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the most remote and savage parts of the island. Six different kinds are mentioned by name in the Greek and Roman authors. Three of these, the covinus,
the essedum, and the rheda, were war-chariots. The covinus was a terrible instrument of destruction ; it was furnished with scythes and hooks, and was built light, to drive with great force and rapidity through the ranks of the enemy. The prodigious numbers of these chariots, and the dexterity with which the barbarians managed them, excite our wonder. Cæsar informs us that Cassibelan, after dismissing all his other forces, retained about him no less than four thousand chariotwarriors. The same careful observer thus describes their method of fighting; “First, they drive their chåriots forward, and throw their darts ; by the fright they occasion the horses, and the noise of the wheels, they often break the ranks of the enemy. When they have forced their way into the midst of the cavalry, they leap from their chariots and fight on foot. The drivers withdraw a short distance from the combat, and station themselves in such a manner as to favor the retreat of their countrymen, should they be overpowered by the enemy. Thus in action they perform the part both of nimble horsemen and of stable infantry; and by continual exercise they have acquired so wonderful a degree of expertness, that, in the most steep and difficult places, they can stop their horses when at full speed, turn them which way they please, run out upon the shaft, rest on the harness, and throw themselves back into their chariots with inconceivable dexterity.”
The Britons painted themselves like the American Indians, and practised the art of tattooing as it is now
in use among the South Sea islanders. They had some rude notions of sculpture, and made images of clay, which they hardened in the fire. They excelled in wicker-work, and their baskets were sent to Rome, where they were much admired. They seem to have been the inventors of this domestic utensil, and the name which they gave it, bascauda, is one of the few words of their language which is recognized in our modern English tongue.
ALFRED AND HIS TIMES.
THE semi-barbarous era of the Anglo-Saxons is illuminated by a ray of glory from the reign of Alfred, a prince on whom an impartial posterity has conferred the epithet of "the Great." The kings, his predeces. sors, are chiefly known to us by their military achievements; but it is the distinguishing praise of Alfred, that he was not only a warrior, but also the patron of the arts, and the legislator of his people. He was the son of Æthelwolf, king of the West Saxons, and was born in 849. He was the youngest of four sons, but his beauty, vivacity, and playfulness endeared him in a particular manner to his parents, who predicted that he would one day prove the chief ornament of the family. In his fifth year, his father sent him to Rome to be crowned by the Pope.
Letters were in a declining state among the AngloSaxons, and the nobility divided their time between
the occupations of war and the pleasures of the chase. But the mother of Alfred had the merit of awakening in his mind that passion for learning by which he became so honorably distinguished among his contem• poraries. She offered a Saxon poem, elegantly written and illuminated, as a reward to the first of her chil. dren who should learn to read it. The emulation of Alfred was excited; he applied himself to study with diligence, performed it to the satisfaction of his mother, and received the prize of his industry. - During the reign of his brothers, he possessed the government of à petty district, with the title of King.
In the twenty-second year of his age he succeeded to the crown. England was then suffering from the inroads of the Danes, who had invaded the country at different periods for nearly a century preceding. Alfred's first campaign against them was unfortunate; at
; the battle of Wilton, the Saxon army was defeated, and he found it necessary to negotiate. The Danes, probably induced by a valuable present, withdrew to London. But this pacification was not of long continu
New bands of adventurers arrived from Denmark, and the invaders recommenced hostilities with such success that in a short time the whole AngloSaxon territory fell under their dominion, except the districts south of the Thames and north of the Tyne. The devastations of war now desolated the country in almost every quarter. Towns, villages, and convents were ravaged and burnt to the ground, and the route of the conquerors might be traced by smoking ruins, and the mangled remains of the victims of their bar. barity. The Danish eets in the mean time ravaged the coast. Alfred, unable to oppose any efficient force against so formidable an army, again had recourse to negotiation. Guthrum, the Danish leader, agreed for a considerable sum to retire out of Alfred's kingdom of Wessex; but, the perfidy of the Danes being notorious, a number of hostages were demanded. The hostages were given. Alfred next required their oaths, and they swore by their bracelets. He was not satisfied, and they swore by the relics of the Christian Saints. Believing that he had bound them now by the strongest ties, he peacefully awaited their departure ; but in the dead of night a body of the Danes fell upon
the Saxon cavalry, put them to the sword, mounted the horses of the slain, and by a rapid march surprised and captured Exeter.
Alfred now saw the necessity of a naval force in order to expel the invaders from his territories. He accordingly equipped a few vessels, and, manning them with foreign adventurers, sailed in quest of the enemy. Fortune threw in his way a Danish fleet of seven ships, one of which he captured, and the others escaped. This trifling success raised his hopes. He built more ships and galleys, and, by unceasing efforts, he at last succeeded in creating a navy. He was victorious at sea, and the Danes lost a hundred and twenty ships, partly by capture and partly by shipwreck. Guthrum was now compelled to treat in earnest, and he evacuated Alfred's dominions.
The crafty Dane, however, did not abandon his resolution of subjugating the Anglo-Saxons. He determined on the extraordinary expedient of a winter campaign, which had been hitherto unknown among