye.
Then since with love my prayers beare no boot,
This doth remayne
To cease my payne,
I take the wounde, and dye at Venus foote.
Exit COLIN.

ACT III. SCENA. II.
HOBINOL, DIGON, THENOT.

HOBBINOL.
Poor Colin wofull man, thy life forespoke by love,
What uncouth fit, what maladie is this, that thou dost prove.

DIGGON.
Or Love is voide of physicke cleane, or loves our common wracke,
That gives us bane to bring us lowe, and let us medicine lacke.

HOBBINOL.
That ever love had reverence ‘mong sillie sheepeherd swaines.
Belike that humour hurtes them most that most might be their paines.

THENOT.
Hobin, it is some other god that cheerisheth their sheepe,
For sure this love doth nothing else but make our herdmen weepe.

DIGGON.
And what a hap is this I praye, when all our woods rejoyce,
For Colin thus to be denyed his yong and lovely choice.

THENOT.
She hight indeede so fresh and faire that well it is for thee,
Colin and kinde hath bene thy friende, that Cupid coulde not see.

HOBBINOL.
And whether wendes yon thriveles swain, like to the stricken deere,
Seekes he dictamum for his wounde within our forrest here.

DIGGON.
He wendes to greete the Queene of love, that in these woods doth wonne,
With mirthles layes to make complaint to Venus of her sonne.

THENOT.
A Colin, thou art all deceived, shee dallyes with the boy,
And winckes at all his wanton prankes, and thinkes thy love a toy.

HOBBINOL.
Then leave him to his luckles love, let him abide his fate,
The sore is ranckled all too farre, our comforte coms to late.

DIGGON.
Though Thestilis the Scorpion be that breakes his sweete assault,
Yet will Rhamnusia vengeance take on her disdainefull fault.

THENOT.
Lo yonder comes the lovely Nymphe, that in these Ida vales
Playes with Amyntas lustie boie, and coyes him in the dales.

HOBBINOL.
Thenot, methinks her cheere is changed, her mirthfull lookes are layd,
She frolicks not: pray god, the lad have not beguide the mayde.
The play was printed in 1584, & declares it had been, ‘Presented before the Queenes Maiestie, by the Children of her Chappell’ at some unknown point beforehand. Having already traced Shakespeare’s connection to the Children of the Chapel through his mimesial remembrances of the Kenilworth procession in 1576, then in between these two bookends we may assume now that Shakespeare was heavily involved with the troupe, & given his age would have been one of its actors. Perhaps with puberty he moved upstairs, so to speak, & with his clear talent with a pen, began to become involved in the conception & creation of the plays themselves.

In 1584, the Children of the Chapel played at the royal court the last time; the Pipe Rolls records the performances of two un-named plays on January 6th & February 2nd. Later that year the landlord of Blackfriars, Sir William More, closed the theatre down. After this, the Children of the Chapel were dissolved & Shakespeare was out of a job. Like any modern worker being made redundant, it was clearly time for a holiday…

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Next Wednesday, 14/03/18

Chapter 8:  Shakespeare’s Blossom

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chisp cover

CHISPOLOGY

Chapter 1: The Exodus
Chapter 2: The Aryan Invasion
Chapter 3: The Mahabharata
Chapter 4: Agastya
Chapter 5: The Picts
Chapter 6: Brunanburh
Chapter 7: The Young Shakespeare
Chapter 8: Shakespeare’s Blossom
Chapter 9: The Badon Babel Tree
Chapter 10: The Saxon Advent

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THE CHISPER EFFECT

chisper_effectChapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang

Chapter 6: Brunanburh

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chisp cover

Continuing the serialization of

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

CHISPOLOGY

In which a few more of the world’s greatest mysteries… are finally solved

Available to buy in book form

Autumn 2018

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burnliadIts time to go home; well, for me & one or two of my readers anyway. I am lucky enough to have been born at the geographical heart of my native islands, the fine, old Lancashire town of Burnley. It is by being from that place of high salubrity that this chapter, & indeed the entirety of this book, commenced one autumn day in 2010, when fresh from the composition of a rather large & technical sonnet sequence called the Ediniad, I found myself reading about the Battle of Brunanburh, fought in 937 AD. The whereabouts of the field is one of the most contentious debates in the entire contextus of British history. On coming to the problem for the first time, I was agate, ‘there’s a River Brun in Burnley, innit!’ Discovering others had proposed the theory that Brunanburh could have been fought at my home town is the catalystic occasion which kicked off my Chispological studies in the first place. In respect to the Brunanburh sections, these have been performed over the entireity of my investigations, & perhaps have been the most thorough. I put my findings in a book called the Burnliad, which you may also buy here. I am also going to provide at the end of this chapter a proper bibliography for the first time in my Chispological studies online, just to show I can do it & to impress my mates in Burnley!

Brunanburh! Brunanburh! Brunanburh! This antique name was once attached to an Anglo-Saxon fortification, in whose locality was fought one of the most important battles in British history (937 AD). A massive showdown, it saw King Athelstan of England face off against a grand alliance of Scots, Vikings & the ‘Northern Welsh’ of Cumbria & Galloway. This confederacy had been galvanized into action by a young Viking prince called Analf Guthfrithson. Normally based in Dublin, Analf had momentarily managed to unite the entire Viking world behind him in an attempt to wrestle back their former control over England which had been lost to Athelstan’s grandfather, Alfred the Great. Despite such powerful forces arrayed against them, the Battle of Brunanburh was a comprehensive victory for the Anglo-Saxons, since which day the borders of Britain’s three nations have been more or less constant. One could fairly admit that the Battle of Brunanburh was the moment when the British Isles as we know them were truly born.

Picture-117

The first mention of Brunanburh in the annals comes within the pages of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, that wonderful storehouse of early English history without which the Dark Ages would have been much, much darker. The entry for 937 is actually one of the most famous pieces of Anglo-Saxon poetry, the first & best of a series composed throughout the 10th century. Most entries in the ASC are written in rather mundane prose, but the rendering of certain events in poetry would naturally amplify their cultural importance. It is only through the Pegasus-flight of the poetic voice that humanity may truly record the incredible passions felt in the most turbulent of times.

In this year King Aethelstan, Lord of warriors,
Ring-giver to men, and his brother also,
Prince Eadmund, won eternal glory
In battle with sword edges
Around Brunanburh. They split the shield-wall,
They hewed battle shields with the remnants of hammers.
The sons of Eadweard,
It was only befitting their noble descent
From their ancestors that they should often
Defend their land in battle against each hostile people,
Horde and home. The enemy perished,
Scots men and seamen,
Fated they fell. The field flowed
With blood of warriors, from sun up
In the morning, when the glorious star
Glided over the earth, God’s bright candle,
Eternal lord, till that noble creation
Sank to its seat. There lay many a warrior
By spears destroyed; Northern men
Shot over shield, likewise Scottish as well,
Weary, war sated.
The West-Saxons pushed onward
All day; in troops they pursued the hostile people.
They hewed the fugitive grievously from behind
With swords sharp from the grinding.
The Mercians did not refuse hard hand-play
To any warrior
Who came with Anlaf over the sea-surge
In the bosom of a ship, those who sought land,
Fated to fight. Five lay dead
On the battle-field, young kings,
Put to sleep by swords, likewise also seven
Of Anlaf’s earls, countless of the army,
Sailors and Scots. There the North-men’s chief was put
To flight, by need constrained
To the prow of a ship with little company:
He pressed the ship afloat, the king went out
On the dusky flood-tide, he saved his life.
Likewise, there also the old campaigner
Through flight came
To his own region in the north–Constantine–
Hoary warrior. He had no reason to exult
The great meeting; he was of his kinsmen bereft,
Friends fell on the battle-field,
Killed at strife: even his son, young in battle, he left
In the place of slaughter, ground to pieces with wounds.
That grizzle-haired warrior had no
Reason to boast of sword-slaughter,
Old deceitful one, no more did Anlaf;
With their remnant of an army they had no reason to
Laugh that they were better in deed of war
In battle-field–collision of banners,
Encounter of spears, encounter of men,
Trading of blows–when they played against
The sons of Eadweard on the battle field.
Departed then the Northmen in nailed ships.
The dejected survivors of the battle,
Sought Dublin over the deep water,
Over Dinges mere
To return to Ireland, ashamed in spirit.
Likewise the brothers, both together,
King and Prince, sought their home,
West-Saxon land, exultant from battle.
They left behind them, to enjoy the corpses,
The dark coated one, the dark horny-beaked raven
And the dusky-coated one,
The eagle white from behind, to partake of carrion,
Greedy war-hawk, and that gray animal
The wolf in the forest.
Never was there more slaughter
On this island, never yet as many
People killed before this
With sword’s edge: never according to those who tell us
From books, old wisemen,
Since from the east Angles & Saxons came up
Over the broad sea. Britain they sought,
Proud war-smiths who overcame the Welsh,
Glorious warriors they took hold of the land.

The citizens of Burnley have thought, for a long time, that the battle of Brunanburh was fought somewhere on the moors above their homesteads. In 1869, a ceremonial vase was given to local hero General Scarlett (he’d married a Burnley girl), the glorious leader of the Charge of the Heavy Brigade in the Crimean War, upon which were painted two shields on either side of a figure of the goddess, Fame. One shield depicted his famous charge, while the other sported an image of the Battle of Brunanburh.

It has taken a few years to collate my own researches into the matter, with my early forays into the battle being undertaken in 2011. That year, I took a walk with my dad toward the space where I initially thought the battle to have been fought, on account of the tumuli scattered across the hills above Swinden reservoir. It was all rather amusing as we walked through Worsthorne on that glorious afternoon toward the beautiful moors over Burnley. A passing car-bound buddy of my dad’s enquired as to our activity.

“We’re looking fer an Anglo-Saxon battlefield,” said my dad, smiling.
“Good luck lads!” giggled my dad’s mate, shaking his head faintly with disbelief, before driving on & leaving us to our investigations. Eventually we came to the rugged Swinden Reservoir area where my dad looked a bit bemused. I watched him look about a bit with his old soldier’s eye.
“It just dunt feel reyt son,” he said, adding that the fields near Worsthorne were a far better prospect. Trusting his paternal instinct I gave the matter more thought & research, & as we shall see what he mused turned out to be at least half right in the end.

Burnley on my first full day of the dig, from Healy Wood Heights
Burnley on my first full day of the dig, from Healey Wood Heights

In the year of 2015, I returned home to that special corner of Lancashire in order to commence my inquiries into the battle. Burnley is set in one of the most handsomest parts of the country, the chief civic section of a long & ribboning Pennine-straddling conurbation. Along with Padiham, Brierfield, Nelson & Colne, Burnley is the ‘capital’ of what I call Pendle City. There are about 130,000 citizens going about their business in my home ‘city;’ connected by their own stretches of motorway, canal & railway. For entertainment they have five theaters, a Premier League football Club, a number of live music venues, several sports centers, loads of golf courses, buzzin’ bars full of bouncin’ partygoers & some fantastic eateries which reflect the influx of Asia into the region.  For the historian, there are ‘between the towns of Burnley and Colne,’ as local historian James Stonehouse tells us, ‘more objects of antiquarian interest scattered about than may be found in any other part of England.’ Some of these, I believe, are connected to the Brunanburh case.

Painting my back yaerd with mi dad & mi nephew
Painting my back yard with mi dad & mi nephew

As a base for my studies I took up residence in my own wee ‘weavers cottage’ at 70 Laithe Street. This traditional terraced house lies in the heart of the Healey Wood district, a Neptune’s trident like sequence of streets possessing commanding views over the area, a multi-purpose corner shop, mellow locals & only a stone’s throw from both the town centre & the meditative moors, it was a perfect place for base camp. Back in Burnley once more, I began to see old friends, walk familiar paths & to study hard in the local history sections of the area’s libraries. My field notes I turned into a blog from which the following extracts are taken in order to support the Burnley siting of Brunanburh.

England

That Athelstan & his men were defending ‘their land in battle’ means the battle of Brunanburh must have been fought in English territory. In the following charter of 934, Athelstan grants the lands of Amounderness to Wulfstan, the Archbishop of York.

 I, Aethalstan, king of the English, elevated by the hand of the almighty, which is Christ, to the throne of the whole kingdom of Britain, assign willingly in fear of god, to almighty god & the blessed apostle Peter, in his church at the city of York, at the time I constituted Wulfstan its archbishop, a certain portion of land of no small size, in the place which the inhabitants call Amounderness

With Amounderness, stretching from the River Ribble to its northern border at Lancaster, this proves that by 937 Burnley could be placed in England; only by a few miles, but definitely in England.

Analf Attacks York

 In 937 a record of the Irish Vikings fighting in the Brunanburh campaign can be found in the medieval documents known collectively as the ‘Irish Chronicles.’

 The Danes of Loghrie, arrived at Dublin. Awley with all the Danes of Dublin and north part of Ireland departed and went over seas Annals of Clonmacnoise

The Danes that departed from Dublin arrived in England Annals of Clonmacnoise

Amhlaeibh Cuaran went to Cair-Abroc; and Blacaire, son of Godfrey, came to Ath-cliath Annals of the Four Masters

 By the help of the Danes of that kingdom, they gave battle to the Saxons on the plaines of othlyn, where there was a great slaughter of Normans and Danes Annals of Clonmacnoise

map-2

The Annals of the Four Masters clearly state that Analf, also known as Awley & Amhlaeibh, ‘went to Cair-Abroc.’ This means that before he fought at Brunanburh, Analf had recaptured York for the Vikings, a city known as Ebraucum to the Romans & Caer Ebrauc to the Britons. Analf would met have the Scandinavian Danes in the choppy waters off Northumberland beforehand, where Florence of Worcester places the main body of the Viking armies entering Britain via the east coast;

Anlaf, the Pagan king of Ireland and many other isles, at the instigation of his father-in-law Constantine, king of the Scots, entered the mouth of the Humber with a powerful fleet

40873_original_7310642d-6c81-4575-8e53-5690fa0e8081

These pieces of evidence in combination completely undermines the theory that Brunanburh was fought on the Wirral after the Vikings crossed from Ireland, as proposed by a number of modern scholars. Interestingly, or perhaps conveniently, the two Irish annals above were left out of the rather large list of sources replicated in the Brunanburh Casebook, which argues quite fanatically the Wirral case. It’s editor,  Michael Livingstone,  responding to another medieval historian who put the Viking entry at the Humber, shrieked;

If I can call anything a fact after such a long remove of time, I’m willing to stake a claim for this one: John of Worcester is wrong. Plain and simple. And, by extension, any hypothesis for Brunanburh that relies on his “eastern entry” for the invading force is similarly wrong

The thing is, you cant just do that. A modern police detective would laugh at such naivety. The copper would, of course, keep digging & finally discover the supporting evidence in something like the Annals of the Four Masters.

Etymology

It is clear that the original ‘Brunan’ element of Brunanburh would devolve into ‘Bruna,’ as in the ‘Bellum Brune’ of the Annals Cambrae & William of Malmesbury’s ‘Bruneford’. From here we take the simple step of dropping a single vowel to leave us with the snappier ‘ battle of Brun’ of the Brut y Tywysogion (Chronicle of the Princes), as verified by John of Fordun’s ‘Brunford.’ This leaves us looking for a site near the ford of a river called Brune or Brun. There is only one waterway by that name in the whole of Britain, rising on moorland a few miles to the west of Burnley – formerly Brunlea – by the hill known as Black Hameldon. The Brun is the shortest river in the country, making a swift passage from its vernal streams, through the pretty villages of Worsthorne & Hurstwood, then entering Burnley it conjoins with the River Calder. A few miles downstream, the Calder enters the Ribble, which then flows into the Irish Sea at Preston, 30 miles from the Brun’s headwaters.

Another historian to place the battle by a river-ford was Ranulf Higden (c.1280-1364), who gave the variant spelling of Brumford. Coincidence or not, he was writing at the very period in history when Burnley’s name was given as Brumleye in a 1294 market charter. Similarily, a 1258 version of Burnley – Bronley – is echoed in the work of the English historian Peter Langtoft, who in that same period named Brunanburh as Bronneburgh. It is evident that these differing pronunciations of the name ‘Burnley’ contain a metasonic reflection of the lingual evolutions of the early English language. A similar process to the Brunanburh devolution occurred when the ‘Ottanlege’ of 972 became Otelai in the Doomsday Book of 1086. Likewise, Ottanmere, as found in an unprinted Beckley charter of 1005-11, would later deriviate into Otmoor.

 937 – Brunanburh
972 – Ottanlege
1010 – Ottanmere
1066 – Battle of Hastings
1086 – Otelai
1130 – Bruneford
1154 – Brunley
c.1200 – Otley / Otmoor

Before the Battle of Hastings, we can see that the –an element of words was prevelant. That the ‘n’ was dropped by 1130 should be no coincidence, for the Norman invasion of England catalyzed the evolution of Anglo-Saxon speech into a French-inspired Middle English. By 1154, names such as Brune were trimmed even more, dropping the superfluous vowel & creating the snappier Brun.

Castle Hill

The true meaning of the word ‘burh’ is ‘fortified township,’ settlements which were usually found on a low, but defendable hill. Almost all Saxon buildings were made of wood, as was a burh’s palisade – the thelwall. These would have barely left a trace, yet there remains a very real remnant of such a fortification on the outskirts of Burnley. I picked up the first clue to its presence while utilising Burnley Library’s excellent & comprehensive collection of volumes published by the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarian Society. In their 1952-53 ‘transactions’ there is an excellent account of excavations made at Everage Clough. In a small footnote, I was pointed further back in antiquarian lore to an 18th century writer  – Thomas Dunham Whitaker – whose ‘History of the Original Parish of Whalley’ was also to be found in Burnley Library. Getting stuck in Kojak-style, I obtained the following passage;

The original site of Towneley appears to have been a tall & shapely knoll, southward from the present mansion, still denominated castle hill, & immediately adjoining to the farm called Old House, on the eastern & precipitous side of which are the obscure remains of trenches, which on the three more accessible quarters have been demolished by the plough. Here therefore, in every early times, and far beyond any written memorials, was the Villa de Tunlay, the residence, unquestionably, of one of those independent lords before the conquest who presided over every village & held immediately of the crown. When this elevated situation was abandoned it is impossible to ascertain from any written evidence or tradition; but the present house may in part lay claim to high antiquity.

Towneley Hall
Towneley Hall
Castle Hill lies to the rear of Townley Hall
Castle Hill lies to the rear of Townley Hall
The Western Trench @ Castle Hill...
The Western Trench @ Castle Hill…
Looking north from the summit – the trench is the line of dark vegetation
Looking north from the summit – the trench is the line of dark vegetation

An Anglo-Saxon burh formed the central administrative point of the administrative ‘Tun,’ from which we get the name Tunlay, & thus, Towneley. In the 12th century, Towneley formed part of an ancient township called ‘Tunlay-with Brunshaw,’ the latter meaning ‘Brun’s Wood.’ The clearing, or ‘lea,’ in this wood would eventually become Brunlea, & subsequently Burnley. That Towneley is associated with a Saxonesque fortification & topographical feature containing the ‘Brun ‘element easily leads us to the rather inviting possibility that Brunanburh once stood at Castle Hill. I talked to my dad about the find, & despite living next to Towneley all his life, he had never heard of Castle Hill. It is this obscurity that may have hid Brunanburh’s true site from even the hardiest of pro-Burnley enthusiasts. Here lies Brunanburh’s Hisalrik Hill.

Hazelling the Field

But where was the battlefield? Before the slaughter of Brunanburh, the campaign had taken a more political slant, a show of strength by the Confederation meant to humble Athelstan into submission. A different type of warfare was being played out in which negotiation was paramount; why lose sons & fathers on the bloody plains of battle, when treaties save so many lives. In such an atmosphere, the fight at Brunanburh was at first ruled by Dark Age codes of behaviour, resulting in a civilized stand-off known as ‘Hazelling the Field.’ According to a Scandinavian account of the battle, found in the 13th century Egil’s Saga by Snorri Sturluson, such a quasi-political event happened before the Battle of Brunanburh. While running through the extract, the reader should be aware that the two towns mentioned are the early prototypes of Burnley & Colne, both of which were granted to the monks of Pontefract Abbey in an 1122 charter.

After this they sent messengers to king Olaf, giving out this as their errand, that king Athelstan would fain enhazel him a field and offer battle on Vin-heath by Vin-wood; meanwhile he would have them forbear to harry his land; but of the twain he should rule England who should conquer in the battle. He appointed a week hence for the conflict, and whichever first came on the ground should wait a week for the other. Now this was then the custom, that so soon as a king had enhazelled a field, it was a shameful act to harry before the battle was ended. Accordingly King Olaf halted and harried not, but waited till the appointed day, when he moved his army to Vin-heath.

damo-006 North of the heath stood a town. There in the town king Olaf quartered him, and there he had the greatest part of his force, because there was a wide district around which seemed to him convenient for the bringing in of such provisions as the army needed. But he sent men of his own up to the heath where the battlefield was appointed; these were to take camping-ground, and make all ready before the army came. But when the men came to the place where the field was enhazelled, there were all the hazel-poles set up to mark the ground where the battle should be.

The place ought to be chosen level, and whereon a large host might be set in array. And such was this; for in the place where the battle was to be the heath was level, with a river flowing on one side, on the other a large wood. But where the distance between the wood and the river was least (though this was a good long stretch), there King Athelstan’s men had pitched, and their tents quite filled the space between wood and river. They had so pitched that in every third tent there were no men at all, and in one of every three but few. Yet when King Olaf’s men came to them, they had then numbers swarming before all the tents, and the others could not get to go inside. Athelstan’s men said that their tents were all full, so full that their people had not nearly enough room. But the front line of tents stood so high that it could not be seen over them whether they stood many or few in depth. Olaf’s men imagined a vast host must be there. King Olaf’s men pitched north of the hazel-poles, toward which side the ground sloped a little. From day to day Athelstan’s men said that the king would come, or was come, to the town that lay south of the heath. Meanwhile forces flocked to them both day and night.

Barrowford

Egil Skallagrimsson
Egil Skallagrimsson

Today’s blogpost begins with a look at Egil’s Saga by Snorri Sturlsson, of whose authenticity LM Hollander writes, ‘the saga agrees well with other Icelandic sagas, & may be reckoned as one of the most truthful; but when it is considered that it was kept in men’s memory for a very long time… naturally not every syllable will be true. Neither in this, however, nor in any of the best Icelandic sagas do the writers thereof deliberately assert untruth or mean to exaggerate.’ The saga tosses two new battlefield names into the mix; Vinheath & Vinwood, which are remarkably reminiscent of Symeon of Durham’s statement that the Battle of Brunanburh was fought at ‘Wendune’ & ‘Weodune.’ In Old English, the word ‘dune’ can indeed be translated as ‘heath,’ & with two very different sources concurring on a single name, we may pursue its identification with confidence.

The Vin/Wen element can be positively found near Colne in the phonetics of the wee hamlet of Winewall. Just off from Winewall commences a cute rivulet known as the ‘Colne Water, which may have something to do with the Vina as given in Christine Fell’s accurate translation of Egil’s Saga;

Flame-hearted Thorolf, fear’s
Foe, Earl-killer, who so
Dared danger in Odin’s
Dark wars is dead at last.
Here, by Vina’s bank,
My brother lies under earth

Crucially, Winewall’s earliest record (1324) calls it Wynwell – ‘spring of the river Wyn.’ After leaving Winewall, Colne Water soon merges with the larger ‘Pendle Water.’ This confluence then flows into the lovely, large village of Barrowford, one of the prettiest & poshest parts of Pendle City. Local tradition holds that Barrowford is named after some ancient burial site – i.e. a barrow – as in John Widdup’s;

The name “Barrowford” suggests that such a barrow formerly existed near the stream crossing, but the site of the barrow remains in dispute, as all evidence of it has been lost by land cultivation. It has been suggested that the mound on the side of the road at Park Hill marks the spot 

 On the drive back from Gisburn the other day, I got my mate Nicky to stop the car so I could take a few photos of the barrow, perched as it is by the old bridge where the ford would have been in antiquity. Barrows are in the main associated with the Bronze Age; but there was a period, the 7th-8th centuries, where they were used by the Anglo-Saxon kings, such as the famous ones down at Sutton Hoo. All evidence is pointing to this barrow at the ford of the river ‘Wine’ being the same place where was fought a battle mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Its name was Winwidfelda, or Winwaed, a name which translates as ‘ford of the Win.’

A.D. 655 This year Penda was slain at Winwidfelda, and thirty royal personages with him, some of whom were kings.

The barrow at Barrowford...
The barrow at Barrowford…

This battle was a civil action, fought between two Anglo-Saxon kings; Penda of Mercia (the Midlands) & Oswiu of Northumbria. Like Brunanburh, its location had been forgotten, but Bede does place the battle in a region called Loidis, a name which resonates in ‘Lothersdale,’ a philochisp of ‘Loidisdale.’ This charming village is situated only a handful of miles to the north of Barrowford, a place to which we can attach a significant topographical clue.  Bede tells us that the battle, ‘was fought close by the River Winwaed, which at the time was swollen by heavy rains and had flooded the surrounding country: as a result, many more were drowned while attempting to escape than perished by the sword. Where Bede describes a heavy flood, this fits in perfectly well with Barrowford, which is prone to serious flooding. Local historian Jesse Blakey records, ‘perhaps one of the biggest floods within living memory took place on the evening of July 6th, 1881. It is believed that a cloud burst on Pendle, and the rushing torrent tore along carrying everything within reach away with it. The river overflowed its banks at the tannery, and formed another river in Gisburn Road… The mill Holme formed one vast sheet of water with that in the river and Gisburn Road. Huge pieces of timber were deposited in the streets, and the Newbridge district was one vast turbulent sheet of water…. In the diary by William Corbridge there is the following entry: Greatest flood ever known. Fearful night. Six hours of thunder and lightning. The flood was at its height about 11 o’clock on Tuesday. Swept all the bridges down from Barley to Barrowford.

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There are two places near Barrowford that could be the site of Winwidfelda. The idea is that the Celtic ‘Win’ became translated by the Anglo-Saxons as white (which is possible).  Andrew Breeze writes, ‘What does philology tell us about Bede’s Uinued? There is no problem with the first element, which represents Brittonic ‘white’, as in Welsh Gwyn ‘white’.’ Thus Winwidfelda could have been either Whitefield, a couple of miles downstream, or more likey Whitemoor, a couple of miles to the north of Barrowford in the direction of North umbria. In support, at Whitemoor one can find menhir known as the Lark Stone, which may have been a memento of the battle.

Getting out the Tithe Parish map of Brierfcliffe, 1845 (Burnley library)
Getting out the Tithe Parish map of Briercliffe, 1845 (Burnley Library)

Vinheath

It is by digging in the Brunanburh dirt that we have flushed out the names of Vinheath, Wendune & Weodune. When looking through the vasty annals of history, there is actually a place where vin, wen, & weon all appear together. The entity in question is an ancient Teutonic tribal group known as the Wends, who according to Wulfstan heralded from a place called Weonodland’ as in; ‘Weonodland was on his starboard side and to portside, he had Langeland, Lolland, Falster and Scania. These countries all belong to Denmark.’ Other names for the Wends include; Old English: Winedas / Old Norse: Vindr / German: Wenden, Winden / Danish: Vendere. Let us imagine now that at some point in the distant past a group of Wends had settled in the area between Burnley & Colne; but how did they get there, & just who are the Wends? Their traditional homelands were situated in today’s northern Poland, against the shores of the Baltic Sea, in the lands to the west of the River Oder. From here they fanned out all across Europa, settling in places such as the Windic March in Bavaria, to Vindeboder at Roskilde… while some, I believe, came to Burnley. It is quite ironic, really, for my home town is now seeing the return of the Poles in some numbers, its citizenry coming full circle, so to speak.

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The arrival of the Wends seems connected to their defeat in Europe by the Romans (277 AD), after which they were given lands in Britain. Zosimus writing of a Roman general called Probus, states, ‘his second battle was with the Franks, whom he completely conquered with the help of his generals. Then he fought the Burgundians & Vends… When the armies engaged each other, some of the barbarians were slain, others were taken prisoner by the Romans, & the rest sued for peace, accepting the condition that they surrender their booty & prisoners, but since, although their request was granted, they did not hand over everything, the emperor angrily punished them by attacking them on their retreat. Many were killed & their leader, Igillus, taken prisoner, & all the captives were sent across to Britain where they proved very useful to the emperor in subsequent revolts.’

The last sentence is key, for it places the Wends in Britain at a place well-sited for handling a rebellion, suggesting a northern location. If this was in Lancashire, we can understand the proper origins of a number of Probus coins found in the county; such as at Worden, on the outskirts of Leyland, whose name also seems a variation of ‘weodune’ Similar coins were also discovered at Burnley itself, where WT Watkin describes 126 copper coins known as ‘radiates’ of the late third century AD. Similar dated coins have also been found at the Roman camp at Castercliffe, a Roman camp on the moors just to the south of Colne. When analyzing its history, we should first notice that in the lists of Northern Roman camps, Calunio was not in existence in the time of Ptolemy (2nd century AD), but exists in the 6th century, when it appears in the Ravenna Cosmography. Combining archeology with recorded history suggests that when the Wends arrived in the Burnley area, their ‘colony’ eventually became Colne.

TD Whitaker, writing in the year 1800, states, ‘it seems probable that the exact spot occupied by this station was in some of the low grounds beneath the present town (of Colne)  and on the banks of the river where all remains of it have been effaced by cultivation. Perhaps the real site is now irretrievable , but there are two lingulae of land betwixt Colne and Barrowford on the north side of Colne Water and formed by the influx of two inconsiderable brooks, which have equal pretensions. The modern town of Colne has certainly none. It is much too elevated and too far from the water… the environs of Colne appear to have been populous in Roman times, as great numbers of their coins have been discovered in the neighbourhood, particularly at Wheatley Lane and near Emmet where a large silver cup filled with them was turned up by the plough in the latter end of the 17th century.’ Speculating further, Roman forts were generally attended on by the local population, who lived next to or near the fort in a settlement described as a vici – the semantics of which can be observed in the name, Wycoller, a village just to east of Colne.

Pendle Hill
Pendle Hill

There are other faint traces of the Wends in the area. An early 4th century Christian level can be discerned from Saint Helen’s Well at Waterside, Colne, & also in Henry Taylor’s, ‘an ancient map, in the possession of Colonel Parker, shows that, in 1747, a Roman cross was standing on the far common, near Alkincoats. More significantly, the Pendle village of Sabden (Sapedene 1296) translates as ‘long, narrow valley of the Sabs.’ The ‘Sab’ phonetic is quite rare in Britain, & of unknown origin, but the Wends called themselves ‘Sorbs,’ suggesting Sabden’s original could have been ‘Sorbden.’  The Wends are also distinguishable by the circular encampments they built, whose continental versions are extremely similar to those found to the east & north of Burnley. Of these there is a certain ‘Ring Stones’ camp, near Swinden Resevoir & the house-cluster of Roggerham. The phonetics of the hamlet can be connected to the Rugians, a Teutonic tribe considered, unsurprisingly, as one of the Wendish peoples.  In the 8th century, Bede stated that they formed part of the composite Anglo-Saxon layer to the English gene-pool;

           The Angles or Saxons, who now inhabit Britain… are still corruptly called ‘Garmans’ by the neighbouring nation of the Britons. Such are the Frisians, the Rugini, the Danes, the Huns, the Old Saxons, and the Boructuari

Sabden
Sabden

We should also look at this mid-19th century piece of writing by James Stonehouse, who gives us; ‘as we pursue our ramble along the road towards Roggerham, we arrive at a farm house on the right hand called “Rotten”; and a short way beyond it find a gate on the same side. Opening this gate we discover a narrow road, having in the centre a pavement of large boulder stones, the footway on one side being skirted by a stone wall which enclose portions of the moor; on the other a thick hedge. An unobservant person even would notice something unusual in the appearance of this bye-road. The mystery of it-if there be such a thing as a mystery-is soon made manifest. The road is found to lead upon the open moor land, and where the enclosure walls end it gradually becomes lost in the moorland and herbage, although its track can be really discovered rising over the hill before us. But before it becomes so hidden in the heather and the thick grass it passes an enclosure of some 200 feet by 160 feet, that the antiquary and the archaeologist would not fail to gaze upon with deep and absorbing interest. The road is Roman. As the Romans left it, there it is. The enclosure is Roman. As the Romans constructed it, there it is; at least what remains of their handywork. The enclosure is the remains of a fort erected by this great nation, when occupying this part of Britain. The fort is known by the people of the vicinity as “Ring Stones Camp.” The walls, at least as much as is left of them, are about a foot high from the interior surface. Outside the Vallum is a foss or ditch. It is deep in some portions, and filled up in others. It seems to be of the true V shape by the inclinator of the sides. The walls appear as strong as when the soldier mason laid stone upon stone and spread the strong concrete that has hardened till it rivals the stone in durability. At one of the sides, there is an opening where stood the Decuman gate. On the side facing it is another opening. This is the Proetorian gate, so called as being near where the Praetor fixed his quarters. In the centre of the enclosure are great inequalities of ground which, if carefully examined, will perhaps exhibit some of the arrangements of the encampment or fort.’ According to TD Whittaker, the earthworks at Ring Stones are highly similar to ones found near Barnoldswick, Skipton, Middop & Gisburn, with the latter even having an identical gateway to that Ringstones. It seems apparent that the same culture could have built all four of these fortifications in order to defend their territory. Their north-eastern limits would have been at the River Dunsop, in the Forest of Bowland, whose ‘sop’ element again invokes the ‘Sorbs.’  The Dunsop also flows into the river Hodder, which reminds us of the River Oder of the Polish Wends. The whole concept of a Wendish realm based on & around Pendle is beginning to taking shape, especially when we see the Rugian phonetic at Pendleside’s Roughlee – which was originally known as Rugelea.

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The Rugii name element also leads us quite neatly to Rheged, a famous Brythonic kingdom with an unclear territorial extent. Roughly stretching between Strathclyde & Manchester, it reached its highest glory in the 6th century, the kingdom was ruled by a certain Urien, a great mover & shaker in the politics of northern Britain in that time. Rheged seems to have been the kingdom carved out by the Wends/Rugi, which renders an excellent explanation for the etymology of Windemere – the lake of the Wends – which sits only a few miles from the River Llwyvenydd in southern Cumbria. Modern academical leanings have suggested that Rheged stretched as far north as Dunragit, in Galloway, & as far south as Rochdale, where the River Roch was recorded in the 13th century as Rached or Rachet. With Rochdale being only a few miles from Roggerham & Roughlee, we gain some sort of sense that the Wends of Burnley were part of a wider tribal area which would evolve into Rheged. But, I am digressing too far; for now, let us be satisfied in finding the root etymology of Vinheath & Wendune, & also be content with the realisation that even that smallest & most innocuous of place-names can become eternal storehouses of so much history.

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I very much believe that the Vinheath is crowned by the hill between Briercliffe & Nelson upon which Nelson Golf Course can be found. Its eastern slopes lead down to the Pendle Water, which would be the river as described in Egil’s Saga. The wood – Vinwood – is a more transient feature, especially following the passage of a thousand years. It is between wood & river, perhaps on flat lands of the Prairie playing fields & Belvedere rugby ground, that the action of Egil’s Saga chiefly takes place. During the battle, we are told that Thorulf made his way with some warriors onto the ‘higher gound’ of the heath, which leads us to certain battlefield relics dug up in the 18th century, as recorded by TD Whitaker;

At some distance to the east of the town is a place of the name of Saxifield, to which is attached an evanescent tradition of some great engagement, & the defeat of some great chieftan, in the turbulent & unrecorded era of the heptarchy … scenes of great slaughter, the most dreadful of all spectacles, make too deep an impression upon the minds of beholders not to be frequently & diligently recited to posterity; & , when associated with names & local circumstances in succeeding times, though generally corrupted, are seldom lost

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When one heads east out of Burnley, the road forks at the now-closed, but once famous Duke Bar; the left road going on towards Brierfield, while the right one heads up to Harle Syke. Taking the latter road, a long terraced climb up through Briercliffe to the hamlet of Haggate, we are soon walking over the anciently named Saxifields. Just after Lower Saxifield House, a ‘Saxifield Street’ leads past ‘Higher Saxifield’ to a level stretch of moorland/fields, flanked on one side by Nelson Golf Course. In the 19th century, it remained evident that a battle had been fought on the hill, when local historian, the exotically dressed, fez-wearing Tattersal Wilkinson wrote;

The frequent discovery of bones… still serves to keep alive the popular story, & passes it down to each succeeding generation. Such remains were lately met with in large quantities when digging the cellar at Lower Saxifield house; & not long ago a large number of small tumuli popularly termed ‘the graves’ were leveled by farmers for purposes of cultivation. Iron arrow-heads are sometimes found in the mosses

It makes sense that these weapons are remnants of the skirmish on the heath as described in Egil’s Saga, in which ‘Thorolf’s division moved on the higher ground beside the wood.’

The level heath...
The level heath…

Worsthorne

The skirmish on the Vinheath was a subsidiary operation to the main battle of Brunanburh. The annals also describe another precursory skirmish, which seems to have taken place at Mereclough, near the delightful village of Worsthorne on the hilly outskirts of Burnley. At Mereclough, an old map has recorded a ‘battlefield’ & a ‘battlestone,’ while a ‘battle place’ was attached to its pasture in the Cliviger valuation of 1822. The stone was still there in 1974, but has since been removed to faciltate farming operations. Of a local ‘remarkable tradition,’  TT Wilkinson recorded that in the 19th century it was, ‘still prevalent in Worsthorne, to the effect – that the Danes constructed these defences – that a great battle was fought on the moor – & that five kings were buried under the mounds.’ I believe the Worsthorne connection comes from an incident at Brunanburh which took place before the main battle. The action revolves around the arrival of an English bishop in the area, whose death announces the start of the battle proper.

When the bishop arrived at the war with his forces, he had no fear of an ambush on the grassy, level plain, & pitched camp on the exact spot from which the king had retreated William Malmesbury – Deeds of Bishops

 This bishop was called Werstan, & it should be that the name of Worsthorne has been derived from him. As the bishop was arriving at the field, Analf was leading his Vikings on a wide, wide march over the moors to the east of Vinheath. The skirmish on the Vinheath was turning out to be an excellent smokescreen for the maneuver which took him to the rear of Warcock hill, to the south of Worsthorne, aiming straight for Castle Hill. The Croyland Chronicle picks up the story; ‘accordingly, during the night, he made an attack upon the English, and slew a certain bishop, who the evening before had joined the army of King Athelstan.’ The sounds of battle woke the King, who was close to Vinheath, & just under two miles from Worsthorne. The Croyland Chronicle tells us; ‘cries of the dying being heard at a considerable distance, that the king, who was encamped more than a mile from the place of attack, was, together with all his army, awoke from slumber while lying in their tents beneath the canopy of heaven; and on learning the particulars, they quickly aroused themselves,’ & it is at this moment that the Battle of Brunanburh truly begins.

St Eltheldreda

I was up at the crack of dawn this morning, & out of the house about 6.50 AM; plodding on a wee walk back in time, through dreichish weather, to one of the earliest strata of British Christianity. It begins in the oldest part of Burnley, the area about St Peter’s church known as the Top o’ th’ Town. Next to the old grammar school there is a fenced off area in which are housed three & a half ancient monuments. We have the base of the old market cross, with the stocks underneath it; we have an old cross said to date from the 7th century; & we have the stonework of the ancient Shorey’s well, which used to supply Burnley with fresh water before the advent of pipes & stuff.  There is also the dedicated empty space where once sat two cannons taken from Sevastapol during the Crimean War, which had been brought to Burnley by General Scarlett. The guns had been taken to Portsmouth to be smelted down during the First World War, but the iron was found to be unusable & the cannons were unceremoniously dumped in the Solent!

Shorey’s Well in its original form
Shorey’s Well in its original form

The holy cross is said to have been erected in Burnley by Paulinus, a seventh century Bishop of York who died in 644. This timeframe also fits in with Saint Etheldreda, from which the devoluted ‘Shorey’ may be extracted. The process runs as follows; from an original of Æthelthryth or Æþelðryþe, by medieval times the name had become ‘Audrey.’ As Saint Audrey, the latter degenerated even further into the ‘Shorey’ of Shorey’s Well. In the search for more evidence, I have discovered that vestiges of both Saint Etheldreda & the Paulinus crosses can be found only a couple of miles from each other, just to the west & north of Pendle’s heathy mass.

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The abbey at Whalley, a ten mile walk around the flanks of Pendle from my house, claims to have been founded at the Augustinian advent (596), making it one of the oldest Christian centers in Britain. My journey there took me along Accrington Road (I’m an Accy roader at heart), along to the canal at Gannow (where I learnt how to swim) & on to Rosegrove. From here I pass’d down into sleepy Lowerhouse along the old railway line – now a greenway – into Padiham. You might not realise it – in fact nobody has actually – but that busy little paragraph contains the names of two members of the 7th century Anglo-Saxon aristocracy. Accrington, known as Akarinton in 1194, would be named after Acca – the mother of King Oswald. This fellow’s name can even be found right next door to Accrington, in the village of Oswaldtwistle.

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Leaving Padiham, I dropped down into the village of Altham, where we can definitely place Saint Etheldreda. In her vita we are told how she married a northerner (Ecgfrith), but would not consummate the marriage & fled the lecherous clutches of that randy king. On her journey south to the family home in East Anglia, she founded a monastery on an ‘island’ which Goscelin of Saint-Bertin says was, ‘surrounded by fen called Alftham.’ This gives us a direct match for Alvetham/Elvetham, the earliest recorded name for Altham, whose territory is indeed fenlike – a flat & marshy swathe of the Calder Valley. On my walk to Whalley I made an attempt at investigating the river at Altham, but was unceremoniously threatened off the land by a farmer-bully on a quad, who was being followed by about fifty sheep – quite a comical scene & the banter was great;

  ‘I’m a historian,’
   ‘I’ll give you history!’
         ‘I’ve got right of way.’
           ‘I’ll give you right of way,’

…& so it continued, in that deep, rustic accent that has lingered for centuries in the shadowy valleys between Burnley & Blackburn.

All this brings us to another of the other names for the Brunanburh; for the Annals of Clonmacnoise state the battle being fought on the ‘Plains of Othlyn.’ The core phonetic of this name is to be found in the person of Saint Etheldreda, whose vita tells us that after leaving Altham she headed for Bradford in Yorkshire, where en route, ‘there came a time when she was walking in the burning heat of the Sun, and exceedingly weary as the result of her unaccustomed exertion, she could scarcely stand. She therefore sought intently a shady, pleasant place, so that they might cool their bosoms, drenched as they were with sweat, and reinvigorate their weary limbs with a new strength. And her prayer was not unavailing: no, its swift effectiveness yielded the desired result, and, as she continued on her way at a slow pace, it was arranged by God’s grace that she happened upon a place nearby, suitable as a stopping place for travelers, a remarkably flat meadow – you would have thought it had been levelled deliberately – sprinkled all about with flowers of various colours. She made for the longed-for place, saw it be agreeable, was delighted that it was possible to stop there, to breathe in with pleasure wonderful, flower-scented draughts of air. The saintly traveler, delighted by the pleasantness of the place, desired to stop there for a little while, refresh herself for a little while, so that, once the strength of her weary limbs was restored, she might complete the remainder of her journey. Then she settled herself down and fell asleep. And there she slept for a while in the place where tiredness had compelled her to sleep.

When, after a little while, she woke up from her sleep & rose to her feet, she found that her travelling-staff, the end of which she had driven into the ground, dry & long-seasoned, was now clothed with green bark, and had sprouted and put forth leaves. Seeing this, she was stupefied with amazement and, along with her companions, she praised god and blessed him for this most extraordinary happening from her innermost heart.

This miracle provides us with the philological root to Othlyn. Most modern scholars, when analyzing the etymology of Othlyn, plump for something like the pool (Gealic=lynn) of Otha. Nobody, I believe, has looked at another possibility; that Othlyn means the ash tree (Celtic=ynn) of Othl. A Celtic name is totally viable for the miracle of Etheldreda, for in the first half of the 7th century the Burnley area would have remained overwhelmingly Brythonic. The heart of Burnley rests in a valley, parts of which are indeed plain-like, the ‘remarkably flat meadow’ of Etheldreda’s vita which stretch from Towneley to the River Brun. By standing on the canal viaduct above the town centre, one reaches the perfect vistapoint to understand just how flat the Burnley plain really is,  the Brunefeld‘ of William of Malmesbury’s The town centre itself would have been the main battlefield fought about an ancient ford of the River Brun as remembered by John of Fordun’s ‘Brunford.’ This explains why the battle site has not been properly identified by the discovery of artefacts, for they would be hiding under the thousands of tons of concrete which make up Burnley Town Centre. This notionsalso connects with the name of the battle as given by Hector Boece – Broningfeld, which translates as the ‘open field/plain’ (feld) of the ‘people’ (ing) of either the Bron, or a person called Bron.

My finished back yard
My finished back yard

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Brune

I am currently investigating something remarkable that has grown out of my recent investigations into the site of Brunanburh. I recently received an email from a keen-minded, but much-maligned New Zealand online historian called Sean Bambrough. On scanning its contents I came across the following sentence;

Could ‘this place called Brune,’ in chapter 10 of Geoffrey of Monmouth be your Burnley?

 Could it indeed? I’d never seen the reference before, thinking the Annales Cambrae use of the word Brune was the only example of that variant name. It was time to get my hands dirty again, & finding the relevant passage in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘History of the Kings of Britain’, I found that the name ‘Brune’ was attached to a 7th century battlefield where was slain a Northumbrian king called Oswald. On discovering that variant editions of Monmouth’s history, such as the Harlech, had the name Burne, I’m like, this really does feel like I’m seeing Brunley/Burnley. Oswald died in about the year 642, slain by King Penda of Mercia at a place also called Maserfelth;

Oswald was killed in a great battle, by the same Pagan nation and Pagan king of the Mercians who had slain his predecessor, Edwin, at a place called in the English tongue, Maserfelth, in the thirty-eighth year of his age, on the fifth day of the month of August. Bede

During my Brunanburh dig, I’d shown how the Burnley area was some kind of border zone prone to Dark Age warfare, such as the battle of Winfeld at Barrowford. Was it possible that Maserfield was also fought in this area? I was aware of the name Marsden from the Nelson area, the town just to the north of Burnley into whose streets the terraces of Pendle City seamlessly blend. I also knew that where ‘den’ means ‘narrow valley,’ felth means ‘open space,’ rendering it possible that there once was a Maserfield, or ‘Marsfield’ connected to Maserden, or ‘Marsden.’

It is now time for a spot of name-juggling, through which we can ascertain how Maserfield was indeed fought in a field next to Marsden. Looking into ‘A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 6 (1911)’ we find the following early names for Marsden:

Merkesden (1195)
Merclesden, Merkelstene (1242);
Merclisden (1258)

St Osawkd
St Oswald

These can be easily matched to variant  names given to the battle of Maserfield, such as John of Brompton’s Maxelfeld (15th C), or better still  the Marcelde’s Field found inscribed on an ancient well that had been dedicated to Saint Oswald. The well is situated in SW Lancashire, of whose inscription Mr. Baines says;

Little more than half a mile to the north, on the road to Golborne and Wigan, is an ancient well, which has been known from time immemorial by the name of ‘St. Oswald’s Well.’” This well is still in existence, and a certain veneration at the present time hovers about it in the minds of others than the superstitious peasantry. On the upper portion of the south wall of the church is an inscription in Latin… Mr. Beamont gives the translation of the inscription as follows: This place of yore did Oswald greatly love, Northumbria’s King, but now a saint above, Who in Marcelde’s field did fighting fall, Hear us, oh blest one, when here to thee we call… The inscription does not, as some have assumed, state the church is built in, on, or near Marcelde. It merely asserts that Oswald died at a place so named.

The actual site of Maserfield is to be found at Whitefield in Nelson, a place whose name connects to an account of the battle given by Henry of Huntingdon, who relates; “it is said the plain of Maserfeld was white with the bones of the Saints.” We can also connect the area with the Welsh name for the battle, as in the Canu Heledd’s ‘on the ground of Maes Cogwy, I saw armies, battle affliction,’ & the Historia Brittonum’s, ‘Battle of Cocboy.’ About a mile from Marsden, in the direction of Burnley, one comes to a valley called ‘Cockden,’ whose first semantic element matches superbly both ‘Cog’ & ‘Coc.’ More evidence comes from Oswaldtwistle, a pleasant Lancashire village only a few miles to the east of Nelson, near Accrington. According to Halliwell’s dictionary, the word ‘twistle’ means, ‘that part of a tree where branches divide.’ This invokes he grisly demise of Oswald, who according to Bede had his limbs & head torn from his torso, & placed on stakes – i.e. those ‘branches’ which were brutally divided from his body.

With the name Brune being attached to 7th century Anglo-Saxon doings, the possibility is raised that the area contains the ‘Urbs Broninis’ mentioned in the vita of Saint Wilfrid as his place of imprisonment by a ‘praefectum‘ called Osfrith. The vita places Broninis & its prison in a royal borough, which of course means that Broninis & its Burh becomes Broninisburgh, & then by the 10th century, Brunanburh! We have already seen how Acca & Oswald, two seventh century members of the Angle aristrocracy, are remembered in the area. To these we may add Penda – Pendle Hill – & his two sons, one of whom, Wulfhere, is remembered via the Walverden Water that flows thro Nelson & by the north of Burnley. Penda’s other son, Peada, would have then given his name to Padiham. Indeed, Henry Taylor writes that in Padiham, ‘Baines states that a cross, strongly resembling those found in Whalley churchyard, was discovered here.’ That the area was a royal estate is reflected by the ‘Forest of Pendle’ one of the several royal forests of the area which was, by the Middle Ages, under the control of Clitheroe Castle, or Honour of Clitheroe. These forests – Trawden, Pendle & Rossendale, were described as one entity in the Domesday Book of 1986, & the fact that there is anciently a Wolfenden Booth in the Rossendale section again suggests an origin driven by the 7th century Angle monarchy.

Place-names in the area, such as Trawden & Marsden, are clearly Teutonic. Jane Sterling writes of the English entry into Lancashire; ‘towards the end of the sixth century Angle tribes penetrated into Lancashire, & successive waves of them made extensive settlement in the river valleys and on the coastal plain. The extent of this penetration into Lancashire cab be assessed by the number of Lancashire place names which have their origins in early Angle settlements which have survive din such names as Pilling, Melling, Staining & Billinge. Ingas means tribe or family, & it is usually associated with a chieftan’s name. Melling, for example, means the sons, or the tribe of, Moll or Malla. These ‘ingas’ settlements in Lancashire represented the oldest of the places where the ‘English’ built their villages of thatch’d timber frame huts & surrounded them with a ditch or stockade… The second wave of Angle settlement is represented by places whose names originally ended in ‘ingaham.’ This has in many cases been contracted to ‘ingham’ or simply ‘ham.”

Bannaventa

In recent days, while looking at the places & names of places around my home town of Burnley in Lancashire, to which I added a rather copious amount of reading, I believe I have made a discovery of some significance – the location of Saint Patrick’s boyhood home. Before he spread the name of Jesus throughout pagan Ireland, the young Saint Patrick was just doing the things that young lads do in a place called by him Bannavem Taburniae. He tells us as much in a precious, self–penn’d ‘Confessio’ in which we may read;

I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, … had for my father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest of the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villula nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen year of age… I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people.

Here we learn how Patrick was taken to Ireland by some kind of slave raid – so his home must have been within striking distance of the coast. We also discover that his father, Calpurnius, was a Christian official called a ‘deacon,’ & he was connected to the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae. Finally, we learn that near Bannavem lay was the family villula, which translates as the country house of a farmstead.

cropped_Saint_PAtrick.jpg

On first examination, the name Bannavem Taburniae seems corrupt, & indeed c.700 AD, the situation was clarified by Patrick’s hagiographer, Milúch, who tells us, ‘this place, as I am informed beyond hesitation or doubt, is Ventre.’ This lets us create a new name-combination for the boyhood home of Patrick, being; Banna Venta Burniae. There is another Bannaventa in Britain, near the village of Norton in Northamptonshire, & is named thus in the mid-second century ‘Itinerary’ of Antonius Pius. What we may logically conclude is that the second Bannaventa came later, with an addition of ‘Burniae’ applied for the purpose of differentation.

I would now like to point our investigation in the direction of 10th century in England, when the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle spells the same person’s name differently in succeeding entries;

A.D. 931. This year died Frithstan… and Brynstan was blessed in his place.
A.D. 932. This year Burnstan was invested Bishop of Winchester

What we can infer here is that during the 930s Burn & Bryn (Brun) were interchangeable, & the alteration may have been brought about by Athelstan himself for he was recorded by Layamon’s Brut (c.1200) as instigating etymological changes during his reign;

How Athelstan here arrived out of Saxland
& how he set all England in his own hand…
& the names of the towns in saxish speech…
& in Saxish he gan speak the names of the men.

Numismatic support for an earlier ‘burn’ comes upon coins minted by Athelstan’s father & grandfather – Alfred the Great – which give the moneyer’s name as Bernvald.

 

h1411x22.jpgSuch knowledge allows us now to create with confidence a slightly different name for Patrick’s boyhood home; Banna Venta Bruniae. Later in the 930s, in 937, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the Battle of Brunanburh. This epic conflagration saw King Athelstan of England defeat a confederacy of Vikings, Scots & Northern Britons. Variant names for the battle are given by Symeon of Durham – Wendune/Weondune – & the anonymous Scandinavian text, Egil’s Saga – Vinheath. These alternative names have proven problematic to academic inquiry, but may now be reconciled with the Brunanburh name through Patrick’s Banna Venta Burniae, locking these two historical jigsaw pieces fast together. Furthermore, both the ‘dune’ & ‘heath’ elements of Wendune & Vinheath mean the same as banna: pinnacle, peak, mountain, bare hill, etc. A little extra glue comes from the fact that just as Milúch describes Banna Venta as being ‘a place not far from our sea’ – i.e. The Irish Sea – so after the battle of Brunanburh, the defeated Vikings fled to their ships & entered the Irish Sea on the same day as the battle.

The West-Saxons pushed onward
all day; in troops they pursued the hostile people.
They hewed the fugitive grievously from behind

Departed then the Northmen in nailed ships.
The dejected survivors of the battle,
On Dingesmere, sought Dublin over the deep water,
to return to Ireland, ashamed in spirit.

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Further back in the first millennium AD, evidence for Roman settlement in the Burnley area leading up to the birth of Patrick comes in the name of the town of Colne, which appears as Calna in a charter of Henry I. This leads to the the Ravenna Cosmography Calunio, placed in the right area of Lancashire between Ribchester & Ilkley. When analyzing its history, we should  notice that in the lists of Northern Roman camps, Calunio was not in existence in the time of Ptolemy (2nd century AD), but exists in the 6th century, when it appears in the Ravenna Cosmography.

To the north, at Barnoldswick, ran a major arterial Roman road, from which minor roads branched into the Burnley area, such as the one that goes past Portfield on Pendle – the ‘Ad Alpes Peninos’ given in Richard of Cirencester Itineray –  passing the villages of Sabden & Newchurch on the slopes of the same hill, down into Barrowford, along Wheatley Lane, up again to Castercliffe hill fort  – which may have been Calunio itself – & then on into Yorkshire where it concludes at Ilkley, given as Alicana in the Roman geographies. There are also traces of another road that goes through Burnley itself, up to Cliviger, then over the moors to Slack, near Huddersfield, where the ‘Cambodnum’ Roman fort is sited.

Numerous Roman coins have been found in the Pendle-Burnley area; in the sunken lane at the foot of Castercliffe, at Wheatley lane, in Burnley & finally at Emmot, near Colne, where according to TT Whitaker, writing in the year 1800, ‘a large silver cup filled with them was turned up by the plough in the latter end of the 17th century.’ Speculating further, Roman forts were generally attended on by the local population, who lived next to or near the fort in a settlement described as a vici – the semantics of which can be observed in the name, Wycoller, a time-capsule village just to the east of Colne.

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My wife at Pendle, a couple of miles from Roughlee.

Wendish tribal sub-groups included the Sorbs & the Ruggi, both of whose names are present at Pendle Hill, the great whale-back peak which dominates the Burnley skyline. The village of Sabden (Sapedene 1296) means ‘long, narrow valley of the Sabs,’ the ‘Sab’ phonetic of this name being quite rare in Britain, & of unknown origin. Yet it is easy to introduce the idea that Sabden was once ‘Sorbden.’ ‘The present-day Sorbs,’ writes Gerald Stone, ‘may be regarded as descendants of the Slavs who moved into Lusatia in the 6th & 7th centuries… it seems likely that the ethnic name srbi was then in use among them & was later retained both by the Sorbs & by those other Slavs (the Serbs) who moved southwards to the Danube.

Another Wendish subgroup were known as the Rugii, whose name seems to have inspired the Pendleside village of Roughlea, known formely as Rugelea. In the 8th century, the venerable Bede stated that the Rugii formed part of the composite Anglo-Saxon layer to the English gene-pool;

The Angles or Saxons, who now inhabit Britain… are still corruptly called ‘Garmans’ by the neighbouring nation of the Britons. Such are the Frisians, the Rugini, the Danes, the Huns, the Old Saxons, and the Boructuari

We may also detect the Rugi element in an alternate slave-name given to saint Patrick; Fiacc’s hymn tells us; ‘He was six years in slavery; Human food he ate it not. Cothraige he was called.’ At the other side of the valley in which Burnley lies, we come to the hamlet of Roggerham. This is where things get interesting, because hard by the modern village there are the remains of a building, dated to the mid 4th century, given the name Ring Stones Camp. The Wends are known for building circular camps such as the this one, a visit to which was recorded over centuries ago, by  TT Wilksonson;

Passing through Thursden Valley, to a corresponding crest on the opposite ridge called Bonfire Hill, at the distance of about a mile, we find another circular intrenchment, 130 feet in diameter… This encampment is surrounded by an earthwork rampart, which is still comparatively perfect on three of its sides, and easily traceable on the fourth. The rampart measures 700 feet in length by 450 in average breadth

ringstones-earthwork1-1x1.jpg
Ringstones

At once we gain a semi-hit to the final variant name given for Patrick’s boyhood home by the ancient sources. The Hymn of Fiacc, traditionally ascribed it to a fifth century bard, tells us Patrick was born at ‘Nemthur.’ Now this does not necessarily mean it was the same place as Banna Venta, but the ‘thur’ element does appear in the ‘Thursden,’ which may have once been called ‘Nemthur’s den.’ The name seems to derive from nemeton, which means ‘sacred space’ in Brythonic, & which easily becomes Eamoton, a place where Athelstan received fealty from the petty kings of Britain – & then Emmot. This place lies near Colne, where a sacred well called ‘Hallown’ has been sited since deep antiquity supporting the Nemeton link. There is also the intriguingly tantalizing possibility that ‘Bonfire Hill’ derives from Bannaventa, as in;

Bonfire
Bannafire
Bannave
Bannaventa

Another early antiquarian visit to Ring Stones was made by James Stonehouse’s in the mid-19th century;

As we pursue our ramble along the road towards Roggerham, we arrive at a farm house on the right hand called “Rotten”; and a short way beyond it find a gate on the same side. Opening this gate we discover a narrow road, having in the centre a pavement of large boulder stones, the footway on one side being skirted by a stone wall which enclose portions of the moor; on the other a thick hedge. An unobservant person even would notice something unusual in the appearance of this bye-road. The mystery of it-if there be such a thing as a mystery-is soon made manifest. The road is found to lead upon the open moor land, and where the enclosure walls end it gradually becomes lost in the moorland and herbage, although its track can be really discovered rising over the hill before us. But before it becomes so hidden in the heather and the thick grass it passes an enclosure of some 200 feet by 160 feet, that the antiquary and the archaeologist would not fail to gaze upon with deep and absorbing interest. The road is Roman. As the Romans left it, there it is. The enclosure is Roman. As the Romans constructed it, there it is; at least what remains of their handywork. The enclosure is the remains of a fort erected by this great nation, when occupying this part of Britain. The fort is known by the people of the vicinity as “Ring Stones Camp.” The walls, at least as much as is left of them, are about a foot high from the interior surface. Outside the Vallum is a foss or ditch. It is deep in some portions, and filled up in others. It seems to be of the true V shape by the inclinator of the sides. The walls appear as strong as when the soldier mason laid stone upon stone and spread the strong concrete that has hardened till it rivals the stone in durability. At one of the sides, there is an opening where stood the Decuman gate. On the side facing it is another opening. This is the Proetorian gate, so called as being near where the Praetor fixed his quarters. In the centre of the enclosure are great inequalities of ground which, if carefully examined, will perhaps exhibit some of the arrangements of the encampment or fort.’

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Ring Stones camp is located near a certain Swinden Resevoir, whose name clearly contains the ‘wendune’ semantics. It has been dated to the Fourth century on account of its great physical similarity – especially an identical gateway – with ‘Bomber Camp,’ sited by a Roman road near Gisburn, where a collection of early to mid Fourth Century pottery was unearthed. Just to the north of Swinden reservoir, at Twist Hill, there also stands another Roman-British farmstead, 44m by 40m. A bronze coin of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-180) was reportedly found here in 1888, which is much earlier than Patrick, but shows an even earlier settlement of the area.

It is at this point that I will add a wee drop of speculation into my theory, I always enjoy finishing thusly, for the close connection between the camps at Gisburn & Roggerham may be in fact down to an actual human familial relationship. Where the Hymn of Fiacc tell us Patrick was; ‘Grandson of Deochain Odissus,’ a few miles to the west of Gisburn, in the delightful Forest of Bowland, we may see a River Dunsop – possibly connected to the ‘Sorbs’ – flowing into the River Hodder, which might just have been named after Odissus.

To summarise, a large Romano-British farmstead building was erected at Roggerham in the 4th century which fits the country estate image given by Patrick’s ‘villula.’ Roggerham lies near Burnley, which matches the Burniae element of Patrick’s boyhood home. Burnley seems to have been the site of the Battle of Brunanburh, also named Wendune, which translates perfectly as Patrick’s ‘Banna Venta.’ The only speculative thought is Burnley’s identification as Brunanburh – but if the battle was fought near that bonnie Lancashire town, then its clearly a case of killing two birds of mystery with one scholarly stone – & a few archaic words.

Earl’s Ness

More evidence for the Burnley Brunanburh can be found in Egil’s Saga, where a cowardly flight from the field of Athelstan’s ally, Earl Alfgeir, gives us a vital geographical clue; ‘then he rode to the south country, and of his travel ’tis to be told that he rode a night and a day till he came westwards to Earls-ness. Then the earl got a ship to take him southwards over the sea.’ In 937, the Burnley area was part of Northumbria, but lay only thirty or so miles north of the Mercian border, which stretched between the Mersey & the Humber estuaries. Just beyond that demarcation line lay an Anglo-Saxon people known as the Southumbrians, a record of whom is found in the Chronicle, when in 702 King Kenred ‘assumed the government of the Southumbrians.’ Thus, when Alfgeir crossed the Mersey he would have entered Southumbria, the ‘South Country’ through which he would travel westwards to a certain ‘Earls Ness.’

A full night & days riding (24 hours) through the thick Lancashire forests of a thousand years ago, would have equated to somewhere between 50 & a 100 miles. This means we are looking for a sea-port called Earls Ness to the south of the Mersey & somewhere to the west of Burnley. The only other record of an Earl’s Ness in these parts of Britain is a ‘Jarlsness’ mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga. This epic & romantic tale of Viking adventure describes how a 12th century seafarer called Sveinn sailed from the Isle of Man so he could harry Wales. After this he launched a deadly Viking attack upon the unsuspecting settlement of Jarlsness;

Then Swein and Holdbodi went out on an expedition with five ships. They plundered in Bretland (Wales), landing at a place called Jarlsness and committing great ravages. One morning they went into a certain village, and met with a little resistance. The inhabitants fled from the village, and Swein and his men plundered everything, and burnt six homesteads before dinner

Between the Isle of Man & northern Wales lies the Wirral, a narrow peninsular of land which divides the rivers Dee & Mersey. It should be no surprise to discover that there once was a Viking sea-port called Ness on the south Wirral coast. Today, if we were to drive along the M65, M6 & M56, the journey between Burnley & Ness would be about 80 miles – a healthy fit for the night & day ride of Alfgeir. The coastline has changed over the past thousand years & the sea-ports have been silted into still silence, but the port of Ness once served a small pocket of Viking townships permitted to settle on the Wirral by Queen Aethelflead in the early 900s. Surely this is the Earls’ Ness we are looking for!

Walton-le-Dale

My investigations into the Brunanburh battle are slowly coming to a close, & I am preparing to leave my house in Healey Wood. In my last post I showed how the Confederate army dissolved into a panicky rabble & fled the battlefield.

The West-Saxons pushed onward
All day; in troops they pursued the hostile people.
They hewed the fugitive grievously from behind ASC

There the North-men’s chief was put
To flight, by need constrained
To the prow of a ship with little company:
He pressed the ship afloat, the king went out
On fealene flot, he saved his life ASC

Where the ASC says ‘all the day the West Saxons pressed on the loathed bands,’ we can assume that the battle was fought within a day’s retreat of a seacoast or river estuary. Egil’s Saga provides a little extra gloss, saying the ships were ‘far’ from the field. It would be safe to say that the battlefield would be somewhere between 15 & perhaps as many as 40 miles away from a navigable site in which Viking longships could wait. A location may be divined by analyzing the actual words used in the ASC – ‘feallan’ & ‘flot’ – which according to Boswoth & Toller’s Anglo-Saxon Dictionary translate as:

Feallan: Of shingle

Flot: Water deep enough for sustaining a ship

Shingle @ Walton
Shingle @ Walton

If one was to flee the Burnley battlefield, the first navigable, shingly place for ships to wait would have been at Walton-le-Dale, just south of Preston, at an ancient ford of the River Ribble. I visited the site on my way to Scotland from Burnley the other day, buying a £6 day ticket which allowed me to hop on & off the bus. It was bitterly cold, but dry, & my first stop was for a brief look at Houghton Tower, a little private pilgrimage to one of the chief sites regarding my Shakespearean studies. Next up was the ford at Walton-le-Dale, situated at a lovely bend of the Ribble, just after the confluence of the River Darwen. The ford is long gone, having been superseded by a massive bridge, but I got off the bus anyway, where in the process of taking some photos found myself in the breeding ground of some Ribble Geese. Noticing my presence, like a bunch of angry North End they fans flew at me Luftwaffe-style from the other side of the Ribble: it was only a couple of well-aimed stones & a quick dash up bank that procured me my safety.

Nazi Geese
Nazi Geese
Walton-le-Dale… the Cuerdale Hoard was found on the second bend going east
Walton-le-Dale… the Cuerdale Hoard was found on the second bend going east

Close to the old ford, at Cuerdale, a great hoard of Viking silver was found in the 19th century. Dated to roundabout the time of the Battle of Brunanburh, was the Cuerdale hoard deposited by Analf during his flight from Brunanburh? Placing him at the mouth of the River Ribble means his main fleet would have been on the other side of the country, at the Humber estuary. Did Analf, or one his men, in the mad rush for safety, bury treasure while searching for a boat? Let us for a moment imagine Analf burying the hoard in the fading twilight; but returning to the locality at some point in the future, was unable to find the spot where he had deposited his riches. This would lead to an antique local tradition, which long before the Curedale was ever found, that if one were to stand upon the hill at Walton-le-Dale, looking up river the towards Ribchester, one’s gaze would pass over the greatest treasure in the whole of Christendom.

Dingesmere

After ascertaining that the Ribble was the likely launching point for Analf’s flight from the British mainland, it helped me to understand better a passage in the ASC, whose contents have caused a great deal of academic debate in recent years;

Departed then the Northmen in nailed ships.
The dejected survivors of the battle,
On Dingesmere, sought Dublin over the deep water,
To return to Ireland, ashamed in spirit.

map_irish_seaPaul Cavill confirms that the ‘mere’ element in Dingesmere means ‘sea’ when he writes, ‘in verse, both as a simplex and as the first element of many compounds, it means ‘the sea, the ocean.’ As for the ‘Dinges’ part, a 2004 paper entitled ‘Revisiting Dingesmere’ puts the case forward for it stemming from the Viking ‘Ting’ at Thingwall on the Wirral. Tings were meeting places where citizens could come together, air their grievances & network for trade. Cue near-hysterical claims by the Wirral Set that they had found Dingesmere – connecting it to the marshes of south Wirral. Their only real supporting evidence was found on a map of 1611, which called Bromborough, ‘Brunburh.’ It is a valid suggestion, for the name Dingwall in Scotland is also based on a Viking Ting, yet Bromborough could never have been Brunanburh, it is only a stone’s throw from Earl’s Ness for starters, & since its inception in 2005, the Wirral theory has faded from academic inquiry;

The thing about the ‘Thing,’ is that topographically it just does not fit the idea of a battle being fought on the Wirral.  There are no rivers, tumuli, eminent hills or anything that even suggest a battle Kevin Halloran

 If the 60,000 invaders had been hemmed into the peninsular of Wirral, with a neck only 7 miles across, they would have had no chance against Athelstan… is only 10 minutes’ walk to the Mersey. That is not a ‘long pursuit John Henry Cockburn

Apparently a bunch of Bromborough enthusiasts traveled from there to Thingwall and the journey took them from 11 am until 4:30 pm. Therefore proving that a “day long pursuit” was possible. This was utterly unbelievable as the distance is approximately 5-7 miles and there is no way that the journey could have taken so long. They must have been crawling along and obviously forgot that Anlaf’s forces were running for their lives with the west Saxons in pursuit. Matthew Wall

bromborough

The Wirral is a fairly flat place, not reminiscent at all to Henry Of Huntingdon’s, ‘The hills resounded / There many men born in Denmark lay / Pierced by spears, stabbed under their shields.’  We must also consider the IMP (Inherent Military Probability) of a battle being fought in the Wirral cul-de-sac, coupled with a complete lack of anything in the locality matching evidence as given by the sources, suggests that the Wirral ‘Ting’ was not intended when Egil wrote ‘Dingesmere.’ There was, however, another Ting on the Isle of Man, which still meets today as the Tynvald. Founded in the early 10th century – i.e. the Brunanburh period – its position at the centre of the Irish Sea makes it a far likelier candidate for Dingesmere’s ‘Thing.’ The Isle of Man was an important Viking capital, & sits neatly between the sister kingdoms of Jorvik (York) & Ireland (Dublin). The name ‘Dingesmere’ should then really be attached to the circular portion of the Irish Sea epicentred by the Isle of Man.

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The return of Analf to Dublin brings us to the end of my survey into the battle of Brunanburh. It really does feel like a case of fitting square pegs into square holes, there seems no flaws in the theory anywhere, which was been built up by combining the large number of place-names as provided by the Brunanburh sources. It really was quite startling just how much of the Burnley landscape had been imprinted into the Brunanburh battle. I believe the battle should be considered a fundamental part of the town’s folklore alongside the legends of Pendle Witches & the ongoing saga of Burnley Football Club, poems of which you may buy in my book, The Burnliad

It is during the writing of my Brunanburh essay in particular, I have been often startled by the latent powers of words, when even the smallest & most innocuous of place-names can be an eternal storehouses of so much history. To the residents of Burnley & the rest of Pendle City I say; take a walk in the countryside, note the names of the cloughs & the hills, & let us weave a secret history, drawn from the phonetical landscape. While studying the case, I came across a similar sentiment in SW Partington’s ‘Danes in Lancashire.’

An eloquent modern writer has declared, with a good reason, that even if all other records had perished, “anyone with skill to analyse the language, might re-create for himself the history of the people speaking that language, and might come to appreciate the divers elements out of which that people was composed, in what proportion they were mingled, and in what succession they followed one upon the other.” From a careful analysis of the names of the more prominent features of the land; of its divisions, its towns and villages, and even its streets, as well as the nomenclature of its legal, civil, and political institutions, its implements of agriculture, its weapons of war, and its articles of food and clothing, — all these will yield a vast fund of history.’

Healey Wood
Healey Wood

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Arkell, WJ : Place-Names and Topography in the Upper Thames Country (1942)
Bamburgh, Sean: private correspondence (2015)
Bede : Ecclisiastical History of the English People (731 AD)
Bennet, William : Excavations at Everage Clough – Transactions of the Lancashire & Cheshire Antiquarians (1952-53)
Campbell, Alistair : Brunanburh (1938)
Cavill, P : The Place-Name Debate, The Battle of Brunanburh, a Casebook (2011)
Clayton, John : Admergill (2009)
Cockburn, John Henry : The Battle of Brunanburh & its period (1931)De Gray Birch, Walter (Cartularium Saxonicum) 1893

Foot, Sarah : Athelstan, the First King of England (2012)
Gelling, Margaret / Cole, Ann : The landscape of placenames (2000)
Graham-Campbell, James : Viking treasure from the North West – The Cuerdale horde in its context (1992)
Halloran, Kevin : The Identity of Etbrunnanwerc, Scottish Historical Review Oct (2010)
Hollander, LM : The Battle on the Vin-Heath and the Battle of the Huns, Journal of English and Germanic Philology 32 (1933)
Marquis, JT : Brunanburh. Transactions of the LCAS v.26, (1909)
Niles, JD – Skaldic Technique in Brunanburh, Scandinavian Studies, Vol. 59, No. 3, Anglo-Scandínavían England (SUMMER 1987)
Partington, SW : Danes in Lancashire (1909)
Rauer, Christine: Beowulf and the Dragon: Parallels and Analogues (2000)
Reginald of Durham : The Life of St Oswald (1165)
Jorgensen, PA : Grendel, Grettir & Two Skaldic Stanzas: Scripta Islandica 24 (1973)
Scudder, Bernard : Egils saga, tr. (1977)
Sterling, Jane : Dark age and Norman Lancashire (1974)
Stonehouse, James : Roman Remains Near Burnley (a letter to The Preston Guardian, August 15th 1863)
Sturluson, Snori : Egil’s Saga, tr. Christine Fell (1975)
Taylor, Henry : The Ancient Crosses & Holy Wells of Lancashire (1906)
Tudsbery, FWT : Brunanburh AD937 (1907)
Wall, Matthew – Private correspondence
Watkin, WT : Roman Lancashire (1883)
Whitelock, Dorothy : English Historical Documents, (1955)
Whittaker, TD : History of the Original Parish of Whalley and Honour of Clitheroe, in the Counties of Lancaster and York, v2 (1801)
Widdup, John : Annals & Stories of Barrowford (1929)
Wilkinson, TT : On the battle of Brunanburh; and the probable locality of the conflict. Historic Society of Lancashire & Cheshire (1856-57)
Wilson, DM – The Viking Age in the Isle of Man (1974)

 

 

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Next Wednesday, 07/03/18

Chapter 7:  The Young Shakespeare

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CHISPOLOGY

Chapter 1: The Exodus
Chapter 2: The Aryan Invasion
Chapter 3: The Mahabharata
Chapter 4: Agastya
Chapter 5: The Picts
Chapter 6: Brunanburh
Chapter 7: The Young Shakespeare
Chapter 8: Shakespeare’s Blossom
Chapter 9: The Badon Babel Tree
Chapter 10: The Saxon Advent

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THE CHISPER EFFECT

chisper_effectChapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang

Chispology 5 : The Picts

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Continuing the serialization of

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

CHISPOLOGY

In which a few more of the world’s greatest mysteries… are finally solved

Available to buy in book form

Autumn 2018

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Over the weekend I watched the extremely compulsive story-viewing that is Netflix’s version of the Unabomber case. As I sat enthralled, I began to experience & identify a great collection of cop-confusing chispers, & also the birth of ‘Forensic Linguistics’ which Chispology makes use of. The greatest of the chispers was the way a woman changed her description of the Unabomber over a period of six years. The first version was accurate, but the second description was actually of the original police sketch artist. The show also explained how the expression ‘have you cake & eat it too’ was actually a modern flippage; the Third Earl of Shaftesbury in 1711 writes, ‘as ridiculous as the way of children, who eat their cake, and afterwards cry for it. They shou’d be told, as children, that they can’t eat their cake, and have it.’ What has all this got to do with the Picts? Very little, but just as the Unabomber was caught by the guy who invented & named Forensic Linguistics, & utilised the brand-new concept of ‘idiolect,’ so hope I to solve certain historical mysteries that have proven as elusive as did the identity of the Unabomber.

Chispology traces the changing phases of fact and phrase from origin to reception, a proper study of which may assume into existence knowledge thought lost forever. One must ask why is the information different, where are the points of diversion, and what happened to the separated strands in the meantime. For this week’s mission we shall move back to my preferred territory, the legends of Dark Age Britain. For over seven years now I have continuously unearthed, analyzed & assembled a number of new clues & thought-strands that shine a series of illuminative candles upon the Matter of Britain. These tales sprung from a period in history when a fermenting Britain would slowly crystallize into the three kingdoms of England, Scotland & Wales. The story is a bloody one, soaking the soil a deep crimson from Cornwall to the Orkneys, as these kingdoms were fought for, & died for, on a series of battlefields thought lost forever. Researching the Matter of Britain has been something of a jigsaw puzzle – all the pieces were there, it was just a case of finding them in the depths of unread manuscripts, analyzing their value, & then assembling them to paint a cohesive picture. Many historians have given these pieces colour, from scanty historical hints found in Dark Age hagiographies, to the vague, uncertain chronicles of the Middle Ages; from medieval Icelandic sagas, to the epic efforts of the 19th century mega-scholar, William Skene. At another most erudite time, up in the National Library of Scotland, I was helped by a charming Classics expert, Dr Ulrike Hogg, who helped me to translate a thorny piece of medieval Latin.

The concentric Herulian shield symbol & the lightning sowilaz rune
The concentric Herulian shield symbol & the lightning sowilaz rune

The British Dark ages begins with the arrival on the islands of the Picts, the first truly documented tribe of Britain. Despite the Celts first coming to Britain c.500 BC, just their grass-topped Iron Age forts & a handful of archeological relics are all we really have to construct their past. The Picts, however, despite being a most mysterious entity, at least left some trails in the historical record. Most of these are in the form of monumental stones scattered across ‘Pictavia,’ full of mysterious symbols. I did propose the Herulian & the Sowilaz symbols being present in the Chisper Effect, but these are two among many, & as yet the rest are undecipher’d. A little more information on the Picts can be discovered here & there. Nennius recorded c.830 AD that the Picts, ‘occupied the Orkney Islands; whence they laid waste many regions, and seized those on the left hand side of Britain, where they still remain, keeping possession of a third part of Britain to this day.’ In the 7th century English historian, venerable Bede, gives us more detail of their first coming to the island;

When the Britons, beginning at the south, had got possession of the greatest part of the island, it happened that the nation of the Picts from Scythia, as is reported, putting to sea in a few long ships, were driven about by the blowing of the winds, and arrived in Ireland, beyond all the confines of Britain, and put in on the northern coasts thereof, where, finding the nation of the Scots, they asked, for themselves, also, a settlement in those parts, but could not obtain it… The Scots answered that the island could not contain them both. “But we can,” said they, “Give you wholesome advice, what you may do. We know there is another island, not far from ours, to the eastward, which we often see at a distance, on clear days. If you will go thither, you can settle there, or, if any should oppose you, you shall have our assistance.”

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Several antique histories point to the Pictish homeland originally being Scythia, such as the Pictish Chronicles; ‘the Scythian people are born with white hair due to the continuous snow; and the colour of that same hair gives a name to the people, and hence they are called Albani: from them the Scots and Picts trace their origin. In their eyes, there is a bright, that is coloured, pupil, to such an extent that they can see better at night than by day. Moreover the Albani were neighbours to the Amazons.’ The territories of ancient Scythia correspond roughly to the vast area of south central Russia; from the Ukraine to Kazakhstan & creeping into the steppes of northern Iran. Despite the distance between ancient Scythia & the mountain fastnesses of northern dark age Britain, both cultures are bound by vivid, animal-based art. Some of these symbolic depictions were imprinted in the form of tattoos, a practice given to the Picts by several classical authors, including;

Most of the regions of  {northern} Britain are marshy, since they are flooded continually by the tides of the ocean; the barbarians are accustomed to swimming or wading through these waist-deep marsh pools; since they go about naked, they are unconcerned about muddying their bodies. Strangers to clothing, they wear ornaments of iron at their waists and throats; considering iron a symbol of wealth, they value this metal as other barbarians value gold. They tattoo their bodies with colored designs and drawings of all kinds of animals; for this reason they do not wear clothes, which would conceal the decorations on their bodies. Extremely savage and warlike, they are armed only with a spear and a narrow shield, plus a sword that hangs suspended by a belt from their otherwise naked bodies. They do not use breastplates or helmets, considering them encumbrances in crossing the marshes.  Herodian of Antioch

Barbarians, who from childhood have different pictures of animals skillfully implanted on their bodies, so that as the man grows, so grow the marks painted on him; there is nothing more that they consider as a test of patience than to have their limbs soak up the maximum amount of dye through these permanent scars Solinus

Similar body-tattoos were found on the frozen bodies (including the penis) of both a Scythian chieftan & a twenty-five year old warrior-priestess, discovered in the same region of Siberia. It seems no coincidence that the chieftan still retained a bright red mop of hair, a Pictish trait still retained in 13 percent of Scotland’s population, as compared to only two percent of the world’s population.

The Scythian Chieftan found in 1948
The Scythian Chieftain found in 1948

Common culturalities include the warrior equestrian culture, with T.G.E. Powell noting that Pictish, ‘horse-gear is an elaboration of their predecessors from the east.’  Other links include a sea-goddess image at Meigle in Perthshire which matches Scythian goldwork found in the Ukraine; & a stone figure discovered on Boa, an island in Northern Ireland, is nigh-identical to a Scythian Kurgan Stele from Kyrgyzstan. It should also only take a cursory glance at the Pictish Beast symbol to see it is a match for the Scythian Ibex.

Scythian Ibex
Scythian Ibex
Pictish Beast
Pictish Beast

The Pictish arrival in Britain may be connected to an invasion by the Persian Achaemenid empire of Cyrus the Great of a territory known in antiquity as ‘Albania,’ c.550 B.C. Known to modern historians as Caucasian Albania, its lands correspond to present-day Azerbaijan, on the western shores of the Caspian Sea. After the Persian conquest, King Cyrus began to impose the new religion of Zoroatrianism upon the natives. This combination of foreign rulers & alien faith may have been the driving force behind certain Scythians abandoning their homes & setting off west in search of new territories where their physical & spiritual liberty would not be compromised. Both Walter Bower & Geoffrey of Monmouth place the Picts in Aquitaine/Basque country just before they came to Britain, a region that is linguistically connected to Caucasian Albania by John D Bengston, who states; ‘apart from certain extinct languages, notably Aquitanian, Basque is most closely related to the (North) Caucasic family,’ & gives us several tallies between words;

Basque                                    Dargi
Sasi (thorn)                            Zanzi (prickly)
Be-llar-I (ear)                         Lihi-lahi (ear)
Ondi-iin (misfortune)        Avar-unti (sickness/defect)
Behi (cow)                              Boc’I (cattle)

It is also interesting how the name of the legendary founder of the Caucasian Albanians, said to be Prince Arran by the 10th century Armenian historian Moses Kaghankatvatsi, can be found in the Aran islands off the western coast of Ireland, & the Scottish Isle of Arran, where many Pictish symbols have been found.

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Also surviving the rigors of time enough to illuminate our investigations are several versions of what is known as ‘The Pictish King List,’ which I utilised quite heavily in my Arthurian investigations. In them may be found the origin story of the Picts in Britain. Of these, version D relates that they, ‘came from the land of Thracia; that is, they are the children of Gleoin, son of Ercol. Agathirsi was their name. Six brothers of them came at first, viz, Solen, Ulfa, Nechtan, Drostan, Aengus, Leithenn.’ Further gloss can be found in William Skene who relates how the earliest Picts established themselves first on the Orkney Isles, before moving into the northern portions of the mainland.

The children of Gleoin, son of Ercol, took possession of the islands of Orcc, that is, Historend, son of Historrim, son of Agam, son of Agathirsi, and were dispersed again from the islands of Orcc; that is, Cruthne, son of Cinge, son of Luctai, son of Parthai, son of Historech, went and took possession of the north of the island of Britain, and his seven sons divided the land into seven divisions; and Onbecan, son of Caith, son of Cruthne, too the sovereignty of the seven divisions.

There is one name of great import regarding our investigation – Agathirsi. These, ‘painted Agathyrsians,’ as described by Virgil, were given more detail in the 380s by Ammianus-Marcellinus as the, ‘Agathyrsi, who dye both their bodies and their hair of a blue colour, the lower classes using spots few in number and small – the nobles broad spots, close and thick, and of a deeper hue.’ That the Agathyrsian nobility possessed more tattoos is mirrored by the Picts, whose non-native name was, according to Isidore of Seville, ‘taken from their bodies, because an artisan, with the tiny point of a pin and the juice squeezed from a native plant, tricks them out with scars to serve as identifying marks, and their nobility are distinguished by their tattooed limbs.’ The Agathirsi also appear in the writings of Scotland’s 16th century writer, Hektor Boece’s ‘History & Chronickles of Scotland;’

Nocht lang efter, a banist pepill, namit Pichtis, come furth of Denmark, to serche ane dwelling place; and, efter that thay war inhibit to land baith in France, Britane, and Ireland, thay landit in Albion. Sum authouris sayis, thay come first in Orknay; and, sone  efter, in Cathues, Ros, Murray, Mernis, Angus, Fiffe, and Louthiane: and expellit all the pepill, that inhabit that region afore thair  cuming. Thir pepill war callit Pichtis, outhir for thair semely personis, or ellis for the variant colour of thair clething; or ellis thay war namit Pichtis, fra the Pichtis namit Agathirsanis, thair anciant faderis. In probation heirof, Orknay wes calht the auld realme of  Pichtis. Siclike, thee seeis betwix Cathnes and Orknay war namit Pentland Firth ; and all the landis, quhilkis ar now callit Louthiane, war callit than Pentland.

To summarise the medieval Scots, Boece’s research states that the Picts named their ‘anciant faderis’ as ‘Agathirsanis,’ they were Danish in origin (as opposed to Scythian) & they settled all along Eastern Scotland, from Orkney to as far south as Lothian. It is in Boece’s ‘Agathirsanis’ that we see a name anciently recorded as ‘Agathyrsi,’ by Herodotus. A tribe of mixed Dacian-Scythian origin, Herodotus placed them in the plain of the Maris (Mures), in Romanian Transylvania; ‘from the country of the Agathyrsoi comes down another river, the Maris, which empties itself into the same.’ Herodotus then describes the Agathyrsi as being quite a sexually liberated bunch;

The most luxurious of men and wear gold ornaments for the most part: also they have promiscuous intercourse with their women, in order that they may be brethren to one another and being all nearly related may not feel envy or malice one against another. In their other customs they have come to resemble the Thracians

As we have seen earlier, the Thracian element was presented in the King List, which stated the Picts, ‘came from the land of Thracia… Agathirsi was their name.’ Herodotus also pontificates on a Pontic Greek myth which states that Agathyrsus was the eldest son of Herakles, & brother to a certain Skythes. Which of the possible men called Herakles in antiquity who fathered Agathyrsus is unknown as of yet, and the Chisper Effect could well be in place, but knowing that Herakles was a Hyksos king, we could suppose that his son, Agathirsi, led the Hyksos conquest of Thrace, c.1500 BC. By the time of Herodotus, this section of the Hyksos diaspora had moved north to Transylvania, near which place Herakles is said to have bathed in the spa at Bailey Herculene. The ‘thyrsus’ element of the name is also interesting, for its connects indirectly to Strabo’s ‘Idanthyrsus the Scythian overran Asia as far as Egypt.’ Agathyrsus & Idanthyrsus seem different men, but speak the same language, ie Scythian.

It may be relevant somewhere that Herakles, according to Pausanius, visited, ‘the land of the Hyperboreans, men living beyond the home of the North Wind,’ & that Tacitus has the Goths of Germania declaring, ‘Hercules, too, once visited them,‘ but we are veering too far from the point of this essay, which concerns the establishment of the Picts in northern Britain. A clue comes with Skythes, the brother of Agathirsi. This name transchispers into Sketis, an island in Ptolemy’s 2nd centry AD ‘Geography’ which appears roughly where the Shetland islands, or the Sketland islands, should be. This is properly calculable by analyzing Ptolemy’s clearly erroneous map of Scotland. Apart from the lands above the firths being tilted 90 degreees, what is also noticeable is that there are four island blocks off the north-east corner of Britain; Dumna, Sketis, the Orcades archipelago & Thule.

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2000px-OrkneyShetlandConstituency.svg

If we tip a map of Scotland 90 degrees on its axis to the east, then we can see how the position of the Orkneys & Shetlands correlate to Ptolemy’s Dumna & Sketis. This suggests that Ptolemy – who never really left the Meditterranean – used two separate travellers accounts for this part of the world, which became superimposed upon each other, creating the four island blocks. This means that the four islands are actually two, that Dumna & the Orcades are the Orkney Isles, & that Sketis & Thule are the Shetlands, & that Ptolemy had performed a rather interesting creochisp.

All very well, but an earnest chispologist will always strain to find support for each specific theory. Thus, in the very centre of the Orkney archipelago there is a small, flat islet called Damsay, whose name we might suggest had derived from Dumna. Further down the babel-chain we arrive at Domnu, the Celtic goddess of the Summer Solstice. She is described as the Mother of Water who absorbs and reflects the rays of the sun as it climbs towards it’s annual zenith. A place so far north as the Orkneys would be a perfect place to celebrate the unbroken sunlight of midsummer. This could explain the submerged constructions found at Damsay, which may have been involved in Domnu-worshi, as described by Caroline Wickham-Jones of Aberdeen University. Speaking to the BBC in 2009, she explained;

We have certainly got a lot of stonework. There are some quite interesting things. You can see voids or entrances… There’s this one feature that is like a stone table – you’ve got a large slab about a metre and a half long and it’s sitting up on four pillars or walls so the next thing we need to do is to get plans and more photographs to try and assess and look for patterns. The quality and condition of some of the stonework is remarkable. Nothing like this has ever been found on the seabed around the UK

That Ptolemy’s Thule was Shetland is supported by both Pliny & Strabo, who made note of a comment by the fourth century BC Greek geographer, Pytheas, that Thule was a six-day voyage north of Britain. In the terms of antiquitial voyaging this seems about right. In 54 BC, for example, it took Ceasar eighteen hours to sail from Boulogne to Dover. More evidence is quite decisively summarised by the sixteenth century historian, William Camden;

But if that of the learned Gaspar Peucerus, in his Book De Terræ Dimensione, be true, that Schetland is by the Seamen call’d Thilensell (and I know no reason to except against his testimony) Thule is undoubtedly discover’d, and the Controversie at an end… Schetland is the same with Thule, we may believeit lies between Scotland and Norway; where Saxo Grammaticus places Thule… And Tacitus says, that the Romans spy’d it afar off, as they sail’d by the Orcades in their voyage round Britain. Lastly, it faces the coast of Bergæ in Norway; and so lay Thule, according to Pomponius Mela

Moving to the settlement of the Picts in Scotland, William Camden gives us some information, recording that at, ‘the time of Reuther King of Scots,’ a battle was fought in which the death of a certain, ‘Gethus King of the Picts… constrain’d the Picts (who perceived themselves unable to resist) to fly, some by land and others by sea, to Orkney, where they abode for a time, and made Gothus, brother of the foresaid Gethus, their King. And after a few years, having left some of their number to people and plant the Countrey, they return’d to Louthian; and having expelled the Britons, settled themselves again in their ancient possessions.’ Here we see that the two main bases of the earliest Picts were the Orkneys & Lothian, the latter being only a philochisp away from Leithenn, one of the six Pictish brothers who first came to settle in Britain. To many, Lothian is named after a 6th century king called Loth who dwelt on Traprain Law, East Lothian. But what is more likely is that this King was named after the region, as in King X of ‘Leithenn.’ What is also fascinating is that in Big Geoff’s History of the Kings of Britain, King Loth was recognised as a king of both Lothian & the Orkneys.

Returning to William Camden’s account, he provides a passage in which the mainland across from the Orkneys – Caithness – seems named after either Gethus or Gothus;

Now Orkney, being a cluster of thirty Isles, separated from one another by little arms of the Sea: they are said in a certain old manuscript to be so call’d from Argat, that is (as it is there explain’d) Above the Getes: But I had rather interpret it, Above the Cat; for it lies over-against Cath, a Country of Scotland, which, from the promontory, is now called Catness; the Inhabitants whereof seem to be falsly called, in Ptolemy, Carini instead of Catini

Whatever ‘certain old manuscript‘ Camden was using, it definitely gave the Caithness region an original name of Getes, with the Orkneys being ‘above them.’ That the G & C are interchangeable can be seen in two historical notices of the Pictish kingdom of Cat. In the Pictish Chronicle, the seven kingdoms of the Picts are given as, ‘Fib, Fidach, Floclaid, Fortrenn, Got, Ce, Circinn,’ while the Irish translation of the Historia Brittonum  states their names are Cait, Ce, Cireach cetach cland, Fib, Fidach, Fotla, Foirtreand.’  What is most relevant here, however, is the phonetic similarity between Argat and Agathyrsi.

According to Scottish historiography, the Scottish king Reuther married the daughter of Gethus. His nephew, Cianus, was taken prisoner in the Orkneys during the Roman invasion of Britain, 43 AD. This means that Gethus lived about a generation earlier, around 10 AD. This date is slap-bang in the middle of a two century period of broch building in the Pictish north. Like stars a darkening night sky, these Pictish roundhouses began springing up across Caithness, the Orkneys & the Shetlands, in the very heartlands of Gethus & co. Among them, on the Shetlands, an island called Mousa is home to the greatest all the Scottish brochs, which has been dated to about 100 BC.

brochs_map

Combining literature & archeology, we can see that the earliest Pictish waves hit northern Britain in the century or two before Issa-Jesus. Before the name ‘Picti’ was attributed to this woad-painted peoples by later Roman writers, they were recorded as being ‘Caledonians,’ as in Ptolemy’s list of Scottish tribes;

Next to the Damnoni, but more toward the east near the Epidium promontory are the Epidi and next to these the Cerones; then the Carnonacae, and the Caereni but more toward the east; and in the extreme east dwell the Cornavi; from the Lemannonis bay as far as the Varar estuary are the Caledoni, and above these is the Caledonian forest, from which toward the east are the Decantae, and next to these the Lugi extending to the Cornavi boundary, and above the Lugi are the Smertae

A century on from Ptolemy, Cassius Dio notes that the Caledonians had become the chief tribe in northern Scotland; ‘there are two principal races of the Britons, the Caledonians and the Maeatae, and the names of the others have been merged in these two. The Maeatae live next to the cross-wall which cuts the island in half, and the Caledonians are beyond them.’ Confirmation that the Caledonians were considered to be Picts is first found in the anonymous Panegyric Latine, written c.314, which refers to, ‘the forests and marshes of the Caledonians and other Picts.’ Thus, in his Agricola, when Tacitus describes the, ‘red hair and large limbs of the inhabitants of Caledonia,’ we are given a good match for the red-headed Scythians such as the ‘Gelonusian Scythians,’ who Herodotus depicted as possessing deep blue eyes and bright red hair. There may also be a significant connection between CALE & GELO.

Instead of trying to subdue these half-naked, wild-eyed Caledonian warrior, the Romans erected two great walls across the breadth of Britain to keep them out of the empire. To this day the southern wall, named after Emperor Hadrian, more or less marks the start of Scotland. The northern version – the Antonine Wall – stretches between Edinburgh & Glasgow, & links the the two natural barriers that are the Firths of Forth & Clyde. In between these fortifications lie the Scottish lowlands, while beyond the Antonine Wall stretch the vast & empty Highlands as far as John o’ Groats. Over the ages, both regions developed a separate identity, but still proudly count themselves to be Scottish. It can be assumed that the very essence of modern Scotland was created in the wake of the Roman failure to conquer the Picts. The greatest manifestation of their defiance of Rome came at the Battle of Mons Graupius, 83AD. It was fought several years after the great Roman general Agricola launched his epic attempt to finally subdue the north of Britain. His opponent was Calgacus, who actually appears as the properly dated Gilgidi in the Pictish King Lists, between Brude Urmund & Tharain. In order to challenge the march of Rome, Calgacus unified all the Caledonian tribes into one power bloc, to whose warriors he gave a speech on the eve of battle that would have inspired such mighty leaders as Robert the Bruce & William Wallace. It is recorded in the only literary record of the battle contained in the ‘Agricola,’ with Agricola being the general at Mons Graupius & Tacitus his flattering son-in-law. Calgacus speaks;

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When I consider the motives we have for fighting and the critical position we are in, I have a strong feeling that the united front you are showing today will mean the dawn of liberty for the whole of Britain. You have mustered to a man, and all of you are free. There are no lands behind us, and even on the sea we are menaced by the Roman fleet. The clash of battle – the hero’s glory – has now actually become the safest refuge for a coward. Battles against Rome have been lost and won before; but hope was never abandoned, since we were always here in reserve. We, the choicest flower of Britain’s manhood, were hidden away in her most secret places. Out of sight of subject shores, we kept even our eyes free from the defilement of tyranny. We, the most distant dwellers upon earth, the last of the free, have been shielded till today by our very remoteness and by the obscurity in which it has shrouded our name. Now, the farthest bounds of Britain lie open to our enemies; and what men know nothing about they always assume to be a valuable prize. But there are no more nations beyond us; nothing is there but waves and rocks, and the Romans more deadly still than these – for in them is an arrogance which no submission or good behaviour can escape. Pillagers of the world, they have exhausted the land by their indiscriminate plunder, and now they ransack the sea. A rich enemy excites their cupidity; poor one, their lust for power. East and West alike have failed to satisfy them. They are the only people on earth to whose covetousness both riches and poverty are equally tempting. To robbery, butchery, and rapine, they give the lying name of “government”; they create a desolation and call it peace.

The location of Mons Graupius has never been satisfactorily identified, & has become quite a touchy subject among historians. But mysteries are there to be solved, & it won’t be the first, nor the last. It is through a detailed analysis of the evidence that I believe the battlefield’s location has been accurately ascertained. We begin with the only evidence we have for a Roman presence beyond the Antonine Wall, being the remains of a dozen-strong chain of  ‘marching forts’ the legions erected as they pressed north with Agricola. To avoid the impassable mountainous terrain of the Cairngorms, the forts were built in a long procession stretching from Dundee to Inverness, along the eastern side of Scotland. Agricola was a shrewd & canny general, & his march maintain’d contact between his fleet & his soldiers, siting many of the camps near the sea. Tacitus records; ‘he explored the harbours with a fleet, which, at first employed by him as an integral part of his force, continued to accompany him. The spectacle of war thus pushed on at once by sea and land was imposing; while often infantry, cavalry, and marines, mingled in the same encampment and joyously sharing the same meals.’

One of these camps has been tentatively proposed as the site of Mons Graupius solely on account of its name, Victoria, being the Latin for victory. Using co-ordinates given by Ptolemy, several sites have been suggested for Camp Victoria, the best candidate being Battledykes, near Fortrose. To my mind, this camp was actually the site of a battle that took place the year before Mons Graupius. Tacitus tells us that the Caledonians;

…with their whole force attacked by night the ninth Legion, as being the weakest, and cutting down the sentries, who were asleep or panic-stricken, they broke into the camp. And now the battle was raging within the camp itself, when Agricola, who had learnt from his scouts the enemy’s line of march and had kept close on his track, ordered the most active soldiers of his cavalry and infantry to attack the rear of the assailants, while the entire army were shortly to raise a shout. Soon his standards glittered in the light of daybreak. A double peril thus alarmed the Britons, while the courage of the Romans revived; and feeling sure of safety, they now fought for glory. In their turn they rushed to the attack, and there was a furious conflict within the narrow passages of the gates till the enemy were routed. Both armies did their utmost, the one for the honour of having given aid, the other for that of not having needed support. Had not the flying enemy been sheltered by marshes and forests, this victory would have ended the war

It makes sense that the Picts would have attacked the Romans at Battledykes, for it lies only ten miles from Dundee/Alectum, the very place in which dwelt, according to Hector Boece, the Pictish King during the Graupius campaign. Topographically, a visitor to the site in 1786, a certain Jameson, describes Battledykes as containing two burial tumuli – the detritus of a significant battle – & that the camp back’d onto a marsh, linking to the ‘marshes and forests’ into which fled the defeated Caledonians.

Roman_fortificationsinnorthernScotland2

After securing this power base, Tacitus tells us that the Romans pushed north, a portion by sea & another group led by Agricola, who advanced, ‘with a lightly equipped force, including in its ranks some Britons of remarkable bravery, whose fidelity had been tried through years of peace, as far as the Monte Graupius, which the enemy had already occupied.’ A similar route was taken in 1746 by the Royalist forces under the Duke of Cumberland on their way to fight Bonnie Prince Charlie & his highlanders at the Battle of Culloden. Prior to 83 AD, the Caledonians had rarely faced the Romans in open conflict, preferring instead guerilla warfare or night-attacks on camps. Agricola knew that his legionairres were highly trained soldiers who needed conventional warfare in order to excel. The description of them being lightly equipped indicates a swift march to catch the Caledonians as they were collecting en masse. Evidently successful in the rapid endeavour, Tacitus tells us; ‘30,000 armed men were now to be seen, and still there were pressing in all the youth of the country.’  Eventually, the Caledonian army would swell by another 20,000 warriors, as related by Boece’s, ‘our old annals say that fifty thousand men were in arms.’ The Battle of Mons Graupius was definitely on, but where?

Picts

Situated twenty-five miles east of Inverness, nestling salubriously beside the Moray Firth, & a stone’s throw from one of the best fleet-sized harbours in Scotland, lies the charming town of Forres. The ‘mons’ of Mons Graupius would be Cluny Hill, which towers over Forres to the south. A number of iron-age burial barrows also litter the area, sugegsting some possible conflict in an area in which all the topographical clues found in Tacitus coalesce. Assembling these helps us to paint a mental picture of the battlefield, which would have contained, in the following order;

SEA – CAMP – PLAIN – HILL – WILDERNESS

Sea: A significant textual clue given in the speech of Calgacus says that the Romans were; ‘few in number, dismayed by their ignorance, looking around upon a sky, a sea, and forests which are all unfamiliar to them; hemmed in, as it were, and enmeshed, the Gods have delivered them into our hands.’  We have also seen how Agricola preferred to be close to his supply-ferrying fleet.

Camp: The temporary Roman camp at Balnagieth, Forres – Ptolemy’s Pinnata Castra – shows all the hallmarks of Agricola’s strategic mind, of whom, ‘it was noted by experienced officers that no general had ever shown more judgment in choosing suitable positions.‘ On one side Balnageith is protected by the River Findhorn, standing just a couple of miles upstream from a beautiful sea-harbour. The fort is 234 metres long, at least 70 meters wide & surrounded by a 3 metre wide ditch, while,‘it is possible that the camp was possessed of six-post corner-towers and that the front of the rampart was revetted in timber, which would suggest a more permanent encampment. (Britannia xxii (1991) p.226 & fig.4.) Agricola’s presence this far north is suggested by a number of Roman finds in coins in the area, minted in the name of pre-83AD Roman emperors such as a Vespasian (disc. at Garnout) & a Nero (disc. At Fortrose). In the very streets of Forres, GDB Jones records a November 1797 find of several Roman coins & a Roman medallion, while the same streets yielded a Domitian coin (r.81-96AD) in 1844. There was also a coin dated to the narrow reign of Titus (79-81AD) found at Forres, close to a Pictish monument known as Sueno’s Stone.

Plain: The Battle of Mons Graupius was fought, not on a Mons, or peak, but on a largeish plain which seperated the Roman Camp from the hill on which the Caledonians had gathered. Tacitus tells us, ‘the plain between resounded with the noise and with the rapid movements of chariots and cavalry. Agricola, fearing that from the enemy’s superiority of force he would be simultaneously attacked in front and on the flanks, widened his ranks.’ There is such ground to the west of Forres, through which runs the River Findhorn, by which was erected Balnageith, is a very level plain. From heart of Forres rises today’s Cluny’s Hill, which if I am correct was Mons Graupius.

clunyHill : Where Tacitus describes,the enemy, to make a formidable display, had posted himself on high ground; his van was on the plain, while the rest of his army rose in tiers up the slope of a hill,’ the presence of tiers indicates that the ‘mons’ was quite steep. We may also infer from the text that Mons Graupius was not a smooth, single-peaked feature; possessing instead several peaks; ‘those of the Britons who, having as yet taken no part in the engagement, occupied the hill-tops.’ Cluny Hill is also multi-peaked, which today houses the eco-living lovers that are the Findhorn Foundation, & is also home to an impressive Lord Nelson monument. Two millenia ago, it harboured a massed confederacy of Caledonian tribes, all ready to face the alien invaders. It was a defendable spot, for Although absent from modern maps, a nineteenth century O/S map shows that there was once a ‘British Camp’ on Cluny Hill;

Wilderness : To the south of Forres fans a rough & wild landscape, matching Tactius’ description of the fleeing Caledonians, ‘dispersing and avoiding one another, they sought the shelter of distant and pathless wilds.’ The Forres area also contains a match for, ‘the silence of desolation reigned everywhere: the hills were forsaken, houses were smoking in the distance,’ for circular remains of several fire-destroyed Pictish houses were found in a recent dig at Clarckly Hill in Forres.

Forres was clearly an important place in the Pictish consciousness, for in the vicinity can still be seen parts of the oldest Pictish hill-fort at Burghead. It even has what is known as the Roman Well, a deep bath-like cistern hewn out of the solid rock. Burghead harbour was once described as one of the safest, deepest and complete harbours in the North of Scotland. A commentator in the 1840’s remarked ‘that in spite of the best facilities and a harbour that could be used in any wind, there was still room for more boats than the 43 that were based there‘ (Maclean, 1985). Three times larger than any other Pictish hillfort,when Tacitus tells us that at Mons Graupius, ‘the Britons, indeed, in no way cowed by the result of the late engagement, had made up their minds to be either avenged or enslaved, and convinced at length that a common danger must be averted by union, had, by embassies and treaties, summoned forth the whole strength of all their states,’ we can see how Burghead once stood at the centre of the Caledonian world & the perfect rallying point for the meeting of the tribes. Curiously, there is a large Romanesque bath carved at Burghead whose origin has never been explained.

150px-Suenos_Stone

Close by Burghead stands the wonderful Sueno’s Stone, whose face depicts an ancient battle scene. At 6.5 meters tall, this Pictish monument is the largest & most impressive piece of stonework ever produced by the Picts. While one side has been adorned with an immaculately carved Christian cross, the other depicts the multi-layered story of a great battle. Scholars have scratched their many heads over which battle it was, but surely the most magnificent piece of Pictish artwork must now be associated with the most important military moment of the Caledonians. One can imagine the King of the Picts commissioning the monument – (which according to Timothy Pont’s Mapp of Murray c 1590 had another obelisk standing beside it) to honour his ancestors on the actual site of the battle. The battle is depicted by four main panels, being.

1 – A badly weathered top panel containing several rows of cavalry.
2 – An upper-central panel showing the Caledonians led by a large, central kilted figure. Below him there is an infantry battle taking place.
3 – A lower-central panel showing decapitatied bodies, musicians & a Pictish broch.
4 – The bottom panel showing mounted warriors, archers and foot-soldiers gathered around a tent.

Analyzing the images in detail leads us to many known features of the battle of Mons Graupius as told by Tacitus;

SC01409220Two separate cavalry forces: Agricola… opposed their advance with four squadrons of cavalry held in reserve by him for any sudden emergencies of battle. Meantime the enemy’s cavalry had fled

Archers: The action began with distant fighting. The Britons with equal steadiness and skill used their huge swords and small shields to avoid or to parry the missiles of our soldiers, while they themselves poured on us a dense shower of darts

Corpses and decapitated heads:The open plain presented an awful and hideous spectacle… Everywhere there lay scattered arms, corpses, and mangled limbs

An infantry battle: Agricola encouraged three Batavian and two Tungrian cohorts to bring matters to the decision of close fighting with swords

Soldiers with small shields & large swords: An enemy armed with small bucklers and unwieldy weapons

Other features depicted on the stone reflect the battle. The stone’s ‘broch’ is clearly the hillfort at Burghead, while the kilted war-leader must surely be Calgacus. In addition, the tent represents the Roman camp, while the three musicians blowing trumpets are marvellously remembered in the area at Culbin Sands just to the north of Forres by Findhorn Bay, for it is there that three Roman trumpet brooches were found. Culbin Bay would have been the watery site of Agricola’s anchorage, at whose shore a silver signet ring used to authenticate Roman documents has been found.

The Sueno Stone’s erection seems dated to the ninth century, for its side panels contain vine patterns filled with men similar to that century’s Book of Kells. This leaves us looking at a wealthy patron of the period with the will & wealth to erect a memorial to the greatest battle of the ancestral Picts. Of these, Donald II was considered to be the very first king of a united Scotland – that is a land of both Scots & Picts – & he is said to have actually died in Forres in c.900 AD. That the town was thus used by the royal court is confirm’d by the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland, which states; ‘the oldest notices of the place that exist from contemporary documents are in connection with the castle, which stood on a green mound at the W end of the town, now known as the Castle Hill. A northern bard has declared that;

Forres, in the days of yore,
A name ‘mang Scotia’s cities bore,
And there her judges o’er and o’er
Did Scotland’s laws dispense;
And there the monarchs of the land
In former days held high command.
And ancient architects had planned,
By rules of art in order grand,
The royal residence.

A very old source of Scottish history, the Prophecy of Berchan, declares that Forres was ‘abundant’ during Duncan’s time. All we need to do here for everything to make sense is imagine Duncan erecting those two pillars at Forres to celebrate the great battle of Mons Graupius, the duality of which represented his own dual-monarchy. At first we may presume it strange that Duncan would want to celebrate what the Roman’s called a great victory,  with Agricola even being awarded a triumphal entry into Rome. Yet, as Winston Churchill once declared, ‘history is written by the victors,’ & where Tacitus tells us that, ‘About 10,000 of the enemy were slain; on our side there fell 360 men,’ Hector Boece tells a rather different story; ‘our annals record that twelve thousand Romans died in that unhappy conflict, and about twenty thousand Scots, Picts, and auxiliaries.’  What is true, is that in the wake of the battle of Mons Graupius the Romans hardly ever ventured this far north again, & it is easy to see how the Caledonians would have slowly but surely looked upon Mons Graupius as the moment they dismissed tribal rivalries, bonded as a fighting force & fought to a standstill the might of Rome in open conflict. Just as we moderns erect memorials to great battles of the past, to celebrate their ancestral heroism the Picts erected a fabulous memorial of the day the Romans came to town, Sueno’s Stone.

Ptolemy

One final clue that nails the Forres-Graupius connection comes after the battle, when Agricola is said to have, ‘led his army into the territory of the Boresti. He received hostages from them, and then ordered the commander of the fleet to sail round Britain.’The name of this otherwise unrecorded tribe allows us to make the folowing babel chain.

Boresti
Bar est
Var est
Varar est
Varrest
Forres

It must be noted that the legion which fought at Mons Graupius was the Ninth, which was Spanish in origin. The possibility that Tacitus would hear a ‘b’ when a ‘v’ was intended is made evident in later centuries when Spanish dialetical pronunciation of the Latin language changed v’s to b’s. Elsewhere in Roman Latin, vs & bs were interchangeable, such as the Etruscan town of Volsinii evolving into the Roman Bolsena & of course Ptolemy’s Boderia or Bodotria Aestuarium, which he recorded as the name of the Firth of Forth, was the home-waters of the Votadini tribe. We also have Ptolemy’s River Nabaros, whose modern version is the River Naver in Sutherland. Thus the name ‘Boresti’ philochisps into the Varar Aest placed by Ptolemy on the south shore of the Moray Firth, ie in the very vicinity of Forres; ‘from the Lemannonis Sin as far as the Varar Aest are the Caledoni, and above these is the Caledonian forest.’ This particular babel-chain may be supported by the location of the final camp in the Agricolan chain, in the vicinity of Cawdor Castle.

After spurning the Roman enslavement at Forres, the Picts of Scotland managed to hold on to their identity all the way through the Roman reign of Britain. History tells us that at one point, a certain tribal group affiliated with the Picts known as the Attocotti were fighting in the Roman legions as an auxillary group. Their identity has for a long time been puzzled over, but it is through the Chisper Effect that we may properly ascertain their identity. Our quest begins with Ptolemy’s Geography, & the island of Sketis as seen earlier. It is in alternate versions of Ptolemy that the same island is given the variant name, Ocitis, which contains a clear phonetic match to the ‘Cotti’ of the Attacotti, & also the Agathyrsoi.

Ocitis
Att-acotti(s)
Agothis
Agathyrsoi

The name Attacotti turns up in the 4th century, when Ammianus Marcellinus describes as, ‘a warlike race of men’ fighting alongside the Picts & Scots in what is known as the ‘Barbarian Conspiracy’ of the mid 360s.

It will, however, be in place to say, that at that time the Picts, divided into two tribes, called Dicalydones and Verturiones, as well as the Attacotti, a warlike race of men, and the Scots, were ranging widely and causing great devastation; while the Gallic regions, wherever anyone could break in by land or by sea, were harassed by the Franks and their neighbours, the Saxons, with cruel robbery, fire, and the murder of all who were taken prisoners.

Following Count Theodosius’ restoration of Roman order in Britain, the Attacotti were recruited to fight as auxilia palatina in the legions. Evidence for them on the continent comes in the Notitia Digitatum, compiled about 400 AD, which lists four Attacotti auxillary regiments as fighting in the Roman Legions, two of whom, the ‘Honoriani Atecotti seniores’ & the ‘Atecotti iuniores Gallicani,’ were stationed in Gaul. It is members of these units that St Jerome observed getting up to some rather bestial behaviour c.393AD; ‘why should I speak of other nations when I, a youth, in Gaul beheld the Attacotti, a British tribe, eat human flesh, and when they find herds of swine, cattle, and sheep in the woods, they are accustomed to cut off the buttocks of the shepherds, and the paps of the shepherdesses, and to consider them as the only delicacies of food.’

For a long, long time, scholars have speculated on the homelands of the Attacotti, but to no avail. But of course we moderns may utilise chispology, & it is while looking at an Ogham inscription inscribed upon an obscure Pictish stone that I hit paydirt. Etched into what is known as the Lunnasting Stone on the Shetlands, Forsyth in 1996 tells us;

ettecuhetts: ahehhttannn: hccvvevv: nehhtons

Chispologically speaking, Ettecuhetts is a lovely match for Attacotti, especially when we combine two variant spellings in the Notitia; the ‘attecotti’ & ‘attcoetti;

Ette-cuhett(s)
Atte-coett(i)

Two of the inscription’s other names can also be knitted together with supporting historical informaton. ‘Ahehhttannn’  could be Aedan, for  in 580 AD the Annals of Ulster describe; ‘The expedition to Innsi Orc by Aedán son of Gabrán. Cennalath, king of the Picts, dies.’ Looking at the ‘Nehhtons’ name, this could be Nechtan son of Canu, of whom the Annals of Ulster tell us died in 620. Both the Irish tale, the Scela Cano meic Gartnain & the Senchus fer n-Alban show how Gartnait’s son was called Cano, which gives us the following approximate genealogy.

Aedan (b.c520) – King of the Scots
Gartnait (b.545) – King of the Picts
Cano (b.570) – Fate unknown
Nechtain (b.595) – King of the Picts

If the inscription’s ‘hccvvevv’ is actually Canu, as in ‘hC-vowel-e=n-vowel,’ then the inscription may translate something like,  ‘Nechtan son of Canu, son (or gandson) of Aedan, of the Attacotti.’

Elsewhere on the Shetlands, at a place called Cunningsburgh, a stone’s throw from the Agathyrsi capital broch on Mousa, another Pictish stone, although weathered, also seems to mention the Attacotti at the start of the inscription.

+TTEC[O^G][–] | [–]A[V^BL]:DATT[V][B!][–] | [–][A!]VVR[–]

The proximity of this inscription to the likely Agathyrsi capital at Mousa supports a possible philochisp between the ‘acotti’ element of Attacotti & the ‘agathy’ of Agathyrsi. In Latin, ‘et’ means both, which would render Attacotti with a translation of  ‘both acotti.’ Historical support may be found in the writings of the Roman grammarian Maurus Servius Honoratus (c.400), whose commentary on the works of Virgil relates how in the 4th century the Agathyrsi sent across a contingent over the sea to Scotland, where it became identified with the Picts. It is as this second wave of Agarthyrsean immigrants joined with the earlier Agarthyrsi/Acotti, that the comblended union would become the dualistic ‘Attacotti.’ It is our very own Big Geoff who seems to have made the most accurate account of their coming, describing how in the mid 4th century – to further the cause of Valentinianus – a Hunnish king called Wanisu & a Pictish king called Melga landed in Scotland.

_65653487_traprainteasure
the Traprain Treasure

AtecottiComparison

In the first segment of this chapter we saw how the Picts left their Lothian possessions on the death of King Gethus, but later on in time returned to their lands in Lothian. What is remarkable is that in the Lothian regions, at Traprain Law, the capital of the Votadini tribe, a silver horde was found in which the shield pattern of the Honoriani Attacotti Seniores seems to have been replicated on a silver plate. This image is a reconstruction by Alice Blackwell of the National Museum of Scotland, based upon fragments found in the horde.

65686551_largedish

Coinage in the horde determines that it was deposited during the reign of emperor Honorius himself, while to the equasion we must add the presence of King Loth, a 6th century Pictish king, remembered as ruler of both the Lothians & the Orkneys. Historians have often been a tad bemused at this double kingdom, but we can now see that he was in fact the ruler of the ‘Attacotti’ in the 6th century. To this we can also imagine that the etymology of Gododdin – a  version of the Votadini – could also be connected to the ‘Cotti’ of Caithness, etc – where the Pictish chronicle calls them Got.

papil03Looking at the Notitia shield patterns, it is with the ‘Honoiani Atecotti Juniores’ that a real clincher can be found. Their shield carries a curious image of two heads facing each other, with at least one of them seeming to be a bill-beaked bird. An extremely similar image appears on a Pictish stone discovered in 1887 at a pre-Norse Christian site called Papil, West Burra, in the Shetlands. The name Papil comes from papar – a Nordic word for priests – & was removed to the National Museum in Edinburgh, though a replica still stands in the churchyard of St Laurence’s Church, Papil. Kelly A Kilpatrick, in his ‘The iconography of the Papil Stone: sculptural and literary comparisons with a Pictish motif’ (Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 141 (2011), 159–205), writes of the birdmen;

 They have commonly been regarded as a misrepresentation of the Temptation of St Antony, but this theory is debatable and needs to be compared and contrasted within the wider framework of this motif in Irish and Pictish art. Examples of axe-brandishing human and beast-headed figures are, however, found in Pictish sculpture, and are comparable with the imagery on the Papil Stone. Furthermore, the bird-men motif on the Papil Stone has striking parallels with contemporary battlefield demons in early Irish literature… The Papil bird-men have a stronger connection with axe- and weapon-carrying hybrid & monstrous human-like figures in Pictish sculpture. 
A dog-masked man found at Cuningsburgh
There are 10 similar examples in the corpus of Pictish sculpture, three of which, it should be emphasised, have bird-features. They occur as single figures or as single figures associated with an animal or beast, & also as paired figures like the Papil bird-men. They must have had a long currency in Pictish art, for they are found on a variety of monumental media, ranging from simple incised stone boulders to panelled motifs on elaborate cross-slabs and even on a sculpted shrine panel.
 -
Of the BirdManesque artistic tallies mentioned above, the image of a dog-masked man found at Cuningsburgh, Shetland, where there was an inscription to the Attacotti, seems the most important. Also of interest is a stone found at Murthly, Perthsire.  When comparing it with the Juniores shield pattern, we see that to the left is the long-beaked bird & to the right is the stubby-nosed dog or boar.

Whatever is the exact case, that the Attacotti shield-symbol can also be seen in the Pictish iconography of the Shetlands seems absolutely convincing evidence which when placed beside the ettecuhetts inscriptions nail the Attacotti to those windswept, sea-whipped islands. In 2016, on discovering the solution, the Shetland Times printed a rather strange version of my Attacotti theory, which they allowed to be intercepted by the curator of the island’s main museum. ‘Probably not,’ said the local academic Dr Ian Tait without presenting any evidence to the otherwise, the standard response from an academic community who are – in the early 21st century – quite unaware of the possibilities of the Chisper Effect. For them, the Unabomber is still out there.

13007234_1624277921230491_6502203127876165898_n (1)

Where the Picts of Bede & Nennius came from Scythia, according to Hektor Boece, ‘a banist pepill, namit Pichtis, come furth of Denmark.’ In the Chisper Effect I showed how there was a Herulian wave into the Pictish royal line, through whom I would hedge my bets that the symbol stones were introduced across Pictavia. The power-base of the northern Herulians was Scandinavia, which explains why Boece said the Picts came from Denmark, in the same breath as stating they were also part of the Agathyrsi. Here we see a classic example of genduction – ie the reducing of two or more people or peoples into a single entity. In overall conclusion, the Picts came to Britain in three waves; the initial Agathyrsi from Scythia c.200 BC, a second wave from the same area c.300 AD, who became known as the Attacotti; and the Herulian wave c.500. There were other Pictish blocks of course; but each & every one of them would have acknowledged their Scythian origins.

Distribution of Class I and Class II stones, as well as caves holding Pictish symbol graffiti
Distribution of Class I and Class II stones, as well as caves holding Pictish symbol graffiti

To end this post I would like to make an attempt at solving the riddle of the Pictish symbols. I shall offer a logical train of thought. We begin with the description of 19th century antiquarians of the stones being ‘Danish.’ From here we are led to the Herulian influx into the Pictish King List with Galan Erilch, c.500 AD, the very period in which many scholars presume the stones first originated (Class I). Three centuries later, the Pictish stones were emblazon’d with intricate Christian artistry (Class II), thus we may assume they were rudimentary churches. In between let us present the hyperbasis of the earlier symbol stones ALSO being sacred sites of worship. ‘The Germans,‘ wrote Tacitus, of whom we may include under the Nordic influence, or perhaps influenced by, ‘do not consider it consistent with the grandeur of celestial beings to confine the gods within walls, or to liken them to the form of any human countenance.’ The natural conclusion is that the Pictish symbols represent gods of the Scandinavian pantheon.

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Odin’s triple horns seems present in the Pictish symbols; second column from the left, 5th symbol from the bottom…

The symbols generally appear in pairs, which completely correlates to the Norse understanding of dualism in religion, a trait shared by many ancient pagan faiths. This duality differs from the Zoroastrian premise of good versus evil, but is more of the essence order & chaos, sometimes competing sometimes coalescing on the same divine experience. Of the Pictish symbols, the animals all at least have a correspondence with the Norse gods;  In Norse mythology, the ancient Germans sacrificed geese to Odin at the autumnal equinox; Fenrir is the wolf; Gefjon, goddess of ploughing, would be the bull; Hræsvelgr is the eagle;  Níðhöggr & Jörmungandr are prime candidates for the serpent; the Ibex would be Thor’s goat, Heidrun; while Eikthyrnir is the stag. Some of the other symbols are more obscure, perhaps the mirror & comb represents Freya, the wife of Odin. Yet others may connect to the Scythian origins of the Picts & Herulians. There is also a trinity of symbols which have the Nordic sowilaz lightning symbol running through them, which may relate to the three main deities of Norse mythology, Thor, Odin & Loki. It is early days in this particular investigation, but a start, I believe, has been made…

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Next Wednesday, 28/02/18

Chapter 6:  Brunanburh

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CHISPOLOGY

Chapter 1: The Exodus
Chapter 2: The Aryan Invasion
Chapter 3: The Mahabharata
Chapter 4: Agastya
Chapter 5: The Picts
Chapter 6: Brunanburh
Chapter 7: The Young Shakespeare
Chapter 8: Shakespeare’s Blossom
Chapter 9: The Badon Babel Tree
Chapter 10: The Saxon Advent

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THE CHISPER EFFECT

chisper_effectChapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang

Chispology 4: Agastya

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Continuing the serialization of

Damian Beeson Bullen’s

CHISPOLOGY

In which a few more of the world’s greatest mysteries… are finally solved

Available to buy in book form

Autumn 2018

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In the last chapter I brushed almost incidentally upon the fact that Jesus was a poet who, while in India, was responsible for (among other things) the Bhagavad Gita. In this, the next chapter of my chispological investigations, I would like to return to my Indian Jesus in order to introduce further avatars of that most remarkable man. We begin with a Persian text known as the Siraj-ul-Maluk (1306), which reads;

 Where is Isa, the Ruhullah, and, the Kalimatullah, who was the leader of the righteous, and the chief of travelers?

 Here we have Isa, the Islamic name for Jesus, clearly described as the ‘Ruhullah’ from ‘Kalimatullah.’ This latter name philochisps into Cholamandalam which means ‘realm of the Cholas,’ an Indian dynasty who ruled over the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu. This is the clear & startling evidence that at some point Jesus – the ‘chief of travelers – lived in southern India. A near identical version of ‘Ruhullah’ can  be found in a Buddhist scripture known as the Vinaya Pitaka, in which a section called the Mahawaga records a future successor to the Buddha who would go by the name of ‘Rahula.’ Furthermore, the mother of this man was a certain ‘Magdaliyana,’ whose name we can easily see transchispering into the Mary Magdelane of the Gospels.

The statue of Thiruvalluvar, off India's southernmost point
The statue of Thiruvalluvar, off India’s southernmost point

There is more, I am a both a student & a translator of the great body of didactic Kural composed by the Tamil saint, Thiruvalluvar, round about the age of Christ. When we drop the ‘Thi’ element from Thuiruvalluvar’s name – which is the Tamil version of the Sanskrit Sri, meaning ‘holy’ or ‘saintly’ – we are left with, ‘Ruvalluvar,’ which is then only a small philochisp away from ‘Ruhullah.’ In the Chisper Effect I showed how Saint Thomas was killed in the very village – Mylapore – that Thiruvalluvar was said to have lived. ‘The first Portuguese historians,’ recorded Father Henry Hosten. ‘say that St. Thomas built his ‘house,’ meaning his church, on the site where a Jogi had his temple.’  This Church was built upon an ancient Hindu site called Kapaleeswara, the ‘eeswara’ element immediately connecting to the ‘Ishavarakrishna’ avatar of our Indian Jesus.

Sensing that Jesus was Thiruvalluvar removes the word ‘coincidence’ from the matter & implies something much more profound. It seems likely that Jesus-Issa had at some point set up some kind of ashram at Mylapore, & that Thomas had journeyed there to study at the feet of his master. Presupposing that Jesus had a hand in the creation of the Kural, it is unclear whether they were his own personal compositions, or the work of some Tamil poet recording his holy wisdom in the same fashion as that which the author of the Matthew Gospel collated the Sermon on the Mount. Tantalisingly, the poetry itself may give us a clue, for the Kural takes, to all extents & purposes, the same form as the Latin epigramme, which had been made extremely popular in the first century AD by poets such as Martial.

That Thomas and Thiruvalluvar are both associated with Mylapore seems no coincidence, especially when we encounter the assemblage of Jesusian sayings known as the Gospel of Thomas. Discovered near Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in only in 1945, this obscure Gospel is actually just a collection of 114 brief & wise sayings of Jesus made by a certain ‘Didymus Thomas.’ In the same fashion, the Kural of Thiruvalluvar are presented as brief proverb-like nuggets of wisdom, maintaining a similar air & atmosphere to those of Thomas’ Gospel;

Jesus said, “He who will drink from my mouth will become like me. I myself shall become he, and the things that are hidden will be revealed to him.” (GoT)

Around pleasant, intelligent speakers
People swiftly gather (TK)
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Jesus said, “Whoever finds the world and becomes rich,
Let him renounce the world.” (GoT)

Prefer destitution’s stark minimalism
Possessions befuddle mind (TK)
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Jesus said, “Fortunate is the man who knows where the brigands will enter, so that he may get up, muster his domain, and arm himself before they invade.” (GoT)

Adherence of wise counsel
Frightens our enemies (TK)

Whoever wrote the Kural must have been (i) an excellent poet, (ii) extremely fluent in Tamil & (iii) aware of the Roman epigrams of poets such as Martial, which were so much in vogue in the First Century AD.  It is by placing Jesus-Issa in southern India that allows us to make the following babel-chain, rooted in the Asvaghosha avatar of Jesus-Issa.

Agastya - looks a lot like Jesus
Agastya – looks a lot like Jesus

Asv-Aghosh-a
Agas-t-ya

Agastya was one of the great poet-saints of south India, fitting into our jesus-Issa blueprint quite effortlessly. Of course, a babel-chain is only valid when supported by evidence, & in this instance we may count on the services of a great deal of source material. We begin with the charming story of Agastya found in a text called, ‘The Jatakamala,’ a selection of 4th century collection of Sanskrit tales made by Aryassra concerning the previous births (jati) of the Buddha. In them we find a passafe which has great correspondance with Mir Muhammad bin Khawand Shah Ibn-i-Muhammad’s Hazrat Issa avatar of Jesus;

While staying in the grove of penance, the Great-minded One, being in the habit of giving, continued also honouring the guests that happened to arrive, with such roots and fruits as he had just gathered, with fresh water and such hearty and kind words of welcome and blessings as are appropriate to ascetics, and himself lived on as much of his forest-produced food as his guests had left, strictly limiting his meals to the sustenance of his body Jataka

Hazrat Issa… wore a woollen scarf on his head, and a woollen cloak on his body. He had a stick in his hand; he used to wander from country to country and from city to city. At nightfall he would stay where he was. He ate jungle vegetables, drank jungle water, and went on his travels on foot. Mir Muhammad

 Other pieces which link Agastya to the Jesus Jigsaw include;

(i) The Ramayana describes Agastya as the, ‘brilliantly glowing sage among those sages,’ and the, ‘sun-like radiant sage Agastya.‘ He is said to have had the ability to make his physical body disappear completely and resurrect as a glow of light inside a subtler vibrational field. This act is highly reminiscent of the Transfiguration of Jesus found in the Gospels, which state; ‘Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.’ (Matthew 17:1-2)

(ii) Like Jesus, Agastya was followed by twelve iconic disciples. Abithana Chintamani names them as, ‘Tiranatumakkini alias Tolkappiya Munivar, Atankottacan, Tiralinkan, Cemputcey, Vaiyapikan, Vayppiyan, Panamparan, Kalarampan, Avinayan, Kakkaipatiniyan, Narattan & Vamanan.’ Here we can see Thomas embedded as ‘tuma’ in Tiranatumakkini/Tolkappiyar; Peter embedded as the Latinized ‘patini’ in Kakkaipatiniyan; Nathaniel in Narattan and James embedded in ‘Cemputcey.’ Nathaniel is often identified with Bartholomew, who has known Indian connections. Eusebius of Caesarea’s Ecclesiastical History (5:10) states that after the Ascension, Bartholomew went on a missionary tour to India, where he left behind a copy of the Gospel of Matthew. Other traditions record him as serving as a missionary in Ethiopia, Mesopotamia, Parthia, and Lycaonia.[10] Popular traditions and legends say that Bartholomew preached the Gospel in India.

(iii) Agastya could render his body in a state of suspended animation at will, a meditative state known as samadhi. Yogic masters slow their breathing and heart rate down to such an extent that they would appear dead to the onlooker. This is surely the most important connection between Agastya and the New testament Jesus, for it tells us the exact way in which the latter avatar survived the Crucifixion. A text known as the Nathanamavali (Nathaniel?), conserved in the Aravalli mountains by a group of ascetics known as Nath Yogis, lend such a notion support by saying, when its says, ‘Isha Natha came to India at the age of fourteen. After this he returned to his own country and began preaching. Soon after, his brutish and materialistic countrymen conspired against him and had him crucified. After crucifixion, or perhaps even before it, Isha Natha entered samadhi by means of yoga.’

Agastya had his traditional stomping grounds in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu; with the Tamil grammatical treatise called the Tolkappiyam, said to have been written by a disciple of Agastya known as Tholkappiyar – who we observed above could have been Thomas! In addition, in Hebrew, the name Bartholomew would be Bar-Tholmai, or Son of Tholmai.

Dated by scholars such as Takanobu Takahashi to the first or second century AD, the Tolkappiyam describes a migration from the north India led by Agastya. The migration began somewhere north of the Vindhya mountains, a range which geographically separates the Indian subcontinent. To this day, all across Tamil Nadi, Agastya remains a highly venerated saint. It is surprising how a northern, Aryan has been taken so much to heart by the Dravidian Tamils, but we must remember we are not dealing with an ordinary man here. The spirit, message and remembrance of Jesus has already crossed multiple international barriers – whether it be through his Judean avatar, or another – and it comes as no surprise to learn that the Tamils have their own version as well.

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Tamil Nadu & its beautiful people are very proud of their place in the world – a wee look on the map of India and you can see that Tamil Nadu is remarkably similar to the Irish landmass, in size, and shape, and of course, spirit. This strong sense of patriotic self-identity was born out of repelling a constant stream of invasions from the north, plus several attempts by the various owners of Delhi to impose Hindi as the national Indian language.  India’s southernmost state is a traveler’s dream, and leaving Chennai with Victor Pope in late 2013, we set out on a rattlesnake of a tour across the vasty land of the Indian Tamils. We eventually came to Chidambaram, a town which spreads out for a mile or so in all directions from its centerpiece – the tremendous Nataraja Temple. It is a great feeling being there in the early morning, when the heat is soft and the colours turn pastel in the rising light. A very religious place, it is overseen by white-robed Brahmins, whose hair is tied back and scrunched into buns. Their ancient ancestors were sent there by King Hiranyavarman, his leprosy being healed in the natural spring-waters of the Ghat. This is a beautiful green, fish filled pond, where the Brahmins and orange-clad babas wash themselves (brushing their teeth in the same water), while etched into marble plates all round the ghat is a beautiful selection of Tamil poetry.

Chidamburam
Chidambaram

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After a night’s stay in Chidambaram, I set off the following morning early, catching an 8AM bus to Veeitheswara (Eswara = Ishvara = Jesus), a cute little townlet famous for Nadi Astrology. The originator of the system was of course, Agastya, and for two thousand years the Nadi priests have maintained his philosophies, the core of which state that the past, present and future lives of all humans were foreseen by Hindu sages in ancient times. The Nadi prophecies were written on palm leaves in Vatteluttu, an ancient Tamil script said to be composed by Agastya through divine revelations. While sitting in a small roadside shack at Veeitheswara, eating rice and fish with my hands from a banana leaf, I was happy I had made such a long journey south. All in all, Agastya fits so snugly into the Jesus Jigsaw, his status as an avatar is pretty much ensured. So, after washing my hands and clutching my new lead with relish, I set off eagerly out into the Tamil hinterland in search of more clues.

Following the trail of Agastya would lead us to a certain corner of the Western Ghats, the great chain of mountainsto the west of the Indian peninsular. In ancient Tamil, Pothgai was known as the Podiyil Hill, of which place the Shilappadikaram refers to Agastya as being ‘the great sage.’ Legend describes how Agastya was sent south by the god Siva to counterbalance the effects of so many gods and rishis residing upon Mount Kailash. While Agasyta was at Pothgai, Siva married Parvati in the Himalayas, and forgetting to invite Agastya, the latter became considerably upset about being overlooked on such an important occasion. To make it up to Agastya, Siva and Parvati travelled to the Pothgai and got married all over again, with Agastya being the only guest.

In ancient Tamil, Pothgai was known as the Podiyil Hill, of which place he Shilappadikaram refers to Agastya as being ‘the great sage.’ Agastya is said to have wandered the area searching for natural ingredients to assist his Siddhar medical treatments, and to this day, one can visit 21st century siddhars who will treat a patient with the same ayervedic methods as those used by Agastya two thousand years ago. One of his medicinal preparations – Boopathi Kuligai – could even bring the dead back to life! Although the text is now lost, his medical book is said to have contained instructions for the creation of medicines for multiple ailments, such as fevers, cancers, abdominal problems, and eye problems. This reminds us of the Gospelic Jesus, who is constantly and consistantly praised for his healing powers; treating paralysis, lameness, fevers catalepsy, haemorrhaging, skin diseases and mental disorder. There is also the ‘marhami-i-isa,’ or ointment of Jesus, described by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as being recorded, ‘in hundreds of old medical books,’ which could have come from the Siddhi system. We can also sense a hint of a correlation between the ‘Agastya Rasanayam’ (an ayurvedic cure for asthma)  and the numerous mentions in the 2nd century Jewish Tosefta of cures and charms inscribed with the name of Jesus.

Jesus using ancient Siddar techniques to cure blindness
Jesus using ancient Siddha techniques to cure blindness

Of the many branches of Siddha medicine; Choondu Varma (mesmerism) and  Kirikai Chikisai (psychiatry) could well have been the medical disciplines on which Jesus drew in order to cure those possessed by demons (Mark 1:23-27). Another Siddha-Jesus connection comes with the curing of ophthalmological disorders, which we may discern from Dr PJ Thottham’s, ‘certain oils believed to have a cooling effect are applied to the head. They keep the nervous system active and healthy. Among other types of medicine are the ones instilled into the eye, such as mais or kattus which are rubbed on a stone, along with the juice of a plant, milk, coconut water or rose water. The resultant paste is applied into the eyes with the help of a stick. Similarily, there are certain medicines in a paste form, which are applied externally on the eyelids of the patient.’ This method, of creating a paste to rub into the eyes of the afflicted, has an intimate resonant tone with the curing, by Jesus, of a blind man,

When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with clay. And said unto him, ‘Go wash in the pool of Siloam. He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. John 9:7

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Approaching Mount Potolakla

All this leads us to the special moment in the Jesus Jigsaw when we need to introduce what is known as a ‘Boddhisatva,’ one of the holiest entities in Buddhism. These are considered to be divine savior-figures, and are described as enlightened (bodhi) existence-beings (sattva), said to have attained Buddhahood in order to help all sentient beings. His name is Avaloketisvara, the later part of whose name transchispers easily into Ishavara. As for Avaloketisvara’s connection to Pothgai, known as Mount Potalaka to the Chinese, let us examine his mentions in two ancient texts, both of which designate Pothgai as this diety’s place of residence;

The merchant’s son Sudhana… arrived in due order at mount Potalaka, and climbing Mount Potalaka he looked around and searched everywhere for the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. Finally he saw the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara on a plateau on the western side of the mountain in a clearing of large woods abounding in young grass, adorned with springs and waterfalls, and surrounded by various trees. He was sitting cross-legged on a diamond rock surrounded by a multitude of bodhisattvas seated on rocks of various jewels. He was expounding the dharma-explanation called ‘the splendour of the door of great friendliness and great compassion’ belonging to the sphere of taking care of all sentient beings Gandavyuhasutra

To the east of the Malaya mountains is Mount Po-ta-lo-kia. The passes of this mountain are very dangerous; its sides are precipitous, and its valleys rugged. On the top of the mountain is a lake; its waters are clear as a mirror. From a hollow proceeds a great river which encircles the mountain as it flows down twenty times and then enters the southern sea. By the side of the lake is a rock-palace of the Dêvas. Here Avalôkitêsvara in coming and going takes his abode. Those who strongly desire to see this Bôdhisattva do not regard their lives, but, crossing the water, climb the mountain forgetful of its difficulties and dangers; of those who make the attempt there are very few who reach the summit Xuanzang

In the description by Xuanzang, a 7th century explorer from China,  of his epic pilgrimage to the summit of Po-ta-lo-kia, the sentence, ‘of those who make the attempt there are very few who reach the summit,‘ confirms the peak as being Agastya’s Pothgai. In a festival known as the Agastya Mala, it takes a week to visit the mountain and pay homage to the small temple dedicated to Agastya on its summit; a three day ascent, a day of resting, and a three day descent. Wanting to see the place for myself, I journeyed from Pudokotai to the Tamil town of Ambasaamudram. On arriving, Victor & I discovered that to visit the mountain we had to go in from the Kerala side, gaining permission from Trivandrum forestry commission en route. Not to be deterred, we took a hotel for the night, where a kindly local on a walk around town (i) pointed out the mountain in the distance, a cone-shaped edifice erupting out of its less aesthetic shadowy cousins of this portion of the Western Ghats,  & (ii) agreed to help us get as close as possible the following morning!  What followed was a glorious day with driver and guides, wandering about the gorgeous green uplands of the Western Ghats, searching for the residue of Agastya. Travelling with locals helped us cruise through the security checks, and we had a splendid time – including a dip in a powerful waterfall at the Agastya Falls.

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Near the falls we were led to a magnificently evocative rock-carved temple dedicated to Agastya, which lay on a cliff above a small lake, and could have even been the one mentioned by Xuanxang. Another highlight was a boat-trip across a man-made dam, whose surrounding scenery was more beautiful than anything I’ve seen even in Scotland! Unfortunately, this was as close as I was going get to Pothgai – but I did not mind at all; the day had been a splendid one, and we returned to Ambasamudram in fine spirits. That night, while Victor regaled the hoteliers with songs on his acoustic guitar during the nightly power-cut, I began to compile my notes on Avaloketisvara, said to have once roamed this splendid portion of the Western Ghats? He is in fact one of the main figures in what is known as the ‘Mahayana,’ or ‘Greater Vehicle,’ a branch of Buddhism whose origins seem to lie with our very own Asvaghosha. The 7th century Chinese explorer, I Tsing, describes hymns composed by Asvaghosha, which were chanted in the name of Avaloketisvara at the evening service of the monasteries. This suggests that Asvaghosha was the creative brain behind Avalokekitsevara, whose name translates something like, ‘The Higher Lord (Ishvara) who looks down on the world.’

Another of Avaloketisvara’s titles, Mahâsattva, represents him as having reached the tenth & upmost level of the Boddhisattvas. Postponing their own entrance into the Nirvana in order to alleviate the suffering of others, the notion rings remarkably close to the core tenets of the Christian belief. The notable twentieth century Indologist, Arthur Llewellyn Basham, remarked that, ‘the Bodhisattva was thought of as a spirit not only of compassion but also of suffering. In more than one source we read the vow or resolve of the Bodhisattva, which is sometimes expressed in almost Christian terms… The idea of the Suffering Savior might have existed in some form in the Middle East before Christianity, but features like this are not attested in Buddhism until after the beginning of the Christian era. The Suffering Bodhisattva so closely resembles the Christian conception of the God who gives his life as a ransom for many that we cannot dismiss the possibility that the doctrine was borrowed by Buddhism from Christianity.’

Guanyin with child - quite like the Mary-Baby Jesus motif
Guanyin with child – quite like the Mary-Baby Jesus motif

There are other Christian elements in the mythography of Avaloketisvara. Just as Jesus was known as the son of god, so Buddhists say that Avaloketisvara was born from the Amithaba, a father-figure said to rule over a heavenly ‘Pure Land‘ established for the salvation of man. Another aspect of Avaloketisvara is the ‘Guanyin,’ said to be a saviouress, and considered to be the ‘Mother of all Buddhas.’ In Chinese art and sculpture she is represented as holding a child, just as Christians depict Mary, the Madonna, bearing the infant Jesus. More evidence comes through iconic portrayals of Avaloketisvara as sporting small circular wheel-marks on his hands and feet, in the very places that the crucifixion scars would be. Professor Fida Hassnain says, ‘examination of the Buddhist icons show all Boddhisattvas stand or sit on a lotus throne. Some show their hands and palms with round marks. These statues of the Mahayana period, with marks on palms and feet, symbolically depict wounds of crucifixion. This fact is immortal evidence about the identity of Jesus as the teacher of the Mahayana monks.

There is also an interesting passage contained in the text known as the Lutus Sutra, which seems to describe the stigmata acquired by Jesus during his crucifixion, as in, ‘then bodhisattva Avalokitesvara extending his right hand with the splendour of the purest gold, releasing clouds of arrays of perfect networks of immeasurable light, and putting his palm which was like a blossom with tendrils, adorned with marks and tokens, distinctive, taintless, producing immeasurable beams of lights.’ The last key sentence is a perfect description of a hand devastated by the driving of a large nail through its centre. The description is found in the 24th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which also contains a key passage in relation to the Jesus Jigsaw. It reads;

So asked, the Lord replied to the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Akshayamati: There are [some] worlds, young man of good family, [where] the Bodhisattva Mahasattva Avalokitesvara preaches the Dharma to creatures in the form of a Buddha […] To some [beings] he preaches the Dharma in the form of a Pratyekabuddha […] To some [beings] he preaches the Dharma in the shape of a Brahma […] [to those] who are to be converted by Mahesvara, he preaches assuming the form of Mahesvara.

Here we have it openly admitted that the spiritual emanations of Avaloketisvara appear in different forms according to whatever religion perceives it. This connects neatly to the Bhavisya Suta, in which Ishavara Putaram was described as preaching to the Kashmiri Jews ‘through their own faith.’ The passage also mentions the Mahesvara, another name for Siva, whose connection to the Jesus Jigsaw we shall look at another time. There’s far too many avatars flying about at the moment as it is!

Having traversed the entire length of the subcontinent from Ladakh in the Himalayan north, to the sultry shores of Tamil Nadu, our journey through the Jesus has reached its southern limits. A few miles from the tourist-hungry town of Kanyukamari, lapped by the waves of three separate seas, where the Indian government erected a giant statue of Thiruvalluvar to celebrate the new Millennium, the Ramayana itself places Agastya in the viciniti. The poem describes how Agastya sang his self-penned hymn to Rama before the hero went to Sri Lanka to fight his great duel with the demon Ravana. I had the very epic poem with me as I visited the hay-strewn streets of the idyllic village of Agasteeswaram, a few miles inland from Kanyakumari, India’s most southern point. A village legend remembers an occasion when Agastya himself was teaching the local inhabitants the Ramayana, & a temple was erected on the spot. Also said to have heralded from the Kanyakumari region was Thomas-Tolkappiyam, & another sacred poet called Athanakottu Asan said to have 12 disciples, including Tolkappiyam & Agastya. Again, the 12 disciples is a clear match to Christian doctrine.

On my personal visit to the sacred site of Agasteeswaram, I had reached the furthest limits of my research expedition, an epic journey which had taken me from the dusty cloisters of the National Library in Scotland to the extreme south of the Indian subcontinent. Standing in the upper limits of the colossal statue of Thiruvalluvar, I passed a sunset watching the sea-waves roll into land from three different directions. To the east lay the Bay of Bengal, to the south the Indian Ocean, and to the east the Sea of Araby. For myself, at that moment, they represented the presence of Jesus in three different religions – Hinduism, Buddhism & Christianity – which travelling in different directions, would all converge upon a single point in space and time.

Abhayagiri Stupa
Abhayagiri Stupa

Somewhere to the south-east lay the island of Sri Lanka, in which place the Matsya Purana – a history of ancient India – describes Agastya as a native of Sri Lanka. Traces of the Jigsaw can be found here, and it is most probable that Issa went to the island to study at the cutting edge Buddhist Therevedan Abhayagiri monastery. In more recent years, Dr Andrew Skilton, professor of Religion at the University of London, comments, ‘It is clear from sculptural evidence alone that the Mahayana was fairly widespread throughout Sri Lanka…. Relics of an extensive cult of Avalokitesvara can be seen in the present-day figure of Natha.’ There is one Mahayanan text in particular that originated in Sri Lanka that is of great interest. Known as the Lankavatara Sutra, it has the Buddha discoursing with Ravana, the traditional foe of Rama. Suzuki writes of it, ‘the Lanka is a memorandum kept by a Mahayan master, in which he puts down perhaps all the teachings of importance accepted by the Mahayan followers of his day… there is no doubt that the Lanka is closely connected in time as well as in doctrine with The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana generally ascribed to Asvaghosa.’

It was while in Sri Lanka, our Indian Jesus most likely established the Issarasamana ashram as mentioned in Sri Lanka’s first historical chronicle, the Mahawansa, in which we also encounter, in the same period, Yalalakatissa, a deviation of Avaloketisvara, which contains a prominent Issa element.

In our quest for the Indian Jesus our journey must take us once more to the serendipitous vale of Kashmir. In the modern-age, if we were to travel overland to Srinagar from Kannuyakamari, Indian’s most southerly point, it would take about 48 hours by train to Jammu, followed by a twelve-hour car journey through the Himalayan foothills. In the age of Jesus it would have taken a lot longer – a probable sea journey to the mouths of the Indus, followed by a mighty hike across the plains and up through the passes. Whichever way he got there, Jesus definitely made the journey north. The Persian History, the Ikmal-ud-Din by Shaikh Al-Said-us Sadiq, places Yuz Asaf in both Sri Lanka (Sholabeth) and Kashmir. Sadiq describes how Yuz Asaf was visited by an angel, after which he prostrated himself before God and uttered, “I submit myself to Thy command, O God Almighty! Enlighten me of Thy Will. I praise Thee and I am grateful to Thee for having guided me…The angel, therefore, guided him to leave the country…and then leaving Sholabeth he proceeded on his journey… after roaming about in many cities, reached that country which is called Kashmir. He travelled in it far and wide and stayed there and spent his (remaining) life there, until death overtook him, and he left the earthly body and was elevated towards the Light.’

We have already seen in the Chisper Effect how Jesus-Yuz Asaf was buried at Rozabal in Kashmir. That he lived a long twilight in the Himalayas is suggested by the Muslim tradition in which two texts – the Mustadrak and the Asabah – describe Jesus as having lived until he was 120 years old. Both of these texts draw on the words of a seventh century muslim cleric, Ibn Umar, who reported, ‘I have been told that there is no Prophet after other Prophet but he lives a life half then the one who lived earlier. And I have been told that Jesus, the son of Mary lived for a hundred and twenty years.’ (Hadith 37732).  This leads us to an account of the death of Jesus, as described by Sheikh-us-sadiq;

At the approach of death, he sent for his disciple, Babad. He was used to serving him and protecting him during his old age. He was perfect in all matters. Yuzu-asaph made a will, saying: As such, you should safeguard your duties and never deviate from the righteousness, and absorb yourself in prayers. He then gave directions about preparation of sepulchre for him, at the very place where he breathed his last. He then stretched his legs towards the west, and kept his head towards the east. He then turned his face towards the east, and breathed his last.

download (2)That Jesus lived for a hundred and twenty years may be difficult for many in our modern world to accept. Even so, this is just within the limits of modern human longevity (122 is the known record), and we should acknowledge Jesus was a healthy man, living in an era far from the cancer-causing, fatty toxicity of the chemicals which permeate our modern foodstuffs. He also a consummate master of medicine, whose knowledge of long-lost herbal remedies would have added to his personal life-span. It must be noted that the figure of 120 years appears in the Siddha tradition, as an attested life-length of several siddhi masters. They believe that if a man generally takes fifteen breaths a minute (21,600 a day), he could live for a period of at least 120 years.

That the author of the Matthew Gospel was in Tamil Nadu at some point can be seen in Jesus’ final words in that Gospel, as he was nailed to the cross: ‘now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani.’ (27-45)

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Rendering these words into Tamil, we obtain;

Eloi - El is used in Tamil for ‘god,’ but specifically a sun-god.

Lama - A Buddhist Saint – the primary lama being the Buddha himself.

Sabac – Becomes Savam in Tamil, which means ‘death.’ Similar ‘v’ to ‘b’ changes took place with Vengalam/Bengal and Viswas/Biswas.Tha - Give

NI – You

The full translation would be then rendered – O God O God O lama Death Give You – which is a perfect fit for the grammar of the Tamil language. It has been noticed by linguists that the Aramaic language of first century Judea contains many words found in Tamil, which could now be explained as having come through Agastya, who appears to have contributed much to the origins of that language. The comprehensive historian of all things Agastyan, KN Sivaraja Pillai, states, ‘Agastya had also to perform his civilizing work by systematizing the Tamil Language and founding the first Academy whence all culture flowed for the benefit of later generations,’ while the very language of Tamil is still known as ‘Agastyam.’ Recent archeological evidence has found traces of the Tamil language dating back to 1000 BC, meaning Agastya would fit into the history of Tamil as its great redresser, & a text such as the Thirukurral its Divine Comedy. Just as poets like Dante laid the roots for modern Italian, and Shakespeare the modern English, the Tamils seem to have accepted Agastya as the founder-father of their language. We must remember that the poetic Jesus was working in the highest realms of the art, where the creation of new words and rules of language would have come as easily as leaves grow on a tree.

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Before we leave Agastya, it just so happens that in the hills about the Siddha HQ near, Ambassamudrum, a plant known as Helleborus Niger grows wild. An image of the same plant also appears in the curious pages of the Voynich manuscript. Discovered in 1912 by Wilfrid Voynich, it has been described as the world’s most mysterious manuscript, mainly for the fact it is written in a language & script no-one has ever been able to crack – even the best codebreakers of WW2 failed to break into it. Carbon dating has given the ms an origin of the early 1400s, & is divided into the following sections;

1 – Drawings of plants, many of which are obscure
2- Astrological illustrations of the sun, moon & zodiac
3 – A biological section
4 – A pharmaceutical section
5 – A selection of recipes

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For me, the Siddhi system of medicine seems an essential a mix of all the contents of the Voynich manuscript: herbalism, astrology, biology & pharmacology! The last of the Siddhars, Theraiyar, was active in the early 1400s, who was considered to be a supreme master of many fields such as astrology, mysticism, alchemy and medicine. He was also fluent in numerous languagesTelugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, Thulu and Sanskrit while his work on the classification of diseases, their managements and prognosi were highly respected. All these ingredients – the date, the subjects, the mysterious use of language – suggest he is the brain behind the original Voynich manuscript. An examination of the script shows a number of orthographical similarities to the Tamil, & I believe what Voynich MS is an actual European copy of a Siddha text, which was tinkered with here & there, such as introducing pictorial representations of western architecture.

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The Voynich manuscript
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Tamil script from different eras
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Bernie

The original book arrived in Europe in the hands of a 15th century Italian alchemist named Bernard of Treviso. His meeting with Therayair in Alleppey, Kerala – transchispered here into Apulea –  was recorded by Bernard in a text known as The Allegory of the Fountain;

When I passed through Apulea, a city in India, I heard that a man resided there who was so very learned in every branch of Science, that he had not his equal in this world. He instituted as a Prize of disputation for all skilled in Art, a book… Therefore, desirous of honour, I did not doubt that my mind would assist me thereto and dispose me to the prescribed disputations, a very learned man adding spurs to my undertaking this province, and it also coming into my mind that the daring and bold were carried to sublime things, while the timid were thrown down and lived in perpetual dejection, I passed manfully into the field of contest and happily obtained the palm of disputation before the audience, and the book of premium was so honourably delivered to me by the faculty of Philosophy

I shall perhaps make a more thorough investigation of the Voynich manuscript, probably wandering the Tamil Ghats matching up flowers that grow there to the floral images found in the Voynich. Probably in my late 60s just before I embark on my decade long study of the Mahabharata. Until then, I would simply like to enjoy this moment, for the search for Agastya has been an incredibly satisfying investigation; after which a Tamil Jesus helps us to clear up a great deal of the historical smoke. But, we have spent far too long in the ancient east, its time to travel  back to my native island & answer that particularly native & often mind-raking question, just exactly who were the Picts?

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Next Wednesday, 21/02/18

Chapter 5 : The Picts

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CHISPOLOGY

Chapter 1: The Exodus
Chapter 2: The Aryan Invasion
Chapter 3: The Mahabharata
Chapter 4: Agastya
Chapter 5: The Picts
Chapter 6: Brunanburh
Chapter 7: The Young Shakespeare
Chapter 8: Shakespeare’s Blossom
Chapter 9: The Badon Babel Tree
Chapter 10: The Saxon Advent

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THE CHISPER EFFECT

chisper_effectChapter 1: Chispology 
Chapter 2: Princess Scota
Chapter 3: The Ithica Frage
Chapter 4: The Jesus Jigsaw
Chapter 5: Asvaghosha
Chapter 6: Dux Bellorum
Chapter 7: Dux Pictorum
Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
Chapter 9: The Mandylion
Chapter 10: Shakespeare’s Grand Tour
Chapter 11: The Dark Lady
Chapter 12: The Ripper Gang