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   Chapter 3 THE HEATHEN PERIOD.

Anglo-Saxon Literature By John Earle Characters: 29580

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


For many a petty king ere Arthur came

ruled in this isle, and ever waging war

each upon other, wasted all the land;

and still from time to time the heathen host

swarm'd over seas, and harried what was left.

And so there grew great tracts of wilderness,

wherein the beast was ever more and more,

but man was less and less, till Arthur came.

For first Aurelius lived and fought and died,

and after him king Uther fought and died,

but either fail'd to make the kingdom one.

And after these king Arthur for a space,

and thro' the puissance of his Table round,

drew all their petty princedoms under him,

their king and head, and made a realm, and reign'd.

Alfred Tennyson, The Coming of Arthur.

For the first hundred and fifty years of their life in this island our ancestors were heathens. This time has no place in the English memory through any legendary or literary tradition that is associated with the Saxons. The legends of this time which retain a place in literature are not Saxon but British. This is the era of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. There is no book or piece of Saxon literature that can in any substantial sense be ascribed to the heathen period; for I cannot go with those who assign this high antiquity to the "Beowulf."

There is a book that claims to be a product of this time, but it is neither Saxon nor heathen. It bears the name of Gildas, a Briton, and it is a fervently Christian book, written in Latin. It has two parts, one being a Lament of the Ruin of Britain, the other a Denunciation of the conduct of her princes. Its genuineness has been questioned, and it has also been ably defended.39 The strong point in favour of the book is, that it existed and was reputed genuine before the time of Bede, who used it as an authority, and cited it by the author's name, saying that "Gildas, their [the Britons'] historian," describes such and such evils in his "lamentable discourse."40 Through Bede the information of Gildas has fallen into the stream of English history, and we cease to be aware of the original source. For example, the familiar tradition of the Saxons coming over in "three keels," ordinarily ascribed to Bede, is taken from Gildas. The date of this author and his work, as now generally accepted, is this:-That he was born in 520, the year of the battle of Mons Badonicus, and that he wrote about 564. But this rests on an ill-jointed and uncertain passage, which was misunderstood by Bede, if the modern interpretation is right.

And when we come to look into that Saxon literature which was subsequently developed, the traces of the heathen period are unexpectedly scanty, and the very remembrance of heathenism though not abolished seems already wonderfully remote. But notwithstanding all this, we cannot treat the subject of Anglo-Saxon literature in any satisfactory manner without some consideration of the heathen period. For, on the one hand, history requires it as a background, and the only appropriate background to our story of the subsequent culture; and, on the other hand, we shall find, by putting the scattered fragments together, that such an impression may be gained as is at least sufficient for a subsidiary purpose.

Among the extant Saxon writings there is one and only one book, in which we detect some possible work of this period. This is in the Chronicles. Between A.D. 450 and 600 we have a sprinkling of curious annals that are naturally calculated to rivet the attention. They are certainly of a very distinct and peculiar cast, and it has been thought that they may possibly represent (through much disguise of transcription) some kind of contemporary records of the heathen period, whether the original shape was that of ballads, or of annals kept in Runes.

These annals are characterised by an occasional touch of poetic fervour, and by several local details which are stimulating to modern curiosity. A few examples may be useful:-

455. Here41 Hengest and Horsa fought against Wyrtgeorn, the king, in the place that is called Ag?lesthrep; and his brother Horsa was slain; and after that Hengest took to the kingdom, and ?sc, his son.

457. Here Hengest and ?sc fought against the Brettas in the place that is called Crecganford; and there they slew 4,000 men; and the Brets then abandoned Kentland, and in great terror fled to Londonbury.

473. Here Hengest and ?sc fought against the Walas: and they took countless spoil: and the Walas fled the Engles like fire.

491. Here ?lle and Cissa beset Andredescester, and slew all those that therein dwelt: there was not so much as one Bret remaining.

571. Here Cuthwulf fought with the Bretwalas at Bedcanford, and took four towns: Lygeanburg and ?gelesburg (Aylesbury), B?nesingtun (Bensington) and Egonesham (Ensham).

584. Here Ceawlin and Cutha fought against the Brettas, in the place that is named Fethanleag; and Cutha was slain. And Ceawlin took many towns and countless spoils; and in wrath he returned thence to his own.

There is about these entries something remote and primitive, and something, too, of a contemporaneous form, that penetrates even through the folds of a modern dress.

If we would gather an idea of the religious sentiments of that heathen time, two sources are open to us:-1. Classical authors, especially C?sar and Tacitus; 2. Incidental notices in domestic writings after the establishment of Christianity. In regard to both these sources we must regulate our expectations in accordance with the circumstances.

1. C?sar and Tacitus wrote of Germany at large, and not of our particular tribes in the north-west; yet they naturally touch some leading points which are of interest for us here. As to their religion, C?sar formed a totally different opinion from Tacitus. According to the former, the Germans knew only those visible and palpably useful gods, the Sun and the Moon, and Fire; they had never even heard of any others by report. Tacitus, on the contrary, says, that they worship Hercules and Mars, and, above all, Mercury; that, at the same time, their religious sense is eminently spiritual, for they repudiate the thought of enshrining the celestials within walls, or representing them by the human form; that they venerate groves and forest-glades, and that by the names of their gods they understand mysterious beings visible only to the inward and reverential sight. These estimates are diametrically opposed, and they have been used by an eminent writer to illustrate the difficulty of getting at the truth about the religion of barbarians. But it should be remembered that a long interval had elapsed between C?sar and Tacitus; an interval, moreover, that was likely to work some, if not all, of the changes required to make these estimates compatible with one another.

Tacitus informs us about the god Tuisco, whose name we still keep in Tuesday;42 about the supremacy of Mercurius,43 that is, of Woden; and about the form of the boar as a sacred symbol, which was worn on the person for a charm against danger.44 He also relates the hideous ceremony of a goddess Nerthus, or Mother Earth, who makes her occasional progresses in a wagon drawn by cows, the attendants being slaves who, when the rite is done, are all drowned in a mysterious lake.45

2. From the second source we might have expected more than we find. Knowing that the new religion was not established without struggles and delays and relapses, we might have expected that the traces of the dying superstition would have been numerous in Anglo-Saxon literature. And if we had the domestic writings that were produced in the first Christian ardour, such an expectation might have been partially fulfilled. But in any case we should not expect too much from early and unformed literature. It is the mature fruit of long cultivation to produce a literature that reflects the present. Almost all early literature is conventional, because the spontaneous is not esteemed and is not preserved. But whatever might have happened under other conditions, the fact now is that the literature of our first Christian era is almost entirely lost. It perished in the Danish invasions. The works of Beda are, indeed, preserved, and in one sense they make a large exception to the general statement, yet the exception is not one that is of great import for our immediate purpose. His works, even when he is upon a local subject, breathe little of local curiosity or interest. His was a cloistered life, his view was ever directed through the vista of books and learned correspondence towards the central heart of Christianity, and he deigned but rarely to cast a look behind him at the old superstitions of his people. His writings, which are all in Latin, contribute something, but it is little, towards our knowledge of Saxon heathendom. We are indebted to him for an explicit statement about the meaning of the word "Easter." It is as follows:-"Rhedmonath is so called from their goddess Rheda, to whom in that month they sacrificed.... With the people of my nation, the old folk of the Angles, the month of April, which is now styled Paschal Month, had formerly the name of Esturmonath, after a goddess of theirs who was called Eostra, and whose festival is kept in that month; and they still designate the Paschal Season from her name, by force of old religious habit keeping the same name for the new solemnity."46 This is a sample of what Beda might have told us about the old heathendom, if he had made it a subject of inquiry. The information is the more valuable because it was not forthcoming from any other source. The Germans have an obscure trace of Retmonat; and their ?starmanoth, which remains as a German name for April (Ostermonat) to the present day, is found as early as Eginhard, the biographer of Charlemagne. But of the deities there is no information anywhere but in Beda. The name of Easter appears related to "East" and the growing strength of the sun. In the Edda a male being, a spirit of light, bears the name of Austri: the German and Saxon tribes seem to have known only a female divinity in this sense. A being with attributes taken from the Dawn and from the Spring of the year, so full of promise and of blessing, might well be tenaciously remembered and retained for Christian use.

We will now proceed to notice the sources which preserve some relics of the old heathenism.

THE GENEALOGIES

bear the greatest testimony to the former dignity of Woden's name. The royal houses of Kent, Essex, Deira, Bernicia, Wessex, East Anglia, Mercia,-all trace up to Woden. Some go up far above Woden, who has a series of mythological progenitors, the oldest of whom appears to be Scyld, the name which forms the starting-point of the "Beowulf."

THE LAWS.

In the Kentish code of Wihtr?d (d. 725) there are penalties set down for those who sacrifice to devils, meaning heathen gods.

But, on the whole, it is remarkable how little is found on this subject in the codes before Alfred. In the Introduction to Alfred's Laws idolatry is forbidden in two places, not in words of the time, but with the sanction of Scripture texts.

In the Laws of Edward and Guthrum heathenism is denounced with penalties; in the Codes of ?thelred it is forbidden in a hortatory way; but the most explicit prohibition is that of Canute:-

"5. Of Heathenism. And we strictly forbid all heathenism. It is heathenism for a man to worship idols,-that is, to worship heathen gods, and the sun or moon, fire or flood, water-wells or stones, or any kind of wood-trees, or practise witchcraft, or contrive murder by sorcery."

The latter words seem to point to that form of sorcery known as defixio, wherein an effigy was maltreated, and incantations were used to direct the injury against the life or health of some private enemy, whom the image was taken to represent.

CANONS ECCLESIASTICAL.

In the Canons of ?lfric, c. 35, priests are not to attend funereal festivities unless they are invited; and if they are invited, they are to forbid the heathen songs of the lewd men, and their loud cachinnations; and they are not to eat or drink where the corpse is deposited (th?r th?t lic inne lith), lest they be partakers of the heathen rite which is there celebrated. This seems to be illustrated by a prohibition found in the Capitularies of Charlemagne against eating and drinking over the mounds of the dead; and also by a passage of Boniface (Epist. 71), who says that the Franks immolated bulls and goats to the gods, and ate the sacrifices of the dead. It has been supposed that a number of teeth, of oxen and sheep or goats, which were found among heathen Saxon graves at Harnham, near Salisbury, might be evidence of this practice.47

In the "Laws of the Northumbrian Priests," c. 48, it is enacted:-"If there be a sanctuary (frith-geard) in any one's land, about a stone, or a tree, or a wall, or any such vanity, let him that made it pay a fine (lah-slit), half to Christ, half to the landlord (land-rica); and if the landlord will not aid in executing the law, then let Christ and the king receive the mulct."

THE POETRY

preserves many traces of heathendom. The unconscious relics of old mythology that are imbedded in the recurrent formul? of the heroic diction is one of our strongest proofs that this diction was already matured in heathen times. A very prominent term is Wyrd = Destiny, Fate; which is the same as the Urer of the Scandian mythology, one of the three fates, Urer, Wereandi, Skuld = Past, Present, Future. In Wyrd, the whole of the attributes are included under one name; and it counts among the marks of affinity between the Heliand and our Anglo-Saxon literature, that the same thing is observed there also, though in a less distinct manner. In the "Beowulf" it is said:-"Wyrd often keeps alive the man who is not destined to die, if his courage is equal to the occasion." Wyrd is said to weave, to prescribe, to ordain, to delude, to hurt. In C?dmon she is w?lgrim = bloodthirsty. And the heathen association may still be felt, even when the name of Wyrd is displaced by a name of the Christian's God, as in "Beowulf" where we read:-"The Lord gave him webs to speed in war."48 In the Heliand the attributes are less varied, the vaticination is wanting, and Wure seems almost the same as Death.

But the old tradition of the three mysterious women lived on in this island. It is now best known to us through the German Fairy Tales, where we have the three spinning women. In the Middle Ages there was a remembrance of these mysterious visitants in a certain ceremony of spreading a table for three, whether for protection to the house at night, or to bring good luck to the children born in that house. In the Pe

nitential of Baldwin, Bishop of Exeter (twelfth century), this superstition is noted, and the latter motive assigned.

The monks of Evesham kept up a tradition which traced the origin of their house to a vision of three beautiful maidens, in heavenly garments, sweetly singing. They were seen by a swineherd in the forest, when he was in search of a lost swine, and he went to Bishop Ecgwine and told him. The bishop arrived at the place, was favoured with the same vision, and founded the monastery there. The device on the abbey seal represented this vision.

A less pleasing vision of the Three Sisters is narrated by Wulfstan of Winchester, a poet of the tenth century, who has left us a Latin poem of the Miracles of St. Swithun. In it he tells how, coming back one evening towards Winchester, he was met by two hideous females, who commanded him to stop, but he ran away in terror; he was then met and stopped by a third, who struck him a blow from which he suffered for the remainder of his life; but the three women plunged into the river and disappeared.

The same three appear in Macbeth as the Weird Sisters; and it is probably from this connexion that weird has become an adjective for all that savours of heathenism.

A frequent word for battle and carnage is w?l, and the root idea of this word is choice, which may be illustrated from the German w?hlen-to choose. The heathen idea was that Woden chose those who should fall in battle to dwell with him in Walhalla, the Hall of the chosen. In the exercise of this choice, Woden acted by female messengers, called in the Norse mythology valkyrja, pl. valkyrjor.49

All superior works in metal, as swords, coats of mail, jewels, are the productions of Weland, the smith. His father is called Wudga, and his son is called Wada; and with this child on his shoulder Weland strides through water nine yards deep. This was matter of popular song down to Chaucer's time:-

He songe, she playede, he told a tale of Wade.

"Troylus and Crescyde," iii., 615.

He had by Beadohild another son, in German named Witeche, who inherited his father's skill and renown. For his violence to Beadohild, Weland was lamed; but he made for himself a winged garment, wherewith he took his flight through the air. He is at once the Daidalos and the Hephaistos of the Greeks. The translator of the Boethian Metres has taken occasion to bring in this heathen god, whose cult (it seems) was still too active. In Metre ii., 7, where Boethius has the line-

Ubi nunc fidelis ossa Fabricii manent?

under colour of faber = smith, which the name Fabricius suggests, Weland is made a fruitful text:-

Hw?r sind nu th?s wisan

Welandes ban,

th?s goldsmithes

the w?s gio m?rost?

Forthy ic cw?th th?s wisan

Welandes ban,

forthy ?ngum ne m?g

eorthbuendra,

se craft losian

the him Crist onl?nth.

Ne m?g mon ?fre

thy eth ?nne wr?ccan

his craftes beniman

the mon oncerran m?g

sunnan on swifan

and thisne swiftan rodor

of his riht ryne

rinca ?nig.

Hwa wat nu th?s wisan

Welandes ban,

on hwelcum hi hl?wa

hrusan theccen?

Where now are the bones

of Weland the wise,

that goldsmith

so glorious of yore?

Why name I the bones

of Weland the wise,

but to tell you the truth

that none upon earth

can e'er lose the craft

that is lent him by Christ?

Vain were it to try,

e'en a vagabond man

of his craft to bereave;

as vain as to turn

the sun in his course

and the swift wheeling sky

from his stated career-

it cannot be done.

Who now wots of the bones

of Weland the wise,

or which is the barrow

that banks them?

One of the most striking points of contact between our relics of mythology and those of the Edda occurs in the "Beowulf," where mention is made of the famous necklace of the Brosings (or, as Grimm would correct, Brisings).

In the Edda the goddess Freyja is the owner of a precious necklace, called Br?singa men. She had acquired this jewel from the dwarfs, and she kept it in an inaccessible chamber, but, nevertheless, it was stolen from her by Loki. Therefore Loki is Br?sings thiofr, the thief of the Brising necklace; and Heimdallr fought with Loki for it. When Freyja is angry the heaving of this ornament betrays her emotion. When Th?rr, to get his hammer back, disguises himself as Freyja, he fails not to put on her famous necklace. From its mention in Anglo-Saxon poetry, Grimm would infer the familiarity of the Saxon race with the whole story.50

But what adds vastly to the interest of this legend is that we find it in Homer. It is essentially the same with the belt of Aphrodite (Hymn, l. 88). In Iliad xiv., 214, Aphrodite takes it off and lends it to Hêrê to charm Zeus withal. When we add that just above in the same context (Iliad xiv., 165) Hêrê also has a curiously contrived chamber, made for her by Hephaistos (Vulcan), the parallel is too close to be mistaken.

THE GOSPEL TRANSLATION.

Of the old heathen theogony we have a remarkable document in the names of the days of the week; and these names are best preserved to us in the rubrics of the Anglo-Saxon Gospels. These names are supposed to have come from the western shores of Asia, and to have pervaded the nations of Europe, both Roman and barbarian, in the first and second centuries. By a comparison of the sets of names in the two families of nations, we gain certain leading facts about the chief deities of our heathen ancestry, which all the rest of the scattered evidence tends to confirm. Thus our Tuesday, A.-S. Tywes-d?g, compared with the French Mardi and its Latin original Martis dies, teaches us that the old god Tiw (who was also called Tir) was recognised as the analogue of the Roman Mars, the god of war. So Wednesday, A.-S. Wodnes-d?g, compared with the French Mercredi and its Latin form Mercurii dies, gives us proof that the god Woden answered to the Roman Mercurius. So, too, Thursday, A.-S. Thunres-d?g, compared with French Jeudi and Latin Jovis dies, shows that Thunor (whom the Scandinavians call Thor) is the god of thunder, like the Latin Jupiter. So again, Friday, A.-S. Frige-d?g, compared with Vendredi and Veneris dies, gives us the analogy of Frige with Venus.51 Saturday, A.-S. Sat?rnes-d?g, seems like a borrowed name from the Latin Saturnus.

Kemble maintained the probability that S?tere was a native divinity, and considered that the local names of Satterthwaite (Lanc.), and Satterleigh (Devon), offered some probable evidence in that direction. More distinct are the local namesakes of Woden. Kemble adduces repeated instances of Wanborough, formerly Wodnesbrook (Surrey, Wilts, Hants), Woodnesborough (Kent), Wanstrow, formerly Wodnestreow = Woden's tree (Somerset), Wansdike, and others.

THE HOMILIES

occasionally denounce and describe the prevalent forms of heathenism still surviving. Thus ?lfric (i., 474):-"It is not allowed to any Christian man, that he should recover his health at any stone, or at any tree." Wulfstan preaches thus:-"From the devil comes every evil, every misery, and no remedy: where he finds incautious men he sends on themselves, or sometimes on their cattle, some terrible ailment, and they proceed to vow alms by the devil's suggestion, either to a well or to a stone, or else to some unlawful things...."52

In an alliterative homily of the tenth century, the heathen gods that are combated are Danish:-53

Thes Jovis is arwurthost

ealra th?ra goda,

The tha h?thenan h?fdon

on heora gedwilde,

and he hatte Thor

betwux sumum theodum;

thone tha Deniscan leode

lufiath swithost.

...

Sum man was gehaten

Mercurius on life,

he was swithe facenful

and swicol on dedum,

and lufode eac stala

and leasbrednysse;

thone macodon tha h?thenan

him to m?ran gode,

and ?t wega gel?tum

him lac offrodon,

and to heagum beorgum

him on brohton onsegdnysse.

Thes god was arwurthra

betwux eallum h?thenum,

and he is Othon gehaten

othrum naman on Denisc.

This Jove is most worshipped

of all the gods

that the heathens had

in their delusion;

and he hight Thor

some nations among;

him the tribes of the Danes

especially love.

...

There once lived a man

Mercurius hight;

he was vastly deceitful

and sly in his deeds,

eke stealing he loved

and lying device;

him the heathens they made

their majestical god,

and at the cross roads

they offered him gifts,

and to the high hills

brought him victims to slay.

This god was main worthy

all heathens among,

and his name when translated

in Danish is Odin.

An interesting example of the methods used to wean our simple forefathers from their old heathen practices may be seen in a "Spell to restore fertility to land."54 The preamble sets forth:-"Here is the remedy whereby thou mayest restore thy fields, if they will not produce well, or where any uncanny thing has befallen them, like magic or witchcraft." Four turfs are to be cut before dawn from four corners of the land, and these are to be stacked in a heap, and upon them are to be dropped drops of an elaborate preparation whereof one ingredient is holy water; and over them are to be said words of Scripture and Our Father. And then the turfs are taken to church, and prayers are said by the priest while the green of the turfs is turned altarwards; and then, before sun-down, the turfs are returned to their own original places: but first, four crosses, made of quickbeam, with the names Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, written on their four ends, are to be put, one in the bottom of each pit, and as each turf is restored to its native spot, and laid on its particular cross, say thus:-"Crux, Mattheus; Crux, Marcus; Crux, Lucas; Crux, Joannes."55 Then the supplicant turns eastward, bows nine times, and says a rhythmic form of prayer, in which some heathen elements are just discernible. Then he turns three times towards the sun in its course, and sings Benedicite, Magnificat, and Pater Noster, and makes a gracious vow, in the friendly comprehension of which all the neighbourhood is included, gentle and simple.

This being done, strange seed must be procured, and this must be got from poor "almsmen"; and the supplicant must give them a double quantity in return; and then he must collect together all his plough-gear and tackle, and say over them a poetic formula which has fragments that look very like the real old heathen charm. It begins with untranslatable words:-

Erce, erce, erce,

eordan modor.

Erce, erce, erce,

mother of earth.

Then go to work with the plough, and open the first furrow, and say:-

Hál wes thu, folde,

fira modor;

beo thu growende,

on Codes f?thme;

fodre gefylled,

firum to nytte.

Soil I salute thee,

mother of souls;

be thou growing

by God's grace;

filled with fodder

folks to comfort.

Then a loaf is to be kneaded and baked, and put into the first furrow, with yet another anthem:-

Ful ?cer fodres

fira cinne,

beorht-blowende

thu gebletsod weorth.

A full crop of fodder

may the folks see;

brightly blossoming,

blessed mote thou be.

Then follows a chaplet of three repetitions, twice repeated, and this long day's orison is done.

Here we have a fair example of the artifice used by the clergy in transforming old heathen charms into edifying ceremonies. Men are here led to pray; to exercise themselves in some of the chief liturgical formularies of the Catholic Church; to accept Christian versions of their old incantations; to profess good will to their neighbours, high and low; and to exercise some bounty towards the poor. Natural means are not neglected; a change of seed is made a part of the ceremonial.

Such are some of the traces we can gather from the expiring relics of heathenism. They all come from the Christian period, as was natural, seeing that the national profession of heathenism ended before our literature began, unless the annals mentioned at the beginning of this chapter are exceptions. The facilities of writing must have been very limited if the only alphabet in use was the Runic. It is, perhaps, a little too rigid to assume that the use of the Roman alphabet is to be dated strictly from the Conversion. As the use of Runes did not then suddenly terminate, but gradually receded before the superior instrument, so perhaps it is most reasonable to suppose that the adoption of the Roman alphabet was very gradual, and that the Saxons may have begun to use it, at least in Kent, before the reign of ?thelberht.56

39 T. Wright, "Celt, Roman, and Saxon," p. 389; J. R. Green, "Short History," i., 2.

40 "Ecclesiastical History," i., 22.

41 It is the manner of the Saxon chronicles to attach each annal to its year-date by an adverb of locality-"Here."

42 "Germania," c. 2.

43 Id., c. 9.

44 Id., c. 45.

45 "Germania," c. 40.

46 "De Temporum Ratione," c. 13.

47 "Arch?ologia," vol. xxxv., p. 259.

48 Compare with this the "Spaedom of the Norns," in Dasent's "Burnt Njal"; also Gray's "Fatal Sisters," which is another version of the same original, one remove further off, as Gray knew the poem only through the Latin of Torf?us.

49 The second part of this compound repeats the idea of the first, namely, choice: it is from the verb to choose, for in certain tenses this verb changed s to r, just as from the verb to freeze we have frore (Milton), and from lose we have a participle lorn. The Anglo-Saxon form is w?lcyrige. Grimm's "Teutonic Mythol." tr. Stallybrass, p. 418. Kemble, "Saxons," i., 402.

50 The same keen discoverer scents an old heathen reminiscence also when the poet of the Heliand makes that holy thing which is not to be cast before dogs (Matthew vii. 6) a hêlag halsmeni = holy necklace.

51 For the distinct attributes of this goddess, who was the wife of Woden, the reader may consult Grimm's "Teutonic Mythology," who quotes Paulus Diaconus (eighth century), saying that the Langobards called Woden's wife Frea, and Saxo, p. 13, saying, "Frigga Othini conjux."

52 "über die Werke des altenglischen Erzbischofs Wulfstan," von Arthur Napier. Weimar, 1882, p. 33.

53 Printed in Kemble's "Solomon and Saturn," p. 120.

54 Printed in Thorpe's "Analecta" (1846), p. 116.

55 This recalls the charm that within living memory was used on Dartmoor as an evening prayer:-

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John,

Bless the bed that I lie on;

Two to head and two to feet,

And four to keep me while I sleep.

56 Some Runic alphabets may be seen in my "Philology of the English Tongue," § 96 (ed. 3, 1879). The best collection of Runic monuments is in the two folio volumes of Professor George Stephens.

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