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those days. The etymology, as we term it, is uncertain, but in all probability it comes from two words which signify in combination, an estate held on conditions, or in trust.' There are two ideas which you may always attach to the term 'feudal-system ;' one is, the holding of land on condition of military service; the other, the personal relation of lord and vassal. In the feudal system of England the king was regarded as the original proprietor of all the lands of the kingdom; those who held them were his vassals and were obliged to swear fealty (i.e. fidelity) to bim, and do bim homage, or become his men. Does that give you any hint, Emily, as to the derivation of the word homage ?"
Miss. M.—“Oh yes, I see ; from homme, the French word for man.”
James W Exactly. Well, the lands of England were divided by William the Conqueror into about 60,000 feuds, fiefs, or knight's fees; he who held an entire fee was bound in time of war to serve for forty days at his own expense ; he who had half a fee, for twenty days and so on. There were besides, various other aids, or services, the vassal had to render to his lord, which I shall not now weary you by enumerating.”
Miss Mayfield.--"When did feudal times begin ?"
James W.-" That is almost as difficult a question to answer as the corresponding one, when did “modern' times begin ? Historians do not now consider feudalism in England to have been altogether a fresh importation of the Norinans. At the same time, it may be said that with the Conquest, feudalism was introduced here as a system. By the way, can Fanny tell us the date of the Norman conquest ?”
George. Anno Domini, 1066."
James W -“Quite right; but I said Fanny, not George. You shall have a sufficiently tough question in a little while, Master George. Perhaps
will not answer that so quickly. I was saying, however, that feudalism as a system was introduced into England with the conquest. From that period until the end of the long reign of poor weak Henry III., it existed in its greatest strength and purity; from the death of Henry III. and the accession of his valiant son Edward I., feudalism became more and more modified, -on the one hand through the growing influence of the crown; on the other, through the gradual rise of the towns, and what we may term an English people, and an English House of Commons; until at length, in these modern times, with the exception of some of our titles of nobility, our game laws, our laws of inheritance, and the reciprocal feeling which sometimes even yet binds together a nobleman and his tenantry, scarcely any traces of it remain. And now can our clever George tell us at what date Henry III. died, and Edward I. ascended the throne ?"
(George hesitates, thinks it was about 1300; James continues ) " Ah, I thought I should pose you! But after all, your's was not a bad guess. The true date is A.D. 1272; so that the period about which we are to talk to-night is a little more than two hundred years, that is, from A.D. 1066 to A. D. 1272. And now I know you can tell us the names of the kings who reigned during that period ?"
George.--"To be sure I can. William the Conqueror, William Rufus, Henry I., Stephen, Henry II., Richard I., John, and Henry III."
James W.-“Right And now, to proceed, I shall endeavour first of all, to give you a general idea of the external appearance of the country seven hundred years ago. Then we may notice the physical, social, and
intellectual condition of the people; and lastly, I shall point out a few religious contrasts between that time and the present.”
Mr. Wilson.“ An extensive subject, James.”
James." It is indeed; but we must confine ourselves to a few of the principal points. First of all then, let us look through the hazy dimness of the centuries and try, by the aid of imagination, to depict to ourselves England as it then lay stretched out beneath the eyes of our forefathers. Its great physical features were, of course, the same as now,--the same hills and vallies, the same brooks and rivers, and, with the exception of certain inroads which the sea has been gradually making along the eastern coast, the same general line of shore. But still there was a difference in the outward appearance of things. In the first place we are struck with the comparative scantiness of the population during the feudal age. The population of England and Wales at the present time is about 18,000,000. It was then probably about 2,000,000 ; that is, where there are nine persons now, there was only one then. Another feature to be noted is the different distribution of the population. In our time, as you know, England abounds in large towns. Probably one half the people are gathered together in towns, and, in many cases, in dense masses around various manufacturing and trading centres. Thus, for instance, there is London, including with its suburbs a population of two millions, or as large a number as was contained in the whole country seven centuries ago. Again, we have Manchester, with its suburbs, nearly a quarter of a million ; Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, Plymouth, Newcastle, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, Norwich, Brighton, Southampton, besides more than thirty other towns, every one of them containing upwards of 25,000 inhabitants. In the feudal age what we should call towns were few and small. Indeed most of our modern English towns then existed in the germ; but it was rather in the form of hamlets or villages. London itself though described by the chroniclers as a very grand and populous place was not larger than Nottingham or Leicester of the present day. Ludgatehill, which, as my father knows very well, is close by St. Paul's, was the West end. The modern Westminster was a kind of royal village, comprising a palace, an abbey, and about fifty cottages; whilst all the way thence to Ludgate, past Charing-Cross, and along the Strand and Fleet Street, was fields and gardens. The other places of note in the kingdom, besides London, were York, Exeter, Bristol, Chester, Winchester, Gloucester, Lincoln, Lynn, Norwich, Ipswich, Dunwich and Colchester. Judging from the style of language employed by the writers of that day you would suppose that some of these, particularly York, Exeter, and Bristol, were very large places, but probably the largest of them did not contain more than 20,000 inhabitants. In the reign of Edward III., which is later than the period we are now speaking of, and when the towns of England had grown somewhat, it is known that Colchester in Essex contained only 3,000 inhabitants, that is, it was not so large as the modern Retford, or Market Harbro', or Sleaford,-indeed scarcely larger than New Basford, near to where you live, Emily,--and yet there were but nine towns in the kingdom of greater importance.
Most of the people in those days lived in villages. These, though called towns by the chroniclers, were usually very small, often consisting only of a manor house and ten or twelve cottages. I need scarcely say that at that time they were all either purely agricultural, or fishing villages; there
we now see.
were no such manufacturing villages as Beeston, Arnold, Milford, or Suttonin-Ashfield.
A very large portion of the country in those days consisted of Woodland. Thus from Nottingham right away for forty miles northward was a wooded forest. The county of Essex again was one continued forest; and there were similar forests in other parts of the kingdom. There were indeed few farms or landed estates which had not their portion of wood. The most common trees were beech and oak, and on the nuts and acorns which fell from them vast numbers of swine were fed. The fens of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire were then undrained. The Isle of Ely was a true island in the midst of bogs and marshes. In many other parts of the country wild moors, and heath and gorse clad hills were alone to be seen. I need scarcely say there were no railways; there were no turnpike roads such as
The best roads then existing were those which had been made a thousand years before, by the legions of old Rome. These, however, though originally well-constructed, were decidedly worse for wear. Many of the highways were simple tracks across the open country for which a guide was needed by strangers. Of the state in which others were kept we may judge by the simple fact that in journeying on them it was only necessary to rest the cattle four days after travelling two. In short, I think, Emily, they could not have been much worse than some of the new roads and streets in the neighbourhood of your town.”
Miss M.-“Fie, cousin James, how can you say so ? Besides, you must know we have been mending our ways since you were over in Nottingham.”
James.—"I am glad to hear it. Indeed it is high time we all did the same."
(With this hint to the reader to look to his own ways, we close our report of the conversation for the present, intending, if all be well, to resume it in next month's Magazine.)
GOWER'S DREAM AT THE CLOSE OF THE JOINT
DISCUSSION ON THE MYSTICS.
AFTER leaving the house of his friend, Gower hastened home. A blithe fire awaited him, radiating its almost animated welcome over easel, busts, and books. Assuming light study vesture, he leaned back in his armchair, enjoying slippered ease. He would not light his lamp, but reclining in the very mood for reverie, watched the fire—now the undisputed magician of his studio, -as it called up or dismissed, with its waving flame, the distorted shadows of familiar things on wall and ceiling. He himself was soon occupied in like manner, waywardly calling forth, linking, severing, a company of shadows out of the past.
In a half-waking, half-dreaming twilight, Gower seemed to see the dusky form of the Indian, crouched on his mat, beside a holy river, awaiting divine insensibility. There was the Yogi, gathered up in his patch of shade, like an insect rolled under a leaf; while, above, the beating sunglare trampled over the plains, strewn with his reflected rays, as over an immeasurable threshing.floor.
Then he dreamed that he stood in a Persian garden, and before him were creeping plants, trained on wires, slanting upward to a point, and in and
out and up and down this flower.minster, hung with bells, darted those flying jewels, humming birds; the sun's rays as they slanted on their glancing coats, seemed to dash off in a spray of rainbow colours. Some pierced the nectaries of the flowers with their fine bills; others soared upward, and as they were lost in the dazzling air, roses swung their censers, and the nightingales sang an assumption-hymn for them. Yet this scene changed incessantly. Every now and then the pinnacle of flowers assumed giant size--was a needle of rock, shooting up out of a chasm of of hanging vegetation ; and innumerable spirits.winged souls of Sufis, were striving to reach the silent glistening peak. There was a flutter and a pulsing in the sky—as with summer lightning at night,—and the palpitation of some vast eyelid made light and darkness succeed each other with quick throbs.
Now it was the pyramid of flowers, now the star-crowned point of rock. So time and space were surpassed-sported with. Instants were ages, he thought, and cycles ran their round in a moment. The vault of heaven was now a hanging flower-cup; and presently the feather of a humming bird expanded to a sunset of far-streaming gold and purple.
A leaping flame caused these alternations in Dreamland, as it lit or left in shadow his closed eyes.
Then he stood on the desolate Campagna, where before him stretched the ruins of the Roman aqueducts. The broken arches, dotting at intervals the vast waste of withered green, drew no more water from the hills for for the million-mouthed City in the horizon. Their furrowed, beaten age held in its wringles only roots of maidev-hair, and sometimes little rainpools along the crevices,—the scornful charity of any passing shower. In a moment the wilderness grew populous with the sound of voices and the clangour of tools. A swarm of workmen, clustering about the broken links of the chain, were striving to piece them together again to bind up the mighty artery, and set it flowing as of old. But an insatiable morass sucked down the stones they brought. Waggons full of gods, (such as moved in the old triumphs,) of statues, monstrous, bestial, many-limbed, from all the temples of the nations, were unladen, with sacrifice and augury, and the idols deposited on the treacherous quagmire, only to sink down, a drowning mass, with bowing heads and vainly-lifted arms. Then the whole undulating plain appeared to roll up in vapour, and a wind, carrying in it a sound of psalms, and driving before it a snowy foam of acacia blossoms, swept clear the field of vision. No; the old influence was to flow no more from the Olympian Houses above that blue line of hills. Great Pan was dead. The broken cisterns would hold no water.
He stood next before the mouth of a cavern, partly overhung with a drooping hair of tropical plants. At his side was a nun, who changed, as is the wont of dreams, into a variety of persons. At one time she was St. Theresa, then Christina Mirabilis, and presently Gower thought he recognized Theresa once more.
He followed his conductress into the cavern, in the gloom of which a hermit rivulet was pattering along, telling his pebble beads. As they passed on, the night-birds in the black recesses of the rock shrieked and hooted at them. As he touched the dank sides of the pas. sage, from time to time, his hand would rest on some loathly wet lump, shuffling into a cranny, or some nameless gelid shape fell asunder at his touch, opening gashes in itself where lay, in rows, seeds of great tarantula eyeballs, that ran away dissolved in venomous rheum. Bat-like things flapped down from fupnel-shaped holes : polyphi felt after his face with
slimy fingers : crabs, with puffed human faces, slid under his tread : and skinny creatures, as it were featherless birds, with faces like a horse's skull, leaned over and whinnied at him. These," said Theresa, “ are the obscene hell-brood whose temptations make so terrible the entrance on the Higher Life."
The long cavern had not yet made a single winding, and he turned, as the rkness increased, to have a last look at the entrance, whence the outer sunshine still twinkled after them. He could see a green hill that faced the mouth, lying off like a bright transparency. Or was it a spot brought into the disc of his great rock telescope, from some planet of perpetual summer-one of those that play in the hair of the sun ? Christina, impatient of this sinful looking back, urged him onward. A palm branch she carried grew luminous, and its plume of flame, dropping sparks, became their torch. She paused to point out to him some plants growing in a black mould. Birds had carried in thus far the seeds from which they sprang; but there had been no sunlight to give them colour, and their form was uncertain, and defectively developed. “Behold,” she said, “ these saintly flowers. Mark that holy pallor! The sun never stained their pure. ness with those gaudy hues men admire. Yon garish world can show no such perfectness : see them, they are hueless, scentless, well nigh form. less !" Sickly, blanched abortions !” cried the dreamer, so loudly that he almost awoke. “We want more life, not less-fuller, sunnier !" Christina crossed herself piously to hear abstraction thus blasphemed. And now the passage, widening, opened on the central hall of rock, that branched out into the depths of darkness every way, and was fretted with gleaming stalactites. There were amber volutes and brittle clusters of tawny bubbles ; lily-bells of stone, flowers with sparry thorns and twining stream-like stems; creamy falls from slabs of enamel, motionless, yet seeming ever to drop from ledge to ledge; membranous curtains, and net-work, and traceries ; tissues and lawn-like folds of delicate marble ; while in the centre, reaching to the misty summit of the dome, stood a huge sheaf of pillars, like alabaster organpipes. A solemn music trembled or swelled, and as its rising volume sbook the air, voices sang—“Weep for the sins of men !" There was a wild burst of sound; then sudden silence; and, above and around, nothing was heard but a universal trickling and running, a dripping and dropping and splashing, while the palm-torch flashed on innumerable tear-drops, hanging on every pendant point and jutting ledge, or sliding down the glistening rock.
After a while it seemed to be Theresa who spoke to him, and said, “Here in these depths is warmth, when the world above is locked in ice; and when the surface is parched, here dwells chaste coolness, safe encelled, Our fire seems numbness to a blinded world; and we are frost to its dog-day rays.” With that, a spell seemed to come over her hearer. The spirit of the words became his spirit. The fate of an empire seemed as nothing in his eyes beside his next prospect of rapture, or his success in straining out another half pint of tears. In a moment he was turned to stone. He became a gargoyle high up on Strasburg cathedral, and was spouting water from his lolling tongue at the circling birds.
Gower next found himself, on a grey morning in spring, in a vine country, where men and women were toiling up the steep hills on either side of a river, carrying baskets of earth. Last winter's rain had swept away the thin soil to the bone, and they must lay a new one about their vine-sticks.