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E'en now he burns in thought to rear,
E'en now, with arching sculpture crowned,
The treasure of the wonderous tomb, &c.—Henry longed to possess the spear, sword and shield of Arthur, from a supersti
tious belief that these relics of a hero would aid him in his warlike enterprizes. This superstition was not peculiar to Henry; it seems to be common among religious princes of the Catholie faith. A similar circumstance is recorded of King Don Alphonso, the last Spanish King of that name. He sent to the tomb of the Cid, a renowned hero of Spain, for the cross which that warrior was accustomed to wear when he went to battle, and had it made into one for himself, "because of the faith which he had, that through it, (by means of some mysterious operation of it) he should obtain the victory."
His barbed courser, &c. The horses used in European wars before the discovery of gunpowder, were sometimes defended by a harness of mail.—Barbed courser signifies a horse thus caparisoned, or arrayed, and armed in the face.
This lady died in 1835. She resided in England, but her poetry is exceedingly admired in this country. Piety, various knowledge, elegant taste, and great sweetness and power of expression, with fervent and tender affections, are the characteristics of Mrs. Heman's genius.
WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.
William I. king of England, held extensive territories in France. Among them was the city of Mante, and the country adjacent to it. The barons of Mante revolted against William, and Philip, king of France, took part with them. William was ill in his bed at the time, and Philip not only encouraged the rebellious barons, but spoke contemptuously of William. His jokes were repeated to the king of England, who, more enraged by Philip's witticisms than by his hostility, swore that to punish his insolence he would light up a thousand candles in France when he should celebrate his recovery from sickness.
True to this rash oath, William chose the following season of harvest in which to perform his vow. No considerations of justice and pity mitigated his rage; he ravaged and burnt wherever he came. The cottage of the peasant; the favourite tree that afforded him shelter and shade; the wheat field, where stood, awaiting the sickle, the sustenance of his family, all fell a prey to the flames kindled by order of this merciless man ; while men, women, and children fled in terror and anguish before the destroyer.
William's blind revenge thus fell upon the innocent; upon those who had given him no provocation. But the wanton destruction of Mante proved to be one of the crimes, upon whose perpetrators divine retribution inflicts punishment here. William took Mante, and for the gratification of his wrathful passion, rode from one part to another of the burning town, directing his men to feed and spread the conflagration, in which many of the inhabitants perished without chance of escape.
While William was engaged in this disgraceful activity, his horse, stepping on some hot ashes, suddenly plunged, and striking the pommel of the saddle against the rider's body, the blow caused an inflammation which ended in death. This seeming accident, in its consequences, affords an impressive instance that inhumanity produces its own punishment.
William ended his days in a monastery near Rouen. In the awful moment of dissolution, the illusions of ambition and revenge disappeared. He reviewed the cruelties of his past life with remorse, and endeavoured as a true penitent to make all the amends in his power. He had thrown many British nobles and honourable persons into prison, through fear that they would oppose his tyrannical government of England. This injustice now appeared to him in its true character, and in view of his ap
proaching death, he gave orders to restore their liberty to those injured persons.
"At this hour," said he," when I can only hope that my offences will find mercy from my Creator, I order all prisons in my dominions to be opened, and every captive to be released, on condition that they swear to be peaceable." He died after an illness of six weeks, A. D. 1086.
No sooner was William dead, than those who had attended him in his last days fled, the nobles to secure their property, and his poorer servants to lay hands on that of their master. The latter, imitating their superiors, seized, like vultures, his armour, clothes, and furniture, and disappeared, leaving the dead body neglected by all.
No person appeared to prepare the funeral of William till a poor country knight, assembling a few others, attempted to perform the pious service. When the small procession entered the town of Caen, where it was intended the king should be buried, a fire broke out, and all the attendants ran from the lifeless remains to behold, or to extinguish the flames; and when, at length, the body was borne to the place of interment, the spot intended for the grave was sternly demanded by one who claimed the soil as his own. William had unjustly taken the land from
The funeral was again suspended till this man was appeased by offers of restoration or payment. A sarcophagus had been prepared, but it was too small, and the body was forced into it with offensive violence. The religious rites that followed were hurried over irreverently, and the unconcerned spectators withdrew with precipitation and disgust.
Ordericus, the contemporary historian who describes William's death, thus reflects upon it. "O, secular pomp! how despicable art thou, because so vain and transient! Thou art justly compared to bubbles made by rain; for, like them, thou swellest for a moment to vanish into nothing. Behold this most potent hero, whom lately a hundred thousand men were eager to serve, and whom many nations dreaded, now lying unhonoured, and unwept, spoiled and abandoned of every one!" The circumstances of William's interment are finely told by Mrs. Hemans:
'By the violated hearth
Which made way for yon proud shrine, By the harvests which this earth Hath borne to me and mine;
'By the home ev'n here o'erthrown, On my children's native spot,— Hence with his dark renown
Cumber our birth-place not! Will my sire's unransomed field O'er which your censers wave, To the buried spoiler yield
Soft slumber in the grave? 'The tree before him fell
Which we cherished many a year,
Hath been wet by weeping eyes,—
Where no wrong against him cries!'
Shame glowed on each dark face
Of those proud and steel-girt men,
A little earth for him
- Whose banner flew so far! And a peasant's tale could dim The name, a nation's star!
One deep voice thus arose
From a heart which wrongs had riven-
That were but heard in Heaven?"
William of Normandy, among other acts of arbitary power which he committed in England, depopulated a considerable tract of country. He destroyed the villages, with the churches and enclosures, and changed a cultivated region to a wilderness, that it might serve thereafter for his recreation merely. Mr. Pope, early in the eighteenth century, in his poem of Windsor Forest, describes the beauty and prosperity of that part of England in the reign of Queen Anne, and contrasts that happy state, with the wretchedness of Britain under her former tyrants.
"Not thus the land appeared in ages past,