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He is discovered.
A soldier in the outer stations observed his movements, and knew him in his disguise. He did not betray him; but he hastened with the tidings to Athelstan. To a rebuke for not having seized him, he answered, "O king, the oath which I have lately taken to you, I once gave to Anlaf. If I had broken it to him, I might have been faithless to you; but deign to hear a servant's counsel, and remove your tent to another quarter." Athelstan thought the advice sagacious, and the royal residence was placed in a distant part. The bishop of Sherborne soon after arriving with his soldiers, was lodged in the plain which the king had quitted (1).
At night Adils and Hryngr embodied their forces, and marched on the Saxon camp. The bishop was the victim of the surprise (2). But Thorolf and Alfgeirr, who commanded in the district, roused their warriors, and supported the attack. Adils assaulted the division of Alfgeirr, and Hryngr directed himself to the allied vikingr.
Vanquished by the impetuosity of his assailant, Alfgeirr fled from the field, and eventually the country. Adils, flushed with his victory, turned on the others. Thorolf directed his colleague, Egils, to meet him; he exhorted his troops to stand close, and if overpowered to retreat to the wood. Egils obeyed, though with a force inferior.
The battle became warm. Thorolf fought against Hryngr with all that fury of valour, which was the pride of the day; he threw his shield behind him, and, grasping his huge weapon with both hands (3), he prostrated the enemies with an irresistible strength. He forced his way at last to the standard of his adversary; he reached and killed him. His success animated his followers, and Adils, mourning the death of Hryngr, gave way, and the combat discontinued (4).
Athelstan, hearing of this affair, united, and arranged all his forces for a decisive engagement; Anlaf did the same. A night of rest preceded the awful conflict. Athelstan formed his array of battle. In the front he placed his bravest
The main battle.
(1) Malmsb. 48. and 218.
(2) Ingulf, 37. Malmsb. 48. 248. (3) The sword wielded with both hands was used by the ancient natives of the Hebrides. They called it the glaymore, the great sword. See Boswell's Tour, p. 210. 230. It was a weapon of most barbarous nations. One was sold in London this year, 1827, which had been used in Italy in Bourbon's army about the year 1526.
(4) Egil's Saga, 44, 45. I do not give the whole detail of the Saga; I select the circumstances which are most entitled to notice, and which harmonise best with the Saxon descriptions. No two nations describe the same particulars of a battle, although the narration of each is intended to be authentic. A great battle is composed of a multiplicity of incidents. Individuals, in different stations of the field, police different circumstances. The Saga is minute about the part where Thorolf and Egils fought, The Saxons neglect these warriors, to record their Turketul and Athelstan, This la natural and allowable, perhaps inevitable,
troops, with Egils at their head. He let Thorold head his own band, with an addition of Anglo-Saxons, to oppose the irregular Irish, who always flew from point to point; no where steady, yet often injuring the unguarded (1). The warriors of Mercia and London, who were conducted by the valiant Turketul, the chancellor of the kingdom, he directed to oppose themselves to the national force of Constantine. He chose his own West-Saxons to endure the struggle with Anlaf, his competitor (2). Anlaf, observing his disposition, in part imitated it. He obeyed the impulse of his hopes and his courage, and placed himself against Athelstan. One of his wings stretched to the wood against the battalia of Thorolf; it was very numerous, and consisted of the disorderly Irish (3). It was the conflict of Alfred's grandson with the great-grandson of Ragnar Lodbrog, whose children had dethroned for a time our most celebrated Anglo-Saxon king.
Brunanburh (4) was the scene of action; and Thorolf Brunanburh. began the battle he loved; he rushed forward to the wood, hoping to turn the enemy's flank; his courage was too impetuous and indiscriminate; his eagerness for the fray impelled him beyond his companions. Both were pressing fiercely and blindly onward, when Adils darted from his ambush in the wood, and destroyed Thorolf and his foremost friends. Egils heard the outcries of alarm; he looked to that quarter, and saw the banner of Thorolf retreating. Satisfied from this circumstance that Thorolf was not with it, he flew to the spot, encouraged his party, and renewed the battle. Adils fell in the struggle (5).
At this crisis, while the conflict was raging with all the obstinacy of determined patriotism and courageous ambition; when missile weapons had been mutually abandoned; when foot was planted against foot, shield forced against shield, and manual vigour was exerted with every energy of destruction; when chiefs and vassals were perishing in the all-levelling confusion of war (6), and the numbers cut down were fiercely supplied with new crowds of (1) Egil's Saga, 46, 47. (3) Egil's Saga, 47. (4) It is singular that the position of this famous battle is not ascertained. The Saxon song says, it was at Brunanburh; Ethelwerd, a contemporary, names the place Brunandune; Simeon of Durham, Weondune or Ethrunnanwerch, or Brunnan byrge; Malmsbury, Brunsford; Ingulf says, Brunford in Northumbria. These, of course, imply the same place; but where was it? Camden thought it was at Ford, near Bromeridge, in Northumberland. Gibson mentions, that in Cheshire there is a place called Brunburh. I observe that the Villare mentions a Brunton in Northumberland.
(2) Ingulf, 37.
(5) Egil's Saga, 48, 49. In a MS. in the British Museum, Galba, A. 14., the prayer of Athelstan before the battle of Brunanburh is preserved. It begins, "Ela, thu Thrihhen! Ela, thu Elmightiga God! Ela, Cing ealra Cyninga, and Hlaford ealra waldendra! On thaes mihta wunath æle sige, and æle gewin peonth to bryt," etc. "O thou Supreme Governor! O thou Almighty God! O King of all kings, and Lord of all rulers! All victory dwelleth in thy power, and every battle happeneth according to thy governance," etc.
(6) Cessantibus cito ferentariis armis, pede pcs, et cuspide cuspis umboque
warriors hastening to become victims, the chancellor Turketul made an attack which influenced the fortune of the day. He selected from the combatants some citizens of London, on whose veteran valour he could rely to these he added the men of Worcestershire, and their leader, who is called the magnanimous Singin. He formed those chosen troops into a firm and compact body, and placing his vast muscular figure at their head, he chose a peculiar quarter of attack, and rushed impetuously on his prey.
The hostile ranks fell before him. He pierced the circle of the Picts and the Orkneymen, and, heedless of the wood of arrows and spears which fastened in his armour, he even penetrated to the Cumbrians and the Scots. He beheld Constantine, the king of the Grampian hills, and he pressed forward to assail him. Constantine was too brave to decline his daring adversary. The assault fell first upon his son, who was unhorsed; with renovated fury the battle then began to rage. Every heart beat vehement; every arm was impatient to rescue or to take the prince. The Scots, with noble loyalty, precipitated themselves on the Saxons, to preserve their leader. Turketul would not forego the expected prize. Such, however, was the fury of his assailants, so many weapons surrounded the Saxon chancellor, that his life began to be endangered, and he repented of his daring. He was nearly oppressed; the prince was just released; when Singin, with an unpitying blow at the royal youth, terminated his contested life. New courage rushed into the bosoms of the Saxons on this event. Grief and panic as suddenly overwhelmed their enemies. The Scots in consternation withdrew, and Turketul triumphed in his hard-earned victory (1).
Athelstan and his brother Edmund (2) were, during these events, engaged with Anlaf. In the hottest season of the conflict, the sword of Athelstan broke at the handle, while his enemies were pressing fiercely upon him. He was speedily supplied with another (3), and the conflict continued to be balanced.
After the battle had long raged, Egils and Turketul, pursuing the retreating Scots, charged suddenly upon Anlaf's rear. It was then that his determined bands began to be shaken (4); slaughter thinned their ranks; many fled, and the assailants cried out
umbone pellebatur. Cæsi multi mortales, confusaque cadavera regum et pauperum corruebant. Ingulf, 37.
(1) Ingulf, 37. Malmsbury and Ingulf, and the Welsh Chronicle, Cleop. A. 5. (y llas brenhin yr yscottieit) assert, that Constantine fell; but I think the Saxon poem a better, because a contemporary evidence, that it was his son that perished. This says of Constantine, and his sunu forlet on wæl stole, pundum forgrunden geonge æt guthe, p. 113. The Scottish history confirms the escape of Constantine.
(2) The Saxon song attests the presence of Edmund in the battle, p. 112. (3) This incident was thought of consequence enough to be dignified by a miracle, which the prayers of Odo produced. See his life by Osberne; and see Bromton, p. 839. 863. (4) Egilli Saga, 49.
"Victory!" Athelstan exhorted his men to profit by the auspicious moment. He commanded his banner to be carried into the midst of the enemy. He made a deep impression on their front, and a general ruin followed. The soldiers of Anlaf fled on every side, and their pursuers filled the plain with their bodies (1).
Thus terminated this dangerous and important conflict. Its successful issue was of such consequence, that it raised Athelstan to a most venerated dignity in the eyes of all Europe. The kings of the Continent sought his friendship (2), and England began to assume a majestic port amid the other nations of the West. Among the Anglo-Saxons it excited such rejoicings, that not only their poets aspired to commemorate it, but the songs were so popular, that one of them is inserted in the Saxon Chronicle, as the best memorial of the event (3).
It celebrates both Athelstan and Edmurd, the nobles, and the valour of the West Saxons and Mercians; it states the battle to have lasted from sun-rise to sun-set; it mentions the death of five kings; the flight of Anlaf, and the fall of seven of his earls; the flight of Froda; the retreat of Constantine, and the death of his son: it concludes with declaring, that the books of the old writers had never mentioned a greater slaughter in this island" since the Angles and the Saxons hither came from the East over the broad ocean, and sought Britain; when the illustrious war-smiths overcame the Welsh; when the earls, excelling in honour, obtained the country (4)."
Northumbria and Wales (5) fell into the power of monarch of En- Athelstan, by this victory. It effectually secured to him the throne of his ancestors; and the subjugation
(1) Egilli Saga, 50. Ingulf, 37.
(2) Hac itaque victoria per universam Christianitatem citius ventilata, desiderabant omnes reges terræ cum Athelstano rege amicitias facere et quocumque modo sacra fœdera pacis inire. Ingulf, 37. Ethelwerd, who ends his Chronicle with Eadgar, says, that to his day, it was popularly called the great battle, p. 848.
(3) Sax. Chron. p. 112-114. The song is so the MSS. Tib. B. 1. and B. 4., with frequent variations in orthograghy from the printed copy. The MS. B. 1. puts it to the year 937; and, among other readings, instead of and heora land, p. 113. l. 30., has eft Yraland. So the MS. B. 4., instead of bord-weal, p. 112. 1. 12., has hcord weal: for ealgodon, afterwards gealgoden, and many similar differences, which are worth collating, because in some instances, as in Yraland and heord weal, they improve the sense. Langbeck has published it, with notes, and with three versions, v. 2. p. 412. Henry of Huntingdon has inserted an ancient Latin version of it in his history, p. 354. Malmsbury has preserved a portion of another poem, written also on this occasion, p. 51, 52.
(4) Sax. Chron. 114. The ancient supplement to Snorre Sturleson says, " Angli hoc prælium unum censuerunt inter maxima et acerrima quæ unquam cum Normannis aut Danis commiserunt." 2 Langb. 419.
(5) Ac ef a ystyngawd ydaw holl brenhined Kymre ac aberys ydunt talu teyrnget ydaw megys y talawd brenhin Nortwei ydaw. Sef oed hynny try chant punt o ariant ac praent punt o cun a phymp mil gwarthec pob blwydyn. S. of British
of the Anglo-Danes was so decisive, that he has received the fame of being the founder of the English monarchy.
The claims of Egbert to this honour are unquestionably surreptitious. The competition can only be between Alfred and Athelstan. Our old chronicles vary on this subject: some denominate Alfred the first monarcha (1); some give it to Athelstan (2). The truth seems to be, that Alfred was the first monarch of the AngloSaxons, but Athelstan was the first monarch of England. The Danish sovereigns, to whose colonies Alfred chose or was compelled to yield Northumbria and East Anglia, divided the island with him; therefore, though he first reigned monarch over the AngloSaxons from the utter destruction of the octarchy, it was not until Athelstan completely subjugated the Anglo-Danish power, that the monarchy of England arose. After the battle of Brunanburh, Athelstan had no competitor: he was the immediate sovereign of all England. He was even nominal lord of Wales and Scotland.
The fame of Athelstan extended beyond the island he governed. His accomplishments, his talents, and his successes, interested Europe in his favour, and he received many proofs of the respect with which foreigners regarded him. He had connections with Bretagne, France, Germany, Norway, and Normandy; and from this period England began to lose its insular seclusion, and to be concerned with the current transactions of Europe.
When the Northmen who had settled in Normandy His connections overran Bretagne, the sovereign, Mathuedoi, es- with Bretagne. caped to England with his family. The Breton lords followed; and all who preferred honourable poverty to the loss of liberty swelled
History, Cleop. B. 5. "And he became possessed of all the kingdom of Wales, and it was made to pay a tribute to him like the payment of the king of Norway to him. This was 300 pounds of silver, and 100 pounds of wool, and 5000 cows every year." Caradoc gives this tribute somewhat different. He says, "20 pounds in gold, 300 in silver, and 200 head of cattle." Wynne, 48.
(1) Matt. West. 340. So the Chronicon de regibus Angliæ a Petro de Ickham. MS. Cotton. Lib. Domit. A. 3. Primus regum Anglorum super totam Angliam solus regnare cœpit. So the Chronicon Johannis de Taxton, ab initio mundi ad Ed. I. MS. Cotton, Julius, A. 1. Alfredus exinde regnum Anglorum solus omnium regum obtinuit. So Chronica Johannis de Oxenedes monachi S. Benedicti de Hulmo ab adventu Saxonum ad A. D. 1293. MS. Cotton, Nero, D. 2. ad regem Aluredum primum monarchum totius Angliæ.-So a MS. in the same volume, p. 243. Alurédus rex qui primus totum regnum Angliæ possedit. So the Chronicon Roffense, ib. p. 79. Iste Alfredus primus monarcha fuit regni Angliæ; and many others.
(2) Edgar, in one of his charters, says of Athelstan, "Qui primus regum Anglorum omnes nationes qui Britanniam incolunt sibi armis subegit." 1 Dugdale, Monast. 140.; and see Alured. Beverl. 110.; Sim. Dunelm, p. 18. and 24.; and Stubb's Acta Pont. Ebor. 1698. So the Compendium Hist. de Regibus, AngloSaxon MS. Cott. Domit. A. 8. p. 5. Athelstanus qui primus regum ex Anglis totius Britanniæ monarchiam habuit. So the Chronica of Tewkesbury, MS. Cleop. C. 3., and cited in Dugdale's Monasticon, vol. i. p. 154. has “Adelstani regis qui primus monarcha fuit." So the Historia Ramesiensis, 3 Gall. 387., calls him Æthelstani totius olim Angliæ basilei, Hermannus, who wrote 1070, says, Ædelstanus regnat Angliamque diu partitam solus sibi subjugat, MS. Tib. B. g. p, 22,