The carmen ‘Cartula, perge cito pelagi trans aequora cursu’ written by Alcuin has long been considered a verse epistle in which its author, using a popular literary topos widely used also among the Carolingian Circle, exhorts the letter he has just written to reach the recipient of his poetic composition. According to Dümmler the epistle must be dated around the year 780 and it was probably written in York, not long before Charles the Great’s invitation to his Palatial Court. In the cartula the poet traces the steps of an ideal journey from the English coast to the mouth of the Rhine, giving detailed references about various people and places that were well-known in that period because in some way they were linked to the epic deeds of the English saints and missionaries who undertook the journey across the sea with the aim of evangelicizing the pagans on the Continent. Alcuin offers not only fascinating details about particular places but also provides interesting reflections of an anthropological and socio-cultural nature before arriving at the final destination of his virtual tour. Ideally the carmen can be divided into two parts. In the first part Alcuin mainly describes the route followed by his letter, concentrating principally on the surrounding landscape and the people he meets along the way, from the mouth of the Rhine to Aachen. In the second part, having reached the Carolingian capital, he no longer seems to be interested in the places visited (indeed, they are totally ignored) because he is wholly absorbed by his efforts to strengthen his diplomatic ties with friends and acquaintances who belong to the Carolingian entourage. Alcuin’s carmen is extant in only one manuscript, the Parisiensis 528, the provenance of which seems to be the Abbey of St. Denis. It is on the basis of this fact that Fulrad, Abbot of St. Denis, has been deemed as the recipient of Alcuin’s message. In my opinion Alcuin’s work is not so much a poetic epistle, but rather a kind of travel guide that the great master has written to one of his pupils who is on the verge of undertaking that very journey to the Continent which Alcuin knew so well. My hypothesis is that the recipient of the epistle was not Fulrad as has been claimed, but one of Alcuin’s young disciples at the school of York. The disciple’s master lovingly provides him with a series of geographical annotations; but besides this he also gives suggestions as to how his disciple should behave in the presence of the great Carolingian dignitaries. The travelling instructions take the shape of a carmen, a literary genre that the gifted author found highly congenial. It is therefore plausible that the reason why the carmen has been preserved in the Parisiensis manuscript is not so much because of its poetic content per se but rather because it contained valuable information about the route, people and places linked to the holy mssions undertaken by the English on the Continent.

From York to Paris: Reinterpreting Alcuin’s virtual tour of the Continent

SINISI, Lucia
2011

Abstract

The carmen ‘Cartula, perge cito pelagi trans aequora cursu’ written by Alcuin has long been considered a verse epistle in which its author, using a popular literary topos widely used also among the Carolingian Circle, exhorts the letter he has just written to reach the recipient of his poetic composition. According to Dümmler the epistle must be dated around the year 780 and it was probably written in York, not long before Charles the Great’s invitation to his Palatial Court. In the cartula the poet traces the steps of an ideal journey from the English coast to the mouth of the Rhine, giving detailed references about various people and places that were well-known in that period because in some way they were linked to the epic deeds of the English saints and missionaries who undertook the journey across the sea with the aim of evangelicizing the pagans on the Continent. Alcuin offers not only fascinating details about particular places but also provides interesting reflections of an anthropological and socio-cultural nature before arriving at the final destination of his virtual tour. Ideally the carmen can be divided into two parts. In the first part Alcuin mainly describes the route followed by his letter, concentrating principally on the surrounding landscape and the people he meets along the way, from the mouth of the Rhine to Aachen. In the second part, having reached the Carolingian capital, he no longer seems to be interested in the places visited (indeed, they are totally ignored) because he is wholly absorbed by his efforts to strengthen his diplomatic ties with friends and acquaintances who belong to the Carolingian entourage. Alcuin’s carmen is extant in only one manuscript, the Parisiensis 528, the provenance of which seems to be the Abbey of St. Denis. It is on the basis of this fact that Fulrad, Abbot of St. Denis, has been deemed as the recipient of Alcuin’s message. In my opinion Alcuin’s work is not so much a poetic epistle, but rather a kind of travel guide that the great master has written to one of his pupils who is on the verge of undertaking that very journey to the Continent which Alcuin knew so well. My hypothesis is that the recipient of the epistle was not Fulrad as has been claimed, but one of Alcuin’s young disciples at the school of York. The disciple’s master lovingly provides him with a series of geographical annotations; but besides this he also gives suggestions as to how his disciple should behave in the presence of the great Carolingian dignitaries. The travelling instructions take the shape of a carmen, a literary genre that the gifted author found highly congenial. It is therefore plausible that the reason why the carmen has been preserved in the Parisiensis manuscript is not so much because of its poetic content per se but rather because it contained valuable information about the route, people and places linked to the holy mssions undertaken by the English on the Continent.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11586/14067
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