March 29th, 2005

bush

OE Bread words

In Old English, "bread" is hlaf, the ancestor of our word "loaf." The Modern English words for "lord" and "lady" are both derived from this word -- (hlaford, hlaefdige) -- and both mean "loaf-giver." The word-picture is of someone dealing out bread to people working on one's farm or in one's household. Charles Williams captures this sense in "Bors to Elayne: On the King's Coins" in Taliessin Through Logres.
I came in; I saw you stand,
in your hand the bread of love, in your head lightness of law.
The uprightness of the multitude stood in your figure;
my fieldsmen ate and your women served,
while you watched them from the high seat. . . .
Now when the thumbs are muscled with the power of goodwill
corn comes to the mill and the flour to the house,
bread of love for your women and my men;
at the turn of the day, and none only to earn;
in the day of the turn, and none only to pay;
for the hall is raised to the power of the exchange of all
by the small spread organisms of your hands; O Fair,
there are the altars of Christ the City extended.

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