Thursday, 3 February 2011

Bad ways to die

On this day, 997 years ago:

1014: 'After many cruel atrocities, which he perpetrated both in England and in other lands, the tyrant Swein filled up the measure of his damnation by daring to demand enormous tribute from the town where the incorrupt body of the precious martyr Edmund lay, a thing no one had dared to do before... He very frequently threatened that if it were not speedily paid he would destroy utterly the martyr's church, and he would torture the clergy in various ways. In addition, he frequently disparaged the martyr himself in many ways - he dared to say that he had no sanctity - and, because there were no bounds to his malice, divine vengeance did not allow the blasphemer to live any longer.

At last, when the evening was approaching of the day on which, at the general assembly which he held at Gainsborough, he repeated the same threats, at a time when he was surrounded by Danish troops crowded together, he alone saw St Edmund, armed, coming towards him. When he had seen him, he was terrified and began to shout very noisily, saying "Help, fellow-warriors, help! St Edmund is coming to kill me!" And while he was saying this he was run through fiercely by the saint with a spear, and fell from the stallion on which he sat, and, tormented with great pain until twilight, he ended his life with a wretched death on 3 February.'

John of Worcester, trans. Jennifer Bray and P. McGurk, p.477

Poor Svein! I mean, I know St Edmund was brutally murdered by Vikings, but this seems a bit harsh.

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