And William laughingly exclaimed, "Thee does not really say so! The house in which they grew, built in , was originally square with a great central chimney that gathered all the fireplaces unto itself.
Browse By Author: L - Project Gutenberg
Of all the places she would ever live, Maria liked this house best. It was simple and dignified, with an inimitable charm, reminiscent of old England. The front door that moved heavily on its long iron hinges was held by a mahogany latch rescued from the British ship "Queen," wrecked off Nantucket during the War of This opened into a small entryway.
On the right was the parlor, prim and proper, with its white wooden blinds, straight ladder-backed chairs, and a First-Day-go-to-Meeting atmosphere repellent to her free spirit. To her the inlaid grandfather clock, with golden sun, changing moon, and silver stars shining above his round face, was the only redeeming feature in an otherwise dreary room.
Usually, therefore, she "steered clear" of it and "made a straight wake" for the friendly sitting room at the end of the hall. Defiant bunches of red roses there adorned the wall; a gay-colored carpet covered the gray-spattered floor. Often as a child, round and chubby, with fat curls around her pensive face, she sat quietly there by the brick fireplace. In the brilliant blue driftwood flame she watched the tiny changeling elves that danced gaily up the chimney.
She saw dark sailors clinging to the broken masts and rigging. She saw the towering waves that broke over the sinking ships. In the high-backed rocker on one side of the fireplace her mother sat straight and unbending, entirely unconscious of the thoughts that pranced through her daughter's head. Busily she stitched another square in the calico quilt fondly called a "Friendship Medley" wherein she recorded the early history of her children's lives. The austere lines in her face were softened only by the cambric bonnet, the white lawn kerchief which she always wore.
Her white skin was slightly freckled, her jaw was firm, her nose, long and thin, her beautiful dark eyes, penetrating. Like most of the women who ran the inns, owned the shops, and carried on the business of the town in the absence of their men, Lydia Mitchell was an energetic and practical woman. In later years Maria remembered her mother as a stern and hard-working woman, while Kate, the youngest, said that in all her life she had never heard her mother laugh, though she smiled often.
Before her marriage Lydia Coleman had worked in two libraries in order to read all the books they contained. And as they grew she added George Fox's Journal to the weighty list. Yet, for the most part, Maria, an imaginative child, preferred to listen to her gentle easygoing father, who from his place in the wing chair on the other side of the fire read aloud from the fascinating pages of the Nantucket Inquirer. This wonderful newspaper dealt, not with confining local gossip, but with distant places and world events, with exciting astronomical advances and geographical discoveries in far regions of the world.
In these early years Maria listened eagerly to accounts of everything — from the movement to the new world of German and famine-stricken Irish immigrants, to the daring feats of Gibbs, the pirate, on the high seas. She gained thereby an expanding vision of other places and other people that she would never lose. Often then, as she listened, her dark eyes wandered from her father's tall mahogany desk to her mother's smaller writing table between the windows where lay the somber Journal of Thomas Chalkley printed by Cousin Benjamin Franklin.
From the mantel, where Elizabeth Fry gazed benevolently down, they turned in pleasure to the center of the room and the hanging globe used by William Mitchell in his experiments on light. Here, on days when the sun crept through the small iridescent window panes, she chased with delight the quivering varicolored hues thrown by the little globe into the room's dark corners.
Children's Stories in American History
She paused to look at the glowing mineral specimens in the glass case — red garnet, purple amethyst, blue labradorite — which shared a place there with her father's scientific books. Then, slowly, she turned her eyes back to the flames. Very early as her father watched her he realized that this child's eyes were unusually sensitive to variations in color and form. She noticed delicate shades and contours unseen by any of her less observant brothers and sisters. She watched intently as he recorded the position of the silver pointer in the mercurial barometer on the wall and learned quickly to register the vagaries of Nantucket weather in the meteorological journal that lay on the little round table beneath.
He realized, too, that she shared his own wicked love of color which expressed itself in the garden that grew brightly all around his house. Here brilliant flowers nodded flagrantly at the strict anti-color Friends passing by. Along the wall grew tall hollyhocks, pink, yellow, white in hue. These looked haughtily down on the straight blue larkspur which, in turn, mingled with the phlox and bouncing bet. Here, too, grew a row of smaller flowers with musical names that Maria loved to repeat — blue-gray periwinkle and sweet daphne, moss pink and hearts' ease, lavender blue ageratum.
At the east side of the house toward the back grew a flourishing fig tree, and a thriving grapevine climbed over the arbor there. Here, also, William Mitchell put out seed for the birds who boldly, if unwittingly, brought color into their gray lives. To Maria, as to him, the cantankerous blue jay was therefore as welcome as the bright goldfinch, the scarlet tanager, the tiny hummingbird that came there in summer.
But he soon discovered that if Maria was an observant child, she was not a studious one. If she was careful and painstaking, she was obstinate and independent. And in her first school days she rebelled with all the resolute spirit of her heritage against the drab and moralistic lessons obsessed with sin and the devil that she was forced to learn from her American Spelling Book.
At the long wooden table in the kitchen she sat stiffly on her hard wooden bench. Under her mother's exacting eye she painfully scribbled the dreary words: No man may put off the law of God My joy is in His law all the day O may I not go in the way of sin Let me not go in the way of ill men. She pouted, her dark brows puckered, and winked at Andrew who sat opposite, frowning, as he too puzzled over the hated lessons. Only Sally, a more docile child, went serenely on with her spelling.
Slyly then Maria glanced up at the red lacquer Chinese tea caddy in the table's center and the two sperm candles on either side which dripped their blobs of whale grease down the gray sides of the pewter candlesticks. She looked around at the ghostly shadows which darted over the great beams and purple pink walls, painted in long flowing sworls to resemble the graining of wood. She glanced at the indelible marks she had made when she had reached up to stick her little fingers into the moist plaster.
Everything in this kitchen, only recently added, was so new and fascinating that it was hard indeed to keep one's thoughts on the dull lessons! She sniffed longingly at the large brick fireplace where the peat from the island bogs burned with a sweet, lingering smell, always, to her, like the brewing of witches' cauldrons.
Her wishes flew hungrily to the luscious mendon bannock, the johnny cake, baking now in the covered cast-iron pan hung low on a pothook over the live embers. Yet all such gluttonous thoughts, she knew, were vain, even sinful, in this Quaker community. As her mother looked up disapprovingly she glued her unwilling eyes back on her book and the Sage Advice so freely offered, so intolerable: "Prefer solid sense to vain wit; study to be useful rather than diverting; never utter what may offend the chastest ear.
Ten years later, at the very ancient age of fourteen, like an old lady looking back on a remote childhood, she sat again at that same wooden table. In the Juvenile Inquirer of which she was publisher she recorded her memory of those unforgettable lessons and her first awful teacher. The story is told in her downright, amusing way, neatly printed, signed with the pseudonym, Jane: Recollections of My School Days.
I can well recollect the first day I began to go to school. It was a day looked upon with trembling notwithstanding candy and figs to make me willing.
A Celebration of Women Writers
I had been told my school dame was clever and handsome and though only four years old I had determined if I did not like her looks, neither to read nor do anything else she wished me to. I remember my disappointment on entering the school room to see a stout solid matron of about forty with a large nose and larger chin and little bright sparkling eyes approach me and take my hand from my mother's as my mother was leaving the room, and seat me on a little bench.
I did not like her looks and when she said, "Jane, my dear, come and read," I made her think I did not hear her. She repeated her command, but I remained as immovable as before. I recollect well how provoked I felt when she said, "Now read first," and how reluctantly I took the book and read in the poorest manner possible, a short sentence. Yet I found this a trifle to merely read; I had soon lessons to get, and what was worse to say, and by rote too; without understanding a sentence.
At the bottom the editor added, "We hope Jane will favor us with some more recollections. Like her long ancestral line of direct-minded Friends, she was frank and outspoken. Like her Mother, of whom William said, "She could not have lied to save the life of a child," she was honest and truthful. She could not be bribed; she would not learn without first understanding.
Yet everything she said or did was edged with the irresistible humor, evident, not only in the indignant "Recollections," but also in the anecdotes in the Juvenile Inquirer : "An old man once fell from an apple tree to the ground; his son who was with him cried out, 'Father, are you killed? What trade is the sun? Why is Sir Walter Scott like a comet? Fortunately, however, not all her school days were like these.
Her next teacher, Miss Elizabeth Gardner, a lovely, sympathetic woman, who "first made the study book charming" soon realized the wit of this inquisitive child with eyes that questioned, "Is that so, and, if so, how do you know? But if she was not precocious, she had insatiable curiosity.
She was eager to know of the past, and at the age of ten had read all of the long volumes of Rollins' Ancient History. She wanted to know of the gigantic forces that had created the world in which she lived. These she discovered in her father's teaching — first in a school of his own; then, when she was nine, in the first public school on Nantucket that stood around the corner in the Town Hall at Main and Milk Streets; and finally in the school that her father, "William the Teacher," as he was known, had built on Howard Street.
In this last school, the best of all, "punishment of any kind was unknown. Over the moors, down to the swamps, along the shore they wandered together in search of some bird or shell or plant not seen before. Here she obtained from her father his broad understanding, his intense love of the world's beauty, his compassion for every living thing. Here she early discovered the meaning of the physical laws of the universe in the delicate veins of a flower petal, the wonderful structure of a fish's body, its bones laid bare by the blazing sun.
In Nantucket's glacial drift she found large rounded boulders ironically smoothed by their war with the ice. In the sandy cliffs at Sankaty Head small fossils, intricately carved as if by the hand of some elfin sculptor, brought to life the little animals of a remote age.
These she called then, and ever after, "autographs of time. Like so many children, born with a collector's instinct, she brought back the stones and shells, the seaweed and flowers that she found and stored them on the wooden slabs in the wide-beamed garret, to bring them forth on foggy days and rainy days and, best of all, on First Days which, like all good Quaker children, she was expected to spend in silent contemplation. Of all the places in this house, she loved best this garret where strings of apples and onions and strips of dried beef hung and the pungent odor of dried fish, sweet herbs, motherwort and yarrow, sassafras and archangel mingled with the musty smell of grandfather Andrew Coleman's old sea chest.
In one corner stood barrels of flour and pickled pork, in another the precious brass Dollond telescope. To this garret, one memorable First Day afternoon, she escaped with Andrew and Ann. The gray town lay at rest under the lengthening shadow of the Friends' drab Discipline. Andrew, well named for his seafaring grandfather, turned again to the building of his square-rigger model, an absorbing task in which he only grudgingly permitted the assistance of his younger sisters.
A large board on which William Mitchell had carved the words, "An undevout astronomer is mad," was the central mast, firmly nailed to a crossbeam. Furled around the top were his father's cotton diagrams, cut to represent the expanse of the universe. Along the narrow black braid colored planets moved in their appointed orbits about the sun. At least that was their usual custom. But on this First Day the solar system had been rudely disturbed.
The earth's orbit was transformed into the halyards of the ship. Around the edge billowed the "waves," colored balls of hardwood that represented the planets. A sudden gust moved the sails. The Earth's orbit gave way, the boom fell, the ship capsized, the "waves" surged down the garret stairs. The First Day silence was shattered. Take care lest Saturn lose his rings. Bump, bump, bump, went Mars striking Jupiter as he went while Saturn flew swiftly by, followed by the flaming sun. The asteroids rushed on, pursued by the earth. Down they rolled and down after them tumbled Andrew, Maria and Ann.
Maria, in her sudden descent, landed at her mother's feet in the sitting room at the bottom of the second flight of stairs. With an involuntary giggle she rolled over and glanced uneasily at her mother's austere face. Lydia, forgetful for a moment of the sacred nature of the day, forgetful too of her august position as Clerk of the Friends' Meeting and the need for impressing her children with those "just sentiments in relation to the vanity and fallacy of transitory enjoyments," looked at the human heap beside her and asked gently, "Did thee hurt thyself, Maria?
Her mother frowned, quickly mindful of her devout belief that this day was intended for solemn meditation, not for astronomical escapade. Such behavior, she said severely, was unseemly. Friends had been disowned for less worldly pleasures. From the wing chair William Mitchell who, given his way, would have allowed his children theirs in everything, looked up. His eyes were twinkling but his voice was stern. Have you all forgotten? You will surely rouse the neighbors and perturb your grandparents next door, and even the pigs and chickens in the jail down yonder.
You better rescue the sun before he burn a hole in the carpet. Then sit you down and ruminate awhile. Slowly, followed by Andrew and Ann with the rest of the refractory solar system, they climbed the steep treads back to the garret. So these brothers and sisters played with games and toys of their own invention. So they grew and thrived. They laughed, they fought, they "whittled" one another, and Maria, the strongest willed of a strong-willed lot, flung back with swift, incisive quips not soon forgotten.
Yet they had that awareness of each other, that keen objective sensitivity, that generosity necessary for compatible living in a large family. On this 'land far out to sea," they were bound by a common destiny in which outsiders played no part. Their lives were hard; they were stern; they were earnest. They were taught to live stoically, plainly, never to give in to themselves, to deny themselves that others might have. They had little, but that little they gave in the Friends' charitable spirit.
For them there were none of the alluring candy counters that color the pages of most childhood reminiscences. Their candy, if any, came from the peat bogs where the succulent roots of the sweet flag were there for the digging — to be obtained, like everything else, through their own efforts.
Nor were there any of the exciting entertainments, the circuses and fairs, which came to the "continent. All such diversions were firmly denounced by the Friends' Discipline — "keep them," it commanded, "while young, out of the vain fashions, the corrupt customs, and unprofitable conversation of the world; laboring to convince their young and tender minds of the propriety of restraint; exhorting them in meekness, and commanding in wisdom. And, as they advance in age, guard them against the reading of plays, romances and other public pastimes and pernicious diversions.
Yet, like the little gray juncos, they seemed to thrive in their hardy surroundings. They grew despite — or perhaps because of — conditions that required strength of will to overcome. When at nine the curfew sounded, they climbed to the three bedrooms which they shared, where in the four-posters all nine of them slept, top and foot, sardine-fashion. There in winter, they undressed, shivering, then jumped into bed, snuggling down under their calico quilts, excellent bed warmers one for the other.
Though there were fireplaces in every room these were lit only in case of illness or other dire emergency. To keep them lit would have been outright extravagance which they could in no way afford. So, like the great pines that grow on the edge of rocks, bending, yet never breaking under the fierce winds that blow, they learned to subsist on the thinnest soil. Many years later when Maria looked back on this Nantucket childhood she would write, "Our want of opportunity was our opportunity — our privations were our privileges, our needs were our stimulants — we are what we are partly because we had little and wanted much, and it is hard to tell which was the more powerful factor.
Yet, if, as Phebe wrote, their lives were passed in simplicity and with an entire absence of anything exciting or abnormal, those lives were certainly changed from the usual into the unusual by the extraordinary background from which they came and the exciting foreground in which they lived. In the sitting room or at the long wooden kitchen table they could listen to whaling captains in whose eyes, finely wrinkled at the edges, was that far-encompassing look which comes from wide searching of the sea, long watching of the sky.
Leaning on their whalebone canes they told of other lands with wondrous gleaming cities these children longed to know. They brought back stark and curdling tales like that of the Essex , wrecked by an angry bull sperm whale in mid-Pacific. For three months the crew was out in open boats, starving, parched with thirst under the broiling sun. Before their rescue they sailed over two thousand miles. Of the crew of twenty, only eight survived.
Those that remained, crazed by the merciless sun, devoured their comrades, dead of hunger and thirst. Maria was an impressionable child and such lurid tales sank deep, clouding her daytime thoughts, filling her nights with harrowing dreams. But from these whalers also she obtained a view and an appreciation of the world beyond her island. She derived from them unconsciously that vision and humor, that shrewd intelligence and native sagacity, that wealth of common sense which they had gleaned from long and close contact with the sea and the ways and customs of many peoples in far reaches of the world.
It was a common sense bred of necessity which was apparent in all the stories current in the town. Thus, it was told, a leaky ship was homeward bound. The crew pumped and pumped until, exasperated, they protested to the captain who blandly replied, "I don't blame ye a bit, boys. From such men she gained unwittingly their almost mystical sense of divine purpose in the universe, their acceptance of fate, that willingness to undergo hardship shown by the captain who, after four years at sea, returned with his ship clean as it went out.
Yet her pennant still flew high. Not a whale had they sighted, but he quietly concluded, "We had a damn fine sail. And sometimes as Maria listened and dreamed of all these things a bedeviled spirit ran through her. On one such day on a warm summer morning she crept quietly down the stairs, close on brother Andrew's heels.
A queer sight she was, too, dressed in a pair of his broadcloth breeches and collarless brown waistcoat buttoned high, her curls tucked up under her cap. With her square jaw, her almost masculine features, she could easily have been taken for a boy, and that was certainly her intention, for she was on her way to that forbidden region down by the wharves where, even in liberal Nantucket, girls dared not go — a region which, therefore, like Pandora's box, held magic enchantment.
They lifted the mahogany latch and ran quickly down the sandy lane. Over his shoulder the high-spirited Andrew carried a knapsack that contained all his worldly belongings. Like many another Nantucket boy he had long had dreams of harpooning his first whale. Now he was running away to sail with Uncle Isaac Brayton aboard the good ship Ann. Maria, envying her more fortunate brother, wickedly wished that she too could go. In his wild, adventurous nature was the freedom to follow his impulses, to do as he wished, to go where he wanted, for which she would always long.
He appealed to that portion of her nature which found in the new and the different exciting possibilities that would lead to realms where few were willing to venture. For years she had vainly watched while he had gone to climb the rigging of ships at anchor in the harbor, to candle factories and blacksmiths' shops where whale spades and boarding knives, lances and harpoons were forged; to their own cooper shop where casks were made to be filled with hardtack and salt pork on the long voyage out, and oil on the long voyage home.
Now, in the glimmering dawn light, they "scudded" down Vestal Street to New Dollar Lane past the small house where the fabulous shipowner, Joseph Starbuck, still slept — past other houses, strangely un-Quakerly, painted bright red, yellow and blue, houses with beautiful fan-topped, brass-knockered doors — on down High Street, Nabby Bailey's Lane, Plumb Lane and Orange Street to the Square below the Bank.
Here by the window of the "grouty" old Zaccheus Hussey, Maria had stood on other days for endless hours, her nose pressed flat against the pane, gazing at the magnificent assortment of instruments there displayed. The little mirror of the coveted sextant now glinted in the sun. But she glanced only fleetingly at the spyglasses, the thermometers, the quadrant.
Around the corner on Petticoat Lane they dashed by the store where the good, though needle-witted Polly Burnell, like many another self-reliant Quaker lady, advertised intriguing "Kerseymeres, rattinets, copperplates and calicoes. Now she ran swiftly by with only one aim in view: the crescent-shaped, sand-bound harbor where Nantucket ships and others from foreign ports crowded — little ships of less than three hundred tons that had ridden out wild storms, blunt-ended and stubby, heavy, slow-moving, straight-masted ships, their little whaleboats hung on davits from the sides.
Some were battered, their shrouds torn, their painted figureheads scarred and dull. Others, proudly fitted out, their provisioning done, were ready to sail again to "the other side of land. The air reeked with the overpowering smell of tar, of fish, of whale oil. Though early in the morning, the place was alive with activity. Over the rutted sands and wooden wharves rumbled heavily loaded drays. In and out moved familiar captains and shipowners, tall, dignified Quakers, dressed in somber broadcloth breeches and long, high-buttoned reefer coats, topped by black beaver, broad-brimmed hats.
Maria, fearing that she would be recognized, pulled her cap further down over her eyes and dashed behind one of the bulging hogsheads of oil that lined the docks, waiting to be carried away to light the mainland towns and cities. From this vantage point she stared wide-eyed at the sailors with long flowing locks and huge brass rings in their ears, dressed in their colorful best — the white duck trousers and red shirts of the starboard watch — the blue of the larboard.
She listened, fascinated, to the resonant sounds that flowed from the swarthy natives of the Malays, the South Seas, the Fijis and New Guinea, to the Portuguese newly arrived from the Azores, who gabbled in weird lingo. These rose above the low tones of the broad Irish brogue while the steady beating of calkers' mallets, the deep rhythm of sea chanteys echoed along the wharves from riggers' and sailmakers' lofts:. Slowly, in the months that followed, the family accepted the absence of their eldest son, accepted it as other whaling families had done when their sons had gone to sea. But Maria missed her brother sorely and could not so easily accept his going or the long-suspended waiting for his return.
Early in the morning now she wandered out to the shore. Out across the sea she watched the gleaming white sails of a ship outward bound. And, as she looked, the sea with its silences, its turmoil, entered her blood. She became as much a part of it as the tiny phosphorescent bodies that live there and light up its surface in a ship's wake. The mystery of the far away stirred her imagination, and she longed to fly, like the screaming, white gulls that weave white spirals in the sky, to distant lands across that ocean.
Yet her thoughts, not always so far away, sometimes turned to the nearer, smaller things of earth in which she found beauty and intense pleasure. She looked then with inward reflection on this world which her father had first taught her to see. On the calm North Shore she gathered delicately-spun sea mosses of vermilion and malachite green. She listened to the sea wailing in labyrinthine shells that hid the fires of the setting sun in their hearts. On the South Shore she ran gleefully from the foaming waves that lashed the high, wave-carved, sand dune cliffs, roaring back over the wreck of an old four-master with broken rudder, faded figurehead and the remains of a mizzenmast with poignantly scratched slate, "Crew gone on a raft — steering SW.
God have mercy on us poor souls without water. Chapman, Master. In those early days, like every other child, she lived in two worlds, the one of her imagination, the other of reality. From the often too dismal world of reality she escaped to the moors to spend most of her hours in a realm of mysterious dreams, of exciting places, of fairy nature. The people from history, the fictitious characters in books, then inhabited the changing Nantucket land.
On tempestuous days the Vikings came. In the northeast wind she heard them coming, in the thunder heard the hammering of the great god Thor. On hot, sunny days Nantucket was a tropical island with the dunes the sheltered home of Robinson Crusoe and his man "Sixth Day" so called by the Friends who considered it idolatrous to give the names of "contaminating heathen deities" to the days of the week. The glistening ebony Portuguese were wild savages who, at the slightest provocation, might turn and devour her. Ever since she had heard of ancestor Christopher Hussey who, so it was said, had been eaten by cannibals off the Florida coast, she had dreaded that gruesome fate.
Nor was she surprised to find among the spider tracks of gulls and sandpipers an unknown footprint in the sand. Pondering on its origin her fancy wandered another way. The pits in the sand became lunar craters. She "skoodled" Indian fashion, dug her toes and grubby hands into the sand, and began to build other craters like those she had seen through her father's red-trimmed reflecting telescope.
Some had flat walls, others deep-shadowed pits. As she added grains to mountain peaks and subtracted others she understood for the first time the changes in the lunar rises and in its hollows. In the craters in the sand, as the sun rose, the shadows gradually disappeared to reappear on the opposite side when the sun went down. This game pleased her immensely. In winter she discovered that she could play the same game in the snow. The shadows were sharper, the contrast greater, but the effect was always the same. Happily she spent endless hours watching these curious shadow shapes come and go as the sun moved on across the sky.
At other times as she roamed the fragrant commons, sharing in their varying moods, the loneliness and silence of moor and sky, like that of the sea, entered forever into her heart. To many, perhaps, this moorland was a desolate place. But to a girl alive to the songs of birds, the color and form of flowers, the calls of animals, it was a fascinating realm of infinite possibility.
Alone there she shared a place with the wild bobtail rabbits, the moles which burrowed in the ground. A bird with a broken wing found answering agony in her heart. In the depths of the low scrub oak she discovered birds' nests, carefully hidden from less inquisitive eyes. Hours on end she watched to learn their habits, their times and ways of nesting, the color of their eggs that ranged from the luminous robin's blue to the dull-speckled hue of the wren.
In this way she discovered nature's secrets hidden from those who passed more quickly by. She learned, too, to know the different faces of the weather, the changes in the seasons. In the spring, with never lessening wonder, she uncovered the first hepatica. She wandered along ways bordered by masses of sweet-scented deep pink wild roses. She stopped to munch the blueberries, beach plums or shiny rose hips.
On the windy days of fall she ran, lithe as a faun, over the low blueberry bushes that had turned the moor to crimson flame. She wound her way through dank groves of spiny wild hawthorn that danced madly, Cassandra-like in the wind. These trees, twisted into weird shapes in their battle with the elements, according to legend, are the widows and old maids of Nantucket destined to live out their lives alone. But once as she "shooled" there, lost in thought, the moors, usually so friendly, suddenly grew hostile. She failed to perceive the sea fog that crept stealthily in, shrouding the land in its tenuous grasp.
Only that eerie oppression and threatening silence which one feels but cannot hear moved batlike through the dark. Her short, sturdy figure, her bowed head, shadowed by her great bonnet, slowly became part of the heavy fog. In the stillness she felt that loneliness, that hate and fear, which only those who have been lost in a fog alone on the moors can comprehend. Over and over she murmured the noble words of the old hymn which she would always repeat in moments of danger:. The rhythmic words brought some comfort as unknown perils swarmed in her all too vibrant imagination.
Mysterious forms moved on ahead and behind, dark bearded men with shaggy brows — outlaws from some wreck, she imagined, cast ashore to live out their days in this wild land. She stumbled on. From afar came the voice of the sea, from the copse near by an owl hooted. She stood for a moment and waited, her senses alert as those of a sensitive deer stalked by a hunter. Then in terror she began to run. In the northeast thunder clouds were gathering — no good omen, she knew, only sign of impending tempest. The wind blew, driven as it were from some other world, with disregard for every living thing.
She feared it then as she feared the tempestuous sea and the dark of a starless night. Bits of bayberry and uprooted blueberry whirled demoniacally around. At any moment she expected to be blown from the earth to which she clung. At any instant she felt that her island might slip its moorings and go sailing off.
The rain came, softly first, soon in torrents. Crouching now, her head down, she reefed her skirts close in around her, pulled her bonnet strings tighter and battled on. Now and then she lifted her tear-fogged eyes in search of some human sign, as will-o'-the-wisp lights danced tantalizingly before her. Then suddenly a dim light shone out, like a single glowing ember in a dying fire. Hopefully she turned toward it. On a ledge of sloping ground, hidden in the shadow, a narrow path led to the low door of a dingy, ramshackle hut, hard to discern through the driving rain.
Inside on a wooden table a flickering lamp cast ominous shadows. In one corner on a dingy sofa sat a scrawny black cat. In another three bedraggled hens stuck their heads out of a bureau drawer. On the mantel a candle dripped its tallow beside a dead hen, an old wooden shoe, a brown teapot with a broken spout. In the middle of the floor lay a rat. But the strangest part of this strange room, crossed by a maze of spider webs, was the three lost wraiths who inhabited it. And as Maria watched them and saw the three scuttle bonnets that hung by the wall she knew where she was.
She had often seen these three at Friends' Meeting. Once a week she had watched Anna Newbigin, the youngest, on her frenzied way to market. Plainer volumes were tied by thongs of leather. Copies of the Bible, books of prayer, and legends of the saints were most frequently made, though the Greek and Latin classics and books of poetry, history, and romance were also sometimes copied. Thus we see that a monk's life in those old days held a great many interests outside of religious matters, and as young Bede had early decided to give his life to study, and since all the books were found in the monasteries, it is not strange that he remained in a monastery all his life, going when he was ten years old from Wearmouth to the just finished convent of Yarrow, where he lived the rest of his days.
His learning included every branch of knowl 53 edge that was then known, and we have only to look at his writings to see how far the world had advanced in his time. He wrote principally in Latin, for in that way he was sure of having his works understood by all learned men, as Latin was the language of scholars all over the world. Although his books on theology, science, and grammar showed his acquaintance with the wisdom of all ages, and won for him a great reputation at the time, it is his history of England that has given him his place in English literature, for it is to this book that we owe more than to any work that was written for hundreds of years after.
Bede called it the Ecclesiastical History of England , because his real purpose was to write the history of Christianity in England; but as at that time the history of the Church was the history of the people, the work is invaluable because of the information in regard to the growth of the nation, and its pictures of the every-day life of the people. It was written in Latin, and in its pages are found recorded all the events of national interest up 54 to his time.
It is here, indeed, that we read the story of Caedmon's life, and it is perhaps due to this fact alone that the old poet was not utterly forgotten. But Bede enshrined Caedmon's song in the pages of his History as carefully and lovingly as one picks the first spring flower, and thus the earliest note of English poetry comes to us still as clear and sweet as when Caedmon sung it in the aisles of Whitby Chapel. As his History was the most important, it was also almost the last effort of his life, for after it was finished he undertook no great work, but spent his last years content with the usual routine of a monk's duties.
There was one service, however, which he wished to render to those who could not read his Latin treatises, for although he was one of the most learned men of the age he was still an Englishman, and had a loyal interest in the common people. Therefore he desired to translate some portion of the Bible into the mother-tongue, and chose for this purpose the Gospel of St. John, thinking no doubt that this message of love would be understood by all. We can see him then, in his old age, seated in the Scriptorium which he had first entered as a child, surrounded by his pupils, who gave him a love far beyond the common affection, and reading perhaps in their young faces the same eager hope that had filled his own breast when, as a novice, he had looked upon those treasured volumes, and sighed for the wisdom that lay between their jewelled covers.
The work of translation would have been an easy one to such a scholar as Bede, even though the language of the people was not yet perfectly formed, but he was old and enfeebled by sickness, and had it not been for the love he felt toward it he must have given up the task from very weakness. But he persevered, dictating day after day to his pupils, and only pausing when suffering compelled him to. He grew weaker as the work proceeded, and one day, feeling that the end was near, called his helpers to him and bade them write quickly, for he did not know how much time would be given him.
And as the day wore on his strength failed so rapidly that his assistants 56 feared the task was too great, and one of them said: "Most dear master, there is still one chapter left; do you think it troublesome to be asked more questions? It is recorded by the monks that the title venerable, which is always attached to the name of Bede, was given by an angel who bent over the brother who had fallen asleep while writing his master's epitaph, and supplied a missing word. And the legend well illustrates the love and esteem in which he was held by the monks, who thought no honor too high to be paid to the beloved master whose presence had crowned their monastery with enduring fame.
About a hundred years after the death of Bede, which occurred in , a little prince was born in England whose name was in time to be as celebrated as that of the great teacher. This was Alfred, son of Ethelwulf, king over all England, and as the little prince was the youngest of Ethelwulf's sons there was small chance of his ever coming to the throne, even in an age when the right of the eldest born was often disputed. England at that time was in a state of trouble that may well be compared to its condition when invaded by the Saxons, and the cause was of the same nature; for a foreign foe was again on the soil, and an enemy from across the sea again threatened the land that had known so much warfare.
These were the Northmen, a seafaring race 58 like the Saxons, called in England Danes, and in France, where they also ventured, Normans, and whose custom it was to descend upon any foreign shore, murder the inhabitants, burn the houses, and carry away captives and treasures, just because they liked the excitement of adventure and the wealth and power it brought them. The coasts of France and England were their favorite places of resort, and the dwellers by the sea had learned to regard the visits of these marauders with horror, and shrunk from them with a dread that was considered no shame; for England was honestly trying, in the midst of many domestic quarrels, to become a peaceable, law abiding, and civilized nation, and the Danes, who, when away from home on these marauding expeditions, laughed at law, despised peace, and found pleasure in burning churches and plundering monasteries, were rightly thought the enemies of all progress in civilization.
For nearly a hundred years they had harried England, and the people were never sure of peace for a month at a time. Sometimes they were defeated, sometimes they were bribed 59 with gold to depart in peace, sometimes after a successful raid they would go off of their own accord to plunder other places, but one never knew when they might not return; and, as after a while they not only came, but declared they had come to stay, the English found that the matter was very serious, and that, if England was to remain the land of the English, the Danes must be driven away utterly, or else held in such fear that they would be content to stay in the country without fighting for the control of it.
So the wars went on more fiercely than ever, and neither side could be said to win, for although the Danes did not conquer England, neither were they driven away, and the whole land was full of trouble because of their presence. Little Prince Alfred was born just at a time when the contest was at its fiercest, and his earliest recollections were connected with the dreadful deeds committed by his country's enemies, and his heart was thrilled with horror many a time as he listened to the story of their 60 terrible outrages against the lives and property of the English.
At his father's court the highest attention was paid to the training that would fit men for soldiers and military leaders to fight the Danes, and Alfred was taught to ride and fence as soon as he was old enough to sit a horse or hold a sword. And as he watched his father depart on some expedition against the Danes, and saw the white banner of the Saxons, with the figure of a horse embroidered upon it, floating proudly in the wind, he no doubt longed for the time when he too should follow that banner and be able to fight for his country. The English court at that period was held with all the magnificence that could be commanded, and the palaces of the king and nobles were furnished with all the rare and costly articles that could be obtained.
In the king's palace were golden tables, beautiful carved oaken chairs ornamented with beaten silver, tapestries and curtains of silk embroidered with gold and silver, and jewelled goblets from which the royal family drank their mead. Dress, too, received much attention, and the wealthy had 61 garments of silk embroidered with golden flowers, and beautiful cloaks fastened with clasps of gold and silver, and set with precious stones. Rings were worn also, and heavy necklaces called neck-rings, and bracelets heavy and jewelled, and even the shoes were sometimes set with jewels.
In the midst of such surroundings Alfred passed his early years, receiving such instruction as was common for a king's son, and profiting by it so well that at hunting, horse-racing, hawking, leaping, running, wrestling, and all other games, he easily outstripped his companions and showed the true qualities of a leader. But, although he was thus accomplished in all the things that were then deemed necessary for the education of a prince, there were many others which interested him, for he was a thoughtful boy and keen-sighted, and very little escaped his observation.
Among other things he pondered much over the beautiful books which he saw in the monasteries, or which were chained to a table in the halls of the palace; and, as he studied the pictures and lingered 62 over the exquisite illuminations, he often wondered how it would seem to be able to read, and find out what the stories were about; for, although he was expected to grow up and be a great prince, it was not thought necessary that he should be taught to read, for, why should he learn to read when it would not help him to govern?
And in all England then there was scarcely a noble who knew one letter from another. Many a time, as Alfred sat in the hall of feasting and listened to the Saxon gleemen singing of Beowulf and other heroes, or heard some wandering Irish minstrel chant the old songs of Taliesin, he felt a great wish to be able to open the wonderful volumes that he had seen, and perhaps find in them other stories as fascinating as those he was listening to.
But this could not be, and the only thing he could do would be to go to the queen's apartment sometimes, and beg her to read to him out of the books whose treasures seemed more inaccessible to him than fairyland. Once, as he was bending over his mother while she read to him, 63 and admiring the beautiful book, she told him that it should be the property of whichever of the four brothers should first be able to read it. The other princes cared nothing for this promise, and smiled to think of a Saxon prince bending over a book like a monk; but to Alfred the words brought the fairest hope he could have had.
He set himself about learning to read with the same eagerness that had made him famous among his companions as a wrestler and runner, and in a short time, considering the difficulties that lay in the way, he was able to call the beautiful book his own. And then it seemed to him that the things he had known before could not be compared with the knowledge that might now be his, and his new gift was held as precious as the magician's wand that could open vast treasure-houses at the master's touch.
Alfred's love for music was great, and he was a skilled player on the harp, and knew by heart all the old songs that the harpers sang; but from the time that he learned to read he began to look at life more seriously than he had ever 64 done before, and he felt that there were other things in life than war, and hunting, and pleasure, and that a nation, to arrive at true greatness, must believe this.
But although his knowledge of books went far toward forming his character, he had other advantages which were denied generally even to the sons of kings. His father Ethelwulf had sent an expedition to visit Rome, which Alfred accompanied, though at the time he was only five years old, and thus he learned early that his own country was only a small portion of the world, and that a Saxon King, though brave in battle and strong in governing his country, might still have much to learn from nations whose greatness did not depend entirely upon the sword.
Ethelwulf, on a second expedition to Rome, took Alfred with him again, and as the boy saw the costly presents—consisting of silver dishes, golden images, silken robes, a jewelled sword, and a crown of pure gold weighing four pounds—which his father gave to the Pope, he was again impressed with the idea that greatness included other things than personal courage or strength; 65 for, as a mark of favor, the Pope promised Ethelwulf that thereafter no Saxon should ever be bound with iron bonds in Rome; and no soldier in Rome would have dared to disobey that order, though it came from one who had never carried a sword or stood on a field of battle.
By the time he was seventeen, Alfred was considered the most promising of all of Ethelwulf's sons, and he had already seen more than one battle with the Danes, who were as full of determination as ever to conquer England. More than once they had promised peace and signed treaties, but the English had learned that the word of a Dane could not be trusted, and the land was as full of trouble as ever. When Ethelwulf died he was succeeded in turn by his three elder sons, who all fought the Danes, and when Alfred came to the throne, in his twenty-third year, he knew that hard work lay before him.
The year before his accession he fought in eight battles against the enemy, and yet peace seemed as far off as ever. For six or seven years the war went on, in the old ways, the Danes sometimes suing for peace, 66 sometimes gaining victories, and sometimes accepting money for their promise to go away; and toward the latter part of this time the English had become so disheartened that it seemed to them they would lose their country in spite of their brave resistance; for their army had dwindled down to almost nothing, the whole country was overrun by the Danes, and King Alfred himself was a fugitive from his court, and was hiding with a few loyal followers among the marshes.
But hope did not forsake the king even in such a sad plight, and he was resolved to make one more great effort to rid his country from the enemy.
- Frank and Neds Vacation!
- La crise jusquà quand ? (French Edition).
- Using And Adapting Childrens Fascinations In The Classroom Part Two House/Homes!
- A Widow In Waiting.
- Undercover Blues?
- The Book of Genesis (Hero Guild 1);
- La transfiguration du politique (Littérature) (French Edition);
Chief of the Danish sea-kings at that time was Guthrum, whose name was held in horror by all England because of his zeal in plundering towns, burning monasteries, and killing women and children. Alfred knew that there would be no peace for England so long as this great chief remained unconquered, and besides, there was a tradition among the English that Guthrum was not only the fiercest of the sea-kings, but also the noblest in character, and the 67 least likely to dishonor his plighted word. So it would be a great thing for England if, by defeat or other means, Guthrum could be made to consent to peace, and Alfred determined to bring this about if possible.
His camp, in the midst of wide marshes, was unknown to the enemy, who only knew that the Saxons were in hiding somewhere; for it was the habit of the king's men to sally forth from the camp and fall upon any small bands of Danes that might be passing near, and after a skirmish in which the Saxons were generally victorious, carry off provisions and arms to the king. The camp was well secured from intrusion by the nature of the soil, and so expert did the English become in harassing the enemy, that the Danes learned to look for a lurking Saxon in every clump of alder, or group of willows that fringed the streams which encircled the little island where Alfred had made his dwelling-place.
The Saxons for miles around knew the secret, but they kept it well, and it was not generally known even among themselves that it was the 68 king who was at the head of the camp. But they learned that they could still trust the honor and courage of their king, even though he was a fugitive and slept in a hut made of logs and rushes instead of the royal palace. And so, when the time came for action, the king found that the English, as a nation, were still loyal to him and their homes, and he had not much trouble in getting together an army. Messengers were sent from city to city and village to village, bearing the naked sword and arrow, the symbols of war, and the Saxons responded with right good will, giving the messenger God speed, and promising help when the time came.
Then every Saxon heart thrilled again with hope, and at night every eye watched for the signal for action. There is a story in the old histories which says that, in order to see the Danish camp, Alfred made up his mind to visit it himself rather than send any messenger, no matter how reliable or sharp-sighted he might be.
Accordingly, he disguised himself as a wandering minstrel, and taking his harp, approached the 69 Danish camp and began to sing some of those old songs for which the gleemen were so famous. The Danish sentinels were glad enough to have the beautiful voice of the singer and the exquisite tones of his harp break in upon the monotony of their watch, and they encouraged him to sing song after song, and finally admitted him to the camp. Alfred passed from tent to tent, charming the soldiers with his music, and one of the chiefs was so pleased with his skill that he insisted on leading him into the presence of Guthrum himself.
And so the rival kings met face to face, and Guthrum, at whose name all England trembled, forgot for a while that he was a great warrior and that his chiefs were looking to him to conquer a nation, and listened to Alfred's singing, which no doubt brought up old memories of days in which warfare had no part. But although Alfred used his voice with such good effect, he did not forget that he had come there to use his eyes more, and when he left Guthrum's presence, loaded with the gifts that it was customary to bestow upon the gleemen, he bore 70 away with him a very good idea of the Danish forces and resources, and could calculate pretty fairly how a battle might go.
And so, when he returned to his camp among the marshes, he called his chieftains together, and kneeling down under the great Saxon banner, drew on the ground, by the light of the torches, the plan of the Danish camp, and declared that the hour had come and he was ready to strike one more blow for English liberty.
The signal spread from point to point, and such an army gathered that Alfred was able completely to surround the Danish camp, and repulse every attempt of the enemy to break through. At last, after a two weeks' siege Guthrum was willing to agree to peace and accept Alfred's offer of friendship, and his permission to remain in England so long as he respected the English nation's rights.
Guthrum was so impressed by Alfred's generosity to a conquered foe, that he did not find it difficult to believe him when told that this kindness to any enemy was taught by the Christian religion, which forbade making war for its own 71 sake and commanded instead acts of mercy and forgiveness.
And this doctrine, which was so powerfully preached by Alfred's conduct, seeming to Guthrum more noble than his own faith, he consented to be baptized, King Alfred becoming his sponsor; and as his army followed his example, the Danes in England were considered thenceforth as Christians. The defeat of Guthrum was one of the most important events in early English history.
It saved the English nation at the moment of its greatest peril, and helped the work of civilization, which must have been put back for a long period if the Danes had been successful. And, although Alfred had still much trouble from other bands of sea-kings who descended upon the coasts, and the Danes and Saxons did not trust each other fully for many years, the supremacy of the English remained in full force, and the country finally became so peaceful and law abiding, that it was said that golden bracelets might be hung upon the landmarks along the highways without fear of their being stolen.
Although this, of course, could not be true, it 72 may still illustrate the difference between the condition of the country then, and its state during the years when the Danes prowled around like hungry wolves, and no man could leave his home in the morning without the fear that when he returned at night he might find only the ruins left by the hands of a relentless enemy. Outside of the saving of the nation and the comfort which peace brought, the defeat of the Danes had still another important and lasting effect upon the history of the people.
And this was the preservation of the libraries, which enabled the progress of literature to continue uninterrupted. If Guthrum had really conquered England, and Alfred had been slain or forced into exile, there is little doubt that the Danes, following their usual custom when dealing with a conquered enemy, by destroying what was considered most precious, would have burned monasteries, destroyed books, and forced many scholars, both among priests and laymen, into exile in France or Italy.
Thus learning would have suffered greatly, and England would have been almost illiterate 73 again until such time as the two races had become one, and knowledge had been brought from abroad. And this would have taken a long time to accomplish, and the literature arising from such a state would have been quite different in character from our early English writings. But the Saxon gained the day, kept the domestic arts, taught the Dane how to till the ground and gather the harvest, build houses, and respect the laws; and hardly had the first flowers bloomed on the old battle-fields when Alfred was busy again with his interrupted studies, inviting scholars from abroad to his court, and forming great plans to make an intelligent and educated people out of the rough material he had to deal with.
His own love of learning was so strong that he could not help but impart an interest in it to others, and in order to make this interest more active he founded schools which he ordered all children to attend, and formed the plan of having the knowledge which was locked away in Latin manuscripts brought to the reach of all by having it translated into the common tongue. His own work in this respect is the most important of the age, and he is no less famous as a scholar than as a king and warrior.
His most important work was the translation of Bede's History. This being in Latin, was of course unfamiliar to the common people, and Alfred desired above all things that the history of the country should be known to all. He therefore transcribed the Latin into English, so that all who could read might become familiar with it, and learn the lessons which Bede tried to teach, that the true glory of a nation lay not in ceaseless war, but in cultivating the arts of peace; and that the names of mighty warriors, however brilliantly they might shine, would always be dim beside those which stood for noble manhood and the progress of the race.
Island: Manuscripts & Paper Collectibles, Art, Prints, & Posters
It was through this translation of King Alfred that the English people first became interested in their own history, and thus his service may be considered as equally valuable to his age with that of Bede, to whom succeeding generations have owed so much. King Alfred also translated a book called the 75 Consolations of Philosophy , by Boethius, a Roman writer who lived some four hundred years before his time. Boethius wrote his great work while in prison on a charge of treason, which finally led to his death. The Consolations were written in five books, which taught that God ruled the world and was the source of all good, that even the most miserable of mankind can find comfort by fixing his mind on divine things, and that as seen from above only the good are happy.
The Christian monks saw so much good in this work, which was written from the heart of one who had suffered the saddest experiences, that they regarded it as well worth their study, and valued it so highly that it was used almost daily in all schools and monasteries. Another interesting translation by Alfred was that of the writings of Orosius, a Spanish monk who wrote a history of the world from the creation, and whose work was used as a text-book of history and geography in the schools. Although Orosius had lived in the fifth century, the knowledge of geography had 76 not increased very largely since his time, and as Alfred desired to make additions to this part of the book, he sent messengers to various parts of the world to gather all the information they could about distant countries; one of these embassies had even journeyed as far as India, and Alfred added the information they brought to the writings of Orosius.
He also entertained at his court all the great travellers he could induce to come there, and listened to their descriptions of strange nations, and by adding the knowledge thus gained he gave the book a much greater value. Travelling in those days, when there were no railroads or steamers, and when there was constant danger to life from man and beast, as well as from the perils of unfamiliar ways, was a thing seldom indulged in except from necessity, and the traveller was held in great honor always, as one of strange experiences who had had his courage tested in the sharpest way.
Two of the most celebrated travellers at that time were Wulfstan and Othere, who had travelled far north, and their fame reached the 77 ear of Alfred, who invited them to England and heard their adventures from their own lips. Othere, who was a Norwegian, had sailed round the North Cape into the White Sea, and Wulfstan, who is supposed to have been a Jute, had ventured far north in the Baltic, and Alfred also added their accounts to the book of Orosius.
Thus, when he finally gave the work into the hands of pupils of the school, it contained as accurate an account as it was possible to obtain of the geography of Europe at that time. These translations, which held much of the knowledge that was then taught, being taken from their Latin dress and put into English, could still be used as text-books in the schools where English was being taught, and thus were of great importance.
But, besides these and other translations, Alfred will also be distinguished for his own wise laws, which secured such peace to the country and which were so just, that they can still be quoted as authority. And the love of liberty and justice can never be seen more clearly than in the life of this great man, whose power of 78 command might easily have been put to the most tyrannical uses if he had so willed. His place in English literature is important, because he preserved books and learning at a time when civilization seemed to be passing away from the land, and his place in English history is equally important, because in an age when might so often made right, he proved that justice was greater than power, and forgiveness nobler than revenge.
And so, whether as king, soldier, or scholar, his name must forever be connected with the first true progress of the English nation. Alfred's efforts to keep England for the English could only preserve peace during his own life-time, and hardly had he died when the troubles began again, and king after king ascended the English throne to spend his life in fighting with the Danes. This lasted for a hundred years, and finally England was conquered by Swein, king of Denmark, and the Danes held the country for forty years.
But after that the English gained the power again and held it for the next twenty-five years, during which time the Danes in England were brought nearer and nearer to their old enemies by ties of marriage and friendship, and by those common interests which must exist between two races living in the same country, however bitterly they might hate each other in the beginning; 80 and at last when Harold, the last English King, came to the throne, Danes and English considered themselves as one people, and were ready to stand by and fight for each other like brothers, if occasion demanded.
And it was well that this was so, for England was approaching a time in her history when she would need braver and truer hearts to defend her than she had ever needed before. Harold was the son of Godwin, once a Saxon peasant who began life as a cow-herd, but now the most powerful of the English earls, and although his mother had been a Dane, he felt himself only English, and was determined to bring back the lost splendor of the English crown.
But he had for an enemy William, Duke of Normandy, who had long looked with covetous eyes on England, and whose strongest ambition it was to become the ruler of the island kingdom. He claimed that he had a right to the English throne because he was a cousin of Edward the Confessor, the last king before Harold. Edward, called the Confessor because of his piety, had spent his early years at the Norman 81 court, while a Danish king was still on the throne, and during that time he had learned the French language and had grown so fond of French customs that it was said by the English he was more Norman than Saxon.
His subjects were bitterly jealous of the Norman favorites he always had around him, and longed for the time when they should be sent back to their own country. Harold's accession to the throne made the court English as well as the country, and the people were rejoiced at the change. But their joy was short, for no sooner had the news reached France than William of Normandy began to make preparations for the invasion of England.
He offered to his noblemen the castles and lands of the Saxon earls, to the soldiers "good pay and the pillage of England," and his terms were eagerly accepted. The Norman barons set to work with a will: armies were raised as if by magic, and ships were built, armor, lances, and swords forged, and banners embroidered with the emblems of the different lords who dreamed of the day when they should see them floating over the Saxon 82 castles.
Numbers of men-at-arms in France and Germany flocked into Normandy and offered their services to the man who had promised them the booty they might make, and camp-followers polished armor and spurs, sharpened swords and spears, pikes and javelins, and waited impatiently for the hour when they might descend on the English coast. England, unhappily, was threatened with other foes than the Normans at that time, for the king of Norway had landed on the northern coast and was ravaging it at the very time that Norman and Saxon met at Hastings, near where William had disembarked.
On October 14, , a battle was fought which proved one of the most memorable events in English history. The contest, which may be said to have begun with the song which the first advancing Norman sang as he rode forward and was met by a Saxon knight, raged the long day through, and at night Harold lay pierced through the brain with a Norman arrow, and the fate of the English throne was decided. William the Norman, called in history the 83 Conqueror, was crowned at Westminster, and England became a land ruled by a foreign despot, who parcelled the country out to his favorites, made laws that best suited his own designs, and above all, ordered all business to be transacted in French, which he made the legal language in the hope that the people would be forced to use it and in time forget their mother tongue.
But the people refused to acknowledge William king in their hearts, though they were forced to do so outwardly. And they cherished a desperate hope that fortune would again place the crown upon the head of a Saxon king. This hope sustained them in those dark hours when they saw their homes taken from them and given to the Normans, and knew that justice existed only for their enemies. And as William well knew the temper of the people, his reign was by no means a peaceful one, and he could only look forward to a dark future for the sons who were to reign after him. The use of the French language at the court, in all schools, and in the halls of justice, together with the un 84 settled state of the country, had the most disastrous effect upon learning and literature.
English lads who should have been studying in the schools were roaming about the forests, harboring only thoughts of revenge against the king they had been taught to hate, and as the Saxons were looked down upon by the Normans as an inferior race, even the clergy had little respect paid to them, no matter how learned they might be.
Thus among the English people the love of learning which Alfred had tried to instil was gradually slipping away, for they chose to be ignorant rather than to get knowledge through the language of the foreigners that they hated. And it was only when the two races had become somewhat reconciled that it was possible for literature again to be looked upon with interest.
- Catalogue of the Mercantile library in New York ;
- L'Abbat, maître d'armes.
- Bermuda Books and Publications.
- BorderCrossings Study Centre.
- Routledge Dictionary of Economics?
- Look Great -- Feel Great: Top 100 Easy Weight Loss Tips!
- Similar authors to follow?
During the years which followed immediately after the conquest all books which were written—and as a rule it was only the clergy who wrote—were in Latin if they were prose, while the poetry and songs which the Normans brought with them from France were written in French. What is known as popular literature, 85 the literature of the common people, did not exist in those days of violence and bloodshed; for the Saxon, whether he were earl or peasant, could only think of defending his home from his enemies, and his dependents from the most cruel oppression.
But in the reign of William Rufus, the son of the Conqueror, an event occurred which so influenced the thought of the people that it gave rise in time to a new literature. This was the First Crusade, an expedition undertaken by the nations of Western Europe to recover the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem from the Turks, who were then ruling in Palestine.
The Christian Church thought it a disgrace that the tomb of Christ should be in the possession of an infidel nation, and sermons were preached by the monks all over the Christian world, urging men to join the crusade. This appeal was responded to with such enthusiasm that hundreds of thousands of soldiers were soon on their way to Jerusalem, and from this time on, for nearly two hundred years, there was scarcely a period in which a crusade was not being carried on.
The French and English and German nations were brought into contact in the East with the Greeks and Arabs, two nations that were celebrated for their learning, and this had a great influence upon their civilization. Knowledge began to gain more friends, and out of the darkness which had settled over literature a light began to shine. In England this was especially true, and while the crusades were considered by many as chiefly beneficial because of the wealth that came to the country from commerce with other nations, the more thoughtful saw that contact with other civilizations was just the thing that was needed to bring out their own powers more fully, and turn their thoughts toward higher things than battle or conquest.
Shielah of Earth second edition: The Ancient human Feb 2, Teesha of the Ninth Realm Dec 1, The Fauns of Agassiz Feb 14, More Information. Anything else? Provide feedback about this page. Back to top. Get to Know Us. Amazon Payment Products. English Choose a language for shopping. Amazon Music Stream millions of songs. Amazon Advertising Find, attract, and engage customers. Amazon Drive Cloud storage from Amazon. Alexa Actionable Analytics for the Web.
Sell on Amazon Start a Selling Account. AmazonGlobal Ship Orders Internationally. Amazon Inspire Digital Educational Resources.