« НазадПродовжити »
the names of streets frequently occurs, some have, indeed, endeavoured to derive this gate from the gates which these streets adjoined; and, as far as regards London, this explanation may probably in most cases be correct. But in York, where formerly there were at least a score of such streets, it is certainly by no means a probable conjecture that twenty gates existed from which their names were derived; and it therefore becomes a question whether these gates should not be derived from the old Scandinavian “ gata ” (a street), particularly when they appear in compound names, such as Petersgate (Petersgade), Marygate (Mariegade), Fishergate (Fiskergade), Stonegate (Steengade), Micklegate (from the old Scandinavian “mykill,” signifying great); which have a striking resemblance with Scandinavian names of streets; nay, there is even a legend respecting Godram, or Guthramgate, that it was named after a Danish chieftain, Guthrum or Gorm, who is said to have dwelt there. The historical accounts of the number and influence of the Northmen in York cannot but strengthen these suppositions in a high degree.
North-east of York, on the coast towards the German ocean, is a promontory called “Flamborough-head.” It is separated from the main land by an immense rampart said to have been raised by the Danes, and called on that account “the Danes' Dyke,” behind which they intrenched themselves on landing. At no great distance, near Great Driffield, is “the Danes' Dale,” and “the Danes' Graves," where remains of the Danes who fell in a battle are said to have been dug up. South of York, on the Humber, between Richal and Skipwith, human bones and pieces of iron have likewise been found in several barrows, or tumuli, ascribed to the Danes. It is supposed that the Danes and Norwegians landed in this neighbourhood at different times, when proceeding up the Humber on their warlike expeditions.
The popular legend of the bloody battle by Stamford Bridge, or, as it was afterwards called, “ Battle Bridge,” is not yet obsolete. A piece of ground near the bridge over the river Derwent is called “ Battle-flats," and in the surrounding fields, where, for about a century after the battle, large heaps of human bones were to be seen, jointbones, together with iron swords and other weapons, have been ploughed up, as well as horse-shoes that would be suitable for the small Norwegian horses. The English chronicles which describe this battle are lavish in their praises of a Norwegian, who, in the midst of the fight, stood quite alone on the bridge over the Derwent, and for several hours kept Harald Godvinsön’s whole army at bay, until at length a man glided under the bridge and ran him through from below with a spear. The inhabitants of the village of Stamford Bridge have to the present day kept up the custom of celebrating this deed at an annual festival, by making puddings in the form of a vessel or trough; for, as the legend states, it was in a trough that the slayer of the Norwegian passed under the bridge. It is certain, however, that the river Derwent hereabouts has only lately been made navigable.
It would lead us too far to relate, even in an abbreviated form, all the legends, or to reckon up all the numerous memorials, which, to the north of Watlinga-Stræt, are connected with the Danes. It is not only the common people in England who in general ascribe every ancient monument of any importance to the Danes; there was a time, and no very distant one, when many learned men were but too much inclined to do the same. In proof of this it suffices to remark that the celebrated circle of stones at Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain, in Wiltshirethe most superb monument of its kind in the British Islands, or even in the whole of northern Europe—was also at one time described by the learned as a Danish place of sacrifice, although it is clearly distinguished, both by its structure and whole appearance, from the ancient monuments of Scandinavia ; and although, on the contrary, the highest degree of probability proclaims its having origi. nated from the older inbabitants of England, the ancient Britons. It is undoubtedly true, that want of adequate experience and knowledge was generally the real cause why the learned were never able to distingish, with certainty, between what ancient monuments were really Danish and what were not. Nevertheless they would assuredly never have given the Danes credit for so many monuments, at the expense of their own countrymen and ancestors, had they not acknowledged that the immigration and settlement of the Danes in England was of the most widely-extended importance.
Even in our days English antiquarians are not disinclined to ascribe. British, Roman, or Anglo-Saxon antiquities to the Danes; as well as to suppose, on the whole, that there are more monuments of the Danes extant in England, than, strictly speaking, that people can validly claim.
At first sight it might indeed appear that the Danes, who so early, and for so long a period, had extensive possessions in the north of England, must have left there a great number of tumuli, stone circles, and cairns; as well as, in consequence of their numberless fights and battles, a considerable quantity of entrenchments. It is sufficiently known how careful the old Northmen were to hand down to posterity the memory of a hero, and of his deeds. The doctrines of Odin even commanded it, as a sacred duty, to erect bauta-stones in memory of the brave; which is one of the principal reasons why Scandinavia is distinguished, even down to modern times, by such a striking abundance of ancient monuments.
But with regard to England, we must not forget that the inhabitants of the central and northern parts bad for centuries been Christians when the heathen Danes began to make conquests there. Among the Danes, as among the Northmen in general, the belief in their ancient gods had been weakened, and faith in their own power and strength had frequently usurped its place. Living among
Christians in a foreign land, and doubtless, also, often marrying native females, they easily adopted, at least in form, the novel doctrines of Christianity, and with them the customs which they brought in their train. They soon renounced the usage of placing the dead in mounds, after the heathen manner, and of providing them with the weapons and ornaments which were dearest to them when alive. The bodies were buried in churchyards, or in the churches themselves; and the precious things which were formerly thought to secure for the hero an honourable seat in Valhalla, now for the most part remained above ground, where they generally found their way into the pocket of the monk, in order that he might deliver the deceased from purgatory by masses for his soul, and procure him an easy entrance into the kingdom of heaven. By degrees, as the Danes abandoned themselves to the influence of the higher civilization of England, they must also have adopted the most essential parts of the English dress, or at all events English ornaments; and consequently, even if only some few of these were deposited in the barrows, it became almost impossible to decide, when these graves were opened after a long lapse of time, whether it were Danes or Anglo-Saxons who had been originally interred in them.
Thus it is easily explained why but, proportionally, very few really Danish or Scandinavian barrows and monumental stones are to be found in England. We must not ascribe it to the progress of agriculture alone that, even in the north of England, we may search the fields in vain for stones, which, by runic inscriptions in the ancient language of Scandinavia, have preserved the remembrance of some distinguished warrior from the eastern lands beyond the sea. It is but rarely that one can even fancy that he has met with a Scandinavian runic stone; but a closer inspection will soon show that both the runes, and particularly the language in which the inscriptions are couched, betray a foreign, and especially an Anglo-Saxon, origin. The most important runic stone in these northern districts is found near the English border, in the Scotch town of Ruthwell, on the other side of Solway Firth. It is of considerable height, and is ornamented with a number of carvings of biblical scenes, mingled with figures of leaves, birds, and animals. Besides Latin inscriptions indicating and explaining these Christian carvings, there is a runic inscription on the stone which was long considered, both by British and Scandinavian archæologists, to be Danish, or at least to contain remnants of the old Scandinavian language. But it is now shown to be derived neither from the Danes nor Norwegians, but from the Anglo-Saxons, as the supposed Scandinavian inscription includes some verses of an old devotional Anglo-Saxon poem. The whole appearance of the stone, also, is rather Saxon than Danish. The runic characters are, in part at least, different from those of Scandinavia, and the words are not, as in them, separated by points. Ornaments with similar so-called Anglo-Saxon runic inscriptions are not altogether uncommon in England, particularly in the north. But as not a few ornaments, as well as runic stones with inscriptions in the self-same character, are also found in the countries of Scandinavia, both in Denmark and Norway, and particularly the latter, and the west and south of Sweden (and there mostly in Bleking), it may be a question whether this runic writing was not originally brought over to England by Scandinavian emigrants. It would otherwise be inexplicable that they should have used entirely foreign runic characters in Scandinavia, whilst they possessed a peculiar and genuine Scandinavian runic writing of their own. The true state of the matter will not, however, be brought to light till antiquarians succeed in explaining, in a satisfactory manner, the inscriptions with Anglo-Saxon runes that are found in England as well as in Scandinavia, and which, for the most part, have not hitherto been deciphered.