9 Immediately before the Duke rode Taillefer, the min. strel, singing, with a loud and clear voice, the lay of Charlemagne and Roland, and the emprises of the paladins who had fallen in the dolorous pass of Roncevaux. Taillefer, as his guerdon, had craved permission to strike the first blow, for he was a valiant warrior, emulating the deeds which he sung : his appellation, Taillefer, is probably to be considered not as his real name, but as an epithet derived from his strength and prowess ; and he fully justified his demand by transfixing the first Englishman whom he attacked, and by felling the second to the ground. The battle now became general, and raged with the greatest fury. The Normans advanced beyond the English lines, but they were driven back, and forced into a trench, where horses and riders fell upon each other in fearful confusion. More Normans were slain here than in any other part of the field. The alarm spread; the light troops left in charge of the baggage and the stores thought that all was lost, and were about to take flight; but the fierce Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, the Duke's half-brother, and who was better fitted for the shield than for the miter, succeeded in reassuring them, and then, returning to the field, and rushing into that part where the battle was hottest, he fought as the stout

est of the warriors engaged in the conflict. 10 From nine in the morning till three in the afternoon.

the successes on either side were nearly balanced. The charges of the Norman cavalry gave them great advantage, but the English phalanx repelled their enemies ; and the soldiers were so well protected by their targets that the artillery of the Normans was long discharged in vain. The bowmen, seeing that they had failed to make any impression, altered the direction of their shafts, and, instead of shooting point-blank, the flights of arrows were

directed upward, so that the points came down upon the heads of the men of England, and the iron shower fell with murderous effect. The English ranks were exceedingly distressed by the volleys, yet they still stood firm ; and the Normans now employed a stratagem to decoy their opponents out of their intrenchments. A feigned 11 retreat on their part, induced the English to pursue them with great heat. The Normans suddenly wheeled about, and a new and fiercer battle was urged. The field was covered with separate bands of foemer, each engaged with one another. Here, the English yielded-there, they conquered. One English thane, armed with a battleaxe, spread dismay among the Frenchmen. He was cut down by Roger de Montgomery. The Normans have preserved the name of the Norman baron, but that of the Englishman is lost in oblivion. Some other English thanes are also praised as having singly, and by their personal prowess, delayed the ruin of their countrymen

and country.

At one period of the battle the Normans were nearly 12 routed. The cry was raised that the Duke was slain, and they began to fly in every direction. William threw off his helmet, and, galloping through the squadron, rallied his barons, though not without great difficulty. Harold, on his part, used every possible exertion, and was distinguished as the most active and bravest among the soldiers in the host which he led on to destruction. A Norman arrow wounded him in the left eye; he dropped from his steed in agony, and was borne to the foot of the standard. The English began to give way, or rather to retreat to the standard as their rallying-point. The Normans encircled them, and fought desperately to reach this goal. Robert Fitz-Ernest had almost seized the banner, but he was killed in the attempt. William led his troops on

with the intention, it is said, of measuring his sword with Harold. He did encounter an English horseman, from whom he received such a stroke upon his helmet that he was nearly brought to the ground. The Normans flew

to the aid of their sovereign, and the bold Englishman 13 was pierced by their lances. About the same time the

tide of battle took a momentary turn. The Kentish men and East Saxons rallied and repelled the Norman barons; but Harold was not among them, and William led on his troops with desperate intrepidity. In the thick crowd of the assailants and the assailed, the hoofs of the horses were plunged deep into the gore of the dead and the dying. Gurth was at the foot of the standard, without hope, but without fear: he fell by the falchion of William. The English banner was cast down, and the gonfalon, planted in its place, announced that William of Normandy was, the conqueror. It was now late in the evening. The English troops were entirely broken, yet no Englishman would surrender. The conflict continued

in many parts of the bloody field long after dark. 14 By William's orders, a spot close to the gonfalon was

cleared, and he caused his pavilion to be pitched among the corpses which were heaped around. He there supped with his barons ; and they feasted among the dead; but, when he contemplated the fearful slaughter, a natural feeling of pity, perhaps allied to repentance, arose in his stern mind; and the Abbey of Battle, in which the prayer was to be offered up perpetually for the repose of the souls of all who had fallen in the conflict, was at once the monument of his triumph and the token of his piety. The abbey was most richly endowed, and all the land for one league round about was annexed to the Battle franchise. The Abbot was freed from the authority of the Metropolitan of Canterbury, and invested with archiepis

copal jurisdiction. The high-altar was erected on the 15 very spot where Harold's standard had waved; and the roll, deposited in the archives of the monastery, recorded the names of those who had fought with the Conqueror, and among whom the lands of broad England were divided. But all this pomp and solemnity has passed away like a dream. The “ perpetual prayer" has ceased for ever; the roll of Battle is rent. The shields of the Norman lineages are trodden in the dust—the abbey is leveled with the ground-and a dank and reedy pool fills the spot where the foundations of the quire have been uncovered, merely for the gaze of the idle visitor, or the instruction of the moping antiquary.




Anglo-Saxon or old English domestic life gives us, to use Macaulay's expression, "a true picture of the life of our ancestors." This is one of the prime objects of all genuine history. The AngloSaxons were a vast confederation of tribes, who, principally during the fifth and sixth centuries of the Christian era, had invaded and conquered Britain. They came, for the most part, from Northern Germany, and from the Scandinavian peninsula. They constitute so large and important an element in English character and English history that the term Anglo-Saxon is often applied to Englishspeaking races, wherever they are found.

It is difficult to paint the home-life of England in 1 these old Anglo-Saxon centuries. The reproach of the fifteenth century and our own, that no people are better fed or worse housed, was probably true then. The noble

lived in a hall, intended not for defense but for hospitality, with a chapel attached, and out-buildings for his followers. Hunting and hawking, in woods carefully preserved, occupied the days of peace. Asser relates with wonder that Alfred let his sons learn reading before they were taught hunting and such like “human arts”; and although the grim statesmen of that reign, who groaned in their old age over the alphabet which their master constrained them to study, were probably the last specimens of complete ignorance in the highest places, there is no reason to suppose that book-learning ever flourished much among the Anglo-Saxons. Songs and legends were their literature; the laws of their country their philosophy; attendance at mass and at the different gemotes made 2 up the whole duty of their civic lives. The worst consequence of this speculative inactivity, to a people naturally coarse and gross, was that they sank into evil from the mere want of employment; and the vices of the table prevailed in forms too disgusting to be described. That the poor lived plentifully in good years is probable; the land was rich, and the food simple, barley or oaten bread, beer, and pork, being the common fare ; but England no longer exported corn, and famines were frequent and terrible. There were large herring-fisheries along the east and south coast; and Eaton, in Cheshire, paid a rent of a thousand salmon to its Norman earl. The vineyards which the Romans had planted survived Saxon and Dane; Gloucestershire was famous for them, and Smithfield was once ruddy with grapes. But gardens were of slow growth, and comparatively few fruits and vegetables had 3 been naturalized. The trade in wool, the only article which was certainly exported to the Continent, enhanced the value of sheep, but cattle and horses were probably more prized in themselves, and were certainly more costly

« ElőzőTovább »