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all the suffrages were united in favour of Absalon. His election was confirmed by the acclamations of the people.
“ At this time," says the Knytlingasaga,“ died Bishop Ossur, and Absalon, Asbjörn Snarre's brother, was chosen bishop in his place. This Absalon was a wise man and the best of clerks, and afterwards became a very great chieftain."
In thus assuming the episcopal crosier, Absalon did not lay down the sword he had so often drawn to chastise the pirate Wends, the enemies of his religion and country. He left his episcopal palace to fall to decay, whilst he built upon the shores of his island-diocese rude huts of boughs and turf, where he watched night and day, guarding his flock like a true shepherd against the stealthy approaches of the heathen wolves. Even in the dead of winter he cruised along the coasts of Zealand to interrupt the sea-rovers, and was often called from the altar, where he was performing divine service, to march against these ferocious foes. He was once preparing to celebrate Palm-Sunday at Röskilde, when information was suddenly brought him that a powerful band of Wends had landed from their ships, and were laying waste the country, plundering and destroying on all sides. Absalon hastily armed his “ housecarles," choristers, and other church vassals, with as many of the neighbouring peasantry as he could collect, and making a sudden onset upon the enemy, drove them back to their ships with signal slaughter. The patriotprelate also swayed by his wisdom and eloquence the decisions of the popular assembly of the “ Lands-thing," which were too often overborne by the factious violence of the turbulent magnates. After his accession to the archiepiscopal throne, the sphere of his patriotic exertions became enlarged, so as to embrace the whole kingdom. He erected on the coasts of the islands and the continental provinces of Scania and Jutland, strongholds to defend the land against the harassing incursions of the Baltic pirates. Among other positions he fortified the present capital of Denmark, then an obscure fishing village, with a strong castle, against the sea-rovers, upon the spot where now stands the magnificent palace of Christiansborg. * At the same time Absalon founded, and richly endowed, monasteries for the various fraternities of monks, who swarmed from the Catholic countries of southern and western Europe. The primate reformed the abuses which had
The fortress erected by the archbishop was called Arel Huus, Absalon's House, and in the diplomas of the time, Castrum de Havn. The town afterwards received the name of Kiobmanshaven, or “ Merchants' Harbour," whence the modern name Kiobenhavn. Mallet says, that inention is made at this period of the site of the Danish capital for the first time. But ibis is a mistake; it is mentioned in the Icelandic Sagas as early as the war between Svend Estrithson and King Magnus of Norway, under the name of Höfn, as in Knytlingasaga, kap. xxii.
gradually crept into the discipline of the national church, and established uniformity of worship in the place of the various rituals imported by the Anglo-Saxon and German priests, by whom Christianity had been originally planted in Denmark. He vindicated with the sword the claim of the clergy to tithes as a legal right, which had been long and pertinaciously resisted by the nation as the most grievous burthen sought to be imposed upon them by the Romish see. These are the monuments of Absalon's fame on which the cotemporary annalists delight to dwell with the most complacency. But his fairest title to the esteem of posterity must be sought for in his unaffected love of letters and patronage of learned men. Besides the knowledge of the classical writers of Greece and Rome, acquired in his early studies at Paris, he was familiarly acquainted with the works of the Icelandic Skalds and Sagamen. He retained in his service one Arnold, a native Icelander, a man well versed in the poetry and history of the ancient North, consulted him on the most important occasions, and was generally accompanied by him on his military expeditions against the pirate Wends. The primate was a zealous antiquarian, and rescued from destruction many a Runic inscription, which, but for his care, would have been irretrievably lost. He is said to have founded and endowed the monastery of Sorö with the express view that the colony of Cistercian monks planted there should devote themselves to the task of recording the national annals. The same motives induced him to stimulate and patronize the historical labours of Saxo Grammaticus and Sueno Aggonis. Although a man of strong and cultivated mind, Absalon was far from being exempt from the deeply rooted prejudices of his age. He believed implicitly in the augury of dreams and prodigies; but in a much more enlightened period the gifted Melancthon put full faith in the puerilities of astrology, and the warrior-bishop of the twelfth century must not be judged by modes of thinking universally current in the nineteenth. His character is well summed up, according to the prevailing notions of his own times, by his cotemporary Abbot William, a French monk from the convent of St. Genevieve, at Paris, whom Absalon had invited to Denmark, and who was subsequently employed by him in several important negociations with the Court of Rome.
“ He was," says William, " distinguished for wisdom in council, the ornament of the clerical order, charitable to the distressed and needy, a pious friend of the monks of whatever fraternity, a terror to the pagan Wends, the jewel of the faith, the mirror of nobility and virtue, a burning and shining light in God's church, and its strong, unshaken pillar."
The life and character of Archbishop Absalon has been recently illustrated by Professor Estrup, in a biographical sketch entitled Absalon, om Held, Staatsman, og Biskop.
Saxo, surnamed Grammaticus, was a churchman, and secretary or chancellor to Archbishop Absalon, who sent him to Paris for the purpose of inviting Abbot William to Denmark. The particular circunstances of Saxo’s life are involved in great obscurity. The period of his birth is uncertain, but he died in 1204, having spent twenty years of his life in the composition of a Danish History, in Latin, from the earliest times to the reign of Canute VI. The first part of his work relating to the heroic or Pagan age, though not entirely destitute of authority, is filled with many incredible fictions, borrowed partly from the romantic and mythic songs and sagas of that period, or from sources quite foreign to real Danish history. But the last seven books, which is the portion of his work examined by the learned Bishop Müller in the memoir now before us, and containing the annals of Denmark from the time of Harald Gormson, may, for the most part, be regarded as authentic history, though it cannot always be reconciled with the Icelandic accounts recently brought to light by the diligence of the national antiquaries. Saxo’s Latin style is highly wrought, often eloquent, and always lively and picturesque, though not faultless, nor in general formed upon the best classical models. But when considered as the work of a Danish ecclesiastic in the twelfth century, it may be regarded as a prodigy of taste and genius, worthy of the warm commendations extorted from a scholar like Erasmus, who praises its copiousness and rapid flow of language, its glowing servour, and admirable variety of figures, so that he could never sufficiently wonder whence a Danish writer of that age could acquire such a powerful eloquence.
The posterity of Knut or Canute the Great, having failed in the person of Harde-Knut or Hardecanute King of Denmark and England, in 1042, the Danish nation called to the vacant succession Svend, son of Canute's sister Estrith and of Ulfr Jarl, who left by his various wives and concubines a numerous progeny of sons, five of whom reigned after him successively to the exclusion of the children of each. Immediately upon his death, a contest for the vacant sceptre arose between his eldest son Harald and a younger son Knut, who had been recommended to the choice of the nation in preference to his elder brother by Svend Estrithson himself. According to Saxo, the election was held at the Isefiord
* The best edition of Saxo is that of Stephanius, Soræ, 1644, fol. A new and improved edition may soon be expected from the learned Bishop P. E. Muller, whose deep knowledge of the Icelandic authorities will probably enable him to throw new light upon this valuable historical monument, and to purify the text from the corruptions which have crept in for the want of MSS, there being no complete one now extant,
in Zealand, but the author of Knytlingasaga says it was at Viborg in Jutland." The two brothers, Knut and Harald, went to Jutland, for there the king was to be elected at Viborg-thing; there was a great multitude assembled.” The claims of Harald finally prevailed. He was duly proclaimed king, and made a progress through the provinces, where his election was confirmed, and he received the homage of the people in the different“ lands-thing." His competitor Knut was appeased by being created “ Jarl of Zealand," with a commission to guard the island from the ravages of the Pagan sea-rovers, and by a solemn promise ratified by the oaths of all the chieftains (höfding jar) that he should be king after his brother Harald, in case he survived him.
The kingdom continued to be distracted for more than a century after this period by bloody contentions for a crown which was partly elective and partly hereditary, the choice being always contined to the descendants of Svend Estrithson, with a general preference (though not without exceptions) of the oldest surviving brother of the late king over his sons. Thus, when king Erik Ejegod set out on his pilgrimage to the Holy Land (1103), he declared in a public “ Thing" that his son Erik should accompany him, bis son Harald should remain to defend the country, and upon his third son Knut he conferred the Duchy of Sleswig, adding, that "every body knows that my brother Nikolas is next to the royal dignity after my decease according to law.” The king* having died at Cyprus, Nikolas succeeded, and after having treacherously put to death his nephew Knut, and provoked the national hatred by his tyranny, was solemnly declared to have forfeited the crown by his perjuries and other crimes. Erik, the eldest son of Erik Ejegod, was chosen in his place, and he again was followed by another Erik, the grandson of Erik Ejegod, surnamed Lamm (the Lamb), from the gentleness of his character and the inildness of his rule. He abdicated the throne and retired into a monastery in 1147. On the termination of his pacific, but feeble and inglorious reign, the kingdom was again convulsed by the contentions growing out of the choice of a successor from among the surviving descendants of Svend Estrithson. After a series of civil wars and treacherous murders, Valdemar I. son of Knut Duke of Sleswig, and grandson of King Erik Ejegod, supplanted all his rivals, and the friend of Absalon became sole king of Denmark in 1157. He died in 1182, “ lamented,” says the Knytlingasaga “ by all Denmark, over which he had reigned six and twenty years, and fought more than eight and twenty batiles in the heathen land, and warred
Knytlingasaga, kap. 79.
against the Pagans, to the glory of God's church, so long as he lived.” (kap. 127.)
The introduction of tithes for the support of the clergy in Denmark, had been constantly resisted by the people ever since the establishment of Roman Christianity as the national religion. The attempt to enforce their exaction had cost Knut V. his life. A grateful clergy had rewarded his devotion to their interests with the crown of martyrdom, but the reluctance of the peasantry, especially in Zealand and Scania, to submit to the payment of this new tribute was not subdued. Archbishop Absalon persuaded Valdemar I. to enforce the collection of tithes in the province of Scania by force of arms. The natural repugnance of the king to shed the blood of his subjects in any case was overcome in this instance, which he was taught to consider not only as a culpable disobedience to his royal authority, but an impious resistance to the will of heaven, as interpreted by its ministers on earth. Absalon himself may have been, to a certain degree, influenced by a conscientious conviction of the justice of the cause he supported. But he acted in the general spirit of the sacerdotal and feudal aristocracy of his time, and it seems probable that he was mainly influenced by the interests of the order in which he was born, and of which he had become the head. Until the epoch of the Valdemars, the Danish peasant came armed into the national assembly of the “ Lands-thing, " and exercised his political rights with as much freedom as any noble in the land. The aristocracy of the heroic or Pagan age was patriarchal in its character. The Jarls, Hærsers, Höfdingjar, and other magnates and chieftains, were the leaders of the people in war, and exercised over them a certain degree of political influence in time of peace. They were the pontiffs of religion, but not a separate order of priesthood. Their relation to the mass of the people was not that of lord and vassal, but resembled rather the connection of patron and client; if indeed its tie was so strong as that which bound the Roman plebeian to his patrician protector. This independent bearing of the commons offended the growing pride of the higher orders, and the cultivators of the soil gradually sunk under the increasing power and influence of the feudal aristocracy and the Romish hierarchy. The free Danish peasant became a feudal serf, chained to the soil on which he grew, in which abject condition he remained during the middle ages, and never emerged from it until the last year of the eighteenth century.
The codes of law supposed to have been published by Valdemar I. for Scania and Zealand, have been recently shown to be mere private re-compilations of the ancient customary law of those