Wednesday 8 December 2021

A Wintery Tempest — The Sparrow's Tale by Mary Anne Yarde #Christmas #DarkAges


A Wintery Tempest:
 The Sparrow's Tale

By Mary Anne Yarde

“The present life of man upon earth, O King, seems to me in comparison with that time which is unknown to us like the swift flight of a sparrow through the mead-hall where you sit at supper in winter, with your Ealdormen and thanes, while the fire blazes in the midst and the hall is warmed, but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad. The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry tempest, but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter to winter again. So this life of man appears for a little while, but of what is to follow or what went before we know nothing at all.”
Bede — Ecclesiastical History of the English People 

The Venerable Bede penned the Ecclesiastical History of the English People around AD 731. One of my favourite passages in the Ecclesiastical History is this passage about the sparrow. It is a very moving, a very humbling take on life. It is also one that has inspired many, including Michael Hirst's fabulous The Tudors series. I wonder if Bede knew that we would still be talking about his book and this passage over a thousand years later. But of course, as it is with the life of man, he would have had no idea about what was to follow.

Trevor Morris - "Time Of Which We Have No Knowledge" taken from The Tudors, narrated by Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

So, what might that sparrow have seen as he flew through that mead-hall on a cold wintery night? 

Would he have seen and felt the warmth of the fire in the fire pit? Perhaps. He would have witnessed the nobles gathered around, drinking mead, ale, wine or beer. He would have seen a feast fit for any noble king. He probably saw dry-cured hams, venison, roasted goose and partridge, perhaps even a boars head — the tables groaning under the weight of the food. He would have seen cheese, and eggs — preserved ones — because all birds, even little sparrows, know that chickens tend to stop laying during the winter months. Warm pastries that crumbled in the mouth. So much appetising food and so plentiful, but such things did not tempt the sparrow to stay.

Maybe it was the music that scared the sparrow off, or perhaps the laughter. But I think it was one clear voice as it rung out as everyone else stared in silence as the bard told a story so profound that it drew tears in some and inspired others to be better than they have ever aspired to be. Such things held no interest to a little winter sparrow.

So much to see in that one unforgettable flight. But the call of the wild is too great to linger in such a hall, and the cold night of winter beckons the bird to find its own home in the woods where the snow falls ever so softly and man has no care to tread.

Bede — Ecclesiastical History of the English People (Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2012)

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See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx