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Bill Thayer

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Book VI
Note C

This webpage reproduces a section of
Italy and Her Invaders

Thomas Hodgkin

published by the Clarendon Press

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Book VI
Chapter 5

Vol. IV
Note D
Notices of Alboin and the Lombards in the 'Traveller's Song'

In the 'Traveller's Song,' or as it is sometimes called, from that which is apparently the name of the author, 'Widsith,' we have the following express references to the Langobardic nation.

 p176  l. 64 (where the minstrel is enumerating the names of various kings with those of the nations over whom they ruled): —

'Sceafa (weolde) Longbeardum.'

'Sceafa ruled the Langobardi.'

ll. 156‑161: —

'Mid Scottum ic waes and mid Peohtum,

And mid Scridefinnum.

Mid Lidwicingum ic waes and mid Leomum,

And mid Longbeardum.

Mid haeðnum and mid haeleðum,

And mid Hundingum.'

'I was with Scots and with Picts and with Scridefinni.

I was with Lidwicingi and with Leomi and with Langobardi.

With heathens and with saved ones,

And with Hundingi.'

Neither of these extracts adds much to our information about the Langobardi: and, as we cannot identify Sceafa with any king mentioned by Paulus, we may perhaps infer that the minstrel is here speaking of some remnant of the nation left behind in their old homes by the Elbe.

But in ll. 139‑147º we have a possible reference to Alboin, which, if it can be assigned to that king, is extremely interesting: —

'Swylce ic waes on Eatule

Mid Aelfwine:

Se haefde moneynnes

Mine gefraege

Leohtest hond

Lofes to wyrcenne,

Heortan unhneaweste

Hringa gedales.

Beorhtra beaga,

Bearn Eadwines.'

'So was I in Italy (?) with Ealfwin, son of Eadwin, who of all mankind had to my thinking the lightest hand to win love, the most generous heart in the distribution of rings and bright bracelets.

If we may be permitted to turn 'Eatule' into Italy (and this identification is generally accepted), 'Ealfwin, son of Eadwin,' becomes almost certainly Alboin, son of Audoin. The time also fits, for it is generally admitted that the 'Traveller's Song' was composed somewhere about the middle of the  p177 sixth century. It is true that he mentions Theodoric (doubtless Theodoric I son of Clovis) as king of the Franks, and that this king died in 534, thirty-four years before the Lombard invasion of Italy: but the minstrel hardly professes to be giving a precise list of actual reigning sovereigns, and in such a poem great chronological accuracy is not to be looked for.

On the whole (though I must speak with hesitation of a matter so much outside my province), it seems to me probable that the 'Traveller' is here referring to Alboin in Italy, and if so the praises of his generous and affable nature go some way to soften the gruesome outlines of the Alboin whom Paulus paints for us.

The minstrel's special patroness, Ealhilda, queen of the Myrgingi, is also a daughter of Eadwin (l. 194). But considering the commonness of that name, we have perhaps no right to conclude that we have here an unknown sister of Alboin married to an English prince.

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