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S.A. Bent, comp. Familiar Short Sayings of Great Men. 1887.

Gregory I.

  • [Pope of Rome, commonly called “the Great;” born about 550; became prefect of Rome, 573; elected pope, 590, having previously induced his predecessor to send missionaries to England; was the author of several works; died 604.]
  • Non Angli, sed Angeli!

  • One day about the year 574, before he had reached the papal chair, passing through the market in Rome, Gregory was struck by the beauty of a group of youth exposed for sale. When told that they were Angles (Angli) from the heathen island of Britain, “Verily angels” (angeli), he exclaimed: “how lamentable that the Prince of Darkness should be the master of a country containing such a beautiful people! But of what province are they?” He was told that they were Deirians, from Deira, the land of wild deer, between the Tyne and the Humber. “De irâ!” said Gregory, “then they must be delivered from the wrath (de irâ) of God. And what is the name of their king?”—“Ælla.”—“Then Alleluia shall be sung in their land.”—FREEMAN: Old English History, 44.
  • Gregory then persuaded the Pope to send missionaries to England, of whom he should be one. As they rested on their journey, three days from Rome, a locust jumped on to the book he was reading. “Rightly is it called locust,” he said, “because it seems to say to us, loco sta (locusta),—stay in your place;” and as he spoke, couriers arrived, commanding him to return to Rome.