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Page 31

CHAPTER I
FIFTH TO ELEVENTH CENTURIES - EARLY ENGLISH PERIOD

Romans ruled the land ; he borrowed from various convents their treasures of old manuscripts pertaining to the early times ; and he talked with men who had preserved the ancient traditions and legends. So it was that Bede's Ecclesiastical History, the first history of England, was written.When it was done, he sent it to the King, together with a sincere and dignified little preface, in which he asked for the prayers of whoever should read the book-a much larger number than the quiet monk expected.
With the difficulty of collecting information, no one could expect Bede's work to be free from mistakes, although he was careful from whom his information came, and he often gives the name of his authority. Bede knew well how to tell a story, and the Ecclesiastical History, sober and grave as its title sounds, is full of tales of visions of angels, lights from heaven, mysterious voices, and tempests that were stilled and fires that were quenched at the prayers of holy men. Here is the legend of Cxdmon and his gift of song. Here, too, is the famous statement that there are no snakes in Ireland. " Even if they are carried thither from Britain," says Bede, " as soon as the ship comes near the shore and the scent of the air reaches them, they die."
All these books were written in Latin. That was the tongue of the church and of all scholars of the day. It was a universal language, and an educated man might be set down in any monastery in England or on the Continent, and feel perfectly at home in its book-room or in conversation with the monks. Bede was so thoroughly English, however, in his love of' nature, his frankness and earnestness, and his devotion

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