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This article is taken from PN Review 156, Volume 30 Number 4, March - April 2004.

Lawman Lived Here Liam Guilar


An Preost wes on leodan. La3amon wes ihoten
he wes Leouenaðes sone. liðe him beo Drihten
He wonede at Ernle3e. at æðelen are chirechen
    uppen Seuarne staðe. sel þar him þuhte
    On-fest Radestone. þer he bock radde.
                                                (Brut, lines 1-5)

[A priest called La3amon lived amongst the people. He was Leovenath's son, may the Lord be good to him. He lived at Areley, at the noble church on the Severn's banks. He thought it was good there, near Redstone, where he read (the) Book (books?).]

For perhaps the first time in English poetry, a poet steps forward to claim the text as his own. Sometime around the end of the twelfth century, Lawman1 began to write the history of the English.2 In an age when French was the literary language of England, he wrote in English. When most poetry was resolutely anonymous, he begins his poem by telling the reader his name, his job, where he lived, his father's name, why he wrote this poem and how he went about writing it.

His thirty-two thousand lines3 begin with the adventures of Brutus, after whom he believed Britain to have been named, and continue until the Anglo Saxon conquest of the island.

I doubt if many people have read extracts from the poem, let alone attempted the long haul from start to finish. But the text deserves better than to be discarded as an ...


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