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on the banks of the Willy, and killed in a second battle in 825. Egbert attached Mercia and all its dependencies to his own kingdom, and not long afterwards, the Northumbrians south of the Tweed submitted to his authority. The several Saxon states, about three hundred years after the commencement of the Heptarchy, were united under one sovereign, and England formed an extensive kingdom from the river Tweed to the extremity of Cornwall.

EXERCISES.

1. From what part of Europe did the people called Saxons come? Were they all strictly Saxons, or did they consist partly of other tribes? Give the names of the chief tribes. What was the character of this people? What were their habits? What was the occasion of their coming to England? How did they take possession of the country?

2. What was England called when it had several Saxon kings? Name the kingdoms of the Heptarchy. Why was the word Heptarchy used towards them? Did they always consist of seven states? Describe generally how they were more or less numerous. What are the names of the three states in which they were at last included? What name was sometimes given to a general leader of the states? What kind of power did he exercise?

3. From what do we derive our knowledge of the religion of the Saxons? What was its character? What system of Paganism did it resemble? State the names of some of the gods. Give some names of places and other words still in use which are derived from the names of these gods.

4. When was Christianity introduced among the Saxons? What is related of young English slaves in Rome? What was the effect of the first missions? Where did Sebert build a church? Describe what took place when Redwald the bretwalda received baptism. Where did Oswald learn the Christian religion? Where did he found a monastery?

5. What was the fate of the kingdom of Northumbria? Narrate the history of Offa. How did Beortric die? What were the first feats of Egbert? What was the fate of Bernulf and his kingdom? What kingdoms did Egbert finally attach to his own? What was the result of his career?

CHAPTER III.

FROM THE END OF THE HEPTARCHY TO THE DEATH OF ALFRED, A. D. 825-901.

1. EGBERT did not assume the title of king of England, but was content to be called king of Wessex, with the dignity and authority of bretwalda. His subjects had scarcely

begun to enjoy the blessings of a regular government when they had to suffer from the incursions of Scandinavian pirates, and to experience all the bitterness of a conquest similar to that by which they had reduced the ancient Britons.

INVASIONS OF THE DANES.-The Saxons of the fifth century, the Danes of the ninth, and the Norman conquerors of the eleventh, were one race of people, belonging to the great Scandinavian tribes, who, under different names at different epochs, re-composed most of the states of Europe on the downfal of the Roman empire. The Saxons of the Rhine and Germany, fleeing from the terrible persecutions of Charlemagne, had fixed their abode in the peninsula of Jutland, which had been nearly evacuated by the Jutes and Angles, who went to conquer England. Here, uniting with their maritime neighbours, and merged in one common name, they retaliated in a fearful manner upon all the coast of France. Being confirmed in their idolatry by the cruelty of Charlemagne, they soon became a mere horde of savages, whose chief pursuits were piracy and bloodshed, and whose only home was the stormy ocean. "The might of the tempest aids the arms of our rowers," said they; "the hurricane is our servant, and drives us wherever we desire to go." Nothing could resist men whose courage and audacity bordered on madness. On land they spared no one; and with feelings embittered by recent persecution, they treated the Saxons as renegades who had deserted the faith of their common ancestors. They particularly delighted in shedding the blood of priests, whenever their incursions carried them into a Christian land. "We have sung them a spear mass," they would say in derision; "it began with the dawn and lasted until sunset."

In their first incursions into England, the Danes were assisted by the ancient population, who gladly seized the opportunity of avenging themselves on their conquerors. In 834, they found numerous allies in Devonshire and Cornwall; but their decisive defeat at Hengsdown Hill for a time put a stop to their inroads. This was Egbert's A. D. last warlike exploit, and two years afterwards a peaceful death terminated his long and eventful reign.

836.

2. Egbert was succeeded by his son ETHELWULF. It was not long before the Danes began to renew their piratical incursions, ravaging all the southern coasts of Wessex and Kent, and pillaging London, Rochester, and Canterbury. They were met at Okeley, in Surrey, by the king and his son Ethelbald, and routed with immense slaughter; they suffered a similar defeat at Sandwich in Kent, and at Wenbury in Devonshire. But although these severe checks compelled the Danes to suspend their attacks, so great was the terror they inspired, that every Wednesday was set apart as a day of public prayer to implore the assistance of Heaven against them.

During the reign of the next king, ETHELBERT, the Danes made a permanent settlement in the isle of Thanet. In 866, he was succeeded by ETHELRED, who in the course of one year had to fight nine pitched battles against the invaders. Assisted by his younger brother Alfred, he drove them from the centre of Mercia, into which they had penetrated; but while he was engaged with the enemy in the west and south, the Mercians and Northumbrians withdrew from his allegiance, and left him to contend against the Danes with his West Saxons alone, his hereditary subjects. Several battles were fought with various success. On one occasion, Ethelred had divided his army into two bodies, one of which was commanded by his brother Alfred, then only twenty-two years old, who was tempted impetuously to attack the enemy, and with his division was in great danger of being destroyed, when Ethelred and his troops appeared, and the Danes fled. It is related that Ethelred was at mass when the battle began, and that he said no mere human object should call him from the service of God. The victory was naturally attributed to his piety rather than to the courage of his soldiers. Such was the battle of Aston. The Danes, however, reinforced with fresh troops from the north, continued to gain ground; and their victories at Basing and Mereton wiped away the disgrace of Aston. Ethelred died in consequence of a wound received in battle, and left his crown to Alfred, the only surviving and the most renowned of all the sons of 871. Ethelwulf.

A. D.

3. ALFRED, the glory of our Saxon monarchs, had scarcely

time to follow his brother to the grave, before he was called on to fight for the crown to which he had succeeded. A desperate engagement took place at Wilton in Wiltshire, where, although the young monarch was defeated, yet so serious was the loss of the enemy, and such their dread of Alfred's military prowess, that they readily concluded a treaty, and left him in undisturbed possession of his kingdom of Wessex during a period of three years. For some time afterwards, the Danish incursions were principally directed to the north of England, a large portion of which the invaders divided among themselves, and intermarrying with the Saxon population, the distinction between the two races was gradually obliterated. Mercia and East Anglia also no. longer existed as Saxon kingdoms, so that Alfred, with his men of Wessex, had to sustain almost the whole brunt of the contest with the Danes.

He employed the brief interval of peace in fitting out a few ships to prevent the landing of the pirates, and to cut off their means of being supplied with food. His first fleet, though small, attacked a squadron of seven Danish ships, one of which was taken and the others put to flight. Such was the effect of this victory, that the Danes, who had landed in Devonshire and surprised the castle of Wareham, agreed to treat for peace, and to evacuate that district. The treaty was ill kept, for on the very next night Alfred nearly fell into the hands of a marauding party, as he was riding with a small force to Winchester. He soon afterwards, however, defeated another formidable squadron, which so dispirited the Danish king Guthrun, who kept possession of Exeter, that he capitulated, gave hostages, and withdrew his army into Mercia. He did not, however, retire farther than Gloucester, from which A. D. city he suddenly issued on New Year's day, and 878. surprised Alfred at Chippenham. The king escaped with a small band into the woods; but his subjects were so wearied out, that they gave way to despair. Some retreated into Wales, others to the isle of Wight and to the shores of the opposite continent, while the majority submitted to their ferocious conquerors.

Alfred was now compelled to yield to circumstances. He

took refuge in the island of Athelney, a tract of country near the confluence of the Thone and Parret, in the midst of a dense wood and almost impassable marshes, where he is said to have adopted the disguise of a cow-herd. An interesting anecdote referring to this period has been transmitted to us by Asser, his confessor, and repeated by almost all the old chroniclers. They tell us, that one day the honest herdsman's wife, in whose house he resided, had set some cakes to bake on the fire. Leaving the room for a while, she thought her cakes would be safe in the presence of Alfred, who would have nothing better to engage his attention. But the dethroned monarch's mind was busy with high thoughts of victory over the heathen Danes, and a peaceful reign over a united people, and thus occupied, he let the cakes burn unnoticed. The worthy woman, when she saw his carelessness, cried out, "Man! what are you thinking about-can you not turn the cakes?-you'll be glad enough to eat them." Here he lay for some time concealed, waiting for a favourable opportunity to recover his throne and liberate his people. His retreat was known only to a faithful few, and by degrees a bold and resolute band gathered around him.

4. Alfred had spent several months in his hidingplace, when he learned that Hubba, a Danish chief, had been slain with nearly a thousand followers in an attempt to land in Devonshire, and that their magical banner, a raven embroidered in one noontide by the hands of the three daughters of the great Lodbroke, had been taken. This favourable omen inspired him with confidence; but, before taking any decisive step, he resolved to examine in person the position of the Danes. Disguising himself as a wandering musician, he strolled into Guthrun's camp, where, without suspicion, he was permitted to amuse the soldiers with his music. While thus occupied, he observed all that passed; he noticed. the negligence of his enemies, and became acquainted with their plans. On returning to Athelney, he summoned his faithful subjects to meet him in arms at Egbert's Stone, near Selwood Forest. They cheerfully obeyed his call, and, taking the Danes by surprise, thoroughly defeated them at the battle of Ethandune, a few miles from

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