After the battle of Brunanburh, when Æthelstan’s army defeated an invading alliance of Scots, Irish, Britons and Norse, the Viking mercenary Egil Skallagrimsson extemporised a panegyric for the English and their king. Englaland is a stunning re-imagining of Skallagrimsson’s song, an unapologetic and paradoxical affirmation of a bloody, bloody-minded and bloody brilliant people. Danish huscarls, Falklands war heroes, pit-village bird-nesters, aging prize-fighters, flying pickets, jihadi suicide-bombers and singing yellowhammers parade through the book in an incendiary combination, rising to the challenge of the skald s affirmation: you are the people in the land; know you are the people; know it is your land.
Steve Ely s new book takes its inspiration and its title from Incendium Amoris ( The Fire of Love ) by the fourteenth century saint and mystic Richard Rolle, the hermit of Hampole . The book offers a vision of pre-Reformation and post-industrial England through the eyes of the trespasser, the poacher, the recusant and the revolutionary, in solidarity with the swinish multitude against the landed power. Contesting language and landscape and addressing issues including carnality, class, scepticism and belief, Incendium Amoris is a peasant s revolt against the accelerating cultural, social and environmental devastations of globalising capital, a guerilla-pastoral prophecy of a yeoman-anarchist utopia.
Shortlisted for the 2013 Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Oswald, King of Northumbria from 635 to 642 AD, was a warrior, evangelist, hunter, scholar, martyr and, most famously of all, main rival to George s claim to be patron saint of England. Oswald s Book of Hours is a series of elegies and eulogies for Oswald, written in the voices of an unlikely band of northern radicals, including union leader Arthur Scargill, hermit Richard Rolle, brigand John Nevison, Catholic rebel Robert Aske and Oswald himself. Brutal, provocative and thrillingly original, Oswald s Book of Hours is a pocket history of northern subversion and exile, going back before the Industrial Revolution, before the Reformation, before England even existed.