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of both sexes in several places; who having endured sundry torments, and their limbs torn after an unheard of manner, sent their souls by perfect combat to the joys of the heavenly city.
SONNET.-St. ALBAN. Wordsworth.
Lament! for Diocletian's fiery sword
9.—THE LAST ROMANS. BEDE.
From that time the south part of Britain, being left destitute of armed soldiers, of all sorts of martial stores, and of all its active youth, which being led away by the rashness of the tyrants, never returned home, was wholly exposed to rapine, as being totally ignorant of the use of weapons. At length, on a sudden it groaned and languished many years under two very savage foreign nations, the Scots from the west, and the Picts from the north. We call these foreign nations not for their being seated out of Britain, but because remote from that part of it, which was possessed by the Britons; two inlets of the sea lying betwixt them, one of which runs in far and broad into the lands of Britain, from the eastern ocean, and the other from the western, though they do not reach to touch one another. The eastern has in the midst of it the city Guidi. The western has on it, that is, on the right hand thereof, the city Alcluith, which in their language signifies the rock Cluith, for it is close by the river of that name. On account of the irruptions of these nations, the Britons sending messengers to Rome with letters in mournful manner, prayed for succours, and promised perpetual subjection, provided, that the impending enemy might be drove farther off. An armed legion was immediately sent them, which arriving in the island, and engaging the enemy, slew a great multitude of them, drove the rest out of the territories of the allies, and having delivered them from most cruel oppression, advised to build a wall between the two seas, across the island, that it might secure them, and keep off the enemy; and thus returned home with great triumph. The islanders, raising the wall they had been directed, not of stone, but sods, as having no artist capable of such a work, made it of no use. However they drew it for many miles between the two bays or inlets of the seas, we have spoken of ; to the end that where the defence of the water was wanting, they might defend their borders from the irruptions of the enemies, by the help of the rampart. Of which work there erected, that is, of a rampart of an extraordinary breadth and height, there are evident remains to be seen to this day. It begins at almost two miles distance from the monastery of AEbercuring (Abercuring) on the west, at the place in the Pictish language, called Peanfahel, but in the English tongue, Pennelture, and running to the eastward, ends by the city Alcluith. But the former enemies, when they perceived that the Roman soldiers were gone, immediately coming by sea, broke into the borders, bearing all down before them, and as if it had been ripe corn mowed, trampled and overrun all places. Hereupon messengers are again sent to Rome, imploring aid in mournful manner, lest their wretched country should be utterly extirpated, and the name of a Roman province so long renowned among them, being overthrown by the wickedness of foreign nations, might grow contemptible. A legion is sent again, which arriving unexpected in autumn, made great slaughter of the enemy, obliging all those that could escape to fly beyond the seas, whereas before, they were wont yearly to carry off their booty without any opposition. Then the Romans declared to the Britons, that they could not for the future undertake such troublesome expeditions for their sake, advising them rather to handle their weapons, and undertake the charge of engaging their enemies, who would not prove more powerful than themselves, unless they were dejected with cowardice; and in regard, that they thought it might be some help to their allies, whom they designed to abandon they built a strong stone wall from sea to sea in a straight line between the town that had been there built for fear of the enemy, and where Severus had cast up the trench. The which wall still famous, and to be seen, they built at the public and private expense, being assisted by a number of Britons, eight foot in breadth and twelve in height, in a straight line from east to west, as is still visible to the beholders. That being finished they gave that dispirited people notable advice, with patterns to furnish them with arms. Besides they built towers on the sea coast to the southward, at proper distances, where their ships were, because there also the irruptions of the barbarians were apprehended, and so took leave of their friends, as never to return again. They being gone home, the Scots and Picts, understanding that they had declared they would come no more, speedily returned, and growing more confident than they had been before, secured to themselves all the northern and farthest part of the island, as far as the wall. Hereupon a timorous guard was placed upon the top of the wall, where they pined away day and night with fearful hearts. On the other side the enemy plied them with hooked weapons, by which the cowardly defendants being miserably dragged off the wall, were dashed against the ground. In short, forsaking their cities and wall, they fled, and were dispersed. The enemy pursues, the slaughter increases, more cruel than all the former; for the wretched natives were torn in pieces by their enemies, as lambs are by wild beasts. Thus being expelled their dwellings and small possessions, they supplied their imminent danger of famishing, by robbing and plundering one another, adding to their calamities occasioned by foreigners by their domestic broils, till the whole country was left destitute of all sorts of food except the support of wild beasts.
10.-SILCHESTER. C. KNIGHT. (From “Old England.”)
In 1837 a plan was exhibited to the Society of Antiquaries, reduced from a survey made in 1835, by students of the senior department of the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, of a portion of the Roman road from London to Bath. The survey commences close by Staines; at which place, near the pillar which marks the extent of the jurisdiction of the city of London, the line of road is held to have crossed the Thames. Below Staines, opposite to Laleham, there are the remains of encampments, and these again are in the immediate neighbourhood of the ford at which Caesar crossed the Thames. All the country here about, then, is full of associations with the conquerors of the world; and thus, when the “contemplative man” is throwing his fly or watching his float in the gentle waters between Staines and Walton, he may here find a local theme upon which his reveries may fruitfully rest. The more active pedestrian may follow this Roman road, thus recently mapped out, through populous places and wild solitudes, into a country little traversed in modern times; but, like all unhackneyed ways, full of interest to the lover of nature. The survey has gone far to establish two disputed points, the situation of the Roman Pontes, and whether Silchester should be identified with Windonum or Calleva. A very able correspondent of the Society of Antiquaries, Mr. Kempe, thus observes upon the value of the labours of the students of the Military College:—“The survey has effected a material correction of Horsley, for it shows that the station Pontes, which he places at Old Windsor, and for which so many different places have been assigned by the learned in Roman topography, must have been where the Roman road from London crosses the Thames at Staines. - - - - The line of road presents no place for the chief city of the Attrebates until it arrives at the walls of Silchester. Is this, then, really the Calleva Attrebatum ? The distance between Pontes and Calleva, according to the Itinerary [of Antoninus], is twenty-two miles; by the Survey, the distance between Staines and Silchester is twenty-six; a conformity as near as can be required, for neither the length of the Roman mile nor the mode of measuring it agreed precisely with ours.” The tourist may reach Silchester by an easier route than over the straight line of the Roman Highway. It is about seven miles from Basingstoke, and ten from Reading ; to either of which places he may move rapidly from London, by the South-Western or the Great Western Railway. If we have walked dreamingly along the narrow lanes whose hedge-rows shut out any distant prospect, we may be under the eastern walls of Silchester before we are aware that any remarkable object is in our neighbourhood. We see at length a church, and we ascend a pretty steep bank to reach the churchyard. The churchyard wall is something very different from ordinary walls, a thick mass of mortar and stone, through which a way seems to have been forced to give room for the little gates that admit us to the region of grassy graves. A quiet spot is this churchyard; and we wonder where the tenants of the sod have come from. There is one sole farm-house near the church; an ancient farm-house with gabled roofs that tell of old days of comfort and hospitality. The church, too, is a building of interest, because of some antiquity; and there are in the churchyard two very ancient Christian tombstones of chivalrous times, when the sword, strange contradiction, was an emblem of the cross. But these are modern things compared with the remains of which we are in search. We pass through the churchyard into an open space, where the farmer's ricks tell of the abundance of recent cultivation. These may call to our mind the story which Camden has told:—“On the ground whereon this city was built (I speak in Nennius's words) the emperor Constantius sowed three grains of corn, that no person inhabiting there might ever be poor.” We look around, and we ask the busy thatchers of the ricks where are the old walls; for we can see nothing but extensive corn-fields, bounded by a somewhat higher bank than ordinary, that bank luxuriant with oak, and ash, and springing underwood. The farm labourers know what we are in search of, and they ask us if we want to buy any coins—for whenever the heavy rains fall they find coins— and they have coins, as they have been told, of Romulus and Remus, and this was a great place a long while ago. It is a tribute to the greatness of the place that to whomsoever we spoke of these walls, and the area within the walls, they called it the city. Hele was a city, of one church and one farm-house. The people who went to that church lived a mile or two off in their scattered hamlets. Silence reigned in that city. The ploughs and spades of successive generations had gone over its ruins ; but its memory still lived in tradition ; it was an object to be venerated. There was something mysterious about this area of a hundred acres, that rendered it very different to the ploughman's eye from a common hundred acres. Put the plough as deep as he would, manure the land with every care of the unfertile spots, the crop was not like other crops. He knew not that old Leland, three hundred years ago, had written, “There is one strange thing seen there, that in certain parts of the ground within the walls the corn is marvellous fair to the eye, and, ready to show perfecture, it decayeth.” He knew not that a hundred years afterwards another antiquary had written, “The inhabitants of the place told me it had been a constant observation amongst them, that though the soil here is fat and fertile, yet in a sort of baulks that cross one another the corn never grows so thick as in other parts of the field” (Camden). He knew from his own experience, and that was enough, that when the crop came up there were lines and cross lines from one side of the whole area within the walls to the other side, which seemed to tell that where the lines ran the corn would not freely grow. The lines were mapped out about the year 1745. The map is in the King's Library in the British Museum. There can be no doubt that the country-people of Camden's time were right with regard to these “baulks that cross one another.” He says, “Along these they believe the streets of the old city to have run.” Camden tells us further of the country-people, “They very frequently dig up British [Roman] tiles, and great plenty of Roman coins, which they call Onion pennies, from one Onion, whom they foolishly fancy to have been a giant, and an inhabitant of this city.” Speaking of the area within the walls, he says, “By the rubbish and ruins the earth is grown so high, that I could scarcely thrust myself through a passage which they call Onion's Hole, though J stooped very low.” The fancy of the foolish people about a giant has been borne out by matters of which Camden makes no mention. “Nennius ascribes the foundation of Silchester to Constantius, the son of Constantine the Great. Whatever improvements he might have made in its buildings or defences, I cannot but think it had a much earlier origin: as the chief fastness or forest stronghold of the Segontiaci, it probably existed at the time of Caesar's expedition into Britain. The anonymous geographer of Ravenna gives it a name which I have not yet noticed, Ard-oneon; this is a pure British compound, and may be read Ardal-Onion, the region of Einion, or Onion” (“Archaeologia,” 1837). It is thus here, as in many other cases, that when learning, despising tradition and common opinion, runs its own little circle, it returns to the point from which it set out, and being inclined to break its bounds, finds the foolish fancies which it has despised not always unsafe, and certainly not uninteresting, guides through a more varied region. By a broader way than Onion's Hole we will get without the walls of Silchester. There is a pretty direct line of road through the farm, from east to west, which nearly follows the course of one of the old streets. Descending the broken bank, we are under the south-western wall. As we advance in a northerly direction, the walls become more distinctly associated with the whole character of the scene. Cultivation here has not changed the aspect which this solitary place has worn for centuries. We are in a broad glade, sloping down to a ditch or little rivulet, with a bold bank on the outer side. We are in the fosse of the city, with an interval of some fifty or sixty feet between the walls and the vallum. The grass of this glade is of the rankest luxuriance. The walls, sometimes entirely hidden by bramble and ivy, sometimes bare, and exhibiting their peculiar construction,-, m-times fallen in great masses, forced down by the roots of mighty trees, which have shared the ruin that they precipitated,—sometimes with a gnarled oak actually growing out of their tops, present such a combination of picturesqueness as no pencil can reach, because it can only deal with fragments of the great mass. The desolation of the place is the most impressive thing that ever smote our minds with a new emotion. We seem alone in the world; we are here amidst the wrecks of ages; tribes whose names and localities are luatters of controversy, have lived here before the Romans, for the Romans did not form their cities upon such a plan. The Romans have come here, and have mixed with the native people. Inscriptions have been found here: one dedicated to the Hercules of the Segontiaci, showing that this place was the Caer Segont of the Britons; another in honour of Julia Domna, the second wife of the Emperor Severus. Splendid baths have been dug up within the walls; there are the distinct remains of a forum and a temple. In one spot so much coin has been found, that the place goes by the name of Silver Hill. The city was the third of British towns in extent. There is an amphitheatre still existing on the north-eastern side of the wall, which tells us that here the amusements of ancient Rome were exhibited to the people. History records that here the Roman soldiers forced the imperial purple upon Constantine, the rival of Honorius. The monkish chroniclers report that in this city was King Arthur inaugurated. And here, in the nineteenth century, in a country thickly populated, —more abundant in riches, fuller of energy than at any other period, intersected with roads in all directions,—lies this Silchester, which once had its direct communications with London, with Winchester, with Old Sarum, the capital doubtless of a great district, here it lies, its houses and its temples probably destroyed by man, but its walls only slowly yielding to that power of vegetable nature which works as surely for destruction as the fire and sword, and topples down in the course of centuries what man has presumed to build for unlimited duration, neglected, unknown, almost a solitary place amidst thick woods and bare heaths. It is an ingenious theory which derives the supposed Roman name of this place from the great characteristic of it which still remains: “The term Galleva, or Calleva, of the Roman Itineraries, appears to have had the same source, and was but a softened form of the British Gual Vawr, or the Great Wall; both names had their root perhaps in the Greek xàAo (silex), whence also the French Caillon (a pebble). Sile-chester or Silchester is therefore but a Saxonizing, to use the term, of Silicis Castrum, the Fortress of the Flint or Wall, by the easy metonymy which I have shown.” (“Archaeologia,’ 1837.) The striking characteristic of Gilchester is the ruined wall, with the flourishing trees upon it and around it, aid the old trees that have grown up centuries ago, and are now perishing with it. This is the poetry of the place, and the old topographers felt it after their homest fashion. Leland says, “On that wall grow some oaks of ten cart-load the piece.” Camden says, “The walls remain in good measure entire, only with some few gaps in those places where the gates have been ; and out of those walls there grow oaks of such a vast bigness incorporated as it were with the stones, and their roots and boughs are spread so far around, that they raise admiration in all who behold them.”
“High towns, fair temples, goodly theatres,
ye are fallen. Fire has consumed you; earth is heaped upon you; the sapling oak has sprung out of the ashes of your breathing statues and your votive urns, and