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England-Saxon Life


The earliest printed edition appeared in 1474. Another work of Bede was a Saxon translation of the Gospel of St. John.

The English displayed great skill as workers in metal, and in the illumination of manuscripts. Some of the latter that have come down to us are exquisite specimens of the perfection attained by the monks in the use of the pen, and the artistic arrangement of the gold, silver, and brilliant colors used in ornamenting books. A monk would spend months and years in patient work on one of these volumes, which were the pride and delight of those who owned them.

The women were wonderfully expert in weaving fine linen and embroidering tapestry, but the scarcity of volumes limited book education to the few. Hundreds of the foremost men and women in the kingdom were unable to write their names, and they knew literally nothing of the great world which extended beyond the narrow confines of their own land. You will bear in mind that not one of the thousands of modern conveniences was known to these people who lived much less than a thousand years ago.

The early Saxons built their houses, as a rule, along the ancient Roman roads, and two or three houses might form a "town," for each dwelling, surrounded as it was by a rampart of earth set with a dense hedge of sharp stakes, with a deep ditch beyond, was a "tun," which means a fence or other inclosure. The buildings were of wood with no chimneys, but with a hole in the roof through which the smoke reached the outer air. The dwellings of the lords were called "halls," because they were made up mostly of a large hall or room, where the occupants and guests ate, sat, and sometimes slept on their beds of straw or skins spread on the rough floor. The owners whose wealth permitted decorated their walls with brilliant tapestry, shields, and suits of armor hung upon wooden pegs. The master dined on a raised platform, while his followers ate at a table on the lower floor. The chambers for the master and his family were outside the hall, and sometimes there were upper chambers for guests. The Saxons loved to drink as much as they did to fight, and when the enormous meal was finished and the horns of ale were passing round, the minstrels would twang their harps and sing their songs of battle, of love, or of wild adventure.

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UKE WILLIAM of Normandy, overflowing with high spirits, was about to mount his horse to join his friends on a hunt, when a messenger rode up with the news of the death of King Edward in England, and the accession of Harold. Now William, you will remember, had been promised the kingdom. Instantly his face became a thundercloud. His companions were so frightened that they dared not speak to him for some minutes. But soon his tempestuous rage subsided, and he hurried off a demand to Harold that he should respect the promise made by the dead king. Harold's reply was an insulting refusal, and the indignant Duke resolved to "strike for his rights."

He knew what a stupendous task he had taken on his hands, and he neglected nothing in the way of preparation. He called his Norman barons round him, and promised large grants of land to all who would help him. Since most of the Normans were fond of fighting and adventure, and there was a promise of substantial rewards, they flocked in large numbers. to his banner. He hired soldiers from other nations, and spent the spring and summer in getting everything in readiness for his great campaign. Not meaning to neglect anything, he sent to the Pope asking his favor, and it came back with a consecrated banner which was to be carried by the army. Just as the sun was creeping up in the horizon on September 27, 1066, Duke William's fleet and transports sailed out into the Channel, his own vessel in the lead,

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