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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

King Alfred on King-Craft

By Alfred the Great (849–899)

Comment in his Translation of Boethius’s ‘Consolations of Philosophy’

THE MIND then answered and thus said: O Reason, indeed thou knowest that covetousness and the greatness of this earthly power never well pleased me, nor did I altogether very much yearn after this earthly authority. But nevertheless I was desirous of materials for the work which I was commanded to perform; that was, that I might honorably and fitly guide and exercise the power which was committed to me. Moreover, thou knowest that no man can show any skill nor exercise or control any power, without tools and materials. There are of every craft the materials without which man cannot exercise the craft. These, then, are a king’s materials and his tools to reign with: that he have his land well peopled; he must have prayer-men, and soldiers, and workmen. Thou knowest that without these tools no king can show his craft. This is also his materials which he must have besides the tools: provisions for the three classes. This is, then, their provision: land to inhabit, and gifts and weapons, and meat, and ale, and clothes, and whatsoever is necessary for the three classes. He cannot without these preserve the tools, nor without the tools accomplish any of those things which he is commanded to perform. Therefore, I was desirous of materials wherewith to exercise the power, that my talents and power should not be forgotten and concealed. For every craft and every power soon becomes old, and is passed over in silence, if it be without wisdom: for no man can accomplish any craft without wisdom. Because whatsoever is done through folly, no one can ever reckon for craft. This is now especially to be said: that I wished to live honorably whilst I lived, and after my life, to leave to the men who were after me, my memory in good works.