The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.—This is the first history of any branch of the Teutonic people in their own tongue. The Chronicle has come down to us in several different texts, according as it was compiled or copied at different monasteries. The Chronicle was probably begun in Alfred’s reign. The entries relating to earlier events were copied from Bede’s Ecclesiastical History and from other Latin authorities. The Chronicle contains chiefly those events which each year impressed the clerical compilers as the most important in the history of the nation. This work is a fountainhead to which writers of the history of those times must turn.
A few extracts (translated) will show its character:—
“A.D. 449. This year ... Hengist and Horsa, invited by Vortigern, King of Britons, landed in Britain, on the shore which is called Wappidsfleet; at first in aid of the Britons, but afterwards they fought against them.”
“806. This year the moon was
eclipsed on the Kalends of September;
and Eardulf, King of the Northumbrians. was driven from his
kingdom; and Eanbert, Bishop of Hexham, died.”
Sometimes the narrative is extremely vivid. Those who know the difficulty of describing anything impressively in a few words will realize the excellence of this portraiture of William the Conqueror:—
“1087. If any would know what manner of man King William was, the glory that he obtained, and of how many lands he was lord; then will we describe him as we have known him... He was mild to those good men who loved God, but severe beyond measure to those withstood his will... So also was he a very stern and a wrathful man, so that none durst do anything against his will, and he kept in prison those earls who acted against his pleasure. He removed bishops from their sees, and abbots from their offices, and he imprisoned thanes, and at length he spared not his own brother. Odo... Amongst other things, the good order that William established is not to be forgotten; it was such that any man, who was himself aught, might travel over the kingdom with a bosom-full of gold, unmolested; and no man durst kill another... He made large forests for the deer, and enacted laws therewith, so that whoever killed a hart or a hind should be blinded ... and he loved the tall stags as if he were their father.”
The Anglo-Saxons, a branch of the Teutonic race, made permanent settlements in England about the middle of the fifth century A.D. Like modern German, their language is highly inflected. The most flourishing period of Anglo-Saxon poetry was between 650 and 825 A.D. It was produced for the most part in the north of England, which was overrun by the Danes about 800. These marauders destroyed many of the monasteries and silenced the voices of the singers. The prose was written chiefly in the south of England after the greatest poetic masterpieces had been produced. The Norman Conquest of England, beginning in 1066, brought the period to a close.