The Pied Piper of Hamelin

Robert Browning

1812-1889
Hamelin town's in Brunswick,
By famous Hanover city;
The river Weser, deep and wide,
Washes its wall on the southern side;
A pleasanter spot you never spied;
But, when begins my ditty,
Almost five hundred years ago,
To see the townsfolk suffer so
From vermin, was a pity.

Rats!
They fought the dogs, and killed the cats,
And bit the babies in the cradles,
And eat the cheeses out of the vats,
And licked the soup from the cooks' own ladles,
Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
Made nests inside men's Sunday hats,
And even spoiled the womens' chats
By drowning their speaking
With shrieking and squeaking
In fifty different sharps and flats.

At last the people in a body
To the Town Hall came flocking:
'Tis clear, cried they, our Mayor's a noddy;
And as for our Corporation - shocking
To think we buy gowns lined in ermine
For dolts that can't or won't determine
What's like to rid us of our vermin!
Rouse up, Sirs! Give your brains a racking
To find the remedy we're lacking,
Or sure as fate we'll send you packing!
At this the Mayor and Corporation
Quaked with a mighty consternation.

An hour they sate in council,
At length the Mayor broke silence:
For a guilder I'd mine ermine gown sell;
I wish I were a mile hence!
It's easy to bid one rack one's brain -
I'm sure my poor head aches again
I've scratched it so, and all in vain.
Oh for a trap, a trap, a trap!
Just as he said this what should hap
At the chamber door but a gentle tap?
Bless us, cried the Mayor, what's that?
(With the Corporation as he sate,
Looking little though wondrous fat);
Only a scraping of shoes on the mat?
Anything like the sound of a rat
Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!

Come in! - the Mayor cried, looking bigger;
And in did come the strangest figure!
His queer long coat from heel to head
Was half of yellow and half of red;
And he himself was tall and thin,
With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin,
And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin,
No tuft on cheek or beard on chin,
But lips where smiles went out and in -
There was no guessing his kith and kin!
And nobody could enough admire
The tall man and his quaint attire:
Quoth one: It's as my great-grandsire,
Starting up at the Trump of Doom's tone,
Had walked this way from his painted tombstone!

He advanced to the council-table:
And, Please your honours, said he, I'm able,
By means of a secret charm, to draw
All creatures living beneath the sun,
That creep, or fly, or swim, or run,
After me so as you never saw!
And I chiefly use my charm
On creatures that do people harm,
The mole, and toad, and newt, and viper;
And people call me the Pied Piper.
9And here they noticed round his neck
A scarf of red and yellow stripe,
To match with his coat of the self-same cheque;
And at the scarf's end hung a pipe;
And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying
As if impatient to be playing
Upon this pipe, as low it dangled
Over his vesture so old-fangled.)
Yet, said he, poor piper as I am,
In Tartary I freed the Cham,
Last June, from his huge swarm of gnats;
I eased in Asia the Nazam
Of a monstrous brood of vampyre-bats;
And, as for what your brain bewilders,
If I can rid your town of rats
Will you give me a thousand guilders?
One? fifty thousand! - was the exclamation
Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.

Into the street the Piper stept,
Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow his pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled,
Like a candle-flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, grey rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, -
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step by step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the River Weser
Wherein all plunged and perished
- Save one who, stout as Julius Caesar, 
Swam across and lived to carry
(As he the manuscript he cherished)
To Rat-land home his commentary,
Which was, At the first shrill notes of the pipe,
I heard a sound of scraping tripe,
And putting apples, wondrous ripe,
Into a cider-press's gripe:
And a moving away of pickle-tub boards,
And a leaving ajar of conserve-cupboards,
And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks,
And a breaking the hoops  of butter-casks;
And it seemed as if a voice
(Sweeter than by harp or psaltery
Is breathed) called out, Oh rats, rejoice! 
The world is grown to one vast drysaltery!
'So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,
'Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!
And just as one bulky, sugar-puncheon,
Ready staved, like a great sun shone
Glorious scarce an inch before me,
Just as methought it said, Come bore me!
- I found the Weser rolling o'er me.

You should have heard the Hamelin people
Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple;
Go, cried the Mayor, and get long poles!
Poke out the nest and block up the holes;
Consult with carpenters and builders,
And leave in our own town not even a trace
Of the rats! - when suddenly up the face
Of the Piper perked in the market-place,
With a, First, if you please, my thousand guilders!

A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue;
So did the Corporation too.
For council dinners made rare havock
With Claret, Moselle, Vin-de-Grave, Hock;
And half the money would replenish
Their cellar's biggest butt with Rhenish.
To pay this sum to a wandering fellow
With a gipsy coat of red and yellow!
Beside, quoth the Mayor with a knowing wink,
Our business was done at the river's brink;
We saw with our eyes the vermin sink,
And what's dead can't come to life, I think.
So, friend, we're not the folks to shrink
From giving you something for a drink,
And a matter of money to put in your poke;
But, as for the guilders, what we spoke
Of them was, as you very well know, was in joke.
Beside, our losses have made us thrifty;
A thousand guilders? Come, take fifty!

The Piper's face fell, and he cried,
No trifling, I can't wait, beside!
I've promised to visit by dinner time
Bagdat and accept the prime
Of the Head Cook's pottage, all he's rich in,
For having left, in the Caliph's kitchen,
Of a nest of scorpions no survivor -
With him I proved no bargain-driver,
With you, don't think I'll bate a stiver!
And folks who put me in a passion
May find me pipe after another fashion.

How, cried the Mayor, d'ye think think I'll brook
Being worse treated than a Cook?
Insulted by a lazy ribald
With idle pipe and vesture piebald?
You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst,
Blow your pipe there till you burst!

Once more he stept into the street;
And to his lips again
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
Soft notes as yet musician's cunning
Never gave th'enraptured air)
There was a rustling, that seem'd like a bustling
Of merry crowds, justling at pitching and hustling,
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping, and little tongues chattering,
And like fowls in a farm-yard when barley is scattering,
Out came the children running.
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.

The Mayor was dumb, and the council stood
As if they were changed to blocks of wood,
Unable to move a step, or cry
To the children merrily skipping by -
Could only follow with the eye
That joyous crowd at the Piper's back.
But how the Mayor was on the rack,
And the wretched Council's bosoms beat,
As the Piper turned from the High Street
To where the Weser rolled its waters
Right in the way of their sons and daughters!
However he turned from South to West,
And to Coppelburg Hill his steps addressed,
And after him the children pressed;
Great was the joy in every breast.
He never can cross that mighty top!
He's forced to let the piping drop,
And we shall see our children stop!
When lo, as they reached the mountain's side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children follow'd,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain side shut fast.
Did I say, all? No! One was lame,
And could not dance the whole of the way;
And in after years, if you would blame
His sadness, he was used to say, -
It's dull in our town since my playmates left!
I can't forget that I'm bereft
Of all the sights they see,
Which the Piper also promised me;
For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
Joining the town and just at hand,
Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And every thing was strange and new;
The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
And honey bees had lost their stings,
And horses were born with eagles' wings:
And just as I felt assured
My lame foot would be speedily cured,
The music stopped and I stood still,
And found myself outside the Hill,
Left alone against my will,
To go now limping as before,
And never hear of that country more!

Alas, alas for Hamelin!
There came into many a burgher's pate
A text which says, that Heaven's Gate
Opes to the Rich at as easy a rate
As the needle's eye takes a camel in!
The Mayor sent East, West, North, and South,
To offer the Piper, by word of mouth,
Wherever it was men's lot to find him,
Silver and gold to his heart's content,
If he'd only return the way he went,
And bring the children behind him.
But when they saw 'twas a lost endeavour,
And piper and dancers were gone for ever,
They made a decree that lawyers never
Should think their records dated duly
If, after the day of the month and year,
These words did not as well appear
"And so long after what happened here
"On the twenty-second of July,
"Thirteen hundred and Seventy-six;"
And the better in memory to fix
The place of the Children's last retreat,
They called it, The Pied Piper's Street -
Where anyone playing on pipe or tabor
Was sure for the future to lose his labour.
Nor suffered they Hostelry or Tavern
To shock with mirth a street so solemn;
But opposite the place of the cavern
They wrote the story on a column,
And on the Great Church Window painted
The same, to make the world acquainted
How their children were stolen away;
And  there it stands to this very day.
And I must not omit to say
That in Transylvania there's a tribe
Of alien people who ascribe
The outlandish ways and dress
On which their neighbours lay such stress
To their fathers and mothers having risen
Out of some subterranean prison
Into which they were trepanned
Long time ago in a mighty band
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land,
But how or why, they don't understand.

So, Willy,  let you and me be wipers
Of scores out with all men - especially pipers:
And whether they pipe us from rats or from mice,
If we've promised them aught, let us keep our promise.

Sacred relics and broken oaths with three claimants to English throne

It took 600 years to really establish the Saxons as lords and masters of the land now called England. They had driven the original inhabitants into the West and then pushed back the various Nordic invaders into small enclaves.

Edward the Confessor had ruled for a good time but in 1066 he popped his clogs and, as he had no children, died without an heir.

In latter years he had relied heavily on Harold Godwinson, son of the Earl of Wessex, Godwin, and brother to Edward’s wife, Edith.

It was no surprise then that when Edward gasped his last Harold Godwinson claimed Edward had named him his successor before he died. That was enough for the Witan, a group of elders who ruled as to the right of any claimant to the crown, to name him successor to the old man.

Thus on 6 January 1066 Harold became king in what was to be a very busy year for him, and a very short reign (I don’t think you can really call that a spoiler).

He could have expected a fairly peaceful reign, after all Edward had ruled in peace for many years.

Instead he was wary of a challenge from across the channel which divided England from France. Not that France had been any sort of problem to England in the past.

The problem lay with a a land inhabited by descendants of the Vikings who used to harass England before Alfred had succeeded in confining to a small area of England.

Early in the 10th century a band of these Vikings, or Norsemen as they were sometimes called, had settled in the lower valley of the Seine and under the leadership of a Viking called Rollo had taken to brigandry (highway robbery).

The French king at the time employed them initially as mercenaries and later granted Rollo and his men an area of land and Rollo himself was made a duke owing allegiance to the French king.

The Vikings gradually began to be referred to as Normans rather than Norsemen and the duchy became known as Normandy.

Roll on a few generations and Rollo’s descendant Duke Robert was ruling Normandy. He never married but did have a mistress who bore him his one and only son, William, also referred to as William the Bastard.

When little William grew up he claimed to be Edward the Confessor’s rightful successor as Edward had promised him this when the English king was in exile in Normandy.

Now Harold had been elected by the Witan, even if he hadn’t been named Edward’s successor by the Confessor himself.

The problem lay in the fact that Harold Godwinson had once been shipwrecked on the French coast and eventually became a hostage of William and actually fought by his side in certain local skirmishes.

William claimed that at this time, two or three years before Edward the Confessor died, Harold had made an oath that he would support William’s claim to the throne when Edward died. Well, when you’re a hostage you’ll say anything won’t you?

When Edward died Harold reckoned that the Witan’s decision and vote topped any oath he might have given “under duress” so he went ahead and had himself crowned.

William saw it in a completely different way. Oaths in those days were sworn over sacred relics and the Church, nowadays based in Rome, took them very seriously. Under these circumstances William said Harold had broken his oath by having himself crowned instead of supporting the Norman’s claim.

It wasn’t long before Harold heard the news that William was gathering an invasion fleet ready to come to England and take the throne. On top of this William had the support of the Pope.

After barely a month as top dog King Harold had to face the fact that he was not going to have an easy introduction to the role of ruler. He had to gather his own army ready to drive William back across the channel to Rouen.

At that time England did not have a standing army. The king had a personal bodyguard, his housecarls, often quite a large force who were trained fighters equipped with the best arms by the king.

This was fine if dealing with small groups of attackers but if it came to major battles then the all men of fighting age were called up to serve the king. Once the battle or battles ended these men would go back to their lands and get on with their farming.

By February 1066 Harold knew that William was preparing his invasion force and he sent out messengers to call all men to arms and he had a large army ready to face William.

The trouble was William didn’t come.

Sailing ships in those days required a following wind as the sails were basically big squares which gathered the wind coming from behind and any deviation in the wind direction would have taken them too far East or too far West to make landfall at a suitable spot.

Thus William sat on one side of the channel, with all his ships, his men and his horses ready to set forth as soon as the wind changed.

Meanwhile Harold sat on the English side of the channel with his army ready to repel the invaders.

Both forces waited, and waited, and waited . . . . . . . .

Now William’s force consisted of Norman knights and infantry along with mercenaries. It might have cost him a lot to keep the mercenaries paid while waiting but he did not have to worry about the rest of the country not being worked as the peasants were not involved with the invasion force.

The trouble is that Harold’s army mainly consisted of men who should have been working the fields as spring and then summer arrived.

In the end as summer came to an end and there was no sign of the invasion fleet setting out, let alone landing. That was when Harold disbanded the army and sent them back to work the fields.

Having waited for seven months with no action what were the odds that as soon as he sent his army away he would suddenly find himself in need of them.

That is exactly what happened and in September 1066 a claimant to the English throne landed with an army of experienced fighters.

The problem was that this was not William landing on the South coast but Harald Hardrada King of Norway who reckoned he had a claim to the English throne. Urging him on was Harold Godwinson’s brother, Tostig, who had been exiled by Harold earlier that year.

This Viking army had landed up North at Stamford Bridge in Yorkshire.

Harold put the William problem on the back burner and set off North with his housecarls, picking up the peasant soldiers on the way.

NEXT TIME: Anglo Saxons 1 Vikings 0 – then back South for the big fixture

The French Revolution

by Washington Allston

1779-1843
Earth has had her visitation.
Like to this
She hath not known, save when the mounting waters
Made of her orb one universal ocean.
For now the Tree that grew in Paradise,
The deadly Tree that first gave Evil motion,
And sent its poison through
Earth's sons and daughters,
Had struck again its root in every land;
And now its fruit is ripe,- about to fall,-
And now a mighty Kingdom raised the hand,
To pluck and eat. Then from his throne stepped forth
The King of Hell, and stood upon the Earth:
But not, as once, upon the Earth to crawl,
A Nation's congregated form he took,
Till, drunk with sin and blood,
Earth to her centre struck.

Cigarettes And Whiskey And Wild, Wild Women

by Anne Sexton

1928-1974
Perhaps I was born kneeling,
born coughing on the long winter,
born expecting the kiss of mercy,
born with a passion for quickness
and yet, as things progressed,
I learned early about the stockade
or taken out, the fume of the enema.
By two or three I learned not to kneel,
not to expect, to plant my fires underground
where none but the dolls, perfect and awful,
could be whispered to or laid down to die.

Now that I have written many words,
and let out so many loves, for so many,
and been altogether what I always was --
a woman of excess, of zeal and greed,
I find the effort useless,
do I not look in the mirror, these days,
and see a drunken rat avert her eyes?
Do I not feel the hunger so acutely
that I would rather die than look
into its face?
I kneel once more,
in case mercy should come
in the nick of time.

Taliesin in 1952

by RS Thomas

1913-2000
I have been all men known to history,
Wondering at the world and at time passing;
I have seen evil, and light blessing
Innocent love under a spring sky.

I have been Merlin wandering in the woods
Of a far country, where the winds waken
Unnatural voices, my mind broken
By a sudden acquaintance with man's rage.

I have been Glyn Dwr set in the vast night,
Scanning the skies for the propitious omen,
A leader of men, yet cursed by the crazed woman
Mourning their dead under the same stars.

I have been Goronwy, forced from my own land
To taste the bitterness of the salt ocean;
I have known exile and a wild passion
Of longing changing to a cold ache.

King, beggar and fool, I have been all by turns,
Knowing the body's sweetness, the mind's treason;
Taliesin still, I show you a new world, risen,
Stubborn with beauty, out of the heart's need.

Celtic countries lead the way when it comes to “spoiling” our children

I wonder how many of us are aware of laws that affect our everyday lives and could get us into serious trouble, bearing in mind that ignorance of the law is no defence.

As of today (21 March 2022) it has become illegal in Wales for parents (or anyone acting in loco parentis) to smack or otherwise physically assault their children.

I was quite surprised because I thought this had become law in the United Kingdom some years ago. It turns out that Scotland brought this law in two years ago but England and Northern Ireland still allow smacking if it is considered to be “reasonable punishment”.

The Facebook post that brought the smacking rules to my attention*

Pictured above is the Facebook posting that brought the matter to my attention – and as I commented I was surprised because I thought it was a UK ruling.

When I checked up on it I discovered that it is just that Wales has adopted this stance as of today and that Scotland adopted it two years ago.

I was not only surprised – I was shocked. Shocked by the attitude of the person who posted it: “what nonsense!”

Now I may not have been the best dad in the world when I was in my 20s and there might have been a smack now and again, but I soon realised there are better ways to get children to behave.

The FB post was in a group aimed at people who grew up in the 1960s and I was expecting a lot of my peers would jump to defend the children and very speedily the responses came rolling in:

“never harmed me and we got the slipper at school”

“Bloody ridiculous.”

“I was brought up with belt and birch . . . made us tough as nails”

“I got smacked and it made me learn respect”

“World gone mad!”

“A quick wrist slap or back of legs never did mine any harm!”

“Chaos awaits”

These are some of the milder comments. I was amazed to find out how many people in this country still believe that a child should be smacked or slapped for being naughty.

The most common response, and the one that really had me concerned about ongoing violence, was that old adage: “My parents did it to me and I learned respect. I taught my children in the same way.”

My father and mother were wonderful people and taught us to respect others and to keep an eye out for those in need of care and protection. Neither of them gave us even an admonitory tap on the hand let alone the *posterior.

The response when I mentioned this was: “Well aren’t you a goody two shoes.”

My answer? “No.”

I was then asked if I had a silver spoon and again my response was: “No.”

Technically that was a lie because we have three silver spoons but they came from my wife’s family and I knew what the question really mount – born, mouth, silver spoon.

There were also those who talked about having the cane or slipper or belt when they were at school. Here I was on firmer ground because I knew what that felt like.

As I have mentioned before I was caned by the headmaster of my school in the 1960s and my response to my FB interrogator was: “I was caned at school and it made me more rebellious. It did not give me respect for the headmaster – it just increased my belief that he was an arrogant sadist. Six thwacks is not appropriate for not having my uniform cap at school.”

Within four hours of the original posting there were about 300 responses and the vast majority were against the ban.

I was especially surprised at the number of women who trotted out the old adage about “spare the rod and spoil the child”. I wonder what their attitude would be to husbands being allowed to beat their wives. It was not forbidden by law until well into the 20th century.

In the late 1800s it was considered acceptable for a man to beat his wife provided the stick or rod used was no thicker than his thumb.

In the early 1900s new laws were brought into force stating that a man could not beat his wife except during the hours from 7 am to 10 pm. This was not to protect women, it was to ensure others had a peaceful night’s sleep without being kept awake by the cries of wives being beaten.

In fact it was not until the 1970s when women got together and started their campaign about domestic abuse and general abuse with their Reclaim the Night marches and the opening of the first women’s refuge.

Considering this I was amazed at the number of women supporting the physical punishment of children.

It is only in the last 20 years or so that we have realised what happens to children in their formative years can cause problems in later years. Not all victims of child abuse fall into the sexual abuse category.

If these people really believe physical punishment makes children respect their elders then they are much mistaken. It teaches them to fear their elders and eventually they may seek revenge.

To Celia

by Ben Jonson

1572-1637
Drink to me, only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss within the cup,
And I'll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise,
Doth ask a drink divine:
But might I if Jove's nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honoring thee,
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not wither'd be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent'st it back to me:
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee.

Caged Bird

by Maya Angelou

b. 1928 St Louis
A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped
and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Sons and brothers battle it out in the Anglo-Saxon Game of Thrones

Over 450 years after the Romans left Britons to fend for themselves the people they left behind had gone West (no, I don’t mean they were all dead, they had literally gone into the West) and the Jutes, Angles, Saxons, Danes and other assorted “visitors” had taken over most of the area that is now known as England.

Alfred the Great (the one who burned the cakes) had finally pushed the Danes back into the small area of Danelaw and by 886 had finally become King of the Anglo Saxons.

Things went reasonably well while Alfred was in charge and on his death in 899. His son Edward then ruled for about 25 years to be succeeded by his son Aethelstan who styled himself King of England.

The reigns of the next few kings of England were often quite short and for some time it was brother succeeding brother (sometimes half-brother).

On the death of Aethelstan the north of England fell back into Viking hands but the dead king’s brother Edmund succeeded him in 939 and took the north back. He died young in 946 and his sons were considered too young to take over so his brother Eadred ruled for nine years. As he was unmarried he was succeeded by King Edmund’s son Eadwig who was 16 when he was crowned and a “bit of lad”. He was allegedly prised out of his bed on coronation day, taken from the arms of a “strumpet”. . . and her mother/.

He was dead by the age of 20 (causes unknown) and was succeeded by his younger brother Edgar who appears to have been less of a roisterer than his brother and who reigned for 16 years.

After his coronation he took an army north to Chester and met with “six kings of Britain” including the King of Scots, King of Strathclyde and princes of Welsh districts. They are alleged to have sworn allegiance to him by rowing him in his state barge across the River Dee.

I have a sneaking suspicion that if this was true then the Scots and Welsh would probably have dumped him into the water as the tide was going out and he would have been swept out to sea.

Still, the story made his successors happy.

Edgar’s eldest son Edward succeeded his father after 16 years. He was just 12 and there was a dispute about succession with followers of his much younger half-brother, Aethelred. Civil war was looming and then Edward was murdered and his step-mother claimed the throne for her boy.

At the age of 10 Aethelred didn’t really seem ready to rule – a problem highlighted by the fact that less than three years after becoming king he fled to Normandy as the Danes led by Sweyn Forkbeard invaded following the massacre of a large number of Danish settler.

Forkbeard was acclaimed as king following Aethelred’s departure but died five weeks later and the young English king returned but spent the remaining few years of his reign battling with Sweyn Forkbeard’s son Cnut.

When he died he was succeeded by Edmund (known as Ironside) who did a deal with Cnut by splitting the kingdom between them. Edmund got Wessex and Cnut got the rest.

The deal was that when one died the other would become King of England.

Soon afterwards Edmund died (what a surprise) and Cnut ruled England for almost 20 years. He also married Emma of Normandy, the widow of Aethelred.

There’s that Normandy cropping up again.

Cnut was succeeded in 1035 by his bastard son Harold the Harefoot (apparently he was a speedy and skilled hunter) when he stole the throne while his half-brother Harthacnut was busy fighting to save his Danish kingdom.

Harold ruled for five years and then died just as his brother Harthacnut was heading for England with a large invasion fleet.

Harthacnut was the last Danish king of England and had told his mother, Emma of Normandy, that her son by her first husband, Aethelred, would be king. The young Edward was allowed to return from exile in Normandy.

Within two years Harthacnut died and Edward (known as Edward the Confessor) became king, returning the Royal House of Wessex line to the throne of England.

So everybody was happy. The Vikings had mostly gone home, Edward ruled England and the Anglo-Saxons were top dog once more.

Well, not everybody was happy, but we’ll look at that next time.

Time Runs Backward After Death

by Robert Bly

b. 1926 Minnesota
Samson, grinding bread for widows and orphans,
Forgets he is wronged, and the answers
The Philistines wrangled out of him go back
Into the lion. The bitter and the sweet marry.
He himself wronged the lion. Now the wheat
Caresses the wind with its wifely tail; the donkey
Runs in the long grass; and having glimpsed heaven, 
The fox's body saunters the tawny earth.

2
After death the soul returns to drinking milk
And honey in its sparse home. Broken lintels
Rejoin the sunshine gates, and bees sing
In the sour meat. Once more in the cradle his
Hair grows long and golden; Delilah's scissors
Turn back into two tiny and playful swords.
Samson, no longer haunted by sunset and shadows,
Sinks down in the eastern ocean and is born.