Polydore Vergil.

Polydore Vergil's English history, from an early translation preserved among the mss. of the old royal library in the British museum online

. (page 19 of 30)
Online LibraryPolydore VergilPolydore Vergil's English history, from an early translation preserved among the mss. of the old royal library in the British museum → online text (page 19 of 30)
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East Angles, weare of non accompt or valewe, but as thinges
which, thretened with mine, wold shortelie fall into handdes of
Westerne menn ; as indeade not longe after it chaunced, according
to the expectation of Egbertus, whoe as a man whoe thowghte
himme selfe all in all, partelie that bie the extinguishinge of
the Brittishe name his fame mighte eternallie bee engraved in
the region, partelie that all the people might have the use of one
onlie name, and one kinde of lawe, hee firste termed Brittaine
Englond, and the whole multitude Englishemenne, bie proclama*
tion streightlie enjoyning that it showlde soe continuallie endure.
After all these things, this wise prince, beinge nothinge the more
puffed with pride for so fortunate successe, (which is wonte easlie to
enhaunce menn's mindes,) was of equall clemencie, grace, liberalitee,
towards all degrees, and moste studius of peace and tranquillitee,
till in the lengthe the Danes did crewellie disturbe the godlie
quietnes of this contrie (for suche are humaine affaires that in
everie minute of an howre they are subjecte to sixe hundred casu-
altees). These menne, with a navie like pyrats abowte the sea,
and being driven to the shores of the Englishe ocean, thei tooke
the londe, and beeganne to season on botie ; which thinge beinge



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THE FIFTH BOOK. 193

once manifested^ the kinge assemblinge a fewe soldiers, (as it is
the guise in sodaine tumultes,) proceadeth to meate them as
rovers, and, finding them withoute all order, sette uppon them*
The fighte in the beeginning was more adverse and perilos to the
Ehiglishe menn ; yet the kinge urged his people, bothe with remem-
braunce to fighte stoutelie, and allso used the rehersall howe fowle
a shame it weare that they showlde be overcomme of theeves and
robbers, who hadd overthrowne divers kinges. In the meane sea-
son, the Danes perceavinge howe harde it was to resiste, and that
there was noe hope to werie their enemies, they lifted upp their
corage, and dubbelled their force, and, sleainge on all sides, thei
beesett Egbertus rownde abowt ; but the night drewe on, where-
fore the kinge, whoe was in great dispayre of his life, with a smalle
number fownde the meanes, with mutche to doo, to flie. The
Danes, albeit they understode them selves to bee superiors at that
presence, yeat, fearinge close embushements in a londe so abownd-
ing in hostilitee, they ceased to chase enie farther. The Westerne
kinge, beinge nothinge appalled with the detremente of that
nighte, wherin he hardelie escaped daunger of deathe, forasmuche
as divers remained unhurte at that conflicte, he gathered together
and refresshed the relliques of the disparckeled armie 5 and manie
beesides, heeriuge of this unluckie conflicte, armed themselves
forthe with, and voluntarilie drewe unto the kinge, wherfor, beinge
furnished with a sufficient bande, he browghte them forthe into
playne fielde, and geevinge them battayle againe, he putt them to
flight with oute enie great travaile, being allredie spentewith
foraine contencions. Somme of the Danes weare there slaynej
somm others escapinge to their shippes, didde adventure them-
selves to the windes. After this victorie Egbertus, whome the
sownde glorie of vertewe made coequall with the Godds, whoe in
moste ample wise hadde enlarged the seelie littell kingdom, which
at the firste hee receaved, didde departe owt of his mortall life the
xxxvij. yeare of his reigne, and the dcccxxxvij. of our Salvation.
Hee lefte behinde him his young sonne Ethelwolphus, whoe sue-

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194 HISTORY OF JBNQLAND.

ceaded htmme. His father^ well knowing how it beehoved a
prince (that would deserve commendation) to be stowte, righteous,
severe, grave, of haute courage, liberall and beneficent, did soe in-
structe him from a childe that righte well hee merited this prayse
and honour, whoe, moreover, was from the beginning addicted to
relligion, havinge the orders of a subdeacon; but shortlie after, bie
the authorite of Leo the Romayne busshop, hee was losed of that
bandde, and espoused a moste excellent virgin named Osburga.

Beefore wee proceade to write enie more of this mann, wee thincke
it convenient to write of the originall of the Danes, whoe, issueinge
owte of their contrie, somtimes like tlieves, bie wastinge of there
teritories, and overthrowe of howses, somtime bie the verie
rightes of warre, soe afflicted the Englishe nation that in conclu-
sion they obteyned a kingdom in the Ilonde, But more of thease
thinges in more convenient place. Now wee will make discourse
of the principles of this so feerce a nation.

The Oothes, a most cruell kinde of Germanians or Scithians, (for
in that poynct writers doe not agree emong them selves,) of auncient
authors weare otherwiles termed Getes, otherwhiles Danes. Emonge
the rest Strabo, in his vij^ booke of Geographic, asseverethe the
Danes to have a divers contrie from the Getes, and that the Danes
possessed places more adjoininge to the middell of the soyle land
bendinge towards Germanic, and nearer to the fownteines of the
river Ister, in antique yeares being cauUed Dawin ; but the Getes to
be more nerelie planted to the sea and east partes; wherfore the Getes
and Danes seeme to bee all one nation, and onlie to bee dissevered
in habitation, for as muche as according to his testimonie thei
bothe hadde the use of one language. These menne hadde peace
graunted them of Augustus, and weere prohibited in enie wise to
passe the river Danubius, or Dunoise, who, not longe after, break-
inge this inhibition, and ezceading the prescribed limits, of two
Romayne capitanes, first Oppius Sabinus, then in the time of Do-
mitian of Cornelius Fuscus, being sent to acquite that trespase,
weare, with all there garrisons, clerelie confounded and destroyed ;



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THE PIFTH BOOK. 195

after that the Emperour Trajanus drave them owt of the Romaine
bowndes into their owne costes^ with noe small scathe and afflic*
tion. Then Antonius, sumamed Caracalla, conductinge an armie
againste the Parthians, assayled of a sodaine and plagued the
Danes, for that thei semed not contented with enie kinde of tran-
quillitee; and in processe Gordianus the younger abated their
pride, while they endeyored noveltees and immutation. After this
there ensewed more troblesom tempestes with this generation of
vipers, for under the empire of Philippus, .whoe was the first
christened of the Romaine emperors, manie wilde contries^ trans-
gressing the Romaine prescriptes, didd tumultuushe annoye Thra*
cia and Lysia, at the which time, or at the least not longe after,
when as fatallitee drewe the pompe of the Romaine glorie towardes
the laste date, these dregges and abjection of all menne burste
forthe into all partes of the worlde in greate assembles ; for the
Gothes invaded Asia, having firste wasted Bithinia, with noe small
portion of Macedonia and Thracia. At the lengthe Claudius the
Seconde, Emperowre of Rome, browght allmoste to extremitee
these slavishe rovers in Misia, sleainge and apprehendinge three
thowsande of them. Tet weare they not greatlie quiet enie weare,
butt afterward stirring in commotion, in mayne fighte weare van-
quished of Aurelianus beeyonde Dunowe at the firste battayle.
Thus in fine the Gothes, beinge tormented with so manie over-
throwes, didd longe absteyne from bickering, till they weare con-
quered and put to flighte of the Hunnes, at suche time as the
Emperowre Valens obteined the govemement of the este partes.
This people, notwithstandinge at the first thei weare called Gothes,
yet, bie reason that of owlde historiens they weare som time
called Getes, som time Danes, it is not to be dowbted but that
the Getes and Danes weare the cheefest people which, under the
conduite of the Gothes, invaded the Romaine bowndes, under the
reigne of Philippus ; and, consequentlie, it is justlie thought that
they beinge beaten out of their owne possessions, while thei serched
newe places of abode, at the last rested in the Dorthe partes of



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196 HISTORY OF ENGLAND.

Germanie^ naming it Dacia^ or Denmarcke, accordinge to their
owne appellation. This parte beinge extended into the ocean^ like
a mannas arme, hathe the forme of Cheronesus, or of an halfe
lie. And, least the name of Getes and Danes shoulde bee dis-
severed from the Gothes, they are reported to have termed an
He in the ocean sea (not far from Denmarcke, lienge towardes
the sterre called the beare) bie there owlde name Gothia, which
peradventure other then presentlie or after thei possessed: soe
that as well this place as that same Cherronesus is inhabited of
them ; and, the olde name being cleane inveterate and exchaunged
ihroughe their dominion, it is called Dacia, or Denmarcke. Trulie
the Cumbrians, whome Caius Marius overcam longe since, with-
helde this londe, which allmost was never inhabited of one onlie
people, wherebie I suppose the auncient name to have perished,
for the old contrie of Dacia was neare unto the Pannonians, now
called Hungariens, and at this daye is termed Yalachia, bie reason
that the Danes, beinge expelled from thence to serche newe
places, the Romaine colonic was sente thether as planted in theire
roomes, for Valach in their speeche signifieth Italion. . Of theis
Yalachians there were two contrarie factions, that is to weete, bee-
tweene the people called Dragulae and the Danes ; but tlie Dragu-
lions beinge farre to weake for the Danes, within the remem-
braunce of our fathers, browghte in the Turckes into theier londe,
whoe hadde allmoste overrunne the Danes, but they weare re-
stored againe bie Ihon Huniades, the father of Matthias kinge of
the Pannonians, whoe delivered them from the Turckes to their
owne liberties and Christian name. Herebie wee maye easlie
discerne whoe are the right Danes, and that wee oughte not to
call them Danes which inhabite Cherronesus in Cimbria, con-
sideringe that they as yeat remaine in Yalachia, but rather those
whoe, being tossed and disturbed owt of their contrie, didd finallie
repaire in that forsayde peece of an Ilond ; which thinge, even bie
this example, may bee prooved, biecause that the lorde of that
region in his title and charters pronowncethe himselfe not Dano«



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THE FIFTH BOOK. 197

rum rex, but Dacorum, which thing noe doubt ministerethe error
to those that intermeddell with the histories of the borderers of
that ocean ; and, amonge all other, Saxo Grammaticus, a coronogra-
pher of the gestes of that nation, is especiallie deceaved, if the
booke which is sette forthe bee not mervayluslie fallse. Where-
fore, lest wee semblablie showlde wander in the same erroneus
shippe, I thowght not goodd in this point to foUowe suche authors.
But now more of our purpose. This fierce people, which now
borderethe on the Germian ocean, which in auncient years lived
beyonde the river Ister, beinge dayle more and more overcharged
with their owne multitude, soe longe with continuall warrs and
incursions persecuted the Englisshemenne ; for the ocean
makethe noe great distance betweene England and Denmarcke ;
that in conclusion they gatte the better handde. Let this com-
pendius brigement suffice as towchinge the originall of the Danes.
Now let us returne to Ethelwolphus. This moste redoubted
prince, (who was comparable to his father,) as one whome nature
did fabricate and bringe forthe as an image of humanitee and
justice, did regarde nothinge in the world so mutche as without
intermission to deserve well of his subjectes, allwaies preferring
suche unto administration as were juste and equall dealers : a great
peece of the occasion thereof weare Sainct Swithinus and Adel-
stanus, at that verie time menne of sincere livinge and grate wisdom,
and of the kinges preevie councell, bie the meense wherof eequitee
and tranquillitee flowrished echewhere, untill an huge number of
Danes departinge owte of their contrie wandered for prayes abowte
the Ilond, plaginge the inhabitants with a thowsand evels ; for re-
medie of the which injuries, the kinge was necessarilie driven to use
the ministerie of weapon, which naturallie hee abhorred, and often-
times sharpelie persecuted themme ; nevertheles, these wicked ras-
calls rinning hither and thether like the savage beaste, and exercising
crueltie towards all sorts and contries, didd especiallie depopulate
the fruitfiill province of Kent. Howbeit, finallie they weare driven
owte, laden with noe small store of bootie. The king, after bis



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198 HISTORT OF BNOLAKD.

deliverie owte of trouble, for devotion wente to Roome, wheare,
beinge jentelUe entreated of Leo the forthe bussboppe of that
name> hee made all that parte of the reallme tributarie to the see
of Rome which his father Egbertus had annexed to his native
inheritance, folowinge the example of Inas, as beefore we men-
cioned, and made a lawe that they whose possessions soever ad-
mounted to xxx^. or hadd divers bowses, they showlde paye a
pennie for everie one which they inhabited yearlie to the Romaine
busshop at the feaste of Sainct Peter and Powle, or at the utter-
most at Lammas, which lawe somme menn falselie do attribute to
his Sonne Alured; this was the yeare of our Lorde dcggxlvii.
He is reported to have re-edified a certaine schoole at Rome, which
was nearlie consumed with fier a littell before his cominge to the
cittie ; the same was firste of all erected bie Ofia kinge of the
Mercians ; but that schole at Rome, wherin onhe Englishemenn
sojomied in their studdies and litterature, I suppose to have stoode
even in that place wheare the hospitall dedicated to Sainct
Thomas consistethe, whereunto the Englishe people have accesse
and succoure. Kinge Ethelwolphus, after hee hadd made his
abode at Rome the greatest parte of the yeare, he reversed home-
warde, showinge him to all his not onlie a mercifuU prince, but
allao a verie patrone and father, referring all things to the sup-
portinge of honestie and mayntayninge of modestie. Hee beegat bie
his wife Osburga these sonnes, Ethelbaldus, Ethelbertus, Ethel-
redus, and Alfredus, or otherwise Aluredus, all yonge men of no
lease excellende in disposicion then comlines in beawtie, whome
hee procured to bee fostered in good arts, yeat nothinge he more
endevored then that they showlde beecom bownteus and large in
geevinge ; for this most prudent prince well perceaved that there
ooulde none so fowle and unseemelie a vice beefall to a kinge as
avarice, which oommonlie goethe not unaccompanied, being the
novice of all crimes, which, if it showlde be in a ruler, it most
neades creape throughe and devowre the substance of manie.
Wherefore thease rioU impes, being well informed of their parent,



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THl FIFTH BOOK. 199

not unworthilie everie of them reigned after his decease. Ethel*
wolphus, temperinge all things with this sobrietee and integritee,
was attainted with an easie sicknes^ and nevertheles died therof
the xz. yeare of his reign ; his corpes was carried to Winchester,
and there, with honorable buriall, intumiled. At that verie time
there florished iij. virgins of moste pure and dene life, Modevena,
in Ireland, Achea and Ositha in Englonde; tliis laste was tor«
mented unto deathe of the Danes : the two others never felte the
deadlie dartes of frowning fortune ; yeat as well Modevena and
Achea, as this innocent martir Osithe, weare in time enumered
emonge the Saincts. Ethelbaldus bie succession hadde the
monarchic as xix^. from Cerdicius, wherin hee persisted onlie the
space of V. monethes, for hee sodainlie falling into a fever died
thereof, leving his diademe as dewe to Ethelbertus, a mann
moste worthie of his father, grandfather, and suche his noble
predecessors. Streyghte after the beginninge of his dominion,
the Danes in greate rowtes made irruptions in the Ilond, and
raunginge throwghe the province of Kente, they aggreeved the
inhabitantes with infinite mischeves ; with whome the kinge, not
longe after, valiantlie encounteringe, did not leave to persecute
them till after miserable occision he skoureged them all owte of
this region; which thinges prosperuslie achieved this prince,
revolving daylie with him selfe thinges of great importaunce,
and conducible to the quiet estate of his contrie, hee was
prevented of forecast bie the immaturitie of his deathe, skarce-
lie having accomplished the v^ yeare of his reigne. Then was
Ethelredus the brother of Ethelbertus created kinge as xxi. from
Cerdicius, beinge a manne at home meake and affable, whoe bie his
gracius behavior and renowne alluered the hartes of all menn to
frindeship and benevolence ; but abrode and in extemall affayres
hee was not soe, for, in that he was skilful! in the warlike sciens,
hee executed all things with severitee, bie that meanes being noe
lesse famus in quiet tranquillitee then tempestuus warrs ; albeit bie
the Divine power it was denied him to remaine longe ether in



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200 HISTORY OF ENGLAND.

peace or in this life ; for hee lived skarce vi. yeares, and all that
space was tossed with the waves of continuall battayle ; for the
Danes, longe beefore having triall in the fertilitee of the Ilonde,
didde often carrie greate store of bootie owt of the same, som
times hie stelthe, somtimes bie open warrs : endevoringe soe to
infringe and weaken the power thereof, that at the lengthe they
might with facilitee obteyne dominion therein, insomutche that,
daylie echewheare makinge troblesom invasions, they disturbed
greevuslie the estate thereof. Wherfore Ethelfiredus joyned oft
in battayle with them, allbeit with variable and divers fortune ;
wherbie the Danes conceavinge victorie in their mindes, when
they coulde perceave noe cause whie they showlde enie more use
the matter like pickinge and tumultuus rovers, thei gatheringe a
mayne armie minede to invade the Ilonde ; wherefore within short
time there kinge Inarus, with a great navie, arrived at the entrie
of the river Humber, and, minding as it weare to contende for
deathe and life, entred into the contrie with open profession of
hostilitee. The kinge in the meane season beinge in noe poincte
of lesse industrie, made expedition towards that place wheare hee
understoode that his enemies weare encamped, and as soone as
hee hadd them in sighte he sett forthe his menn, and thus placed
them in order : In the lefte winge he assigned a parte of his
trowpe of horssmenn, with all suche as weare ordeyned for suc-
cowrs, over whome he made governer his yonger brother Alured,
a mann of singuler vertewe, at whose countermaunde he com-
maunded all the centuriens to bee readie ; in the right winge he
appoynted the residew of the horsemenne, with a likelie companie
of archers, with the floure of the youthefullest footemenne, where
himselfe was in riall presence, Whilest the Englishe armie thus
marched towards the battaile, the Danes, in whome was noe lesse
crooked corage then regarde of their doinges, after they weare in
goodd araye thei approched nearer, and the onset bieng blowne at
one time on ether side, they rushed feercelie to geether and exer-
cised varietee of fighte. But when the Englishe people perceaved



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THE FIFTH BOOK. 201

that there enimies camm on in greate thronge with there deadlie
weapons^ and in suche sorte that it was not easie for them to
withstande in aequall condition, as wane warriors, and well inured
in suche traine bie theire former fightes, thei didd a litteU abate
their force, standing stille even to middest of them, that bie the
favoringe of their brethe and strengthe the reste mighte drawe
neare, and that the heate of their enemies might waze somwhat
cowlde : thus ceasing for a season, thei reiterated the rase and
ranne speedelie on their enemies. Nether didd the Danes wante
this feate, whoe, keaping their order, sustained quietlie the violence
of the Englishemen, and after while with brighte swordes thronged
forwarde ; the whole companie of the archers put them selves in
the fore froonte, then hurtelinge rownde, was soe boysterus that
unethes the Englishe soldiers cowlde abide it, but, geeving
somwhat backe, beeganne to determine of flienge, which when the
kinge perceaved, hee planted all his horsemen in convenient roome
to breake this sharpe assaulte. The Danes not stirringe owte of
their places, sumwhat repressed their rage, soe didd all the Eng-
leshmen, for that the nighte drew faste on, which noe doubte was
acceptable to both parties, for they hadd continued the fight from
morening unto the eveninge, which departed the skirmishinge of
the lefte winge, whereunto manie that were sore traveled and
wearie did resorte ; and the multitude of dead carkases did on eche
parte hinder there fightinge ; wherfore the retrayte, which was
blowne on ether side, was easlie hardde, especialli of the Englishe-
menn, to whome it was verie commodius, for theye so hardlie
resisted that alreadie it was bruted that they weare overcommed,
soe that allmoste the Mercians, at the exhortacions of the North-
humbrians, weare readie to rebelK All that night the Danes were
verie circumspecte and carefuU, knowinge that in the contrie of an
enemie they muste either vanquishe or die ; they refresshed there
traveled bodies with meate, they gathered the deadd corpses to-
gether, they cuered the woonded, and tooke reste themselves ; the
Englisshe people, on the other side, which that daye weare allmoste

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302 HISTOBV OF BKGLAKD.

overthrowne^ prepared freshe aides, for all men repayred on all
aides to releeve there frindes, and the daye followinge, the wether
waxing clere, when manie newe soldiers weare thrust in the place
of suche as weare tyered, with haute corage they hasted to bat-
tayle; nether weare there adversaries behinde hand, albeit that
they weare overlabored with forreine warrs, and nothing increased
Bithe the laste conAicte ; wherfore, renewinge the olde contention,
they bickered, but nothing in eequall sorte ; for the deathe of Ivarus,
whoe was slaine at the first encounter, so appalled the stomacks
of the Danes, that forthewith they put them selfe to flighte, and a
great number of them weare slaine beefore that they cowlde at-
tayne to enie saftie ; then immediatlie they assigned for tlieir capi-
tans the two brothers, Agnerus and Hubo, (of whome wee made
mention beefore,) whoe greatlie indevored the renewinge and
furniture of the armie. These thinges agree not with the opinion
of Saxo Orammaticus, whoe affirmethe that luarus, when he cowlde
nott obteine his purpose in a lion's skinne, he putte on the kase
of a foxe, that is to saye, when with strength he cowlde not pre-
vayle, with sublitee and disceyte hee assayled his enemie. More-
over, as the same mann purportethe, luarus, after peace made with
the Englishe nation, obteined soe muche londe as hee cowlde
compasse with an horsse skinne, and cuttinge the same into small
thonges, semed to have encroched a place sufficient wherin hee
mighte build a fayre cittee, and consequentlie fallinge againe to
the owlde warrs, bie tliat meanes becamme a great lorde in the
toyle ; but within two yeares followinge hee was necessarilie driven
to returne home for the appeasinge of certaine broyles and
tumultes, leavinge Agnerus as a garrison for the Ilonde, Saxo
recitethe noe name of this cittie soe sodaynlie erected bie Ivaros,
but surelie the towne named Dongcaster semethe to have derived
the name of som suche means, for caster in the owlde speeche
signifiethe a cittee, and what a thonge is eche man knoweth ; and
for as muche as in our tongue, T is commonlie used for D, Dong-
caster maye have the name thereof compounded, or at the leaste



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THB FIFTH BOOK. fiOS

wise it shall bee lawfull for us soe to gesse. But againe to our

matter : Ethelredus, notwithstandinge hee hadde obteyned so

worthie a victorie, yeat nothinge contemninge or neglectinge the

power of his adversariesj did omitte noe oportunitee of adminis**

tringe the residewe of his afiayres^ and soe muche the rather^

biecause hee was donne to understande that daylie an infinite

nomber of people hadde recourse into the Ilond for to aide there

natives. The Danes havinge restored there armie the xv^

daye after ther overthrow^ coped againe with the Englishe

people with suche assured hope that they so putte them to

flighte that it was to bee feared leaste this weare the laste day

that the Englishemenne showlde be able enie more to raatche with



Online LibraryPolydore VergilPolydore Vergil's English history, from an early translation preserved among the mss. of the old royal library in the British museum → online text (page 19 of 30)