Thursday, March 20, 2014

A gentleman and his Psalter

  In our wintry, Lenten season
  we know better than to feign
  to evade Thursday's destined
  lamentations altogether, and
  take such succour as one may
  in the manuscripts of virtue
  from the great and the good.

  Who knew, that the consecrat-
  in' rhythms of a flourishing
  Friday night were bound into
  the songbook of an Everyman?

I read in Bayle that the pious bishop Aldhelm
used to cool and overcome his appetites by
standing up to his neck in a pond at night.
But his appetites do not seem to have been
particularly formidable, since he also (I
learn from the same source) took naked vir-
gins into his bed, and then exasperated the
Devil, and perhaps also the virgins (for, as
Bayle observes, it's unlikely that they took
the risk without being ready for the eventu-
alities), by singing Psalms rather than con-
tinuing the process.

And I understand also that the Empress Agnes, widow of Henry II, enquired of St Peter Damiani by an intermed-iary bishop whether it was lawful for a man, when in the act of copu-lation, to sing a Psalm; and received an affirm-ative answer, based on the statement of St Paul in I Timothy, that God may be praised in all places.

Hugh Trevor-Roper
  HM Secret Intelligence Service
  Regius Professor of Modern History
The Wartime Journals
April, 1942
Richard Davenport-Hines
I.B. Tauris & Co., Ltd, 2012©

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