SAINT FRIDESWIDA, OR THE FOUNDATIONS OF OXFORD.
Frideswida flies from the pursuit of a wicked king, invoking the Divine aid and the prayers of St. Catherine and St. Cecilia. She escapes; and at the hour of her death those Saints reveal to her that in that place, near the Isis, where she has successively opened a blind man's eyes and healed a leper, God will one day raise up a seat of Learning, the light and the health of the realm.
'One love I; One: within His bridal bower My feet shall tread: One love I, One alone: His Mother is a Virgin, and His Sire The unfathomed fount of pureness undefiled: Him love I Whom to love is to be chaste: Him love I touched by Whom my forehead shines: Whom she that clasps grows spotless more and more: Behold, to mine His spirit He hath joined: And His the blood that mantles in my cheek: His ring is on my finger.' Thus she sang; Then walked and plucked a flower: she sang again: 'That which I longed for, lo, the same I see: That which I hoped for, lo, my hand doth hold: At last in heaven I walk with Him conjoined Whom, yet on earth, I loved with heart entire.' Thus carolled Frideswida all alone, Treading the opens of a wood far spread Around the upper waters of the Thames. Christian almost by instinct, earth to her Was shaped but to sustain the Cross of Christ. Her mother lived a saint: she taught her child, From reason's dawn, to note in all things fair Their sacred undermeanings. 'Mark, my child, In lamb and dove, not fleshly shapes,' she said, 'But heavenly types: upon the robin's breast Revere that red which bathed her from the Cross With slender bill striving to loose those Nails!' Dying, that mother placed within her hand A book of saintly legends. Thus the maid Grew up with mysteries clothed, with marvels fed, A fearless creature swift as wind or fire: But fires of hers were spirit-fires alone, All else like winter moon. The Wessex King Had gazed upon the glory of her face, And deemed that face a spirit's. He had heard Her voice; it sounded like an angel's song; But wonder by degrees declined to love, Such love as Pagans know. The unworthy suit, She scorned, from childhood spoused in heart to Christ: She fled: upon the river lay a boat: She rowed it on through forests many a mile; A month had passed since then. Midsummer blazed On all things round: the vast, unmoving groves Stretched silent forth their immemorial arms Arching a sultry gloom. Within it buzzed Feebly the insect swarm: the dragon-fly Stayed soon his flight: the streamlet scarce made way: In shrunken pools, panting, the cattle stood, Languidly browsing on the dried-up sprays: No bird-song shook the bower. Alone that maid Glided light-limbed, as though some Eden breeze, Hers only, charioted the songstress on, Like those that serve the May. Beneath a tree Low-roofed at last she sank, with eyes up-raised On boughs that, ivy-twined and creeper-trailed, Darkened the shining splendour of the sky:— Between their interspaces, here and there, It flashed in purple stars. Enraptured long, For admiration was to her as love, The maiden raised at last her mother's book, And lit upon her childhood's favourite tale, Catherine in vision wed to Bethlehem's Babe Who from His Virgin-Mother leaning, dropped His ring adown her finger. Princely pride, And pride not less of soaring intellect, At once in her were changed to pride of love: In vain her country's princes sued her grace; Kingdoms of earth she spurned. Around her seat The far-famed Alexandrian Sages thronged, Branding her Faith as novel. Slight and tall, 'Mid them, keen-eyed the wingless creature stood Like daughter of the sun on earth new-lit:— That Faith she shewed of all things first and last; All lesser truths its prophets. Swift as beams Forth flashed such shafts of high intelligence That straight their lore sophistic shrivelled up, And Christians they arose. The martyr's wheel Was pictured in the margin, dyed with red, And likewise, azure-tinct on golden ground, Her queenly throne in heaven. 'Ah shining Saint!' Half weeping, smiling half, the virgin cried; 'Yet dear not less thy sister of the West; For never gaze I on that lifted face, Or mark that sailing angel near her stayed, But straight her solemn organs round me swell; All discords cease.' Then with low voice she read Of Rome's Cecilia, her who won to Christ, (That earlier troth inviolably preserved) Her Roman bridegroom, wondering at that crown Invisible itself, that round her breathed Rose-breath celestial; her that to the Church Gave her ancestral house; and, happier gift, Devotion's heavenliest instrument of praise; Her that, unfearing, dared that Roman sword; And when its work was done, for centuries lay Like marble, 'mid the catacombs, unchanged, In sleep-resembling death. From earliest dawn That maiden's eyes had watched: wearied at noon Their silver curtains closed. Huge mossy roots Pillowed her head, that slender book wide-leaved In stillness, like some brooding, white-winged dove, Spread on her bosom: 'gainst its golden edge Rested, gold-tinged, the dimpled ivory chin— Loud thunders broke that sleep; the tempest blast Came up against the woods, while bolt on bolt Ran through them sheer. She started up: she saw That Pagan prince and many a sworded serf Rushing towards her. Fleeter still she fled; But, as some mountain beast tender and slight, That, pasturing spring-fed lilies of Cashmere, Or slumbering where its rock-nursed torrents fall, Sudden not distant hears the hunter's cry And mocks pursuit at first, but slackens soon Breathless and spent, so failed her limbs ere long; A horror of great faintness o'er her crept; More near she heard their shout. She staggered on: To threat'ning phantoms all things round were changed; About her towered in ruin hollow trunks Of spiked and branchless trees, survivors sole Of woods that, summer-scorched, then lightning-struck A century past, for one short week had blazed And blackened ever since. She knelt: she raised Her hands to God: she sued for holier prayer Saint Catherine, Saint Cecilia. At that word Behind her close a cry of anguish rang: Silence succeeded. As by angels' help She reached a river's bank: sun-hardened clay Retained the hoof-prints of the drinking herd; And, shallower for long heats, the oxen's ford Challenged her bleeding feet. She crossed unharmed, And soon in green-gold pastures girt by woods Stood up secure. Then forth she stretched her hands, Like Agnes praising God amid the flame: 'Omnipotent, Eternal, Worshipful, One God, Immense, and All-compassionate, Thou from the sinner's snare hast snatched the feet Of her that loved Thee. Glory to Thy name.' Thenceforth secure she roamed those woods and meads; The dwellers in that region brought her bread, Upon that countenance gazing, some with awe But all with love. To her the maidens came: 'Tell us,' they said, 'what mystery hast thou learned So sweet and good;—thy Teacher, who was he; Grey-haired, or warrior young?' To them in turn Ceaseless she sang the praises of her Christ, His Virgin Mother and His heavenly court, Warriors on earth for justice. They for her Renounced all else, the banquet and the dance, And nuptial rites revered. A low-roofed house Inwoven of branches 'mid the woods they raised; There dwelt, and sang her hymn, and prayed her prayer, And loved her Saviour-Sovereign. Year by year More high her bright feet scaled the heavenly mount Of lore divine and knowledge of her God, And with sublimer chant she hymned His praise; While oft some bishop, tracking those great woods In progress to his charge, beneath their roof Baptizing or confirming made abode, And all which lacked supplied, nor discipline Withheld, nor doctrine high. The outward world To them a nothing, made of them its boast: A Saint, it said, within that forest dwelt, A Saint that helped their people. Saint she was, And therefore wrought for heaven her holy deeds; Immortal stand they on the heavenly roll; Yet fewest acts suffice for heavenly crown; And two of hers had consequence on earth, Like water circles widening limitless, For man still helpful. Hourly acts of hers, Interior acts invisible to men, Perchance were worthier. Humblest faith and prayer Are oft than miracle miraculous more:— To us the exterior marks the interior might: These two alone record we. Years had passed: One day when all the streams were dried by heat And rainless fields had changed from green to brown, T'wards her there drew, by others led, a man Old, worn, and blind. He knelt, and wept his prayer: 'Help, Saint of God! That impious King am I, That King abhorred, his people's curse and bane, Who chased thee through these woods with fell resolve, Worst vengeance seeking for insulted pride:— Rememberest thou that, near thee as I closed, Kneeling thou mad'st thy prayer? Instant from God Blindness fell on me. Forward still I rushed, Ere long amid those spiked and branded trunks To lie as lie the dead. If hope remains, For me if any hope survives on earth, It rests with thee; thee only!' On her knees She sank in prayer; her fingers in the fount She dipped; then o'er him signed the Saviour's cross, And thrice invoked that Saviour. At her word Behold, that sightless King arose, and saw, And rendered thanks to God. The legend saith Saint Catherine by her stood that night, and spake: 'Once more I greet thee on thy dying day.'
Again the years went by. That sylvan lodge Had changed to convent. Beautiful it stood Not far from Isis, though on loftier ground: Sad outcasts knew it well: whate'er their need There found they solace. One day toward it moved, Dread apparition and till then unknown, Like one constrained, with self-abhorrent steps, A leper, long in forest caverns hid. Back to their cells the nuns had shrunk, o'erawed: Remained but Frideswida. Thus that wretch With scarce organic voice, and aiding sign, Wailed out the supplication of despair: 'Fly not, O saintly virgin! Yet, ah me! What help though thou remainest? Warned from heaven, I know that not thy fountain's healing wave Could heal my sorrow: not those spotless hands: Not even thy prayer. To me the one sole aid Were aid impossible—a kiss of thine.' A moment stood she: not in doubt she stood: First slowly, swiftly then to where he knelt She moved: with steadfast hand she raised that cloth Which veiled what once had been a human face: O'er it she signed in faith the cross of Christ: She wept aloud, 'My brother!' Folding then Stainless to stained, with arms about him wound, In sacred silence mouth to mouth she pressed, A long, long sister's kiss. Like infant's flesh The blighted and the blasted back returned: That leper rose restored. The legend saith That Saint Cecilia by her stood that night: 'Once more I greet thee on thy dying day.'
It came at last, that day. Her convent grew In grace with God and man: the pilgrim old Sought it from far; the gifts of kings enlarged:— It came at last, that day. There are who vouch The splendour of that countenance never waned: Thus much is sure; it waxed to angels' eyes:— Welcomed it came, that day desired, not feared. By humbleness like hers those two fair deeds Were long forgotten: each day had its task: Not hardest that of dying. Why should sobs Trouble the quiet of a holy house Because its holiest passes? Others wept; The sufferer smiled: 'Ah, little novices, How little of the everlasting lore Your foolish mother taught you if ye shrink From trial light as this!' She spake; then sank In what to those around her seemed but sleep, The midnoon August sunshine on her hair In ampler radiance lying than that hour When, danger near her yet to her unknown, Beneath that forest tree her eyelids closed— Her book upon her bosom. Near her bed Not danger now but heralds ever young, Saint Catherine, Saint Cecilia, stood once more, Linked hand in hand, with aureoles interwreathed: One gazing stood as though on radiance far With widening eyes: a listener's look intent The other's, soft with pathos more profound. The Roman sister spake: 'Rejoice, my child, Rejoice, thus near the immeasurable embrace And breast expectant of the unnumbered Blest That swells to meet thee! Yea, and on the earth For thee reward remaineth. Happy thou Through prayer his sight restoring to thy foe, Sole foe that e'er thou knew'st though more his own! Child! darkness is there worse than blindness far, Wherein erroneous wanders human Pride; That prayer of thine from age to age shall guard A realm against such darkness. Where yon kine Stand in mid ford, quenching their noontide thirst, Thy footsteps crossed of old the waters. God In the unerasing current sees them still! Close by, a nation from a purer flood Shall quench a thirst more holy, quaffing streams Of Knowledge loved as Truth. Majestic piles Shall rise by yonder Isis, honouring, each, My clear-eyed sister of the sacred East That won to Christ the Alexandrian seers, Winning, herself, from chastity her lore: Upon their fronts, aloft in glory ranged With face to East, and cincture never loosed, All Sciences shall stand, daughters divine Of Him that Truth eterne and boon to man, Holding in spotless hand, not lamp alone, But lamp and censer both, and both alike From God's great Altar lighted.' Spake in turn That Alexandrian with the sunlike eyes: 'Beside those Sciences shall stand a choir As fair as they; as tall; those sister Arts, High daughters of celestial Harmony, Diverse yet one, that bind the hearts of men To steadfast Truth by Beauty's sinuous cords; She that to marble changes mortal thought; She that with rainbow girds the cloud of life; She that above the streaming mist exalts Rock-rooted domes of prayer; and she that rears With words auguster temples. Happy thou Healing that leper with thy virgin kiss! A leprosy there is more direful, child!— Therein the nations rot when flesh is lord And spirit dies. Such ruin Arts debased Gender, or, gendered long, exasperate more. But thou, rejoice! From this pure centre Arts Unfallen shall breathe their freshness through the land, With kiss like thine healing a nation's wound Year after year successive; listening, each, My sister's organ music in the skies, Prime Art that, challenging not eye but ear, To Faith is nearest, and of Arts on earth For that cause, living soul.' That prophecy Found its accomplishment. In later years, There where of old the Oxen had their Ford, The goodliest city England boasts arose, Mirrored in sacred Isis; like that flood Its youth for aye renewing. Convents first Through stately groves levelled their placid gleam, With cloisters opening dim on garden gay Or moonlit lawn dappled by shadowing deer: Above them soared the chapel's reverent bulk With storied window whence, in hues of heaven, Martyrs looked down, or Confessor, or Saint On tomb of Founder with its legend meek 'Pro anima orate.' Night and day Mounted the Church's ever-varying song Sustained on organ harmonies that well Might draw once more to earth, with wings outspread And heavenly face made heavenlier by that strain, Cecilia's Angel. Of those convents first Was Frideswida's, ruled in later years By Canons Regular, later yet rebuilt By him of York, that dying wept, alas, 'Had I but served my Maker as my king!' To colleges those convents turned; yet still The earlier inspiration knew not change: The great tradition died not: near the bridge From Magdalen's tower still rang the lark-like hymn On May-day morn: high ranged in airy cells, Facing the East, all Sciences, all Arts, Yea, and with these all Virtues, imaged stood, Best imaged stood in no ideal forms, Craft unhistoric of some dreamer's brain, But life-like shapes of plain heroic men Who in their day had fought the fight of Faith, Warriors and sages, poets, saints, and kings, And earned their rest: the long procession paced, Up winding slow the college-girded street To where in high cathedral slept the Saint, Singing its 'Alma Redemptoris Mater,' On August noons, what time the Assumption Feast From purple zenith of the Christian heaven Brightened the earth. That hour not bells alone Chiming from countless steeples made reply: Laughed out that hour high-gabled roof and spire; Kindling shone out those Sciences, those Arts Pagan one time, now confessors white-robed; And all the holy City gave response, 'Deus illuminatio mea est.'
THE BANQUET HALL OF WESSEX, OR THE KING WHO COULD SEE.
Kenwalk, King of Wessex, is a Pagan, but refuses to persecute Christians. He is dethroned by the Mercian King, and lives an exile in a Christian land. There he boasts that he never accords faith to what he hears, and believes only what he sees; yet, his eye being single, he sees daily more of the Truth. Wessex is delivered, and a great feast held at which the Pagan nobles, priests, and bards all conspire for the destruction of the Faith. Birinus, the bishop, having withstood them valiantly, Kenwalk declares himself a Christian. Birinus prophesies of England's greatest King.
King Cynegils lay dead, who long and well Had judged the realm of Essex. By his bier The Christians standing smote their breasts, and said, 'Ill day for us:' but all about the house Clustering in smiling knots of twos and threes, The sons of Odin whispered, or with nods Gave glad assent. Christ's bishop sent from Rome, Birinus, to the king had preached for years The Joyous Tidings. Cynegils believed, And with him many; but the most refrained: With these was Kenwalk; and, his father dead, Kenwalk was king. A valiant man was he, A man of stubborn will, but yet at heart Magnanimous and just. To one who said, 'Strike, for thine hour is come!' the king new-crowned Made answer, 'Never! Each man choose his path! My father chose the Christian—Odin's I. I crossed my father oft a living man; I war not on him dead.' That giant hand Which spared Religion ruled in all beside: He harried forth the robbers from the woods, And wrecked the pirates' ships. He burned with fire A judge unjust, and thrice o'er Severn drave The invading Briton. Lastly, when he found That woman in his house intolerable, From bed and realm he hurled her forth, though crowned, Ensuing thence great peace. Not long that peace: The Mercian king, her brother, heard her tale With blackening brow. The shrill voice stayed at last, Doubly incensed the monarch made reply: 'Sister, I never loved you;—who could love? But him who spurned you from his realm I hate: Fear nought! your feast of vengeance shall be full!' He spake; then cried, 'To arms!' In either land, Like thunders low and far, or windless plunge Of waves on coasts long silent that proclaim, Though calm the sea for leagues, tempest far off That shoreward swells, thus day by day was heard The direful preparation for a war Destined no gladsome tournament to prove, But battle meet for ancient foes resolved To clear old debts; make needless wars to come. Not long that strife endured; on either side Valour was equal; but on one, conjoined, The skill most practised, and the heavier bones: The many fought the few. On that last field 'Twas but the fury of a fell despair, Not hope, that held the balance straight so long: Ere sunset all was over. From the field A wounded remnant dragged their king, half dead: The Mercian host pursued not. Many a week Low lay the broken giant nigh to death: At last, like creeping plant down-dragged, not crushed, That, washed by rains, and sunshine-warmed, once more Its length uplifting, feels along the air, And gradual finds its 'customed prop, so he, Strengthening each day, with dubious eyes at first Around him peered, but raised at length his head, And, later, question made. His health restored, He sought East Anglia, where King Anna reigned, His chief of friends in boyhood. Day by day A spirit more buoyant to the exile came And winged him on his way: his country's bound Once passed, his darker memories with it sank: Through Essex hastening, stronger grew his step; East Anglian breezes from the morning sea Fanned him to livelier pulse: wild April growths Gladdened his spirit with glittering green. More fresh He walked because the sun outfaced him not, Veiled, though not far. That shrouded sun had ta'en Its passion from the wild-bird's song, but left Quiet felicities of notes low-toned That kept in tune with streams too amply brimmed To chatter o'er their pebbles. Kenwalk's soul Partook not with the poet's. Loveliest sights, Like music brightening those it fails to charm, Roused but his mirthful mood. To each that passed He tossed his jest: he scanned the labourer's task; Reviled the luckless boor that ploughed awry, And beat the smith that marred the horse's hoof: At times his fortunes thus he moralised: 'Here walk I, crownless king, and exiled man: My Mercian brother lists his sister's tongue: Say, lark! which lot is happiest?' Festive streets, Tapestries from windows waving, banners borne By white-clad children chanting anthems blithe; With these East Anglia's king received his friend Entering the city gate. In joyous sports That day was passed. At banquet Christian priests Sat with his thanes commingled. Anna's court Was Christian, and, for many a league around, His kingdom likewise. As the earth in May Glistens with vernal flowers, or as the face Of one whose love at last has found return Irradiate shines, so shone King Anna's house, A home of Christian peace. Fair sight it was— Justice and Love, the only rivals there, O'er-ruled it, and attuned. Majestic strength Looked forth in every glance of Anna's eye, Too great for pride to dwell there. Tender-souled As that first streak, the harbinger of dawn Revealed through cloudless ether, such the queen, All charity, all humbleness, all grace, All womanhood. Harmonious was her voice, Dulcet her movements, undisguised her thoughts, As though they trod an Eden land unfallen, And needed raiment none. Some heavenly birth Their children seemed, blameless in word and act, The sisters as their brothers frank, and they, Though bolder, not less modest. Kenwalk marked, And marking, mused in silence, 'Contrast strange These Christians with the pagan races round! Something those pagans see not these have seen: Something those pagans hear not these have heard: Doubtless there's much in common. What of that? 'Tis thus 'twixt man and dog; yet knows the dog His master walks in worlds by him not shared— Perchance for me too there are worlds unknown!'
Thus God to Kenwalk shewed the things that bear Of God true witness, seeing in his soul Justice and Judgment, and, with these conjoined, Valour and Truth: for as the architect On tower four-square and solid plants his spire, And not on meads below, though gay with flowers, On those four virtues God the fabric rears Of virtues loftier yet—those three, heaven-born, And pointing heavenward. To those worlds unknown Kenwalk ere long stood nigh. In three short months The loveliest of those children, and last born, Lay cold in death. Old nurses round her wailed: The mighty heart of Kenwalk shook for dread Entering the dim death-chamber. On a bier The maiden lay, the cross upon her breast: Beside her sat her mother, pale as she, Yet calm as pale. When Kenwalk near her drew She lifted from that bier a slender book And read that record of the three days' dead Raised by the Saviour from that death-cave sealed, A living man. Once more she read those words, 'I am the Resurrection and the Life,' Then added, low, with eyes up cast to heaven, 'With Him my child awaits me.' Kenwalk saw; And, what he saw, believing, half believed— Not more—the things he heard. Yes, half believed; Yet, call it obduracy, call it pride, Call it self-fear, or fear of priestly craft, He closed his ear against the Word Divine: The thing he saw he trusted; nought beyond. Three years went by. Once, when his friend had named The Name all-blessed, Kenwalk frowned. Since then That Name was named no more. O'er hill and dale They chased the wild deer; on the billow breathed Inspiring airs; in hall of joyance trod The mazes of the dance. Then war broke out: Reluctant long King Anna sought the field; Hurled back aggression. Kenwalk, near him still, Watched him with insight keener than his wont, And, wondering, marked him least to pagans like Inly, when like perforce in outward deed. The battle frenzy took on him no hold: Severe his countenance grew; austere and sad; Fatal, not wrathful. Vicar stern he seemed Of some dread, judgment-executing Power, Against his yearnings; not despite his will. Once, when above the faithless town far off The retributive smoke leaped up to heaven, He closed with iron hand on Kenwalk's arm And slowly spake—a whisper heard afar— 'See you that town? Its judgment is upon it! I gave it respite twice. This day its doom Is irreversible.' The invader quelled, Anna and Kenwalk on their homeward way Rode by the grave of saintly Sigebert, King Anna's predecessor. Kenwalk spake: 'Some say the people keep but memory scant Of benefits: I trust the things I see: I never passed that tomb but round it knelt A throng of supplicants! King Sigebert Conversed, men say, with prophet and with seer: I never loved that sort:—who wills can dream— Yet what I see I see.' 'They pray for him,' Anna replied, 'who perished for their sake: Long years he lived recluse at Edmondsbury, A tonsured monk: around its walls one day Arose that cry, "The Mercian, and his host! Forth, holy King, and lead, as thou wert wont, Thy people to the battle, lest they die!" Again I see him riding at their head, Lifting a cross, not sword. The battle lost, Again I see him fall.' With rein drawn tight King Kenwalk mused; then smote his hands, and cried 'My father would have died like Sigebert! He lacked but the occasion!' After pause, Sad-faced, with bitter voice he spake once more: 'Such things as these I might have learned at home! I shunned my father's house lest fools might say, 'He thinks not his own thoughts.' Thus month by month, Though Faith which 'comes by hearing' had not come To Kenwalk yet, not less since sight he used In honest sort, and resolute to learn, God shewed him memorable things and great Which sight unblest discerns not, tutoring thus A kingly spirit to a kingly part: Before him near it lay. The morrow morn Great tidings came: in Wessex war was raised: Kenwalk, departing thus to Anna spake, To Anna, and his consort: 'Well I know What thanks are those the sole your hearts could prize:' With voice that shook he added: 'Man am I That make not pledge: yet, if my father's God Sets free my father's realm——' again he paused; Then westward rode alone. Well planned, fought well (For Kenwalk, of the few reverse makes wise, From him had put his youth's precipitance) That virtuous warfare triumphed. Swift as fire The news from Sherburne and from Winbourne flashed To Sarum, Chertsey, Malmsbury. That delight On earth the nearest to religious joy, The rapture of a trampled land set free, Swelled every breast: the wounded in their wounds Rejoiced, not grieved: the sick forgat their pains: The mourner dashed away her tear and cried, 'Wessex is free!' Remained a single doubt: Christians crept forth from cave and hollow tree: Once more the exiled monk was seen; and one Who long in minstrel's garb, with harp in hand, Old, poor, half blind, had sat beside a bridge, And, charming first the wayfarer with song, Had won him next with legends of the Cross, Stood up before his altar. Rumour ran 'Once more Birinus lifts his crosier-staff!' Then muttered priests of Odin, 'Cynegils We know was Christian. Kenwalk holds—or held, Ancestral Faith, yet warred not on the new: Tolerance means still connivance.' Peace restored, Within King Kenwalk's echoing palace hall, The hall alike of council and of feast, The Great Ones of the Wessex realm were met: Birinus sat among them, eyed from far With anger and with hatred. Council o'er, Banquet succeeded, and to banquet song, The Saxon's after-banquet. Many a harp That day by flying hand entreated well Divulged its secret, amorous, or of war; And many a warrior sang his own great deeds Or dirge of ancient friend Valhalla's guest; Nor stinted foeman's praise. Silent meanwhile Far down the board a son of Norway sat, Ungenial guest with clouded brows and stern, And eyes that flashed beneath them: bard was he, Warrior and bard. Not his the song for gold! He sang but of the war-fields and the gods; He lays of love despised. 'Thy turn is come, Son of the ice-bound North,' thus spake a thane: 'Sing thou! The man who sees that face, already Half hears the tempest singing through the pines That shade thy gulfs hill-girt.' The stranger guest Answered, not rising: 'Yea, from lands of storm And seas cut through by fiery lava floods I come, a wanderer. Ye, meantime, in climes Balm-breathing, gorge the fat, and smell the sweet: Ye wed the maid whose sire ye never slew, And bask in unearned triumph. Feeble spirits! Endless ye deem the splendours of this hour, And call defeat opprobrious! Sirs, our life Is trial. Victory and Defeat are Gods That toss man's heart, their plaything, each to each: Great Mercia knows that truth—of all your realms Faithfullest to Odin far!' 'Nay, minstrel, sing,' Once more, not wroth, they clamoured. He replied: 'Hear then my song; but not those songs ye sing: I have against you somewhat, Wessex men! Ye are not as your fathers, when, in youth, I trod your coasts. That time ye sang of Gods, Sole theme for manlike song. On Iceland's shores We keep our music's virtue undefiled: While summer lasts we fight; by winter hearths, Or ranged in sunny coves by winter seas, Betwixt the snow-plains and the hills of fire, Singing we feed on legends of the Gods: Ye sing but triumphs of the hour that fleets; Ye build you kingdoms: next ye dash them down: Ye bow to idols! O that song of mine Might heal this people's wound!' Then rose the bard And took his harp, and smote it like a man; And sang full-blooded songs of Gods who spurn Their heaven to war against that giant race Throned 'mid the mountains of old Joetunheim That girdle still the unmeasured seas of ice With horror and strange dread. Innumerable, In ever-winding labyrinths, glacier-thronged, Those mountains raise their heads among the stars, That palsied glimmer 'twixt their sunless bulks, O'er-shadowing seas and lands. O'er Joetunheim The glittering car of day hath never shone: There endless twilight broods. Beneath it sit The huge Frost-Giants, sons of Oergelmir, Themselves like mountains, solitary now, Now grouped, with knees drawn up, and heads low bent Plotting new wars. Those wars the Northman sang; And thunder-like rang out the vast applause. That hour Birinus whispered one close by: 'Not casual this! Ill spirits, be sure, this day, And impious men will launch their fiercest bolts To crush Christ's Faith for ever!' Jocund songs The bard sang next: how Thor had roamed disguised Through Joetunheim, and found the giant-brood Feasting; and how their king gave challenge thus: 'Sir, since you deign us visit, show us feats! Behold yon drinking horn! with us a child Drains it at draught.' The God inclined his head And swelled his lips; and three times drank: yet lo! Nigh full that horn remained, the dusky mead In mockery winking! Spake once more the king: 'Behold my youngest daughter's chief delight, Yon wild-cat grey! She lifts it: lift it thou!' The God beneath it slipped his arm and tugged, And tugging, ever higher rose and higher; The wild cat arched her back and with him rose;— But one foot left the ground! Last, forward stept A haggard, lame, decrepid, toothless crone, And cried, 'Canst wrestle, friend?' He closed upon her: Firm stood she as a mountain: she in turn Closed upon Thor, and brought him to one knee: Lower she could not bend him. Thor for rage Clenched both his fists until his finger-joints Grew white as snow late fallen! Loud and long The laughter rose: the minstrel frowned dislike: 'I have against you somewhat, Wessex men! In laughter spasms ye reel, or shout applause, Music surceased. Like rocks your fathers sat; In every song they knew some mystery lay, Mystery of man or nature. Greater God Is none than Thor, whom, witless, thus ye flout. That giant knew his greatness, and, at morn, While vexed at failure through the gates he passed, Addressed him reverent: 'Lift thy head, great Thor! Disguised thou cam'st; not less we knew thee well: Brave battle fought'st thou, seeming still to fail: Thy foes were phantoms! Phantasies I wove To snare thine eyes because I feared thy hand, And pledged thy strength to tasks impossible. That horn thou could'st not empty was the sea! At that third draught such ebb-tide stripp'd the shore As left whole navies stranded! What to thee Wild-cat appeared was Midgard's endless snake Whose infinite circle clasps the ocean round: Then when her foot thou liftedst, tremour went From iron vale to vale of Joetunheim: Hadst thou but higher raised it one short span, The sea had drowned the land! That toothless crone Was Age, that drags the loftiest head to earth: She bent thy knee alone. Come here no more! On equal ground thou fight'st us in the light: In this, our native land, the stronger we, And mock thee by Illusions!' After pause, With haughty eye cast round, the minstrel spake: 'Now hear ye mysteries of the antique song, Though few shall guess their import!' Then he sang Legends primeval of that Northern race, And dread beginnings of the heavens and earth, When, save the shapeless chaos, nothing was: Of Ymer first, by some named Oergelmir, The giant sire of all the giant brood:— Him for his sins the sons of Boer destroyed; Then fashioned of his blood the seas and streams, And of his bones the mountains; of his teeth The cliffs firm set against the aggressive waves; Last, of his skull the vast, o'er-hanging heaven; And of his brain the clouds. 'Sing on,' they cried: Next sang he of that mystic shape, earth-born, The wondrous cow, Auhumla. Herb that hour Was none, nor forest growth; yet on and on She wandered by the vapour-belted seas, And, wandering, from the stones and icebergs cold That creaked forlorn against the grey sea-crags, She licked salt spray, and hoary frost, and lived; And ever where she licked sprang up, full-armed, Men fair and strong! Once more they cried, 'Sing on!' Last sang the minstrel of the Night and Day: Car-borne they sweep successive through the heaven: First rides the dusky maid by men called Night; Sleep-bringing, pain-assuaging, kind to man; With dream-like speed cleaving the starry sphere: Hrimfaxi is her horse: his round complete Foam from his silver bit bespangles earth, And mortals call it 'Morn.' Day follows fast, Her brother white: Skinfaxi is his horse: When forth he flings the splendours from his mane Both Gods and men rejoice. Thus legends old The Northman sang, till, fleeting from men's eyes, The present lived no longer. In its place He fixed that vision of the world new formed, Which on the childhood of the Northern mind Like endless twilight lay;—spaces immense; Unmeasured energies of fire and flood; Great Nature's forces, terrible yet blind, In ceaseless strife alternately supreme, Or breast to breast with dreadful equipoise In conflict pressed. Once more o'er those that heard He hung that old world's low, funereal sky: Before their eyes he caused its cloud to stream Shadowing infinitude. He spake no word Like Heida of that war 'twixt Good and Ill; That peace which crowns the just; that God unknown: Enough to him his Faith without its soul! With glorying eye he marked that panting throng; Then, sudden, changed his note. Again of war He sang, but war no more of Gods on Gods; He sang the honest wars of man on man; Of Odin, king of men, ere yet, death past, He flamed abroad in godhead. Field on field He sang his battles; traced from realm to realm His conquering pilgrimage: then ended, fierce: 'What God was this—that God ye honoured once? What man was this—your half-forgotten king? Your law-giver he was! he framed your laws! Your poet he: he shaped your earliest song! Your teacher he: he taught you first your runes! Your warrior—yours! His warfare consummate, For you he died! Old age at last, sole foe Unvanquished, found him throned in Gylfi's land: Summoning his race around him thus he spake: "My sons, I scorn that age should cumber youth! Ye have your lesson—see ye keep it well! I taught you how to conquer; how to live; Now learn to die!" His dagger high he raised; Nine times he plunged it through his bleeding breast, Then sheathed it in his heart. Ere from his lips The kingly smile had vanished, he was dead!'
So sang the bard and ceased; his work was done: Abroad the tempest burst. 'Twas not his songs Alone that raised it! Memories which they waked, Memories of childhood, fainter year by year, Tripled his might. Meantime a Saxon priest Potential there, bent low, with eye-brow arched, O'er Eardulf's ear, Eardulf old warrior famed, And whispered long, and as he whispered glanced Oft at Birinus. Keen of eye the King, The action noting well, the aim divined, And thus to Offa near him spake, low-toned: 'The full-fed priest of Odin sends a sword To slay that naked babe he hates so sore, The Faith of Christ!' Rising with fiery face And thundering hand that shook the banquet board Eardulf began: '"Ye are not what ye were!" So saith our stranger kinsman from the north, A man plain-tongued; I would that all were such! Lords, and my King, this stranger speaks the truth! I tell you too, we are not what we were: Nor lengthened trail he hunts who seeks the cause. Lo, there the cause among us! Man from Rome! I ask who sent thee hither? From the first Rome and our native races stand at war; Her hope was this, to make our sons like hers Liars and slaves, our daughters false and vile, And, thus subverted, rule our land and us. Frustrate in war, now sends she forth her priests In peaceful gown to sap the manly hearts Her sword but manlier made. Ho, Wessex men! Ye see your foe! My counsel, Lords, is this: The worm that stings us tread we to the earth, Then spurn it from our coasts!' Ere ceased the acclaim Subdued and soft the Pagan pontiff rose, And three times half retired, as one who yields His betters place; and thrice, answering the call, Advanced, and leaning stood: at last he spake, Sweet-voiced, not loud; 'Ye Wessex Earls and Thanes, I stand here but as witness, not as judge; Ye are the judges. Late ye heard—yea, twice— Words strange and new; "Ye are not what ye were!" I witness this; things are not what they were; For round me as I roll these sorrowing eyes, Now old and dim—perchance the fault is theirs— They find no longer, ranged along your walls Amid the deep-dyed trophies of old time, That chiefest of your Standards, lost, men say, In that ill-omened battle lost which wrecked But late our Wessex kingdom. Odin's wrath— I spare to task your time and patience, Lords, Enforcing truth which every urchin knows— 'Twas Odin shamed his foe! Ah Cynegils! What made thee Odin's foe? Our friend was he! Base tolerance first, connivance next, then worse, Favoured that Faith perfidious! Stood and stands A bow-shot hence that church the strangers built; Their church, their font! The strangers, who are they? Snake-like and supple, winding on and on Through courtly chambers darkling still they creep, Nor dare to face a people front to front; Let them stand up in light, and all is well! And who their converts? Late, to please a king, They donned his novel worship like a robe; When dead he lay they doffed it! Earls and Thanes, A nobler day is come; a sager king; In him I trust; in you; in Odin most, Our nation's strength, the bulwark of our throne. I proffer nought of counsel. Ye have eyes: The opprobrium sits among you!' From the floor The storm of iron feet rang loud, and swords Leaped flashing from their sheaths. In silence some Waited the event: the larger part by far Clamoured for vengeance on the outlandish Faith, The loudest they, the apostates of past time. Then stately from his seat Birinus rose, And stood in calm marmorean. Long he stood, Not eager, though expectant. By degrees That tumult lessening, with a quiet smile And hand extended, noticing for peace, Thus he addressed that concourse. 'Earls and Thanes, Among so many here I stand alone, Why peaceful? why untroubled? In your hands I see a hundred swords against me bent: Sirs, should they slay me, Truth remains unpierced. A thousand wheat ears swayed by summer gust Affront one oak; it slights the mimic threat: So slight I, strong in faith, those swords that err— Your ignorance, not your sin. The truth of God, The heart of man against you fight this day, And, with his heart, his hope. In every land, Through all the unnumbered centuries yet to come, The cry of women wailing for their babes Restored through Christ alone, the cry of men Who know that all is lost if earth is all, The cry of children still unstained by sin, The sinner's cry redeemed from yoke of sin, Thunder against you. Pass to lesser themes.
'Eardulf, that raged against me, told you, Lords, That Rome was still the hater of your race, And warred thereon. She warred much more on mine, Roman but Christian likewise! Ye were foes; Warring on you she warred on hostile tribes: In us she tore her proper flesh and blood: Mailed men were you that gave her blow for blow; We were her tender children; on her hearths We dwelt, or delved her fields and dressed her vines. What moved her hatred? that we loved a God All love to man. With every God beside Rome made her traffic: fellowship with such Unclean we deemed: thenceforth Rome saw in us Her destined foe. Three centuries, Earls and Thanes, Her hand was red against us. Vengeance came: Who wrought it? Who avenged our martyred Saints That, resting 'neath God's altar, cried, "How long?" Alaric, and his, the Goths! And who were they? Your blood, your bone, your spirit, and your soul! They with your fathers roamed four hundred years The Teuton waste; they swam the Teuton floods, They pointed with the self-same hand of scorn At Rome, their common foe! In Odin's loins Together came ye from the shining East:— True man was he: ye changed him to false god! That Odin, when the destined hour had pealed, Beckoned to Alaric, marched by Alaric's side Invisibly to Rome! Ye know the tale: Her senate-kings their portals barred; they deemed That awe of Rome would drive him back amazed; And sat secure at feast. But he that slew Remus, his brother, on the unfinished wall, A bitter expiation paid that night! The wail went up: the Goths were lords of Rome!— Alaric alone in that dread hour was just, And with his mercy tempered justice. Why? Alaric that day was Christian: of his host The best and bravest Christian. Senators In purple nursed lived on, 'tis true, in rags; To Asian galleys and Egyptian marts The rich were driven; the mighty. Gold in streams Ran molten from the Capitolian roofs: The idol statues choked old Tyber's wave: But life and household honour Alaric spared; And round the fanes of Peter and of Paul His soldiers stood on guard. Upon the grave Of that bad Empire sentenced, nay of all The Empires of this world absorbed in one, In one condemned, they throned the Church of Christ; His Kingdom's seat established. Since that hour That Kingdom spreads o'er earth. In Eastern Gaul Long since your brave Burgundians kneel to Christ; Pannonia gave Him to the Ostro-Goths, Barbaric named; and to the Suevi Spain: The Vandals o'er the Mauritanian shores Exalt His Cross with joy. Your pardon, sirs: These lands to you are names; but Odin knew them; A living man he trod them in his youth; Hated their vices; bound his race to spurn Their bait, their bond! That day he saw hath dawned; O'er half a world the vivifying airs Launched from your northern forests chaste and cold Have blown, and blow this hour! The Saxon race Alone its destiny knows not. Ye have won Here in this Isle the old Roman heritage: Perfect your victory o'er that Pagan Rome With Christian Rome partaking! Earls and Thanes, But one word more. Your pontiff late averred That kings to us are gods; through them we conquer: I answer thus: That Kingdom God hath raised Is sovereign and is one; kingdoms of earth, How great soe'er, to it are provinces In spiritual things. If princes turn to God They save their souls. If kingdoms war on God Their choice is narrow, and their choice is this: To break, like that which falleth on a stone; Or else, like that whereon that stone doth fall, To crumble into dust.' The Pagan priest Whispered again to Eardulf, 'Praise to Thor! He flouts our king! The boaster's chance is gone!' Then rose that king and spake in careless sort: 'Earls and my Thanes, I came from exile late: It may be that to exile I return: Not less my arm is long; my sword is sharp: Let him that hates me fear me! Earls and Thanes, I passed that exile in a Christian realm: There of the Christian greatness, Christian right, I somewhat heard, and hearing, disbelieved; Saw likewise somewhat, and believed in part: Saw more, till nigh that part had grown to whole: I saw that war itself might be a thing Though stern, yet stern in mercy; saw that peace Might wear a shape dearest to manliest heart, Peace based on fearless justice militant 'Gainst wrong alone and riot. Earls and Thanes, Returned, this day and in this regal hall A spectacle I saw, if grateful less, Not therefore less note-worthy—countless swords In judgment drawn against a man unarmed; Yea, and a man unarmed with brow unmoved Confronting countless swords. These things I saw; Fair sight that tells me how to act, and when; For I was minded to protract the time, Which strangles oft best purpose. At the font Of Christ—it stands a bow-shot from this spot, As late we learned—at daybreak I and mine Become henceforth Christ's lieges. Earls and Thanes, I heard but late a railer who affirmed That kings were tyrants o'er the faiths of men Flexile to please them: thus I make reply; The meanest of my subjects, like his king, Shall serve his God in freedom: if the chief Questions the equal freedom of his king That man shall die the death! Through Christian Faith— I hide not this—one danger threats the land: It threats as much, nay more, my royal House: That danger must be dared since truth is truth: That danger ye shall learn tomorrow noon: Till comes that hour, farewell!' The matin beam, God's winged messenger from loftier worlds, Through the deep window of the baptistery Glittered on eddies of the bath-like font Not yet quiescent since its latest guest Had thence arisen; beside its marge the king In snowy raiment stood; upon his right, Alfred, his first-born, boy of seven years old, And, close beside, in wonder not in dread, Mildrede, his sister, younger by one year, Holding her brother's hand. From either waist Flowed a white kirtle to the small snow feet With roses tinged. Above it all was bare, And with the fontal dew-drops sparkling still; While from each head with sacred unction sealed Floated the chrismal veil. That eye is blind Which sees not beauty save on female brows: On either face that hour the lustre lay; But hers was lustre passive, lustre pale; The boy's was active, daring, penetrating— The lily she; but he the Morning Star, Beaming thereon from heaven! With dewy eyes The strong king on them gazed, and inly mused, 'To God I gave them up: yet ne'er till now Seemed they so wholly mine!' Birinus spake: 'Ye have been washed in baptism, though no sin Hath yet been yours save Adam's, and confirmed; And houselled ye shall be at Mass seven days, Since Christ in infant bosoms loves to dwell. Pray, day by day, that Christ would keep you pure: Pray for your Father: likewise pray for me, Old sinner soon to die.' Then raised those babes Their baptism tapers high, and fixing eyes That moved not on their backward-fluttering flames, Led the procession to their palace home, Their father pacing last. That day at noon The monarch sat upon his royal throne, Birinus near him standing: at his feet His children played; while round him silent thronged Warriors and chiefs. The king addressed them thus: 'Birinus, and the rest, I hold it meet A king should hide his secret from his foes, But with his friends be open. Yestereve I, Christian now, unfalteringly avouched That in the victory of the Christian Faith, True though it be, one danger I discerned: That danger, and its root, I now divulge. Saw ye the scorn within that Northman's eye Last eve, when, praising Thor, in balance stern He weighed what now we are with what we were When first he trod our shores! He spake the truth: His race and ours are kin; but his retain Stronglier their manly virtue, frost and snow Like whetstones sharpening still that virtue's edge. We soften with the years. Beggars this day Sue us for bread! Sirs, in a famine once I saw, then young, a hundred at a time That, linking hand in hand, loud singing rushed, Like hunters chasing hart, to sea-beat cliffs, And o'er them plunged! Now comes this Faith of Christ; That Faith to which, because that Faith is true, I pledged this morn my word, my seal, my soul, The fate and fortunes of our native land And all my royal House, well knowing this, The king who loves his kingdom more than God, Better than both loves self—no king at heart. Now comes this Christian Faith! That Faith, be sure, Is not a hardening faith: gentle it makes:— I told you, Lords, we soften day by day; I might have added that with growing years Hardness we doubly need. When Rome was great Our race, however far diffused, was one, Blended by hate of Rome. When Rome declined That bond dissolved. A second bond remained In Odin's Faith:—Northmen alone retain it In them a new Rome rises! Earls and Thanes! The truth be ours though for that truth we die! Hold fast that truth; yet hide not what it costs. Through fog and sea-mist of the days to come I see huge navies with the raven flag Steering to milder borders Christian half, Brother 'gainst brother ranging. Kingdoms Seven Of this still fair and once heroic land, I say, beware that hour! If come it must, Then fall the thunder while I walk this earth, Not when I skulk in crypts!' The others mute, From joy malicious some, some vexed with doubt, Birinus made reply: 'My Lord and King, Inly this day I gladden, certain now That neither fancy-drawn, nor anger-spurred, Nor seeking crowns, for others or thyself, Nor shunning woes, the worst that earth can know, For others or thyself, but urged by faith, God's greatest gift to man, thou mad'st this day Submission true to Christ. So be it, King! So rest content! God with a finger's touch Could melt that cloud which threats thy realm well-loved; (That threat I deem nor trivial nor obscure) Not thus He wills. Danger, distress, reverse, Are heralds sent from God, like peace and joy, To nations as to men. Happy that land Which worketh darkling; worketh without wage; And worketh still for God! If God desired A people for His sacrificial lamb, Happiest of nations should that nation be Which died His willing victim!' 'King, and Son,' With voice a moment troubled he resumed, 'Thy future rests with God! Yet shake, Oh shake One boding grief—'tis causeless—from thy breast, Deeming thy race less valiant than the North: Faithfuller they stand and nearer to their sires! Remorseless less to others and to self I grant them; that implies not valiant less: The brave are still in spirit the merciful; Far down within their being stirs a sense Of more than race or realm. Some claim world-wide, Whereof the prophet is the wailing babe, Smites on their hearts—a cradle decks therein For Him they know not yet, the Bethlehem Babe. That claim thy fathers felt! Through Teuton woods (Dead Rome's historian saw what he records), Moved forth of old in cyclic pilgrimage Thick-veiled, the sacred image of the Earth, All reverend Mother, crowned Humanity! Not war-steeds haled her car, but oxen meek; And, as it passed oppugnant bounds, the trump Ceased from its blare; the lance, the war-axe fell; Grey foes shook hands; their children played together: Beyond the limit line of dateless wars Looked forth the vision thus of endless peace. Think'st thou that here was lack of manly heart? King, this was manhood's self!' While thus he spake, Alfred, and Mildrede, children of the King, That long time, by that voice majestic charmed, Had turned from distant sports, upon their knees Softly and slowly to Birinus crept, Their wide eyes from his countenance moving not, And so knelt on; Alfred, the star-eyed boy Supported by his father's sceptre-staff, His plaything late, now clasped in hands high-held. Him with a casual eye Birinus marked At first; then stood, with upward brow, in trance— Sudden, as though with Pentecostal flame, His whole face brightened; on him fell from God Spirit Divine; and thus the prophet cried:
'Who speaks of danger when the Lord of all Decrees high triumph? Victory's chariot winged Up-climbs the frowning mountains of Dismay, As when above the sea's nocturnal verge Twin beams, divergent horns of orient light, Announce the ascending sun. Whatever cloud Protracts the conflict, victory comes at last.
'What ho! ye sons of Odin and the north! Far off your galleys tarry! English air Reafen, your raven standard, darkened long, Woven of enchantments in the moon's eclipse: It rains its plague no more! The Kingdoms Seven Ye came to set a ravening each on each: Lo, ye have pressed and soldered them in one!
'Behold, a Sceptre rises—not o'er Kent The first-born of the Faith; nor o'er those vales Northumbrian, trod so long by crowned saints; Nor Mercia's plains invincible in war: O'er Wessex, barbarous late, and waste, and small, The Hand that made the worlds that Sceptre lifts; Hail tribe elect, the Judah of the Seven!
'Piercing the darkness of an age unborn, I see a King that hides his royal robe; Assumes the minstrel's garb. Where meet the floods That King abides his time. I see him sweep, Disguised, his harp within the Northmen's camp; In fifty fights I see him victory-crowned; I see the mighty and the proud laid low, The humble lifted. God is over all.
'The ruined cities 'mid their embers thrill: A voice went forth: they heard it. They shall rise, Their penance done, and cities worthier far With Roman vices ne'er contaminate. These shall not boast mosaic floor gem-wrought, And trod by sinners. In the face of heaven Their minster turrets these shall lift on high, Inviting God's great angels to descend And chaunt with them God's City here on earth.
'Who through the lethal forest cleaves a road Healthful and fresh? Who bridges stream high-swollen? Who spreads the harvest round the poor man's cot; Sets free the slave? On justice realms are built: Who makes his kingdom great through equal laws Not based on Pagan right, but rights in Christ, First just, then free? Who from her starry gates Beckons to Heavenly Wisdom—her who played Ere worlds were shaped, before the eyes of God? Who bids her walk the peopled fields of men, The reverend street with college graced and church? Who sings the latest of the Saxon songs? Who tunes to Saxon speech the Tome Divine?
'Sing, happy land! The Isle that, prescient long, Long waiting, hid her monarch in her heart, Shall look on him and cry, "My flesh, my bone, My son, my king!" To him shall Cambria bow, And Alba's self. His strength is in his God; The third part of his time he gives to prayer, And God shall hear his vows! Hail, mighty King! For aye thine England's glory! As I gaze, Methinks I see a likeness on thy brow, Likeness to one who kneels beside my feet! The sceptre comes to him who sceptre spurned; Through him it comes who sceptre clasped in sport; From Wessex' soil shall England's hope be born Two centuries hence; and Alfred is his name!'
BEDE'S LAST MAY.
Bede issues forth from Jarrow, and visiting certain villagers in a wood, expounds to them the Beatitudes of Our Lord. Wherever he goes he seeks records of past times, and promises in return that he will bequeath to his fellow-countrymen translations from divers Sacred Scriptures, and likewise a history of God's Church in their land. Having returned to his monastery, he dies a most happy death on the feast of the Ascension, while finishing his translation of St. John's gospel.
The ending of the Book of Saxon Saints. With one lay-brother only blessed Bede, In after times 'The Venerable' named, Passed from his convent, Jarrow. Where the Tyne Blends with the sea, all beautiful it stood, Bathed in the sunrise. At the mouth of Wear A second convent, Wearmouth, rose. That hour The self-same matin splendour gilt them both; And in some speech of mingling lights, not words, Both sisters praised their God. 'Apart, yet joined'— So mused the old man gazing on the twain: Then onward paced, with head above his book, Murmuring his office. Algar walked behind, A youth of twenty years, with tonsured head, And face, though young, forlorn. An hour had passed; They reached a craggy height; and looking back, Beheld once more beyond the forest roof Those two fair convents glittering—at their feet Those two clear rivers winding! Bound by rule, Again the monk addressed him to his book; Lection and psalm recited, thus he spake:
'Why placed our holy Founder thus so near His convents? Why, albeit a single rule, At last a single hand, had sway o'er both, Placed them at distance? Hard it were to guess: I know but this, that severance here on earth Is strangely linked with union of the heart, Union with severance. Thou hast lost, young friend, But lately lost thy boyhood's dearest mate, Thine earliest friend, a brother of thy heart, True Christian soul though dwelling in the world; Fear not such severance can extinguish love Here, or hereafter! He whom most I loved Was severed from me by the tract of years: A child of nine years old was I, when first Jarrow received me: pestilence ere long Swept from that house her monks, save one alone, Ceolfrid, then its abbot. Man and child, We two the lonely cloisters paced; we two Together chaunted in the desolate church: I could not guess his thoughts; to him my ways Were doubtless as the ways of some sick bird Watched by a child. Not less I loved him well: Me too he somewhat loved. Beneath one roof We dwelt—and yet how severed! Save in God, What know men, one of other? Here on earth, Perhaps 'tis wiser to be kind to all In large goodwill of helpful love, yet free, Than link to one our heart— Poor youth! that love which walks in narrow ways Is tragic love, be sure.' With gentle face The novice spake his gratitude. Once more, His hand upon the shoulder of the youth, (For now they mounted slow a bosky dell) The old man spake—yet not to him—in voice Scarce louder than the murmuring pines close by; For, by his being's law he seemed, like them, At times when pensive memories in him stirred, Vocal not less than visible: 'How great Was he, our Founder! In that ample brow, What brooding weight of genius! In his eye, How strangely was the pathos edged with light! How oft, his churches roaming, flashed its beam From pillar on to pillar, resting long On carven imagery of flower or fruit, Or deep-dyed window whence the heavenly choirs Gave joy to men below! With what a zeal He drew the cunningest craftsmen from all climes To express his thoughts in form; while yet his hand, Like meanest hand among us, patient toiled In garden and in bakehouse, threshed the corn, Or drave the calves to milk-pail! Earthly rule Had proved to him a weight intolerable; In spiritual beauty, there and there alone, Our Bennett Biscop found his native haunt, The lucent planet of his soul's repose: And yet—O wondrous might of human love— One was there, one, to whom his heart was knit, Siegfried, in all unlike him save in worth. His was plain purpose, rectitude unwarped, Industry, foresight. On his friend's behalf He ruled long years those beauteous convents twain, Yet knew not they were beauteous! An abyss Severed in spirit those in heart so near: More late exterior severance came: three years In cells remote they dwelt, by sickness chained: But once they met—to die. I see them still: The monks had laid them on a single bed; Weeping, they turned them later each to each: I saw the snowy tresses softly mix; I saw the faded lips draw near and meet; Thus gently interwreathed I saw them die— Strange strength of human love!' Still walked they on: As high the sun ascended, woodlands green Shivered all golden; and the old man's heart Brightened like them. His ever active mind Inquisitive took note of all it saw; And as some youth enamoured lifts a tress Of her he loves, and wonders, so the monk, Well loving Nature, loved her in detail, Now pleased with nestling bird, anon with flower, Now noting how the beech from dewy sheath Pushed forth its silken leaflets fringed with down, Exulting next because from sprays of lime The little fledgeling leaves, like creatures winged, Brake from their ruddy shells. Jesting, he cried: 'Algar! but hear those birds! Men say they sing To fire their young, night-bound, with gladsome news, And bid them seek the sun!' Sadly the youth With downward front, replied: 'My friend is dead; For me to gladden were to break a troth.' Upon the brow of Bede a shadow fell; Silent he paced, then stopped: 'Forgive me, Algar! Old men grow hard. Yet boys and girls salute The May: like them the old must have their maying; This is perchance my last.' As thus he spake They reached the summit of a grassy hill; Beneath there wound a stream, upon its marge A hamlet nestling lonely in the woods: Its inmates saw the Saint, and t'wards him sped Eager as birds that, when the grain is flung In fountained cloister-court of Eastern church, From all sides flock, with sudden rush of wings, Darkening the pavement. Youths and maids came first; Their elders followed: some his garments kissed, And some his hands. The venerable man Stretched forth his arms, as though to clasp them all: Above them next he signed his Master's cross; Then, while the tears ran down his aged face, Brake forth in grateful joy; 'To God the praise! When, forty years ago, I roamed this vale A haunt it was of rapine and of wars; Now see I pleasant pastures, peaceful homes, And faces peacefuller yet. That God Who walked With His disciples 'mid the sabbath fields While they the wheat-ears bruised, His sabbath keeps Within your hearts this day! His harvest ye! Once more a-hungered are His holy priests; They hunger for your souls; with reverent palms Daily the chaff they separate from the grain; Daily His Church within her heart receives you, Yea, with her heavenly substance makes you one; Ye grow to be her eyes that see His truth; Her ears that hear His voice; her hands that pluck His tree of life; her feet that walk His ways. Honouring God's priests ye err not, O my friends, Since thus ye honour God. In Him rejoice!'
So spake he, and his gladness kindled theirs; With it their courage. One her infant brought And sued for him a blessing. One, bereaved, Cried out: 'Your promised peace has come at last; No more I wish him back to earth!' Again Old foes shook hands; while now, their fears forgot, Children that lately nestled at his feet Clomb to his knees. Then called from out that crowd A blind man; 'Read once more that Book of God! For, after you had left us, many a month I, who can neither see the sun nor moon, Saw oft the God-Man walking farms and fields Of that fair Eastern land!' He spake, and lo! All those around that heard him clamoured, 'Read!'
Then Bede, the Sacred Scriptures opening, lit Upon the 'Sermon on the Mount,' and read: 'The Saviour lifted up His holy eyes On His disciples, saying, Blessed they;' Expounding next the sense. 'Why fixed the Lord His eyes on them that listened? Friends, His eyes Go down through all things, searching out the heart; He sees if heart be sound to hold His Word And bring forth fruit in season, or as rock Naked to bird that plucks the random seed. Friends, with the heart alone we understand; Who doth His will shall of the doctrine know If His it be indeed. When Jesus speaks Fix first your eyes upon His eyes divine, There reading what He sees within your heart: If sin He sees, repent!' With hands upheld A woman raised her voice, and cried aloud, 'Could we but look into the eyes of Christ Nought should we see but love!' And Bede replied: 'From babe and suckling God shall perfect praise! Yea, from His eyes looks forth the Eternal Love, Though oft, through sin of ours, in sadness veiled; But when He rests them on disciples true, Not on the stranger, love is love alone! O great, true hearts that love so well your Lord! That heard so trustingly His tidings good, So long, by trial proved, have kept His Faith, To you He cometh—cometh with reward In heaven, and here on earth.' With brightening face, As one who flingeth largess far abroad, Once more he raised the sacred tome, and read, Read loud the Eight Beatitudes of Christ; Then ceased, but later spake: 'In ampler phrase Those Blessings ye shall hear once more rehearsed, And deeplier understand them. Blessed they The poor in spirit; for to humble hearts Belongs the kingdom of their God in heaven; Blessed the meek—nor gold they boast, nor power; Yet theirs alone the sweetness of this earth; Blessed are they who mourn, for on their hearts The consolation of their God shall fall; Blessed are they who hunger and who thirst For righteousness; they shall be satisfied; Blessed the merciful, for unto them The God of mercy mercy shall accord; Blessed are they, the pure in heart; their eyes Shall see their God: Blessed the peacemakers; This title man shall give them—Sons of God; Blessed are they who suffer for the cause Righteous and just: a throne is theirs on high: Blessed are ye when sinners cast you forth, And brand your name with falsehood for my sake; Rejoice, for great is your reward in heaven.'
Once more the venerable man made pause, Giving his Master's Blessings time to sink Through hearts of those who heard. Anon with speech Though fervent, grave, he shewed the glory and grace Of those majestic Virtues crowned by Christ, While virtues praised by worldlings passed unnamed; How wondrously consentient each with each, Like flowers well sorted, or like notes well joined: Then changed the man to deeper theme; he shewed How these high virtues, ere to man consigned, Were warmed and moulded in the God-Man's heart; Thence born, and in its sacred blood baptized. 'What are these virtues but the life of Christ? The poor in spirit; must not they be lowly Whose God is One that stooped to wear our flesh? The meek; was He not meek Whom sinners mocked? The mourners; sent not He the Comforter? Zeal for the good; was He not militant? The merciful; He came to bring us mercy; The pure in heart; was He not virgin-born? Peacemakers; is not He the Prince of Peace? Sufferers for God; He suffered first for man. O Virtues blest by Christ, high doctrines ye! Dread mysteries; royal records; standards red Wrapped by the warrior King, His warfare past, Around His soldiers' bosoms! Recognise, O man, that majesty in lowness hid! Put on Christ's garments. Fools shall call them rags— Heed not their scoff! A prince's child is man, Born in the purple; but his royal robes None other are than those the Saviour dyed, Treading His Passion's wine-press all alone: Of such alone be proud!' The old man paused; Then stretched his arms abroad, and said: 'This day, Like eight great angels making way from Heaven, Each following each, those Eight Beatitudes, Missioned to earth by Him who made the earth, Have sought you out! What welcome shall be theirs?' In silence long he stood; in silence watched, With faded cheek now flushed and widening eyes, The advance of those high tidings. As a man Who, when the sluice is cut, with beaming gaze Pursues the on-rolling flood from fall to fall, Green branch adown it swept, and showery spray Silvering the berried copse, so followed Bede The progress of those high Beatitudes Brightening, with visible beams of faith and love, That host in ampler circles, speechless some And some in passionate converse. Saddest brows Most quickly caught, that hour, the glory-touch, Reflected it the best. In such discourse, Peaceful and glad the hours went by, though Bede Had sought that valley less to preach the Word Than see once more his children. Evening nigh He shared their feast; and heard with joy like theirs Their village harp; and smote that harp himself. In turn become their scholar, hour by hour Forth dragged he records of their chiefs and kings, Untangling ravelled evidence, and still Tracking traditions upward to their source, Like him, that Halicarnassean sage, Of antique history sire. 'I trust, my friends, To leave your sons, for lore by you bestowed Fair recompense, large measure well pressed down, Recording still God's kingdom in this land, History which all may read, and gentle hearts Loving, may grow in grace. Long centuries passed, If wealth should make this nation's heart too fat, And things of earth obscure the things of heaven, Haply such chronicle may prompt high hearts Wearied with shining nothings, back to cast Remorseful gaze through mists of time, and note That rock whence they were hewn. From youth to age Inmate of yonder convent on the Tyne, I question every pilgrim, priest, or prince, Or peasant grey, and glean from each his sheaf: Likewise the Bishops here and Abbots there Still send me deed of gift, or chronicle Or missive from the Apostolic See: Praise be to God Who fitteth for his place Not only high but mean! With wisdom's strength He filled our mitred Wilfred, born to rule; To saintly Cuthbert gave the spirit of prayer; On me, as one late born, He lays a charge Slender, yet helpful still.' Then spake a man Burly and big, that last at banquet sat, 'Father, is history true?' and Bede replied; 'The man who seeks for Truth like hidden gold, And shrinks from falsehood as a leper's touch Shall write true history; not the truth unmixed With fancies, base or high; not truth entire; Yet truth beneficent to man below. One Book there is that errs not: ye this day Have learned therefrom your Lord's Beatitudes: That Book contains its histories—like them none, Since written none from standing point so high, With insight so inspired, such measure just Of good and ill; high fruit of aid divine. The slothful spurn that Book; the erroneous warp: But they who read its page, or hear it read, Their guide, God's Spirit, and the Church of God, Shall hear the voice of Truth for ever nigh, Shall see the Truth, now sunlike, and anon Like dagger-point of light from dewy grass Flashed up, a word that yet confutes a life, Pierces, perchance a nation's heart: shall see Far more—the Truth Himself in human form, Walking not farms and fields of Eastern lands Alone, but these our English fields and farms; Shall see Him on the dusky mount at prayer; Shall see Him in the street and by the bier; Shall see Him at the feast, and at the grave; Now from the boat discoursing, and anon Staying the storm, or walking on its waves; Thus shall our land become a holy land And holy those who tread her!' Lifting then Heavenward that tome, he said, 'The Book of God! As stands God's Church, 'mid kingdoms of this world Holy alone, so stands, 'mid books, this Book! Within the "Upper Chamber" once that Church Lived in small space; to-day she fills the world:— This Book which seems so narrow is a world: It is an Eden of mankind restored; It is a heavenly city lit with God: From it the Spirit and the Bride say "Come:" Blessed who reads this Book!' Above the woods Meantime the stars shone forth; and came that hour When to the wanderer and the toiling man Repose is sweet. Upon a leaf-strewn bed The venerable man slept well that night: Next morning young and old pursued his steps As southward he departed. From a hill O'er-looking far that sea-like forest tract And many a church far-kenned through smokeless air, He blessed that kneeling concourse, adding thus, 'Pray still, O friends, for me, since spiritual foes Threat most the priesthood:—pray that holy death, Due warning given, may close a life too blest! Pray well, since I for you have laboured well, Yea, and will labour till my latest sigh; Not only seeking you in wilds and woods Year after year, but in my cell at night Changing to accents of your native tongue God's Book Divine. Farewell, my friends, farewell!' He left them; in his heart this thought, 'How like The great death-parting every parting seems!' But deathless hopes were with him; and the May; His grief went by. So passed a day of Bede's; And many a studious year were stored with such; Enough but one for sample. Two glad weeks He and his comrade onward roved. At eve Convent or hamlet, known long since and loved, Gladly received them. Bede with heart as glad Renewed with them the memory of old times, Recounted benefits by him received, Then strong in youth, from just men passed away, And preached his Master still with power so sweet The listeners ne'er forgat him. Evermore, Parting, he planted in the ground a cross, And bade the neighbours till their church was built Round it to pray. Meanwhile his youthful mate Changed by degrees. The ever varying scene, The biting breath and balmy breast of spring, And most of all that old man's valiant heart Triumphed above his sadness, fancies gay Pushing beyond it like those sunnier shoots That gild the dark vest of the vernal pine. He took account of all things as they passed; He laughed; he told his tale. With quiet joy His friend remarked that change. The second week They passed to Durham; next to Walsingham; To Gilling then; to stately Richmond soon High throned above her Ouse; to Ripon last: Then Bede made pause, and spake; 'Not far is York; Egbert who fills Paulinus' saintly seat Would see me gladly: such was mine intent, But something in my bosom whispers, "Nay, Return to that fair river crossed by night, The Tees, the fairest in this Northern land: Beside its restless wave thine eye shall rest On vision lovelier far and more benign Than all it yet hath seen."' Northward once more They faced, and, three days travelling, reached at eve Again those ivied cliffs that guard the Tees: There as they stood a homeward dove, with flight Softer for contrast with that turbulent stream, Sailed through the crimson eve. 'No sight like that!' Thus murmured Bede; 'ever to me it seems A Christian soul returning to its rest.' A shade came o'er his countenance as he mused; Algar remarked that shade, though what it meant He knew not yet. The old man from that hour Seemed mirthful less, less buoyant, beaming less, Yet not less glad. At dead of night, while hung The sacred stars upon their course half way, He left his couch, and thus to Egbert wrote, Meek man—too meek—the brother of the king, With brow low bent, and onward sweeping hand, Great words, world-famed: 'Remember thine account! The Lord's Apostles are the salt of earth; Let salt not lose its savour! Flail and fan Are given thee. Purge thou well thy threshing floor! Repel the tyrant; hurl the hireling forth; That so from thy true priests true hearts may learn True faith, true love, and nothing but the truth!'
Before the lark he rose the morrow morn, And stood by Algar's bed, and spake: 'Arise! Playtime is past; the great, good work returns; To Jarrow speed we!' Homeward, day by day, Thenceforth they sped with foot that lagged no more, That youth, at first so mournful, joyous now, That old man oft in thought. Next day, while eve Descended dim, and clung to Hexham's groves, He passed its abbey, silent. Wonder-struck Algar demanded, 'Father, pass you thus That church where holy John ordained you priest? Pass you its Bishop, Acca, long your friend? Yearly he woos your visit; tells you tales Of Hexham's saintly Wilfred; shows you still Chalice or cross new-won from distant shores: Nor these alone:—glancing from such last year A page he read you of some Pagan bard With smiles; yet ended with a sigh, and said: "Where is he now?"' The man of God replied: 'Desire was mine to see mine ancient friend; For that cause came I hither:—time runs short':— Then, Algar sighing, thus he added mild, 'Let go that theme; thy mourning time is past: Thy gladsome time is now.' As on they walked, Later he spake: 'It may be I was wrong; Old friends should part in hope.' On Jarrow's towers, Bright as that sunrise while that pair went forth The sunset glittered when, their wanderings past, Bede and his comrade by the bank of Tyne Once more approached the gates. Six hundred monks Flocked forth to meet them. 'They had grieved, I know,' Thus spake, low-voiced, the venerable man, 'If I had died remote. To spare that grief Before the time intended I returned.' Sadly that comrade looked upon his face, Yet saw there nought of sadness. Silent each Advanced they till they met that cowled host: But three weeks later on his bed the boy Remembered well those words. Within a cell To Algar's near that later night a youth Wrote thus to one far off, his earliest friend: 'O blessed man! was e'er a death so sweet! He sang that verse, "A dreadful thing it is To fall into the hands of God, All-Just;" Yet awe in him seemed swallowed up by love; And ofttimes with the Prophets and the Psalms He mixed glad minstrelsies of English speech, Songs to his childhood dear! 'O blessed man! The Ascension Feast of Christ our Lord drew nigh; He watched that splendour's advent; sang its hymn: "All-glorious King, Who, triumphing this day, Into the heaven of heavens didst make ascent, Forsake us not, poor orphans! Send Thy Spirit, The Spirit of Truth, the Father's promised Gift, To comfort us, His children: Hallelujah." And when he reached that word, "Forsake us not," He wept—not tears of grief. With him we wept; Alternate wept; alternate read our rite; Yea, while we wept we read. So passed that day, The sufferer thanking God with labouring breath, "God scourges still the son whom He receives." 'Undaunted, unamazed, daily he wrought His daily task; instruction daily gave To us his scholars round him ranged, and said, "I will not have my pupils learn a lie, Nor, fruitless, toil therein when I am gone." Full well he kept an earlier promise, made Ofttimes to humble folk, in English tongue Rendering the Gospels of the Lord. On these, The last of these, the Gospel of Saint John, He laboured till the close. The days went by, And still he toiled, and panted, and gave thanks To God with hands uplifted; yea, in sleep He made thanksgiving still. When Tuesday came Suffering increased; he said, "My time is short; How short it is I know not." Yet we deemed He knew the time of his departure well.
'On Wednesday morn once more he bade us write: We wrote till the third hour, and left him then To pace, in reverence of that Feast all-blest, Our cloister court with hymns. Meantime a youth, Algar by name, there was who left him never; The same that hour beside him sat and wrote: More late he questioned: "Father well-beloved, One chapter yet remaineth; have you strength To dictate more?" He answered: "I have strength; Make ready, son, thy pen, and swiftly write." When noon had come he turned him round and said, "I have some little gifts for those I love; Call in the Brethren;" adding with a smile, "The rich man makes bequests, and why not I?" Then gifts he gave, incense or altar-cloth, To each, commanding, "Pray ye for my soul; Be strong in prayer and offering of the Mass, For ye shall see my face no more on earth: Blessed hath been my life; and time it is That unto God God's creature should return; Yea, I desire to die, and be with Christ." Thus speaking, he rejoiced till evening's shades Darkened around us. That disciple young Once more addressed him, "Still one verse remains;" The master answered, "Write, and write with speed;" And dictated. The young man wrote; then said, "'Tis finished now." The man of God replied: "Well say'st thou, son, ''tis finished.' In thy hands Receive my head, and move it gently round, For comfort great it is, and joy in death, Thus, on this pavement of my little cell, Facing that happy spot whereon so oft In prayer I knelt, to sit once more in prayer, Thanking my Father." "Glory," then he sang, "To God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost;" And with that latest Name upon his lips Passed to the Heavenly Kingdom.' Thus with joy Died holy Bede upon Ascension Day In Jarrow Convent. May he pray for us, And all who read his annals of God's Church In England housed, his great bequest to man!
 See Montalembert's 'Moines de l'Occident,' vol. iii. p. 343; and also Burke: 'On the Continent the Christian religion, after the northern irruptions, not only remained but flourished.... In England it was so entirely extinguished that when Augustine undertook his mission, it does not appear that among all the Saxons there was a single person professing Christianity.'
 Tacitus. The German's wife might well be called his 'helpmate.' His wedding gift to his bride consisted of a horse, a yoke of oxen, a lance and a sword.
 Mallet's Northern Antiquities, pp. 79, 80. (Bell and Daldy, 1873.) Burke records this tradition with an entire credence. See note in p. 288.
 Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chap. x.
 Mallet's Northern Antiquities, pp. 88, 89.
 P. 89.
 P. 100.
 Mallet's Northern Antiquities, p. 103.
 The Prose Edda.
 Northern Antiquities: the Editor, T. A. Blackwell.
 P. 474.
 P. 475.
 T. A. Blackwell. See Mallet's Northern Antiquities, p. 476.
 'This (Christianity), as it introduced great mildness into the tempers of the people, made them less warlike, and consequently prepared the way to their forming one body.'—Burke, An Abridgment of English History, book ii. chap. iii.
 Saxons in England, vol. i. p. 330.
 Saxons in England, vol. i. p. 335.
 History of the Anglo-Saxons, vol. i. p. 241.
 'In process of time, Britain, besides the Britons and Picts, received a third nation, the Scots, who migrating from Ireland, under their leader Reuda, either by fair means or by force of arms secured to themselves those settlements among the Picts which they still possess.'—Bede's Ecclesiastical Hist., book i. cap. i.
 'In the fifth century there appear in North Britain two powerful and distinct tribes, who are not before named in history. These are the Picts and the Scots.... The Scots, on the other hand, were of Irish origin; for, to the great confusion of ancient history, the inhabitants of Ireland, those at least of the conquering and predominating caste, were called Scots. A colony of these Irish Scots, distinguished by the name of Dalriads, or Dalreudini, natives of Ulster, had early attempted a settlement on the coast of Argyleshire; they finally established themselves there under Fergus, the son of Eric, about the year 503, and, recruited by colonies from Ulster, continued to multiply and increase until they formed a nation which occupied the western side of Scotland.'—Sir Walter Scott's History of Scotland, vol. i. p. 7. Scott proceeds to record the eventual triumph of the Irish or Scotic race over the Pictish in the ninth century. 'So complete must have been the revolution that the very language of the Picts is lost.... The country united under his sway (that of Kenneth Mac Alpine) was then called for the first time Scotland.' The same statement is made by Burke: 'The principal of these were the Scots, a people of ancient settlement in Ireland, and who had thence been transplanted into the northern part of Britain, which afterwards derived its name from that colony.'—Burke, Abridgment of English History, book i. cap. iv.
 Moines d'Occident, vol. iv. pp. 127-8. Par le Comte de Montalembert.
 Cardinal Newman's Historical Sketches, vol. i. p. 266: The Northmen and Normans in England and Ireland.
 Sara Coleridge.
 As the illustration of an Age, Bede's History has been well compared by Cardinal Manning with the Fioretti di S. Francesco, that exquisite illustration of the thirteenth century.
 The motto of the University of Oxford.
 St. John of Beverley.
Page xxxvi. The Irish Mission in England during the seventh century was one of the great things of history.
The following expressions of Dr. von Doellinger respecting the Irish Church are more ardent than any I have ventured to use:—
'During the sixth and seventh centuries the Church of Ireland stood in the full beauty of its bloom. The spirit of the Gospel operated amongst the people with a vigorous and vivifying power: troops of holy men, from the highest to the lowest ranks of society, obeyed the counsel of Christ, and forsook all things that they might follow Him. There was not a country in the world, during this period, which could boast of pious foundations or of religious communities equal to those that adorned this far distant island. Among the Irish the doctrines of the Christian religion were preserved pure and entire; the names of heresy or of schism were not known to them; and in the Bishop of Rome they acknowledged and venerated the Supreme Head of the Church on earth, and continued with him, and through him with the whole Church, in a never interrupted communion. The schools in the Irish cloisters were at this time the most celebrated in all the West.... The strangers who visited the island, not only from the neighbouring shores of Britain, but also from the most remote nations of the Continent, received from the Irish people the most hospitable reception, a gratuitous entertainment, free instruction, and even the books that were necessary for the studies.... On the other hand, many holy and learned Irishmen left their own country to proclaim the Faith, to establish or to reform monasteries in distant lands, and thus to become the benefactors of almost every country in Europe.... The foundation of many of the English Sees is due to Irishmen.... These holy men served God, and not the world; they possessed neither gold nor silver, and all that they received from the rich passed through their hands into the hands of the poor. Kings and nobles visited them from time to time only to pray in their churches, or to listen to their sermons; and as long as they remained in the cloisters they were content with the humble food of the brethren. Wherever one of these ecclesiastics or monks came, he was received by all with joy; and whenever he was seen journeying across the country, the people streamed around him to implore his benediction, and to hearken to his words. The priests entered the villages only to preach or to administer the Sacraments; and so free were they from avarice, that it was only when compelled by the rich and noble that they would accept lands for the erection of monasteries.'
Page xliii. For both countries that early time was a period of wonderful spiritual greatness.
I cannot deny myself the pleasure of quoting the following passage illustrating the religious greatness both of the Irish and the English at the period referred to:—
'The seventh and eighth centuries are the glory of the Anglo-Saxon Church, as the sixth and seventh are of the Irish. As the Irish missionaries travelled down through England, France, and Switzerland, to Lower Italy, and attempted Germany at the peril of their lives, converting the barbarian, restoring the lapsed, encouraging the desolate, collecting the scattered, and founding churches, schools, and monasteries as they went along; so amid the deep pagan woods of Germany, and round about, the English Benedictine plied his axe, and drove his plough, planted his rude dwelling, and raised his rustic altar upon the ruins of idolatry; and then, settling down as a colonist upon the soil, began to sing his chants and to copy his old volumes, and thus to lay the slow but sure foundations of the new civilisation. Distinct, nay antagonistic, in character and talents, the one nation and the other, Irish and English—the one more resembling the Greek, the other the Roman—open from the first perhaps to jealousies as well as rivalries, they consecrated their respective gifts to the Almighty Giver, and, labouring together for the same great end, they obliterated whatever there was of human infirmity in their mutual intercourse by the merit of their common achievements. Each by turn could claim pre-eminence in the contest of sanctity and learning. In the schools of science England has no name to rival Erigena in originality, or St. Virgil in freedom of thought; nor (among its canonised women) any saintly virgin to compare with St. Bridget; nor, although it has 150 saints in its calendar, can it pretend to equal that Irish multitude which the Book of Life alone is large enough to contain. Nor can Ireland, on the other hand, boast of a doctor such as St. Bede, or of an apostle equal to St. Boniface, or of a martyr like St. Thomas; or of so long a catalogue of royal devotees as that of the thirty male or female Saxons who, in the course of two centuries, resigned their crowns; or as the roll of twenty-three kings, and sixty queens and princes, who, between the seventh and the eleventh centuries, gained a place among the saints.'—Cardinal Newman, Historic Sketches, 'The Isles of the North,' pp. 128-9.
Instant each navy at the other dashed Like wild beast, instinct-taught.
This image will be found in the description of a Scandinavian sea-fight in a remarkable book less known than it deserves to be, The Invasion, by Gerald Griffin, author of The Collegians.
The Saxons were, however, in early times as much pirates as the Danes were at a later.
Page 18. The achievement of Hastings had been rehearsed at a much earlier period by Harald.
Page 39. At Ely, Elmham, and beside the Cam.
In the reign of Sigebert, Felix, Bishop of East Anglia, founded schools respecting which Montalembert remarks: 'Plusieurs ont fait remonter a ces ecoles monastiques l'origine de la celebre universite de Cambridge.'
Page 44. How beautiful, O Sion, are thy courts!
The following hymns are from the Office for the Consecration of a Church.
St. Fursey. Page 67.
How one with brow Lordlier than man's, and visionary eyes.
'Whilst Sigebert still governed the kingdom there came out of Ireland a holy man named Fursey, renowned both for his words and actions, and remarkable for singular virtues, being desirous to live a stranger for Our Lord, wherever an opportunity should offer.... He built himself the monastery (Burghcastle in Suffolk) wherein he might with more freedom indulge his heavenly studies. There falling sick, as the book about his life informs us, he fell into a trance, and, quitting his body from the evening till the cockcrow, he was found worthy to behold the choirs of angels, and hear the praises which are sung in heaven.... He not only saw the greater joys of the Blessed, but also extraordinary combats of Evil Spirits.'—Bede, Hist. book iii. cap. xix. 'C'etait un moine irlandais nomme Fursey, de tres-noble naissance et celebre depuis sa jeunesse dans son pays par sa science et ses visions.... Dans la principale de ses visions Ampere et Ozanam se sont accordes a reconnaitre une des sources poetiques de la Divine Comedie.'—Montalembert, Les Moines d'Occident, tome iv. pp. 93-4.
Page 116. 'None loveth Song that loves not Light and Truth.'
This is one of the poetic aphorisms of Cadoc, a Cambrian prince and saint, educated in the Irish monastery of Lismore, and afterwards the founder of the great Welsh monastery of Llancarvan, in which he gave religious instruction to the sons of the neighbouring princes and chiefs.
True life of man Is life within.
This thought is taken from one of St. Teresa's beautiful works.
Page 141. Ceadmon, the earliest bard of English song.
'A part of one of Ceadmon's poems is preserved in King Alfred's Saxon version of Bede's History.' (Note to Bede's Ecclesiastical History, edited by Dr. Giles, p. 218.)
Page 180. Who told him tales of Leinster Kings, his sires.
'L'origine irlandaise de Cuthbert est affirme sans reserve par Reeves dans ses Notes sur Wattenbach, p. 5. Lanigan (c. iii. p. 88) constate qu'Usher, Ware, Colgan, en ont eu la meme opinion.... Beaucoup d'autres anciens auteurs irlandais et anglais en font un natif de l'Irlande.'—Montalembert, Les Moines d'Occident, tome ii. pp. 391-2.
Page 191. The thrones are myriad, but the Enthroned is One.
Oft as Spring Decks on thy sinuous banks her thousand thrones, Seats of glad instinct, and love's carolling.'
Wordsworth (addressed to the river Greta).
Page 208. Saint Frideswida, or the Foundations of Oxford.
Saint Frideswida died in the same year as the venerable Bede, viz. A.D. 735. Her story is related by Montalembert, Les Moines d'Occident, vol. v. pp. 298-302, with the following references, viz. Leland, Collectanea, ap. Dugdale, t. I. p. 173; cf. Bolland, t. viii. October, p. 535 a 568. I learn from a Catholic prayer book published in 1720 that the Saint's Feast used to be kept on the 19th of October. Her remains, as is commonly believed, still exist in the Cathedral of Oxford.
Page 240. Your teacher he: he taught you first your Runes.
'The Icelandic chronicles point out Odin as the most persuasive of men. They tell us that nothing could resist the force of his words; that he sometimes enlivened his harangues with verses, which he composed extempore; and that he was not only a great poet, but that it was he who first taught the art of poesy to the Scandinavians. He was also the inventor of the Runic characters.'—Northern Antiquities, p. 83. Mallet asserts that it was to Christianity that the Scandinavians owed the practical use of those Runes which they had possessed for centuries:—'nor did they during so many years ever think of committing to writing those verses with which their memories were loaded; and it is probable that they only wrote down a small quantity of them at last.... Among the innumerable advantages which accrued to the Northern nations from the introduction of the Christian religion, that of teaching them to apply the knowledge of letters to useful purposes is not the least valuable. Nor could a motive less sacred have eradicated that habitual and barbarous prejudice which caused them to neglect so admirable a secret.'—P. 234. Mallet's statement respecting the Greek emigration of the Northern 'Barbarians' from the East is thus confirmed by Burke. 'There is an unquestioned tradition among the Northern nations of Europe importing that all that part of the world had suffered a great and general revolution by a migration from Asiatic Tartary of a people whom they call Asers. These everywhere expelled or subdued the ancient inhabitants of the Celtick or Cimbrick original. The leader of this Asiatic army was called Odin, or Wodin; first their general, afterwards their tutelar deity.... The Saxon nation believed themselves the descendants of those conquerors.' Burke, Abridgment of English History, book ii. cap. i.
Page 252. Like hunters chasing hart, to sea-beat cliffs.
This is recorded by Lingard and Burke.
Page 259. Bede's Last May.
This narrative of the death of Bede is closely taken from a letter written by Cuthbert, a pupil of his, then residing in Jarrow, to a fellow-pupil at a distance. An English version of that letter is prefixed to Dr. Giles's translation of Bede's Ecclesiastical History. (Henry G. Bohn.) The death of Bede took place on Wednesday, May 26, A.D. 735, being Ascension Day.
Page 265. They hunger for your souls; with reverent palms.
'But in a mystical sense the disciples pass through the cornfields when the holy Doctors look with the care of a pious solicitude upon those whom they have initiated in the Faith, and who, it is implied, are hungering for the best of all things—the salvation of men. But to pluck the ears of corn means to snatch men away from the eager desire of earthly things. And to rub with the hands is, by examples of virtue, to put from the purity of their minds the concupiscence of the flesh, as men do husks. To eat the grains is when a man, cleansed from the filth of vice by the mouths of preachers, is incorporated amongst the members of the Church.'—Bede, quoted in the Catena Aurea. Commentary on St. Mark, cap. ii. v. 23.
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