True Grit

on the Untamed Tongue of a Medieval English Monk

"The people were so disgusting," says Aelfric, the English monk and scholar (c. 955–1010), "that they wanted to fulfill their lusts against nature, not with women, so foully that it shames us to say it openly. That was their outcry, that they might act out their filth in the open."

With these words, Aelfric has interrupted his translation of the Latin Hexateuch, Psalms, and Gospels at Genesis 19:3, which he will resume at 19:12, omitting the verses that tell of the Sodomites and their demand for carnal knowledge of the two young men who have arrived at Lot's house, and Lot's vain pleas with the lust-ridden citizens to leave in peace. Lot is a righteous man, sort of, and not terribly courageous. When, in exasperation, he offers to the Sodomites his daughters instead, we are meant to be uneasy, especially when we call to mind what those daughters will do with him in the cave of Zoar.

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Anthony Esolen is the author of over thirty books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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