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of furniture always in the hall were wooden benches; some of which, especially the high settle or seat of the chieftain, boasted cushions, or at least a rug.
While the hungry crowd, fresh from woodland and furrow, were lounging near the fire or hanging up their weapons on the pegs and hooks that jutted from the wall, a number of slaves, dragging in a long, flat, heavy board, placed it on movable legs, and spread on its upper half a handsome cloth. Then were arranged with other utensils for the meal some flattish dishes, baskets of ashwood for holding bread, a scanty sprinkling of steel knives shaped like our modern razors, platters of wood, and bowls for the universal broth. The ceremony of “ laying the board,” as the AngloSaxon phrased it, being completed, the work of demolition began. Great round cakes of bread—huge junks of boiled bacon-vast rolls of broiled eel-cups of milk-horns of ale—wedges of cheese -lumps of salt butter--and smoking piles of cabbages and beans, melted like magic from the board under the united attack of greasy fingers and grinding jaws. Kneeling slaves offered to the lord and his honoured guests long skewers or spits, on which steaks of beef or venison smoked and sputtered, ready for the hacking blade. Poultry too, game,
and geese, filled the spaces of the upper board; but, except naked bones, the crowd of loaf-eaters, as AngloSaxon domestics were suggestively called, saw little of these daintier kinds of food. Nor did they much care, if to their innumerable hunches of bread they could add enough pig to appease their hunger. Hounds, sitting eager-eyed by their masters, snapped with sudden jaws at scraps of fat flung to them, or retired into private life below the board with some sweet bone that fortune sent them. All the while a clamorous tail of beggars and cripples hung round the door, squabbling over the broken meat, and mingling their unceasing whine with the many noises of the feast.
With the washing of hands, performed for the honoured occupants of the high settle by officious slaves, the solid part of the banquet ended. The board was then dragged out of the hall; the loaf-eaters slunk away to have a nap in the byre, or sat drowsily in corners of the hall; and the drinking began. During the prog
ress of the meal Welsh ale had flowed freely in horns or vessels of twisted glass. Mead, and in very grand houses wine, * now began to circle in goblets of gold and silver, or of wood inlaid with those precious metals. Most of the Anglo-Saxon drinking-glasses had rounded bottoms, like our soda-water bottles, so that they could not stand upon the table—a little thing, which then as in later times suggested hard drinking and unceasing rounds. Two attendants, one to pour out the liquor, and the other to hand the cups, waited on the carousers, from whose company the ladies of the household soon withdrew. The clinking of cups together, certain words of pledge, and a kiss opened the revel. In humbler houses, story-telling and songs, sung to the music of the harp by each guest in turn, formed the principal amusement of the drinking-bout. But in great halls, the music of the harp—which, under the poetic name of “ glee-wood,” was the national instrument of fiddles played with bow or finger, of trumpets, pipes, flutes, and horns, filled the hot and smoky air with a clamour of sweet sounds. The solo of the ancient scop or maker, who struck his five-stringed harp in praise of old Teutonic heroes, was exchanged in later days for the performances of the glee-man, who played on many instruments, danced with violent and often comical gestures, tossed knives and balls into the air, and did other wondrous feats of jugglery. Meantime the music and the mead did their work upon maddened brains: the revelry grew louder; riddles, which had flown thick round the board at first, gave place to banter, taunts, and fierce boasts of prowess; angry eyes gleamed defiance; and it was well if in the morning the household slaves had not to wash blood-stains from the pavement of the hall, or in the still night, when the drunken brawlers lay stupid on the floor, to drag a dead man from the red splash in which he lay.
From the reek and riot of the hall the ladies escaped to the bower, where they reigned supreme. There, in the earlier part of the day, they had arrayed themselves in their bright-coloured
* The use of wine among the Anglo-Saxons was limited to the highest class. either imported from the Continent or made of home-grown grapes, which since Romail days had ripened in the lower basins of Serern and Thames. Many monasteries, alive to the delights of grape juice, contrived to have a vineyard of their own.
robes, plying tweezers and crisping-irons on their yellow hair, and often heightening the blush that Nature gave them with a shade of rouge. There, too, they used to scold and beat their female slaves, with a violence which said more for their strength of lung and muscle than for the gentleness of their womanhood. When their needles were fairly set going upon those pieces of delicate embroidery, known and prized over all Europe as "English work," some gentlemen dropped in, perhaps harp in hand, to chat and play for their amusement, or to engage in games of hazard and skill, which seem to have resembled modern dice and chess. When in later Saxon days supper came into fashion, the round table of the bower was usually spread for evening-food, as this meal was called. And not long afterwards, those bags of straw, from which we saw them spring at sunrise, received for another night their human burden, worn out with the labours and the revels of an Anglo-Saxon day.
SPEECH OF HENRY V. AT THE SIEGE OF HARFLEUR.
ONCE more unto the breach, dear friends, Fathers, that, like so many Alexanders, once more;
Have, in these parts, from morn till even Or close the wall up with our English dead! fought, In peace, there's nothing so becomes a And sheathed their swords for lack of
argument. As modest stillness and humility;
Dishonour not your mothers; now atBut, when the blast of war blows in our test ears,
That those whom you called fathers did Then imitate the action of the tiger
beget you! Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood, Be copy now to men of grosser blood, Disguise fair nature with hard-favoured And teach them how to war!--And you, rage:
good yeomen, Then lend the eye a terrible aspect; Whose limbs were made in England, show Let it pry through the portage of the head, Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'er. The mettle of your pasture; let us swear whelm it,
That you are worth your breeding: which As fearfully as doth a galled rock
I doubt not; O’erhang and jutty his confounded base, For there is none of you so mean and Swilled with the wild and wasteful ocean.
base, Now set the teeth, and stretch the nostril That hath not noble lustre in your eyes. wide;
I see you stand like greyhounds in the Hold hard the breath, and bend up every slips, spirit
Straining upon the start. The game's To his full height !-On, on, you noblest afoot; English,
Follow your spirit: and, upon this charge, Whose blood is fetched from fathers of Cry-"Heaven for Harry! England ! and war-proof!
St. George !"
LIFE IN ANGLO-NORMAN ENGLAND.
The tall frowning keep and solid walls of the great stone castles, in which the Norman barons lived, betokened an age of violence and suspicion, Beauty gave way to the needs of safety. Girdled with its green and slimy ditch, round the inner edge of which ran a parapeted wall pierced along the top with shot-holes, stood the building, spreading often over many acres. If an enemy managed to cross the moat and force the gateway, in spite of a portcullis crashing from above and melted lead pouring in burning streams from the perforated top of the rounded arch, but little of his work was yet done; for the keep lifted its huge angular block of masonry within the inner bailey or court-yard, and from the narrow chinks in its ten-foot wall rained a sharp incessant shower of arrows, sweeping all approaches to the high and narrow stair, by which alone access could be had to its interior. These loop-holes were the only windows, except in the topmost story, where the chieftain, like a vulture in his rocky nest, watched all the surrounding country. The day of splendid oriels had not yet come in castle architecture.
Thus a baron in his keep could defy, and often did defy, the king upon his throne. Under his roof, eating daily at his board, lived a throng of armed retainers; and round his castle lay farms tilled by martial franklins, who at his call laid aside their implements of husbandry, took up the sword and spear, which they could wield with equal skill, and marched beneath his banner to the war.
With robe ungirt and head uncovered each tenant had done homage and sworn an oath of feälty, placing his joined hands between those of the sitting baron and humbly saying as he knelt, “I become your man from this day forward, of life and limb and of earthly worship, and unto you shall be true and faithful, and bear to you faith for the tenements that I claim to hold of you, saving the faith that I owe unto our sovereign lord the king.” A kiss from the baron completed the ceremony.
The furniture of a Norman keep was not unlike that of a Saxon house. There was richer ornament—more elaborate carving. A faldestol, the original of our arm-chair, spread its drapery and cushions for the chieftain in his lounging moods. His bed now boasted curtains and a roof, although, like the Saxon lord, he still lay only upon straw. Chimneys tunnelled the thick walls, and the cupboards glittered with glass and silver. Horn lanterns and the old spiked candlesticks lit up his evening hours, when the chess-board arrayed its clumsy men, carved out of walrus-tusk, then commonly called whale's-bone. But he had an unpleasant trick of breaking the chess-board on his opponent's head, when he found himself check-mated; which somewhat marred said opponent's enjoyment of the game.
Dice of horn and bone emptied many a purse in Anglo-Norman days. Tables and draughts were also played. Dances and music wiled away the long winter nights; and on summer evenings the castle court-yards resounded with the noise of foot-ball, kayles (a sort of ninepins), wrestling, boxing, leaping, and the fierce joys of the bull-bait. But out of doors, when no fighting was on hand, the hound, the hawk, and the lance attracted the best energies and skill of the Norman gentleman.
Rousing the forest-game with dogs, they shot at it with barbed and feathered arrows. A field of ripening corn never turned the chase aside: it was one privilege of a feudal baron to ride as he pleased over his tenants' crops, and another to quarter his insolent hunting train in the farm-houses which pleased him best.
The elaborate details of woodcraft became an important part of a noble boy's education, for the numerous bugle calls and the scientific dissection of a dead stag took many seasons to learn. After the Conquest, to kill a deer or own a hawk came more than ever to be regarded as the special privilege of the aristocracy. Hence the rage of Cour de Lion when he heard a falcon's cry from the door of a Calabrian peasant's hut. The hawk, daintily dressed, as befitted the companion of nobility, with his head wrapped in an embroidered hood and a peal of silver bells tinkling from his rough legs, sat in state, bound with leathern jesses to the wrist, which