16 November 2019

S Edmund of Abendon: let's be exuberant!

Deus qui largifluae bonitatis consilio ...

"God, who by the counsel of thy generously-flowing goodness hast adorned thy Church with the merits of blessed Edmund thy Confessor and bishop ... "

And indeed, what a great Pontiff S Edmund was. I shall pop into his Church in Abendon before diving into Waitrose this morning. It is his feast day. And what you've just read was the beginning of his Collect in the old Supplementum for England. Borrowed, of course, from Sarum.

'largifluae' is a compound word. According to OLD and LS, it only occurs in Lucretius. LS, in its schoolmasterly way, comments "ante-classical". Handy to have that spelt out in case cheeky little Johnny tries to incorporate it into his Latin Prose Compo. As well he might. It's an exotic word that raises your spirits and cheers you exuberating on your way. Because Greek enjoys creating compound adjectives, while Latin is much more shy about doing this. But in the preclassical period, avant-garde young men, neoteroi,  started imitating this Greek practice in their Latin in order to sound ... and be ... exotic. You haven't been reading Catullus 64 for long before you are introduced to Ariadne, poor deceived and deserted dimwit, "fluentisono prospectans litore Diae". Let's hope Professor Obbink comes across a copy of Calvus' lost epyllion. I bet it will be moofully full of this sort of stuff.

Carolingian and later writers enjoyed these games, too. S Peter Damian addressed S John the Divine brilliantly, exquisitely, as "magnus aeterni logotheta verbi" ... expurgated by Dom Lentini, spoil-sport, "propter graecismum nunc insolitum". I hardly need to tell you that the Novus Ordo collect for S Edmund [composed in English and possessing no Latin original] dumps the entire Sarum collect and instead informs the attentive Almighty that "by [his] grace the Bishop Saint Edmund of Abingdon was vigilant over integrity in public office". (I'm not making this up.)

One question remains. Who, in the Sarum liturgical workshop, had been spending his spare time reading that naughty hedonistic atheistical Lucretius?


frjustin said...

The author of St Edmund's "Legend" in The Anglican Breviary has this eyebrow-raising phrase which may have a wider application: "[St Edmund's]difficulties were much increased by the opposition of the Papal Legate then in England, which same loved him not".

Banshee said...


Reginald the monk of Durham uses it in his book about St. Cuthbert's miracles. 12th c.

Oswald, bishop of Worcester uses it in a charter with King Edgar. Also Abingdon has it in a charter from King Athelstane.

Pope Leo III uses it in a letter.

It is in the Canterbury Benedictional for Feria VIa.

The Germans have the same prayer for a St. Goar the Confessor.

All in a good sense - generosity, pity, goodness. Lots of medieval use!