Friday, August 10, 2007

A Retraction

We who might be windmills are not accustomed to being mistaken. Nevertheless, we are human and it does happen at times. In a recent post I wrote the following:

The gospel really does infuse everything I do, like it or not. So is my attempt to banish it a Canute-like futility?

The allusion is to King Canute the Great, or Cnut, or, Knútr inn ríki, in Old Norse, a Viking King who ruled over Norway, Denmark, part of Sweden, and the British Isles at the turn of the 11th Century. According to legend, Cnut tried to command the waves to turn back. The version I was familiar with was that Cnut, drunk on his own power, issued his anti-tidal edict, and when it returned to him void, resigned his crown in a fit of sour grapes.

According to the source of all human truth, though, I was misinformed. The true legend is that Canute, a fair and just king, had little tolerance for flattering courtiers. When one such flatterer told him that his power was so great that he could command the waves, Canute set out to prove him wrong and make a point. At either Southhampton or Westminster, Canute stood on the shore and commanded the sea to turn back. When, expectedly, it did not, he declaimed to his courtiers that even a king has limited powers. He then piously removed his crown and refused to wear it as a demonstration that Christ is the only true king.

Far be it from me to malign a royal dead viking. I don't want this Cnut character pulling a King Hamlet's Ghost and appearing to me in the middle of the night, or worse appearing to one of his descendants and ordering the unlucky sinner to avenge him by taking my life.

Cnut, my apologies.

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