Book 2, Chapter 5, 878 AD to 901 AD – Revolt in the Danelagh
The conflict thus rapidly sketched extended over four years, and was waged over a very large area. The marching’s and countermarching, the rival entrenchments, the foraging parties, the skirmishing’s, the sorties, and the drawn battles had involved a tremendous expenditure of life and labour, but from this Alfred did not shrink, knowing that the existence of the nation was at stake. His reign lasted only four years after the termination of this cruel war, but he was able to perfect and consolidate the patriotic work he had begun. What that work was, and bow it was effected, it is now necessary to explain, and the marvel will appear that amid such harassing military concerns, and during a prolonged struggle for national existence, a broad and safe basis was laid for the commercial, social, and political greatness of the England of future ages.
The wonder is also that out of such unpromising materials, and that labouring to a large extent single-handed, this patriot-king should have succeeded in producing so much that was good and true, the effects of which yet abide, and the memory of which is inseparably connected with his name and renowned. Hume’s summary of Alfred’s character is just and discriminating. “The merit of this prince, both in private and public life may with advantage be set in opposition to that of any monarch or citizen which the annals of any age or any nation can present to us. He seems, indeed, to be the model of that perfect character, which, under the denomination of a sage or wise man, philosophers have been fond of delineating, rather as a fiction of their imagination, than in hope of over seeing it really existing, so happily were all his virtues tempered together, so justly were they blended, and so powerfully did each prevent the other from exceeding its proper boundaries.
He knew how to reconcile the most enterprising spirit, with the coolest moderation, the most obstinate perseverance, with the easiest flexibility, the most severe justice, with the gentlest lenity, the greatest vigour in commanding, with the most perfect affability of deportment, the highest capacity and inclination for science, with the most shining talents for action. His civil and military virtues are almost equally the objects of our admiration, accepting, only, that the former, being more rare among princes, as well as more useful, seem chiefly to challenge our applause. Nature, also, as if desirous that so bright a production of her skill should be set in the fairest light, had bestowed on him every bodily accomplishment, vigour of limbs, dignity of shape and air, with a pleasing, engaging, and open countenance. Fortune alone, by throwing him into that barbarous age, deprived him of historians worthy to transmit his fame to posterity, and we wish to see him delineated in more lively colours, and with more particular strokes, that we may at least perceive some of those small specks and blemishes, from which, as a man, it is impossible he could be entirely exempted.” (History. ch. ii.)
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Fortifications
Chapter 5, Revolt in the Danelagh
Four Years of Conflict
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Educational Efforts
Chapter 5, Alfred’s Industry and Zeal
Chapter 5, Saxon Laws
Chapter 5, Summary of Alfred’s Character
Categories: Book 2