Page images
PDF
EPUB

navian youth of high birth, he had abandoned his family and home in early life, and roamed over the seas in search of plunder and adventures. Among other practices connected with piracy, Harald had prohibited, under the severest penalties, the Strandhug, or impressment of provisions, which the sea-rovers were in the habit of exercising, by seizing the cattle of the peasantry. Being taken in the fact, Rollo was, by a solemn sentence, banished for ever from his native country. The story is told as follows, in the Saga of Harald Harfager:

“Rognevald, Jarl of Mære, was the most intimate friend of king Harald, who held him in great esteem. He had married Hilldur, daughter of Rolf-Nefio; their sons were Hrolf and Thorer. Rognevald had also other sons by his concubines; one was called Hallathur, another Einar, and the third Hoolanger. They had already grown up, whilst his legitimate children were yet in their infancy. Rolf was was a powerful Viking, (pirate,) and was so stout that no horse could carry him. He was therefore obliged to go on foot, and thence was called Gaunger-Rol. fur, (Rollo the Walker.) He cruised much in the Baltic sea.

"One summer, returning from a cruise, he landed at Vigen, and there exercised the right of Strandhug. King Harald, who was there, was greatly enraged, when he was informed of what had taken place, for he had strictly prohibited this practice in his territories. He caused a Thing, (council,) to be assembled, to banish Rolf from Norway. Hilldur, the mother of Rolf, as soon as she heard this, went to the king to intercede for Rolf, but Harald was inexorable. · Hilldur then exclaimed to the Ring :

“You reject the name of Nefio from the country as an enemy. Ah! listen to the brother of Haulda! Why do this? It is dangerous to attack the wolf; hardly will be spare the fock of Hilmir scattered abroad in the forest.”

“Rolf the Walker passed the western seas, and came to the Sudar-eiar, (the Hebrides,) and thence to Walland, (France) where he carried on war, and acquired a great lordship, which he planted with Normans, and which was afterwards called Nor. mandy. From his stock came the Jarls of Normandy; his son, was William, the father of Richard, who begot another Richard, father of Rollo long-sword, from whom came William the Bastard, king of England. From this last, have descended all the other English kings.

In the course of his former fugitive and wandering life, Rollo had served both for and against Alfred in England; and that politic prince, probably as much for the sake of ridding himself of 80 troublesome an ally, as for the purpose of annoying the Car

• This is supposed to be a verse of some Sckald, recited by Hilldur as apt to her purpose.

[ocr errors]

lovingians, had assisted Rollo in his first incursion into France, which took place before his final banishment from Norway. A remarkable dream, which a Christian had interpreted as a celestial vision, announcing to him the great things that awaited him in France, determined him to seek his fortune in that direction. In this dream, Rollo found himself afflicted with leprosy, on a high mountain, from which flowed a fountain of pure and limpid water. He plunged into the stream, and was purified. He perceived also, upon the mountain, a flock of birds, who bathed in the same fountain, and flew away to make their nests. The Christian informed him that the leprosy typified Sin,—the mountain the Church, -and the fountain of water, that Baptism by which he must be regenerated, after which he should establish himself in France, with his companions in arms, who were figured by the birds. But this prophetic vision was not realized until twenty years afterwards. His first expedition to the French coast was fruitful only of plunder, with which he returned to England, and thence to Norway, After his final relegation from his native country, by Harald, he collected a band of Vikings and military adventurers, with which that age abounded, and took possession of Rouen, with the avowed determination to plant himself permanently with his followers in Neustria. From this position, he made continual incursions into the interior. Charles the Simple being unable to make any effectual resistance against these attacks, was at last obliged to yield to the importunities of his people, and cede to the Normans the territory they had conquered, in order to preserve the rest of his dominions from continual devastation.

Li évesques de France, et li bon ordené,
Li baron et li conte, li viel et li puisné,
Virent li gentil regne à grant honte atorné.-
Au roiz Challon-le-Simple en ont merci crié :

Qu'il prenge conroi de la Christienté,
Voient les monstiers ars, et le peuple tué,
Par deffaute de roiz et par sa fieblelé,
Des Normanz et de Ron qui le regne ont gasté,
Voient lor felonnie, voient lor crualté !
De Bleiz à Saint-Liz n'a un arpent de blé;
Marchant n'osent en vigne laborer, ne en pré ;
Se cette chose dure, moult auront grant chierté ;
Ja tant comme guerre soit, n'en auront gran plenté ;
Fasse pais as Normanz ; trop a cest mal duré.

Roman du Ron. The prose chronicles confirm the fact of these representations, made to Charles by his prelates and barons, to which the king replied: -"You should have aided me with your council and your arms to expel the Normans; what could I do alone against so many enemies ?”

Que peut faire un soul homme, et que peut esploitier,
Si li homme li faillent qui li doivent aidier ?
Bonne gent fait roi fort, et cil fait estre fier.

Roman du Ron. The feudal anarchy, and the usurpations of the clergy and great vassals of the crown, had so weakened the power and diminished the revenues of the Carlovingian kings, that they were hardly able to defend themselves against their domestic enemies, much less to repel a foreign invader. Charles, accordingly, ceded Neustria to Rollo, in 911, with his natural daughter Gisele in marriage, upon condition that he should become a Christian and do homage for his dutchy. His example was followed by his principal companions in arms, who abjured the errors of Paganism, were baptised, and they with their chiefs were soon distinguished for their profuse liberality and blind obedience to that clergy they had plundered and massacred. Rollo established in his dutchy a feudal aristocracy, or rather, it grew out of the peculiar circumstances under which the province was acquired and settled, as naturally as a republican form of government arose in Iceland, under different circumstances. M. Houard, a modern Norman lawyer, distinguished for his extensive knowledge of the legal antiquities of his country, concludes that the first dukes of Normandy adopted the ancient customary law of the Franks, which they found already established in the country. In fact, the Grand Coutumier, which is the earliest monument of Norman legislation now extant, expressly states, that duke Rollo, having become sovereign of Neustria, recorded, i. e. collected the ancient customs of the country, and where any difficulty or doubt occurred in ascertaining these, he consulted “avec moults saiges hommes par qui la vérité etoit sue, sur ce qui toujours avoit été dict et faict." —But, as M. Depping observes, the custom of Normandy has many analogies with the ancient Scandinavian and Anglo-Saxon laws, and these different people have borrowed so much from each other, and were so often blended and confounded together in their various wars and emigrations, that it is difficult to distinguish with accuracy, the origin of their different institutions. The perfect security afforded by the admirable system of police, established by Alfred, in England, is also attributed to the legislation of Rollo, duke of Normandy,Frode, king of Denmark,—and Brian, one of the petty kings of Ireland :--the chronicles of every one of these countries, repeating with some variations, the story of the bracelets, or purse of gold, suspended by the road side. The natural conclusion seems to be, that the incident never in fact happened in either country, but is merely a poetical mode of expressing the public security enjoyed under the firm and impartial administration of justice by these princes. This was maintained in Normandy by the institu

tion of the Clameur de Haro, under which the inhabitants of every hundred were made responsible for robberies and other crimes committed within its limits, as in the Anglo-Saxon legislation,

The subsequent incursions of the Northern adventurers into France, under Harald Blaatand the son of Gorm the Old, and under Olauf Tryggveson, are detailed at large, by M. Depping. The Normans soon became undistinguishably blended with the Franks and other conquered nations. They adopted the laws, religion, and manners, of the people they had vanquished, and almost every vestige of their Scandinavian origin, was obliterated in the time of William the Conqueror. The pagan religion and language lingered in the rural districts, and a certain Norman count of the province of Cotentin, who came to the court of Sicily during the eleventh century, was obliged to apologise for not being able to speak French. But at Rouen, which was the ducal capital, the French language was firmly established, and William carried it with him into England, as the language of the court and the law. The remarkable tapestry which adorns the walls of the cathedral of Bayeux, worked by a princess Mathilda, (either the wife of William, or the empress of that name, daughter of Henry I.), the subject of which, is the conquest of England, is the most ancient monument, descriptive of the Norman costume and armour. They are the same with the Danish arms and costumes represented in the miniatures of an illuminated missal of the reign of Canute the Great, preserved in the British museum. They are also similar to those which were worn and used by all the nations of Europe, during the middle ages. The Normans caught the spirit of chivalry from the nations of the South, rather than imparted it to the latter, although there was certainly a tendency in the manners and institutions of the North, towards chivalry and the feudal system. The song which Taillefer, the trouvère or bard of William the Conqueror, chaunted at the battle of Hastings, was that of Roland, and not a national ode of the Sckalds. But, as with their laws, so with their literature, all the Scandinavian, Gothic, and German tribes, mutually borrowed and received so much from each other, and their manners and social condition bore so strong a resemblance, in many points approaching to identity, that it is difficult to appropriate distinctly to each nation the original fruits of its own inventive genius.

Art. V.- The History of Rome, by B. G. NIEBUHR. Trans

lated by Julius CHARLES HARE, M. A. and Connop THIRLWALL, M. A., Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge. The first volume. pp. 556. Cambridge: 1828.

Of all the nations that at successive periods held the empire of the civilized earth, we are under the most direct obligations to the Roman people. If their conquests were conducted upon the erroneous belief, that wealth is the product of victory, and that to lay waste the surface of the earth, will create riches, we must still admit the wisdom of the principles by which they converted the inhabitants of the conquered provinces, first into useful servants, then into brave and faithful allies, and finally, into fellow-citizens. Thus, although their successes were often attended with circumstances of great cruelty, and accompanied by much individual suffering, they finally ameliorated the general condition of the subject nations. By the prevalence of Roman arms, one uniform system of laws and civil policy was spread throughout the whole of Southern Europe. One language prevailed, at least as that of fashion and judicial process, through all their dominions. These laws still rule the greater part of Europe ; this language still forms the key to the spoken tongues of the south of that continent. But few years have elapsed since Latin ceased to be the general medium of communication between all who pretended to learning; it still furnishes its majestic tones to the rites of the Catholic Church ; and so thoroughly is the print of Roman government impressed upon civilized Europe, that we offend not against probability in assuming, as a key to the darkest of prophecies, the fact, that the Roman empire is still in being, although subdivided among many heads.

Of the language, the arts, and the literature of the Romans, we therefore know more than we do of those of

any

other cient nation. If the latter be far less extensive than that of the Greeks, and in most of its authors rather imitative than original, it still possesses high claims to our attention. It has for ages formed the grand and principal means of exercising the minds of youth, and preparing them not merely for literary pursuits, but for all the purposes of an active life. It is not our purpose here to enter into a discussion in respect to the propriety of devoting so great a part of the years of education, to the study of the Latin language. It is sufficient to say, that we are ourselves convinced of the wisdom of that system, which makes a thorough knowledge of this tongue a part of liberal education. Nay more, we would make the rudiments at least, of Latin, a part of all education, as is practised in the common schools of VOL. IV.NO. 8.

47

an

« PreviousContinue »