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Anglo-Saxon Britain (410-1066)
Eddi’s Service (1) : Rudyard Kipling’s poem about St Wilfrid’s chaplain and an unusual Christmas congregation.
Eddi’s Service
Part one

From ‘Rewards and Fairies’, by Rudyard Kipling.

Kipling firmly believed that Christianity should embrace the animal kingdom, and this poem precedes a tale in which a seal plays a key role in the conversion of the South Saxons. That story and this poem are pure fiction, though Eddi (Eddius Stephanus, Stephen of Ripon) really was St Wilfrid’s chaplain.

‘Eddi’s Service’
(Set in AD 687)

EDDI, priest of St Wilfrid
In his chapel at Manhood End,*
Ordered a midnight service
For such as cared to attend.

But the Saxons were keeping Christmas,*
And the night was stormy as well.
Nobody came to service,
Though Eddi rang the bell.

‘Wicked weather for walking,’
Said Eddi of Manhood End.
‘But I must go on with the service
For such as care to attend.

The altar-lamps were lighted,—
An old marsh-donkey came,
Bold as a guest invited,
And stared at the guttering flame.

The storm beat on at the windows,
The water splashed on the floor,
And a wet, yoke-weary bullock
Pushed in through the open door.

* Another name for Church Norton in Sussex.

* From their disinclination to attend church, we assume that either the Saxons were pagans, or that they kept Christmas as they had been accustomed to keep (much to Bede’s dismay) the pagan fertility festival of Yule.

* Although the tale is apparently out of Kipling’s head, it bears some similarities with the only known (and very late) miracle attributed to St Bede, St Bede and the Singing Stones.

From ‘Rewards and Fairies’, by Rudyard Kipling.

More like this

Rudyard Kipling (9) Poets and Poetry (25) Lives of the Saints (94) St Wilfrid of Hexham and York (4) Stephen of Ripon (3) History (393) Northumbrian Enlightenment (30) Bible and Saints (109)

Picture: © Chris Gunns, via Geograph. Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0. View original
“Eddi preached them The Word, / Till the gale blew off on the marshes / And the windows showed the day.” These salt marshes lie next to Church Norton in Sussex, the Manhood End of Kipling’s Poem.
By Rudyard Kipling
By Rudyard Kipling

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