Men invent new ideals because they dare not attempt old ideals. They look forward with enthusiasm, because they are afraid to look back. — G. K. Chesterton

Story of the English - Helene Guerber




Three Great Men

You have heard how Augustine came over to England to convert the Anglo-Saxons. After his death he was made a saint, and he is the missionary of England, just as St. Patrick is the missionary of Ireland. There were many good men in the monasteries which were founded in England, and a few of them are still famous.

There was, for instance, a monk named Gildas, who wrote a Latin history, in which he tells us a great deal about olden times in England. Copies of this book have been preserved, and it has been translated into English.

In the nunneries of the seventh century, the nuns and their servants used to spend the long winter evenings around the fire, telling tales and singing songs. In one nunnery there was a poor servant named Caedmon, who was greatly embarrassed when his turn came. He had nothing to say, and felt so ashamed that he went out into the stable and wept. While he was there one evening, he heard a voice which bade him sing. First he answered that he could not; but when the command was repeated, he inquired, "What shall I sing?" "Sing the beginning of created things," answered the voice. So Caedmon, who had often heard the nuns tell about the creation, began to sing, and, to his surprise, he found that he was reciting a wonderful poem.

We are told that Hilda, the abbess of the nunnery, encouraged Caedmon to compose more verse, and that his poem, the first in English, gave Milton, one of our greatest geniuses, the idea of writing "Paradise Lost."

The first English prose was written, nearly one hundred years after Caedmon's poem, by the Venerable Bede. He translated one of the Gospels into English. He was very old, and when his great work was nearly finished, feeling that he was about to die, he bade his disciple hurry and write down the end of the translation.

"There is still one chapter wanting, Master," said the scribe; "it is hard for thee to think and to speak."

"It must be done," said Bede. "Write quickly!"

The work went on, but the master grew weaker and weaker; and when night was coming on, the scribe said:

"There is yet one sentence to write, dear Master."

Once more the master roused himself to dictate the last words, and a few moments later the scribe exclaimed: "It is finished!" "Thou sayest truth," replied the weary old man; "it is finished; all is finished!" And, sinking back upon his pillow, he died, leaving us the first English translation of one of the books of the Bible.



Contents

Front Matter
Review

Early Times
The Druids
The Britons
Caesar in Britain
Queen Boadicea
The Great Walls
The Great Irish Saint
The Anglo-Saxons
Brave King Arthur
The Laws of the Saxons
The Story of St Augustine
Three Great Men
The Danish Pirates
King Alfred and the Cakes
Alfred conquers the Danes
A King's Narrow Escape
The King and the Outlaw
The Monasteries
An Unlucky Couple
St Dunstan
King Canute and the Waves
A Saxon Nobleman
Lady Godiva's Ride
The Battle of Hastings
The Conquest
Lords and Vassals
Death of William
The Brothers' Quarrels
Arms and Armour
The "White Ship"
Matilda's Narrow Escapes
Story of Fair Rosamond
Thomas a Becket
Murder of Thomas a Becket
Richard's Adventures
Richard and the Saracens
The Faithful Minstrel
Death of Richard
The Murder of Arthur
The Great Charter
The Rule of Henry III
A Race
Persecution of the Jews
The Conquest of Wales
A Quarrel with France
The Coronation Stone
The Insolent Favourite
Bruce and the Spider
Death of Edward II
The Murderers punished
The Battle of Crecy
The Siege of Calais
The Age of Chivalry
The Battle of Poitiers
The Peasants' Revolt
Richard's Presence of Mind
A Tiny Queen
Henry's Troubles
Madcap Harry
A Glorious Reign
The Maid of Orleans
The War of the Roses
The Queen and the Brigand
The Triumph of the Yorks
The Princes in the Tower
Richard's Punishment
Two Pretenders
A Grasping King
Field of the Cloth of Gold
The New Opinions
Death of Wolsey
Henry's Wives
The King and the Painter
A Boy King
Lady Jane Grey
The Death of Cranmer
A Clever Queen
Elizabeth's Lovers
Mary, Queen of Scots
Captivity of Mary Stuart
Wreck of the Spanish Armada
The Elizabethan Age
Death of Elizabeth
A Scotch King
The Gunpowder Plot
Sir Walter Raleigh
King and Parliament
Cavaliers and Roundheads
"Remember"
The Royal Oak
The Commonwealth
The Restoration
Plague and Fire
The Merry Monarch
James driven out of England
A Terrible Massacre
William's Wars
The Duke of Marlborough
The Taking of Gibraltar
The South Sea Bubble
Bonny Prince Charlie
Black Hole of Calcutta
Loss of the Colonies
The Battle of the Nile
Nelson's Last Signal
The Battle of Waterloo
First Gentleman of Europe
Childhood of Queen Victoria
The Queen's Marriage
Wars in Victoria's Reign
The Jubilee