(I use the Medieval pronunciation- something like ‘Fridesweedah’)
(window by Burne-Jones- Christ Church, Oxford)
After her mother’s death, she, with Aelfgith
(a holy woman) lodged. Then to Oxford,
to ask her father to build her, forthwith,
a church and convent, where she could board
with twelve other women and take the veil,
in seclusion, and do works of charity.
Her beauty would always attract a male.
Prince Aelfgar would see no disparity
in seeking to attain, through compulsion.
one who was devoted to freely love
all, but who would simply feel revulsion
at sabotage of her call from above.
Discovering his scheme, she fled to a hut,
which sheltered swine, who foraged in the wood.
With well water, she survived three years, but
Aelfgar, furious at her hardihood,
was determined to sustain his assault.
When she returned to Oxford, he made threats
that he would torch the town – all for her ‘fault’ –
and have her ravished by his own subjects.
Frideswide prayed to St Catherine,
to Cecilia, for preservation.
Immediately, the prince was supine:
struck blind, in response to invocation.
English kings feared to enter, from then on,
the city, lest they a similar fate
would be dispensed- the same phenomenon
assail them, if they tried to storm the gate.
The nunnery then received the princess
and she established a seat of learning,
treating loathsome lepers with a largesse
beyond the call of duty, meriting
sainthood; eventual burial, where now
Christ Church Cathedral stands. Pilgrims flock still
to honour the abbess, whose sacred vow
identified her union with God’s will.
(As for Prince Aelfgar, she restored his sight
and, at her well, a toad would often spit
at a base suitor, whose credentials might
not meet his intended’s family’s ambit.
The nineteenth of October- her Feast Day-
is thought to be the date she passed away.)