Gleaming in Glory

I just read what is apparently referred to in Anglo-Saxon studying circles as Andreas, “St. Andrew’s Mission to Mermedonia.” Wow, a whole lot of fun. The language was stirring, and now I’m trying to think of who could be pulled together to sit and listen to me read this thing out to them in dramatic tones all day (well, it would take a couple of hours at least, I think). From the very first line (which is, perfectly, “Lo! we have heard…”) to the last, I just kept getting excited and wanting to yell “right on, brutha!”

In the story, Matthew is captured by a vicious tribe of civilized cannibals who are saving him for a feast in four weeks’ time. God appears to Matthew in a vision, promising Andrew as a rescuer. God then appears to Andrew, telling him of the mission, and then chastises Andrew for suggesting that there might not be enough time to get to this far-away city:

Then God made answer:

“Alas! Andrew! that ever your heart

Should be slow to this journey! Slight were the task

For God Almighty to command on earth

Under the sun, that this city be moved

Unto this country, the stately seat

And all who live there, if the Lord of glory

Decree it by His word. You may not weary

In this wayfaring, nor waver in heart

If you think to keep covenant, compact with God.

At the hour be ready. In performing this errand

Can be no delay. You shall risk your life;

The path shall lead to the power of the foe

Where the crash of battle shall come upon you,

The war-might of heroes and heathen strife.

So Andrew heads down to meet a ship at an appointed spot, and in a long ironies-filled scene, undergoes the journey in a ship piloted by an incognito Lord Jesus. Andrew recounts many of Jesus’ miracles to the “Warden of the waves” himself. There is one description of an apocryphal and very magical miracle Jesus performs, which made me uncomfortable. Interesting…I had no problem with Jesus appearing to Andrew in this story, because all it purported to be was a story (although I think some scholars might dispute that); I did have a problem when one of the stories within the story turned out to be extra-biblical and stood side-by-side with biblical stories.

Andrew gets zapped to shore when he falls asleep on board ship, and eventually is captured by the same cannibals, and imprisoned. The Devil shows up to incite the heathens to greater and greater depths of depravity, but of course, Andrew’s been sent by God to rescue, so rescue happens. Waves and fire and baptisms and repentance ensue, all in very warriorish language, since Andrew is one of the “thanes of God,” whose “glory failed not/in the clash of banners, the brunt of war,/after they were scattered and spread abroad/as their lots were cast by the Lord of heaven.”

The poem contains many Anglo-Saxonisms, that is, violence, personal honor, etc., but is remarkably filled out by humility, patience, and education. Perhaps most striking is the clear way in which, despite the great honor shown the Apostles, Christ himself is always said to be orchestrating this thing or performing that miracle as Andrew’s task in accomplished.

What a fun read, even if the translation wasn’t alliterative enough. Maybe I should take up Anglo-Saxon and do better.

Andrew stays on after defeating/converting the Mermedonians, telling them of…

…their holy home in the heavenly realms

Where Father and Son and Spirit of comfort,

Reigning in Trinity, rule in glory

Over heavenly mansions for evermore.

And so the saint destroyed their shrines…

As Andrew sails away, the Mermedonians close the poem by

Chanting in chorus and crying aloud:

“There is One Eternal Lord of all things living!

His might and power upon all the earth

Are famous and blessed. His bliss over all

In heavenly splendour shines on the saints,

Gleaming in glory for ever and ever,

With angels eternal. He is True King!”