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Saxon sovereign, tells us that Heaven vouchsafed him strength to bear these mortal agonies, and that they were borne with a devout fortitude. The disease never quitted him, and was no doubt the cause of his death. “The shepherd of his people," "the darling of the English,” “the wisest man in England,” the truly illustrious Alfred, expired in the month of November, on the festival of SS. Simon and Jude, in the year 900, when he was only in the fifty-first year of his age. He was buried at Winchester, in a monastery he had founded.
20.-ALFRED, THE FUGITIVE.
Alfred discovered trimming some arrows, with an unfinished boro beside him— Maude
kneading flour for cakes.
Maude [aside.] Ay, there he's at his work ! if work that be
Which spareth toil. He'll trim a shaft, or shape
A bow with any archer in the land,
But neither can he plough, nor sow !—I doubt
If he can dig—I am sure he cannot reap-
He has hands and arms, but not the use of them !
Alf. Your will ?
Maude. Would thou could'st do my will
As readily as ask it! Go to the door ;
And look if Edwin comes. Dost see him ?
Maude. Bad omen that! He'll bring an empty creel ;
Else were he home ere now. Puit on more wood;
And lay the logs on end ; you'll learn in time
To make a fire. Why, what a litter's there,
With trimming of your shafts that never hit !
Ten days ago you killed a sorry buck;
Since when your quiver have you emptied thrice,
Nor ruffled hair nor feather.
Are scarce and shy, I cannot lielp it.
Your aim I wot is shy, your labour scarce ;
There's game enow, would'st thou but hunt for them ;
And when you find them, hit them. What expect'st
To-day for dinner ?
Alf. What Hcaven sends !
It sends us nought ?
Alf. Its will be done !
Maude. You'd starve ;
So would not I, knew I to bend a bow
Or cast a line. See if thou hast the skill
To watch these cakes, the while they toast.
Alf. I'll do
Maude. Nor much to brag of, when all 's done!
Alf. (solus.] This is the lesson of dependence. Will
Thankless, that brings not profit;—labour spurned
That sweats in vain ; and patience taxed the more,
The more it bears. And taught unto a king-
Taught by a peasant's wife, whom fate hath made
Her sovereign's monitress. She little knows
At whom she rails; yet is the roof her own :
Nor does she play the housewife grudgingly.
Give her her humour ! So! How stands the account
'Twixt me and fortune? We are wholly quits !
She dress'd me-she has stripp'd me !-on a throne
She plac'd me- -she has struck me from my seat !
Nor in the respect where sovereigns share alike
With those they rule, was she less kind to me-
Less cruel! High she fillid for me the cup
Of bliss connubial-she has emptied it !
Parental love she set before me too,
And bade me banquet ; scarce I tasted, ere
She snatch'd the feast away! My queen-my child !-
Where are they? ’neath the ashes of my castle !
I sat upon their tomb one day—one night !
Then first I felt the thraldom of despair.
The despot he! He would not let me weup
There were the fountains of my tears as dry
As they had never flowd! My heart did swell
To bursting; yet no sigh would he let forth
With vent to give it ease. There had I sat
And died—but Heaven a stronger tyrant sent-
Hunger—that wrench'd me from the other's grasp,
And dragg’d me hither !- This is not the lesson
I set myself to con!
Maude. 'Tis noon, and yet
No sign of Edwin! Dost thou mind thy task ?
Look to't ! and when the cakes are fit to turn,
Call, and I'll come!
Alf. I'll turn them, damc.
Maude. You will ?
You'll break them !-Know I not your handy ways ?
I would not suffer thee put finger to them !
Call, when 'tis time! You 'll turn the cakes, forsooth!
As likely thou could'st make the cakes as turn them ?
Alf. So much for poverty! Adversity 's
The nurse for kings ;- but then the palace gates
Are shut against her! They would else have hearts
Of mercy oft'ner-gems not always dropp'd
In fortune's golden cup. What thought hath he
How hunger warpeth honesty, whose meal
Still waited on the hour ? Can he perceive
How nakedness converts the kindlv milk
Of nature into ice, to whom each change
Of season-yea, each shifting of the wind,
Presents his fitting suit ? Knows he the storm
That makes the valiant quail, who hears it only
Through the safe wall—its voice alone can pierce;
And there talks comfort to him with the tongue,
That bids, without, the shelterless despair ?
Perhaps he marks the mountain wave, and smiles
So high it rolls !-- while on its fellow hangs
The fainting seaman glaring down at death
In the deep trough below! I will extract
Riches from penury ; from sufferings
Coin blessings; that if I assume again
The sceptre, I may be the more a king
By being more a man !
Maude re-enters, goes towards the fire, lifts the cakes, goes to Alfred, and holds
them to him.
Naude. Is this your care ?
Ne'er did you dream that meal was made of corn,
Which is not grown until the earth be plough'd ;
Which is not garner'd up until 'tis cut;
Which is not fit for use until 'tis ground;
Nor used then till kneaded into bread ?
Ne'er knew you this? It seems you never did,
Else had you known the value of the bread ;
Thought of the ploughman's toil : the reaper's sweat ;
The miller's labour ; and the housewife's thrift;
And not have left my barley cakes to burn
To very cinders !
Alf. I forgot, good dame.
Maude. Forgot, good dame, forsooth! You ne'er forgot
To eat my barley cakes !!
THIERRY. On the death of the good king Alfred, his son Edward, who had distinguished himself in the war with Hasting, was chosen by the Anglo-Saxon nobles and elders. One of the sons of Alfred's eldest brother, and predecessor, protested against this election, in virtue of his hereditary rights, and in contempt of the rights of the people. The electors of the English kings replied to this insolent and absurd claim, by declaring Ethelwald, the son of Ethelred, a rebel to his country, and condemning him to exile. Instead of submitting to the sentence lawfully passed upon him, this man, with some abettors of his ambition, took possession of the town of Wimburn on the south-west coast, vowing to hold it, or to perish. But he did not keep his oath ; at the approach of the English people, he fled, without coming to an engagement, and betaking himself to the Danes in Northumbria, became a heathen, and a pirate. They appointed him commander of the war against his countrymen. The rejected pretender to the throne made a pillaging inroad upon the lands of those who would not have him for their king, and was killed in the ranks of the foreigners whom he had led. Then king Edward assumed the offensive against the Danes ; he regained from them the eastern coast, from the mouth of the Thames to
the gulf of Boston, and confined them to their northern possessions by a line of fortresses, erected in front of the Humber. His successor Athelstan passed the Humber, took the town of York, and forced the settlers of the Scandinavian race to swear obedience to him. One of the Danish chiefs was conducted with honour to the palace of the Saxon king, and admitted to his table ; but four days of a peaceful life were sufficient to disgust him; he escaped, gained the sea, and reentered a pirate vessel, as incapable, says the ancient historian, as a fish of living out of the water.
The Saxon army advanced as far as the shores of the Tweed, and Northumbria was added to the territories under the dominion of Athelstan, the first of all the English kings who reigned over the whole of England. In the flush of this victory the Anglo-Saxons overleapt their old northern boundary, and made an invasion on the Picts and Scots, and on the colony of ancient Britons, who inhabited the Vale of the Clyde. These various nations allied themselves with the Danes from beyond sea, to deliver their countrymen from the power of the southern men. Olave, or Aulaf, the son of Sigrie, the last Danish king of Northumbria, was made generalissimo of the confederated armics, in which were joined to the men from the Baltic, the Danes of the Orcades, the Gauls of the Hebrides, armed with long twohanded broadswords, which they called glay-mores or great swords, the Gauls from the foot of the Grampian Hills, and the Cambrians of Dumbarton and Galloway, who carried long slender javelins. The two armies came to an engagement north of the Humber, in a place called in the Saxon language Brunan-burh, or the town of springs. The victory was decided in favour of the English, who drove the confederates back to their ships, their islands, and their mountains. The conquerors named this the day of the great fight, and sang of it in the national songs, of which some fragments are still preserved.
(We subjoin this famous song of the battle of Brunanburh, from the translation of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in the “Monumenta Historica." Mr. George Darley, who has written a spirited tragedy on the story of Athelstan (ur Ethelstan), says “ The Saxon Ode on Brunanburh Battle has always moved my heart more than a trumpet. That was the hardest-fought field, say our Chronicles, before Hastings, and all but as momentous in its political consequences.")
Here Athelstan, king,
of eorls the lord,
of beorns the bracelet-giver,
and his brother eke
in battle won
with edges of swords
The broad-wall they clove
they hewed the war-lindens.
Offspring of Eadward,
such was their noble nature
from their ancestors,
that they in battle oft
'gainst every foc
the land defended,
hourds and homes.
The foe they crushed,
The Scottish peoplo
and the shipmen
The field dæniede'
with warriors blood,
since the sun up
at morning tide,
glided o'er grounds,
God's candle bright,
the eternal Soul's,
till the noble creature
sank to her settle.
There lay many a warrior
by javelins strewed ;
over shield shot ;
so the Scots eke,
throughout the day,
pursued the footsteps
of the loathed nations.
They hewed the fugitives
with swords mill-sharp.
Mercians refused not
the hard hand-plug
to any heroes
who with Aulaf,
over the ocean,
in the ship's bosom,
this land sought
fated to the fight.
on the battle-stead,
by swords in slumber laid :
So seven eke
of Aulaf's corls;
of the army countless,
shipmen and Scots.
There was made flee
the north-men's chieftain,
by need constrained,
to the ship's prow
with a little band.
The bark drove afloat:
the king departed
on the fallow flood,