familiar anecdote told of King Alfred by his contemporary biographer, Asser, Bishop of Sherborne (The Life of Alfred, ch.23), witnesses to the king's affection for the traditional poetry of his people, and celebrates his ability as a child to win an attractive book from his mother by memorizing and repeating to her the poems which it contained; for though, as Asser says (ch.22), Alfred remained illiterate until he was twelve years old or more, he was a zealous listener to the Saxon poems on those frequent occasions when he could hear them recited in the hall, and, being readily taught, he retained them in his memory with evident ease. 

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