Section 1

§ 2.

{288} IT would be an interesting work, to trace out the causes and the course of civilization, in the case of particular nations compared one with another. Some nations have been civilized by conquering, others by being conquered. The moral and social advancement of Spain, Gaul, and South Britain under the Roman yoke is an instance of the latter process; but more commonly the victorious people has been the pupil, not the teacher, and has voluntarily placed itself at the feet of those, whom it began by treading under its own. This appears from the nature of the case: the more favoured countries of the earth are the natural seats of civilization; and these are the very objects of the cupidity of northern or eastern races, who are at once more warlike and less refined. Accordingly, the rude warrior quits his icebound crags, his desolate steppes, or his burning sands, for the sunny hills or the well-watered meadows of the temperate zone; and when he has made good his footing in his new abode, what was the incentive of his conquest becomes the instrument of his education. Thus it was that Goths and Lombards put off their national fierceness; thus it was that the fanatic Arab was transmuted into the polished knight of Seville or Granada: and thus the Northman also softened both his name and his nature, and over his characteristic qualities,—the cruelty, the cunning, and romantic ambition of his barbarism,—threw the fantastic garb of Christian chivalry.

The ordinary course of barbarian invasion is such as this:—Certain tribes are in the advance of the rest, {289} being the van-guard of a large host or the fugitives of unsuccessful war; they come down upon the country which is to be their prey in successive expeditions; like billows tumbling one over the other, they sweep through it; then, like waves, they retire, and then again, after an interval, they return. Next, they exact contributions, and are again and again bought off. Next, either by violence or by treaty, they gain possession and occupation of some territory, and take their place as landed proprietors amid the old tenants and institutions of the soil. This turns out to be a more politic bribe than gold; it is a gift once for all; it puts them under teaching, and imposes on them responsibilities. In a while they are found to be happily influenced by the civilization, be it greater or less, into which they have thrust themselves. They imitate the customs and manners of their new country; they acquire a moral perception and a standard of judgment to which before they were utter strangers; they give up their old idolatry. They trade and make money; they grow conservative; they learn to be ashamed of the savage habits of their forefathers; they make common cause with the old inhabitants in repelling the fresh invasions of their own kindred. Perhaps they even act a charitable part towards the latter, sending them missionaries, or returning the captives or hostages whom they have taken, to teach them a purer faith and the arts of life.

These successive steps in the course of civilization took a character of their own in the remarkable race whose history has so intimate a bearing on the two islands of the North; and as we have enlarged above upon the terrible and revolting features of the Scandinavian character, so it is to our purpose now to speak of the singular alleviations with which its enormities were, as {290} time went on, accompanied, till it changed into the chivalrous Norman. Though of the same stock as the Saxons, the Northmen were gifted with a more heroic cast of soul. Perhaps it was the peculiar scenery and climate of their native homes which suggested to them such lofty aspirations, and such enthusiastic love of danger and hardship. The stillness of the desert may fill the fierce Arab with a rapturous enjoyment [Note 1], and the interminable forests of Britain or Germany might breathe profound mystery; but the icy mountains and the hoarse resounding waves of the North nurtured warriors of a princely stature, both in mind and body, befitting the future occupants of European thrones. Cradled in the surge and storm, they were spared the temptation of indolence and luxury: they neither worshipped the vivifying powers of nature with the Greek, nor with the Sabean did they kiss the hand to the bright stars of heaven; but, while they gave a personal presence and volition to the fearful or the beautiful spirits which haunted the mountains or lay in ambush in the mist, they understood by daily experience that good could not be had by the mere wishing, and they made it a first article in their creed that their reward was future, and that their present must be toil.


The light and gloom, the nobleness, the sternness, and the fancifulness, of the Northman character are admirably portrayed in the romantic tales of Fouqué. At one time he brings before us the honour-loving Froda, the friend of the Skalds, who had been taught in the book of {291} a learned Icelander how the Lady Aslauga, a hundred years and more before, had in her golden veil of flowing hair won the love of King Ragnar Lodbrog, and who, smit with devotion to her, saw from time to time the sudden apparition of his bright queen in the cloudy autumn sky, animating him to great and warlike deeds. At another time, it is the Lady Minnetrost, the good Druda, far up upon the shores of the Baltic, on her high moonlit tower, with her long white finger lifted up and pointing to the starry sky. Then, again, we have the tall slim form of the beautiful Sigrid, with her large blue eyes, singing her charm, gathering witch-herbs, and brewing her witch-draught, which makes heroes invincible in fight, and works in the banquet a black mysterious woe. Then we have the gigantic form of men on the islands of the lake, with massive breastplates, and huge brazen bucklers, and halberts so high that they seemed like the masts of vessels. And then the vessel comes in sight, ready for the use of the sea-knights in their pirate expeditions; and off they go over the bounding waves, on their terrible errands of blood and fire, to gain immortal glory by inflicting untold pain. And suddenly appears one of them at a marriage feast in Normandy, the sea-king Arinbiorn; one of those warriors in the high-coast country who own little or nothing on the mainland, but who sail round the earth in their light barks in the company of brave and devoted followers, passing from one side of the North Cape, nay, even from distant Iceland, down to imperial Constantinople, or along the coast of blooming Asia or of burning Africa, where almost all other seamen are at fault. And at another time we are shown the spectres of remorse and death and judgment, and the living forms of pride, passion, and temptation, in the history of the troubled child of the fierce warrior of {292} Drontheim; and, on the other hand, the pattern knight and his lady bright coming back to their old country from the plains of Frank-land, and presenting to the savage northern race the very ideal which they vaguely sought after, but could not adumbrate; and the pale dark-haired Sintram, calmed and vanquished by the voice and lute of the fair Gabrielle.

This of course is romance; but if it may be taken as an anticipation of what the Northmen became in the Normans, their descendants, it will suggest to us that there certainly existed between the latter people and the Church of the middle age a ground of sympathy and mutual respect which is not found, at least to the same extent, between her great Pontiffs and whether Anglo-Saxon or Celtic converts. The preachers of peace and the messengers of war, though as contrary as life and death, nevertheless had a bond of attachment and union in the thorough-going simplicity of purpose with which they fearlessly worked out their respective objects. The Norman knight recognized no earthly standard, no earthly recompense; his end might be fanciful and eccentric, but it was ideal; it might be honour, glory, the noble, the sublime, but at least it was unselfish; and so far it resembled Christianity. The first transaction between this strange people and the Pope was a significant introduction to the relations in which they stood towards each other in the times which followed. St. Leo IX. had led out a force against them; they fought him, gained the battle, took him prisoner, and then, prostrating themselves at his feet, asked his forgiveness and his blessing [Note 2]. He consented, and made them his allies. Not many years after, they were the protection of the great Hildebrand against the Emperor. That magnanimous {293} Pope, and his contemporary, William the Conqueror, may be taken as types respectively of their opposite missions; and they were apparently shy of each other. It is the greatest compliment that the secular historian can pay to William, that Hildebrand kept at a distance from him; it is the greatest compliment that the historian can pay to Hildebrand, to say that William wished to gain his approbation.


So different, however, at first sight, is this Norman of the eleventh century from the savage pirate who ravaged England and Ireland in the ninth and tenth, that it is of importance in the history of civilization to be able to trace some points of connection between their respective national characteristics. This we can succeed in doing to a certain extent; and we think there is no extravagance in professing to be able to detect from the first the germs of the knight of chivalry, and noting down the dates of their gradually taking form and development, in the chronicles of the wild Scandinavian. For instance, as we have already suggested, the distinctive trait of the barbarian of the North, as contrasted with other barbarians, was his perception and pursuit of the pulchrum, his belief in the existence of some excellence more than ordinary, his worship of some recondite incommunicable perfection, which excited in him an enthusiastic passion, and required for its attainment a superhuman effort. This great quality of mind showed itself in the rude Northman as well as in the Norman, and as regards lesser matters, became that affectation of the rare and uncommon which we afterwards find in history as a familiar attribute of the latter people. As an instance, we may specify the value he set on proficiency in bodily exercises. Feats of {294} strength, indeed, are held in esteem by all nations, barbarous or not; but the Scandinavian aimed not at mere muscular energy, but at a proficiency which has something of an intellectual character,—a strength united to dexterity, versatile in its exhibition and ready for the emergence. Olaf, son of Triggva, in the lawlessness of his deeds and the romance of his fortunes, was a genuine sea-king. Born fatherless, on a small island, whither his mother had fled for her life, captured and sold into Russia, escaping and turning pirate, sweeping round the coasts of Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, Flanders, and Friesland, converted to Christianity in the Scilly islands, marrying, or rather married by a princess of Dublin, and at length made king of Norway,—he seems to have his character sufficiently described in this mere outline of his history, and to promise nothing at best beyond the resolve, daring, and fortitude of a piratical adventurer. But he had accomplishments too [Note 3]. That he should have been able to climb precipices and run down them again heavily laden with spoil,—this, indeed, was a talent suitable and needful to the plunderer; but we should hardly have expected in so rude a personage that he was practised in certain gymnastic arts, that he could run along upon the oars while the rowers were pulling, that he could throw at once two darts to their respective marks, or that he could play at flinging up swords and catching them alternately, after the manner of an Indian juggler. Perfect command of the limbs, skill, neatness and grace in their exercise, were as much in honour with the Northman as with the knights of a tournament. He could govern his vessel as readily as a horse; he could wrestle, swim, skate, row, and, though a sea-king, he could ride. {295}

Character, we have said, is shown in little things: it is for this reason that in this connection we remark, by the way, that the precision and exquisiteness of the Scandinavian appeared also in his choice of food and apparel. While the Anglo-Saxons wore beards, the Normans shaved; now in doing so they did but follow the custom of the old country which they had left. Thus Harold, who waged war against the pirates, let his hair grow, as a sort of penance, till he had been successful in his enterprise; when he became king of Norway, he submitted to his father's cutting it off. The ancestors of the fastidious Normans trimmed and combed their hair even up in Scandinavia; they bathed frequently, dressed handsomely, and ornamented their war-vessels. They were nice in their eating; and, as we observed in a former page, disdaining wine as a mere incentive to conviviality, were temperate in the use of it.

These, however, are lesser matters; the most obvious and prominent point of character, common to the Northman and Norman, is the peculiarity of their warlike heroism. War was their life; it was almost their summum bonum; good in itself, though nothing came of it. The impetuosity of the Norman relieved itself in extravagances, and raises a smile from its very intensity; at one time becoming a religious fanaticism, at another a fantastic knight-errantry. His very worship was to do battle; his rite of sacrifice was a passage of arms. He couched his lance to decide the question of fact, that his lady was the beautifullest woman in creation; he drew his sword on the blasphemer to convince him of the sanctity of the Gospel; and he passed abruptly from demolishing churches and burning towns to the rescue of the Holy Sepulchre from the unclean infidel. In the Northmen, too, this pride of demolition had been {296} their life-revel. They destroyed for destroying-sake, because it was good to destroy; it was a display of power, and power made them gods. They seemed as though they were possessed by some inward torment, which needed outlet, and which degraded them to the madness of their own Berserkirs in the absence of some nobler satisfaction. Their fearful activity was their mode of searching out something great, they knew not what, the idea of which haunted them. It impelled them to those sudden descents and rapid careerings about a country, of which we have already spoken; and which, even in modern times, has broken out in the characteristic energy of Gustavus and Charles XII. of Sweden. Hence, too, when they had advanced some steps in the path of civilization, from this nature or habit of restlessness they could not bear neutrality; they interfered actively in the cause of right, in proportion as they gave up the practice of wrong. When they began to find out that piracy was criminal, instead of having recourse to peaceful occupations, they found an occupation cognate to piracy itself in putting piracy down. Kings, indeed, would naturally undertake such a mission, for piracy interfered with their sovereign power, and would not die of itself; it was not wonderful that Harold, Haco the Good, and St. Olaf should hang the pirates and destroy their vessels; but the point of our remark is this, that they pursued the transgressors with the same furious zeal with which they had heretofore committed the same transgression themselves. It is sometimes said that a reformed profligate is the sternest of moralists; and these northern rovers, on their conversion, did penance for their own piracy by a relentless persecution of pirates. They became knight-errants on water, devoting themselves to hardship and peril in {297} the protection of the peaceful merchant. Under Canute of Denmark a confraternity was formed with this object [Note 4]. Its members characteristically began by seizing on vessels not their own for its prosecution, and imposing compulsory loans on the wealthy trader for their outfit, though they professed to indemnify their owners out of the booty ultimately secured. Before they went on board, they communicated; they lived soberly and severely, restricting themselves to as few followers as was possible. When they found Christians in the captured ships, they set them at liberty, clothed them, and sent them home. In this way as many as eight hundred pirate vessels were destroyed.

Sometimes, in spite of their reformation, they still pursued a pirate's trade; but it was a modified piracy. They put themselves under laws in the exercise of it, and waged war against those who did not observe them. These objects of their hostility were what Turner calls "indiscriminate" pirates. "Their peculiar and self-chosen task," he says, "was to protect the defenceless navigator, and to seek and assail the indiscriminate plunderer. The pirate gradually became hunted down as the general enemy of the human race." He goes on to mention some of the laws imposed by Hialmar upon himself and other discriminating pirates, to the effect that they would protect trade and agriculture, that they would not force women into their ships against their will, and that they would not eat raw flesh.

Now, in what we have been drawing out, there is enough to show both the elementary resemblance of character, and yet the vast actual dissimilitude, between the Scandinavian and the Norman. There is likeness enough to show that the dissimilitude is a change: when {298} there is no resemblance at all between a former state and a latter, we do not consider it a change but that one thing has been substituted for another. Here, however, is a change, and a vast change; and then the question follows, how was it brought about? There is enough in the picture to show that the knight of chivalry may have been made out of the barbarian sea-king; but not enough to suggest, on the other hand, how the barbarian sea-king came ever to be made into the knight of chivalry. It was of course, to answer in general terms, one of the many triumphs of Christianity. Hrolfr, or Rollo, left the North a lawless marauder, being driven out by the reforming energy of King Harold of the fair hair; and when he came to France, it was in order to inflict upon it the wars which his kinsmen had inflicted upon England and Ireland. Nor was he remiss in his dreadful mission: for, after devastating England in company with his countrymen, he landed on the French province which has since been called Normandy, plundered Cambrai, menaced Rouen, besieged Paris, took Bayeux, ravaged the neighbourhood of Sens, and levelled St. Lo to the ground. These are specimens of the successful outrages which Rollo committed on an unoffending country; but somehow they ended in his being baptized, receiving a large grant of territory, and at length taking his place among the landholders and nobility of France. Nor was he the first of his savage countrymen who in that same France had submitted to the Church, and had been naturalized, on condition of defending the soil against fresh invasions from the north. And the policy and the compact were perfectly successful. In the course of one hundred and fifty years the race made such advances in the arts of life, as to stand foremost in the civilization of the day, to be specimens of a particular {299} kind of refinement, and to be in a condition to present religion and to teach manners even to Christian populations of historic name and ancient faith.


And now we come to the question, for the sake of which we have introduced this lengthened notice of the Northmen and their French colony. Why was it that a like process, with a like issue, did not take place in England and Ireland, when barbarians settled among them? Why did not the Danes in both islands succumb to influences which were so potent and so successful on the opposite continent? One and the same fierce foe comes from the North, and extends his devastations on both sides of the British and St. George's Channels; he is so identically one as to have the same leaders, who sometimes carry on their raids in one country, sometimes in another. Ragnar not only ravaged England and Ireland, but he penetrated with his bands to the walls of Paris. Hasting, the formidable opponent of Alfred, plundered on the Seine. Rollo, as we have said, made a descent on England before he came to France. It needs explanation, then, how it came to pass that the same race, being settled, during a contemporaneous period, in two countries, made such very unequal advances in civilization in the one and in the other.

We conceive the facts to be as we have stated them; the period of Danish settlement in both countries is certainly contemporaneous, and the advance in civilization is as certainly unequal. The country above the Humber was in the possession of Danish princes from A.D. 870 down to the Norman Conquest; East Anglia was colonized by Danes from A.D. 878. The Danes founded or rebuilt Dublin, {300} Wexford, Waterford, Cork, and Limerick, about the year 850; and held them still in 1171, at the date of what we should call the "Norman Conquest" of Ireland [Note 5]. Rollo, on the other hand, gained Normandy about 912. If, then, long and intimate intercourse is a necessary condition of influencing, improving, and changing a barbarous race, both Anglo-Saxons and Irish had the opportunity of such intercourse with the Danes more fully than the Franks with the Normans. And yet the Danes did not gain any such benefits from their settlement in England and Ireland, as the Normans reaped from their French inheritance. This is the second point to which we ask the reader's attention.

It may be replied, that English and Irish converted them to Christianity, and that to a higher blessing and greater change they could not have been instrumental. It is true: this conversion was the work of holy men and zealous priests; and that there were such is certain, and that their efforts were prospered is certain, as might have been expected from their zeal and their holiness. But we speak here not of mere submission to the Church and faith in her word, which is commonly all that a preacher would effect in the case of ignorant barbarians; but of that formation and elevation of character, that unity and community of thought, that hold and application of religious principles, that self-command, that social progress, which is what we commonly mean by the word "civilization." Civilization, like barbarism, is a social, not simply an ethical term; it is the attribute of a people. Individuals are not called civilized, as such, but as members of a body politic, and a body politic is not civilized by the mere action of the evangelist or missionary. What is needed {301} for that purpose is the influence of pastors, rulers, and schoolmasters, or the presence or neighbourhood of races civilized already. This is the benefit which France bestowed on the Normans,—not that their civilization was perfect, but it was substantially civilization. The Normans learned to live in peace with their neighbours; when they warred, it was according to rule; they reverenced law; they could govern and be governed: they could adopt a course of policy; and they had refined manners. "A steady justice in his own conduct," says Turner speaking of Rollo, "an inflexible rigour towards all offenders, and the beneficial results which every one experienced from these provisions, gradually produced a love of equity and subordination to law among his own people. Under his administration Normandy is declared to have had neither thieves, plunderers, nor private seditions." And after quoting a passage from Glaber Rodulphus, which bears witness to the Norman people living "like one great family of relations," to their care of the poor and distressed and strangers, and to their religious liberality, Turner goes on to speak of their love of glory, their incipient love of literature, their general decorum, and lasting steadiness of moral character. That this was the effect of contact with French civilization, and not from any natural internal force in the Norman colony itself, seems undeniable, not only from that identity, on which we have already dwelt, of the Normans of Frank-land with the Danes of England, and from the fact that fresh and fresh Northmen were continually joining and disturbing, if that had been possible, the Norman body politic, but, on the other hand, from what history tells us of the rapid and complete assimilation of the Norman people to the French, even to the adoption of the French {302} language, and of their utter alienation from their mother country. "The Northmen who settled in Neustria," says Lappenberg, "gradually became lost among the French. French and foreigners have visited Normandy in search of some traces of the old Scandinavian colonies; but vainly have they sought for the original Northmen in the original inhabitants; with the exception of some faint resemblances, they have met with nothing Norsk." "All remembrance of their national poetry," he says presently, "was as completely obliterated from the posterity of the Northmen as if, in traversing the ocean, they had drunk of the water of Lethe." [Note 6] By the end of the tenth century, "the difference of language," says Thierry, "which had at first marked the line of separation betwixt the nobles and the people of Normandy had almost ceased to exist; and it was by his genealogy that the Norman of Scandinavian descent was distinguished from the Gallo-Franks." [Note 7] And, "when the use of the lingua romana became general throughout Normandy, the Scandinavians ceased to look upon the Normans as their natural allies by kindred; they even ceased to call them by the name of Normans, but called them French, Romans, and Velskes or Welches, their names for the entire population of Gaul." Lappenberg says the same: "If the inhabitants of Normandy cared little about their northern native country, the inhabitants of the north, on their part, almost forgot their fugitive kinsmen, who had gained for themselves another home."


Such is the surprising and speedy change which took {303} place in the Northmen when domiciled in France; not that the Norman character became French, but it ceased to be barbarian, and became Christian; it was a great change. Now let us contrast with it the state of the Danes, or Northmen, or Ostmen, as they are variously called, in England and Ireland. The author last quoted is a most unexceptionable witness, because his leaning is against the Normans and the Holy See; as if the Anglo-Saxons would have recovered their former state and have managed their own matters better, if they had been let alone. Now he says, speaking of the "colonies of the Vikings," "on the coast of Ireland they possessed Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, and Cork. At Dublin resided the principal king of the Northmen; Waterford had also its kings. These colonies, which sometimes made war on each other, and at others combined together against the Irish or the English, preserved their warlike spirit, by which, although possessing only a few ports and a small portion of the interior, they were able to maintain themselves for some centuries. Christianity encompassed them on every side; and in the eleventh century they adopted it themselves." [Note 8] Here, then, is a Scandinavian colony far smaller, or at least more dispersed, than that in Normandy, actually surrounded by Christian populations, and populations of a far earlier Christianity than the Franks, and acted on by them at length so far as to embrace their religion, yet so little subdued by Christian influences, that there is nothing more to be recorded of them than that they warred on each other and on their Irish neighbours. And it is observable, that, considering there was one king over all their Irish settlements, at least till the beginning of the eleventh century, these wars of the Danes among themselves {304} must have been of the nature of civil wars. Lanigan speaks to the same effect. After saying that the Danes of Dublin were the first of their nation in Ireland who became Christians, he adds, "which, however, did not prevent them from afterwards practising ravages in the same manner that their predecessors had done." [Note 9] Let it be observed, he does not speak merely of their going to war, which, alas, the most civilized and Christian nations can do, but of continuing the savage raids of their forefathers.

It must be added, that whereas the Normans were converted as early as the date of their coming, the Danes, even of Dublin, were not converted till at the end of a hundred years from their settling there, and those of other Irish cities much later. In the beginning of the eleventh century, near two centuries after their arrival, though "a certain progress," the same writer says, "was made by the Danes in piety and religious practices, yet we find them now and then, even during this period, committing depredations in religious places." [Note 10] How great a contrast to the notorious devotion of the Normans! In spite of all the shortcomings of the latter people, their cruelty and their dissoluteness, they were exemplary in their maintenance of religious worship. "They caused," says Lappenberg [Note 11], "an incredible number of churches and chapels to be built." They became so greatly changed in this particular, that is, in their pagan practices, which led them to destroy churches, and in which the Christian Danes of Ireland still indulged, "that there were none in France who so zealously built churches and cloisters as they. They even established conveyance-fraternities for the erection of churches. People took the Sacrament, reconciled themselves with {305} their enemies, and united for this object, choosing a chief or king, under whose direction they drew carts loaded with all kinds of building materials. Probably there were also fraternities of masons." In Ireland, on the contrary, so far from the old Christian inhabitants leading their Danish neophytes to build churches, the Danes taught the Irish to plunder and destroy them, as appears from a passage of Lanigan, which we quoted in the former part of this discussion. Nay, it is remarkable that the Scandinavian countries themselves received Christianity at as early a date as the bulk of those emigrants from them, who for two centuries had been in a Christian country; and, again, the Norwegian and Danish Christians on their own soil were much more changed by their conversion than their kinsmen on Irish. "These people," says a contemporary, speaking of the Norwegians, "have learnt to love peace and gentler manners." And another says of the Danes, "They have made progress in the liberal arts; the nobles send their sons to Paris for education, not only for the ecclesiastical offices, but also for secular employments." [Note 12] It is abundantly confirmed by results such as these, which history accidentally records, that Paris had a gift of civilization it that time which the Irish schools had not.

Let it be observed, too, that the Irish Church had accidentally a collateral assistance in her work, which seemed to make the civilization of these settlers comparatively an easy task. In consequence of their position, by race Northmen, by birth Irish, by dwelling maritime, they were the natural medium of intercourse between their own and their adopted country, and, in consequence, they took to mercantile occupations. Now, {306} the pursuit of wealth is at least antagonistic to barbaric turbulence, even if not directly congenial to Christianity; but in this instance it did not even thus negatively assist the communication of Christian manners from the old Christians to the new. Lyttelton has this apposite remark: "About this time (1095) a civil war divided the Ostmen (Danes of Ireland). From henceforward this people, addicting themselves wholly to commerce, lost much of their valour and military spirit, without making any great improvements in politeness or the civil arts of life." [Note 13]

It does not seem, indeed, as if there were any tendency whatever in the Danes of Ireland, we will not say to amalgamation, but to intimacy with the people among whom they were settled. On the contrary, they drew off from the Irish, and when the Normans had got possession of England, they fell back upon the Normans. Here they are in remarkable contrast to the Normans themselves, who loved their new country so well as to forget "their people and their father's house." So far from such a feeling, the Ostmen would not even allow the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of those who converted them. When Sitric, Danish king of Dublin, endowed a see there for his countrymen, A.D. 1040, its first bishop was necessarily an Irishman [Note 14], but no sooner had the Normans come to England, than the Dublin Danes put themselves under the metropolitan see of Canterbury; the reason being, as Lanigan states, not only the great reputation of Lanfranc the Archbishop (though it is not easy to see what the Danes would care about a great logician and controversialist), but "because William and his Normans, being masters of England from the year 1066, were considered by the Irish Danes as their countrymen." That is, the outlandish Franco-Normans {307} had an influence with them which centuries of neighbourhood and intercourse had not given to the Irish. Nor was this the act of the Danes of Dublin only; the Danish Bishops of Waterford and Limerick were consecrated from Canterbury also [Note 15]. Elsewhere Lanigan says, "A very great antipathy existed between the two nations, even after the conversion of the Danes; and the Danish clergy of Dublin and the Irish clergy of Armagh were constantly at variance." [Note 16]

Once more; till the Normans came to Ireland, the Danes (or Ostmen, as they were called) continued to be distinct communities from the Irish: when the Normans had come, the Normans too remained distinct from the Irish; but the Danes simply disappear from the page of history. "English," says Lappenberg, explaining that by English he means Anglo-Normans, "English, Irish, and Northmen formed three distinct races," in the beginning of the thirteenth century, that is, upon the Norman conquest of Ireland; but at a later period mention occurs of two nations only, Irish and English; the Ostmen, or Northmen, having disappeared." [Note 17] What is clearer than that the Northmen, who had resisted all assimilation with the Irish for above three centuries, had at once felt the attraction of their kindred, and had been absorbed by the conquerors,—absorbed as promptly and spontaneously, as the Normans, on their part, had been united, not to any of their own compatriots, but to the Franks around them?

If, then, the Ostmen, or Danes, of Ireland needed civilizing, and the Irish could not civilize them, and the Normans could, then, for the sake both of the Danes who needed a great benefit, and of the Irish who could not supply it, it was surely not unreasonable in the {308} Pope, nor unsuitable to his high mission, to sanction the expedition of the Normans to Ireland with the object of converting the one and reforming the other. We do not deny that there was something of a grave rebuke in sending to that old Catholic population specimens of barbarians whom others had civilized, in order to the civilization of kinsmen of those barbarians, whom, though living among them, they have been unable to civilize themselves. At the same time, this measure was no disparagement of the Irish schools, or of the learning and sanctity of their members; for, as we have already had occasion to observe, it is not of the nature of colleges or cloisters to radiate knowledge and manners through a population.


Now to pass on to the case of England. What the schools were to Ireland, such was the monarchy to our own country; each institution was the seat of national life and the hope of national reformation. There were certainly weak and unworthy Anglo-Saxon monarchs; and there was both rash speculation and ecclesiastical disorder in the Irish schools, as is clear from the instance of Erigena and others on the one hand, and from the strange and lasting scandals of Armagh on the other. Still the schools were the salt of Ireland, and acted on the population, Christian and pagan, at least indirectly, by means of the holy preachers who went out from them; and in like manner there were among the English kings so many able, successful, and, we will add, religious rulers, that they may fairly be taken to represent the monarchy. Such are Egbert, Alfred, Edward, Athelstan, Edgar, and Edmund. They were the instruments of the conversion of vast numbers of {309} the Northmen to the Christian faith. It was Alfred who adopted the policy, which had succeeded so well across the Channel, of settling the Danes in the east of England, on condition of their baptism. Athelstan, in like manner, when he subjected the Northumbrian Danes to his sway, made them Christians. The same prince was entrusted with the education of Haco the Good of Norway, who, though he did not succeed in bringing his subjects to the faith he had himself embraced, contributed much towards their national civilization. St. Olaf, king of the same country, who sent for Bishops and priests from England, did but avail himself of what Haco had begun. Yet, though a royal court could exert more influence both at home and abroad than a number of scattered convents and colleges, it could neither do a people's work, nor educate a people into doing it. What was wanted in England was a Christianity so living, as to leaven and transform the pagan neophytes. The monarchy might effect the conversion of the Danish settlers, but it could not effect their civilization. If the Anglo-Saxon population was in a state of disorder, despondency, and misery, it would only be further degraded by the contact of barbarians, instead of having any power to raise them even to its own unsatisfactory level. And this, we know, was the case. The savage invaders had demoralized the English: can there be a more pregnant fact than that of which we have already spoken, that from the reign of Ethelred (A.D. 1013) to that of Henry II. (1171), for at least one hundred and fifty years, the Anglo-Saxons sold their relatives, and even their children, into foreign slavery, as if they had been a tribe of unreclaimed Africans? [Note 18] {310}

Moreover, though England had an advantage over Ireland in the unity of its governing power, on the other hand it had this counterbalancing disadvantage, that the foreign settlers were far more numerous, and the territory they covered far more extensive. If Ireland was broken up into small principalities, its Danish inmates, too, were divided from each other, and surrounded by the Christian population. But as to England, at one memorable date the whole of it was in the power of the Danes except Somersetshire and the far west. At Alfred's death all the country was theirs to the north of the Humber and the East of the Thames and Ouse. Later, a line drawn from Chester to the mouth of the Thames through Bedfordshire, serves to describe their frontier. Even when they were subjects of the Anglo-Saxon monarchs, they had their own laws. At length a Dane became monarch of the whole country; and did more for its welfare than the Anglo-Saxon kings who preceded him. The choice seemed to lie between Dane or Norman, if the nation was to be raised from its abject condition; and the Norman, not more cruel than the Dane, was far more advanced in civilization.

It must be recollected too, that, whatever might be the advantage of a monarchy, one bad king could undo the work of three or four vigorous ones: and bad or worthless kings there were. One act reversed all the efforts of the great princes whom we mentioned above. The Anglo-Saxons could not hope to convert the Danes after the crime of St. Brice's day, 1002, which is the "St. Bartholomew" of our history. On the eve of that festival, "every city," says Turner, "received secret letters from the king, commanding the people, at an appointed hour, to destroy the Danes there suddenly, by the sword, or to {311} surround and consume them with fire." [Note 19] Though at that time they were living in peace with the English, the royal mandate was obeyed. All through England, Christians as they were for the most part, the Danes, their wives, their families, their infants, were mercilessly butchered. "The horror of the murder," says Lingard, was in many places aggravated by every insult and barbarity which national hatred could suggest. At London they fled for security to the churches, and were massacred in crowds round the altars." [Note 20] The number of victims and extent of the massacre are unknown. It could hardly, indeed, include the old settlers, now half English, in the north and east. Some authors have maintained that the savage command was only directed against the Danish soldiers in English pay; Thierry, apparently disbelieving that it was the act of the Anglo-Saxon king, would make us believe that the only victims were the Danes, who had just before made a truce with Ethelred, and who after receiving, according to the bargain, their price for leaving the kingdom, had broken their engagement by a renewal of their excesses. But in that case women and children would not have suffered. Gunhilda, the sister of the Danish Sweyn, the father of Canute, had embraced Christianity and had married Palig, a naturalised Dane. Her children and husband were slaughtered before her eyes; then she was put to death herself. She predicted the vengeance that would follow.

Her prediction was in no long time fulfilled. The shrieks of the victims of that day were the knell of the Anglo-Saxon power. The savage Sweyn wreaked his vengeance in fresh devastations and slaughters, which terminated in the subjugation of England and the {312} successful usurpation of Canute. St. Edward who followed was the morning star of a heavy day, saintly and beautiful himself, but the forerunner of the foreigners in his acts, and the harbinger of woe in his last words.


Our immediate question, however, here, as in the case of Ireland, is, how were the Danes to be civilized? Anticipating the future by the best lights of prudence and experience, we should have said at that time, that with these Danes lay the prospects of good or evil for that England, of which they had so long been the scourge and the ruin. They were a young, energetic, enterprising, ambitious people. They could fight, they could trade; but they had to learn the lessons of the gospel and the arts of life. Could England be their teacher, after the massacre of St. Brice? If a Christian nation slaughtered its unsuspecting converts, who would be converted by it henceforth? The poor Anglo-Saxons had only strength for a treacherous and impotent revenge; they had fallen from that state of ethical and social advancement, which the Danes had not yet attained.

Neither island then could either expel the Northmen nor civilize them. Men of their own race, already converted and civilized, were equal to the enterprise, and these the Pope sent first to England, then to Ireland, to undertake it [Note 21].

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1. "A young French renegade confessed to Chateaubriand that he never found himself alone galloping in the desert without a sensation approaching to rapture, which was indescribable." Notes to the Bride of Abydos.
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2. Bowden's Hildebrand, vol. i. p. 165.
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3. Turner, Middle Ages, vol i. p. 65; Thierry, Normans, book ii.
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4. Lappenberg's England.
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5. Lyttelton, Henry II. vol. v. p. 35; Lanigan, vol. iii. p. 326, &c.
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6. England, pp. 66, 84, transl. Vid. also Palgrave, vol. i. p. 700; vol. ii. p. 257, and elsewhere. (1872.)
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7. Norman Conquest, p. 39, transl.
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8. Page 64.
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9. Vol. iii. p. 376.
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10. Page 433.
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11. Page 69.
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12. Adam of Bremen and Arnold of Lubeck, in Lappenberg, pp. 61, 62. Vide also Neander, Hist. vol. v. p. 403, Bohn.
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13. Vol. v. p. 42.
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14. Lanigan, vol. iii. p. 433, etc.
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15. Ibid. p. 464.
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16. Vol. i. p. 75.
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17. Ibid.
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18. Turner, Anglo-Saxons, vol. ii. p. 322; Lingard, Hist. vol. i. p. 244; Lyttelton, v. p. 91.
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19. Vol. ii. p. 312.
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20. Hist. vol. i. p. 240.
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21. This paper is but a fragment, in consequence of the author's suddenly retiring from the Editorship of the Rambler Magazine.
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