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had never slept under the smoky rafters of a roof, who had never drained the ale-horn by an inhabited hearth,' laughed at wind and storms, and sang: "The blast of the tempest aids our oars; the bellowing of heaven, the howling of the thunder, hurt us not; the hurricane is our servant, and drives us whither we wish to go.' We smote with our swords,' says a song attributed to Ragnar Lodbrog; 'to me it was a joy like having my bright bride by me on the couch. . . . He who has never been wounded lives a weary life.' One of them, at the monastery of Peterborough, kills with his own hand all the monks, to the number of eighty-four; others, having taken King Ælla, divided his ribs from the spine, and drew his lungs through the opening, so as to represent an eagle. Harold Harefoot, having seized his rival Alfred, with six hundred men, had them maimed, blinded, hamstrung, scalped, or embowelled. Torture and carnage, greed of danger, fury of destruction, obstinate and frenzied bravery of an over-strong temperament, the unchaining of the butcherly instincts,—such traits meet us at every step in the old Sagas. The daughter of the Danish Jarl, seeing Egil taking his seat near her, repels him with scorn, reproaching him with
seldom having provided the wolves with hot meat, with never having seen for the whole autumn a raven croaking over the carnage. But Egil seized her and pacified her by singing: 'I have marched with my bloody sword, and the raven has followed me. Furiously we fought, the fire passed over the dwellings of men ; we slept in the blood of those who kept the gates.' From such table-talk, and such maid's fancies, one may judge of the rest.
Behold them now in England, more settled and wealthier: do you look to find them much changed? Changed it may be, but for the worse, like the Franks, like all barbarians who pass from action to enjoyment. They are more gluttonous, carving their hogs, filling themselves with flesh, swallowing down deep draughts of mead, ale, spiced wines, all the strong, coarse drinks which they can procure, and so they are cheered and stimulated. Add to this the pleasure of the fight. Not easily with such instincts can they attain to culture; to find a natural and ready culture, we must look amongst the sober and sprightly populations of the south. Here the sluggish and heavy: temperament remains long buried in a brutal life ; people of the Latin race, never
1 Lingard, Hist. of England, i. 164, says, however, “Every tenth man out of the six hundred received his liberty, and of the rest a few were selected for slavery.'-Tr.
? Franks, Frisians, Saxons, Danes, Norwegians, Icelanders, are one and the same people. Their language, laws, religion, poetry, differ but little. The more northern continue longest in their primitive manners. Germany in the fourth and fifth centuries, Denmark and Norway in the seventh and eighth, Iceland in the tenth and eleventh centuries, present the same condition, and the documents of each country will fill up the gaps that exist in the history of the others.
3 Tacitus, De mor. Germ. xxii. : Gens nec astuta nec callida.
at a first glance see in them aught but large gross beasts, clumsy and ridiculous when not dangerous and enraged. Up to the sixteenth century, says an old historian, the great body of the nation were little else than herdsmen, keepers of beasts for flesh and fleece; up to the end of the eighteenth drunkenness was the recreation of the higher ranks ; it is still that of the lower; and all the refinement and softening influence of civilisation have not abolished amongst them the use of the rod and the fist. "If the carnivorous, warlike, drinking savage, proof against the climate, still shows beneath the conventions of our modern society and the softness of our modern polish, imagine what he must have been when, landing with his band upon a wasted or desert country, and becoming for the first time a settler, he saw on the horizon the common pastures of the border country, and the great primitive forests which furnished stags for the chase and acorns for his pigs. The ancient histories tell us that they had a great and a coarse appetite. Even at the time of the Conquest the custom of drinking to excess was a common vice with men of the highest rank, and they passed in this way whole days and nights without intermission. Henry of Huntingdon, in the twelfth century, lamenting the ancient hospitality, says that the Norman kings provided their courtiers with only one meal a day, while the Saxon kings used to provide four. One day, when Athelstan went with his nobles to visit his relative Ethelfleda, the provision of mead was exhausted at the first salutation, owing to the copiousness of the draughts ; but Saint Dunstan, forecasting the extent of the royal appetite, had furnished the house, so that though the cup-bearers, as is the custom at royal feasts, were able the whole day to serve it out in horns and other vessels, the liquor was not found to be deficient. When the guests were satisfied, the harp passed from hand to hand, and the rude harmony of their deep voices swelled under the vaulted roof. The monasteries themselves in Edgard's time kept up games, songs, and dances till midnight. To shout, to drink, to caper about, to feel their veins heated and swollen with wine, to hear and see around them the riot of the orgy, this was the first need of the Barbarians. The heavy human brute gluts himself with sensations and with noise.
For this appetite there was a stronger 'grazing-ground, -I mean, blows and battle. In vain they attached themselves to the soil, became cultivators, in distinct communities and distinct regions, shut up: in their march with their kindred and comrades, bound together, sepa
Craik and MacFarlane, Pictorial History of England, 1837, i. 337. W. of Malmesbury. Henry of Huntingdon, vi. 365.
2 Tacitus, De moribus Germanorum, xxii., xxiii.
3 Kemble, Saxons in England, 1849, i. 70, ii. 184. "The Acts of an Anglo-Saxon parliament are a series of treaties of peace between all the associations which make up the state ; a continual revision and renewal of the alliances offensive and defensive of all the free men. They are universally mutual contracts for the maintenance of the frid or peace."
rated from the mass, marked round by sacred landmarks, by primeval oaks on which they cut the figures of birds and beasts, by poles set up in the midst of the marsh, which whosoever removed was punished with merciless tortures. In vain these Marches and Ga's were grouped into states, and finally formed a half-regulated society, with assemblies and laws, under the lead of a single king; its very structure indicates the necessities to supply which it was created. They united in order to maintain peace; treaties of peace occupy their Parliaments; provisions for peace are the matter of their laws. War was waged daily and everywhere; the aim of life was, not to be slain, ransomed, mutilated, pillaged, hung and of course, if it was a woman, violated. Every man was obliged to appear armed, and to be ready, with his burgh or his township, to repel marauders, who went about in bands; 'one such consisted of thirty-five and more. The animal was yet too powerful, too impetuous, too untamed. Anger and covetousness in the first place brought him upon his prey. Their history, such as that of the Heptarchy, is like a bistory of kites and crows." They slew the Britons or reduced them to slavery, fought the remnant of the Welsh, Irish, and Picts, massacred one another, were hewn down and cut to pieces by the Danes. In a hundred years, out of fourteen kings of Northumbria, seven were slain and six deposed. Penda of Mercia killed five kings, and in order to win the town of Bamborough, demolished all the neighbouring villages, heaped their ruins into an immense pile, sufficient to burn all the inhabitants, undertook to exterminate the Northumbrians, and perished himself by the sword at the age of eighty. Many amongst them were put to death by the thanes; one thane was burned alive; brothers slew one another treacherously. With us civilisation has interposed, between the desire and its fulfilment, the counteracting and softening preventive of reflection and calculation; here, the impulse is sudden, and murder and every kind of excess spring from it instantaneously. King Edwy* having married Elgiva, his relation within the prohibited degrees, quitted the hall where he was drinking on the very day of his coronation, to be with her. The nobles thought themselves insulted, and immediately Abbot Dunstan went himself to seek the young man. He found the adulteress,' says the monk Osbern, 'her mother, and the king together on the bed of debauch. He dragged the king thence violently, and setting the crown upon his head, brought
1 A large district; the word is still existing in German, as Rheingau, Breisgau. -TR.
% Turner, Hist. of the Anglo-Sax. ii. 440, Laws of Ina.
8 Milton's expression. Lingard's History, i. chap. 3. This history bears much resemblance to that of the Franks in Gaul. See Gregory of Tours. The Saxons, like the Franks, were somewhat softened, but above all depraved, and were pillaged and massacred by those of their northern brothers who had remained in a savage state.
* Vita S. Dunstani, Anglia Sacra, il
him back to the nobles.' Afterwards Elgiva sent men to deprive Dunstan of his eyes, and then, in a revolt, saved herself and the king by hiding in the country; but the men of the North having seized her, “hamstrung her, and then subjected her to the death which she deserved.” Barbarity follows barbarity. At Bristol, at the time of the Conquest, as we are told by an historian of the time, it was the custom to buy men and women in all parts of England, and to carry them to Ireland for sale. The buyers usually made the women pregnant, and took them to market in that condition, in order to ensure a better price. You might have seen with sorrow long files of young people of both sexes and of the greatest beauty, bound with ropes, and daily exposed for sale. . . . They sold in this manner as slaves their nearest relatives, and even their own children.' And the chronicler adds that, having abandoned this practice, they "thus set an example to all the rest of England.' Would you know the manners of the highest ranks, in the family of the last king ?3 At a feast in the king's hall, Harold was serving Edward the Confessor with wine, when Tostig, his brother, stimulated by envy at his favour, seized him by the hair. They were separated. Tostig went to Hereford, where Harold had ordered a great royal banquet to be prepared. There he seized his brother's attendants, and cutting off their heads and limbs, he placed them in the vessels of wine, ale, mead, and cider, and sent a message to the king : “ If you go to your farm, you will find there plenty of salt meat, but you will do well to carry some more with you.' Harold's other brother, Sweyn, had violated the abbess Elgiva, assassinated Beorn the thane, and being banished from the country, had turned pirate. When we regard their deeds of violence, their ferocity, their cannibal jests, we see that they were not far removed from the sea-kings, or from the followers of Odin, who ate raw flesh, hung men as victims on the sacred trees of Upsal, and killed one another to make sure of dying as they had lived, in blood. A score of times the old ferocious instinct reappears beneath the thin crust of Christianity. In the eleventh century, Sigeward, the great Duke of Northumberland, was afflicted with a dysentery; and feeling his death near, exclaimed, “What a shame for me not to have been permitted to die in so many battles, and to end thus by a cow's death! At least put on my breastplate, gird on my sword, set my helmet on my head, my shield in my left hand, my golden battle-axe in my right,
It is amusing to compare the story of Edwy and Elgiva in Turner, ii. 216, etc., and then in Lingard, i. 132, etc. The first accuses Dunstan, the other defends him.-TR.
2 Life of Bishop Wolstan.
3 Tanta sævitiæ erant fratres illi quod, cum alicujus nitidam villam conspi. cerent, dominatorem de nocte interfici juberent, totamque progeniem illius possessionemque defuncti obtinerent. Turner, iii. 27. Henry of Huntingdon, vi. 367.
4 "Penè gigas statura,' says the chronicler. H. of Huntingdon, vi. 367. Kemble, i. 393. Turner, ii. 318.
so that a great warrior, like myself, may die as a warrior.' They did as he bade, and thus died he honourably with his arms. They had made one step, and only one, from barbarism.
Under this native barbarism there were noble dispositions, unknown to the Roman world, which were destined to produce a better people out of the ruins of these. In the first place, a certain earnestness, which leads them out of idle, sentiments to noble ones.' From their origin in Germany this is what we find them, severe in manner, with grave inclinations and a manly dignity. They live solitary, each one near the spring or the wood which has taken his fancy. Even in villages the cottages were detached; they must have independence and free air. They had no taste for voluptuousness; love was tardy, education severe, their food simple ; all the recreation they indulged in was the hunting of the aurochs, and a dance amongst naked swords. Violent intoxication and perilous wagers were their weakest points ; they sought in preference not mild pleasures, but strong excitement. In everything, in rude and masculine instincts, they were men. Each in his own home, on his own land, and in his own hut, was master of himself, firm and self-contained, in no wise restrained or shackled. If the commonweal received anything from him, it was because he gave it. In all great conferences he gave his vote in arms, passed judgment in the assembly, made alliances and wars on his own account, moved from place to place, showed activity and daring. The modern Englishman existed entire in this Saxon. If he bends, it is because he is quite willing to bend; he is no less capable of self-denial than of independence; sacrifice is not uncommon, a man cares not for his life and his blood. In Homer the warrior often gives way, and is not blamed if he flees. In the Sagas, in the Edda, he must be over-brave; in Germany the coward is drowned in the mud, under a hurdle. Through all outbreaks of primitive brutality gleams obscurely the grand idea of duty, which is, the self-constraint exercised in view of some noble end. Marriage was pure amongst them, chastity instinctive. Amongst the Saxons the adulterer was punished by death; the adulteress was obliged to hang herself, or was stabbed by the knives of her companions. The wives of the Cimbrians, when they could not obtain from Marius assurance of their chastity, slew themselves with their own hands. They thought there was something sacred in a woman ; they married but one, and kept faith with her. In fifteen centuries the idea of marriage is unchanged amongst them. The wife, on entering her husband's home,
I Grimm, Mythology, 53, Preface.
2 Tacitus, xx., xxiii., xi., xii., xiii., et passith. We may still see the traces of this taste in English dwellings.
3 Tacitus, xiii.