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Thursday January 31st 2019Tim Candler9

 

    I don't care what anybody says Offa was the first king of the English. OK, so on his coins he called himself Offa King of Mercia, but all that means is that he had no designs on becoming the King of the entire Island Group, and after that going on to do stuff like invading Europe followed by empire building. The more important point is, had he had billionaire type dreams of conquering our planet then the English language would today be called the Mercian Language. In the end I guess, there's a stronger temptation to argue that the first King of the English was actually a Norman Duke called William who spoke something like French, and the argument for this position is that the English part of the British Isles remained a bunch of quarreling land owners until a none English Speaking authority was able to wrestle sufficient organizational control of the executive, ignore the free and easy traditional ways, such as allowing a pet Deer to settle a land dispute, and deliver a serious thumping to the disobedient. It's a sad fact that when you get that sort of control over a bunch of quarrelling tribes, you basically got to look overseas for something to keep everyone fully occupied. Then when it all comes crashing down, as it does, you have for generation or two your Glory Days to look back on as you mull the question "What Happened?" Frankly it's a cardinal error to blame others, and failure to just get on with treading a path the fathers might not have trod explains Putin, Brexit, Persia and a long list of others who I would call morons had I not been blessed by a political correctness that retains a degree of admiration for the genuinely mentally retarded.

 

Past

    King Offa did build something like a wall from sea to dull gray sea. These days it's called Offa's Dyke, but as with everything there's fierce quarrelling tribes type debate around the original meaning of the word Dyke, and around the original function of Offa's Dyke. The Barrier, the Hedge or whatever, ran a line from the Severn River Estuary which is usually a gray brown, to Prestatyn which is now a holiday town a little left of Liverpool on the North Sea which is shiny and blue about three weeks of the year. The Dyke marked a boundary between Mercian Territory and the territory of the Welsh Princes. For those interested, in the late 20th Century some of us might have walked up and then down this 8th Century boundary, quite why they did so is a long complicated story that makes about as much sense as the argument from some of the more patronizing scholars that Offa, what with his coins and stuff, dug his ditch because when it came to keeping neighbors at bay he wanted to be more like a Roman, keep out the barbarians, stop them from raiding or messing with Mercian maidens, or corrupting Mercian boys, or stealing ponies, hogs and sheep, but he didn't have the resources or the technology to build a stone wall from sea to sea like the Emperor Hadrian. No doubt borderlands for a self absorbed power center can be treacherous, interstitial spaces rife with ideas, smuggling, intrigue and conspiracy, a sieve through which who knows what impurities might have passed to infect the Beatitude worshipping people of Mercia. More recent argument around Offa's Dyke sees something else. Offa had a loyalty problem, which he solved by persuading the land owners to prove their fealty to him by digging and paying for a ditch along his western front.

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