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winding channel, notorious for its wrecks. In winter a breastplate of ice covers the two streams; the sea drives back the frozen masses as they descend; they pile themselves with a crash upon the sandbanks, and sway to and fro; now and then you may see a vessel, seized as in a vice, split in two beneath their violence. Picture, in this foggy clime, amid hoar-frost and storm, in these marshes and forests, half-naked savages, a kind of wild beasts, fishers and hunters, but especially hunters of men; these are they, Saxons, Angles, Jutes, Frisians;1 later on, Danes, who during the fifth and the ninth centuries, with their swords and battle-axes, took and kept the island of Britain.
A rude and foggy land, like their own, except in the depth of its sea and the safety of its coasts, which one day will call up real fleets and mighty vessels; green England—the word rises to the lips and expresses all. Here also moisture pervades everything; even in summer the mist rises; even on clear days you perceive it fresh from the great sea-girdle, or rising from vast but ever slushy meadows, undulating with hill and dale, intersected with hedges to the limit of the horizon. Here and there a sunbeam strikes on the higher grasses with burning flash, and the splendor of the verdure dazzles and almost blinds you. The overflowing water straightens the flabby stems; they grow up, rank, weak, and filled with sap; a sap ever renewed, for the gray
under a stratum of motionless vapor, and at distant intervals the rim of heaven is drenched by heavy showers. “There are yet commons as at the time of the Conquest, deserted, abandoned, wild, covered with furze and thorny plants, with here and there a horse grazing in solitude. Joyless scene, unproductive soil! 3 What a labor it has been to humanize it! | What impression it must have made on the men of the South, the Romans of Cæsar! I thought, when-I saw it, of the ancient Saxons, wanderers from West and North, who came to settle in this land of marsh and fogs, on the border of primeval forests, on the banks of these great muddy streams, which roll down their slime to meet the waves. They must have lived as hunters
1 Palgrave, Saxon Commonwealth, vol i. 2 Notes of a Fourney in England.
3 Léonce de Lavergne, De l'Agriculture anglaise. “The soil is much worse than that of France."
4 There are at least four rivers in England passing by the name of “Ouse,” which is only another form of “ooze.”—TR.
and swineherds; growing, as before, brawny, fierce, gloomy. Take civilization from this soil, and there will remain to the inhabitants only war, the chase, gluttony, drunkenness. Smiling love, sweet poetic dreams, art, refined and nimble thought, are for the happy shores of the Mediterranean. Here the barbarian, ill housed in his mud-hovel, who hears the rain pattering whole days among the oak leaves—what dreams can he have, gazing upon his mud-pools and his sombre sky ?"
II. Huge white bodies, cool-blooded, with fierce blue eyes, reddish flaxen hair; ravenous stomachs, filled with meat and cheese, heated by strong drinks; of a cold temperament, slow to love, home-stayers, prone to brutal drunkenness: these are to this day the features which descent and climate preserve in the race, and these are what the Roman historians discovered in their former country. There is no living, in these lands, without abundance of solid food; bad weather keeps people at home; strong drinks are necessary to cheer them; the senses become blunted, the muscles are braced, the will vigorous. In every country the body of man is rooted deep into the soil of nature; and in this instance still deeper, because, being uncultivated, he is less removed from nature. In Germany, storm-beaten, in wretched boats of hide, amid the hardships and dangers of seafaring life, they were pre-eminently adapted for endurance and enterprise, inured to misfortune, scorners of danger. Pirates at first: of all kinds of hunting the man-hunt is most profitable and most noble; they left the care of the land and flocks to the women and slaves; seafaring, war, and pillage was their whole idea of a freeman's work. They dashed to sea in their two-sailed barks, landed anywhere, killed everything; and having sacrificed in honor of their gods the tithe of their prisoners, and leaving behind them the red light of their burnings, went farther on to begin again. “Lord,” says a certain litany,“ deliver us from the fury of the Jutes.” “Of all barbarians: these are strongest of body and heart, the most
1 Tacitus, De moribus Germanorum, passim : Diem noctemque continuare potando, nulli proborum.-Sera juvenum Venus.—Totos dies juxta focum atque ignem agunt. Dargaud, Voyage en Danemark. “They take six meals per day, the first at five o'clock in the morning. One should see the faces and meals at Hamburg and at Amsterdam.”
2 Bede, v. 10. Sidonius, viii. 6. Lingard, Hist. of England, 1854, i. chap. 2. 3 Zozimos, iii. 147. Amm. Marcellinus, xxviii. 526.
?—we may add, the most cruelly ferocious. When murder becomes a trade, it becomes a pleasure. About the eighth century, the final decay of the great Roman corpse which Charlemagne had tried to revive, and which was settling down into corruption, called them like vultures to the prey. Those who had remained in Denmark, with their brothers of Norway, fanatical pagans, incensed against the Christians, made a descent on all the surrounding coasts. Their sea-kings, “who 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 hewed with our swords," says a song attributed to Ragnar Lodbrog; "was it not like that hour when my bright bride I seated by me on the couch ?” 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, drew his lungs out, and threw salt into his wounds. 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 have sent to sleep in blood those who kept the gates." From such table-talk, and such maidenly tastes, we may judge of the rest.3
1 Aug. Thierry, Hist. S. Edmundi, vi. 441. See Ynglingasaga, and especially Egil's Saga.
2 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.
3 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
Behold them now in England, more settled and wealthier : do you expect 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 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 cattle and sheep; 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 civilization 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 extending to 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
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 muniments of each country will fill up the gaps that exist in the history of the others.
i Tacitus, De mor. Germ. xxii. : Gens nec astuta nec callida. 2 W. of Malmesbury. Henry of Huntingdon, vi. 365.
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 Dunstan, forecasting the extent of the royal appetite, had furnished the house. so that the cup-bearers, as is the custom at royal feasts, were able the whole day to serve it out in horns and other vessels, and tne 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 gesticulate, to feel their veins heated and swollen with wine, to hear and see around them the riotous orgies, this was the first need of the Barbarians. The heavy human brute gluts himself with sensations and with noise.
For such appetites there was a stronger food,-I mean blows and battle. In vain they attached themselves to the soil, became tillers of the ground, in distinct communities and distinct regions, shut up? in their march with their kindred and comrades, bound together, separated from the mass, enclosed 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 cruel 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. The animal was yet too powerful, too impetuous,
i Tacitus, De moribus Germanorum, xxii. xxiii.
2 Kemble, Saxons in England, 1849, i. 70, ü. 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.” 3 A large district; the word is still existing in German, as Rheingau, Breisgau.—TR. 4 Turner, Hist. of the Anglo-Sax. ii. 440, Laws of Ina. 5 Such a band consisted of thirty-five men or more.