Cynewulf of Wintencaestre



My name is Cynewulf of Wintencaestre, son of Fulrad a loyal Ceorle of the kingdom of Wessex. The current year is AD 835, and our King is Egbert, whose power has recently grown after conquering Mercia. My parents are ceorls - free commoners who own land and are beholden to no one but our local Eorle, the King and the mother Church. My parents gave me this ancient name for two reasons. Firstly, my father had always loved the old tale of Cynewulf and Cyneheard. As Cynewulf later became king of our own kingdom he felt that this would be an auspicious name for a son. Cynewulf was also a famous poet, and my father hoped that I would follow in this man's footsteps as a Scop (bard).

I grew up in my parents' tun, where from the age of eight I would rise early and plough my father's fields with him, or mind our flock of sheep. At any holiday opportunity my father took me to our local wooden church to hear music and stories. By the age of eleven I was familiar with the sound of the lyre, the drum and the flute, and also the din of the great organ. I worked at my father's urging at memorising epics and poems, starting with that of Cynewulf and Cyneheard. Also I learned many riddles and short songs.

At age thirteen I was apprenticed to a Scop who travelled through our area. This man, Marcus, was a hard master, but while we travelled the country he taught me the great epics, as well as how to play the lyre, the flute and how to sing and use my voice to enthral audiences with songs and epics. Eventually, after travelling through Wessex, Mercia (at that time a separate kingdom), and Kent, I left Marcus to make my own way as a Scop. Since then I have met with some favour amongst eorles and clergy in my travels, and have spent no small time at the court of Egbert my king. I travelled on campaign with a young thegn, Edwin by name, as our then quite new king Egbert went on campaign to successfully annex the Kingdom of Mercia. There I recorded in song and poem many great heroic deeds,

including many of the king's, and as a result I have spent some considerable time in his court at Wintencaestre, a port of some consequence, and central city of the Great kingdom of Wessex. I have also witnessed much action against the Danes, who have recently grown most bold in their raiding of our shores.

Occasionally I return to my parents' tun, and pass on some of the rewards of my profession - sometimes some silver shillings, at other times a brooch of great artifice. As a result, my parents' status has risen - their weregild has increased from 200 silver shillings to 600. Although as a Scop I have not yet gained any land, due to my royal favour my weregild has also risen to 600 shillings.

Recently I have set out once again on the road, rather than become soft and complacent. Danish incursions have increased, and although I can no more tell where they will next attack than the next man, I hope to record more great deeds to be sung with my lyre, and perhaps to strike a blow against our enemies. Recently also I have acquired a hearpe, which although a more versatile instrument than my lyre, is less suitable to the singing of great epics, but this I soon hope to learn better.



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Power (1924) Medieval People, The Folio Society, London

Mitchell, B (1986) A Guide to Old English, Basil Blackwell Ltd, Oxford