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of the Norwegian population into countries then uninhabited. Thus Iceland (1), the Orkneys (2), the Shetland, and the Feroe islands (3), date their inhabitation in his reign, as well as Jamtia and Helsingia, provinces of Sweden (4). But his principal merit was his prohibition of piracy, and the termination of much of the bloodshed of the North, by conquering all the petty princes, and establishing a monarchy in Norway.
The piracy of the North was a very active agent in perpetuating that barbarism and ferocity of which it was also the consequence. Like our modern slave-traffic, wherever it came it desolated; and while it reigned, it kept down the human capacity in the bondage of the most destructive warfare, penury, and blood.
That hour was therefore auspicious to man when the abolition of the petty kingships, the aggregation of dominion, and the rise of monarchies, created at once both the power and the desire to suppress these pirates. When Harald had stretched his sceptre over all Norway, every aggression of piracy was an attack on some of his subjects; and as he raised a contribution from their labours (3), every act of plunder upon them was a diminution of his revenues.
Harald therefore published an edict, prohibiting piratical excursions on any part of his dominions (6). He enforced his law by a vindictive pursuit of the race he discountenanced. He prepared armaments; they fled; he chased them from his own dominions; he followed them to Shetland, to the Orkneys, and to the Hebrides; he overtook and destroyed them (7). These exertions drove Rollo or Hrolfr from his dominions, and occasioned the Northman colonization of Normandy.
The life of Harald stretched into the reign of Athelstan. It is said, that Athelstan had, in his youth, visited Denmark (8). It is, however, certain, that when the Anglo-Saxon was on his throne, an intercourse, which announced high friendship, commenced between the two sovereigns. Harald sent to Athelstan his son Haco,
(1) Islandia inhabitatur primum a Norwegis diebus Haraldi Harfager. Frode, c. i. p. 6. Eo tempore erat Islandia sylvis concreta, c. ii. p. 10. Norwegian emigrants found some Christians in it, who went away on their arrival, leaving some Irish books behind. Ibid. Ara Frode was born 1060. Snorre says, he was the first of all who wrote hac in regione sermone Norwegico tam prisci quam recentioris ævi monumenta. Preface, p. 3.
(2) Orkneyinga Saga, p. 3. ed. Hafniæ, 1780.
(3) Snorre, Haralid's Saga, c. 20. p. 96.
(4) Snorre, ibid.
(5) It was one of his laws that Regique census fundi solverent coloni omnes, ditiores æque ac pauperes. Snorre, Haralld's Saga, p. 80. He deputed to his Iarls, whom he placed over every fylki, the power of collecting the taxation, of which they received a third to support their rank and expenditure. Ibid.
(6) Haralld's Saga, c. 24. p. 100.
(7) Snorre, p. 98.
(8) It is Wallingford who affirms this, in his Chronica, though from what more ancient authority I know not: "Descenderat enim aliquando in tempore patris sui ad Gytrum in Daciam,” p. 540.
to be educated, and to learn the customs of the English nation (1). The Anglo-Saxons were so much higher in the scale of civilization than the Norwegians, who were but just emerging into visible humanity, that we may easily conceive that Haco was sent to Athelstan for his personal improvement, as in our days, Peter the Great, for the same purpose, travelled Europe. This simple expla-. nation may be allowed to displace the narration of Snorre, which, on this subject, resembles more a chapter in the Edda than an historical chronicle. He talks of Athelstan sending ambassadors to present Harald with a sword, that when the Norwegians handled it, they might exclaim, "You are now his thane, because you have taken his sword". To return the polite joke, Harald is stated to have sent his officer to England with his son. The officer placed the child on the knee of Athelstan, and said, "Harald commands you to nourish his illegitimate child (2).”
The simple expressions of Theodoric, "ut disceret morem gentis", discountenance these idle fables-the children of ignorant ruThat Athelstan caused his ward to be taught every becoming accomplishment, that he loved him, and that Haco excelled in his studies and exercises, are circumstances not repugnant to our belief. Harald sent to Athelstan the present of a magnificent ship, with a golden beak and purple sails, surrounded with shields, internally gilt (3). Haco received from Athelstan a sword, which he kept to his death (4).
Harald had several wives, and a numerous progeny (5). When his death approached, he selected his son Eric to be his successor. He divided some portions of his dominions among his other children (6). Their ambition was dissatisfied, and enmities and contests succeeded. Eric, like a crowd of others, saw no crime in actions which secured his greatness, and therefore earned the horrible surname of the slayer of his brothers (7). The Norwegian people had more morality than their sovereign, and invited Haco to release them from such a monster (8). Athelstan provided his pupil with an equipped fleet and warriors; and with these Haco sailed to Trontheim (9). Haco's countenance was beautiful, his person ro
(1) Theodoric, one of the most ancient historians of Norway, so informs us : "Haraldus miserat unum ex filiis suis Halstano regi Anglorum Hocon nomine ut nutriretur et disceret morem gentis." Hist. Norw. c. ii. p. 7.
(2) Snorre, Haralld's Saga, c. xli. xlii. p. 119, 120.
(3) Malmsbury, 51.
(5) They are enumerated by Snorre, p. 97.
(6) Snorre, p. 112, 113.
(4) Snorre, c. xliii. p. 121.
(7) Theodoric, c. ii. p. 7. Snorre, in the last chapter of his Haralld's Saga, p. 123., states his fatal warfare against two of his brethren.
(8) Theodoric, c. ii. p. 7.
(9) Snorre, Saga Hakonar Goda, c. i. p. 125. Itineri in Norvegiam hinc mox accingitur, ad quod et copiis et classe bene armata, omnibusque rebus necessariis, ope Adalsteini regis magnifice instruitur.
bust, his mind disciplined, his manners popular (1). He was received with joy. The chiefs and people deserted Eric, and Haco was chosen king in his stead (2). His conduct and laws displayed the benefit he had received from the superior civilization of the court of Athelstan. He was rewarded for a virtuous reign, by a permanent and invaluable epithet. Though ten centuries divide him from us, his title still survives—“ Haco the Good."
Thus it became the glory of Athelstan, that he nurtured and enthroned three kings in Europe. He educated and established Alan of Bretagne, Louis of France, and Haco of Norway; and these actions are not recorded by English writers (3), but are attested by the chronicles of the countries benefited by his liberality. Our own authors, by omitting these circumstances, have concealed part of his fame; but this moderation entitles them to credit in other similar events. We may therefore believe, on their evidence, that he returned to Howel the kingdom of Wales, and to Constantine the kingdom of Scotland, declaring that he would rather bestow kingdoms than enjoy them (4). He gave another proof of his magnanimity in this respect, in his reception of Eric, whom at the call of Norway and of humanity, he had assisted to dethrone. When Eric abandoned the sceptre of Norway, he went to the Orkneys, and having collected a great army, he plundered along Scotland. Athelstan heard of his vicinity, and sent a message to him, that his father and himself had been united in bonds of the strictest friendship, and that he wished to show his esteem for Harald in kindnesses to his son (5).
Eric gladly accepted his favours, and Athelstan placed him in Northumbria, to reign in feudal subordination to himself (6). Eric
(1) Theodoric, c. iv. p. 9.
(2) Snorre, Hakonar Goda, c. i.; and Theodoric, c. 2. His reign occupies the Saga of Snorre, called Saga Hakonar Goda, p. 125-164. The agriculture and trade of his subjects particularly prospered in the tranquillity of his reign. His modesty, benignity, prudence, and legislative wisdom are extolled, 135.; yet Ad. Brem. calls him "cruel," p. 25.
(3) For this reason they have been hitherto neglected by our historians. When we recollect the benefits which Athelstan produced to other sovereigns, and the numerous embassies to himself, we must feel that it is not with rhetorical praise that the abbot of Peterborough says, "Rex Adalsteinus omnium ore laudatur; felicem se credebat quisquis regum exterorum ei affinitate vel fœdere sociari posset." Chron. Petri de Burgo, p. 25.
(4) Malmsbury, lib. ii. c. 6. p. 48., says, Quos-miseratione infractus in antiquum statum sub se regnaturos constituit, gloriosius esse pronuncians regem facere quam regem esse." Hume, with more national feeling than we should have suspected from his philosophy, disbelieves the fact of Constantine, because his countrymen deny it, p. 105.; as if they were less interested to disavow, than the Saxons to affirm it.
(5) Snorre, Hakonar Goda, c. iii.
(6) Saga Hakonar, c. iii. Theodoric says, "Ipse vero Ericus ad Angliam navigavit et a rege honorifice susceptus ibidem diem obiit," c. ii. p. 7.
was baptised, and fixed his habitation at York (1). drawn by Snorre as a tall, active, powerful man; formidable and usually successful in war; fierce, precipitate, selfish, and silent (2). His wife Gunnhilda has obtained a niche in the uncouth temple of Norwegian history. She was uncommonly beautiful, very intelligent and engaging; but Nature had placed her among barbarians; and her talents only augmented her power of mischief. She became notorious for her cruelty and deceit (3).
Athelstan maintained a friendship with Rollo of Normandy, and improved Exeter, which he separated from the British kingdom of Cornwall.
Athelstan is represented to have been a great benefactor to the monastic institutions. He rebuilt many; he was liberal to most, of books, ornaments, or endowments (4).
(1) Snorre says at Iorvik (York), "Ubi sedem olim habuisse feruntur Lodbroki filii." Saga Hakonar, c. iii. p. 128. He adds, Northumbria autem maximam partem erat a Nordmannis habitata. Linguæ Norvegicæ nomina plurima ejus regionis ferunt loca, Grimbær utpote, Haukssliot, aliaque multa.” Ibid.
(2) Haralld's Saga, c. xlvi. p. 24.
(3) Haralld's Saga, ib. She is often mentioned in the Norwegian history, at this period. She poisoned her husband's brother, Halfdan. Haralld's Saga, p, 122.
(4) Malmsb. 48. There are two curious MSS. in the Cotton Library, which were presents of Athelstan. One, Tiberius, A. 2. is a MS. of the Latin Gospels. Before them is a page of Latin in Saxon characters, of which the first part is, "Volumen hoc evangelii Æthelstan Anglorum basyleos et curagulus totius Britanniæ devota mente Dorobernensis cathedræ primatui tribuit." One page is occupied by the letters LIB. in large gilt capitals, and by the rest of the first verse, in small gilt capitals, on lilac ground. The following verses, containing the genealogy, are in gilt capitals, on dark blue ground. The first verses of the three other Gospels are in gilt capitals, on the uncoloured parchment. To each a painting of the evangelist is prefixed. The rest is written in ink without abbreviations. In the beginning of the Gospels is a page with, "Incipit evangelium secundum Mattheum," in large gilt capitals. Below these words are two crosses; opposite to one is, ODDA REX, and to the other, MIHTHILD MATER REGIS. I am particular in describing the book, because it is declared to have been used for the coronation oath of our Anglo-Saxon kings, and because, from the names of Odda and Mihthild, I would venture to conjecture that it was a present from Otho of Germany, who married Athelstan's sister, and from Mathilda, the empress of Henry, and mother of Otho. Hrosvida, his contemporary, spells Otho's name Oddo. Reub. 164. There is also in the Cotton Library a MS. Claudius, B. 5., which contains the proceedings of the sixth synod of Constantinople, in the seventh century, The first page of this exhibits part of the title in very large capitals, partly red. The next page has the rest of the title in smaller capitals, and below these, in Saxon characters, are these words: "Hunc codicem Æthelstanus rex tradidit Deo et almæ Christi genitrici Sanctisque Petro et Benedicto in Bathoniæ civitatis cœnobio ob remunerationem suæ animæ, et quisquis hos legerit characteres Omnipotenti pro eo proque suis amicis fundat preces." At the end of the MS. is a paragraph, stating, that it was written in the time of pope Sergius. A marginal note is inserted by Sir Robert Cotton, stating, that as Sergius was pope in 690, and the synod was held in 681, the book must have been written in the tenth year after the synod. In the same valuable library, Galba, A. 18., is a small-sized MS. which has come down to us as the Psalter used by Athelstan. In the beginning is a very ancient calendar in Saxon letters, written in 703, ut apparet in codice. The rest is composed of prayers, the Latin Psalter, and several other hymns, very hand
Athelstan had received, by his father's care, a lettered education (1). His subsequent cultivation of knowledge has not been transmitted to us; but there is a little catalogue of his books extant, which may not be unworthy of notice (2).
Athelstan, amid his greatness, remembered the poor. He decreed, that each of his gerefas should feed in all ways one poor Englishman, if any such they either had or could find. He ordered that, from every two of his farms, one measure of meal, one gammon of bacon, or a ram worth four pennies, should be monthly given; and clothing for twelve months, every year. He also commanded each of them yearly to redeem one miserable being who had forfeited his liberty by a penal adjudication. He left not these charities as mere precepts, which might be executed or neglected without consequences. He attached the interest of his gerefas to their obedience. "If any gerefa shall disregard this, he shall be fined thirty shillings, and the money shall be divided among the needy of the town (3).”
It was a common saying of the Anglo-Saxons of Athelstan, that no one more legally or more learnedly conducted a government (4). It is not at all surprising, that he was a favourite both among his own people and in Europe (5). He was certainly a great and illustrious character. He appears to have been as amiable as great. To the clergy he was attentive and mild; to his people affable and pleasant. With the great he was dignified; with others he laid aside his state, and was condescending and decently familiar. His stature was almost the middle size; his hair yellowish, twisted with golden threads. His people loved him for his bravery and humility; but his enemies felt his wrath (6).
The memory of Athelstan is stained with the murder of his brother. When Athelstan acceded, his elevation was opposed by one Alfred, who disdained his authority. On his apprehension, there appeared persons who arraigned Edwin, then a youth, the
somely written. Every psalm is begun with gilt capitals, with a title preceding in red letters. It has several ornamental paintings. In the British Museum, among the MSS. of the Bibliotheca Regis, I. A. 18., is a MS. of the Gospels in Latin, with this remark, "Hunc codicem Ethelstan Rex devota mente Doroberniæ tribuit ecclesiæ."
(1) Malmsbury, p. 49.
(2) It is in Saxon characters in the Cotton Library, Domitian, A. 1., in these words: "This syndon tha bec the Ethelstanes weran, De natura rerum; Persius, de Arte metrica; Donatum minorem; Excerptiones de metrica arte; Apocalypsin ; Donatum majorem; Alchuinum; Glossa super Catonem; Libellum de grammatica arte qui sic incipit, etc. Sedulium.... And I gerim was Alfwoldes preostes; Glossa super Donatum, Dialogorum." MSS. p. 55.
(3) Wilkins, 56.
(4) Malmsb. 49.
(5) Tota Europa laudes ejus prædicabat, virtutem in cœlum ferebat, etc. Malmsb. 51.
(6) Malmsbury has given us this portrait, p. 50.