“…a particular fondness for the book of Psalms…”

whitehorsekingFrom The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great by Benjamin Merkle:

As a youth, Alfred had been naturally inclined toward book learning. In particular, the poetry of the Anglo-Saxon tongue, with its haunting cadences and kennings, had cast a spell on his mind that would hold him under its power until his last day. The little volume of poetry his mother had given him had long been a prized possession. The young prince also had a particular fondness for the book of Psalms and gave special attention to memorizing them, a task made easier by the regular recitation of Psalms in the daily church services. After the death of his mother, however, little attention was paid in the court of Alfred’s father to continuing the young boy’s studies. Thus Alfred’s education largely consisted of a patchwork of memorized poems, psalms, and stock phrases from the church service.


The translation of the Psalms was Alfred’s last project, being only one-third complete at the king’s death. These psalms, primarily the songs of King David composed throughout the king of Israel’s tumultuous reign, had always had a special place in Alfred’s heart. Having memorized many of the psalms in his youth, Alfred had used these sacred words throughout his life to embolden himself in battle, encourage himself in despondency, humble himself in his sins, and comfort himself in his forgiveness. The entire spectrum of Alfred’s personal trials and triumphs seemed to have been lived out already by the shepherd king of Israel. More than any other text, the book of Psalms had become the poetry of Alfred’s life.

One thought on ““…a particular fondness for the book of Psalms…”

  1. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: February 16, 2013 | Semicolon

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