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GENERAL ASPECTS OF LIFE.
ful than it has since become under cultivation; and the system of fallows, while it covered a large portion with patches, interposed a wide interval between different homesteads. The traveller went armed on his journey. Yet from some points the aspects of life were more cheerful and picturesque than they are now. The portion of daily labour exacted from the working man was as much as human toil could accomplish; but the working days were fewer; less was done in the winter months, and saint-days and Sundays were mercifully interspersed in the seasons of fair weather. Games of every sort were the lawful amusements of idle hours and of festivals; we have lost infinitely more from the Saxon book of sports than we have added to it. It is melancholy to know that in the eighth century a labouring man was disgraced among his fellows if he could not sing to the harp, and to consider that one of the noblest arts has died out in the class that most need to be refined. In another respect, the love of dress, we have less to fear from a comparison; whether our taste is improved, may be more questionable. The Saxons seem to have adopted the Roman tunic, which reached to the knees, and to have completed it by long sleeves for the arms. A cloak over it, perhaps the chlamys, was added for out of doors. The head-dress of an Anglo-Saxon lady was a hood with long pendants; her dress of course reached to the ground. Wool and flax, with silk for the lappets and the eyelet holes, were the common materials; which the wearer herself would sometimes embroider. Bracelets and rings were favourite ornaments; and both sexes
1 Take the case of the geneat. "He must in some lands pay rent and pannage, and ride, or cart, or supply horses, labour and farm for his lord, mow and reap, park and keep it up, build and fence, and pay church-scot and alms, do heed-ward and horse-ward, go post far and near, as he is told."-Rect. Sing. Pers., A. S. Laws, vol. i., p. 431. Yet the geneat was comparatively free. The Saxon acre probably represented a man's daily labour; it is commonly taken as one-fifth larger than the Norman; and would be considered a very hard day's work for an able-bodied man at present. Mr. Kemble, who quotes Elfric to prove that an acre was the day's work, thinks on this account that it could not be larger than the statute acre.-Saxons in England, vol. i., pp. 96, 97.
2 Aldhelm de Laud. Virgin., s. 58.
DRESS AND CLEANLINESS.
delighted in bright colours. Unfortunately, they extended this to the use of pigments for the complexion; and rouge was as much a part of the furniture of a Saxon lady's toilettetable as the crisping-irons. The abuse of coloured dresses even invaded the sanctuary and the cloister; Charlemagne was scandalized at the laxity of English discipline, and Alcuin and Aldhelm inveighed with apostolic vehemence against the guilty fashion. But history tells us that it was not stemmed by the joint authority of two saints and an emperor; the monks in the times of the Norman conquest were still sinners gay dress against the rigid rules of their order. Unluckily, our ancestors were fonder of dress than of cleanliness: the warm bath indeed was a luxury, but the cold bath was a penance of the church; and the Danes are accused of having won the affections of English ladies by combing their hair, by bathing once a week, by frequent changes of clothing, and "such like frivolities."4
'Aldhelm de Laud. Virgin., s. 17. Ista
rubro coloris stibio genas fucare satagit. I suspect this is what Malmesbury has confounded with tattooing.— Lib. iii., p. 419.
2 Alcuin, Epist. 14, 15, 75, 78; Aldhelm de Laud. Virgin., s. 15; Malmesbury, lib. i., pp. 115, 116.
3 Malmesbury, lib. iii., p. 418. The council of Chalchuth, 785 A.D., forbade the canons to use "tinctis India, coloribus aut veste preciosâ."-Wilkins, vol. i., p. 147. Elfric warns his clergy that none of them be "too showy in his garments, nor adorned with gold.”—Pastoral, s. 49; A. S. Laws, vol. ii., p. 387.
4 Canons under Edgar, 11, 16; A. S. Laws, vol. ii., pp. 281-285; Wallingford, Gale, vol. iii., p. 547.
NATURE AND PREVALENCE OF EARLY POETRY.-CEDMON'S LIFE AND POEMS.CÆDMON AND MILTON.-THE DESCENT INTO HELL.-BEDE'S LIFE AND WORKS. -BEDE'S THEORY OF THE KOSMOS.-ALCUIN'S LIFE AND SCIENTIFIC TEACHING. -SPURIOUS WORKS ASCRIBED TO GREAT WRITERS.-DECLINE OF LEARNING IN THE NINTH AND TENTH CENTURIES.-LIBRARIES AND LETTERS.
THE first form of literature has always been poetical. In times when nothing could be written down, it was of the last importance to assist memory by artificial forms: by the antithesis of thoughts, as in Hebrew literature; or of cadences, as in Greek and Latin; or of initial or final sounds, alliterations and rhymes, as in Anglo-Saxon and Welsh.1 Moreover, the habits of the mind and the influences of language promoted the use of imagery in description. The savage transfers the facts of his own nature, will, and emotion, to the order of the visible world; personifies the sun as a woman, or attributes hidden influences to the stars; and his language, imperfectly furnished with adjectives, is tesselated with pictures and symbols to colour what he relates: a flight of spears is described as a swarm of bees; a swift ship with its sculptured prow as a horse. The metre employed by the AngloSaxon bards has never yet been reduced to rule; it was probably trochaic, the accent in each word being thrown back, as in modern German, on the first syllable. But the rude minstrels who sang to crowds on bridges, or who visited halls, were no doubt a little careless of verbal music; provided the
1 Zeuss. Gramm. Celt., vol. ii., cap. vi., 2.
2 Aldhelm, finding that his congregation used to go home after mass without waiting for the sermon, stationed himself on a bridge which they were forced to pass, attracted them by his recitative as a minstrel, and then insensibly diverged into a sermon.-Vita Aldhel., Ang. Sac., vol. ii., p. 4.
ORDINARY ANGLO-SAXON POETRY.
speaker's attention were riveted by a due succession of alliterations, the great requisites of the art had been complied with; rhymes are rare, and appear to have been found difficult. The facts that verse was the natural expression of AngloSaxon thought, that every village had its rhapsodist, and that to be able to improvise was the necessary accomplishment of a gentleman, explain why the many pieces that still remain to us are of most unequal merit. The epical fragments of some nameless Homers, pagan mythes and gospel story, songs of war and records of national victory, have floated down to us on the stream of time with dark riddles, with moralities, with metrical legends and narratives as flat as the dullest prose. For anything like modern sentiment, we must not look. The fierce passions of war, the hardships of travel, the bitterness of captivity or exile, are in turns the subject of lyrical poems. But the morbid self-consciousness of an over-wrought society, the idealism of the twelfth century, or the chivalrous passion of the thirteenth, were foreign to Anglo-Saxon experience. The common woes and thoughts of life occupied the scald; his belief in the invisible world was founded on tradition, not on speculation; he understood money and marriage, but not love. This absence of passion and tenderness, is common to all the early and undoubted Welsh poems. But love, sometimes under rather grotesque forms, sometimes exalted and deep, is the constant subject of Norse sagas; the impulsive sea-rovers threw the vigour of their adventurous life into all that concerned women.
Our extant English literature opens grandly with the works of Cædmon, in the seventh century. The poet was a Northumbrian herd in the service of the convent of Whitby; but having from some accident never been trained in the songs of his countrymen, he used to find himself at fault when the harp went round in the beer-club, and would rise in confusion and leave the hall. One night, when he had thus stolen off from his fellows' company to bed, an angel appeared to him in his dreams, and bade him sing the origin of things. Cædmon rose the next morning a poet; he announced his inspiration to
CÆDMON'S BIBLICAL POEMS.
the town-reeve; and, having satisfied the abbess and her counsellors of the reality of his gift, he was received as a brother into the monastery. He continued there till his death in 680 A.D.1
Cadmon must be judged by the measure of his times. Confining himself to sacred subjects, which he could not reverently tamper with, he is rather a paraphrast than an original poet. But the traditions of the church, and the Apocryphal writings of Greek Christendom, furnished him with materials as well as the canonical Scriptures. He is thus able to treat his subject with greater fulness; and displays very high poetical genius, in weaving one grand story out of scattered. fragments. But his style not unfrequently is meagre and flat; his epithets have the Homeric vagueness of idea, and precision of application, which belong to an early literature;2 the reflections are often common-place. Cadmon starts from the conception of God the Father, enthroned amid the hierarchy of angels, who stand with praise and love around the eternal infant Son, or carry him in their bosoms. But Satan, the most glorious of the archangels, is filled with jealous pride: he believes himself the All-Holy and All-Powerful; he sets up his own son as Lord of the unborn race of man; and proclaims revolt against "the Lord strong and stern of mood," on a day when all the other saints are worshipping; he is cast out of heaven with his followers, to abide in the abysses of mid-earth till the day of final doom. Though conquered, he is unsubdued; he calls a council of his followers in the gloomy halls of hell, iron-grated, fathomless; he warns them that God is about to people heaven again with pure souls from the new created race. If any follower of Satan has received princely gifts from his chief while he sate in power, let him now give proof of his loyalty, pass cloud-like through the iron gates, and destroy the fabric of the new world by persuading its inhabitants to sin.
1 Bede, H. E., lib. iv., cap. 24. 2 "The windy hall, "the swart fiend;" like the vipiλnyipiras Zìus, and θάλασσα ήχήεσσα of the Iliad.