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our courts of justice. In their times, the large towns managed their own affairs as they do now, but this arrangement dates from the time of the Romans. Some persons say that we owe our mode of trial by jury to the Saxons. But this is a mistake. If a man were charged with a crime, and there were not sufficient evidence to convict him, he was allowed to clear himself by the testimony of respectable persons who knew him, if they would swear that they believed him to be innocent. This was called “Trial by Compurgation,' and as the Compurgators were probably twelve in number, this mode of trial became confounded with our modern trial by jury.
There was a strange method of deciding in some cases, which has now gone quite out of use,
and rightly It was called the “ Trial by Ordeal,” and was looked on as a special appeal to Heaven, to establish the innocence or the guilt of the accused party. Sometimes the accused person was made to thrust his hand into boiling water up to the wrist, or up to the elbow, after which his hand and arm were bound up for three days, and then examined, and he was acquitted or condemned, according to the appearance his arm presented. Sometimes the ordeal of hot iron was used, and in this, the accused was made to carry a piece of red-hot iron, or to walk over red-hot ploughshares, and after an interval he was examined to see what effect the ordeal had taken on him. It seems wonderful how any one could escape, but it is believed that the priests who presided over the trial, took means to render the ordeal harmless to those they wished to save. A milder form of ordeal was the “ Corsnæd,” or accursed bread, which the accused took and ate with an imprecation that it might choke him if he were guilty.
The houses of the Saxons seem to have been poor buildings, often of mud, and thatched with straw. A hole in the roof allowed the smoke to escape, and the fire was lighted in the middle of the floor. Their churches
and large buildings were often massive heavy structures, with very large pillars, semicircular arches, and diagonal mouldings. Some of them remain to this day.
But the best proof of the influence the Saxons have had, is to be found in our language. Modern English is essentially Anglo-Saxon, with many Latin and French words added to it, the whole being modified in the course of time. It would be very interesting to notice the growth of our language, but we must not do so now.
We will just say that almost all our common words, and more than half the words in the dictionary are Anglo-Saxon; and as the common words are more frequently repeated than others, we find that in ordinary books more than two-thirds of the words in use are Anglo-Saxon. The name of our country is Saxon. England. means Angle-land, the land of the Angles, one of the chief Saxon tribes, and all who settled here, are often called Anglo-Saxons, from the Angles.
LESSON 5.-THE DANES.
978—1016 A.D. Ethelred, the Unready—Danes trouble England.
Massacre of Danes by English.
Sweyn, the Danish king, conquers England. 1016.
Canute, Sweyn's son, king of England. 1042.
Restoration of Saxon line in Edward the Confessor. 1066.
Death of Edward, accession of Harold.
Battle of Hastings-defeat and death of Harold. Ferocity-fierceness (Lat. ferox (fero- ! Sanguinary-bloody (Lat. sanguis (sancis), fierce.)
guinis] blood.) Acquired-gained (Lat. acquiro, I gain). Temporary-lasting but for a time (Lat. Scandinavia-Norway and Sweden.
tempus (temporis], time.) Inhospitable—comfortless.
Repelling-keeping off (Lat. re, back; Devastating-ravaging, wasting, ruin- pello, I drive). ing (Lat. vasto, I ravage).
Unmolested-untroubled (Lat. molestus, Squadrons-small fleets.
troublesome.) Retaliation-returning evil for evil. Predatory bands—bodies of men intent Reeve-chief-magistrate.
on robbing and plunder (Lat. præda, Stedfast-firm.
plunder.) ABOUT two centuries after the last inroad of the Saxon bands into Britain, when the Saxons had settled down quietly in the country they had acquired, when
they had left off much of their old ferocity, and were for the most part tamed down into peaceable husbandmen, they were first troubled by an enemy who continued to harass them more or less for three hundred years.
This enemy was the Northmen or Danes, who inhabited the coasts of Denmark and Scandinavia, and who made expeditions against other nations, with whom they had no quarrel, but whose prosperity tempted them with the hope of gain. Sallying from their inhospitable northern home, they became a terror to the more civilized nations of Western Europe. Landing on some undefended part of the coast, they marched inland, devastating the country as they went, and having collected what booty they could, they would retire to their ships, and sail away with their plunder, before a force sufficient to check them could be collected. Sometimes their expeditions were on a larger scale, and they would land in sufficient force to defy any successful attack on them, and occasionally we find them fighting pitched battles against the whole forces of a kingdom.
They were of the same race as the Saxons, but retained the cruel fierceness which the Saxons were at this time laying aside. They were heathens as the Saxons had been, and their religion tended to make them a set of daring and hardy warriors. They valued themselves only on their bravery and military prowess, and believed that death in battle was the most certain road to their Valhalla, the warrior's heaven they hoped to reach. The leaders of their piratical squadrons were called “ Vikingr,” or Sea-kings. This was the highest title of magistracy among them, and the Vikings were often the sons of chieftains at home, who provided for their children by supplying them with one or two ships, and sending them forth to seek their fortune, by plundering wherever they found opportunity. “They had scarcely any inducement to spare countries, which they visited only to plunder, and where they did not hope to dwell;
they were less liable to retaliation than others, as they had neither kindred, nor family, nor home.”
It was in the year 787 that they first landed in England, on the coast of Dorsetshire, and when the reeve of the next town tried to seize them, they killed him, and escaped to their ships. Then we hear of their plundering two large monasteries in the North, but they seem to have made their attempts most frequently on the Southern coast.
In 833 they came with 35 ships, and landed in Dorsetshire. Egbert, who was king then, met them with an army, and a sanguinary battle took place, in which the invaders obtained a slight advantage ; but two years after, Egbert gained a great victory over them, and some of their countrymen who had come over to join them. This check, however, was only temporary, for from this time they seem to have made a descent almost every year, generally on the South and East coasts. They were bravely resisted, but the spoil they carried off encouraged them, and their numbers increased from year to year. By the year 870 they did not confine themselves to the coasts, but spread their ravages over a great part of England. They defeated Edmund, king of East Anglia, and took him prisoner, and on his stedfast refusal to renounce his faith in Christ, the Scandinavian heathens shot at him with their arrows and then beheaded him. Next year they advanced into Wessex, and in one of their battles they wounded king Ethelred so that he died, leaving his throne and his troubles to his brother Alfred, afterwards called the Great.
We have given some account of Alfred's struggles with the Danes in an earlier book (see Standard III., lessons 18-20), and shall only say here, that at first Alfred was obliged to retire before the superior force of his enemies, but that in the end he fell upon them and totally defeated them. In order to keep them quiet, he gave up a large slice of the East of England to
them, on condition that they should become his subjects. By his wise and vigorous measures he succeeded in repelling new bands of invaders, and the unhappy country had peace for a time. But his son Edward, and his grandson Athelstan, both had to fight with them, and Athelstan gained a great and decisive victory over the combined forces of the Danes, the Scots, and the Britons of the North, at Brunanburgh, 937. Then the country was unmolested for about forty years.
It seemed very politic on Alfred's part to give them a strip of coast in England, and thus make it their interest to keep off their own countrymen from the part they held. But the Danes who inhabited this district, were never so well disposed to their Saxon neighbours as to their fellow-countrymen, and were always ready to join predatory bands of Northern invaders. On this and on other accounts they were very obnoxious to the Saxons, and when the foreign Danes renewed their ravages in the reign of Ethelred the Unready, the Saxons determined to murder all the Danes in England, and they carried out their cruel design in the year 1002.
But the effect of this treacherous act was to incite Sweyn, king of Denmark, to attack England to revenge his murdered countrymen. The English were unable to resist him, and paid a great sum of money to buy off the hostility of the Danes. They took the money, and then Sweyn made a fresh inroad, the other Danes joined him, and he succeeded in driving Ethelred out of the country, and becoming unopposed ruler in his stead. But he died very soon after, leaving his dominions to his son Knut or Canute. The English, on their part, invited their king Ethelred to return. He did
So, but died in a very short time, and was succeeded by his son Edmund Ironside, a brave and gallant prince. Then a war arose between Canute and Edmund, which ended in their agreeing to divide the country between them, but Edmund dying soon after, Canute became sole king.