Alfred
(849-901 A.D.)
From Asser's Life of King Alfred, trs. Albert S. Cook (1906), pp. 14-15.

Now on a certain day his mother was showing him and his brothers a book of Saxon poetry, which she held in her hand, and finally said: `Whichever of you can soonest learn this volume, to him will I give it.' Stimulated by these words, or rather by divine inspiration, and allured by the beautifully illuminated letter at the beginning of the volume, Alfred spoke before all his brothers, who, though his seniors in age, were not so in grace, and answered his mother: `Will you really give that book to that one of us who can first understand and repeat it to you?' At this his mother smiled with satisfaction, and confirmed what she had before said: `Yes,' said she, `that I will.' Upon this the boy took the book out of her hand, and went to his master and learned it by heart, whereupon he brought it back to his mother and recited it.

After this he learned the daily course, that is, the celebration of the hours, and afterwards certain Psalms, and many prayers contained in a book which he kept day and night in his bosom, as I myself have seen, and always carried about with him, for the sake of prayer, through all the bustle and business of this present life. But, sad to relate, he could not gratify his ardent wish to acquire liberal art, because, as he was wont to say, there were at that time no good teachers in all the kingdom of the West Saxons.

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