« PreviousContinue »
bodies of their dead friends as they might find. The noble ladies of the land also came, some to seek their husbands, and others their fathers, sons, or brothers. They bore the bodies to their villages, and interred them at the churches; and the clerks and priests of the country were ready, and at the request of their friends, took the bodies that were found, and prepared graves and laid them therein.
“King Harold was carried and buried at Varham; but I know not who it was that bore him thither, neither do I know who buried him. Many remained on the field and many had fled in the night.”
Such is a Norman account of the battle of Hastings, which does full justice to the valor of the Saxons as well as to the skill and bravery of the victors. It is indeed evident that the loss of the battle by the English was owing to the wound which Harold received in the afternoon, and which must have incapacitated him from effective command. When we remember that he had himself just won the battle of Stamford Bridge over Harald Hardrada by the maneuver of a feigned flight, it is impossible to suppose that he could be deceived by the same stratagem on the part of the Normans at Hastings. But his men, when deprived
, of his control, would very naturally be led by their inconsiderate ardor into the pursuit that proved so fatal to them. All the narratives of the battle, however much they vary as to the precise time and manner of Harold's fall, eulogize the generalship and the personal prowess which he displayed, until the fatal arrow struck him. The skill with which he had posted his army was proved both by the slaughter which it cost the Normans to force the position, and also by the desperate rally which some of the Saxons made after the battle in the forest in the rear, in which they cut off a large number of the pursuing Normans. This circumstance is particularly mentioned by William of Poictiers, the Conqueror's own chaplain. Indeed, if Harold, or either of his brothers, had survived, the remains of the English army might have formed again in the wood, and could at least have effected an orderly retreat, and prolonged the war. But both Gurth and Leofwine, and all the bravest thanes of Southern England lay dead on Senlac, around their fallen king and the fallen standard of their country. The exact number that perished on the Saxons' side is unknown; but we read that on the side of the victors, out of sixty thousand men who had been engaged, no less than a fourth perished. So well had the English billmen “plyed the ghastly blow,” and so sternly had the Saxon battle-ax cloven Norman's casque and mail. The old historian Daniel justly as well as forcibly remarks, “Thus was tried, by the great assize of God's judgment in battle, the right of power between the English and Norman nations; a battle the most memorable of all others; and, however miserably lost, yet most nobly fought on the part of England.”
Many a pathetic legend was told in after years respecting the discovery and the burial of the corpse of our last Saxon king. The main circumstances, though they seem to vary, are perhaps reconcilable. Two of the monks of Waltham Abbey, which Harold had founded a little time before his election to the throne, had accompanied him to the battle. On the morning after the slaughter, they begged and gained permission of the Conqueror to search for the body of their benefactor. The Norman soldiery and camp-followers had stripped and gashed the slain, and the two monks vainly strove to recognize from among the mutilated and gory heaps around them the features of their former king. They sent for Harold's mistress, Edith, surnamed “the Fair,” and “the swan-necked,” to aid them. The eye of love proved keener than the eye of gratitude, and the Saxon lady even in that Aceldama knew her Harold.
The king's mother now sought the victorious Norman, and begged the dead body of her son. But William at first answered in his wrath and the hardness of his heart, that a man who had been false to his word and his religion should have no other sepulchre than the sand of the shore. He added, , with a sneer, “Harold mounted guard on the coast while he was alive, he may continue his guard now he is dead.” The taunt was an unintentional eulogy; and a grave washed by the spray of the Sussex waves would have been the noblest burialplace for the martyr of Saxon freedom. But Harold's mother was urgent in her lamentations and her prayers; the Conqueror relented: like Achilles, he gave up the dead body of his fallen foe to a parent's supplications, and the remains of King Harold were deposited with regal honors in Waltham Abbey.
On Christmas day in the same year William the Conqueror was crowned at London King of England.
SIR ROGER DE COVERLEY
By Joseph Addison
The Spectator was published first in March, 1711. It appeared daily, and each number was a complete essay dealing with social topics or others of public concern. In no respect did it resemble the modern newspaper except, perhaps, in that of printing a few advertisements, but these were never obtrusive. It might more properly be called a daily magazine, as we understand the term now. With one or two intermissions it was published regularly until 635 numbers had appeared. It contained the choicest and best of the work of Joseph Addison, and much of that of Sir Richard Steele, who was his co-worker. The Spectator was published before the modern novel had an existence, and persistent reappearance of the lightly sketched characters voicing their personal sentiments gave to the publication almost the character of a continued story.
This incomparable series of essays on an almost endless variety of topics was always the advocate of right, and was as unsparing in its ridicule of vice as it was earnest in its pleas for virtue. The style was light and gay enough to attract the frivolous, and a deep vein of philosophy that pleased the thoughtful readers ran through every number. The Spectator at once became popular and was a welcome morning visitor at the breakfast table of the wealthy and refined and a daily subject of discussion at the coffee-houses where were gathered the wits and the men of leisure of that brilliant period.
Addison introduced a series of characters who met in a club and under various other conditions, to converse on a great variety of topics. There was a Captain Sentry who stood for the army; Will Honeycomb gave the laws relating to the social world; commercial interests were represented by Sir Andrew Freeport; but the very choicest character of all, the one which was drawn with the most skill and care and which stands to-day as a representation of the best that fiction can do, was Sir Roger de Coverley. He appears in about forty numbers and was manifestly the favorite of Addison. It is said that he made Steele promise not to meddle with the character, and when it was finally decided to discontinue the Spectator, Addison remarked, “By heavens! I'll kill Sir Roger that nobody else may murder him!”
The first description of Sir Roger, probably drawn by Steele, is found in the second paper and is as follows:
“The first of our society is a gentleman of Worcestershire, of ancient descent, a baronet, his name Sir Roger de Coverley. His great-grandfather was inventor of that famous country-dance which is called after him. All who know that shire are very well acquainted with the parts and merits of Sir Roger. He is a gentleman that is very singular in his behavior, but his singularities proceed from his good sense, and are contradictions to the manners of the world only as he thinks the world is in the wrong. However, this humor creates him no enemies, for he does nothing with sourness or obstinacy; and his