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Dane-forest, the Danes-banks, and many others of the like kind. Traces of Danish castles and ramparts are not only found in the southern and south-eastern parts of England, but also quite in the south-west, in Devonshire and Cornwall, where, under the name of Castellon Danis, they are particularly found on the sea coast. In the chalk cliffs, near Uffington, in Berkshire, is carved an enormous figure of a horse, more than 300 feet in length; which, the common people say, was executed in commemoration of a victory that King Alfred gained over the Danes in that neighbourhood. On the heights, near Eddington, were shown not long since the entrenchments, which, it was asserted, the Danes had thrown up in the battle with Alfred. On the plain near Ashdon, in Essex, where it was formerly thought that the battle of Ashingdon had taken place, are to be seen some large Danish barrows, which were long, but erroneously, said to contain the bones of the Danes who had fallen in it. The so-called dwarfalder (Sambucus ebulus), which has red buds, and bears red berries, is said in England to have germinated from the blood of the fallen Danes. It is therefore also called Daneblood and Danewort, and flourishes principally in the neighbourhood of Warwick; where it is said to have sprung from, and been dyed by, the blood shed there, when Canute the Great took and destroyed the town.
Monuments, the origin of which is in reality unknown, are, in the popular traditions, almost constantly attributed to the Danes. If the spade or the plough brings ancient arms and pieces of armour to light, it is rare that the labourer does not suppose them to have belonged to that people. But particularly if bones or joints of unusual size are found, they are at once concluded to be the remains of the gigantic Danes, whose immense bodily strength and never-failing courage had so often inspired their forefathers with terror. For though the Englishman has stories about the cruelties of the ancient Danes, their
barbarousness, their love of drinking, and other vices, he has still preserved no slight degree of respect for Danish bravery and Danish achievements. "As brave as a Dane" is said to have been an old phrase in England; just as "to strike like a Dane " was, not long since, a proverb at Rome. Even in our days Englishmen readily acknowledge that the Danes are "the best sailors on the Continent;" nay even that, themselves of course excepted, they are " the best and bravest sailors in all the world." It is, therefore, doubly natural that English legends should dwell with singular partiality on the memorials of the Danes' overthrow. Even the popular ballads revived and glorified the victories of the English. Down to the very latest times was heard in Holmesdale, in Surrey, on the borders of Kent, a song about a battle which the Danes had lost there in the tenth century.
Amidst the many memorials of "the bloody Danes," the name of Canute the Great lives in glorious remembrance amongst the English people. It is significant that later times have ascribed to Canute the honour of important public undertakings for the common benefit, which, however, at most, he can only have continued and forwarded. In the once marshy districts towards the middle of the east coast of England, there is a ditch several miles long, called the Devil's dyke (in Cambridgeshire), the formation of which is by some attributed to Canute, although it existed in the time of Edward the Elder. Canute's name is also given to a very long road over the morasses near Peterborough (Kinges or Cnutsdelfe), although it was made before "his reign. Canute's name is also preserved in Canewdon (Canuti domus), near London, and close by the battle-field of Ashingdon, in Essex, where he is said to have frequently resided. In like manner a bird, said to have been brought into England from Denmark, has been called after him Knot (Lat., Tringa Canutus seu Islandica).
It may be asserted, with truth, that not many English kings have left a better name behind them than Canute. He does not owe this only to the favour he showed the clergy, the authors of most of the chronicles of ancient times. He acquired it by his numerous and excellent laws, by the power he exerted in restoring order and tranquillity in the kingdom, by his wisdom in suppressing the ancient animosities between the Danes and Anglo-Saxons, as well as by the care he took to promote the knowledge and piety of his people. He issued severe laws against heathenism, and endeavoured to wipe out the traces of his forefathers' devastations by re-building convents and churches. He even caused the corpse of Archbishop Elfeg, so cruelly murdered by the followers of Thorkel the Tall, to be conveyed with great solemnity from London to Canterbury, and deposited in the cathedral. To these traits may be added his many excellent personal qualities, his sincere repentance for the acts of violence which he committed in the heat of passion, and his profound humility before God. The story of his shaming some of his courtiers, who flattered him when walking on the seashore whilst the tide was flowing, is, if possible, still better known in England than in Denmark. It would be difficult to find any one who is not acquainted with all the particulars of it, and who has not heard it stated that Canute, from that very day, placed his golden crown on the altar of "Winchester cathedral, and never wore it more. This is one of those traits of true nobility and greatness of soul that are imperishable in all times and ages.
Canute was first buried in the old convent of St. Peter's at Winchester; but his body was afterwards removed into the grand choir of the cathedral, where both his and his son Hardicanute's tombs are still to be seen. Over Hardicanute's, in the wall that surrounds the middle of the choir, was placed (1661) a stone, on which a ship is carved, and the following inscription: —
Qui jacet hie regni sceptrum tulit Hardicanutus;
Emmae Cnutonis gnatus et ipse fuit.
In hac cista Lo. 1661. Obiit A.d. 1012.
Or, "Hardicanute, who lies here, and who was a son of Emma and
Canute, bore the kingdom's sceptre. He died in the year of our Lord
1042, and was placed in this coffin in 1661."
The form of the ship on the tombstone shows it to be of no older date than the seventeenth century; but it was possibly carved there because a ship of war had previously adorned the tomb of Hardicanute. At all events, it indicates his relationship with the powerful Scandinavian sea-kings, and his descent from those Northmen who for centuries were absolute on the ocean.
Above the before-mentioned wall, in the grand choir, there stands to the left of the entrance a rather plain wooden coffin, decorated with a gilt crown, half fallen off, with the inscription :—
In Cromwell's time, the coffins, of the kings in the grand choir of Winchester cathedral were broken open, and the bones dispersed; but they were afterwards collected together, as far as this could be done, and again placed in the grand choir in coffins like the one just mentioned. Thus Canute the Great, whose ambition could not be bounded even by three kingdoms, has not retained so much as a grave for himself and his beloved Emma. The presentiment of the perishableness of all earthly power that seized him when he deposited his golden crown in the same place has, in truth, been fulfilled!
The other royal coffins that surround the grand choir in Winchester contain the bones of several old Saxon kings. That the Danish kings Canute and Hardicanute should be entombed among them, in the midst of Anglo-Saxon south England, is a sufficient proof of the immense change that had taken place with regard to the Danes in England sine* their first appearance there as barbarous heathen Vikings. Instead of their kings seeking renown by the destruction of churches and convents, and by murdering or maltreating the clergy; instead of their despising any other kind of burial than that in the open fields, on hills