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tigue and sufferings and squalidly clothed (1); and, on another occasion, a prince (2), standing up to be purchased like cattle; when we see, that from the plentiful supply, so low was the price, that Olaf the prince, who afterwards became king of Norway, and the invader of England, was sold for a garment (3); and that a collection of boys were disposed of for a fine goat (4); when we discover such things to be frequent, it seems absurd to look into the north for increased civilization,
And yet the happy change was beginning to emerge. The principle of improvement was in existence, and its vegetation, though slow, was incessant and effectual.
As soon as the vikingr stooped from the pursuit of sanguinary glory, to collect profit from traffic, piracy, as a laudable custom, must have begun to be undermined. It must have received another fatal blow, as soon as agriculture became reputable. Though valour was still the pride of the day, many chiefs were perpetually arising of peaceable and unwarlike habits (5). At the period of which we now speak, one Sigurd Syr the king, who educated Saint Olave of Norway, is particularly described to us as assiduous in his domestic occupations; who often surveyed his fields and meadows, and flocks and herds, and who was fond of frequenting the places where the handicraft labours were carried on (6). His pupil, Olave, though in the first part of his life he became a sea-king, yet among other things was educated to manual arts as well as to warlike exercises (7). The sweets of landed property and peaceable occupations once experienced, the impulse of nature would urge the chiefs to favour husbandry, and to induce or to compel a part, ever increasing, of the northern population, to pursue the labours of the field in preference to war. Every regular and settled monarch favoured the new habit. Though the disorderly reigns which followed Harald Harfragre made his law against pirates almost obsolete, yet as soon as the government of Norway became established in Saint Olave, he revived the prohibition. He forbade all rapine (8). He enforced his law so rigorously, that though the vikingr were the children of the most potent chiefs, he punished the offenders by the loss of life or limb; nor could prayers or money avert the penalty (9). One of the Canutes was equally hostile to the habits of the vikingr. He prohibited all rapine and violence throughout his kingdom, and was highly displeased that Egill should have pirated in the summer. "In addicting yourself to piracy," said the king,
(1) Snorre, p. 256. (3) Ibid.
(5) Many of these are noticed in Snorre's Heimskringla. (6) Snorre's Saga, Olaf's Helga, c. i. p. 1. and p. 31.
(7) Arcum tractandi atque natandi imprimis peritus, in pilis et missilibus manu jaculandis eximius, ad artes fabriles a natura formatus, lynceisque oculis ad ea omnia quæ vel ipse vel alii fabricaverant. Snorre. Olaf's Helga, p. 1.
(8) Snorre, tom, i, p. 315.
(9) Ibid. 316.
(2) Ibid. 193. (4) Ibid.
you have done an abominable thing. It is a Pagan custom, and I forbid it (1).'
It was indeed a custom which had been so familiar and so extolled, that its suppression was difficult. Olaf's severity against it excited an insurrection in his dominions (2). But though interested men struggled hard to uphold it, the good sense of mankind awaking, however tardily, to their real interests, was combating against it. The benefits emanating from the cultivation of agriculture were announced with impressive admonition to all, by the dismal famines which at times occurred. The augmented power, the more striking dignity, and the permanent happiness accruing to the chiefs from a numerous clan of quiet peasantry, from the annual riches of tillage, and from the mercantile importation of every other luxury; the lessons, though rude, of their new Christian clergy; the natural indolence and quietude of human nature, when permitted to follow its own tendencies, and when freed from the goading stings of want, by the fruitful harvests of regular labour; must have alienated a large part of the northern society from the practice of their ancestors, and must have made piracy, in an accumulating ratio, unpopular and dishonourable. Human reason is never slow to amend its erring associations, when once a new beam of light occurs to it; and nothing can more strongly paint the progressive change of manners, than the rapid degradation of the meaning of the word vikingr. At first designating a soldier, it became appropriated by pirates, when every warrior pirated. But now that the condemning voice of society was rising against rapine, the vikingr hastened fast to become a synonyme of the robber (3). Poets, who often stamp the morals of ages, and who always influence the population of the day, began to brand it with that opprobrium, which, from their numbers, falls with the most deterring effect (4).
The improved feelings of society on this subject could not accumulate without communicating some contagion to the vikingr themselves. Though the novel sentiment might be unable to annihilate their evil habits, it awakened, in their fierce bosoms, a little sense of moral distinction; it compelled them to seek some shield of merit to avert that most terrible of all ills, the contempt and hatred of the society to which we belong. They began to feel that it was not honourable for a brave man to prey upon the peaceful mer
(2) Snorre, p. 317.
(1) Knytlinga Saga, ap. Bartholin, 453. (3) The editors of the Gunnlaugi Saga give many examples of this, p. 298–300. (4) Thus Sighvatr, the scalld of Olave, sang:
chant, who feeds and benefits his contemporaries, nor to murder the unoffending passenger whom various necessities enforce to roam. A new sort of pirates then appeared more suitable to the new-born morality of their feelings, and to the mental revolutions of the day. The peculiar and self-chosen task of these meritorious warriors was to protect the defenceless navigator, and to seek and assail the indiscriminate plunderer (1). The exact chronology of these new characters is not clear, but they seem reasonably to belong to the last age of piracy. Their existence was, above all laws, efficacious in destroying piracy. They executed what society sighed for, and what wise kings enacted; and their appearance must have hastened the odium of the indiscriminate pirate, who became gradually hunted down as the general enemy of the human race. It is pleasing to read of this distinction in so many authors. Some men associated with the solemnity of an oath, that they would in piracy acquire money honourably, because they would exterminate the berserkir and the malignant, and give safety to the merchant (2). So others pursued piracy to deprive the plundering vikingr of the spoil they had torn from the husbandman and merchants (3). With the same character, Eric the Good is exhibited in the Knytlinga Saga (4).
By the laws of the pirate Hialmar, we see that they bound themselves to protect trade and agriculture, not to plunder women, nor to force them to their ships if unwilling, nor to eat raw flesh, which was the practice of the savage pirate (5).
On the whole, we may state, that after the tenth century piracy became discreditable; and that in every succeeding reign it approached nearer to its extinction, until it was completely superseded by the influence of commerce, the firmer establishment of legal governments, improved notions of morality, and the experience of the superior comforts of social order, industry, and peaceful pursuits.
Ethelred the Unready.
Ethelred succeeded on his brother's assassination ; but the action which procured his power was too
(1) See the Torsteins Saga, ap. Verclius. Herv. Saga, 47.
(2) Bua Saga, ap. Barth. 457.
(3) The Vatzdæla, ap. Barth. 458.
(4) Knytlinga Saga, ap. Barth. 452.
(5) Bartholin states these laws from the Orvar Oddr Sogu, p. 456.; and see the laws of the sea-king Half, another of this band of naval chivalry, in Bartho. 455. Saxo also describes another set of heroes, who, in the following age, fought against the common pirates, lib, xiv. p. 259.
atrocious to give all the effect to the policy of his adherents which had been projected. Dunstan retained his dignity, and at least his influence; for what nation could be so depraved as to patronise a woman, who, at her own gate, had caused her king and son-inlaw to be assassinated! In attempting to subvert Dunstan by such a deed, she failed. After no long interval, he excited the popular odium, and the terrors of guilt, so successfully against her, that she became overwhelmed with shame, and took shelter in a nunnery, and in building nunneries, from the public abhorrence.
The reign of Ethelred presents the history of a bad government, uncorrected by its unpopularity and calamities; and of a discontented nation preferring at last the yoke of an invader, whose visits its nobles either invited or encouraged. In the preceding reigns, from Alfred to Edgar, the Anglo-Saxon spirit was never agitated by danger, but it acted to triumph. By its exertions, a rich and powerful nation had been created, which might have continued to predominate in Europe with increasing honour and great national felicity. But within a few years after Ethelred's accession the pleasing prospect begins to fade. The tumultuary contests in the last reign between the monks and the clergy, and their respective supporters, had not had time to cease. Dunstan, acquiring the direction of the government under Ethelred, involved the throne again in the conflict, and the sovereign was placed at variance with the nobles and parochial clergy. The measures of the government were unsatisfactory to the nation. The chiefs became factious and disloyal, and the people discontented, till a foreign dynasty was at ⚫ last preferred to the legal native succession.
Ethelred was but ten years of age when he attained the crown. His amiable disposition gave tears of affection to his brother's memory; but Elfrida could not pardon a sensibility which looked like accusation, and might terminate in rebellion to her will, and in disappointment to her ambition. She seized a waxen candle which was near, and beat the terrified infant with a dreadful severity, which left him nearly expiring. The anguish of the blows never quitted his remembrance. It is affirmed, that during the remainder of his life he could not endure the presence of a light (1). Perhaps the irresolution, the pusillanimity, the yielding imbecility, which characterised him during his long reign, may have originated in the perpetual terror which the guardianship of such a mother, striving to break his temper into passive obedience to her will, on this and other occasions, wilfully produced.
As her power declined, the feelings of the nation expressed themselves more decidedly. The commander of Mercia, and Dunstan, attended by a great crowd, went to Wareham, removed the body of the deceased sovereign, and buried it with honour at Shaftesbury (2). Dunstan might now triumph: though his oppo(2) Flor. 362. Sax. Chron. 125.
(1) Malmsb. 62.
nents might equal him in daring, they were his inferiors in policy. After a flow of prosperity uninterrupted for nearly a century, England, in the full tide of its strength, was insulted by seven Danish ships, which plundered Southampton and Thanet. The same vikingr, in the next season, ravaged in Cornwall and Devonshire (1). In the year following, three ships molested the isle of Portland (2).
The re-appearance of the Northmen excited much conversation at the time (3). Another attempt of the same sort was made at Wecedport, where the English gained the field of battle, though Goda, the governor of Devonshire, and the brave Stenwold fell. In this year Dunstan died (4). He had enjoyed his power during the first ten years of Ethelred's reign, but the civil dissensions, which he appears to have begun and perpetuated, unnerved the strength of the country. The vices of the sovereign increased the evil.
Within three years afterwards, formidable invasions of the Danes began to occur. A large force, commanded by Justin and Gurthmund, attacked Ipswich (5). They advanced afterwards along an unguarded coast, or through an unguarded country, as far as Malden. Byrhtnoth, the governor of Essex, collected some forces to oppose them, but he was defeated and slain (6).
(4) Flor. Wig. 364. Sax. Chron. 126. MS. Chron. Tib. B. 1. and B. 4. merely addition of his attaining heaven. Siric was consecrated to his see. year was memorable for its diseases.
(1) Flor. Wig. 362. Sax. Chron. 125. Tib. B. 1. As Olave Tryggvason was at this time marauding on the English coast, and at last reached the Scilly isles, he may have been the sea-king who renewed the invasion of England.
(2) Flor. 363. Sim. Dun. 161.
(3) Malmsb. 62.
Dunstan died in the year 988. The mention his death, without the printed The preceding
(5) The printed chronicle leaves the place an imperfect blank. The MS. Tib. B. 1. and B. 4. have both Gypeswic; and see Flor. 364. The Ely Chronicle says, that at this time frequent irruptions of the Danish pirates occurred on different parts of the coast. It represents Byrhtnoth as defeating the first invader of Malden, but that another fleet, more numerous, came under Justin, and Guthmund the son of Stretan, to revenge the disaster. 3 Gale, p. 493.
(6) It is on this event that the narrative poem was composed which Hearne printed from a Cotton MS. since burnt, and of which Mr. W. Conybeare has published an English translation. As it seems to have been written soon after the events it narrates, it may be regarded as an historical document for both the manners and the incidents it describes. A few extracts will illustrate the character of Byrhtnoth as a favourable specimen of the Anglo-Saxon nobility. The herald of the vikingr first demanded tribute. The conduct and answer of the Saxon ealderman on this request is thus detailed :-"Byrhtnoth upraised his buckler, he shook his slender javelin; stern and resolute, he uttered his words, and gave him answer :'Hear, thou mariner! what this people sayeth. Instead of tribute, they will bestow on you their weapons, the edge of their spears, their ancient swords and arms of Herald of the men of ocean! deliver to thy people a message in return; a declaration of high indignation. Say, that an earl with his retainers here stands undaunted, who will defend this land, the domain of my sovereign Ethelred, his peeple and his territory; and the heathen shall perish in the conflict. I shall think