Anglo-Saxon Britain (410-1066)
The Six Leaps of Faith : The eighth-century English bishop and poet Cynewulf explores a prophecy from the Song of Solomon.
The Six Leaps of Faith

Freely translated from the Old English of ‘Christ’, by Cynewulf. For a literal translation, see Anglo-Saxon Poetry.

In these lines from ‘Christ’ by Cynewulf (possibly the 8th century bishop Cynewulf of Lindisfarne), the poet reflects upon some beautiful words from the Song of Solomon, which he understands as a prophecy of Jesus Christ.

‘The voice of my beloved! behold,
he cometh leaping upon the mountains,
skipping upon the hills.’

Song of Solomon 2:8

WHEN first he leapt, he lighted on a woman, an untouched maid; and human form he took there (though without sin) that he might be Comforter to all that dwell on earth.* The next leap was a baby’s birth when, wound about with swaddling bands, the Glory of all glories lay in a manger, wearing the form of a little child. The third leap was the King of Heaven’s headlong race to the Cross; and there the Father’s Spirit of comfort lighted.*

The fourth took him into the Tomb, leaving the Tree behind for that earthen fastness. It was the fifth leap when he humbled the multitude in hell’s torment, and bound their king, the devils’ Accuser, with fiery fetters within;* he lies there yet, a mind full of malice, held fast in prison’s chains, shackled by his sins. The sixth leap was the dance of the Holy One when he lighted upon heaven, his everlasting home; in that holy hour the angel host was blithe with happy laughter.

* See John 14:16-17. ‘Comforter’ or Paraclete is a courtroom role akin to a defence attorney, an idea which St John uses extensively to create a picture of a courtroom drama in which the devil thinks he is prosecuting Christ and his Apostles (witnesses), but in fact is himself in the dock and about to be sentenced.

* See again John 14:16-17. We associate ‘Comforter’ or Paraclete with the Holy Spirit but Christ refers to him as ‘another Comforter’, to be granted to the Apostles after he himself, the first Comforter, has been taken away.

* See Revelation 12:10. ‘Accuser’ equates to counsel for the prosecution. The Old English here is ‘foresprecan’, a spokesman or advocate.

Freely translated from the Old English of ‘Christ’, by Cynewulf. For a literal translation, see Anglo-Saxon Poetry.

More like this

Cynewulf (7) Extracts from Literature (94) Lives of the Saints (97) History (413) The Blessed Virgin Mary (11) Anglo-Saxon History (45) Mediaeval History (62) Northumbrian Enlightenment (30) Bible and Saints (112)

Picture: © Timst, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0. View original
‘Behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.’ Red Tarn and Swirral Edge from the summit of Helvellyn in Cumbria’s Lake District. The body of water in the distance is Ullswater.
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
By Cynewulf
(8th century)

Amazon Books

Featured Music

Letters Game

Make words from two or more of the tiles below. What is the highest-scoring word you can make?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

More like this: High Tiles Games with Words

Numbers Game

Make the total shown using two or more of the numbers underneath it. You can add, subtract, divide and multiply. Use any number once only.

More like this: Target Number (Mental Arithmetic Game) Mental Arithmetic

Selected Stories
By Plutarch
The surprisingly sensitive Roman commander was hoping to impress a girl with his angling skills.
The magnificent cathedral at Durham owes its existence to a missing cow.
By Elfric of Eynsham
Abbot Elfric expounds a Palm Sunday text to explain how Christianity combines orderly behaviour with intelligent and genuine liberty.
For two centuries, human traffickers had stolen English men, women and children for the slave-markets of the Arab world.
By Alfred, Lord Tennyson
For Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Christmas was a time to let the dead past bury its dead.
All but forgotten today, the RCH was one of the most important steps forward in British industrial history.