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A Literary History of the English People - From the Origins to the Renaissance
by Jean Jules Jusserand
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A Literary History of the English People



BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

* * * * *

ENGLISH WAYFARING LIFE IN THE MIDDLE AGES (XIVth Century). Translated by L. T. Smith. Revised and Enlarged by the Author. 4th Edition. 61 Illustrations. Large crown 8vo, cloth, 7s. 6d.

"An extremely fascinating book."—Times.

THE ENGLISH NOVEL IN THE TIME OF SHAKESPEARE.

Translated by E. Lee. Revised and Enlarged by the Author. Illustrated by 6 Heliogravures by Dujardin, and 21 full-page and many smaller illustrations. 3rd Edition. Large crown 8vo, cloth, 7s. 6d.

"One of the brightest, most scholarly, and most interesting volumes of literary history."—Speaker.

A FRENCH AMBASSADOR AT THE COURT OF CHARLES II.: Le Comte de Cominges, from his unpublished correspondence.

10 Portraits. Second Edition. Large crown 8vo, cloth, 7s. 6d.

"The whole book is delightful reading."—Spectator.

PIERS PLOWMAN: A Contribution to the History of English Mysticism.

Translated by M. E. R. Revised and Enlarged by the Author. Illustrated. Demy 8vo, cloth, 12s.

"This masterly interpretation of an epoch-making book."—Standard.

* * * * *

London: T. FISHER UNWIN.



A Literary History of The English People

from the Origins To the Renaissance



By

J. J. Jusserand



London T. Fisher Unwin Mdcccccv



PREFACE

Many histories have preceded this one; many others will come after. Such is the charm of the subject that volunteers will never be lacking to undertake this journey, so hard, so delightful too.

As years go on, the journey lengthens: wider grows the field, further advance the seekers, and from the top of unexplored headlands, through morning mists, they descry the outlines of countries till then unknown. They must be followed to realms beyond the grave, to the silent domains of the dead, across barren moors and frozen fens, among chill rushes and briars that never blossom, till those Edens of poetry are reached, the echoes of which, by a gift of fairies or of muses, still vibrate to the melody of voices long since hushed.

More has been done during the last fifty years to shed light on the origins than in all the rest of modern times. Deciphering, annotating, printing, have gone on at an extraordinary pace and without interruption; the empire of letters has thus been enlarged, according to the chances of the explorers' discoveries, by gardens and deserts, cloudy immensities, and boundless forests; its limits have receded into space: at least so it seems to us. We laugh at the simplicity of honest Robertson, who in the last century wondered at the superabundance of historical documents accessible in his time: the day is not far distant when we shall be laughed at in the same way for our own simplicity.

The field of literary history widens in another manner yet, and one that affects us more nearly. The years glide on so rapidly that the traveller who started to explore the lands of former times, absorbed by his task, oblivious of days and months, is surprised on his return at beholding how the domain of the past has widened. To the past belongs Tennyson, the laureate; to the past belongs Browning, and that ruddy smiling face, manly and kind, which the traveller to realms beyond intended to describe from nature on his coming back among living men, has faded away, and the grey slab of Westminster covers it. A thing of the past, too, the master who first in France taught the way, daring in his researches, straightforward in his judgments, unmindful of consequences, mindful of Truth alone; whose life was a model no less than his work. The work subsists, but who shall tell what the life has been, and what there was beneficent in that patriarchal voice with its clear, soft, and dignified tones? The life of Taine is a work which his other works have not sufficiently made known.

The task is an immense one; its charm can scarcely be expressed. No one can understand, who has not been there himself, the delight found in those far-off retreats, sanctuaries beyond the reach of worldly troubles. In the case of English literature the delight is the greater from the fact that those silent realms are not the realms of death absolute; daylight is perceived in the distance; the continuity of life is felt. The dead of Westminster have left behind them a posterity, youthful in its turn, and life-giving. Their descendants move around us; under our eyes the inheritors of what has been prepare what shall be. In this lies one of the great attractions of this literature and of the French one too. Like the French it has remote origins; it is ample, beautiful, measureless; no one will go the round of it; it is impossible to write its complete history. An attempt has been made in this line for French literature; the work undertaken two centuries ago by Benedictines, continued by members of the Institute, is still in progress; it consists at this day of thirty volumes in quarto, and only the year 1317 has been reached. And with all that immense past and those far-distant origins, those two literatures have a splendid present betokening a splendid future. Both are alive to-day and vigorous; ready to baffle the predictions of miscreants, they show no sign of decay. They are ever ready for transformations, not for death. Side by side or face to face, in peace or war, both literatures like both peoples have been in touch for centuries, and in spite of hates and jealousies they have more than once vivified each other. These actions and reactions began long ago, in Norman times and even before; when Taillefer sang Roland, and when Alcuin taught Charlemagne.

The duty of the traveller visiting already visited countries is to not limit himself to general descriptions, but to make with particular care the kind of observations for which circumstances have fitted him best. If he has the eye of the painter, he will trace and colour with unfailing accuracy hues and outlines; if he has the mind of the scientist, he will study the formation of the ground and classify the flora and fauna. If he has no other advantage but the fact that circumstances have caused him to live in the country, at various times, for a number of years, in contact with the people, in calm days and stormy days, he will perhaps make himself useful, if, while diminishing somewhat in his book the part usually allowed to technicalities and aesthetic problems, he increases the part allotted to the people and to the nation: a most difficult task assuredly; but, whatever be his too legitimate apprehensions, he must attempt it, having no other chance, when so much has been done already, to be of any use. The work in such a case will not be, properly speaking, a "History of English Literature," but rather a "Literary History of the English People."

Not only will the part allotted to the nation itself be greater in such a book than habitually happens, but several manifestations of its genius, generally passed over in silence, will have to be studied. The ages during which the national thought expressed itself in languages which were not the national one, will not be allowed to remain blank, as if, for complete periods, the inhabitants of the island had ceased to think at all. The growing into shape of the people's genius will have to be studied with particular attention. The Chapter House of Westminster will be entered, and there will be seen how the nation, such as it was then represented, became conscious, even under the Plantagenets, of its existence, rights and power. Philosophers and reformers must be questioned concerning the theories which they spread: and not without some purely literary advantage. Bacon, Hobbes, and Locke are the ancestors of many poets who have never read their works, but who have breathed an air impregnated with their thought. Dreamers will be followed, singers, tale-tellers, and preachers, wherever it pleases them to lead us: to the Walhalla of the north, to the green dales of Erin, to the Saxon church of Bradford-on-Avon, to Blackheath, to the "Tabard" and the "Mermaid," to the "Globe," to "Will's" coffee house, among ruined fortresses, to cloud-reaching steeples, or along the furrow sown to good intent by Piers the honest Plowman.

The work, the first part of which is now published, is meant to be divided into three volumes; but as "surface as small as possible must be offered to the shafts of Fortune," each volume will make a complete whole in itself, the first telling the literary story of the English up to the Renaissance, the second up to the accession of King Pope, the last up to our own day. The present version has been prepared with the help of M. E. R., who have once more lent me their most kind and valuable assistance. I beg them to accept the expression of my heartfelt gratitude.

No attempt has been made to say everything and be complete. Many notes will however allow the curious to go themselves to the sources, to verify, to see with their own eyes, and, if they find cause (absit omen!), to disagree. In those notes most of the space has been filled by references to originals; little has been left for works containing criticisms and appreciations: the want of room is the only reason, not the want of reverence and sympathy for predecessors.

To be easily understood one must be clear, and, to be clear, qualifications and attenuations must be reduced to a minimum. The reader will surely understand that many more "perhapses" and "abouts" were in the mind of the author than will be found in print; he will make, in his benevolence, due allowance for the roughness of that instrument, speech, applied to events, ideas, theories, things of beauty, as difficult to measure with rule as "the myst on Malverne hulles." He will know that when Saxons are described as having a sad, solemn genius, and not numbering among their pre-eminent qualities the gift of repartee, it does not mean that for six centuries they all of them sat and wept without intermission, and that when asked a question they never knew what to answer. All men are men, and have human qualities more or less developed in their minds; nothing more is implied in those passages but that one quality was more developed in one particular race of men and that in another.

When a book is just finished, there is always for the author a most doleful hour, when, retracing his steps, he thinks of what he has attempted, the difficulties of the task, the unlikeliness that he has overcome them. Misprints taking wrong numbers by the hand, black and thorny creatures, dance their wild dance round him. He is awe-stricken, and shudders; he wonders at the boldness of his undertaking; "Qu'allait-il faire dans cette galere?" The immensity of the task, the insufficience of the means stand in striking contrast. He had started singing on his journey; now he looks for excuses to justify his having ever begun it. Usually, it must be confessed, he finds some, prints them or not, and recovers his spirits. I have published other works; I think I did not print the excuses I found to explain the whys and the wherefores; they were the same in all cases: roadway stragglers, Piers Plowman, Count Cominges, Tudor novelists, were in a large measure left-off subjects. No books had been dedicated to them; the attempt, therefore, could not be considered as an undue intrusion. But in the present case, what can be said, what excuse can be found, when so many have written, and so well too?

The author of this book once had a drive in London; when it was finished, he offered the cabman his fare. Cabman glanced at it; it did not look much in his large, hollow hand; he said: "I want sixpence more." Author said: "Why? It is the proper fare; I know the distance very well; give me a reason." Cabman mused for a second, and said: "I should like it so!"

I might perhaps allege a variety of reasons, but the true one is the same as the cabman's. I did this because I could not help it; I loved it so.

J.

All Souls Day, 1894.



TABLE OF CONTENTS.

Preface 1

BOOK I.

THE ORIGINS.

CHAPTER I.

BRITANNIA.

I. Fusion of Races in France and in England.—First inhabitants—Celtic realms—The Celts in Britain—Similitude with the Celts of Gaul—Their religion—Their quick minds—Their gift of speech 3

II. Celtic Literature.—Irish stories—Wealth of that literature—Its characteristics—The dramatic gift—Inventiveness—Heroic deeds—Familiar dialogues—Love and woman—Welsh tales 9

III. Roman Conquest.—Duration and results—First coming of the Germanic invader 18

CHAPTER II.

THE GERMANIC INVASION.

The mother country of the Germanic invader—Tacitus—Germans and Scandinavians—The great invasions—Character of the Teutonic nations—Germanic kingdoms established in formerly Roman provinces. Jutes, Frisians, Angles, and Saxons—British resistance and defeat—Problem of the Celtic survival—Results of the Germanic invasions in England and France 21

CHAPTER III.

THE NATIONAL POETRY OF THE ANGLO-SAXONS.

I. The Poetry of the North.—The Germanic period of English literature—Its characteristics—Anglo-Saxon poetry stands apart and does not submit to Celtic influence—Comparison with Scandinavian literature—The Eddas and Sagas; the "Corpus Poeticum Boreale"—The heroes; their tragical adventures—Their temper and sorrows 36

II. Anglo-Saxon Poems.—War-songs—Epic tales—Waldhere, Beowulf—Analysis of "Beowulf"—The ideal of happiness in "Beowulf"—Landscapes—Sad meditations—The idea of death—Northern snows 45

CHAPTER IV.

CHRISTIAN LITERATURE AND PROSE LITERATURE OF THE ANGLO-SAXONS.

I. Conversion.—Arrival of Augustine—The new teaching—The imperial idea and the Christian idea—Beginnings of the new faith—Heathen survivals—Convents and schools—Religious kings and princes—Proselytism, St. Boniface 60

II. Latin Culture.—Manuscripts—Alcuin, St. Boniface, Aldhelm, AEddi, Bede—Life and writings of Bede—His "Ecclesiastical History"—His sympathy for the national literature 65

III. Christian Poems.—The genius of the race remains nearly unchanged—Heroical adventures of the saints—Paraphrase of the Bible—Caedmon—Cynewulf—His sorrows and despair—"Dream of the Rood"—"Andreas"—Lugubrious sights—The idea of death—Dialogues—Various poems—The "Physiologus"—"Phoenix" 68

IV. Prose—Alfred the Great.—Laws and charters—Alfred and the Danish invasions—The fight for civilisation—Translation of works by St. Gregory, Orosius (travels of Ohthere), Boethius (story of Orpheus)—Impulsion given to prose—Werferth—Anglo-Saxon Chronicles—Character of Alfred. 78

V. St. Dunstan—Sermons.—St. Dunstan (tenth century) resumes the work of Alfred—Translation of pious works—Collections of sermons—AElfric, Wulfstan, "Blickling" homilies—Attempt to reach literary dignity. End of the Anglo-Saxon period 88

BOOK II.

THE FRENCH INVASION.

CHAPTER I.

BATTLE.

I. The Invaders of the Year 1066.—England between two civilisations—The North and South—The Scandinavians at Stamford-bridge. The Normans of France—The army of William is a French army—Character of William—The battle—Occupation of the country 97

II. England bound to Southern Civilisations.—Policy of William—Survey of his new domains—Unification—The successors of William—Their practical mind and their taste for adventures—Taste for art—French families settled in England—Continental possessions of English kings—French ideal—Unification of origins—Help from chroniclers and poets—The Trojan ancestor 104

CHAPTER II.

LITERATURE IN THE FRENCH LANGUAGE UNDER THE NORMAN AND ANGEVIN KINGS.

I. Diffusion of the French Language.—The French language superimposed on the English one—Its progress; even among "lowe men"—Authors of English blood write their works in French 116

II. The French Literature of the Normans and Angevins.—It is animated by their own practical and adventurous mind—Practical works: chronicles, scientific and pious treatises 120

III. Epic Romances.—The Song of Roland and the Charlemagne cycle—Comparison with "Beowulf"—The matter of Rome—How antiquity is translated—Wonders—The matter of Britain—Love—Geoffrey of Monmouth—Tristan and Iseult—Lancelot and Guinevere—Woman—Love as a passion and love as a ceremonial 125

IV. Lays and Chansons.—Shorter stories—Lays of Marie de France—Chansons of France—Songs in French composed in England 141

V. Satirical and Ironical Works.—Such works introduced in England—The pilgrimage of Charlemagne—The "Roman de Renart," a universal comedy—Fabliaux—Their migrations—Their aim—Their influence in England 146

CHAPTER III.

LATIN.

I. The Ties with Rome.—William I., Henry II., John—Church lands—The "exempt" abbeys—Coming of the friars—The clergy in Parliament—Part played by prelates in the State—Warrior prelates, administrators, scavants, saints 157

II. Spreading of Knowledge.—Latin education—Schools and libraries—Book collectors: Richard of Bury—Paris, chief town for Latin studies—The Paris University; its origins, teaching, and organisation—English students at Paris—Oxford and Cambridge—Studies, battles, feasts—Colleges, chests, libraries 166

III. Latin Poets.—Joseph of Exeter and the Trojan war—Epigrammatists, satirists, fabulists, &c.—Nigel Wireker and the ass whose tail was too short—Theories: Geoffrey of Vinesauf and his New Art of Poetry 176

IV. Latin Prosators—Tales and Exempla.—Geoffrey of Monmouth—Moralised tales—"Gesta Romanorum"—John of Bromyard—"Risque" tales, fables in prose, miracles of the Virgin, romantic tales—A Latin sketch of the "Merchant of Venice"—John of Salisbury; Walter Map—Their pictures of contemporary manners 181

V. Theologians, Jurists, Scientists, Historians.—The "Doctors"; Scot, Bacon, Ockham, Bradwardine, &c.—Gaddesden the physician—Bartholomew the encyclopaedist—Roman law and English law—Vacarius, Glanville, Bracton, &c. History—Composition of chronicles in monasteries—Impartiality of chroniclers—Their idea of historical art—Henry of Huntingdon, William of Malmesbury, Matthew Paris—Observation of manners, preservation of characteristic anecdotes, attempt to paint with colours—Higden, Walsingham and others 193

CHAPTER IV.

LITERATURE IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.

I. Pious Literature.—A period of silence—First works (pious ones) copied, translated or composed in English after the Conquest—Sermons—Lives of saints—Treatises of various sort—"Ancren Riwle"—Translation of French treatises—Life and works of Rolle of Hampole 204

II. Worldly Literature.—Adaptation and imitation of French writings—The "Brut" of Layamon—Translation of romances of chivalry—Romances dedicated to heroes of English origin—Satirical fabliaux—Renard in English—Lays and tales—Songs—Comparison with French chansons 219

BOOK III.

ENGLAND TO THE ENGLISH.

CHAPTER I.

THE NEW NATION.

I. Fusion of Races and Languages.—Abolition of the presentment of Englishery, 1340—Survival of the French language in the fourteenth century—The decline—Part played by "lowe men" in the formation of the English language—The new vocabulary—The new prosody—The new grammar—The definitive language of England an outcome of a transaction between the Anglo-Saxon and the French language 235

II. Political Formation.—The nation coalesces—The ties with France and Rome are loosening or breaking—A new source of power, Westminster—Formation, importance, privileges of Parliament under the Plantagenets—Spirit of the Commons—Their Norman bargains—Comparison with France 248

III. Maritime Power; Wealth and Arts.—Importance of the English trade in the fourteenth century—The great traders—Their influence on State affairs—The English, "rois de la mer"—Taste for travels and adventures. Arts—Gold, silver and ivory—Miniatures and enamels—Architecture—Paintings and tapestries—Comparative comfort of houses—The hall and table—Dresses—The nude—The cult for beauty 255

CHAPTER II.

CHAUCER.

The Poet of the new nation 267

I. Youth of Chaucer.—His London life—London in the fourteenth century—Chaucer as a page—His French campaigns—Valettus camerae Regis—Esquire—Married life—Poetry a la mode—Machault, Deguileville, Froissart, Des Champs, &c.—Chaucer's love ditties—The "Roman de la Rose"—"Book of the Duchesse" 268

II. Period of the Missions to France and Italy.—The functions of an ambassador and messenger—Various missions—Chaucer in Italy, 1372-3, 1378-9—Influence of Italian art and literature on Chaucer—London again; the Custom House; Aldgate—Works of this period—Latin and Italian deal—The gods of Olympus, the nude, the classics—Imitation of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio—"Hous of Fame" 282

III. Troilus and Criseyde.—Plot derived from Boccaccio but transformed—A novel and a drama—Life and variety—Heroism and vulgarity—Troilus, Pandarus, Cressida—Scenes of comedy—Attempt at psychological analysis—Nuances in Cressida's feelings—Her inconstancy—Melancholy and grave ending—Difference with Boccaccio and Pierre de Beauveau 298

IV. English Period.—Chaucer a member of Parliament—Clerk of the king's works—"Canterbury Tales"—The meeting at the "Tabard"—Gift of observation—Real life, details—Difference with Froissart—Humour, sympathy—Part allotted to "lowe men." The collections of tales—The "Decameron"—The aim of Chaucer and of Boccaccio—Chaucer's variety; speakers and listeners—Dialogues—Principal tales—Facetious and coarse ones—Plain ones—Fairy tales—Common life—Heroic deeds—Grave examples—Sermon. The care for truth—Good sense of Chaucer—His language and versification—Chaucer and the Anglo-Saxons—Chaucer and the French 312

V. Last Years.—Chaucer, King of Letters—His retreat in St. Mary's, Westminster—His death—His fame 341

CHAPTER III.

THE GROUP OF POETS.

Coppice and forest trees 344

I. Metrical Romances.—Jugglers and minstrels—Their life, deeds, and privileges—Decay of the profession towards the time of the Renaissance—Romances of the "Sir Thopas" type—Monotony; inane wonders—Better examples: "Morte Arthure," "William of Palerne," "Gawayne and the Green Knight"—Merits of "Gawayne"—From (probably) the same author, "Pearl," on the death of a young maid—Vision of the Celestial City 344

II. Amorous Ballads and Popular Poetry.—Poetry at Court—The Black Prince and the great—Professional poets come to the help of the great—The Pui of London; its competitions, music and songs—Satirical songs on women, friars, fops, &c. 352

III. Patriotic Poetry.—Robin Hood—"When Adam delved"—Claims of peasants—Answers to the peasants' claims—National glories—Adam Davy—Crecy, Poictiers, Neville's Cross—Laurence Minot—Recurring sadness—French answers—Scottish answers—Barbour's "Bruce"—Style of Barbour—Barbour and Scott 359

IV. John Gower.—His origin, family, turn of mind—He belongs to Angevin England—He is tri-lingual—Life and principal works—French ballads—Latin poem on the rising of the peasants, 1381, and on the vices of society—Poem in English, "Confessio Amantis"—Style of Gower—His tales and exempla—His fame 364

CHAPTER IV.

WILLIAM LANGLAND AND HIS VISIONS.

Langland first poet of the period after Chaucer 373

I. Life and Works.—A general view—Birth, education, natural disposition—Life at Malvern—His unsettled state of mind—Curiosities and failures—Life in London—Chantries—Disease of the will—Religious doubts—The faith of the simple—His book a place of refuge for him 374

II. Analysis of the Visions.—The pilgrims of Langland and the pilgrims of Chaucer—The road to Canterbury and the way to Truth—Lady Meed; her betrothal, her trial—Speech of Reason—The hero of the work, Piers the Plowman—A declaration of duties—Sermons—The siege of hell—The end of life 382

III. Political Society and Religious Society.—Comparison with Chaucer—Langland's crowds—Langland an insular and a parliamentarian—The "Visions" and the "Rolls of Parliament" agree on nearly all points—Langland at one with the Commons—Organisation of the State—Reforms—Relations with France, with the Pope—Religious buyers and sellers—The ideal of Langland 388

IV. Art and Aim.—Duplication of his personality—"Nuit de Decembre"—Sincerity—Incoherences—Scene-shifting—Joys forbidden and allowed—A motto for Langland—His language, vocabulary, dialect, versification—Popularity of the work—Fourteenth and fifteenth centuries—Time of the Reformation 394

CHAPTER V.

PROSE IN THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY.

The "father of English prose" 403

I. Translators and Adaptators.—Slow growth of the art of prose—Comparison with France; historians and novelists—Survival of Latin prose—Walsingham and other chroniclers—Their style and eloquence—Translators—Trevisa—The translation of the Travels of "Mandeville"—The "Mandeville" problem—Jean de Bourgogne and his journey through books—Immense success of the Travels—Style of the English translation—Chaucer's prose 404

II. Oratorical Art.—Civil eloquence—Harangues and speeches—John Ball—Parliamentary eloquence—A parliamentary session under the Plantagenet kings—Proclamation—Opening speech—Flowery speeches and business speeches—Debates—Answers of the Commons—Their Speaker—Government orators, Knyvet, Wykeham, &c.—Opposition orators, Peter de la Mare—Bargains and remonstrances—Attitude and power of the Commons—Use of the French language—Speeches in English 412

III. Wyclif. His Life.—His parentage—Studies at Oxford—His character—Functions and dignities—First difficulties with the religious authority—Scene in St. Paul's—Papal bulls—Scene at Lambeth—The "simple priests"—Attacks against dogmas—Life at Lutterworth—Death 422

IV. Latin Works of Wyclif.—His Latin—His theory of the Dominium—His starting-point: the theory of Fitzralph—Extreme, though logical, consequence of the doctrine: communism—Qualifications and attenuations—Tendency towards Royal supremacy 427

V. English Works of Wyclif.—He wants to be understood by all—He translates the Bible—Popularity of the translation—Sermons and treatises—His style—Humour, eloquence, plain dealing—Paradoxes and utopies—Lollards—His descendants in Bohemia and elsewhere 432

CHAPTER VI.

THE THEATRE.

I. Origins. Civil Sources.—Mimes and histrions—Amusements and sights provided by histrions—How they raise a laugh—Facetious tales told with appropriate gestures—Dialogues and repartees—Parodies and caricatures—Early interludes—Licence of amusers—Bacchanals in churches and cemeteries—Holy things derided—Feasts of various sorts—Processions and pageants—"Tableaux Vivants"—Compliments and dialogues—Feasts at Court—"Masks" 439

II. Religious Sources.—Mass—Dialogues introduced in the Christmas service—The Christmas cycle (Old Testament)—The Easter cycle (New Testament). The religious drama in England—Life of St. Catherine (twelfth century)—Popularity of Mysteries in the fourteenth century—Treatises concerning those representations—Testimony of Chaucer William of Wadington—Collection of Mysteries in English. Performances—Players, scaffolds or pageants, dresses, boxes, scenery, machinery—Miniature by Jean Fouquet—Incoherences and anachronisms 456

III. Literary and Historical value of Mysteries.—The ancestors' feelings and tastes—Sin and redemption—Caricature of kings—Their "boast"—Their use of the French tongue—They have to maintain silence—Popular scenes—Noah and his wife—The poor workman and the taxes—A comic pastoral—The Christmas shepherds—Mak and the stolen sheep 476

IV. Decay of the Mediaeval Stage.—Moralities—Personified abstractions—The end of Mysteries—They continue being performed in the time of Shakespeare 489

CHAPTER VII.

THE END OF THE MIDDLE AGES.

I. Decline.—Chaucer's successors—The decay of art is obvious even to them—The society for which they write is undergoing a transformation—Lydgate and Hoccleve 495

II. Scotsmen.—They imitate Chaucer but with more freedom—James I.—Blind Harry—Henryson—The town mouse and the country mouse—Dunbar—Gavin Douglas—Popular ballads—Poetry in the flamboyant style 503

III. Material welfare; Prose.—Development of the lower and middle class—Results of the wars—Trade, navy, savings. Books of courtesy—Familiar letters; Paston Letters—Guides for the traveller and trader—Fortescue and his praise of English institutions—Pecock and his defence of the clergy—His style and humour—Compilers, chroniclers, prosators of various sort—Malory, Caxton, Juliana Berners, Capgrave, &c. 513

IV. The Dawn of the Renaissance.—The literary movement in Italy—Greek studies—Relations with Eastern men of letters—Turkish wars and Greek exiles—Taking of Constantinople by Mahomet II.—Consequences felt in Italy, France, and England 523

Index 527



BOOK I.

THE ORIGINS.



CHAPTER I.

BRITANNIA.

I.

The people that now occupies England was formed, like the French people, by the fusion of several superimposed races. In both countries the same races met and mingled at about the same period, but in different proportions and under dissimilar social conditions. Hence the striking resemblances and sharply defined contrasts that exist in the genius of the two nations. Hence also the contradictory sentiments which mutually animated them from century to century, those combinations and recurrences of esteem that rose to admiration, and jealousy that swelled to hate. Hence, again, the unparalleled degree of interest they offer, one for the other. The two people are so dissimilar that in borrowing from each other they run no risk of losing their national characteristics and becoming another's image; and yet, so much alike are they, it is impossible that what they borrowed should remain barren and unproductive. These loans act like leaven: the products of English thought during the Augustan age of British literature were mixed with French leaven, and the products of French thought during the Victor Hugo period were penetrated with English yeast.

Ancient writers have left us little information concerning the remotest period and the oldest inhabitants of the British archipelago; works which would be invaluable to us exist only in meagre fragments. Important gaps have fortunately been filled, owing to modern Science and to her manifold researches. She has inherited the wand of the departed wizards, and has touched with her talisman the gate of sepulchres; the tombs have opened and the dead have spoken. What countries did thy war-ship visit? she inquired of the Scandinavian viking. And in answer the dead man, asleep for centuries among the rocks of the Isle of Skye, showed golden coins of the caliphs in his skeleton hand. These coins are not a figure of speech; they are real, and may be seen at the Edinburgh Museum. The wand has touched old undeciphered manuscripts, and broken the charm that kept them dumb. From them rose songs, music, love-ditties, and war-cries: phrases so full of life that the living hearts of to-day have been stirred by them; words with so much colour in them that the landscape familiar to the eyes of the Celts and Germans has reappeared before us.

Much remains undiscovered, and the dead hold secrets they may yet reveal. In the unexplored tombs of the Nile valley will be found one day, among the papyri stripped from Ptolemaic mummies, the account of a journey made to the British Isles about 330 B.C., by a Greek of Marseilles named Pytheas, a contemporary of Aristotle and Alexander the Great, of which a few sentences only have been preserved.[1] But even now the darkness which enveloped the origin has been partly cleared away.

To the primitive population, the least known of all, that reared the stones of Carnac in France, and in England the gigantic circles of Stonehenge and Avebury, succeeded in both countries, many centuries before Christ, the Celtic race.

The Celts ([Greek: keltai]) were thus called by the Greeks from the name of one of their principal tribes, in the same way as the French, English, Scottish, and German nations derive theirs from that of one of their principal tribes. They occupied, in the third century before our era, the greater part of Central Europe, of the France of to-day, of Spain, and of the British Isles. They were neighbours of the Greeks and Latins; the centre of their possessions was in Bavaria. From there, and not from Gaul, set out the expeditions by which Rome was taken, Delphi plundered, and a Phrygian province rebaptized Galatia. Celtic cemeteries abound throughout that region; the most remarkable of them was discovered, not in France, but at Hallstadt, near Salzburg, in Austria.[2]

The language of the Celts was much nearer the Latin tongue than the Germanic idioms; it comprised several dialects, and amongst them the Gaulish, long spoken in Gaul, the Gaelic, the Welsh, and the Irish, still used in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The most important of the Celtic tribes, settled in the main island beyond the Channel, gave itself the name of Britons. Hence the name of Britain borne by the country, and indirectly that also of Great Britain, now the official appellation of England. The Britons appear to have emigrated from Gaul and established themselves among the other Celtic tribes already settled in the island, about the third century before Christ.

During several hundred years, from the time of Pytheas to that of the Roman conquerors, the Mediterranean world remained ignorant of what took place among insular Britons, and we are scarcely better informed than they were. The centre of human civilisation had been moved from country to country round the great inland sea, having now reached Rome, without anything being known save that north of Gaul existed a vast country, surrounded by water, rich in tin mines, covered by forests, prairies, and morasses, from which dense mists arose.

Three centuries elapse; the Romans are settled in Gaul. Caesar, at the head of his legions, has avenged the city for the insults of the Celtic invaders, but the strife still continues; Vercingetorix has not yet appeared. Actuated by that sense of kinship so deeply rooted in the Celts, the effects of which are still to be seen from one shore of the Atlantic to the other, the Britons had joined forces with their compatriots of the Continent against the Roman. Caesar resolved to lead his troops to the other side of the Channel, but he knew nothing of the country, and wished first to obtain information. He questioned the traders; they told him little, being, as they said, acquainted only with the coasts, and that slightly. Caesar embarked in the night of August 24th-25th, the year 55 before our era; it took him somewhat more time to cross the strait than is now needed to go from Paris to London. His expedition was a real voyage of discovery; and he was careful, during his two sojourns in the island, to examine as many people as possible, and note all he could observe concerning the customs of the natives. The picture he draws of the former inhabitants of England strikes us to-day as very strange. "The greater part of the people of the interior," he writes, "do not sow; they live on milk and flesh, and clothe themselves in skins. All Britons stain themselves dark blue with woad, which gives them a terrible aspect in battle. They wear their hair long, and shave all their body except their hair and moustaches."

Did we forget the original is in Latin, we might think the passage was extracted from the travels of Captain Cook; and this is so true that, in the account of his first journey around the world, the great navigator, on arriving at the island of Savu, notices the similitude himself.

With the exception of a few details, the Celtic tribes of future England were similar to those of future France.[3] Brave like them, with an undisciplined impetuosity that often brought them to grief (the impetuosity of Poictiers and Nicopolis), curious, quick-tempered, prompt to quarrel, they fought after the same fashion as the Gauls, with the same arms; and in the Witham and Thames have been found bronze shields similar in shape and carving to those graven on the triumphal arch at Orange, the image of which has now recalled for eighteen centuries Roman triumph and Celtic defeat. Horace's saying concerning the Gaulish ancestors applies equally well to Britons: never "feared they funerals."[4] The grave was for them without terrors; their faith in the immortality of the soul absolute; death for them was not the goal, but the link between two existences; the new life was as complete and desirable as the old, and bore no likeness to that subterranean existence, believed in by the ancients, partly localised in the sepulchre, with nothing sweeter in it than those sad things, rest and oblivion. According to Celtic belief, the dead lived again under the light of heaven; they did not descend, as they did with the Latins, to the land of shades. No Briton, Gaul, or Irish could have understood the melancholy words of Achilles: "Seek not, glorious Ulysses, to comfort me for death; rather would I till the ground for wages on some poor man's small estate than reign over all the dead."[5] The race was an optimistic one. It made the best of life, and even of death.

These beliefs were carefully fostered by the druids, priests and philosophers, whose part has been the same in Gaul, Ireland, and Britain. Their teaching was a cause of surprise and admiration to the Latins. "And you, druids," exclaims Lucan, "dwelling afar under the broad trees of the sacred groves, according to you, the departed visit not the silent Erebus, nor the dark realm of pallid Pluto; the same spirit animates a body in a different world. Death, if what you say is true, is but the middle of a long life. Happy the error of those that live under Arcturus; the worst of fears is to them unknown—the fear of death!"[6]

The inhabitants of Britain possessed, again in common with those of Gaul, a singular aptitude to understand and learn quickly. A short time after the Roman Conquest it becomes hard to distinguish Celtic from Roman workmanship among the objects discovered in tombs. Caesar is astonished to see how his adversaries improve under his eyes. They were simple enough at first; now they understand and foresee, and baffle his military stratagems. To this intelligence and curiosity is due, with all its advantages and drawbacks, the faculty of assimilation possessed by this race, and manifested to the same extent by no other in Europe.

The Latin authors also admired another characteristic gift in the men of this race: a readiness of speech, an eloquence, a promptness of repartee that distinguished them from their Germanic neighbours. The people of Gaul, said Cato, have two passions: to fight well and talk cleverly (argute loqui).[7] This is memorable evidence, since it reveals to us a quality of a literary order: we can easily verify its truth, for we know now in what kind of compositions, and with what talent the men of Celtic blood exercised their gift of speech.

II.

That the Celtic tribes on both sides of the Channel closely resembled each other in manners, tastes, language, and turn of mind cannot be doubted. "Their language differs little," says Tacitus; "their buildings are almost similar,"[8] says Caesar. The similitude of their literary genius is equally certain, for Cato's saying relates to continental Celts and can be checked by means of Irish poems and tales. Welsh stories of a later date afford us evidence fully as conclusive. If we change the epoch, the result will be the same; the main elements of the Celtic genius have undergone no modification; Armoricans, Britons, Welsh, Irish, and Scotch, are all inexhaustible tale-tellers, skilful in dialogue, prompt at repartee, and never to be taken unawares. Gerald de Barry, the Welshman, gives us a description of his countrymen in the twelfth century, which seems a paraphrase of what Cato had said of the Gaulish Celts fourteen hundred years before.[9]

Ireland has preserved for us the most ancient monuments of Celtic thought. Nothing has reached us of those "quantities of verses" that, according to Caesar, the druids taught their pupils in Gaul, with the command that they should never be written.[10] Only too well was the injunction obeyed. Nothing, again, has been transmitted to us of the improvisations of the Gallic or British bards ([Greek: bardoi]), whose fame was known to, and mentioned by, the ancients. In Ireland, however, Celtic literature had a longer period of development. The country was not affected by the Roman Conquest; the barbarian invasions did not bring about the total ruin they caused in England and on the Continent. The clerks of Ireland in the seventh and eighth centuries committed to writing the ancient epic tales of their land. Notwithstanding the advent of Christianity, the pagan origins constantly reappear in these narratives, and we are thus taken back to the epoch when they were primarily composed, and even to the time when the events related are supposed to have occurred. That time is precisely the epoch of Caesar and of the Christian era. Important works have, in our day, thrown a light on this literature[11]; but all is not yet accomplished, and it has been computed that the entire publication of the ancient Irish manuscripts would fill about a thousand octavo volumes. It cannot be said that the people who produced these works were men of scanty speech; and here again we recognise the immoderate love of tales and the insatiable curiosity that Caesar had noticed in the Celts of the Continent.[12]

Most of those Irish stories are part of the epic cycle of Conchobar and Cuchulainn, and concern the wars of Ulster and Connaught. They are in prose, interspersed with verse. Long before being written, they existed in the shape of well-established texts, repeated word for word by men whose avocation it was to know and remember, and who spent their lives in exercising their memory. The corporation of the File, or seers, was divided into ten classes, from the Oblar, who knew only seven stories, to the Ollam, who knew three hundred and fifty.[13] Unlike the bards, the File never invented, they remembered; they were obliged to know, not any stories whatsoever, but certain particular tales; lists of them have been found, and not a few of the stories entered in these catalogues have come down to us.

If we look through the collections that have been made of them, we can see that the Celtic authors of that period are already remarkable for qualities that have since shone with extreme brilliancy among various nations belonging to the same race: the sense of form and beauty, the dramatic gift, fertility of invention.[14] This is all the more noticeable as the epoch was a barbarous one, and a multitude of passages recall the wild savageness of the people. We find in these legends as many scenes of slaughter and ferocious deeds as in the oldest Germanic poems: Provincia ferox, said Tacitus of Britain. The time is still distant when woman shall become a deity; the murder of a man is compensated by twenty-one head of cattle, and the murder of a woman by three head only.[15] The warlike valour of the heroes is carried as far as human nature and imagination allow; not even Roland or Ragnar Lodbrok die more heroically than Cuchulainn, who, mortally wounded, dies standing:

"He fixed his eye on this hostile group. Then he leaned himself against the high stone in the plain, and, by means of his belt, he fastened his body to the high stone. Neither sitting nor lying would he die; but he would die standing. Then his enemies gathered round him. They remained about him, not daring to approach; he seemed to be still alive."[16]

At the same time, things of beauty have their place in these tales. There are birds and flowers; women are described with loving admiration; their cheeks are purple "as the fox-glove," their locks wave in the light.

Above all, such a dramatic gift is displayed as to stand unparalleled in any European literature at its dawn.[17] Celtic poets excel in the art of giving a lifelike representation of deeds and events, of graduating their effects, and making their characters talk; they are matchless for speeches and quick repartees. Compositions have come down to us that are all cut out into dialogues, so that the narrative becomes a drama. In such tales as the "Murder of the Sons of Usnech," or "Cuchulainn's Sickness," in which love finds a place, these remarkable traits are to be seen at their best. The story of "Mac Datho's Pig" is as powerfully dramatic and savage as the most cruel Germanic or Scandinavian songs; but it is at the same time infinitely more varied in tone and artistic in shape. Pictures of everyday life, familiar fireside discussions abound, together with the scenes of blood loved by all nations in the season of their early manhood.

"There was," we read, "a famous king of Leinster, called Mac Datho. This king owned a dog, Ailbe by name, who defended the whole province and filled Erin with his fame."[18] Ailill, king of Connaught, and Conchobar, king of Ulster, claim the dog; and Mac Datho, much perplexed, consults his wife, who suggests that he should promise Ailbe to both. On the appointed day, the warriors of the two countries come to fetch the dog of renown, and a grand banquet is served them by Mac Datho, the principal dish of which is a rare kind of pig—"three hundred cows had fed him for seven years." Scarcely are the guests seated, when the dialogues begin:

"That pig looks good," says Conchobar.

"Truly, yes," replies Ailill; "but, Conchobar, how shall he be carved?"

"What more simple in this hall, where sit the glorious heroes of Erin?" cried, from his couch, Bricriu, son of Carbad. "To each his share, according to his fights and deeds. But ere the shares are distributed, more than one rap on the nose will have been given and received."

"So be it," said Ailill.

"'Tis fair," said Conchobar. "We have with us the warriors who defended our frontiers."

Then each one rises in turn and claims the honour of carving: I did this.—I did still more.—I slew thy father.—I slew thy eldest son.—I gave thee that wound that still aches.

The warrior Cet had just told his awful exploits when Conall of Ulster rises against him and says:

"Since the day I first bore a spear, not often have I lacked the head of a man of Connaught to pillow mine upon. Not a single day or night has passed in which I slew not an enemy."

"I confess it," said Cet, "thou art a greater warrior than I; but were Anluan in this castle, he at least could compete with thee; 'tis a pity he is not present."

"He is here!" cried Conall, and drawing from his belt Anluan's head, he flung it on the table.

In the "Murder of the Sons of Usnech,"[19] woman plays the principal part. The mainspring of the story is love, and by it the heroes are led to death, a thing not to be found elsewhere in the European literature of the period. Still, those same heroes are not slight, fragile dreamers; if we set aside their love, and only consider their ferocity, they are worthy of the Walhalla of Woden. By the following example we may see how the insular Celts could love and die.

The child of Fedelmid's wife utters a cry in its mother's womb. They question Cathba the chief druid, who answers: "That which has clamoured within thee is a fair-haired daughter, with fair locks, a majestic glance, blue eyes, and cheeks purple as the fox-glove"; and he foretells the woes she will cause among men. This girl is Derdriu; she is brought up secretly and apart, in order to evade the prediction. One day, "she beheld a raven drink blood on the snow." She said to Leborcham:

"The only man I could love would be one who united those three colours: hair as black as the raven, cheeks red as blood, body as white as snow."

"Thou art lucky," answered Leborcham, "the man thou desirest is not far to seek, he is near thee, in this very castle; it is Noise, son of Usnech."

"I shall not be happy," returned Derdriu, "until I have seen him."

Noise justifies the young girl's expectations; he and his two brothers are incomparably valiant in war, and so swift are they that they outrun wild animals in the chase. Their songs are delightfully sweet. Noise is aware of the druid's prophecy, and at first spurns Derdriu, but she conquers him by force. They love each other. Pursued by their enemies the three brothers and Derdriu emigrate to Scotland, and take refuge with the king of Albion. One day the king's steward "sees Noise and his wife sleeping side by side. He went at once and awoke the king.

"'Till now,' he said, 'never had we found a woman worthy of thee; but the one who lies in the arms of Noise is the one for thee, king of the West! Cause Noise to be put to death, and marry his wife.'

"'No,' answered the king; 'but bid her come to me daily in secret.'

"The steward obeyed the king's commands, but in vain; what he told Derdriu by day she repeated to her husband the following night."

The sons of Usnech perish in an ambush. Conchobar seizes on Derdriu, but she continues to love the dead. "Derdriu passed a year with Conchobar; during that time never was a smile seen on her lips; she ate not, slept not, raised not her head from off her knees. When the musicians and jugglers tried to cheer her grief by their play, she told ..." she told her sorrow, and all that had made the delight of her life "in a time that was no more."

"I sleep not, I dye no more my nails with purple; lifeless is my soul, for the sons of Usnech will return no more. I sleep not half the night on my couch. My spirit travels around the multitudes. But I eat not, neither do I smile."

Conchobar out of revenge delivers her over for a year to the man she most hates, the murderer of Noise, who bears her off on a chariot; and Conchobar, watching this revolting sight, mocks her misery. She remains silent. "There in front of her rose a huge rock, she threw herself against it, her head struck and was shattered, and so she died."

An inexhaustible fertility of invention was displayed by the Celtic makers. They created the cycle of Conchobar, and afterwards that of Ossian, to which Macpherson's "adaptations" gave such world-wide renown that in our own century they directed Lamartine's early steps towards the realms of poetry. Later still they created the cycle of Arthur, most brilliant and varied of all, a perennial source of poetry, from whence the great French poet of the twelfth century sought his inspiration, and whence only yesterday the poet laureate of England found his. They collect in Wales the marvellous tales of the "Mabinogion"[20]; in them we find enchanters and fairies, women with golden hair, silken raiment, and tender hearts. They hunt, and a white boar starts out of the bushes; following him they arrive at a castle there, "where never had they seen trace of a building before." Pryderi ventures to penetrate into the precincts: "He entered and perceived neither man, nor beast; no boar, no dogs, no house, no place of habitation. On the ground towards the middle there was a fountain surrounded by marble, and on the rim of the fountain, resting on a marble slab, was a golden cup, fastened by golden chains tending upwards, the ends of which he could not see. He was enraptured by the glitter of the gold, and the workmanship of the cup. He drew near and grasped it. At the same instant his hands clove to the cup, and his feet to the marble slab on which it rested. He lost his voice, and was unable to utter a word." The castle fades away; the land becomes a desert once more; the heroes are changed into mice; the whole looks like a fragment drawn out of Ariosto, by Perrault, and told by him in his own way to children.

No wonder if the descendants of these indefatigable inventors are men with rich literatures, not meagre literatures of which it is possible to write a history without omitting anything, but deep and inexhaustible ones. The ends of their golden chains are not to be seen. And if a copious mixture of Celtic blood flows, though in different proportions, in the veins of the French and of the English, it will be no wonder if they happen some day to produce the greater number of the plays that are acted, and of the novels that are read, all over the civilised world.

III.

After a second journey, during which he passed the Thames, Caesar departed with hostages, this time never to return. The real conquest took place under the emperors, beginning from the reign of Claudius, and for three centuries and a half Britain was occupied and ruled by the Romans. They built a network of roads, of which the remains still subsist; they marked the distances by milestones, sixty of which have been found, and one, at Chesterholm, is still standing; they raised, from one sea to the other, against the people of Scotland, two great walls; one of them in stone, flanked by towers, and protected by moats and earth-works.[21] Fortified after the Roman fashion, defended by garrisons, the groups of British huts became cities; and villas, similar to those the remains of which are met with under the ashes of Pompeii and in the sands of Africa, rose in York, Bath, London, Lincoln, Cirencester, Aldborough, Woodchester, Bignor, and in a multitude of other places where they have since been found. Beneath the shade of the druidical oaks, the Roman glazier blew his light variegated flasks; the mosaic maker seated Orpheus on his panther, with his fingers on the Thracian lyre. Altars were built to the Roman deities; later to the God of Bethlehem, and one at least of the churches of that period still subsists, St. Martin of Canterbury.[22] Statues were raised for the emperors; coins were cast; weights were cut; ore was extracted from the mines; the potter moulded his clay vases, and, pending the time when they should be exhibited behind the glass panes of the British Museum, the legionaries used them to hold the ashes of their dead.

However far he went, the Roman carried Rome with him; he required his statues, his coloured pavements, his frescoes, his baths, all the comforts and delights of the Latin cities. Theatres, temples, towers, palaces rose in many of the towns of Great Britain, and some years ago a bathing room was discovered at Bath[23] a hundred and eleven feet long. Several centuries later Gerald de Barry passing through Caerleon noticed with admiration "many remains of former grandeur, immense palaces ... a gigantic tower, magnificent baths, and ruined temples."[24] The emperors could well come to Britain; they found themselves at home. Claudius, Vespasian, Titus, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius came there, either to win the title of "the Britannic" or to enjoy the charms of peace. Severus died at York in 211, and Caracalla there began his reign. Constantius Chlorus came to live in this town, and died there; and the prince destined to sanction the Romans' change of religion, Constantine the Great, was proclaimed emperor in the same city. Celtic Britain, the England that was to be, had become Roman and Christian, a country of land tillers who more or less spoke Latin.[25]

But the time of transformation was drawing nigh, and an enemy was already visible, against whom neither Hadrian's wall nor Antoninus' ramparts could prevail; for he came not from the Scottish mountains, but, as he himself said in his war-songs, "by the way of the whales." A new race of men had appeared on the shores of the island. After relating the campaigns of his father-in-law, Agricola, whose fleet had sailed around Britain and touched at the Orkneys, the attention of Tacitus had been drawn to Germany, a wild mysterious land. He had described it to his countrymen; he had enumerated its principal tribes, and among many others he had mentioned one which he calls Angli. He gives the name, and says no more, little suspecting the part these men were to play in history. The first act that was to make them famous throughout the world was to overthrow the political order, and to sweep away the civilisation, which the conquests of Agricola had established amongst the Britons.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] On Pytheas, see Elton, "Origins of English History," London, 1890, 8vo (2nd ed.), pp. 12 and following. He visited the coasts of Spain, Gaul, Britain, and returned by the Shetlands. The passages of his journal preserved for us by the ancients are given on pp. 400 and 401.

[2] See, on this subject, A. Bertrand, "La Gaule avant les Gaulois," Paris, 1891, 8vo (2nd ed.), pp. 7 and 13; D'Arbois de Jubainville, "Revue Historique," January-February, 1886.

[3] "Proximi Gallis, et similes sunt.... Sermo haud multum diversus: in deposcendis periculis eadem audacia ... plus tamen ferociae Britanni praeferunt, ut quos nondum longa pax emollierit ... manent quales Galli fuerunt." Tacitus, "Agricola," xi. "AEdificia fere Gallicis consimilia," Caesar "De Bello Gallico," v. The south was occupied by Gauls who had come from the Continent at a recent period. The Iceni were a Gallic tribe; the Trinobantes were Gallo-Belgae.

[4]

Te non paventis funera Galliae Duraque tellus audit Hiberiae.

("Ad Augustum," Odes, iv. 14.)

[5] "Odyssey," xi. l. 488 ff.

[6]

Et vos ... Druidae ... ... nemora alta remotis Incolitis lucis, vobis auctoribus, umbrae Non tacitas Erebi sedes, Ditisque profundi Pallida regna petunt; regit idem spiritus artus Orbe alio: longae (canitis si cognita) vitae Mors media est. Certe populi quos despicit Arctos, Felices errore suo, quos ille timorum Maximus, haud urget leti metus.

("Pharsalia," book i.)

[7] "Pleraque Gallia duas res industriosissime persequitur, rem militarem et argute loqui." "Origins," quoted by the grammarian Charisius. In Cato's time (third-second centuries B.C.) the word Gallia had not the restricted sense it had after Caesar, but designed the whole of the Celtic countries of the Continent. The ingenuity of the Celts manifested itself also in their laws: "From an intellectual point of view, the laws of the Welsh are their greatest title to glory. The eminent German jurist, F. Walter, points out that, in this respect, the Welsh are far in advance of the other nations of the Middle Ages. They give proof of a singular precision and subtlety of mind, and a great aptitude for philosophic speculation." "Les Mabinogion," by Lot, Paris, 1889, 2 vols. 8vo, vol. i. p. 7.

[8] See supra, p. 7, note.

[9] "De curia vero et familia viri, ut et circumstantibus risum moveant sibique loquendo laudem comparent, facetiam in sermone plurimam observant; dum vel sales, vel laedoria, nunc levi nunc mordaci, sub aequivocationis vel amphibolae nebula, relatione diversa, transpositione verborum et trajectione, subtiles et dicaces emittunt." And he cites examples of their witticisms. "Descriptio Kambriae," chap. xiv., De verborum facetia et urbanitate. "Opera," Brewer, 1861-91, 8 vols., vol. vi., Rolls.

[10] He says, in reference to the pupils of the Druids, "De Bello Gallico," book vi.: "Magnum ibi numerum versuum ediscere dicuntur, itaque nonnulli annos vicenos in disciplina permanent; neque fas esse existimant ea litteris mandare." One of the reasons of this interdiction is to guard against the scholars ceasing to cultivate their memory, a faculty considered by the Celts as of the highest importance.

[11] Those, among others, of MM. Whitley Stokes, Rhys, d'Arbois de Jubainville, Lot, Windisch, Zimmer, Netlau, and Kuno-Meyer.

[12] "Est autem hoc Galliae consuetudinis; ut et viatores etiam invitos consistere cogant: et quod quisque eorum de quaque re audierit aut cognoverit quaerant, et mercatores in oppidis vulgus circumsistat: quibus ex regionibus veniant, quasque res ibi cognoverint pronunciare cogant." Book iv.

[13] To wit, two hundred and fifty long and a hundred short ones. D'Arbois de Jubainville, "Introduction a l'etude de la Litterature Celtique," Paris, 1883, 8vo, pp. 322-333.

[14] See, with reference to this, the "Navigation of Mael-Duin," a christianised narrative, probably composed in the tenth century, under the form in which we now possess it, but "the theme of which is fundamentally pagan." Here are the titles of some of the chapters: "The isle of enormous ants.—The island of large birds.—The monstrous horse.—The demon's race.—The house of the salmon.—The marvellous fruits.—Wonderful feats of the beast of the island.—The horse-fights.—The fire beasts and the golden apples.—The castle guarded by the cat.—The frightful mill.—The island of black weepers." Translation by Lot in "L'Epopee Celtique," of D'Arbois de Jubainville, Paris, 1892, 8vo, pp. 449 ff. See also Joyce, "Old Celtic Romances," 1879; on the excellence of the memory of Irish narrators, even at the present day, see Joyce's Introduction.

[15] D'Arbois de Jubainville, "L'Epopee Celtique," pp. xxviii and following. "Celtic marriage is a sale.... Physical paternity has not the same importance as with us"; people are not averse to having children from their passing guest. "The question as to whether one is physically their father offers a certain sentimental interest; but for a practical man this question presents only a secondary interest, or even none at all." Ibid., pp. xxvii-xxix.

[16] The Murder of Cuchulainn, "L'Epopee Celtique en Irlande," p. 346.

[17] The same quality is found in the literature of Brittany; the major part of its monuments (of a more recent epoch) consists of religious dramas or mysteries. These dramas, mostly unpublished, are exceedingly numerous.

[18] "L'Epopee Celtique," pp. 66 and following.

[19] "L'Epopee Celtique en Irlande," pp. 217 and following.

[20] From "Mabinog" apprentice-bard. They are prose narratives, of divers origin, written in Welsh. They "appear to have been written at the end of the twelfth century"; the MS. of them we possess is of the fourteenth; several of the legends in it contain pagan elements, and carry us back "to the most distant past of the history of the Celts." "Les Mabinogion," translated by Lot, with commentary, Paris, 1889, 2 vols. 8vo.

[21] In several places have been found the quarries from which the stone of Hadrian's wall was taken, and inscriptions bearing the name of the legion or of the officer charged with extracting it: "Petra Flavi[i] Carantini," in the quarry of Fallowfield. "The Roman Wall, a description of the Mural Barrier of the North of England," by the Rev. J. C. Bruce, London, 1867, 4to (3rd ed.), pp. 141, 144, 185. Cf. Athenaeum, 15th and 19th of July, 1893.

[22] C. F. Routledge, "History of St. Martin's Church, Canterbury." The ruins of a tiny Christian basilica, of the time of the Romans, were discovered at Silchester, in May, 1892.

[23] Quantities of statuettes, pottery, glass cups and vases, arms, utensils of all kinds, sandals, styles for writing, fragments of colossal statues, mosaics, &c., have been found in England, and are preserved in the British Museum and in the Guildhall of London, in the museums of Oxford and of York, in the cloisters at Lincoln, &c. The great room at Bath was discovered in 1880; the piscina is in a perfect state of preservation; the excavations are still going on (1894).

[24] "Itinerarium Cambriae," b. i. chap. v.

[25] "Ut qui modo linguam abnuebant, eloquentiam concupiscerent: inde etiam habitus nostri honor, et frequens toga; paullatimque discessum et dilinimenta vitiorum, porticus et balnea, et conviviorum elegantiam." Tacitus, "Agricolae Vita," xxi.



CHAPTER II.

THE GERMANIC INVASION.

"To say nothing of the perils of a stormy and unknown sea, who would leave Asia, Africa, or Italy for the dismal land of the Germans, their bitter sky, their soil the culture and aspect of which sadden the eye unless it be one's mother country?" Such is the picture Tacitus draws of Germany, and he concludes from the fact of her being so dismal, and yet inhabited, that she must always have been inhabited by the same people. What others would have immigrated there of their own free will? For the inhabitants, however, this land of clouds and morasses is their home; they love it, and they remain there.

The great historian's book shows how little of impenetrable Germany was known to the Romans. All sorts of legends were current respecting this wild land, supposed to be bounded on the north-east by a slumbering sea, "the girdle and limit of the world," a place so near to the spot where Phoebus rises "that the sound he makes in emerging from the waters can be heard, and the forms of his steeds are visible." This is the popular belief, adds Tacitus; "the truth is that nature ends there."[26]

In this mysterious land, between the forests that sheltered them from the Romans and the grey sea washing with long waves the flat shores, tribes had settled and multiplied which, contrary to the surmise of Tacitus, had perhaps left the mild climate of Asia for this barren country; and though they had at last made it their home, many of them whose names alone figure in the Roman's book had not adopted it for ever; their migrations were about to begin again.

This group of Teutonic peoples, with ramifications extending far towards the pole was divided into two principal branches: the Germanic branch, properly so called, which comprised the Goths, Angles, Saxons, the upper and lower Germans, the Dutch, the Frisians, the Lombards, the Franks, the Vandals, &c.; and the Scandinavian branch, settled farther north and composed of the Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes. The same region which Tacitus describes as bordering on the place "where nature ends," held thus in his day tribes that would later have for their capitals, towns founded long before by Celts: London, Vienna, Paris, and Milan.

Many hundred years before settling there, these men had already found themselves in contact with the Celts, and, at the time the latter were powerful in Europe, terrible wars had arisen between the two races. But all the north-east, from the Elbe to the Vistula, continued impenetrable; the Germanic tribes remained there intact, they united with no others, and alone might have told if the sun's chariot was really to be seen rising from the ocean, and splashing the sky with salt sea foam. From this region were about to start the wild host destined to conquer the isle of Britain, to change its name and rebaptize it in blood.

Twice, during the first ten centuries of our era, the Teutonic race hurled upon the civilised world its savage hordes of warriors, streams of molten lava. The first invasion was vehement, especially in the fifth century, and was principally composed of Germanic tribes, Angles, Franks, Saxons, Burgundians, Vandals; the second exercised its greatest ravages in the ninth century, at the time of Charlemagne's successors, and proceeded mostly from the Scandinavian tribes, called Danish or Norman by contemporary chroniclers.

From the third century after Christ, fermentation begins among the former of these two groups. No longer are the Germanic tribes content with fighting for their land, retreating step by step before the Latin invader; alarming symptoms of retaliation manifest themselves, like the rumblings that herald the great cataclysms of nature.

The Roman, in the meanwhile, wrapped in his glory, continued to rule the world and mould it to his image; he skilfully enervated the conquered nations, instructed them in the arts, inoculated them with his vices, and weakened in them the spring of their formerly strong will. They called civilisation, humanitas, Tacitus said of the Britons, what was actually "servitude."[27] The frontiers of the empire were now so far distant that the roar of the advancing tide scarcely reached Rome. What was overheard of it acted as a stimulus to pleasure, added point to the rhetorician's speeches, excitement to the circus games, and a halo to the beauty of red-haired courtesans. The Romans had reached that point in tottering empires, at which the threat of calamities no longer arouses dormant energy, but only whets and renews the appetite for enjoyment.

Meanwhile, far away towards the north, the Germanic tribes, continually at strife with their neighbours, and warring against each other, without riches or culture, ignorant and savage, preserved their strength and kept their ferocity. They hated peace, despised the arts, and had no literature but drinking and war-songs. They take an interest only in hunting and war, said Caesar; from their earliest infancy they endeavour to harden themselves physically.[28] They were not inventive; they learned with more difficulty than the Celts; they were violent and irrepressible. The little that is known of their customs and character points to fiery souls that may rise to great rapturous joys but have an underlayer of gloom, a gloom sombre as the impenetrable forest, sad as the grey sea. For them the woods are haunted, the shades of night are peopled with evil spirits, in their morasses half-divine monsters lie coiled. "They worship demons," wrote the Christian chroniclers of them with a sort of terror.[29] These men will enjoy lyric songs, but not charming tales; they are capable of mirth but not of gaiety; powerful but incomplete natures that will need to develop fully without having to wait for the slow procedure of centuries, an admixture of new blood and new ideas. They were to find in Britain this double graft, and an admirable literary development was to be the consequence. They set out then to accomplish their work and follow their destiny, having doubtless much to learn, but having also something to teach the enervated nations, the meaning of a word unknown till their coming, the word "war" (guerre, guerra). After the time of the invasions "bellicose," "belliqueux," and such words lost their strength and dignity, and were left for songsters to play with if they liked; a tiny phenomenon, the sign of terrible transformations.

The invaders bore various names. The boundaries of their tribes, as regards population and territory, were vague, and in nowise resembled those of the kingdoms traced on our maps. Their groups united and dissolved continually. The most powerful among them absorb their neighbours and cause them to be forgotten for a time, their names frequently recur in histories; then other tribes grow up; other names appear, others die out. Several of them, however, have survived: Angles, Franks, Saxons, Burgundians, Lombards, Suevi, and Alemanni, which became the names of great provinces or mighty nations. The more important of these groups were rather an agglomeration of tribes than nations properly so called; thus under the name of Franks were comprised, in the third century, the Sicambers, the Chatti, the Chamavi; while the Suevi united, in the time of Tacitus, the Lombards, Semnones, Angles, and others. But all were bound by the tie of a common origin; their passions, customs, and tastes, their arms and costumes were similar.[30]

This human multitude once put in motion, nothing was able to stop it, neither the military tactics of the legions nor the defeats which it suffered; neither rivers nor mountains, nor the dangers of unknown seas. The Franks, before settling in Gaul, traversed it once from end to end, crossed the Pyrenees, ravaged Spain, and disappeared in Mauritania. Transported once in great numbers to the shores of the Euxine Sea, and imprudently entrusted by the Romans with the defence of their frontiers, they embark, pillage the towns of Asia and Northern Africa, and return to the mouth of the Rhine. Their expeditions intercross each other; we find them everywhere at once; Franks are seen at London, and Saxons at Angers. In 406, Gaul is overrun with barbarians, Vandals, Saxons, Burgundians, Alemanni; every point of the territory is in flames; the noise of a falling empire reaches St. Jerome, in his cell at Bethlehem, and in an eloquent letter he deplores the disaster of Christendom: "Who could ever have believed the day would come when Rome should see war at her very gates, and fight, not for glory but for safety? Fight, say I? Nay, redeem her life with treasure."[31]

Treasure did not suffice; the town was taken and retaken. Alaric sacked the capital in 410, and Genseric in 455. During several centuries all who emerge from this human tide, and are able to rule the tempest, are either barbarians or crowned peasants. In the fifth and sixth centuries a Frank reigns at Paris, Clovis to wit; an Ostrogoth at Ravenna, Theodoric; a peasant at Byzantium, Justinian; Attila's conqueror, Aetius, is a barbarian; Stilicho is a Vandal in the service of the Empire. A Frank kingdom has grown up in the heart of Gaul; a Visigoth kingdom has Toulouse for its capital; Genseric and his Vandals are settled in Carthage; the Lombards, in the sixth century, cross the mountains, establish themselves in ancient Cisalpine Gaul, and drive away the inhabitants towards the lagoons where Venice is to rise. The isle of Britain has likewise ceased to be Roman, and Germanic kingdoms have been founded there.

Mounted on their ships, sixty to eighty feet long, by ten or fifteen broad, of which a specimen can be seen at the museum of Kiel,[32] the dwellers on the shores of the Baltic and North Sea had at first organised plundering expeditions against the great island. They came periodically and laid waste the coasts; and on account of them the inhabitants gave to this part of the land the name Littus Saxonicum. Each time the pirates met with less resistance, and found the country more disorganised. In the course of the fifth century they saw they had no need to return annually to their morasses, and that they could without trouble remain within reach of plunder. They settled first in the islands, then on the coasts, and by degrees in the interior. Among them were Goths or Jutes of Denmark (Jutland), Frisians, Franks, Angles from Schleswig, and Saxons from the vast lands between the Elbe and Rhine.

These last two, especially, came in great numbers, occupied wide territories, and founded lasting kingdoms. The Angles, whose name was to remain affixed to the whole nation, occupied Northumberland, a part of the centre, and the north-east coast, from Scotland to the present county of Essex; the Saxons settled further south, in the regions which were called from them Essex, Sussex, Middlesex, and Wessex: Saxons of the east, south, centre, and west. It was in these two groups of tribes, or kingdoms, that literature reached the greatest development, and it was principally between them also that the struggle for supremacy set in, after the conquest. Hence the name of Anglo-Saxons generally given to the inhabitants of the soil, in respect of the period during which purely Germanic dialects were spoken in England. This composite word, recently the cause of many quarrels, has the advantage of being clear; long habit is in its favour; and its very form suits an epoch when the country was not unified, but belonged to two principal agglomerations of tribes, that of the Angles and that of the Saxons.[33]

In the same way as in Gaul, the invaders found themselves in the presence of a people infinitely more civilised than themselves, skilled in the arts, excellent agriculturists, rich traders, on whose soil arose those large towns that the Romans had fortified, and connected by roads. Never had they beheld anything like it, nor had they names for such things. They had in consequence to make additions to their vocabulary. Not knowing how to designate these unfamiliar objects, they left them the names they bore in the language of the inhabitants: castrum, strata, colonia; which became in their language chester, street, or strat, as in Stratford, and coln as in Lincoln.

The Britons who had taken to the toga—"frequens toga," says Tacitus—and who were no longer protected by the legions, made a vain resistance; the advancing tide of barbarians swept over them, they ceased to exist as a nation. Contributions were levied on the cities, the country was laid waste, villas were razed to the ground, and on all the points where the natives endeavoured to face the enemy, fearful hecatombs were slaughtered by the worshippers of Woden.

They could not, however, destroy all; and here comes in the important question of Celtic survival. Some admirers of the conquerors credit them with superhuman massacres. According to them no Celt survived; and the race, we are told, was either driven back into Wales or destroyed, so that the whole land had to be repopulated, and that a new and wholly Germanic nation, as pure in blood as the tribes on the banks of the Elbe, grew up on British soil. But if facts are examined it will be found that this title to glory cannot be claimed for the invaders. The deed was an impossible one; let that be their excuse. To destroy a whole nation by the sword exceeds human power, and there is no example of it. We know, besides, that in this case the task would have been an especially hard one, for the population of Britain, even at the time of Caesar, was dense: hominum infinita multitudo, he says in his Commentaries. The invaders, on the other hand, found themselves in presence of an intelligent, laborious, assimilable race, trained by the Romans to usefulness. The first of these facts precludes the hypothesis of a general massacre; and the second the hypothesis of a total expulsion, or of such extinction as threatens the inassimilable native of Australia.

In reality, all the documents which have come down to us, and all the verifications made on the ground, contradict the theory of an annihilation of the Celtic race. To begin with, we can imagine no systematic destruction after the introduction of Christianity among the Anglo-Saxons, which took place at the end of the sixth century. Then, the chroniclers speak of a general massacre of the inhabitants, in connection with two places only: Chester and Anderida.[34] We can ascertain even to-day that in one of these cases the destruction certainly was complete, since this last town was never rebuilt, and only its site is known. That the chroniclers should make a special mention of the two massacres proves these cases were exceptional. To argue from the destruction of Anderida to the slaughter of the entire race would be as little reasonable as to imagine that the whole of the Gallo-Romans were annihilated because the ruins of a Gallo-Roman city, with a theatre seating seven thousand people have been discovered in a spot uninhabited to-day, near Sanxay in Poictou. Excavations recently made in England have shown, in a great number of cemeteries, even in the region termed Littus Saxonicum, where the Germanic population was densest, Britons and Saxons sleeping side by side, and nothing could better point to their having lived also side by side. Had a wholesale massacre taken place, the victims would have had no sepulchres, or at all events they would not have had them amongst those of the slayers.

In addition to this, it is only by the preservation of the pre-established race that the change in manners and customs, and the rapid development of the Anglo-Saxons can be explained. These roving pirates lose their taste for maritime adventure; they build no more ships; their intestine quarrels are food sufficient for what is left of their warlike appetites. Whence comes it that the instincts of this impetuous race are to some degree moderated? Doubtless from the quantity and fertility of the land they had conquered, and from the facility they found on the spot for turning that land to account. These facilities consisted in the labour of others. The taste for agriculture did not belong to the race. Tacitus represents the Germans as cultivating only what was strictly necessary.[35] The Anglo-Saxons found in Britain wide tracts of country tilled by romanised husbandmen; after the time of the first ravages they recalled them to their toil, but assigned its fruits to themselves. Well, therefore, might the same word be used by the conquerors to designate the native Celt and the slave. They established themselves in the fields, and superintended their cultivation after their fashion; their encampments became boroughs: Nottingham, Buckingham, Glastonbury, which have to the present day retained the names of Germanic families or tribes. The towns of more ancient importance, on the contrary, have retained Celtic or Latin names: London, York, Lincoln, Winchester, Dover, Cirencester, Manchester, &c.[36] The Anglo-Saxons did not destroy them, since they are still extant, and only mingled in a feeble proportion with their population, having, like all Germans, a horror of sojourning in cities. "They avoided them, regarding them as tombs," they thought that to live in towns was like burying oneself alive.[37] The preservation in England of several branches of Roman industry is one proof more of the continuance of city life in the island; had the British artisans not survived the invasion, there would never have been found in the tombs of the conquerors those glass cups of elaborate ornamentation, hardly distinguishable from the products of the Roman glass-works, and which the clumsy hands of the Saxon were certainly incapable of fusing and adorning.[38]

The Britons, then, subsist in large numbers, even in the eastern and southern counties, where the Germanic settlement was most dense, but they subsist as a conquered race; they till the ground in the country, and in the cities occupy themselves with manual labour. Wales and Cornwall alone, in the isle of Britain, were still places of refuge for independent Celts. The idiom and traditions of the ancient inhabitants were there preserved. In these distant retreats, at the foot of Snowdon, in the valley of St. David's, beneath the trees of Caerleon, popular singers accompany on their harps the old national poems; perhaps they even begin to chaunt those tales telling of the exploits of a hero destined to the highest renown in literature, King Arthur.

But in the heart of the country the national tongue had been for a long time constantly losing ground; the Britons had learnt Latin, many of them; they now forget it by degrees, as they had previously forgotten Celtic, and learn instead the language of their new masters. It was one of their national gifts, a precious and fatal one; they were swift to learn.

In France the result of the Germanic conquest was totally different; the Celtic language reappeared there no more than in England. It has only survived in the extreme west.[39] But in France the Germanic idiom did not overpower the Latin; the latter persisted, so much so that the French tongue has remained a Romance language. This is owing to two great causes. Firstly, the Germans came to France in much smaller numbers than to England, and those that remained had been long in contact with the Romans; secondly, the romanising of Gaul had been more complete. Of all the provinces of the Empire, Gaul, the birthplace of Cornelius Gallus, Trogus Pompeius, Domitius Afer, Petronius, Ausonius, Sidonius Apollinaris, prided itself on speaking the purest Latin, and on producing the best poets. Whether we take material monuments or literary ones, the difference is the same in the two countries. In England theatres, towers, temples, all marks of Latin civilisation, had been erected, but not so numerous, massive, or strong that the invaders were unable to destroy them. At the present time only shapeless remnants exist above ground. In France, the barbarians came, plundered, burnt, razed to the ground all they possibly could; but the work of destruction was too great, the multitude of temples and palaces was more than their strength was equal to, and the torch fell from their tired hands. Whereas in England excavations are made in order to discover the remains of ancient Latin civilisation, in France we need only raise our eyes to behold them. Could the grave give up a Roman of the time of the Caesars, he would still at this day be able to worship his divine emperors in the temples of Nimes and Vienne; pass, when entering Reims, Orange, or Saintes under triumphal arches erected by his ancestors; he might recognise their tombs at the "Aliscamps" of Arles; could see Antigone played at Orange, and seated on the gradines of the amphitheatre, facing the blue horizon of Provence, still behold blood flowing in the arena.

Gaul was not, like Britain, disorganised and deprived of its legions when the Germanic hordes appeared; the victor had to reckon with the vanquished; the latter became not a slave but an ally, and this advantage, added to that of superior numbers and civilisation, allowed the Gallo-Roman to reconquer the invader. Latin tradition was so powerful that it was accepted by Clovis himself. That long-haired chieftain donned the toga and chlamys; he became a patrice; although he knew by experience that he derived his power from his sword, it pleased him to ascribe it to the emperor. He had an instinct of what Rome was. The prestige of the emperor was worth an army to him, and assisted him to rule his latinised subjects. Conquered, pillaged, sacked, and ruined, the Eternal City still remained fruitful within her crumbling walls. Under the ruins subsisted living seeds, one, amongst others, most important of all, containing the great Roman idea, the notion of the State. The Celts hardly grasped it, the Germans only at a late period. Clovis, barbarian though he was, became imbued with it. He endeavoured to mould his subjects, Franks, Gallo-Romans, and Visigoths, so as to form a State, and in spite of the disasters that followed, his efforts were not without some durable results.

In France the vanquished taught the victors their language; the grandsons of Clovis wrote Latin verses; and it is owing to poems written in a Romance idiom that Karl the Frank became the "Charlemagne" of legend and history; so that at last the new empire founded in Gaul had nothing Germanic save the name. The name, however, has survived, and is the name of France.

Thus, and not by an impossible massacre, can be explained the different results of the invasions in France and England. In both countries, but less abundantly in the latter, the Celtic race has been perpetuated, and the veil which covers it to-day, a Latin or Germanic tissue, is neither so close nor so thick that we cannot distinguish through its folds the forms of British or Gaulish genius; a very special and easily recognisable genius, very different from that of the ancients, and differing still more from that of the Teutonic invaders.

FOOTNOTES:

[26] "De Moribus Germanorum," b. ii. chap. xlv.

[27] "Agricola," xxi.

[28] "Vita omnis in venationibus atque in studiis rei militaris constitit; ab parvulis labori ac duritiei student." "De Bello Gallico," book vi.

[29] "Saxones, sicut omnes fere Germaniam incolentes nationes, et natura feroces et cultui daemonum dediti." Eginhard, "Vita Karoli," vii.

[30] The arms of the Franks and those of the Anglo-Saxons, the former preserved in the Museum of St. Germain, and the latter in the British Museum, are similar, and differ widely from those of the Celts. The shields, a part of the equipment, which among all nations are found highly ornamented, were equally plain with the Franks and Angles; the umbo or boss in the centre was, in those of both nations, of iron, and shaped like a rude dish-cover, which has often caused them to be catalogued as helmets or military head-pieces.

[31] "Innumerabiles et ferocissimae nationes universas Gallias occuparunt.... Quis hoc crederet?... Romam in gremio suo non pro gloria, sed pro salute pugnare? Imo ne pugnare quidem, sed auro et cuncta supellectile vitam redimere." Epistola cxxiii. ad Ageruchiam, in the "Patrologia" of Migne, vol. xxii., col. 1057-8.

[32] This ship was discovered in 1863 in a peat bog of Schleswig; that is in the very country of the Angles; judging by the coins found at the same time, it must belong to the third century. It measures 22 metres 67 centimetres in length, 3 metres, 33 centim. in breadth, and 1 metre 19 centim. in height. Specimens of Scandinavian ships have also been discovered. When a chief died his ship was buried with him, as his chariot or horse was in other countries. A description of a Scandinavian funeral (the chief placed on his boat, with his arms, and burnt, together with a woman and some animals killed for the occasion) has been handed down to us in the narrative of the Arab Ahmed Ibn Fozlan, sent by the caliph Al Moktader, in the tenth century, as ambassador to a Scandinavian king established on the banks of the Volga (Journal Asiatique, 1825, vol. vi. pp. 16 ff.). In some cases there was an interment but no incineration, and thus it is that Norse ships have been found. Two of these precious relics are preserved in the museum of Christiania. One of them, discovered in 1880, constructed out of oaken planks held together by iron nails, still retained several of its oars; they were about seven yards long, and must have been thirty-two, sixteen on each side. This measurement seems to have been normal, for the "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle" says that Alfred had ships built twice the size of ordinary ships, and gave them "sixty oars or more" (sub anno 897). A ship constructed on the exact model of the Scandinavian barks went from Bergen to New York at the time of the Chicago Exhibition, 1893. It was found to be perfectly seaworthy, even in rough weather.

[33] It may be added in favour of this same word that it is difficult to replace it by another as clear and convenient. Some have proposed "Old English," an expression considered as having the advantage of better representing the continuity of the national history, and marking less conspicuously the break occasioned by the Norman Conquest. "Anglo-Saxon" before the Conquest, "English" after, implies a radical change, a sort of renovation in the people of England. It is added, too, that this people already bore in the days of King Alfred the name of English. But besides the above-mentioned reasons, it may be pointed out that this break and this renovation are historical facts. In language, for example, the changes have been such that, as it has been justly observed, classical English resembles Anglo-Saxon less than the Italian of to-day resembles Latin. Still it would not be considered wise on the part of the Italians to give the name of "Old Italians" to their Roman ancestors, though they spoke a similar language, were of the same blood, lived in the same land, and called it by the same name. As for Alfred, he calls himself sometimes king of the Saxons "rex Saxonum," sometimes king of the Angles, sometimes king of the Anglo-Saxons: "AEgo Aelfredus, gratia Dei, Angol Saxonum rex." AEthelstan again calls himself "rex Angul-Saxonum" (Kemble, "Codex" ii. p. 124; Grein, "Anglia," i. p. 1; de Gray Birch, "Cartularium Saxonicum," 1885, ii. p. 333). They never call themselves, as may be believed, "Old English." The word, besides, is not of an easy use. In a recent work one of the greatest historians of our day, Mr. Freeman, spoke of people who were "men of old English birth"; evidently it would have been simpler and clearer to call them Anglo-Saxons.

[34] "Anglo-Saxon Chronicle," Rolls, sub anno 491.

[35] "De Moribus Germanorum," xv., xxvi.

[36] Names of villages recalling German clans or families are very numerous on the eastern and southern coasts. "They diminish rapidly as we move inland, and they die away altogether as we approach the purely Celtic west. Fourteen hundred such names have been counted, of which 48 occur in Northumberland, 127 in Yorkshire, 76 in Lincolnshire, 153 in Norfolk and Suffolk, 48 in Essex, 60 in Kent, 86 in Sussex and Surrey, only 2 are found in Cornwall, 6 in Cumberland, 24 in Devon, 13 in Worcester, 2 in Westmoreland, and none in Monmouth." Grant Allen, "Anglo-Saxon Britain" (S.P.C.K.), p. 43.

[37] Ammianus Marcellinus: "Ipsa oppida, ut circumdata retiis busta declinant"; in reference to the Franks and Alemanni, "Rerum Gestarum," lib. xvi., cap. ii. Tacitus says the same thing for the whole of the Germans: "Nullas Germanorum populis urbes habitari, satis notum est.... Colunt discreti ac diversi, ut fons, ut campus, ut nemus placuit. Vicos locant, non in nostrum morem, connexis et cohaerentibus aedificiis: suam quisque domum spatio circumdat." "De Moribus Germanorum," xvi.

[38] It seems impossible to admit, as has been suggested, that these frail objects should have been saved from the plunder and burning of the villas and preserved by the Anglo-Saxons as curiosities. Glasses with knobs, "a larmes," abound in the Anglo-Saxon tombs, and similar ones have been found in the Roman tombs of an earlier epoch, notably at Lepine, in the department of the Marne.

[39] Where the Celtic element was reinforced, at the commencement of the sixth century, by a considerable immigration of Britons driven from England. Hence the name of Bretagne, given then for the first time to Armorica.



CHAPTER III.

THE NATIONAL POETRY OF THE ANGLO-SAXONS.

I.

Towards the close of the fifth century, the greater part of England was conquered; the rulers of the land were no longer Celts or Romans, but men of Germanic origin, who worshipped Thor and Woden instead of Christ, and whose language, customs, and religion differed entirely from those of the people they had settled amongst and subjugated.

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