Front Matter Early Times The Druids The Britons Caesar in Britain Queen Boadicea The Great Walls The Great Irish Saint The Anglo-Saxons Brave King Arthur The Laws of the Saxons The Story of St Augustine Three Great Men The Danish Pirates King Alfred and the Cakes Alfred conquers the Danes A King's Narrow Escape The King and the Outlaw The Monasteries An Unlucky Couple St Dunstan King Canute and the Waves A Saxon Nobleman Lady Godiva's Ride The Battle of Hastings The Conquest Lords and Vassals Death of William The Brothers' Quarrels Arms and Armour The "White Ship" Matilda's Narrow Escapes Story of Fair Rosamond Thomas a Becket Murder of Thomas a Becket Richard's Adventures Richard and the Saracens The Faithful Minstrel Death of Richard The Murder of Arthur The Great Charter The Rule of Henry III A Race Persecution of the Jews The Conquest of Wales A Quarrel with France The Coronation Stone The Insolent Favourite Bruce and the Spider Death of Edward II The Murderers punished The Battle of Crecy The Siege of Calais The Age of Chivalry The Battle of Poitiers The Peasants' Revolt Richard's Presence of Mind A Tiny Queen Henry's Troubles Madcap Harry A Glorious Reign The Maid of Orleans The War of the Roses The Queen and the Brigand The Triumph of the Yorks The Princes in the Tower Richard's Punishment Two Pretenders A Grasping King Field of the Cloth of Gold The New Opinions Death of Wolsey Henry's Wives The King and the Painter A Boy King Lady Jane Grey The Death of Cranmer A Clever Queen Elizabeth's Lovers Mary, Queen of Scots Captivity of Mary Stuart Wreck of the Spanish Armada The Elizabethan Age Death of Elizabeth A Scotch King The Gunpowder Plot Sir Walter Raleigh King and Parliament Cavaliers and Roundheads "Remember" The Royal Oak The Commonwealth The Restoration Plague and Fire The Merry Monarch James driven out of England A Terrible Massacre William's Wars The Duke of Marlborough The Taking of Gibraltar The South Sea Bubble Bonny Prince Charlie Black Hole of Calcutta Loss of the Colonies The Battle of the Nile Nelson's Last Signal The Battle of Waterloo First Gentleman of Europe Childhood of Queen Victoria The Queen's Marriage Wars in Victoria's Reign The Jubilee

Story of the English - Helene Guerber

Three Great Men

You have heard how Augustine came over to England to convert the Anglo-Saxons. After his death he was made a saint, and he is the missionary of England, just as St. Patrick is the missionary of Ireland. There were many good men in the monasteries which were founded in England, and a few of them are still famous.

There was, for instance, a monk named Gildas, who wrote a Latin history, in which he tells us a great deal about olden times in England. Copies of this book have been preserved, and it has been translated into English.

In the nunneries of the seventh century, the nuns and their servants used to spend the long winter evenings around the fire, telling tales and singing songs. In one nunnery there was a poor servant named Caedmon, who was greatly embarrassed when his turn came. He had nothing to say, and felt so ashamed that he went out into the stable and wept. While he was there one evening, he heard a voice which bade him sing. First he answered that he could not; but when the command was repeated, he inquired, "What shall I sing?" "Sing the beginning of created things," answered the voice. So Caedmon, who had often heard the nuns tell about the creation, began to sing, and, to his surprise, he found that he was reciting a wonderful poem.

We are told that Hilda, the abbess of the nunnery, encouraged Caedmon to compose more verse, and that his poem, the first in English, gave Milton, one of our greatest geniuses, the idea of writing "Paradise Lost."

The first English prose was written, nearly one hundred years after Caedmon's poem, by the Venerable Bede. He translated one of the Gospels into English. He was very old, and when his great work was nearly finished, feeling that he was about to die, he bade his disciple hurry and write down the end of the translation.

"There is still one chapter wanting, Master," said the scribe; "it is hard for thee to think and to speak."

"It must be done," said Bede. "Write quickly!"

The work went on, but the master grew weaker and weaker; and when night was coming on, the scribe said:

"There is yet one sentence to write, dear Master."

Once more the master roused himself to dictate the last words, and a few moments later the scribe exclaimed: "It is finished!" "Thou sayest truth," replied the weary old man; "it is finished; all is finished!" And, sinking back upon his pillow, he died, leaving us the first English translation of one of the books of the Bible.