Sunday, September 10, 2006

Edward Confessor and the Ring

A legend of King St. Edward the Confessor, taken from Percy Dearmer's The Little Lives of the Saints:

One day, another legend says, the old king was attending the dedication of a church in honour of St. John, when a poor man came up to him, and begged an alms "for the love of St. John." St. Edward put his hand to his purse, but neither silver nor gold could he find. He sent for his almoner, but he was lost in the crowd; and still the poor man stood before him and begged. Edward was in great distress, till he remembered that he wore a large and very precious ring. This he drew from his finger; and for the love of St. John he gave it to the beggar, who thanked him gently, and disappeared.

And now you shall hear what happened to the ring. That night, far away in Palestine, two English pilgrims lost their way in the wilderness. The sun had set behind the bare mountains, and the two men were all alone in the desolate place, knowing not which way to turn, nor where to find shelter from robbers and wild beasts. As they were wondering what to do, a band of youths in bright raiment appeared before them; and in their midst was an old man, white and hoary, and wonderful to look upon.

"Dear friends," he said to the pilgrims, "Whence come you? Of what creed and birth are you? Of what kingdom and king? What seek you here?"

"We are Christians, and from England. We have come to expiate our sins, seeking the holy places where Jesus lived and died. Our king is named Edward; and we have lost our way."

"Come after me, and I will conduct you to a good hostelry for the love of King Edward." So he led them to a city, where they found an inn with the table laid for supper; and, after they had eaten, they went to rest.

Next morning the old man came to them, and said: "I am John the Evangelist. For the love of Edward I will not fail you, and you shall arrive safe and sound in England. Then go to Edward, and say you have brought a ring which he gave to me at the dedication of my church, when I besought him in poor array. And tell him that in six months he shall come to me in Paradise."

The pilgrims came back to England without misadventure, and gave the ring back to Edward with St. John's message.

When the king heard that he was soon to die, he gave away all his money to those who were in need, and passed his time in devotion.

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