Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

The foe they crushed, The Scottish people and the shipmen fated fell. The field “daeniede' with warriors blood, since the sun up at morning tide, mighty planet, glided o'er grounds, God's candle bright, the eternal Soul's, till the noble creature sank to her settle. There lay many a warrior by javelins strewed; Northern man over shield shot ; so the Scots eke, weary, war-sad. West-Saxons onwards throughout the day, in bands, pursued the footsteps of the loathed nations. They hewed the fugitives behind, amain, with swords mill-sharp. Mercians refused not the hard hand-plug to any heroes who with Aulaf, over the ocean, in the ship's bosom, this land sought fated to the fight. Five lay on the battle-stead, youthful kings, by swords in slumber laid: so seven eke of Aulaf's eorls; of the army countless, shipmen and Scots. There was made flee the north-men's chieftain, by need constrained, to the ship's prow with a little band. The bark drove afloat: the king departed on the fallow flood,

his life preserved. So there eke the sage came by flight to his country north, Constantine, hoary warrior. He had no cause to exult in the communion of swords. Here was his kindred band of friends o'erthrown on the folk-stead, in battle slain; and his son he left on the slaughter-place, mangled with wounds, young in the fight: he had no cause to boast, beorn grizzly-haired, of the vile clashing, the old deceiver; nor Aulaf the more, with the remnant of their armies; they had no cause to laugh that they in war's works the better men were in the battle stead, at the conflict of banners, meeting of spears, concourse of men, traffic of weapons; that they on the slaughter fic!d with Eadward's offspring played. The north-men departed in their nailed barks; bloody relic of darts, on ‘dinges' ocean o'er the deep water Dublin to seek, again Ireland, shamed in mind. So to the brothers, both together, king and etheling, their country sought, West-Saxons' land, in the war exulting. They left behind them, the corse to devour, the sallowy ‘pada’ and the swart raven with horned neb,

and the dusky ‘pada,
erne white-tailed,
the corse to enjoy,
greedy war-hawk,
and the grey beast,
wolf of the wood.
Carnage greater has not been
in this island
ever yet
of people slain,
before this,
by edges of swords,
as books us say,
old writers,
since from the east hither
Angles and Saxons
came to land,
o'er the broad seas
Britain sought,
mighty war-smiths,
the Welsh o'ercame,
- eorls most bold,

this earth obtained.

22.-EDWIN THE FAIR. HENRY TAYLon.

[Mr. Taylor's Drama of “Edwin the Fair' is full of grace and power, seizing, we have no doubt, upon the great historical truths of that age. We give a scene, with an extract from the Preface.]

Mr. Turner's learned and elaborate work has done much to make the AngloSaxon times better known than they were formerly, and we have ceased to regard them as antecedent to the dawn of civilization amongst us, or as destitute of the spiritual and chivalric features by which in reality some of the subsequent centuries (though not those immediately subsequent) were less distinguished than they. Of the dark ages, in this country, the tenth century was hardly so dark as the fifteenth; and if the aspects of each could be distinctly traced, the civil wars of the Anglo-Saxons would probably excite a deeper interest than struggles such as those of the Houses of York and Lancaster, in which there was no religious and hardly any political principle at stake. Indeed though the three centuries which preceded the Conquest were on the whole less enlightened than the three which followed it, yet the Anglo-Saxon times furnish examples of both the Hero and the Scholar, which the Norman can hardly match ; and perhaps the real distinction between the periods is, that amongst the Anglo-Saxons, learning and ignorance, and rudeness and refinement, co-existed in stronger contrast.

But even when Anglo-Saxon history was less read and otherwise understood than it is now, some interest was always felt in the reign of Edwin the Fair. There was left to us little more than the outline of a tragic story; in some parts, indeed, even less—for here and there the outline itself is broken and wavering ; but the little that was known was romantic enough to have impressed itself upon the popular mind, and the tale of “Edwy and Elgiva' had been current in the nursery long before it came to be studied as an historical question.

Edwin's contemporaneous annalists, being Monks, were his natural enemies; and their enmity is sufficiently apparent in their writings. But notwithstanding all their efforts, and all the influence which the monastic orders undoubtedly possessed over the English populace of the tenth century, there is reason to think that the interest taken in Edwin's story may have dated from his own times. His name having been supplanted by its diminutive ‘Edwy, seems to indicate a sentiment of tenderness and pity as popularly connected with him from the first; and his surname of ‘The All-Fair’ (given him, says the Monk Ingulphus, “ pro nimić pulchritudine”), may be construed as a farther indication that the success of the monastic faction in decrying him with the people, was not so complete as the merely political events of his reign might lead us to suppose.

Whilst the details of his story are left, with one or two exceptions, to our imagination, the main course of the struggle in which he was engaged, represents in strong and vivid colours the spirit of the times. It was a spirit which exercises human nature in its highest faculties and deepest feelings—the spirit of religious enthusiasm; a spirit which never fails to produce great men and to give an impulse to the mind of a nation; but one which commonly passes into a spirit of ecclesiastic discord, and which cannot then be cast out without tearing the body. In the tenth century it vented itself in a war of religious opinion.

An apartment leading to an Oratory in the Royal residence at Sheen.

As the Scene opens, Edwin and Elgiva are discovered before the altar in the Oratory, and RicoLA, the King's Chaplain, is joining their hands. They all three then advance out of the Oratory to the front.

Ricola. So be ye one from this time forth for ever,
And God for ever be your gracious guide
In love and peace to live A hasty rite
Hath solemnized your nuptials; not the less
Beye observant of the sacred bonds
Wherein ye stand contracted for all time.
My sovereign Lord and Lady, ye are young,
And these are times and yours beyond compare
Stations of trial: be ye each to each
Helpful, and fullest of comfort, next to God.
And so, my blessing poured in tears upon you,
I bid you well to fare.

Edwin. My honoured friend,
We thank you for this service, one of many,
But of the many greatest. For awhile
Our secret kept, the Queen abides with you.
I must return to Kingston; but ere midnight
Once more you'll see me here. Farewell till then.
Shortly the Queen shall follow you. [Erit It cola.

Elgiva!

Oh, past expression beautiful and dear,
And now my own for ever! Let my soul
Be satisfied, for 'tis a joy so great
To know thee mine, that nature for my bound
Seems insufficient, and my spirit yearns
Intent with thee to pass from this pale earth

Into that rosy and celestial clime
Where life is ever thus.

Elgiva. How joy fulfilled
Makes the heart tremble! Now no change can come
That is not to be feared.

Re-enter RicoLA.

Ricola. My lord, my liege,
Forgive me—but I fear * * * * I'm old, my lord,
And shake at trifles, but I strangely fear
That mischief is afoot.

Edwin. At Kingston 7

Ricola. There,
And coming hitherward; the poor fool Grimbald
Came flying like the scud o' the storm before,
To warn you.

Edwin. And what saith he Call him in.

RicoLA goes to the door, and returns with GRIMBALD.

Edwin. Well, my good fool, and what hast thou to tell?
Grimbald.

There was grace after meat with a fist on the board,
And down went the morat, and out flew the sword.

Elgiva. Truce to thy calling for a while, good fool,
And tell us plainly what befell.

Grimbald. By the ears
The nobles went together; in the fray

* The Horse-Thane and the Dish-Thane were o'erborne

And sent to prison. Then I took to my heels
To bring you word.

Elgiva. Earl Athulf? Where is he?

Grimbald. He stood against Harcather hand to hand
When I departed; but I know no more.

Enter the QUEEN MoTHER.

Queen Mother. So you are here, my son, and madam, you?
And is it for this you scurry from your place
Is it for this you quit your noble guests 7
Is it for this you vex the kingdom ? Yea,
To shedding of blood—for there has blood been shed—
For nought but this? Oh, fie! for dalliance—oh
And whilst you waste the hours in wantonness * * *

Edwin. Good mother, speak of what you know. Not here
Was either wantonness or waste of time.
You little think how little idly spent
Has been the hour that's gone.

Queen Mother. How spent? oh, son
But here come those can speak. So here they come !

Enter DUNSTAN and Odo, with two or three Thanes following, who are gradually augmented as the scene proceeds till the stage is filled with DUNSTAN's adherents.

Ricola. Wilt please you to withdraw

« ForrigeFortsett »