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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 AristocracV.
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
times obtained the highest preferment. On this point we still possess an important source of information, which has, besides, the advantage of being for the most part contemporary with the events and circumstances which it elucidates. This consists of a considerable quantity of letters and diplomas issued by kings, bishops, and other leading men in England, from about the year 600 to 1066. These documents, which have lately been collected and published by a gentleman celebrated for historical research, Mr. J. M. Kemble, (under the title of " Codex Diplomatics iEvi Saxonici," vol. i.-vi., London, 1839-1848, 8vo,) more especially regard the southern and midland parts of England, as unfortunately the greater part of the letters relating to the north of England are lost. Nevertheless, those that remain, taken in conjunction with the chronicles, afford valuable information, both respecting the Danish clergy in the south-east of England, and their diffusion throughout that country.
In the centre of the east coast of England, in Lincolnshire, and near the Wash, stood in the Anglo-Saxon times the large and famous convent of Croyland, or Crowland, dedicated to St. Guthlac. It was built upon an island, and so protected on the land side by the vast morasses which in those times covered the districts nearest the Wash, that it was a sort of natural fortress. According to the chronicles of the convent, compiled by one of the abbots in the eleventh century, it was governed, shortly after the year 800, by an abbot of the name of Sivard; in whose time there is also mentioned in the convent a priest (presbyter) named " Turstan," and a monk "Eskil" (Askillus monachus). In the same ancient chronicle are also recorded several deeds of gift, which possibly, with regard to the rights conveyed to the convent, may have been forgeries of the times, but which, at all events, so far as regards the names of persons and places mentioned in them, must be perfectly correct and trustworthy; since incorrectness in these particulars would have easily led to the discovery of the intended frauds. These deeds mention, between the years 800 and 868, amongst the benefactors of the convent, three viscounts in Lincolnshire, " Thorold" (or Thurold), "Norman," and "Sivard;" and also "Grymketil" and "Asketellus" (or Asketil), who was cook to the Mercian king Viglaf. Lastly there appear (particularly in the year 833) the following names of places:—Langtoft, Asuuiktoft, Gernthorp, Holbeck, Pyncebek, Laithorp, Badby, and Kyrkeby.
The names of persons in the convent, and of places about it, here cited are all, perhaps, or at most with a single exception, of undoubted Danish or Scandinavian origin. They not only prove that, even long before the treaty between Alfred the Great and the Viking King Gudrum or Gorm, which in the year 879 secured to the Danes their conquests on the south-east coast of England, and therefore, more than one hundred and fifty years before Canute the Great's time, the Danes really had such a footing round the Wash that they could give their villages Danish names, and were governed by their own chiefs; but they likewise indicate the remarkable fact, that at least a great number of these Danes must have been already Christians, since they had villages with churches (Kyrkeby) and gave landed property to a convent, in which we find both Danish monks (Eskil and Thurstan), and a Danish abbot (Sivard.) It was about the same time that the Jutland king, Harald Klag, was baptized, together with his whole suite, during a sojourn with the Emperor Ludvig, at Tngelheim, near Mayence, in the year 826. This christening of Danish men abroad, in Germany and England, was the beginning of the subsequent introduction of Christianity into the Scandinavian North.
The genuineness of the above-mentioned Scandinavian names is placed beyond all doubt by the circumstance that similar names appear in other documents connected with the history of Croyland at the same period, or the ninth century. In the year 867, swarms of Danish-Norwegian Vikings landed on the east coast of England, and the Christians who then lived there, whether Danes or Anglo-Saxons, as well as their churches and convents, suffered from the ferocity of these heathens. After a great battle in Lincolnshire, in which, however, the heathens lost three of their kings, whom they buried in a place afterwards called "Trekyngham" (the three kings' home), they marched against Croyland. In vain did the Christians seek to arrest their progress. In a battle near the convent many of the Christians fell, and amongst them "Toli" or "Tule," who had previously been a knight, but who had now entered the cloisters of Croyland. The Vikings stormed the convent, and committed a terrible massacre. Their king, "Oskytyl," cut down the abbot before the altar; after which the convent was plundered and destroyed. The Danish Viking Jarl Sidroc, or Sigtryg, saved a boy called Turgar (Thorgeir) from this massacre, who afterwards escaped to the neighbouring convent of Ely, and gave an account, which is still preserved, of this terrible devastation. Meanwhile, however, the convent of Ely, as well as that of Medehamstede (Peterborough), was plundered and destroyed by the Vikings.
Amongst the monks then killed in Croyland, we may cite from the chronicle, the prior, Asker, and the friars Grimketulus (Grimketil) and Agamundus (Amund); and among the few saved, Sveinus or Svend :—names which, not less than Tule and Thorgeir, indicate a Danish origin. Men of Danish extraction continued in the following centuries to play a considerable part in the history of this and of the neighbouring convents. A Dane named "Thurstan " is said to have rebuilt that of Ely; and another man of Danish family, "Turketul" (Thorketil), certainly rebuilt Croyland. Thorketil, who (it is stated) was nearly related to the royal Saxon family, had previously distinguished himself both as a warrior and statesman. In the battle of Brunanborg he commanded the citizens of London who were in Athelstane's army, and during a long series of years was chancellor to several kings. Subsequently, however, he took the vows of the convent, and governed Croyland with honour, as abbot, till his death in the year 975.
It is, indeed, very striking to observe how many abbots of Danish origin governed the convent of Croyland from the ninth to the twelfth century. Sivard and Thorketil have been already mentioned. Thorketil was succeeded by two of his relations, both named Egelrik; and after the death of the last of these in 992, followed an abbot with the pure Danish or Scandinavian name of " Oscytel." This Asketil had long been prior of Croyland before he became its abbot, which he continued to be till his death in the year 1005. To what extent Asketil's immediate successors were Danes is at least very uncertain, as they have Anglo-1 Saxon names. During the invasions of the Danish kings, however, the convent was at times suspected of being in league with the Danes. Canute the Great is said to have presented a chalice, and his son Hardicanute his coronation mantle, to Croyland. Other Danes also made similar gifts to that convent. In the year 1053 it again had an abbot with the Danish name of Ulf ketil (Wulketulus); and, what is very significant, after the Norman conquest, the swampy districts round it became places of refuge for the Danes and Anglo-Saxons who had in vain fought the last battle for freedom against the victorious and advancing Norman conquerors. One of the chief leaders in this battle was the Jarl Valthiof, a sou of the far-famed Danish Jarl, Sivard Digre (Eng. Sivard the Stout) of Northumberland. Valthiof, it is expressly stated, was one of Croyland's best benefactors and protectors. Subsequently he made his peace with William, but was at last executed by that monarch's directions, and immediately buried at Winchester. Nevertheless the abbot Ulfketil, together with his monks, obtained permission to convey Valthiof's body to Croyland, where many miracles