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CATO ON THE IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL.
It must be so Plato, thou reasonest well!
(Laying his hand on his sword.)
Grow dim with age, and nature sink in years;
THE SPACIOUS FIRMAMENT.
THE spacious firmament on high,
Soon as the evening shades prevail,
What though, in solemn silence, all
SIR WALTER SCOTT.
A PICTURE OF ANGLO-NORMAN DAYS.'
an-tip'a-thy, aversion, dislike. im-pending, approaching. di'a-lect, form of speech.
in-vet'er-ate, deep-rooted. e-lá'tion, pride of success.
license, lawless authority. em'ū-lā-ted, imitated.
nour'ish-ing (nůr-), cherishing. en-hance', increase.
pre-cā'ri-ous, uncertain, doubtful. e-vent', result, issue.
pre-di-lec'tion, partiality. ex-or'bi-tant (egz-), excessive. pre-mise', to set forth beforehand. ex'tir-pā-ted, rooted out, destroyed. seats, estates, residences. feudal (fūd'al), pertaining to so- vas'sal age, state of servitude.
ciety in the Middle Ages. yore, times gone by.
Thus communed these; while to their lowly dome
In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster. The remains of this extensive wood are still to be seen at the noble seats of Wentworth, of Wharncliffe Park, and around Rotherham. Here haunted of yore the fabulous Dragon of Wantley ; here were fought many of the most desperate battles during the Civil Wars of the Roses; and
I From Ivanhoe, Chap. I.
here also flourished in ancient times those bands of gallant outlaws, whose deeds have been rendered so popular in English song.
Such being our chief scene, the date of our story refers to a period towards the end of the reign of Richard the First, when his return from his long captivity had become an event rather wished than hoped for by his despairing subjects, who were in the mean time subjected to every species of subordinate oppression.
The nobles, whose power had become exorbitant during the reign of Stephen, and whom the prudence of Henry the Second had scarcely reduced into some degree of subjection to the Crown, had now resumed their ancient license in its utmost extent ; despising the feeble interference of the English Council of State, fortifying their castles, increasing the number of their dependants, reducing all around them to a state of vassalage, and striving by every means in their power to place themselves each at the head of such forces as might enable him to make a figure in the national convulsions which appeared to be impending.
The situation of the inferior gentry, or franklins as they were called, who, by the law and spirit of the English constitution, were entitled to hold themselves independent of feudal tyranny, became now unusually precarious. If, as was most generally the case, they placed themselves under the protection of any of the petty kings in their vicinity, accepted of feudal offices in his household, or bound themselves, by mutual treaties of alliance and protection, to support him in his enterprises, they might indeed purchase temporary repose ;
but it must be with the sacrifice of that independence which was so dear to every English bosom, and at the certain hazard of being involved as a party in whatever rash expedition the ambition of their protector might lead him to undertake.
On the other hand, such and so multiplied were the means of vexation and oppression possessed by the great barons, that they never wanted the pretext, and seldom the will, to harass and pursue, even to the very edge of destruction, any of their less powerful neighbors, who attempted to separate themselves from their authority, and to trust for their protection, during the dangers of the times, to their own inoffensive conduct, and to the laws of the land.
A circumstance which greatly tended to enhance the tyranny of the nobility, and the sufferings of the inferior classes, arose from the consequences of the Norman conquest by Duke William of Normandy. Four generations had not sufficed to blend the hostile blood of the Normans and Anglo-Saxons, or to unite, by common language and mutual interests, two hostile races, one of which still felt the elation of triumph, while the other groaned under all the consequences of defeat. The power had been completely placed in the hands of the Norman nobility, by the event of the battle of Hastings, and it had been used, as our histories assure us, with no moderate hand.
The whole race of Saxon princes and nobles had been extirpated or disinherited, with few or no exceptions; nor were the numbers great who possessed land in the country of their fathers, even as proprietors of the second or of yet inferior classes. The royal policy had