Abbildungen der Seite

the Viennois, and a portion of the country which in the Roman tongue was called Bourgogne, and the towns and territories of Lyon, Arles, Marseille, and Narbonne. “Now it must be understood,” says a contemporary, “ that these lands, given to the king by the emperor, contained five archbishoprics, and thirty-three bishoprics; and it must also be understood that he had never been able to exercise any sort of authority over them, and that the inhabitants had never consented to recognise any lord nominated or appointed by him.”

When the king of France, and his ally, earl John, learnt what had been resolved by the imperial diet, they feared they might not have time to execute their designs before the king's liberation ; they therefore sent messengers in great haste to the emperor, offering him seventy thousand marks of silver if he would prolong the imprisonment of Richard for one year, or, if he preferred it, a thousand pounds of silver for each succeeding month of captivity ; or a hundred and fifty thousand marks if he would give the prisoner into the custody of the king of France and the earl. The emperor, tempted by these dazzling offers, was inclined to break his word; but the members of the diet, who had sworn to keep the engagement, opposed any want of faith, and, using all their power, had the captive released towards the end of January, 1194. Richard could not direct his steps either towards France or Normandy, which was then invaded by the French ; the safest way for him was to embark in one of the German ports, and sail straight to England ; but it was then the most stormy season ; he was obliged to wait more than a month at Anvers, and during that time the emperor's avarice was again tempted ; the hope of doubling his profits overcame the fear of displeasing chiefs less powerful than himself, and whom, in his character of paramount lord, he had a thousand means of silencing. He therefore resolved to seize a second time the prisoner whom he had allowed to depart; but the secret of this treachery was not sufficiently well kept, and one of the hostages left in the emperor's hands, found means to warn the king. Richard immediately embarked in the galliot of a Norman trader, named Alain Tranchemer, and, having thus escaped the men-at-arms sent to take him, landed safely at the port of Sandwich.


BURKE. Richard, on his coming to England, found all things in the utmost confusion ; but before he attempted to apply a remedy to so obstinate a disease, in order to wipe off any degrading ideas which might have arisen from his imprisonment, he caused himself to be new-crowned. Then, holding his Court of Great Council at Southampton, he made some useful regulations in the distribution of justice. He called some great offenders to a strict account. Count John deserved no favour, and he lay entirely at the king's mercy, who, by an unparalleled generosity, pardoned him his multiplied offences, only depriving him of the power of which he had made so bad a use. Generosity did not oblige him to forget the hostilities of the king of France. But to prosecute the war money was wanting, which new taxes and new devices supplied with difficulty and with dishonour. All the mean expedients of a necessitous government were exercised on this occasion. All the grants which were made on the king's departure for the Holy Land, were revoked on the weak pretence that the purchasers had sufficient recompense whilst they held them. Necessity seemed to justify this as well as many other measures that were equally violent. The whole revenue of the Crown had been dissipated; means to support its dignity must be found, and these means were the least unpopular, as most men saw with pleasure the wants of Government fall upon those who had started into a sudden greatness by taking advantage of those wants.

Richard renewed the war with Philip, which continued, though frequently interrupted by truces, for about five years. In this war Richard signalised himself by that irresistible courage which on all occasions gave him a superiority over the king of France. But his revenues were exhausted ; a great scarcity reigned both in France and England ; and the irregular manner of carrying on war in those days prevented a clear decision in favour of either party. Richard had still an eye upon the Holy Land, which he considered as the only province worthy of his arms ; and this continually diverted his thoughts from the steady prosecution of the war in France. The Crusade, like a superior orb, moved along with all the particular systems of politics at that time, and suspended, accelerated, or put back, all operations, on motives foreign to the things themselves. In this war, it must be remarked, that Richard made a considerable use of the mercenaries who had been so serviceable to Henry the Second ; and the king of France, perceiving how much his father Lewis had suffered by a want of that advantage, kept on foot a standing army in constant pay, which none of his predecessors had done before him, and which afterwards for a long time very unaccountably fell into disuse in both kingdoms.

Whilst this war was carried on by intervals and starts, it came to the ears of Richard that a nobleman of Limoges had found on his lands a considerable hidden treasure. The king, necessitous and rapacious to the last degree, and stimulated by the exaggeration and marvellous circumstances which always attend the report of such discoveries, immediately sent to demand the treasure, under pretence of the rights of seigniory. The Limosia, either because he had really discovered nothing, or that he was unwilling to part with so valuable an acquisition, refused to comply with the king's demand, and fortified his castle. Enraged at the disappointment, Richard relinquished the important affairs in which he was engaged, and laid siege to this castle with all the eagerness of a man who has his heart set upon a trifle. In this siege he received a wound from an arrow, and it proved mortal ; but in the last, as in all the other acts of his life, something truly noble shone out amidst the rash and irregular motions of his mind. The castle was taken before he died. The man from whom Richard had received the wound was brought before him. Being asked why he levelled his arrow at the king, he answered with an undaunted countenance, “that the king with his own hand had slain his two brothers; that he thanked God who gave him an opportunity to revenge their deaths, even with the certainty of his own.” Richard. more touched with the magnanimity of the man, than offended at the injury he had received, or the boldness of the answer, ordered that his life should be spared. He appointed his brother John to the succession; and with these acts ended a life and reign distinguished by a great variety of fertunes in different parts of the world, and crowned with great military glory, but without any accession of power to himself

, or prosperity to his people, whom he entirely neglected, and reduced by his imprudence and misfortunes to no small indigence and distress.

In many respects, a striking parallel presents itself between this ancient king of England and Charles XII. of Sweden. They were both inordinately desirous of war, and rather generals than kings. Both were rather fond of glory, than ambitious of empire. Both of them made and deposed sovereigns. They both carried on their wars at a distance from home. They were both made prisoners by a friend and ally. They were both reduced by an adversary inferior in war, but above them in the arts of rule. After spending their lives in remote adventures, each perished at last near home, in enterprises not suited to the splendour of their former exploits.

Both died childless ; and both, by the neglect of their affairs, and the severity of their government, gave their subjects provocation and encouragement to revive their freedom. In all these respects the two characters were alike; but Richard fell as much short of the Swedish hero in temperance, chastity, and equality of mind, as he exceeded him in wit and eloquence. Some of his sayings are the most spirited that we find in that time ; and some of his verses remain which, in a barbarous age, might have passed for poetry.

From “ Old England."

C. KNIGHT. The same combination against the power of the Crown which produced the great charter of our liberties, relieved the people from many regal oppressions by a charter of the forests. We cannot look upon an old forest without thinking of the days when men who had been accustomed to the free range of their green woods were mulcted or maimed for transgressing the ordinances of their new hunter-kings. Our poet Cowper put his imagination in the track of following out the customs of the Norman age in his fragment upon Yardley Oak, which was supposed to have existed before the Normans :

“ Thou wast a bauble once; a cup and ball,
Which babes might play with; and the thievish jay,
Seeking her food, with ease might have purloin'd
The auburn nut that held thee, swallowing down
Thy yet close-folded latitude of boughs
And all thine embryo vastness at a gulp.
But fate thy growth decreed; autumnal rains
Beneath thy parent tree mellow'd the soil
Design'd thy cradle; and a skipping deer,
With pointed hoof dibbling the glebe, prepared
The soft receptacle, in which, secure,

Thy rudiments should sleep the winter through." The severity of the old forest laws of England has become a byword, and no wonder when we know that with the Conqueror a sovereign's paternal care for his subjects was understood to apply to red deer, not to Saxon men ; and that accordingly, of the two, the lives of the former alone were esteemed of any particular value. But it was not the severity merely that was, after the Conquest, introduced (whether into the spirit or into the letter of the forest laws is immaterial), but also the vast extent of fresh land then afforested, and to which such laws were for the first time applied, that gave rise to so much opposition and hatred between the Norman conquerors and the Saxon forest inhabitants; and that in particular parts of England infused such continuous vigour into the struggle commenced at the invasion, long after that struggle had ceased elsewhere. The Conqueror is said to have possessed in this country no less than sixty-eight forests, and these even were not enough ; so the afforesting process went on reign after reign, till the awful shadow of Magna Charta began to pass more and more frequently before royal eyes, producing first a check, and then a retreat : dis-afforesting then began, and the forest laws gradually underwent a mitigating process. But this was the work of the nobility of England, and occupied the said nobility a long time first to determine upon, and then to carry out : the people in the interim could not afford to wait, but took the matter to a certain extent into their own hands; free bands roved the woods, laughing at the king's laws, and killing and eating his deer, and living a life of perfect immunity from

punishment, partly through bravery and address, and still more through the impenetrable character of the woods that covered a large portion of the whole country from the Trent to the Tyne. Among the more famous of the early leaders of such men were Adam Bell, Clym of the Clough, and William of Cloudesley, the heroes of many a northern ballad.

The forest of Sherwood, which formerly extended for thirty miles northward from Nottingham, skirting the great north road on both sides, was anciently divided into Thorney Wood and High Forest ; and in one of these alone, the first and smallest, there were comprised nineteen towns and villages, Nottingham included. But this extensive sylvan district formed but a part of Robin Hood's domains. Sherwood was but one of a scarcely interrupted series of forests through which the outlaws roved at pleasure ; when change was desired, either for its own sake, or in order to decline the too pressing attertions of the “ Sheriff,” as they called the royal governor of Nottingham Castle and of the two counties, Notts and Derby, who had supplanted the old elective officer-the people's sheriff. Hence we trace their haunts to this day so far in one direction as “ Robin Hood's Chair,” Wyn Hill, and his "Stride" in Derbyshire ; thence to “Robin Hood's Bay,” on the coast of Yorkshire, in another, with places between innumerable. But the “woody and famous forest of Barnsdale,” in Yorkshire, and Sherwood, appear to have been their principal places of resort ; and what would not one give for a glimpse of the scene as it then was, with these its famous actors moving about among it! There is little or nothing remaining in a sufficiently wild state to tell us truly of the ancient royal forest of Sherwood. The clearing process has been carried ou extensively during the last century and a half. Prior to that period the forest was full of ancient trees—the road from Mansfield to Nottingham presented one unbroken succession of green woods. The principal parts now existing are the woods of Birkland and Bilhagh, where oaks of the most giant growth and of the most remote antiquity are still to be found : oaks against which Robin Hood himself may have leaned, and which even then may have counted their age by centuries. Such are the oaks in Welbeck Park. Many of these ancient trees are hollow through nearly the whole of their trunks, but their tops and lateral branches still put forth the terder green foliage regularly as the springs come round. Side by side with the monarch oak we find the delicate silver-coated stems and pendent branches of the lady of the woods ; and beautiful is the contrast and the harmony. But everything wears a comparatively cultivated aspect. We miss the prodigal luxuriance of a natural forest, where every stage upward, from the sapling to the mightiest growth, may be traced. We miss the picturesque accidents of nature always to be found in such places, the ash key for instance, of which Gilpin speaks (“Forest Scenery"), rooting in a decayed part of some old tree, germinating, sending down its roots, and lifting up its branches till at last it rends its supporter and nourisher to pieces, and appears itself standing in its place, stately and beautiful as that once appeared. Above all we miss the rich and tangled undergrowth; the climbing honeysuckle, the white and black briony, and the clematis ; the prickly holly and the golden furze, the heaths, the thistles, and the foxgloves with their purple bells; the bilberries, which for centuries were wont to be an extraordinarily great profit and pleasure to the poor people who gathered them (Thornton); the elders and willows of many a little marshy nook; all which, doubt, once flourished in profusion wherever they could find room to grow between the thickly set trees, of which Camden says, referring to Sherwood, that their “entangled branches were so twisted together, that they hardly left room for a person to pass.” It need excite little surprise that the outlaws could defend themselves from all inroads upon such a home. The same writer adds, that in his time the woods were much

thinner, but still bred an infinite number of deer and stags with lofty antlers. When Robin Hood hunted here, there would be also the roe, the fox, the marten, the hare, the coney, as well as the partridge, the quail, the rail, the pheasant, the woodcock, the mallard, and the heron, to furnish sport or food. Even the wolf himself may have been occasionally found in Sherwood, down to the thirteenth century ; in the manor of Mansfield Woodhouse a parcel of land called Wolf huntland was held so late as Henry the Sixth's time by the service of winding a horn to frighten away the wolves in the forest of Sherwood. We must add to this imperfect sketch of the scene made memorable by Robin Hood's presence and achievements, that in another point it would seem to have beeu expressly marked out by nature for such romantic fame. Caverns are found in extraordinary numbers through the forest. Those near Nottingham are supposed to have given name both to the town and county ; the Saxon word Snodengaham being interpreted to mean the Home of Caverns. There are similar excavations in the face of a cliff near the Lene, west of Nottingham Castle. Above all, there is a cave traditionally connected with the great archer himself. This is a curious hollow rock in the side of a hill near Newstead, known as Robin Hood's Stable, but more likely from its aspect to have been his chapel. It contains several passages and doorways cut in the Gothic style, out of the solid rock ; and there are peculiar little hollows in the wall, which might have been intended for holy water.

The life in the forest must indeed have been steeped in joyous excitement. No doubt it had its disadvantages. Winter flaws in such a scene would not be pleasant. Agues might be apt occasionally to make their appearance. One feels something of a shivering sensation as we wonder,

When they did hear
The rain and wind beat dark December, how
In that their pinching cave they could discourse

The freezing hours away. Yet even the rigours of the season might give new zest to the general enjoyment of forest life; we may imagine one of the band singing in some such words as those of Amiens :

Under the greenwood tree
Who loves to lie with me,
And tune his merry note

Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither:

Here shall he see

No enemy

But winter and rough weather, And that very thought would ensure such enemies, when they did come, a genial and manly reception. But reverse the picture, and what a world of sunshine, and green leaves, and flickering lights and shadows breaks in upon us—excitement in the chace, whether they followed the deer, or were themselves followed by the sheriff, through bush and brake, over bog and quagmire--of enjoyment in their shooting and wrestling matches, in their sword-fights, and sword-dances, in their visits to all the rustic wakes and feasts of the neighbourhood, where they would be received as the most welcome of guests. The variety of the life in the forest must have been endless. Now the outlaws would be visited by the wandering minstrels, coming thither to amuse them with old ballads, and to gather a rich barvest of materials for new ones, that should be listened to with the deepest interest and delight all England through, not only while the authors recited them, but for centuries after the very names of such authors were forgotten. The legitimate poet

[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »