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fell and thick, but he was early bald.1 And as he sat, as described, down went one of his brows towards his cheek, and the other up towards his hair. Egill was black-eyed and dusky-skinned. He would not drink, though it was offered him, and his brows went up and down. King Athelstan sat in the high-seat. He had his sword laid across his knees. And when they had sat thus awhile, the King drew his sword out of its sheath, took a gold ring off his arm, great and good, put it on the point of the blade, stood up, went on the floor, and extended it to Egill across the fire. Egill stood up, drew his sword, and went on the floor. He thrust his sword into the hoop of the ring and drew it to himself, then went back to his place. The King resumed his place on the highseat. And when Egill had reseated himself, he drew the ring over his hand, and his brows resumed evenness. He laid aside his sword and helmet, and took the wildbeast's horn that was brought to him and drank of it, and he sang :
My brows were downward drooping,
I mourned the slasher of chain-mail.
The King on whose hand sits the hawk
Well is it worthy the giver.2
Thenceforth Egill drank his share, and spoke to the other men. After that, the King had two chests brought in, two men bare each. They were full of silver. The King said: 'These chests, Egill, you shall have, and when you go to Iceland, you must convey this money to your father as compensation for his son. I send it him; and some of the money you shall distribute among the relatives of yourself and Thorolf; and as compensation for the loss of your brother, you shall have of me either land or cash, just as you please. And if you will remain with me I will confer on you honour and office, such as you desire.' Egill accepted the money, and thanked the King for his gifts and his friendly words. Then Egill became cheerful, and sang :
The grief of my heart made my eyebrows
To hang as a threatening cloud,
The King, by his liberal presents,
1 The description of wolf grey hair and baldness applies to Egill at a later period of life.
2A difficult and almost unintelligible stave. This is a loose rendering of its probable meaning.
We must now consider some of the points that have been taken for granted in the preceding narrative. First, as to the battle fought at Axminster. In the register of Newnham Abbey near by, is a statement made in the reign of Edward III, recording an ancient tradition that a great battle was fought by Athelstan and the Ethelings "at Munt S. Calyxt en Devonsyr,” and that it ended at Colecroft, near Axminster. S. Calyxt is now Coaxdon. We know from William of Malmesbury that on the night before the battle a relay under the Bishop of Sherborne arrived, and that the Bishop of Wilton was with the King. After the battle the bodies of the Ethelings were laid in the Church of Malmesbury. Athelstan, morcover, endowed a chapter at Axminster, that prayers might ever be said there for the souls of such as had fallen in the fight. It is not possible to reconcile the story of the battle, as told by William of Malmesbury, with the account in the Aigla. William, no doubt, gave the traditional account of the battle prevalent at Malmesbury, where were laid the bodies of the Ethelings who fell in it. William has confused the two battles, and calls that he describes Brumford. He says that Constantine fell in it. There are serious difficulties in the way of accepting the story as given by the Saga writer as exact history. He makes grave mistakes. According to him the battle of Vinheath is given too early in the life of Egill, in 927, instead of 937. What has occurred is that the writer has confused the order of events. Egill was twice in the service of Athelstan, in 927, and also in 937, and the writer has put the battle as occurring during the first period in place of the second.
It must be remembered that the narrative was traditional till committed to writing. A tale told again and again, in the long winter nights, among the descendants of Thorolf and Egill would present the minute particulars—such as the personal appearance of the hero, his armour, etc., but would be liable to confuse the sequence of events. Egill was born in 904, and had the battle been in 927 he would have been aged but 23, too young to be given command of a battalion, whereas in 937 he would have been aged 33. We do not get much aid as to the circumstances of the battle and its site from the
poem in the Chronicle. As Freeman says: "There is in the song nothing like a story or legend, nothing, if you strip it of its poetic language, except a few plain facts which the writer might have put into three or four lines of prose. King Athelstan
and his brother, the Etheling Edmund, fought a battle at Brunanburh against the Scots, under Constantine, and the Danes from Ireland, under Anlaf (Olaf), and gained a great victory. Five Danish kings, seven earls, and the son of the king of the Scots were killed, whilst Constantine and Anlaf escaped. Then Athelstan and Edmund went back in triumph to Wessex.”
With regard to the site of Brunanburh or Vinheath, the broad dreary flat by Boroughbridge to Raskelf suits the description admirably. Brunanburh means the burgh at the bridge, and at Aldborough was the Roman bridge to Watling-street. Later, when this was broken down, another bridge was built in a different place, and the present town of Boroughbridge grew up by it, and Aldborough was deserted. If Vinheath was the waste north extending to Easingwold and Thormanby, and the wood described was a spur of the forest of Galtres, then the burh where Athelstan rested before and after the battle was Aldborough. Although Brunanburh was a great victory, yet Athelstan was unable effectively to enforce his supremacy in Northumbria, and after his death, which took place two years later, the Danish King of Dublin was able again to assert, and in a measure maintain, his claim over it.
SOME OLD WEST RIDING MILESTONES.
BY JOHN J. BRIGG, M.A.
It is well known that there was in use in this country down to modern times a customary mile which was longer than the statute mile, by an amount varying from one-third to one-half. The origin of this measure has been discussed by Professor Flinders Petrie and others, and was occupying the attention of the late Dr. Seebohm up to the time of his death. My purpose in this paper is to record, at his request, a number of instances in which the customary mile has been used as the measure of length and engraved on milestones which have remained to our own day.
In some matters, the West Riding of Yorkshire is as little conservative as most places, and it is, therefore, somewhat surprising to find, as I shall show, that there are milestones still standing on main roads which beguile the traveller into the belief that he has only, say, six miles to go when he really has to go nine.
The Quarter Sessions Order Books of the West Riding go back to the early part of the seventeenth century; but the earliest reference to the erection of milestones is in the record of the Sessions held at Rotherham on August 6th, 1700:
"Stoops to be sett up in crosse highways.
In pursuance of an Act of Parliament made in the eighth and ninth years of his present Majesty King William, intituled an Act for enlarging comon highways. It is ordered by this Court that for the better convenience of travelling in such partes of this Ryding, which are remote from Towns and where several highways meet, the surveyors of the highways of every parish or place within this Ryding where two or more crosse highways meet, do forthwith cause to be erected or fixed in the most convenient place where such ways joine a stone or post, with an inscription thereon in large letters, containing the name of the next Market Town to which each of the said joining highways leede, upon paine to forfeit by the said Act the summe of ten shillings to be employed for the purposes aforesaid."
To be sent by the clerk of the peace to the chief constables, and by them to the surveyors of highways within their respective divisions.
This order was repeated in 1733, and again in 1738, in these words :
"Whereas it has been reported to this Court that several public roads divide into several branches and cross one another upon large Moors and Commons and other places, where intelligence is difficult to be had, to the peril and great inconvenience and delay of travellers, for remedy whereof it is ordered that the Chief Constables of the several weapontakes do, with all convenient speed, give notice to their respective petty constables to erect stones and Guide-posts, with Indexes and directions ingraved or written thereupon in the plainest and most intelligible manner and in the most proper places of their several Constableries."
The constables are to view the places and to present the same, or indict the persons neglecting to carry out this order.
Again, at Sheffield, October 11th, 1738:-" For explaining and amending the order lately made about Guide-posts. It is ordered that besides the name of the next Market Town or other notorious place, every such guide-post shall express how far such town or place is distant therefrom." Petty constables are to make oath within eight weeks after receiving notice of this order, before a Justice, as to how it is being carried out.
At Doncaster, January 17th, 1749, the order as to guideposts is repeated, and a further order was passed:-" To erect Mark-stones and Guide-posts with full directions, from one to another over such Moors and Commons in times of snow." The order was again repeated at Sheffield in October, 1750, and at Doncaster on January 23rd, 1754, with the words :— "Erect renew and repair Guide-posts with Indexes or directions engraved or written thereupon in the plainest and most intelligible manner."
At Pontefract, on May 7th, 1754, the Justices repeated their order, and decided to hold a Special Sessions on April 1st following, and to have all the several constables before them to answer a series of questions :
"Are guide-posts erected in all places where highways meet, divide, or cross one another, with proper directions?" "In what places are they wanting?" etc.