Abbildungen der Seite
[blocks in formation]


and the dusky "pada,'
erne white-tailed,
the corse to enjoy,
greedy war-hawk,
and the grey beast,
wolf of the wood.
Carnage greater has not been
in this island
ever yet
of people slain,
before this,
by edges of swords,
as books us say,
old writers,
since from the east hither
Angles and Saxons
came to land,
o'er the broad seas
Britain sought,
mighty war-smiths,
the Welsh o'ercame,
corls most bold,
this earth obtained.

[blocks in formation]

[Mr. Taylor's Drama of 'Edwin the Fair' is full of grace and power, seizing, we have no doubt, upon the great historical truths of that age. We give a scene, with an extract froin the Preface.]

Mr. Turner's learned and elaborate work has done much to make the AngloSaxon times better known than they were formerly, and we have ceased to regard them as antecedent to the dawn of civilization amongst us, or as destitute of the spiritual and chivalric features by which in reality some of the subsequent centuries (though not those immediately subsequent) were less distinguished than they. Of the dark ages, in this country, the tenth century was hardly so dark as the fifteenth; and if the aspects of each could be distinctly traced, the civil wars of the Anglo-Saxons would probably excite a deeper interest than struggles such as those of the Houses of York and Lancaster, in which there was no religious and hardly any political principle at stake. Indeed though the three centuries which preceded the Conquest were on the whole less enlightened than the three which followed it, yet the Anglo-Saxon times furnish examples of both the Hero and the Scholar, which the Norman can hardly match ; and perhaps the real distinction between the periods is, that amongst the Anglo-Saxons, learning and ignorance, and rudeness and refinement, co-existed in stronger contrast.

But even when Anglo-Saxon history was less read and otherwise understood than it is now, some interest was always felt in the reign of Edwin the Fair. There was left to us little more than the outline of a tragic story; in some parts, indeed, even less—for here and there the outline itself is broken and wavering ; but the little that was known was romantic enough to have impressed itself upon the popular mind, and the tale of ' Edwy and Elgiva' had been current in the nursery long before it came to be studied as an historical question.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

His name

Edwin's contemporaneous arnalists, being Monks, were his natural enemies; and their enmity is sufficiently apparent in their writings. But notwithstanding all their efforts, and all the influence which the monastic orders undoubtedly possessed over the English populace of the tenth century, there is reason to think that the interest taken in Edwin's story may have dated from his own times. having been supplanted by its diminutive Edwy,' seems to indicate a sentiment of tenderness and pity as popularly connected with him from the first; and his surname of The All-Fair' (given him, says the Monk Ingulphus, “pro nimiâ pulchritudine"), may be construed as a farther indication that the success of the monastic faction in decrying him with the people, was not so complete as the merely political events of his reign might lead us to suppose.

Whilst the details of his story are left, with one or two exceptions, to our imagination, the main course of the struggle in which he was engaged, represents in strong and vivid colours the spirit of the times. It was a spirit which exercises human nature in its highest faculties and deepest feelings—the spirit of religious enthusiasm ; a spirit which never fails to produce great men and to give an impulse to the mind of a nation; but one which commonly passes into a spirit of ecclesiastic discord, and which cannot then be cast out without tearing the body. In the tenth century it vented itself in a war of religious opinion.

An apartment leading to an Oratory in the Royal residence at Sheen. As the Scene opens, Edwin and ELGIVA are discovered before the altar in the Oratory,

and Ricola, the King's Chaplain, is joining their hands. They all three then ad-
vance out of the Oratory to the front,

Ricola. So be ye one from this time forth for ever,
And God for ever be your gracious guide
In love and peace to live! A hasty rite
Hath solemnized your nuptials ; not the less
Be ye observant of the sacred bonds
Wherein ye stand contracted for all time.
My sovereign Lord and Lady, ye are young,
And these are times and yours beyond compare
Stations of trial : be ye each to each
Helpful, and fullest of comfort, next to God.
And so, my blessing poured in tears upon you,
I bid you well to fare.

My honoured friend,
We thank you for this service, one of many,
But of the many greatest. For awhile
Our secret kept, the Queen abides with you.
I must return to Kingston; but ere midnight
Once more you'll see me here. Farewell till then.
Shortly the Queen shall follow you.

[Exit Ricola.

Oh, past expression beautiful and dear,
And now my own for ever! Let my soul
Be satisfied, for 'tis a joy so great
To know the mine, thai nature for my bound
Seems insufficient, and my spirit yearns
Intent with thce to pass from this pale earth

Into that rosy and celestial clime
Where life is ever thus.

How joy fulfilled
Makes the heart tremble! Now no change can come
That is not to be feared.

Re-enter RICOLA.

My lord, my liege,
Forgive me—but I fear * ** * I'm old, my lord,
And shake at trifles, but I strangely fear
That mischiet is afoot.

At Kingston ?

And coming hitherward; the poor fool Grimbald
Came flying like the scud o' the storm before,
To warn you.

Eduin. And what saith he ? Call him in.

RICOLA goes to the door, and returns with GRIMBALD.
Edwin. Well, my good fool, and what hast thou to tell:

There was grace after meat with a fist on the board,
And down went the morat, and out flew the sword.

Elgiva. Truce to thy calling for a while, good fool,
And tell us plainly what befell.

By the ears
The nobles went together; in the fray
The Horse-Thane and the Dish-Thane were o'erborne
And sent to prison. Then I took to my heels
To bring you word.

Elgiva Earl Athulf? Where is he?

Grimbald. He stood against Harcather hand to hand
When I departed ; but I know no more.

Queen Mother. So you are here, my son, and madam, you ?
And is it for this you scurry from your place
Is it for this you quit your noble guests ?
Is it for this you vex the kingdom ? Yea,
To shedding of blood—for there has blood been shed-
For nought but this? Oh, fie! for dalliance-oh!
And whilst you waste the hours in wantonness * * *

Edwin. Good mother, speak of what you know. Not here
Was either wantonness or waste of time.
You little think how little idly spent
Has been the hour that's gone.
Queen Mother.

How spent ? oh, son !
But here come those can speak. So ! here they come !
Enter DUNSTAN and Odo, with two or three Thanes following, who are gradually
augmented as the scene proceeds till the stage is filled with Dunstan's adherents.

Ricola. Wilt please you to withdraw ?


I thank you, no.

Wherefore is this, my lord Archbishop? Why Dost thou pursue me to my privacy ?

When I did leave you 'twas my will to leave you.
Am I your king, or am I not?


Sir, sir, 'Tis true, with suffrage of the Witena, You were anointed with the holy oil

And crowned this day by me. But deem not thence
That you are free to spurn us. Rather deem
That calls more urgent, bonds of stricter claim
Enjoin the duties of your sovereignty;
Amongst which duties eminently first

Is this, that when your lords and councillors,
The pillars of the realm, in conference meet,
You should be with them, wisely there to learn
From the assembled wisdom of the state.

Edwin. 'Twas for carousal, not for conference,
They met to-day.

Dunstan. Sirs, stand ye all apart,
And suffer that I reason with the king,
Whose youth betrays him. Oh unruly flesh!
Oh wanton blood of youth! the primal sin!
The first offender still! The original snare!
Perdition came of woman, and alway since,
When time was big with mischief and mischance,
He felt his forelock in a soft white hand.

Elgiva. Of woman say'st thou that perdition came? 'Twas of the serpent, priest.

Queen Mother.

What, break'st thou in?
Thou pit! Thou snare!

Thou bold and naughty jade!
Edwin. Oh, mother, hold! Know you at whom you rail?
Deem her your daughter, or me not your son.

Queen Mother. Thou art not and thou shalt not be my son, If thou demean'st thyself to her--a witch!

A practiser of sorceries!

Edwin [kneeling]. Oh God!

I pray thee that thou shorten not my days,
Ceasing to honour this disnatured flesh

That was my mother.

Never was she that:
Oh Edwin, had God granted thee a mother,
What honour had we rendered her!


Thou darest

And see'st thou in what presence? Be thou warned!
Thy witcheries that inflame this carnal king

Far other fires shall kindle in the church

The channel as of mercies, so of wrath.
Thou stand'st before its excellent Archbishop,
And me, its humblest minister: men both
Dead to the flesh and loathing from their souls

« ZurückWeiter »