Bede's sparrow



"The present life of man, O King, seems to be like the swift flight of a sparrow through the room wherein You sit at supper in winter, with your commanders and ministers, and a good fire in the midst, whilst the storms of rain and snow prevail abroad.

The sparrow, flying in at one door, and immediately out at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry storm; but after a short space of fair weather, he immediately vanishes out of your sight, into the dark winter from which he had emerged.

So this life of man appears for a short space, but of what went before, or what is to follow, we are entirely ignorant."

This, Bede tells us, was the advice given to Edwin, King of Northumbria by his follower Coifi, when the king proposed to convert to Christianity.

Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, 731.

1 comment:

Gail White said...

This is one of my favorite stories, and has been beautifully rendered as a poem by Susan McLean.

Coifi felt that if the monks who had arrived from Rome could give any assurances about "what is to follow", they were worth listening to, and the King did indeed become a Christian.