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Valhalla, more than his life, and who therefore “went to death with a laugh.” Even with him religion was a spur to his achievements in Christian lands. He was combating for his own gods, in whom in general he certainly believed as firmly as most of the Christians of that time did in Christ. The ideas, too, which then prevailed respecting conquest, slaughter, and rapine, were altogether different from ours. If the heathen Viking regarded it as an honour to acquire lands and booty by his sword, the same thought was also cherished not only by the early Christians, but throughout the middle ages; when Christian citizens, noblemen, and princes contended in mortal combat, with fire and sword, for the possession of estates and lands. The Christian Anglo-Saxons of those times felt no hesitation in secretly massacreing the Danes who had settled in England; and as many of these had been converted, one Christian thus murdered another! To dismember general history into a number of unconnected events, and then to pass judgment upon these separately according to our moral feelings, would be an infamous act, and more difficult to defend before the tribunal of morality than perhaps all the expeditions of the heathen Danish Vikings put together. Such a method of proceeding would lead to the most confined views of history that can possibly be imagined. No correct conception can be formed of any part of the history of the world if it be not examined in its due connection, whereby both causes and effects become perceptible. Many events, which the moralist would otherwise condemn, find in this manner both excuse and defence in the superior historical necessity that produced them. Viewed in this light, violent devastations, which have for a time, perhaps, arrested the progressive development of a people, will appear to have ultimately founded and educed purer and more wholesome manners and customs. Severe shocks are now and then as useful for the general welfare of a nation as a violent fit of sickness for the health of an individual, or storms for the purification of an oppressive atmosphere.
The germ of a higher civilization was first implanted in the rude and warlike tribes, which then predominated throughout Europe, by the Greeks and Romans. The bold expeditions of the latter, in particular, introduced the arts and sciences into the countries north of the Alps ; and it was from the south that even the Christian religion began its progress. But before Christianity could take firm root among the European tribes, before a really Christian state could be founded, it was necessary that an immense revolution should take place. Heathenism and barbarism then collected all their strength in order to destroy Roman power and Roman civilization. The Roman Empire, and with it almost all the older states, was overthrown by the vast national migrations; and a new and different population, with which a fresh civilization was to begin, spread itself over Europe. It was these migrations that brought the Anglo-Saxons into England, after they had abandoned their ancient habitations on the south and south-west shores of the Baltic; whence they were expelled by the advancing Slavonic tribes of the Wends, or Vandals.
Contemporaneously with the diffusion of Christianity in the south and .west of Europe, larger Christian states gradually arose. Charlemagne had already, about the year 800, founded an immense kingdom; and, in order to strengthen it both against inward disturbances and outward attacks, had established apparently durable institutions. But as it was too often necessary, in those early times, to force Christianity on the people by dint of arms, without seeking any real support for it in their convictions and belief—a circumstance that rendered prevalent a very great moral relaxation, and even wickedness—they were thus induced to regard the political institutions which sprang from it as something foreign, which neither pro
ceeded from themselves, nor possessed any intrinsic strength. Both Church and State tottered. The whole structure of Christian communities was in its weak and early childhood; and it was not till the people had been convinced of its necessity, by their calamities and sufferings, that Christianity was able to gain a really firm footing.
The Christian States were now attacked at once and on all sides by the enemies of Christianity, the Mahometans and heathens. The Saracens, towards the south; the Magyars, or Madjarers, the forefathers of the Hungarians, towards the east; and the Northmen towards the north and west, all invaded the Christian States. Europe long groaned under this terrible scourge. Meanwhile, however, separate States grew stronger in this combat with their exterior enemies; whilst great tribes of the latter settled in the conquered districts, adopted Christianity, and mingled with the natives. The destructive expeditions which for a time indeed retarded, in certain directions, the commencements of civilization, ended by exhausting all the strength of heathenism, in preparing a complete victory for Christianity, and in producing in Church and State a vigour hitherto unknown in those lands which had long embraced the Christian faith. It was now that a period was put to the throes which had given birth to a new and Christian Europe. The descendants of the lawless Vikings became the most zealous champions of Christianity. The Normans, who by degrees had raised themselves to be the ruling people in several of the western and southern States of Europe, and had thus brought a new and wholesome power to the helm, broke many a doughty lance with the Mahometans and heathens. In these crusades the knight was now accompanied by the troubadour, as the Viking formerly had been by the bard or scald. It was among the Normans in particular that the knightly and feudal system developed itself, which was of such decided importance throughout the middle ages, and the forerunner of the freer and more advanced state of society of modern times.
Under the name of “ Normans” are included all those swarms of Swedes, Norwegians, and Danes, which, from the close of the eighth until far into the eleventh century, either laid waste or settled on the eastern and southern coasts of the Baltic, as well as the coasts of the west and south of Europe. “Norman” signifies neither more nor less than a man from the north. The Danish conquest of England was therefore just as fully Normanic as the conquest, by the Norwegians and Danes, of a part of France, called, after them, Normandy. Hence there was a natural reason why the Danish conquerors, and Svend Tveskjæg in particular, concluded an alliance with the dukes of Normandy, in order that they might find a reception among these kinsmen in case they should not be able to make themselves masters of England; and hence, in like manner, Canute the Great obtained the more readily the hand of Emma, the daughter of a Norman (and consequently nearly related) duke. But between the above-mentioned conquests there was this difference, that the Danish conquest of England, together with the Norwegian conquests in Scotland and Ireland, was of far greater extent, and of quite a different and more extensive importance for the British Isles, than the NorwegianDanish conquest of so small a district as Normandy was for France. Whilst the Northmen principally brought thither only a number of powerful chiefs, who, at the expense of the natives, constituted themselves into an imperious feudal nobility, and who afterwards for the most part went over with William the Conqueror into England, in search of still greater feudal possessions, the Danish expeditions to and conquest of England were, on the contrary, the means of bringing an entirely new population into a very considerable portion, perhaps even the half, of that kingdom.
All accounts attest what proud and energetic men the Norwegian-Danish Normans were who settled in Normandy, and who afterwards became the progenitors and founders of the English nobility. The chronicles of that time cannot sufficiently praise their bravery and contempt of death, whilst at the same time they highly extol their chivalric spirit. In but a short time after their settlement in France they had readily acquired its politer manners; and not only these, but that higher mental cultivation which then raised the southern countries above those of the far north. It was a distinguishing trait of the Normans that they very quickly accommodated themselves to the manners and customs of the countries where they settled; nay, even sometimes quite forgot their Scandinavian mothertongue, without, however, losing their original and characteristic Scandinavian stamp. But what the Normans in particular, with all their French refinement, did not lose, was the ancient Scandinavian feeling of freedom and independence. The descendants of those powerful chiefs who had quitted the hearths of their forefathers because they would not suffer themselves to be enslaved by kingsand who on their arrival in Normandy, when the question was put to them, “What title does your chief bear?” are said to have answered, “ None, we are all equal ”- continued steadily to maintain their freedom against the Norman dukes, and not least so against the despotic William the Conqueror, even after he had distributed among them the rich estates of conquered England. The later English nobility, whose power and influence William's conquest had thus founded, did not in any way degenerate from their Norman forefathers. From the earliest period of the middle ages the English barons were the stoutest protectors and defenders of freedom against ambitious kings; and it is also their respect for the proper liberties of the people that has alone insured to them the quiet possession of the power which they still continue to retain. The English nobility have in several other ways preserved to the present time traces of their ancient