Current Essays

Godriciana On:2006-05-18 04:28:55

"Up in the sky!"
"It's a plainsong"
"It's a pirate"
"It's a birdsong"
"It's a monk"
"No! It's St Godric! ...
Out of the dim and distant past he comes bringing freedom, justice and the Mediæval Way of Music!
"Able to leap tall hermitages at a single bound, more powerful than a raging King Henry II, and faster than a speeding Knarr (a type of broad beamed boat of the early Middle Ages)!
"A stirring cry of 'Kirieleison, Oh Ar Me 'earties!' brings to the airwaves once again that famous pirate who made good ...and became a hermit"

And with that familiar refrain, so redolent of radio series from the fifties, we in fact do come round the year yet again to celebrate St Godric, the greatest known English composer of the twelfth century---though the fact that he is the ONLY known English composer of the twelfth century does slightly take the shine off, but it is surely still vital that we celebrate Saint Godric on his Day the 21st of May.

St G, as we like to call him, was (like, Queen Boudicca, Admiral Lord Nelson, Sir Isaac Newton, Benjamin Britten, Baron Britten of Aldeburgh and of course myself) born in East Anglia.

His parents were very poor and he had to work hard to climb the social ladder as far as pirate, but he seems to have done it and eventually to have been the owner of about three quarters of a boat, though unfortunately it wasn't all the same boat.
During a trip, to that much-looted monastery Lindisfarne (presumably in someone else's boat) he was told the life of St. Cuthbert and was very much taken with it. It seems to have totally altered his own life because he straightway went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, which had recently been over-run by Crusaders. It is even said in the chronicles that he helped Baldwin, king of Jerusalem, to escape Haifa in 1102 in a boat, though the completeness of the boat isn't mentioned. After a few more pilgrimages to various places in variously complete boats, he at last settled near Durham, and then he started to have visions. In one of these his dead sister, who had been a sister in a local convent, came to him accompanied by two strange men, who promptly placed themselves either side of a, presumably, portable altar they had brought with them and started to sing. Well after this little episode he started making up songs of his own and was soon hitting the charts in a big way, he was also apparently famous for being given to predicting the death of Archbishop Thomas Becket, and when he had visitors he would often break off the conversation to pray for the souls of mariners whose far-off ships he could tell faced impending doom, which might not necessarily have done much for the putative sailors but certainly impressed the hell out of the visitors.
As someone who was well on the way to being a founding member of PETA he was also known for his kindness to animals, for example, trying desperately to make up for St Patrick, who was of course to Irish snakes what Idi Amin was to East African Asians, St G was famous for encouraging the slinky and cold blooded little dears to warm themselves at his fire, together with other such (in Shakespeare's memorable retention of an earlier meaning of the word) 'small deer' as rabbits and stoats and mice and of course small deer.

Over the years I've tried to promote the celebration of StGday and my children have of course born the brunt, each year, all dressed up in their little threadbare monks' habits with their little peg legs and hooks poking out from various orifices and their eye patches all askew: munching on raw turnips and going down the street to school chanting "kyrie-eleison! Oh-arrr me hearties!" of course the other kids did make fun of them, and would occasionally throw things, so that of late my poor children have had to take to hiding and catching diseases and in extreme cases leaving home for ever, but I feel that I've made some progress, and someone has to suffer for progress---surely!!
Cheerio for now and a happy StGday
from Richard Howland-Bolton.

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