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the Conqueror (+ 1087) we find Colsvegen, Thor, Thur. grim, Jestan (Jostein or Eistein, Justan and Justegen), Siword, Thorstan; under Henry the First (1100-1135), Chitel (Ketil), Runcebi (Rynkeby), Spracheling, Winterled; under Stephen (+ 1154), Ericus, Siward, and Svein; and under Henry the Second (+ 1189), Achetil (Asketil), Colbrand, Elaf, Raven, Svein, Thurstan, and others. A great number of these names appear in connection with towns in the north of England; and we have thus a new and instructive proof that the remarkable influence of the Danish element in England, and especially in the northern part, before the Norman conquest, was not entirely lost after that conquest had long been completely effected.
Considering the distant period in which the Danish conquests in England fall, it is fortunate that we can obtain so many palpable evidences of the state of domestic civilization as these coins afford ; and more will assuredly follow from the discovery of others hitherto unknown. These coins prove much, and justify us in inferring still more. They place, as it were, before our eyes, the earnestness with which the Danish Vikings, and the rest of the colonists in England, must have applied themselves shortly after their settlement, to rival the Saxons in art, and to retrieve what they had neglected in this respect. In like manner, there is every reason to believe that they must have devoted themselves with no less zeal to other peaceful occupations which they had already cultivated in their own native homes; and that thus they must have also preserved and cherished in England, both in war and peace, that love for poetry and history, which flourished in the homes of their ancient forefathers, and which, on the whole, harmonized so completely with the heroic life of the olden times in the North. It was not natural that the deep desire which filled the Northman to enjoy posthumous fame in chronicles, and in the songs of the poetswhich left him no peace at home, but drove him out to sea on daring expeditions—should immediately desert him
because he had removed to a foreign soil. It is expressly related of the Normans that they cherished eloquence and poetry in a high degree, and that they were accustomed to entertain their guests with songs and legends. Scandinavian bards, especially from Iceland, continued to visit the Scandinavian colonists in France, as well as in the British Isles. As court-minstrels, they were in constant attendance upon the Scandinavian princes in Scotland, Ireland, and England. Their office partly was, to entertain the warriors with lays of past exploits in the North; and, partly, to accompany the chiefs on their warlike expeditions ; that they might, as eye-witnesses, be able to sing their heroic deeds, and by these lays convey to the North a knowledge of what passed among the Scandinavian colonists in the western regions. When we add that the Scandinavian kings, as, for instance, Canute the Great himself, practised at times the art of poetry, it will be easily perceived in what high honour the bard and his lays must have been held.
But it lay in the nature of things that a pure Scandinavian poetry could not grow up either among the Normans in France, or their Danish kinsmen in England. For the development of such a poetry it was necessary that they should preserve their Scandinavian nationality intact. But it is well known, that a foreign education and refinement soon caused them to abandon their belief in Odin, as well as many of the habits and customs which they had inherited from their forefathers. Of the change that took place in them nothing bears stronger evidence than their mother tongue, which, by degrees, lost more and more of its characteristics, and at length passed entirely into the modern French and English languages.
The old predilection for poetry which the Normans brought with them from the North, was reflected in many ways in their foreign refinement. Of all France, Normandy was the country where most historical and warlike songs were heard. The Normans sang them in battle, and derived from them a sort of inspiration. Before the battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror's bard, Taillefer, recited songs about Charlemagne, Roland, and others, to the Norman host, to cheer and enliven the warriors after the old Scandinavian fashion; just as Thormod Kolbrunaskjald, before the battle of Stiklestad, in Norway, (1030), sang the far-famed Bjarkemaal. When the poetry of the Troubadours of Provence began to spread itself throughout France, it found another home in Normandy; where it so peculiarly developed itself, that the French troubadour poetry is generally divided into two principal kinds, the “ Provençal ” and the “ Norman.” Even in Italy, where the Normans conquered fresh kingdoms, their peculiar poetry had a perceptible and important influence on the development of the art.
In England, likewise, there arose, partly as a consequence of the Danish and Norman conquests, a particular kind of composition which, in England, is called AngloDanish and Anglo-Norman. That all poems of this sort were written by Danes or Normans, I do not venture to assert. All that is meant is, that they were partly produced by the Danish and Norman wars; and that, partly, they were the expressions of the new adventurous and knightly spirit, which, through the Danish-Normanic con. quests, became prevalent in England. Some of the most celebrated of them are romances about “Beowulf,” “Havelock the Dane,” and “Guy, Earl of Warwick.” In the oldest romances, which are composed of the same mythic materials as our Scandinavian Edda songs, and some of the Sagas or legends, adventurous combats against dragons, serpents, and similar plagues, are celebrated; whereas, in the later romances of the age of chivalry, warriors are sung who had fallen in love with beautiful damsels far above them in birth or rank, and whose hand and heart they could acquire only by a series of brilliant adventures and exploits. Valour, which before was exerted for the wel. fare of all, and for the honour that accompanied it, now obtained a new object and a new reward, and that was—love. The heathen poems of the Scandinavian North are all conceived in the selfsame spirit; and it is therefore not altogether unreasonable, perhaps, to recognise in this striking agreement traces of a Scandinavian influence on English compositions. In later times, and down to the middle ages, this influence is still more clearly apparent in the beforementioned ballads, or popular songs (p. 89), which are only to be found in the northern, or old Danish, part of England, and which betray such a striking likeness to our Scandinavian national ballads.
The Danes in England do not appear to have occupied themselves with any compositions that can be properly called historical; at all events all remains of such composition have disappeared. It is related of the contemporary Normans in France, that, down to the days of William the Conqueror, they devoted themselves more to war than to reading and writing. This, however, is not surprising, since even the Anglo-Saxon clergy in Alfred the Great's time, according to that monarch's own statement, were so ignorant and so unaccustomed to literary occupations, that exceedingly few of them could read the daily prayers in English, much less translate a Latin letter. Even if we should admit that the Danes in England, by reason of their earlier and more extended settlements there, had somewhat better opportunities for study than the Normans in Normandy, still there is not sufficient ground to suppose that they wrote any other chronicles than such dry annals as some few monks, and other learned men of that time, composed. The reason of this seems partly to have been because they preferred preserving the remembrance of important events in historical lays; and partly, because neither their national nor political development could proceed in a foreign land with such freedom from all admixture, and in such tranquillity, as to allow of more important historical works, and especially in their mother tongue, being produced among them.
In Iceland, on the contrary, where a great number of the most powerful and shrewdest of the heathens of Norway sought, after the year 870, a refuge against spiritual and political oppression, and where they founded a republic which retained its independence for centuries, the Scandinavian spirit obtained a free field. Not only did the old bardic lays, and the remembrance of the deeds of former times, continue to live among the Icelandic people," but new bards arose in numbers, who, spreading themselves over the whole north of Europe, returned with their breasts full of Sagas." There also speedily arose in Iceland, immediately after the Viking expeditions, and altogether independently of any external influence, an historical Saga literature in the old Scandinavian tongue, which, viewed by itself, is, from its simplicity and elevation, extremely remarkable, but which, when compared with the contemporary dry Latin monkish chronicles and annals in the rest of Europe, is truly astonishing. The Edda songs, the purely historical Sagas, the historical novels, and other peculiarly bold and original productions of the Icelandic literature, in an age when the European mind was singularly contracted, form, in the intellectual world, manifestations of the same thorough individual freedom, which stamped itself on the arms, endeavours, and whole life of the heathen Northman.
Ecclesiastical and Secular Aristocracy.
The supposition that the Danes in England devoted themselves to study both earlier, and to a greater extent, than the Normans in France, is not founded only on loose conjectures. The English chronicles of the earlier middle ages contain traces of the Danes having not unfrequently entered into the English Church, in which they some.