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restored to Bayeux. It was at the time of the usurper's threatened invasion of our country that so much value was attached to, and so much pains taken to exhibit this roll. "Whether," says Dibdin, "at such a sight the soldiers shouted, and, drawing their glittering swords,
Clashed on their sounding shields the din of war,—
confident of a second representation of the same subject by a second subjugation of our country—is a point which has not been exactly detailed to me! But the supposition may not be considered very violent when I inform you that I was told by a casual French visitor of the tapestry, that < jjour cela, si Bonaparte avail eu le courage, le resultat auroit ete comme autrefois.' Matters, however, have taken rather a different turn."
The tapestry is coiled round a machine like that which lets down the buckets to a well, and a female unrols and explains it. It is worked in different coloured worsteds on white cloth, to which time has given the tinge of brown holland; the parts intended to represent flesh are left untouched by the needle. The colours are somewhat faded, and not very multitudinous. Perhaps it is the little variety of colours which Matilda and her ladies had at their disposal which has caused them to depict the horses of any colour—" blue, green, red, or yellow." The outline, too, is of course stiff and rude.* At the top and bottom of the main work is a narrow alle* The attempts to imitate the human figure were, at this period, stiff* and rude: but arabesque patterns were now chiefly worked; and they were rich and varied.
gorical border; and each division or different action or event is marked by a branch or tree extending the whole depth of the tapestry; and most frequently each tableau is so arranged that the figures at the end of one and the beginning of the next are turned from each other, whilst above each the subject of the scene and the names of the principal actors are wrought in large letters. The subjects of the border vary; some of ^Esop's fables are depicted on it, sometimes instruments of agriculture, sometimes fanciful and grotesque figures and borders; and during the heat of the battle of Hastings, when, as Montfaucon says, "le carnage est grand," the appropriate device of the border is a layer of dead men.
"From the fury of the Normans, good Lord deliver us," was, we are told, in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries a petition in the Litanies of all nations.* For long did England sorrow under their "fury," though in time the Conquest produced advantageous results to the kingdom at large. Whether this Norman subjugation was in accordance with the will of the monarch Edward, or whether it was entirely the result of Duke William's ambition, must now ever remain in doubt. Harold asserted that Edward the Confessor appointed him his successor (of which, however, he could not produce proof); to this must be opposed the improbability of Edward thus ennobling a family of whom he felt, and with such abundant cause, so jealous.
Probably the old chronicler (Fabyan) has hit the mark when he says, "This Edgarre (the rightful * Henry III., 554.
heir) was yonge, and specyally for Harolde was stronge of knyghtes and rychesse, he wanne the reygne." Be this as it may, however, Harold on the very day of Edward's interment, and that was only the day subsequent to his death, was crowned king in St. Paul's; apparently with the concurrence of all concerned, for he was powerful and popular. And his government during the chief part of his short kingly career was such as to increase his popularity: he was wise, and just, and gracious. "Anone as he was crowned, he began to fordoo euyll lawes and customes before vsed, and stablysshed the good lawes, and specyally whiche (suche) as were for the defence of holy churche, and punysshed the euyll doers, to the fere and example of other."*
But uncontrolled authority early began to produce its wonted results. He " waxyd so prowd, and for couetouse wold not deuyde the prayes that he took to hys knyghtys, that had well deseruyd it, but kepte it to hymself, that he therby lost the fauour of many of his knyghtys and people."t This defection from his party doubtless made itself felt in the mortal struggle with the Norman duke which issued in Harold's discomfiture and death.
Proceed we to the tapestry.
The first scene which the needlewoman has depicted is a conference between a person who, from his white flowing beard and regal costume, is easily recognized as the "sainted Edward," and another, who, from his subsequent embarkation, is supposed to be Harold. The subject of the conference is, of course, only conjectured. Harold's visit to Normandy is well known; but whether, as some suppose, he was driven thither by a tempest when on a cruise of pleasure; whether he went as ambassador from Edward to communicate the intentions of the Confessor in William's behoof; or whether, as the tapestry is supposed more strongly to indicate, he obtained Edward's reluctant consent to his visit to reclaim his brother who, a hostage for his own good conduct, had been sent to William by Edward; these are points which now defy investigation, even if they were of sufficient importance to claim it. Harold is then seen on his journey attended by cavaliers on horseback, surrounded by dogs, and, an emblem of his own high dignity, a hawk on his fist.
* Fabyan's Chron. f Rastell's Chron.
One great value of this tapestry is the scrupulous regard paid to points and circumstances which at first view might appear insignificant, but which, as correlative confirmations of usages and facts, are of considerable importance. Thus, it is known to antiquarians that great personages formerly had two only modes of equipment when proceeding on a journey, that of war or the chase. Harold is here fully equipped for the chase, and consequently the first glimpse obtained of his person would show that his errand was one of peace. The hawk on the fist was a mark of high nobility: no inferior person is represented with one: Harold and Guy Earl of Ponthieu alone bear them.
In former times this bird was esteemed so sacred that it was prohibited in the ancient laws for any one to give his hawk even as a part of his ransom. In the reign of Edward the Third it was made felony to steal a hawk; and to take its eggs, even in a person's own ground, was punishable with imprisonment for a year and a day, besides a fine at the king's pleasure. Nay, more than this, by the laws of one part of the island, and probably of the whole,* the price of a hawk, or of a greyhound, was once the very same with the price of a man; and there was a time when the robbing of a hawk's nest was as great a crime in the eye of the law, and as severely punished, as the murder of a Christian. And of this high value they were long considered. "It is difficult," says Mr. Mills,t "to fancy the extravagant degree of estimation in which hawks were held during the chivalric ages. As symbols of high estate they were constantly carried about by the nobility of both sexes. There was even a usage of bringing them into places appropriated to public worship; a practice which, in the case of some individuals, appears to have been recognised as a right. The treasurer of the church of Auxerre enjoyed the distinction of assisting at divine service on solemn days with a falcon on his fist; and the Lord of Sassai held the privilege of perching his upon the altar. Nothing was thought more dishonourable to a man of rank than to give up his hawks; and if he were taken prisoner he would not resign them even for liberty."