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NATIVE ENGLISH

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NATIVE ENGLISH

It becomes us to know something of that sturdy race who could reach down through the centuries and become the linguistic ancestors of the mighty English-speaking peoples of the modern world.

On the frontier of the old Roman Empire, as it sank to decay, glimpses appear of some Germanic tribes too resolute to bow the knee to Cæsar, but too undisciplined to make head against imperial despotism, retiring before the Roman arms until they found refuge along the bleak shores of the North Sea from the Rhine to the Elbe, including the peninsula of Jutland, the modern Denmark. They were the elect of the oppressed, those who had held out because too inflexible to surrender and too fierce to be conquered, too vigorous to sink under all the hardships of sea and land. Their very existence was by fulfilment of the law of the "survival of the fittest.” As the land behind was closed to them, they took to the ocean and made it their home and their highway. Every man's hand being against them, they set their rude, rough hands against every man, and became the most daring and ferocious of pirates. Their long, black, flat-bottomed galleys, capable of being run into any river or inlet, drawn up on any beach and pushed off at will by sturdy arms, speed

ing across the sea, with their broad sails supplemented by ranks of strong oarsmen,-not the chained galley-slaves of Rome, but every man a freeman and a warrior,—would suddenly appear off any defenseless coast; the crew, dropping the oars for sword and spear, would become an invading host of fighting men, sweep together what plunder could be swiftly gathered, and disappear across the waters before any organized force could be mustered to meet them.* A Roman poet, Geoffrey of Malaterra (Gaufridus à Malaterra), said of them: "They are foes fierce beyond any other foes, and cunning as they are fierce; the sea is their school of war, and the storm their friend; they are the seawolves that prey upon the pillage of the world.” The love of the sea and the instinct of battle were in all their veins. When Drake, centuries later, burst into the harbor of Cadiz, destroyed at its moorings the fleet that was gathering to subjugate England, and then sailed triumphantly away, he was but repeating on a larger scale a common exploit of his Anglo-Saxon sires.

* Chance has preserved for us in a Sleswick peat-bog one of the war-keels of these early pirates. The boat is flat-bottomed, seventy feet long and eight or nine feet wide, its sides of oak boards fastened with bark ropes and iron bolts. Fifty oars drove it over the waves with a freight of warriors whose arms, axes, swords, lances, and knives were found heaped together in its hold. Like the galleys of the Middle Ages such boats could only creep cautiously along from harbor to harbor in rough weather, but in smooth water their swiftness fitted them ad. mirably for the piracy by, which the men of these tribes were already making themselves dreaded. Its flat bottom enabled them to beach the yessel on any fitting coast; and a step on shore at once transformed the boatmen into a war-band. From the first the daring of the English race broke out in the secrecy and suddenness of the pirates? swoop, in the fierceness of their onset, in the careless glee with which they seized cither sword or oar.

GREEN, "History of the English People," vol. I, ch. 1, p. 30.

Rome, beginning with the invasion of Julius Cæsar, in 55-54 B. C., had conquered the southern half of the then savage island of Britain, stretched across it her imperial highways, the wonderful Roman roads, and given the people nearly three centuries of advancing civilization. Cities, towns, and churches had risen, and wealthy Romans had built there the elegant villas whose mosaics, artistic pottery, and floors of many-colored tile, are still found in the ancient ruins. Since the time of Constantine, Christianity had been the established and accepted religion of Britain, as of the Empire. But when, in 410 A. D., the Roman Empire, fighting for its life, withdrew its legions from Britain to defend the Eternal City itself against Alaric the Visigoth, the Britons were so beset by the Celtic tribes, then called Scots in Ireland and Picts in Scotland, that in desperation they summoned the pirates of the North Sea, whose terrible power they knew. These new allies, described as Jutes, from the peninsula of Jutland, included in the modern Denmark, landed in 449 A. D. on the island of Thanet, on the northeast corner of the modern county of Kent. They are said to have been under the command of two chieftains, Hengest or Hengist, and Horsa. The destructive critics, of course, regard these names as mythical. Fortunately this does not matter. The sea-rovers certainly came, and some leaders they must have had. They made short work of the Picts and Scots. But they learned the good

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