Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 210 pages of information about Early Britain.

    Gold he took by might,
    And of great unright,
    From his folk with evil deed
    For sore little need. 
    He was on greediness befallen,
    And getsomeness he loved withal. 
    He set a mickle deer frith,
    And he laid laws therewith,
    That whoso slew hart or hind
    Him should man then blinden. 
    He forbade to slay the harts,
    And so eke the boars. 
    So well he loved the high deer
    As if he their father were. 
    Eke he set by the hares
    That they might freely fare. 
    His rich men mourned it
    And the poor men wailed it. 
    But he was so firmly wrought
    That he recked of all nought. 
    And they must all withal
    The king’s will follow,
    If they wished to live
    Or their land have,
    Or their goods eke,
    Or his peace to seek. 
    Woe is me,
    That any man so proud should be,
    Thus himself up to raise,
    And over all men to boast. 
    May God Almighty show his soul mild-heart-ness,
    And do him for his sins forgiveness!

From that time English poetry bifurcates.  On the one hand, we have the survival of the old Teutonic alliterative swing in Layamon’s Brut and in Piers Plowman—­the native verse of the people sung by native minstrels:  and on the other hand we have the new Romance rimed metre in Robert of Gloucester, “William of Palerne,” Gower, and Chaucer.  But from Piers Plowman and Chaucer onward the Romance system conquers and the Teutonic system dies rapidly.  Our modern poetry is wholly Romance in descent, form, and spirit.

Thus in literature as in civilisation generally, the culture of old Rome, either as handed down ecclesiastically through the Latin, or as handed down popularly through the Norman-French, overcame the native Anglo-Saxon culture, such as it was, and drove it utterly out of the England which we now know.  Though a new literature, in Latin and English, sprang up after the Conquest, that literature had its roots, not in Sleswick or in Wessex, but in Greece, in Rome, in Provence, and in Normandy.  With the Normans, a new era began—­an era when Romance civilisation was grafted by harsh but strong hands on to the Anglo-Saxon stock, the Anglo-Saxon institutions, and the Anglo-Saxon tongue.  With the first step in this revolution, our present volume has completed its assigned task.  The story of the Normans will be told by another pen in the same series.



Perhaps the best way of summing up the results of the present inquiry will be by considering briefly the main elements of our existing life and our actual empire which we owe to the Anglo-Saxon nationality.  We may most easily glance at them under the five separate heads of blood, character, language, civilisation, and institutions.

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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