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abandoned. The same generation which fought under Charlemagne saw these marauders sail up the Loire, plunder the populous and opulent towns upon its banks, and carry off so much spoil, that they were compelled to liberate their prisoners from want of space in their vessels. Similar ravages were carried on along the whole line of coast, and upon the banks of all the principal rivers. Whilst the northern and western shores were thus laid waste by pirates, the Saracens on the southern, and the Thuringians on the eastern frontiers, were not slow in the work of spoliation and revenge. Thirty years after the death of Charlemagne, Ragnar Lodbrog sailed up the Seine, seized and plundered Paris without any attempt at resistance, and having, laden his barks with spoil, was induced to evacuate the city by a ransom of seven thousand pounds' weight of silver. To complete this picture of disgrace and ruin, it only remains to be added, that a Frank army marched past a detachment of the Northmen, who were ravaging the very heart of their country, without making any attempt to check them, from their eagerness to attack another party of their own countrymen in the neighbourhood; so that the invaders plundered the district
whilst the two armies were fighting each other. * Only fifty years had elapsed since
* If the Norman chroniclers are to be credited, when Charles the Simple, a few years later ceded Neustria (now Normandy) to them, they were required to do homage for it. Rollo would only consent to do homage by deputy. The grim warrior, who was summoned from the ranks for this purpose,
Charlemagne, at the zenith of his glory and power, had renewed the western empire ; severål warriors, who had followed him to Rome, and who had assisted at his coronation, yet lived. They had, doubtless, thought to see the foundation laid of the most powerful of monarchies ; they saw all the strength of that monarchy annihilated without a struggle, all its frontiers invaded, all its treasures dissipated. There did not remain in the vast compass of the western empire, a single town that was secure against the attack of brigands and pirates. Paris had been taken by the Normans. Aix la Chapelle was taken the following year ; the suburbs of Rome had been burned by the Saracens. All the other large towns had been in turn ravaged by the barbarians. In the course of a single generation, a great people had disappeared. Thus deceitful and transient is the greatness acquired by arms." Before five generations had passed away, so completely had the integrity of the empire been destroyed, that it was split up into more than fifty distinct and independent principalities—the strife of races had begun anew-unrestrained anarchy again ran riot over Europe—darkness once more covered the earth and
darkness the people.
Many historians, misled (as we think) by
instead of stooping to kiss the king's foot, tried to raise it to his mouth. In doing so, he threw the poor monarch npon his back, and then retired amid the undisguised merriment of his comrades. * Sismondi's France under the Carlovingians, chap. viii.
- He was,
these appearances, have hence concluded that Charlemagne accomplished nothing permanent --that he
was but as a flash of midnight lightning which gleams from the darkness, illumines the horizon for a moment, and then is swallowed up by the darkness again, leaving no trace behind.
- For a time," says one, reign of Charlemagne acted like oil upon the waters ; but the day which God gave him passed by and all was storm again ; he came as à sunbeam in a dark day, as a meteor in the tempest, dazzling and wonderful but shedding no permanent or abiding light.” says another, "a torch, flung into the dark tempestuous abyss, soon to be extinguished and leaving no trace upon the gloom which for the moment it dispelled." These rhetorical common-places are very apt to lead us astray. Never are we so likely to be betrayed into error, as when we base our arguments upon a metaphor. The view of the case taken by these writers, seems at best to be a partial and defective one. No era, no generation, is so unconnected with what precedes and what follows it, as these figures suggest, and these arguments
There are no episodes in history. All great epochs, parenthetic as they may appear, are yet indissolubly connected with what went before, and with that which succeeds them. Each generation is a link in the great chain of history. The course of events forms one connected whole, guided onward to some grand, and, as yet, unseen issues, by “the Prince of the
kings of the earth." Whilst it must be admitted, that very
much of the system we have been tracing out did perish with its founder, it did not and could not all pass away. In the few lines which yet remain, we shall point out what was really permanent, and what was only temporary, in the influence exerted by Charlemagne upon his contemporaries.
1. He formed the point of transition from barbarism to feudalism. There was strife and insubordination in the era which succeeded his reign, as well as in that which preceded it, and scarcely less violent and intense ; but it was altogether different in character. That of the former age sprang from the wild and uncontrollable impulses of barbarous hordes, who had no home, no country, who spurned all restraint and cared only for plunder. The violence of the subsequent age was that of the same races when they had been compelled to settle down within their own limits, when they had acquired something of a territorial nationality, and had organized feudal institutions. It would be altogether out of place here to discuss the nature or the merits of feudalism, beyond the remark, that it was a step in advance-a step necessary to be taken in the passage of Europe from the wild anarchy which followed the downfall of the Roman empire, to the settled order and progressive civilization of modern times.
2. The intellectual activity which formed the distinguishing glory of the reign of Charlemagne, did not pass away without leaving
results behind it. The preceding period had been one of utter darkness and stagnation. From the death of Boethius to the birth of Bede there is scarcely a single name recorded which we can mention with respect. The page of history is but the dull monotonous record of barbarous invasions narrated by barbarous chroniclers. But with the reign of Charlemagne there was a sudden outburst of intellectual life and activity. The torpor and inaction were at an end. So quick and complete was the change, that it can be compared only to the sudden bursting forth of an Arctic summer, which, in a few days, clothes the frozen barren soil with verdure and flowers. But was not the mental activity of this reign also like the arctic summer, in the brevity of its continuance as well as in the suddenness of its outburst ? Was it not a forced and unnatural vigour, soon to relapse into sterility again? This may have been the case to some extent ; but still, during that brief period, germs and seeds were deposited which did not die; which lay torpid for a time, but which in due season sprang up and bore abundant fruit.
We can trace the influence of that revival of learning downward throughout the middle ages ; sometimes latent, sometimes manifest ; sometimes as seed below the soil; sometimes as fruits and flowers above it ; but yet continuously existing and operating to the great era of revival in the fifteenth century, when the human mind, freed from the fetters which Rome had imposed