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 a professor and writer-in-residence at Magdalene College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire. His many books include Sex in the Unreal City: The Demolition of the Western Mind, Life Under Compulsion: Ten Ways to Destroy the Humanity of Your Child, Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture, and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord. He is a regular contributor to Chronicles, Crisis Magazine, The Claremont Review, Inside the Vatican Things, The Catholic Thing, and American Greatness. He has translated Dante's Divine Comedy. He is a Roman Catholic and lives with his wife in New Hampshire. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.


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