So here's the manuscript of Eadric eorl's letter to William the Bastard, as was posted in the Þeodloga
This being the Fyrning thread, we can get a closer look at it. So brace yourselves.
First, a transcription. Modern punctuation and capitalization have been introduced, abbreviations have been expanded and vowel length has been marked with macrons, but other than that the spelling hasn't been normalized:
Ēadrīc Fyrninga eorl grēt Willelm Normanna eorl and gehyhteð þæt þū sīe hāl. Nū wille ic þæt sweotule þē gecȳþan, þæt wē Fyrningas on ūre sōðfæstnisse sweriað, God bēo ūre witnes:
I. þæt wē ā bēoð þām Angelcynge holde and getrēowe and þām Westseaxna cynecynne;
II. þæt nǣfre wē nyllað nānne man of Normandige gehȳran, Englum tō wealdan;
III. þæt wē spurnað þīn word, Wyllelm Hornungsunu, þæt þū sīe frēond oððe frēomǣg þæs hēan Hūses Fyrnan;
IIII. þæt gif þū and þīn weorod, Willelm dux, ducum gelīcost, þās ful unrihtan gedyrstignesse ætfēolað, ðonne sceal gār and swurd and grim gefeoht þā geendian.
It is interesting to note that the letter is signed with the runes ear
which spell out Ea. F.
, or Eadric Fyrninga
. This is slightly odd for such a late date (mid 11th century); scholars attribute it to Earl Eadric's being a highly educated man, who was acquainted with the works of Cynewulf
and with the Runic Poem
. It is also worth noting that the scribe used green ink for these runes, no doubt because green was the traditional colour of the Fyrnings.
This is unlikely to be the actual letter that was sent to William in Kent, but it is apparently a copy made at the same time and kept in the earl's archives. The letter William got was most definitely written in Latin, but no copy of it has survived, although it is referenced in passing by Orderic Vitalis. It is not clear whether an Old English version was sent along with it, but it is almost certain, as its contents were also meant to reach the people of Kent, where William was mustering his supporters. It is also possible that other copies were sent to local authorities to notify them of the decision of the earl.
Whichever way they spread, after the Norman conquest the contents of the letter briefly became quite popular in the area due to its brash defiance and its insulting tone, and a few slightly different versions of it were written down before ca. 1100, of which only fragments survive. The "canonical", scholarly version of the letter was composed out of those fragments in the 19th century; that is the version translated in the above post. The original letter, which was discovered some time later, only differs significantly in the third clause, which explicitly denies William's claims of being "a friend or a kinsman of the High House of Fyrna" rather than talking less specifically about "ties of any kind", and in the beginning of the fourth clause, which can be translated as follows:
IIII: that if you and your company, William dux, most similar to ducks...
That bit is notable for being one of only two Anglo-Saxon sources where the word duce
, the ancestor of "duck", is attested, in a much-celebrated pun involving the Latin (and Norman) term dux