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Whether the name was adopted in deference to the increasing power and numerical superiority of the Angles does not appear; but more probably was it a political measure to avoid foreign complications such as had already threatened before, and might occur again at any moment in the disorder of political strife which distracted the whole country. Ever since the year 782, when the Northumbrian scholar Alcuin joined the court of Charlemagne, the latter had taken an uncommon interest in English affairs. The costly gifts which he dispatched from time to time to the monasteries of England, as of Ireland, showed his desire of obtaining influence in both countries; through Alcuin he maintained relations with Northumbria ; through Archbishop Ethelherd he maintained relations not only with Kent, but with the whole English Church. Above all, he harbored at his court exiles from every English realm. Exiled kings of Northumbria made their way to Achen or Nimeguen, and there, too, Egbert, the claimant of the West Saxon throne, had found a refuge since Offa's league with Brihtric in 787 excluded him
from it. The years which Egbert spent at the court of Charlemagne were years of the highest moment in the history of the world. The greatness of this monarch had reached a height which revived in men's minds the mem
a ory of ancient Rome; his repulse of the heathen world, which was pressing on from the east, marked him out for the head and champion of Christendom; and on Christmas-day of the year 800, the shouts of the people and priesthood of Rome hailed him as Roman emperor. Egbert had probably marched in the train of the Frank. ish king to the Danube and the Tiber; he may have witnessed the great event which changed the face of the world; and it was in the midst of the peace which followed it, while the new emperor was yet nursing hopes of a recognition in the East as in the West, which would have united the whole world again under a Roman rule, that the death of Brihtric opened a way for the exile's return to Wessex.
The years that had passed since his flight had made little change in the state of Britain. With the exception
sunt reges Anglorum. Radulfi de Dicelo Abbreviat. Chronicor, apud Twysden, p. 449, ad anno 828. Egbertus coronatus est rex totius Britanniæ apud Wentoni. am faciens edictum, ut omnes Saxones Angli dicantur et Britannia Anglia. Chronol. Augustineus. Cant. apud Twysden, p. 2238, ad anno 827.
of Offa's completing his Mercian realm by the murder of the East Anglian king Ethelbert, and the seizure of his land, English history at this point is little more than a blank. All dreams of ambition at home seem to have been hushed in the sense of a common danger, as men followed step by step the progress of the new ruler of Western Christendom. Charlemagne had remained to the last on terms of peace and friendship with Offa ; but the death of the Mercian king, the war of Mercia with Kent, and the murder of King Ethelred by the Northumbrian thegns afforded, in 796, an opening for intervention which seems to have been arrested only by the persuasion of Alcuin. The danger, though staved off for the time, must have preyed upon English minds when, four years later, Charlemagne mounted the Imperial throne. His coronation as emperor had for the English a meaning which must have deeply impressed them. Britain had been lost to the Roman empire in the hour when the rest of the western provinces were lost; and to men of that day it would seem natural enough that the island should return to the empire, now that Rome had risen again to more than its old greatness in the West. Such a return, we can hardly doubt, was in the mind of Charlemagne, and the revolutions which were distracting the English kingdoms told steadily toward it. The utter ruin of the Saxon power on the continent, moreover, rendered it advisable to the Saxons of England to avoid complications such as might possibly arise from an identity of name which in former days, as we have seen, prevented Pope Gregory the Great from distinguishing between cismarine and transmarine Saxons, and it is not unlikely that this consideration, as well as the circumstances that led to it, may have had a great deal to do with the adoption of the names of English and England, as more suitable to proclaim to the world at large a distinct nationality for all the inhabitants of England, possibly divided on minor questions, but having nothing in common with the Saxons of continental Europe.
1 On the news of the murder, Carolus .... in tantum iratus est contra gentem illam, ut uit, perfidam et perversam, et homicidam dominorum suorum, pejorem eam paganis existimat; ut, nisi ego intercessor essem pro ea, quicquid eis boni abstrahere potuisset et mali machinari, jam fecisset. Alcuin to Offa, between April and July, 796. Stubbs and Haddan, Councils, iii, p. 498.
THE DANES IN ENGLAND.
For more than a century and a half nearly the whole of South Britain had borne the name of England, and the nation was deeply suffering from the effects of a long succession of miserable contests, sometimes between one state and another, sometimes between adverse factions in the same state, having in either case the rancorous char. acter of civil strife, when suddenly they were attacked by a foreign foe whose civilization was as far below their own as theirs had been, four centuries previously, below that of the conquered Britons; and whose successful invasions not only checked their progress as a nation, but nearly replunged them into their original barbarism./ These piratical hordes, called Danes or Norsemen by the English, and Normans by the French, were not merely natives of Denmark, properly so called, but belonged also to Norway, Sweden, and other countries spread round the Baltic Sea. They were offshoots of the great Scandinavian branch of Teutons who, under different names, conquered and recomposed most of the states of Europe on the downfall of the Roman empire. Such of the Scandinavian tribes as did not move to the south to establish themselves permanently in fertile provinces, but remained
" At first the English called them Ostmenn, that is “Eastmen." Then again we find them called Markemenn, which seems to convey the idea of their coming from Denmark. Vocantur autem usitato more Marcomanni gentes undique collectæ, quæ Marcam incolunt. Sunt autem in terra Slavorum Marcæ quam plures, quarum non infima nostra Wagirensis est provincia, habens viros fortes et exercitatos procliis tam Danorum, quam Slavorum.-Helmoldi Chron. Slav., i, 65. Tempore quo Normannorum gens universas Gallias devastabat, universam Franciam rex Karolus gubernabat. Sed non valebat eis resistere, quin longe lateque fines regni sui devastarent Marchomanni. Vita S. Genul. phi, post ann. 900; literas, quibus utuntur Marcomanni, quos nos Nordmannos vocamus, infra scripta habemus.—Hraban. Maur., de inv. ling. apud Goldast, 2, 67.. Ascomenn is another name for these northern pirates. Piratæ, quos illi Withingos appellant, nostri Ascomannos. Ad. Brem. de Situ Dan., c. 212. The Angles called them Hadhenas ; the Friesians, Hedhena ; the Dutch and Franks, Heidenen, that is, “Heathens.” But the general name under which they remained known in England was Deniscan, “Danes.”
on the barren soil and bleak regions of the north, devoted themselves to piracy as a profitable and honorable profession. The Saxons themselves had done this in the fourth and fifth centuries, and now in the ninth century they were becoming the victims of their old_system, carried into practice by their kindred, the Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, and others. All these people were of the same race as the Saxons, being an after-torrent of the same fountain-head; and though time, and a change of country, religion, and general mode of life on the part of the English had made some difference between them, the common resemblance in physical appearance, and even of language and other essentials was still strong.
The piratical associations of the Northmen, though similar to those of the various Saxon tribes of former times, partook in the ninth century rather of the nature of our privateering companies in time of war, and still more closely resembled the associations of the Corsairs of the Barbary coast, who, up to the early part of this century, crossing the Mediterranean as the Danes and Norwegians did the German Ocean and the British Channel, for many ages plundered every Christian ship and country they could approach. The Scandinavian governments at home, such as they were, licensed the depredations and shared the spoils, having a regularly fixed portion allotted them after every successful expedition. On certain great occasions, when their highest numerical force was required, these governments themselves took active part, and were known to make very extensive leagues. As the Saxons of old, so the Danes, the Norwegians, and all the Scandinavians were familiar with the sea and its dangers, and the art of war was cultivated among them far more extensively than by any other nation at that time. _The astonishing success of these people in England and France, and later in Italy and Sicily, not only proves their physical vigor, their valor and perseverance, but also their military skill and a remarkable degree of intellect, which contrasted strangely with their savage instincts and their innate brutality. Their religion and their literature, some of which dates back as far as the eighth century, were subservient to their ruling passions for war and plunder; or, more properly speaking, they were both cast in the mold of those passions, and stamped with the impress of the national character. The blood of their enemies in war, and a rude hospitality, with a bar.
barous excess in drinking, were held to be the incense most acceptable to their god Woden, who himself had been, perhaps, nothing more than a mighty slayer and drinker. War and feastings were the constant themes of their skalds and bards; and what they called their history recorded little else than piracy and bloodshed. Tor. ture and carnage, greed of danger, fury of destruction, the obstinate and frenzied bravery of an overstrung temperament, and the unchaining of butcherly instincts, meet us at every page in the old Sagas. Even their ideal woman is a cold, heartless, bloodthirsty wretch. Thus the daughter of a Danish earl, seeing Egil taking his seat near her, repels him with scorn, reproaching him with “seldom having provided the wolves with hot meat, with never having seen for a whole autumn a raven croaking over the carnage.”. But Egil seized her, and pacified her by singing, “I have marched with my bloody sword, and the raven has followed me. Furiously we fought, the fire passed over the dwellings of men; we slept in the blood of those who kept the gates."1 From such table-talk, and such maid's fancies, one may judge of the rest.
Like their brothers the Saxons, the Danes were not at one time very bigoted or very intolerant to other modes of faith ; but when they came to England they were embittered by recent persecutions. The remorseless cruelties practised by Charlemagne from the year 772 to 803 upon the pagan Saxons settled on the Rhine and in Westphalia, to whom he left no other alternative but death or a Christian baptism, and whom he massacred by thousands, even after they had laid down their arms, were the cause of the fearful reaction and the confirmed idolatry of that people. Those that could escape had fled to Jutland, Seeland, Funen, and the islets of the Cattegat, where the people, still unconverted, gave a friendly reception to brethren suffering in the cause of Woden. All these joined largely in the expeditions against England, and they treated as renegades the English who had forsaken the faith of their common ancestors, to embrace that of their deadly enemies. A sort of religious and patriotic fanaticism was thus combined in the Scandinavians with the fiery impulsiveness of their character, and an insatiable thirst for gain. They shed with joy the blood of
"H. A. Taine, Histoire de la Littérature Anglaise.