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A.D. 600-700)



Alfred, the compound word was not meant to represent a race compounded of Angles and of Saxons, but the English part of that great Teutonic population which there was a growing tendency among foreign writers to call, without discrimination of tribes, by the common name of Saxon. Anglo-Saxons meant, therefore, those Saxons who called themselves the Angles ; but Angle is no more than an imperfect re-translation of the Latinised name of the English.

2. Many Celts in our island had been converted to the Christian faith when the last strong settlements were being established here by pagan Teutons. The Teutonic settlers brought with them battle-songs and a heroic legend of a chief named Beowulf. This legend was afterwards put into First English verse, probably in the seventh century, perhaps earlier or later, and remains to us, under the name of its hero, one of the earliest monuments of English literature ; a poem of 6,357 short lines, the most ancient heroic poem in any Germanic language. Its hero sails from a land of the Goths to a land of the Danes, and there he frees a chief named Hrothgar from the attacks of a monster of the fens and moors, named Grendel. Afterwards he is himself ruler, is wounded mortally in combat with a dragon, and is solemnly buried under a great barrow on a promontory rising high above the sea. “And round about the mound rode his hearth-sharers, who sang that he was of kings, of men, the mildest, kindest, to his people sweetest, and the readiest in search of praise.” In this poem real events are transformed into legendary marvels ; but the actual life of the old Danish and Scandinavian chiefs, as it was first transferred to this country, is vividly painted. It brings before us the feast in the mead-hall, with the chief and his hearth-sharers, the customs of the banquet, the rude beginnings of a courtly ceremony, the boastful talk, reliance upon strength of hand in grapple with the foe, and the practical spirit of adventure that seeks peril as a commercial speculation-for Beowulf is undis. guisedly a tradesman in his sword. The poem includes also expression of the heathen fatalism, “What is to be goes ever as il must,” linged by the energetic sense of men who feel that even fate helps those who help themselves, or, as it stands in Beowulf that “the Must Be often helps an undoomed man when he is brave."

The original scene of the story of this poem was probably a corner of that island of Sæli.nd upon which now stands the capital of Denmaik, the corner which lies opposite to Gothland, the southern promontory of Sweden. But if so, he who in this country told the old story in English metre did not paint the scenery of Sæland, but that which he knew. A twelve-mile walk by the Yorkshire coast, from Whitby northward to the top of Bowlby Cliff, makes real to the imagination all the country of Beowulf as we find it in the poem. Thus we are almost tempted to accept a theory which makes that cliff, the highest on our eastern coast, the ness upon which Beowulf was buried, and on the slope of which-Bowlby then being read as the corrupted form of Beowulfes-by-Beowulf once lived with his hearthsharers. High sea-cliffs, worn into holes or “nickerhouses many," with glens rocky and wooded running up into great moors, are not characters of the coast of Sæland opposite to Sweden, but they are special characters of that corner of Yorkshire in which the tale of Beowulf seems to have been told as it now comes to us in First English verse.

To the same part of England, and to a date between the years 670 and 680, certainly belongs the other great First English poem, known as Cædmon's “ Paraphrase," a paraphrase of some parts of the Bible story. This poem arose out of the Christianising of the English of the north by Celtic missionaries.

3. There are doubtful traditions which even brought the Apostle Paul to Britain ; which found this country a first bishop in Aristobulus, one of the seventy disciples whom St. Paul mentions in his Epistle to the Romans ; and made a King Lucius who died A.D. 201, the first Christian King, founder also of the first church, St. Martin's, at Canterbury.

But we know more certainly from the evidence of Eusebius, towards the beginning, and of Chrysostom, towards the close of the fourth century, that Christian teachers then visited Britain and made converts. Alban is said to have been the first British martyr, and the date assigned to his martyrdom is the year 305. In 314 three British bishops were among those present at the Council of Arles. British bishops were also at the Council of Rimini, in 359. Between the years 394 and 415, a British Christian scholar, of independent mind and earnest piety, named Morgan, or Morgant (who transformed his Cymric name, which

one born by the sea-shore,” into its classical synonym, Pelagius), maintained opinions upon sundry points which were hotly opposed by the Augustine of the primitive Church, and by the great body of the Roman clergy, as the Pelagian heresy,


TO A.D. 605)

15 Patricius, the St. Patrick of the Irish, was Morgan's contemporary, but a younger man, born on the Clyde, near Dumbarton, in the year 372, and active during the former half of the fifth century. His work among the Gaelic Celts aided the efforts of the small communities of Celtic missionaries, calléd Culdees. St. David, who is remembered as the most famous teacher of the Welsh, was an austere and able priest of the school of the Egyptian monks, son of a Cymric prince, and by tradition uncle to King Arthur. He was at work during the former half of the sixth century. But the chief missionary work was then being done by the Culdees of the Irish Church. Columba, an Irish abbot of royal descent, after founding monasteries in the North of Ireland, passed in the year 563 to Scotland, and for the next thirty-four years laboured there as a missionary on the mainland and in the Hebrides, making his headquarters upon one of the Hebrides, the rocky island of Iona. Iona then became the most important of the Culdee missionary stations. It was not until Columba had been thus at work for three and thirty years that Pope Gregory I. sent the Italian Augustine into this country, where he acted as a missionary from Rome to the South of England, and became the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Celtic missionaries had then been at work for generations among the English of the north. They had received their own teaching rather from the Eastern than from the Western Church, and followed, therefore, the practice of the Eastern Church in fixing the time for Easter, and in points of ceremonial wherein that Church differed from the Church of Rome. As the influence of teachers from Rome spread northward, hot conflict was raised between the teachers of the south and of the north upon these points of ceremonial. They appeared more vital questions to the Rome-bred clergy than to those trained in the schools of the Culdees, at Iona or at Lindisfarne. In the year 634 Oswald became king over the rude population of Deivyr and Bryneich, among whom there had been that early fusion of Celts with the incoming English settlers which is referred to by Aneurin in the Gododin (ch. i. $7). King Oswald sent for missionaries to Iona.

This was two years after the death of the Arabian prophet, Mahomet.

The first of the teachers who came from lona to the North. umbriaris went back and made hopeless report of the people. Then Aidan volunteered for the work, and led a religious colony to Lindisfarne, which is at low water a peninsula, at high water an island, nine miles to the southward of our present Berwick-upon-Tweed. At Lindisfarne, where Oswald founded for him a bishopric, Aidan formed the great missionary station for Northumbria. He gave his goods to the poor, travelled on foot among the people whom he sought to bring to Christ, and won their hearts by simple truth and self-denying earnestness. More Culdees passed through Lindisfarne to join the work, and thus the place came to be known as Holy Isle. For the next thirty years the Celts were in all this region spiritual teachers of the English, and it was out of the midst of this great North of England movement, in the newly-established monastery of Whitby, that the English heart sang through the verse of Cedmon its first great hymn based on the Word of Truth.

4. The Whitby monastery was founded by the Abbess Hilda, in the year 657. She then moved to it from the religious house at Hartlepool, over which she had presided, and into which she had received, two years before, Elfeda, the one-year-old daughter of King Oswald's brother and successor. In thanksgiving for a victory, ElMeda's father had devoted the child to religious life. With a community of both sexes, bound less by formal ties than by a common wish to serve God and aid one another in His service while they diffused Christianity among the people, Hilda lived in the first simple abbey built on the high cliff at Whitby, maintained by a grant of surrounding lands. That which maintained her maintained also the poor about her. She had been taught by Aidan; had been for some years at Hartlepool much trusted, visited, and counselled by Aidan and other chief teachers of the Celtic Christians. Under her roof, in the year 664, when Whitby Abbey was but seven years old, there was held the Synod of Whitby, for settlement of the questions of ceremonial between the Celtic and the Roman Churches, and peace was secured by concession of the points upon which Rome insisted. At Whitby Hilda was as mother to the child-princess, who grew up under her care and became cexi abbess after her ; was as mother in her little community, and among the rude people round about, who long preserved the belief that her form is at certain times to be seen in a vision of sunshine among the ruins of the later abbey built upon the site of hers. She so much encouraged the close study of Scripture that in her time many worthy servants of the Church and five

TO A.D. 6801



bishops are said to have come out of her abbey. Afflicted during the last six years of her life, she never failed in any duty : and her last words to her people were that they should preserve the peace of the Gospel among themselves and with all others. At the time of her death, in 680, Cuthbert, who died in 686, was Bishop of Lindisfarne. He also left the mark of a true Christian's life among the people, and was remembered as an angelic missionary priest, who had deep sympathy for the neg. lected poor. He would seek them in their most craggy and inaccessible homes, to dwell with them by the week or monththeir bishop and their brother. Such stir of human energies p!Oduced a poet worthy of the time. All that we know of him was told by Bede, who was also a north countryman, and who was bern about the time when Cædmon's Paraphrase was written.

5. From Bede's account, without adopting its suggestion of miracle in the gift of song to the poet, we may infer that Cædmon was a tenant on some of the abbey lands at Whitby, and one of the converts who had a poet's nature stirred by Christian zeal. One day he joined a festive party at the house of some remoter neighbour of the country-side. The visitors came in on horseback and afoot, or in country cars, drawn some by horses and some by oxen. There was occasion for festivity that would last longer than a day. The draught cattle of the visitors were stabled, and would need watching of nights, since in wild times cattle-plunder also was a recreation, and one that joined business to pleasure. The visitors took turns by night in keeping watch over the stables. One evening when Cædmon sat with his companions over the ale-cup, and the song went round, his sense of song was keen, but, as a zealous Christian convert, he turned with repugnance from the battlestrains and heathen tales that were being chanted to the music of the rude harp which passed from hand to hand. As the harp came nearer to him he rose, since it was his turn that night to watch the cattle, and escaped into the stables. There, since we know by his work that he was true poet born, his train of thought doubtless continued till it led to a strong yearning for another form of song. If for these heathen hymns of war and rapine, knowledge and praise of God could be the glad theme of their household music, and if he, even he-perhaps we may accept as a true dream the vision which Bede next tells as a miracle. Cædmon watched, slept, and in his sleep one came to him and said, “ Cædmon sing.” He said, “ I cannot. I came hither out of

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