Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

men whose minds have been differently trained, and whose minds are fired by different ideals.

Something, yet still how little, we should know of it 10 if we knew what were the thoughts of Julius Cæsar when he laid the foundations on which Augustus built; of Charles, when he reared anew the stately pile; of Barbarossa and his grandson, when they strove to avert the surely coming ruin. Something more succeeding generations will know, who will judge the Middle Ages more fairly than we, still living in the midst of a reaction against all that is mediæval, can hope to do, and to whom it will still be given to see and understand new forms of political life, whose nature we can not so much as conjecture. Seeing more than we do, they will also see 11 some things less distinctly. The empire which to us still looms largely on the horizon of the past, will to them sink lower and lower as they journey onward into the future. But its importance in universal history it can never lose. For into it all the life of the ancient world was gathered ; out of it all the life of the modern world

arose.

WESTMINSTER ABBEY.

This interesting extract is from Freeman's “Norman Conquest," vol. iii. In the second volume we have an admirable sketch of the building of the original Westminster Abbey by Edward the Confessor, as well as the origin of the name, West-Minster, in distinction from St. Paul's, which in its earliest days was known as the East-Minster. In the third volume we have an impressive account of the death of the Confessor, which occurred almost simultaneously with the completion of his cherished abbey; his burial, and the coronation of Harold, his successor, in the abbey, on the same day.*

* January 6, 1066, A. D.

This incident, a burial and a coronation on the same day, is unparalleled, even in the history of Westminster Abbey. The canonization of Edward, during the reign of Henry II, and the translation of his remains to a nobler shrine, are next described. Then follows the account of the rebuilding of the abbey by Henry III, and the second translation of Edward's remains. At this point our extract begins. The erection of the present abbey by Henry III, its escape from destruction in the time of Henry VIII, are all related with Mr. Freeman's characteristic accuracy and fullness. The narrative is so complete, that little remains to be added in the way of suggestion. Dean Stanley's “Memorials of Westminster Abbey,” revised edition, should be consulted by the student. Who was the first great poet buried in Westminster Abbey? Who was the last monarch buried there? Where are the sovereigns of England now buried? The suggestions already made in regard to the study of historic buildings apply with peculiar force to Westminster Abbey. This extract is inserted with a view to direct the attention of the student to Mr. Freeman's invaluable work on the “ Norman Conquest.”

1 YEARS rolled on, and the spot to which Edward had been moved on his first translation was now deemed unworthy of a saint who was already looked upon as the patron of England. A king now sat upon the throne of Edward who was in many points a reproduction of Edward himself. The same fervent zeal for God, the same neglect of duty toward man, the same vehemence in speech and weakness in action, the same love for men of foreign lands, the same deep and lavish devotion to the holy house of Saint Peter, appeared in Henry III which had already appeared in the predecessor whom he 2 reverenced and resembled. The king who, like Edward,

aroused the feelings of the nation by his wasteful preference for strangers of every land, chose as the special objects of his religious devotion two royal saints of English birth. Before all other saints, King Henry's worship was paid to the East-Anglian Edmund and the WestSaxon Edward. By his act those kingly names again

found their way into the royal house, and the name of
the saint himself became the most glorious in the later
history of England. In honor of Edward the work of 3
Edward was destroyed. The church which he himself
had reared was now deemed unworthy to be the dwelling-
place of so great a saint. The“ massive arches, broad and
round,” of the church which so long was the model for
all England, now gave way to those slender pillars and
soaring arches which, alone among English minsters, go
some way to reproduce the boundless height of Amiens
and Beauvais. There, alone among English minsters of
its own date, did the tall apse and its surrounding chapels
crown the eastern end of what was now the church of
Saint Edward. But that apse was not reared, as at 4
Amiens and at Le Mans, at Pershore and at Tewkesbury,
to form the most glorious of canopies for the altar of the
Most High. Not in any subordinate chapel, but in the
noblest spot of all, in the spot which elsewhere was re-
served for the highest acts of Christian worship, was the
new shrine of Edward reared. And the workmanship of
that gorgeous shrine was of a type fit for him who reared
it, and for him in whose honor it was reared. Among all
the tombs of kings which are gathered together in that
solemn spot, two alone reveal in their style of art the
work of craftsmen from beyond the sea and even from
beyond the mountains. The resting places of the two 5
kings in whose heart beat no English feeling, the two
kings who loved to be surrounded by men of any nation
rather than their own, the two kings who, more than any
other kings in English history, laid England of their own
act prostrate at the feet of Rome, the shrine of Edward,
the tomb of Henry, are fittingly adorned with forms
which awake no English associations, the work not of
English but of Italian hands. To that shrine, a hundred

L

and three years after its first translation, the body of the saint was borne by a crowd of the noblest of the land. 6 Among them two kings and two kings' sons bowed their shoulders beneath the hallowed weight. The two highest of earthly rulers, the continental and the insular Basileus, Richard of Germany and Henry of England, were foremost to bear the burden to which it was deemed a holy work to stretch forth a single finger. With the one English Augustus there joined in the task his nephew, the one Englishman besides himself who ever bore the titles of foreign royalty: Edmund of Lancaster, whose vain pretensions to the Sicilian crown had been already transferred to the stronger hand of the conqueror from Anjou. Fit bearers for the foreign-hearted saint were an English king who hated Englishmen, and English princes who wasted English treasure in seeking after 7 the kingship of other lands. But there was one who shared in their work who might seem sent there expresely to remind us that the object of their worship was, after all, an Englishman. Among those who bent to bear Edward's body was the prince who was named after his name, but whose life reproduced, not the life of Edward the Confessor, but the life of Edward the Unconquered. It was then deemed an honor and a privilege to draw near to the body of Edward. Was it not rather the highest of honors paid to Edward himself, that Harold stood by his side at his first burial, and that in the great rite of his translation a share was borne by him who did in truth live to wield the scepter of the Isle of Albion, and in whom the Scot and the Briton once more bowed to an 8 Edward of England as their father and their lord ? But the posthumous history of Edward the Confessor did not end even with this crowning triumph. His shrine at Westminster became the center of a group of royal tombs

such as gathered in earlier times in the more ancient seats of royalty at Winchester and Sherborne. Or a closer parallel still might be looked for in that renowned sanctuary of the West, the resting-place of Edward's nobler brother, where Briton and Englishman agreed to revere the name of the legendary Arthur, as at Westminster Englishman and Norman agreed to revere the name of the now well-nigh legendary Edward. Eight years after 9 the burial of Edward, his widow, the loving sister of Tostig, the loyal subject of William, was laid by his side before the altar of Saint Peter. The zeal of King Henry thought of her also, and her remains, translated to the chapel of her husband, were laid as near to his side as the remains of an ordinary sinful mortal might lie to those of a wonder-working saint.

To the other side of his shrine was moved the dust 10 of another Eadgyth, disguised in history by her Norman name, Matilda, her in whom the green tree first began to return to the trunk, and in whose grandson Normandy and England alike became parts of the dominions of the Angevin. No legend or effigy marks the graves of these royal ladies, but soon the choicest skill of the craftsman was lavished on the tombs of kings and princes which crowded around the shrine of their sainted predecessor. To the 11 north King Henry sleeps in his tomb of foreign work, beneath the shadow of the patron whom he had so deeply honored. Worthier dust lies east and west of him. No graven figure marks the resting-place of his immortal son, but the loveliest work of all within that mighty charnelhouse records the love and grief of the great king for a consort worthy of him. Succeeding ages surrounded the sacred spot with the sculptured forms of succeeding generations of English royalty. There sleeps the victor of 12 Crécy and the victor of Agincourt; there sleeps, beside

[ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »