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Asser of Saint David’s Annals of the reign of Alfred the Great From A.D. 849 to A.D. 887.

 
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Asser of Saint David’s
Annals of the reign of Alfred the Great From A.D. 849 to A.D. 887.
page 17

 other noble ladies bound by the rules of the monastic life, dwell in that monastery. These two edifices were enriched by the king with much land, as well as personal property. These things being thus disposed of, the king began, as was his practice, to consider within himself, what more he could do to augment and show forth his piety; what he had begun wisely, and thoughtfully conceived for the public benefit, as adhered to with equally beneficial result; for he had heard it out of the book of the law, that the Lord had promised to restore to him tenfold; and he knew that the Lord had kept his promise, and had actually restored to him tenfold. Encouraged by this example, and wishing to exceed the practices of his predecessors, he vowed humbly and faithfully to devote to God half his services, both day and night, and also half of all his wealth, such as lawfully and justly came annually into his possession; and this vow, as far as human discretion can perceive and keep, he skilfully and wisely endeavoured to fulfil. But, that he might, with his usual caution, avoid that which scripture warns us against: "If you offer aright, but do not divide aright, you sin," he considered how he might divide aright that which he had vowed to God; and as Solomon had said, "The heart of the king is in the hand of God," that is, his counsel he ordered with wise policy, which could come only from above, that his officers should first divide into two parts the revenues of every year. When this division was made, he assigned the first part to worldly uses, and ordered that one-third of it should be paid to his soldiers, and also to his ministers, the nobles who dwelt at court where they discharged divers duties; for so the king's family was arranged at all times into three classes. The king's attendants were most wisely distributed into three companies, so that the first company should he on duty at court for one month, night and day, at the end of which they returned to their homes, and were relieved by the second company. At the end of the second month, in the same way, the third company relieved the second, who returned to their homes, where they spent two months, until their services were again wanted. The third company also gave place to the first in the same way, and also spent two months at home. Thus was the threefold division of the companies arranged at all times in the royal household. To these therefore was paid the first of the three portions aforesaid, to each according to their respective dignities and peculiar services; the second to the operatives, whom he had collected from every nation, and had about him in large numbers, men skilled in every kind of construction; the third portion was assigned to foreigners who came to him out of every nation far and near, whether they asked money of him or not, he cheerfully gave to each with wonderful munificence according to their respective merits, according to what is written: "God loveth a cheerful giver." But the second part of all his revenues, which came yearly into his possession, and was included in the receipts of the exchequer, as we mentioned a little before, he, with ready devotion, gave to God, ordering his ministers to divide it carefully into four parts, on the condition that the first part should be discreetly bestowed on the poor of every nation who came to him; and on this subject he said that, as far as human discretion could guarantee, the remark of pope St. Gregory should be followed: "Give not much to whom you should give little, nor little to whom much, nor something to whom nothing, nor nothing to whom something." The second of the four portions was given to the two monasteries which he had built, and to those who therein had dedicated themselves to God's service, as we have mentioned above. The third portion was assigned to the school, which he had studiously collected together, consisting of many of the nobility of his own nation. The fourth portion was for the use of all the neighbouring monasteries in all Saxony and Mercia, and also during some years, in turn, to the churches and servants of God dwelling in Britain (Wales), Cornwall, Gaul, Armorica, Northumbria, and sometimes also in Ireland; according to his means, he either distributed to them beforehand, or afterwards, if life and success should not fail him. When the king had arranged these matters, he remembered that sentence of divine scripture, "Whosoever will give alms, ought to begin from himself," and prudently began to reflect what he could offer to God from the service of his body and mind; for he proposed to consecrate to God no less out of this than he had done of things external to himself. Moreover, he promised, as far as his infirmity and his means would allow, to give up to God the half of his services, bodily and mental, by night and by day, voluntarily, and with all his might; but, inasmuch as he could not equally distinguish the lengths of the hours by night, on account of the darkness, and ofttimes of the day, on account of the storms and clouds, he began to consider, by what means and without any difficulty, relying on the mercy of God, he might discharge the promised tenor of his vow until his death. After long reflection on these things, he at length, by a useful and shrewd invention, commanded his chaplains to supply wax in a sufficient quantity, and he caused it to be weighed in such a manner that when there was so much of it in the scales, as would equal the weight of seventy-two pence(*), he caused the chaplains to make six candles thereof, each of equal length, so that each candle might have twelve divisions(**) marked longitudinally upon it.

(*)Denarii
(**)Unicae Policis


By this plan, therefore, those six candles burned for twenty-four hours, a night and day, without fail, before the sacred relics of many of God's elect, which always accompanied him wherever he went; but sometimes when they would not continue burning a whole day and night, till the same hour that they were lighted the preceding evening, from the violence of the wind, which blew day and night without intermission through the doors and windows of the churches, the fissures of the divisions, the plankings, or the wall, or the thin canvass of the tents, they then unavoidably burned out and finished their course before the appointed time; the king therefore considered by what means he might shut out the wind, and so by a useful and cunning invention, he ordered a

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