Young Folks' History of England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 165 pages of information about Young Folks' History of England.
fields, full of wheat.  Others used to copy out the Holy Scriptures and other good books upon parchment—­ because there was no paper in those days, nor any printing—­drawing beautiful painted pictures at the beginning of the chapters, which were called illuminations.  The nun did needlework and embroidery, as hangings for the altar, and garments for the priests, all bright with beautiful colors, and stiff with gold.  The English nuns’ work was the most beautiful to be seen anywhere.

There were schools in the abbeys, where boys were taught reading, writing, singing, and Latin, to prepare them for being clergymen; but not many others thought it needful to have anything to do with books.  Even the great men thought they could farm and feast, advise the king, and consent to the laws, hunt or fight, quite as well without reading, and they did not care for much besides; for, though they were Christians, they were still rude, rough, ignorant men, who liked nothing so well as a hunt or a feast, and slept away all the evening, especially when they could get a harper to sing to them.

The English men used to wear a long dress like a carter’s frock, and their legs were wound round with strips of cloth by way of stockings.  Their houses were only one story, and had no chimneys—­only a hole at the top for the smoke to go out at; and no glass in the windows.  The only glass there was at all had been brought from Italy to put into York Cathedral, and it was thought a great wonder.  So the windows had shutters to keep out the rain and wind, and the fire was in the middle of the room.  At dinner-time, about twelve o’clock, the lord and lady of the house sat upon cross-legged stools, and their children and servants sat on benches; and square bits of wood called trenchers, were put before them for plates, while the servants carried round the meat on spits, and everybody cut off a piece with his own knife and at it without a fork.  They drank out of cows’ horns, if they had not silver cups.  But though they were so rough they were often good, brave people.

CHAPTER IV.

The Northmen.  A.D. 858—­958.

There were many more of the light-haired, blue-eyed people on the further side of the North Sea who worshiped Thor and Woden still, and thought that their kindred in England had fallen from the old ways.  Besides, they liked to make their fortunes by getting what they could from their neighbors.  Nobody was thought brave or worthy, in Norway or Denmark, who had not made some voyages in a “long keel,” as a ship was called, and fought bravely, and brought home gold cups and chains or jewels to show where he had been.  Their captains were called Sea Kings, and some them went a great way, even into the Mediterranean Sea, and robbed the beautiful shores of Italy.  So dreadful was it to see the fleet of long ships coming up to the shore, with a serpent for the figure-head, and a raven as the flag, and crowds of fierce warriors with axes in their hands longing for prey and bloodshed, that where we pray in church that God would deliver us from lightning and tempest, and battle and murder, our forefathers used to add, “From the fury of the Northmen, good Lord deliver us.”

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Young Folks' History of England from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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