Like A Sparrow Flying Through A Mead Hall…

Long ago I read an early English comparison of a man’s life to that of a sparrow, who flies through a mead hall out of a stormy winter’s night.  The sparrow is briefly exposed to the light, warmth and safety of the hall before it vanishes back into the night and storm.  I have always remembered this and have thought of how apt it was, but I had forgotten the reference until now. 

         I looked it up and found that this story was told by The Venerable Bede in his The Ecclesiastical History of the English People.  In Northumbria of the seventh century, King Edwin called a meeting to decide if missionaries should be allowed to preach.  Paulinus had tried to convert Edwin to become a Christian, but Edwin wished to consult his friends and advisors.  The chief priest Coifi recommended that Edwin follow the teaching of Christianity, and another advisor agreed saying:

“The present life of man upon earth, O King, seems to me in
comparison with that time which is unknown to us like the
swift flight of a sparrow through mead-hall where you sit
at supper in winter, with your Ealdormen and thanes,
while the fire blazes in the midst and the hall is warmed,
but the wintry storms of rain or snow are raging abroad.
The sparrow, flying in at one door and immediately out
at another, whilst he is within, is safe from the wintry
tempest, but after a short space of fair weather, he im-
mediately vanishes out of your sight, passing from winter
to winter again. So this life of man appears for a
little while, but of what is to follow or what went before
we know nothing at all. If, therefore, this new doctrine
tells us something more certain, it seems
justly to be followed in our kingdom.”

The below site depicts a sparrow in flight through such a mead hall:

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

3 thoughts on “Like A Sparrow Flying Through A Mead Hall…

  1. Cezia Vespucci

    There is a verse from the Bible where Bede must have taken the excerpt above. I wish to know it. Grazie! :)

  2. Pingback: Bede sparrow | Entrenandoatup

  3. Pingback: So how did this early retirement lark work out in the end « Simple Living in Suffolk