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so delight to meet with, and to depict. It is called Day's Lock, and should not be overlooked. An island in the midst of the river is taken advantage of to form the lock, and is connected by rude bridges with the opposite banks. Beyond is the rustic church, with a few straggling roofs of the village, and these are backed by rich woods, which shut in the distance.
A mile below Day's Lock our river receives the Thame, from its confluence with which, according to the popular account, it takes the name of Thames. The Thame rises at Stewkley, in Buckinghamshire, through which county it runs for eighteen miles; it then enters Oxfordshire by the town of Thame, where it becomes navigable; in its after course, which is very winding, it passes by no place of importance till it reaches Dorchester, near which it falls into the Thames. Its entire length is about thirty-nine miles. Dorchester lies between the two rivers, but it is too important a place to notice in the present chapter.
AN ANCIENT BISHOPRIC.
When men travelled by coaches in England, such of them as passed between Oxford and London by the Henley road, would most likely stay to change horses at a little plain town about nine miles from the learned city. Then it was a place of small note, and the business transacted in it depended a good deal upon its situation in a main line of traffic. That source of profit is lost now, and the little town is quieter than ever; its shops duller, its inhabitants idler. The inns that looked so flourishing once, are now decayed or decaying. Its occupation is gone. A stray rambler would stroll listlessly through it, with the kind of regret that is always excited by looking on an evil that cannot be remedied. If, however, when he reached the bridge at the end of the street he turned aside to look at the church, he would feel that in the story of the town, insignificant as it had appeared to him, there must be something interesting. Beautiful as the village churches in the western counties often are, this one is so striking from its size and general appearance being so disproportioned to the place to which it belongs, thathowever apathetic our rambler might be, he could scarcely fail to inquire about it.
Dorchester was a place of importance in the earliest periods of English history. By the Britons
it was called Cair Dauri: that is, according to Leland, the City on the Water; its site being near the junction of the Thame with the Isis. It was a station of some consequence with the Romans, who called it Durocina. Many Roman remains and some British have been found here; a Roman altar of stone was dug up a few years back; and numerous coins have at different times been discovered. A circular field at a short distance on the south of the town is thought to have been a Roman amphitheatre; and there is a military earthwork, supposed to have been formed by the same people in order to command the passage of the two rivers. It consists of mounds, and a fosse, which is now dry, except in winter or after prolonged wet weather. But it is with the Saxons that the interest of Dorchester commences. In their times this now unimportant town was the seat of the largest bishopric in England. I must tell the story of its foundation.
Somewhat more than twelve hundred years ago, there was in the monastery of St. Andrew at Rome a monk of the order of St. Benedict, a bold and virtuous man, and full of zeal for the propagation of the faith he professed. About thirty years before, St. Augustine had gone from the holy city into Britain to endeavour to effect the conversion of its inhabitants, and great had been the success of his labours. Moved by the reports thereof, and by the number of places said lo be still unvisited by those who had followed that great man, Birinus resolved to devote himself to the office of a missionary, and begged the assent of the Pope to his enterprise; offering to go to the inmost parts of the island, where none had hitherto penetrated, on this errand of mercy. Honorius I., then pontiff, encouraged him in his purpose, and he at once set out—not without a miracle, say his biographers. For finding, after he had embarked, that he had left one of his sacred utensils behind, and knowing that it would be useless, as the wind was fair, to ask the seamen to put back, he boldly stepped forth from the vessel and hastened along the sea, which bore him as though it had been solid ground. Having recovered his pallia, he returned and overtook the ship, to the great edification of the sailors.
After this it was not likely that he would be drowned: and it is hardly necessary to add that he landed in safety (a.d. 634) in the kingdom of the West Saxons.
His purpose was to pass beyond their territory; but finding how entirely ignorant they were, he spent a year in traversing the province. When he came to Dorchester, he found there Cynegil, the king, whom, after instructing, he baptized. Oswald, King of the Northumbrians, who was then at Dorchester, acted the part of godfather to Cynegil, whose daughter he afterwards married. Upon Birinus the king conferred the city of Dorchester as his see; it being the first bishopric, as Birinus was the first bishop created in these parts. The king's appointment was duly ratified by the pontiff, and Birinus erected an episcopal church, probably of wood. Here he resided for fourteen years, actively engaged, not alone in settling and ruling his diocese, but also in converting and baptizing the heathen in the surrounding parts, gaining for himself the reputation of a saint and the title of an apostle. He died in 650, and was buried in rrfts own church; but in 677 Hidda, one of his sue