« AnteriorContinuar »
vening trees, or high hedges, or the green sloping banks, between which it flowed so peacefully; here bright in sunshine, there dark in shade ; now seen glittering and sparkling in the rays of the early sun; now suddenly lost; and then, as suddenly flashing out again, in some quite unexpected place. Oh! it was beautiful; and the child clapped his little hands, and shouted again with joy, while a Cock from the farm-yard close at hand, seemingly aroused by the sound of his voice, began crowing lustily; he was answered by another farther down the valley, and that one again by another, whose note was in turn taken up and repeated by others yet more remote, so fast, that they seemed like mere echoes, as, indeed, perhaps, they were; then " tuck-tucktuck,” went the Hens: and "quack-quack,” went the Ducks; and “cackle-cackle,” went the Geese; and “gobble-gobble,” went the Turkey; and the Peacock flew screaming to the top of a waggon-lodge, where he stood spreading his broad tail, full of eyes, that seemed formed of jewels, in the sun; and the neigh of the Horses ; and the low of the Cows; the squeak of the Pigs; the bleat of the Sheep; the bark of the Dogs; and the voices of Men and of Boys just arisen, and going forth to their daily labour, were heard sounding far and near; and first from one chimney, and then another, the smoke began to arise in snowy wreaths towards the skies, which had gradually changed from a misty grey, tinged in the east with a rich rose colour, that became, as the sun got higher, like widely-spread flame, to a clear transparent blue, through which the child thought he could see, shining afar off, those realms of everlasting rest and joy, of which he had been told, and of which he had read in the Bible; here and there a fleecy cloud, yet tinged with red and primrose-coloured light, lay like a beautiful island in a sea of glass, and be could not help fancying that these must be the resting places of those good people who were journeying to the homes of the blessed. And then the songs of the innumerable Larks, which had sprung up one by one, and were now straining their little throats, as if striving to see which could sing the loudest. He likened their voices to heaven-bound pilgrims, blessing and praising God for his goodness and mercy: it seemed to him that the poet was indeed right, when he said
“Hark, hark, the lark at heaven's gate sings !" and he remembered what he had been taught to repeat about the Lark, by an American poet, which commenced : “ What is this, mother?
The lark, my child !
Ever, my child! be thy morn's first lays,
Tuned, like the lark's, to thy Maker's praise.' And not the Lark alone, but a hundred other birds were now hailing the approach of the fresh SUMMER morn, though but few of them could keep so unwearied a strain of melody through the sultry day, and even until the twilight shadows steal over the landscape ; and the Owl begins to hoot out her welcome to the coming night.
To be continued.
Short Chapters on English History.
T was nearly 380 years after the first
Saxons came here with their two pirate chiefs, Hengist and Horsa, that England began to have only one king. There were still some other princes, who bore that title, but they had so little power,
that they could hardly be called kings; so that a brave prince, named Egbert, who conquered the last kingdom of the Heptarchy, is usually called the first king of England. The civil wars were thus for a time ended; but it seemed as if the English were never to be long at peace, for they now had some terrible enemies to contend with, who kept the country in constant alarm. These were the Danes, who came from Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, and were almost the same people as the Saxons; for they spoke the same language, followed the same customs, and lived by piracy, as the Saxons did in former times.
I have not room to tell you of half the mischief they did in England. Sometimes they would land suddenly from
their boats in the night, when the affrighted people were awakened by a cry of, “ The Danes ! the ines !” and, starting up, perhaps, beheld the villages in flames; and, as they ran in terror from their cottages, were either killed or dragged away to the pirate vessels, with the cattle and anything else that could be found, and made slaves of.
Egbert had fought a battle with them in Cornwall, and forced them to depart; but, during the reign of Ethelwulf, the next king, and three of his sons, they not only attacked the towns and villages on the sea-coast, but used to seize the horses and ride about the country in search of plunder. They broke into the monasteries, where the people often put their money and jewels for safety; and if the inmates made any resistance they would set the building on fire. Then they set up fortified camps in many places; that is, a number of tents, close together, like a town, surrounded with a wall or ditch ; and thus a great many of the Danes established themselves in the country, and conquered all the northern part of it. This was the sad state of affairs when Alfred the Great came to the throne.
I dare say you have heard of this good prince, who was the youngest and favourite son of Ethelwulf, for he was the cleverest and the best. His mother, being an accomplished lady, tried to teach all her sons to read; but none of them would learn except Alfred, who afterwards went to Rome to study Latin, and learn to write, so that he was a good scholar for those times. His three brothers had all reigned in turn, and were all dead by the time he was twenty-two years old, therefore he was then heir to the crown : but insead of being able to think about the best way of governing
the country, he was obliged to get together as many soldiers as he could, and go out with them to fight the Danes. There was no regular army then, as there is now; but, when the king wanted soldiers, he sent to all the noblemen and landholders in the kingdom, who were obliged to come themselves and bring so many men with them, according to the size of their estates; some on horseback, some on foot, and all well armed.
You must remember that people could not buy land then for money, nor have it for paying rents; but large estates were given to the thanes and nobles by the king, on condition that they should perform certain services for him; and you have already seen how the vassals of the nobles held their little farms on similar terms. This was called the feudal system, which means, holding land for services, instead of rent; and the person holding the land was called the vassal of him to whom it belonged, whether rich or poor; so the nobles were the vassals of the king, and the ceorls were the vassals of the nobles.