English, Department of


Date of this Version



Modern Language Notes, Vol. 34, No. 3 (Mar., 1919), pp. 162-165


King Cnut's song, according to Professor Gummere gives us our “first example of actual ballad structure and the ballad's metrical form, which is to be met in English records." He quotes the account from the Historia Eliensis of 1166. Cnut, with his queen Emma and divers of the great nobles, was coming by boat to Ely, and, as they neared land, the King stood up, and told his men to row slowly while he looked at the great church and listened to the song of the monks which came sweetly over the water. "Then he called all who were with him in the boats to make a circle about him, and in the gladness of his heart he bade them join him in song, and he composed in English a ballad [cantilenam] which began as follows:

Murie sungen the muneches binnen Ely,

Tha Cnut ching rew ther by.

Roweth, cnihtes, noer the land,

And here we thes muneches saeng!

How does Cnut's song help the theories of the communalists, in particular of the Harvard school of communalists?