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the evident relationship of Anglo Saxon and Scandinavian poetry. Following in some measure the path of Hardouin, he maintains that the Norwegian Scallds never existed. The wild theology of the Asi is asserted to be a gratuitous invention—the materials gathered and distorted from classical poetry and the rabbinical reveries of the Talinud. It would be less paradoxical to support a contrary theory, and to suppose that the Anglo-Saxon poetry was influenced by intercourse with Scandinavia. Northern Scallds were welcome guests at the courts of the English kings, and even in the days of Snorro, the similarity between the languages of England and Norway was so evident as to induce him to maintain their primitive identity. The historical poetry of the Anglo-Saxons appears to have embraced every possible variety, from the most fanciful romance to the mere colouring of praise and description. Ju the lays of Horne Childe, of Haveloke, and of Attla, king of East Anglia, all of Anglo-Saxon origin, though now existing only in versions of recent date, an historical name, or a well known locality may be discovered, but the entire: superstructure is the invention of the minstrel. Not unfrequently a connexion may be discerned with the songs of the heroic age, which constituted the web both of the Teutonic - Helden Buch', and the historical songs of the · Edda.' Haveloke, so long lamented as lost, has lately been brought to light amongst the untouched stores of the Bodleian library.* Perhaps the Tale of Wade' will in like manner reappear.
The local traditions respecting his castle and his grave, indicate that Wade, the Northumbrian chieftain, had been confounded with Vade, the giant of the Wilkina-Saga.
Historical songs preserved by memory and recitation were very popular. Every age added to their number. If the fleeting genealogy of song could be discovered, we should probably find that the humble ballads of the persecuted minstrels, even down to the period when they were declared by act of parliament to be rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars,' were often derived from these strains. One favourite ballad related to the fortunes of Gunhilda, the sister of king Canute, how she was espoused to Henry, the emperor of Alinaine; how, like so many other fair Queens, she was accused of naughtiness, and how, like all such fair Queens in romance, the wicked informer was defeated and slain. in single combat, the defender of the calumniated Gunbilda being the very Mimecan, or Mimetan, who had accompanied her from merry England. This tale, of which the outline is preserved
* For this discovery we are indebted to Mr. Frederick Madden, who contemplates publishing this very interesting memorial. Mr. Madden is also in possession of a ird English version of the gest of King Horne, unknown to Ritson.
by ? Florilegus' and Malmesbury, is entirely lost in verse; but it is remarkable that the dwarf Nimretand, the least of men,' is the hero of one of the Kæmpe viser of the Danes, to whom Gunhillda and her fortunes seem to be entirely unknown. Malmesbury, who often appeals to ancient ballads, carefully distinguishes their authority from more faithful chronicles. Athelstane,' the Lord of Earls, the Giver of Bracelets,' was the hero of an entire cycle. Many of the particulars of his life, as given by Malmesbury, have no other source; and his character, like that of Charlemagne, became that of a mythical monarch. Malmesbury enables us to pause before we adopt the statements derived from the tale of the gleeman. In older and less critical writers, the reader is not thus warned, and in the midst of the gravest narrations we may sometimes discover, or at least suspect, these pleasing fictions. Alfred and Anlaf, both disguised as harpers, both using the same identical stratagem for the same identical purpose, and both meeting with the same success, had probably their common prototype in some good Knight - well taught of harp and song. The
poems which rank above the mere ballad are entitled to a reasonable share of credit. Notwithstanding the pompous diction of the well known ode on the battle of Brunnaburgh, it betrays no falsification or inaccuracy. Beortnoth, the strenuous adversary of the Danish invaders, who holds such a conspicuous place in history, is the hero of a poem of this description.
a The fragments of these historical poems enable us to judge of the merit of the class, and give us reason to deplore that so small a portion has been preserved.
The information derived, more or less directly, from poetry forms an essential element of ancient history, and the use to which it can be applied must often be a subject of consideration. In the metrical chronicle or metrical biography we may find a narrative almost as veracious as plain prose, allowing only for the occasional colouring of poetical phraseology, and the urgency of the laws of verse. The more these productions approach to the rhapsody or the epic, the more will anachronisms and incongruities increase, and the greater will be the necessity of submitting the assumed facts to the rigid test of chronology. If the date of the event or the age of the individual cannot be ascertained with a reasonable degree of certainty, the battle and the hero must be expunged from the page of history. Time is the essence of bistory, in its true and peculiar sense; and unless the facts can be arranged in their natural order, they cease to possess their authentic warranty
How far the fragments and incidents inscribed upon the scattered Sibylline leaves of the poet can be applied in
VOL. XXXIV. NO. LXVII.
commenting upon history, must depend in each instance upon special merits and peculiarities. Where tiction is the more predominant characteristic, as in the legend, in the romance, or in the remoter relics of mythology, evidence of opinions only can be obtained. The origin and wanderings of the race; the character of its primeval legislators and heroes; the spirit of the patriarchal customs and laws; in short, all subjeets of inquiry anterior to the period of authentic history, can be susceptible of no other proof except national belief: possibly very erroneous, but still, being the only mode of proof, this must be admitted from the necessity of the case, for we cannot hope to discover a more satisfactory basis for our investigations. To this extent, the traditions of the nation, if conforınable to the general course of its history, may be safely received. The least instructive method of employing ancient tictions is when the historian endeavours to develope the fables and to reduce them again into absolute truth. No department of historical inquiry has exhibited more examples of misapplied erudition and misemployed talent than such disquisitions. Mystic allegories will find as many expositions as there are hierophants; all perhaps equally plausible, all equally unsubstantial, visionary as the forms from whence they arise, but without their ghostly grandeur and awe. Under such management, the most
. trivial accidents and the most common expressions assume a disproportionate value. The pleasure attendant upon the solution of an enigma increases the earnestness of the writer. Names, numbers, times, seasons, all yield to his analysis, until at length he becomes persuaded that there is no difficulty which has not been conquered by his labour and sagacity. Suhm, in this manuer, compiled a history of the Danish kings from the reign of Odin the First, who settled in Scandinavia exactly in the year fifty preceding the Christian era, to Rerek Hnanggcanbaug, the forty-fifth king of Lethra, who was killed in battle by one Prince Amleth, his son-in-law, who had just returned from England, A.D. 562. Founded entirely upon poetry and romance, Suhm's history, comprehending the whole of the darkest mythological and heroic periods, and yet entirely destitute of gods, demons, enchanters, wonders, proceeds smoothly without chasm or interruption; all is plain, easy, and consistent, offering neither difficulties nor improbabilities. · A history of the first crusade, manufactured out of the Gerusalemme Liberata, offers but a faint idea of Subm's production, a work equally insipid and improbable, in which fictions are deprived of the aroma which gives them worth, at the same time that there is no possibility of imparting any appearance of truth to the caput mortuum which remains after the destructive process. This mode of treatment is most
injurious to the advancement of historical inquiry. Whilst some receive the grave and musing reveries of dull erudition without hesitation, others, offended at the navifest inconsistencies which these dreams involve, are induced to regard every ancient relic in which imagination has a share, as entirely unworthy of notice or credibility. As usual, the middle path, so difficult to be discovered, is the only path which is safe and sure. That the
, traditions of the early times may, if due caution be observed, afford considerable aid in explaining many difficult passages in the history of nations, will not be denied; but the sober use of the materials will alone give them real importance and utility.
Anglo-Saxon history, properly so called, begins with the treatise in which Gildas the Wise' laments and describes the destruction of Britain, together with the epistle which may be considered as its appendix. Legends, comparatively of late date, have given particulars of the life and virtues of this writer. From the style and tenor of his works it may be ascertained that they were composed at a period when an obstinate warfare was yet raging between the Britons and their invaders. And none of the few facts hinted rather than narrated by the British Abbot can be placed lower than the beginning of the sixth century. From hence, until the eighth century, a period intervenes in which we are entirely destitute of any contemporary guides, excepting so far as the odes of the British bards may be considered as elucidating English history. The first Anglo-Saxon chronicle now extant to which any certam date or certain origin cau be ascribed is the ecclesiastical history of Venerable Bede, compiled by him in the year 731, a short time only before his decease. Bede is not only the earliest annalist of the English nation, but perhaps the most trustworthy and faithful which any country in a similar state of cultivation ever possessed. By the diligent study of classical writers he had formed his taste and matured his judgment, and the best mode of estimating the value of his work is afforded by comparing the sober dignity of his style, and the critical selection of his materials, with the rude Chronicle of Gregory of Tours. On perusing the ecclesiastical history we are convinced that the writer was thoroughly impressed with the truth of his narration; and his diligence in the search of facts was equal to the fidelity with which they are recorded. Bede removes all uncertainty with respect to materials. In the dedication, addressed to the most glorious Ceolwulph, king of Northumberland, the authorities are quoted with most scrupulous minuteness. His information was derived, partly from the communications of his contemporaries, and partly from historical documents. His living witnesses were the venerable elders of the church, amongst whom Nothelm s 2
and Daniel, the Bishops of London and of the West Saxons, and Albinus, Abbot of Tours, are particularly distinguished by name. From the latter, the disciple of Theodore of Tarsus, Bede received the most copious and trustworthy account of the conversion of Ethelbyrht and the Kentish kingdom. In Northumbria the individuals whom he consulted were innumerable; with some "he corresponded, from others he received -oral information. The historical muniments which he used are stated in general terms. The events anterior to the introduction of the Gospel were narrated from the writings of his predecessors. For the diplomacy of the mission of St. Augustine, he was furnished with the most authentic documents, Nothelm, a presbyter of the church of London, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury, searched the papal archives, and obtained transcripts of the Epistles of Pope Gregory and other pontiffs, which he transmitted to Bede, who, by the advice of Albinus, inserted them in his work. Lastly, the actions of St. Cuthbert are taken from a life of the Saint, which Bede obtained from the monks of Lindisfairn. No mention whatever is made of any Saxon chronicles. It might perhaps be considered that such are indicated in the acknowledgment relating to the earliest portion of this history. But a considerable
portion of the narrative, which begins with the landing of Julius Cæsar, is taken from Orosius; another portion may be traced to the life of St. Germanus; and the only facts relating to AngloSaxon'and British history, the landing of Hengist and Horsa, the battles with Aurelius Ambrosius, and the Halleluja victory, are derived from Gildas the Briton. Now, when we reflect upon the critical acumen displayed by Bede, as well as his diligence, it will appear probable that the absence of any facts which can be traced to any chronicle of Saxon history, affords a strong reason for supposing that no Anglo-Saxon chronicle was then in being. Had a chronicle existed, it would scarcely have escaped his researches.
No depository could have contained such a document, except -a monastery, and the zeal which enabled him to explore the Romian arebives would scarcely have failed to have made him acquainted with all the contents of the libraries of his own country. It may be admitted, therefore, that no Saxon chronicle bearing the character of a continuous history was in being at the time when Bede wrote: that the Saxon chronicles claiming higber autiquity which now exist, either in the original language or in Latin translations, are the productions of a subsequent age.
Every English monastery of royal foundation, according to an ancient tradition, was provided with a scribe or chronographer, charged with the task of recording all the important events of the time, both at home and abroad. At the first national council