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History Of The Scottish Nation
Vol 1, Chapter 24 - Battles, Political and Ecclesiastical


Columba is not the first light-bearer who appeared amid the darkness of Caledonia. He had pioneers as early as the second century. But history has found no place on her page for the humble names of the men who first carried the message of Heaven to our shores. In the fourth and fifth centuries there were evangelists among the southern Picts, who may be regarded also as predecessors of the great missionary. An hundred and fifty years before the light of Iona was kindled, a Christian sanctuary rose on the promontory of Whithern; and the gleam of its white walls greeted the eyes of the mariner as he steered his vessel amid the tides of the Irish Channel towards the Scottish shore. This was the scene of the ministry of Ninian, who strove to diffuse the evangelical light along the shores of the Solway, and over the wilds of Galloway. When Ninian rested from his labours, there appeared, in the same region, Kentigern, or, as he is sometimes called, St. Mungo. His memory still survives in the West of Scotland, where, humble and courteous, he evangelised, and where he is popularly revered as the father of a long line of pastors, which have been the glory of a city whose cathedral church bears his name. To this age, too, belongs Palladius. Of him we know little beyond the name. He has left no distinct foot-prints, and his story belongs to legend quite as much as to history. Servanus was another of these early pioneers. He established his hermitage on the north shore of the Forth, at the point where the waters of the Firth, issuing through the strait at Queensferry, expand into an inland lake, encircled by banks of picturesque beauty. He is said in latter life to have travelled as far as to Orkney, preaching the "crucified" at the very threshold of the high sanctuary of Druidism, whose rugged grandeur lent dignity, as it ruins now impart an air of melancholy to those northern wilds. There is another name we must include in this roll of early Scotch evangelists. That name is Patrick. True, the scene of his labours was not the land of his birth. Nevertheless it was Scotland that in the end reaped the largest benefit from the achievements of her illustrious son. In our judgment, Patrick was the greatest of all the reformers which arose in the church of Britain before Wickliffe, not even expecting Columba, for the mission of the latter to Iona was a reflex wave of the great movement which Patrick set on foot on the other side of the Channel. In boldness, in popular power, in elasticity of mind, in freedom of action, and in the grasp with which he laid hold of Divine truth, he resembles rather the reformers of the sixteenth century, than the men of his early day, whose light was dim, and who seldom permitted themselves a wider range in their evangelistic efforts than the maxims and canons of their ate prescribed. But the subject of Patrick is a large one, and place will be found for it afterwards.

The men of whom we have spoken, the evangelists of the fifth century, Patrick excepted, were, no doubt, men of genuine piety, of ardent zeal, and of holy life; but they were men of small build, and moved in a narrow groove. They were lights in their several localities, and the age owed them much, but they stood apart and lacked the appliances which organisation would have furnished them with for making their influence wider than the sphere of their personal effort, and more lasting than the term of their natural life. To them the Gospel was not a kingdom—the figure under which its Divine Founder had set it forth, it was a life, a holy life; but their piety had a strong tendency to run into asceticism, and asceticism is often but another form of self-righteousness. There is abundant evidence that these men had their own share in the weaknesses and superstitions of their age, and there could not be a greater mistake than to speak of them as the giants of an early time, who were sprung of a virgin soil, the virtues of which, having since waxed old and feeble, can no longer produce as aforetime, and therefore it is vain to look for men of the same lofty stature now as were seen upon the earth in those days. The truth is, that these men were not above but below their successors. Nevertheless they towered above their contemporaries, and their names deserve, and will receive, the reverence of Scotchmen in every coming age, as the lights of a dark time, and the pioneers of a better day, inasmuch as they were among the first to tame the rudeness and instruct the ignorance of their country.

The first attempt on a large scale to Christianise Scotland was that of Columba. He was no solitary worker, but the centre of a propaganda. Around him were twelve companions, who had drunk into his spirit, and had voluntarily placed themselves under his rule, the better to carry out the great enterprise to which he and they had become bound by a common consecration. This organisation was consonant with the methods of the age, and was the only form of church-life which the circumstances of Columba made possible. He stood in the midst of his fellow-labourers, not as a master among his servants, but as a father amongst his family. The preliminaries settled, the work was begun in earnest. It consisted of two parts: first, the training of missionaries; for the little staff on Iona was not sufficient to do the service at head-quarters, and at the same time occupy the mission fields of the mainland. The second was the actual evangelisation of the country by personal visits. As yet no Christian missionary, so far as is known, had crossed the Grampians. We trace a feeble dawn in the south, but not a ray had penetrated the thick darkness that still shrouded northern Scotland. Columba, as we have seen, was the first in person to venture into that region over which till his coming, the Druid had reigned supreme. The door which Columba had opened he succeeded in keeping open. Band after band of missionaries, from the feet of the elders of Iona, poured in and took possession of the land. Following the course of the rivers on the banks of which the thin population of that day was mostly located, the evangelists kindled the light in numerous districts, both highland and lowland. That light was a new life in the hearts which received it. There was a sweetness in the hut of the Caledonian, and a brightness in the faces of his children, till then unknown. He flung down sword and lance, and seized hold of mattock and plough, and soon a blooming cultivation clothed valley and strath. After the church came the school. Letters and arts grew up beneath the shelter of Christianity. Columba had enriched the world by calling a new civilisation out of the barbarism. One fruitful century—from the middle of the sixth to the middle of the seventh—had sufficed to enroll a new nation under the banners of knowledge and liberty. As if the limits of Caledonia were too narrow, these light-bearers carried their torch into England in the south, and Ireland on the west, and for a century and a half Iona continued to be looked up to as the mother church by institutions which followed her rule and owned her sway in all the three kingdoms.

We have already said that a century of comparative quiet followed the first kindling of the light on the Rock of Iona. With its rays a spirit of peace seemed to breathe over the land. Animosities died out, feuds were forgotten, and battle ceased between Pict and Scot. This calm was the more remarkable, inasmuch as outside the borders of Caledonia the fiercest storms of barbarian war had been let loose on the world. England was in the throes of the Anglo-Saxon invasion; the sky of Europe, from side to side, was dark with northern tempests; around the lamp of Iona alone the storm slept. The solution is not far to seek. It was Iona that had chained the winds in this northern land, where before they were seldom at rest. Columba was the friend of both the Pictish and the Scottish monarchs—both were now converts to Christianity, and their joint consent had been given to the planting of this institution at a point that was intermediate as regards the territories of both. His purity and nobility of character made him be looked up to both kings; his counsel was often sought, and his advice, doubtless, was always thrown into the scale of peace. His sagacity would anticipate, and his meekness would compose, quarrels before they came to the arbitrament of the sword. Besides, every branch institution that was planted in either the Pictish or the Scottish kingdom was a new bond of amity between the two peoples; an additional pledge of peace. But it is not in a day that the passion of war is to be rooted out of the heart of a nation; and though at this period there is no recorded outbreak betwixt the Scots and Picts, the sword did not entirely rest. Both peoples indulged themselves with an occasional raid into the neighbouring territories of the Britons of Strathclyde and the Angles of the Lothians, and had to suffer the unavoidable penalties of retaliation.

It is now that the kings of Scotland—the little Dalriada—come out of the dubious light in which they are hidden before the days of Columba, and that the work of tracing the transactions of their reign becomes a not altogether ungrateful task. Conal, king of the Scots, gifted, as we have said, the little island to the great missionary; Bruidi, king of the north Picts, most probably concurring. Dying three years after (A.D. 566), he was succeeded by his brother Kinnatell, who, old and sickly, reigned only a few months. After him came Aidan. Before his accession, Aidan had entered the Monastery of Iona, and put himself under the tuition of Columba; and when he mounted the throne the abbot-missionary anointed him as king, charging both monarch and people, said Buchanan, "to remain steadfast in the pure worship of God, as they valued his blessing and dreaded His chastisement." A clearer historic light falls on the reign of Aidan than on that of any Scottish monarch before the union of the Picts and Scots. We have it on the concurrent testimony of Tighernac and the "Saxon Chronicle," as well as of Adamnan, that he was endowed with princely qualities, that his policy was wise, and that his reign on the whole was prosperous. His first labours were undertaken for the internal pacification of his kingdom. He made an expedition against the robbers of Galloway, punished and suppressed them. He held conventions of his Estates. He renewed an old league formerly existing with the Britons. He strengthened himself on all sides; but the England of the day was too full of broils, confusions, and battles, to make it easy for even the most peace-loving ruler to escape entanglements and keep war from his borders.

The throne of Northumbria, at that time the most powerful kingdom of the Heptarchy, was filled by Ethelfrith. His territories extended from the Humber to the Forth, and from the rock of Bamborough, across the chalk downs of York, westward to the border of Wales, in which the Saxon sword had cooped up the Britons. The restless ambition of the pagan Ethelfrith made him the terror of his neighbours. Seizing with the lust of extending his dominions, he led his army against the Britons, whose kingdom extended from the Clyde to the Dee. Cadwallo, their king, demanded of Aidan, who had renewed with him the league mentioned above, that he should send him help. He obeyed the summons and sent him a contingent. Meanwhile the terrible Ethelflrith held on his way to Chester. The inhabitants trembled as he approached. Twelve hundred and fifty monks belonging to the Monastery of Bangor, after preparing themselves by a three days’ fast, came forth and posted themselves betwixt the city and the Northumbrian army. Kneeling on the ground and extending their arms to heaven, the besought help of God. The heathen Ethelfrith, observing them in that unusual attitude, asked who they were, and what they did. Being told that they were praying, he answered, "Bear they arms or not, they fight against us when they pray to their God." In the rout that followed, twelve hundred of these British clerics were slain. The Scotch contingent, carrying arms suffered less than the poor monks, who were butchered without striking a blow.1

A more fatal field for Aidan and the Scots was that of Daegsastan, fought a few years later. It was a terrible blow to the Britons of Cumbria and Strathclyde as well. The engagement was a bloody one; the allied host of Briton and Scot was completely overthrown, and the power of Ethelfrith more firmly established than ever, and his name made a word of terror both on the Forth and on the Clyde. About the same time that Aidan sustained this defeat he received intelligence that Columba was no more. The death of his faithful counsellor affected the king even more than the loss of the battle. Unable to bear up under these accumulated misfortunes, he retired, Fordun informs us, to Kintyre, and died about the age of eighty.

When Aidan went to the tomb, the line of the Scottish kings becomes again only dimly traceable. But if the royal house falls into the background, the Institution of Iona, though Columba was now in the grave, comes to the front, and for a full century after the death of its founder, stands full in view, shining with a light undimmed, and working on the country with power undiminished.

Iona was the heart of Caledonia. It was the nurse of the nation. It met the successive generations of Scotchmen, as they stepped upon the stage, and taken them by the hand, lifted them up to a higher platform; and when the sons succeeded their fathers, it started them on the higher level to which it had raised their progenitors. Thus, storey on storey, as it were, it built up, steadily and solidly, the social pyramid. As an illustration of the duality that is often observable in the world’s affairs, at that very time an event of precisely the opposite significance was taking place at the other extremity of the island. Augustine and his monks from Rome were entering England (A.D. 597) by the very door by which Hengista and his warriors had entered it a century before—the Island of Thanet. The pomp that marked the advent of Augustine and his forty-one attendants is in striking contrast to the quiet and unostentatious arrival of Columba and his twelve companions on the shores of Iona. Preceded by a tall silver cross, on which was suspended an image of Christ, and chanting their Latin hymns, the missionaries of Gregory marched in triumphal procession to the oak beneath which Ethelbert, King of Kent, had appointed to receive them. The interview with the pagan king, held in the open air, for fear of magic, resulted in the grant of the ruinous chapel of Durovern for their worship. On the site of this old fabric, once a church of the Britons, there stands at this day the stately pile of Canterbury. Despite that these two occurrences are parted by the whole length of Britain, there is a close relation betwixt them. Augustine and his monks stand over against Columba and his elders. It may seem to be one and the same faith that is being planted at this epoch at the two extremities of our island; and we do not deny that in this mission host there may have been some sincere lovers of the Gospel honestly bent on the conversion of the pagan Saxons. But this band comes from one who has begun to scatter tares in the field, and the intentions and wishes of the sower, be they ever so earnest and good, cannot prevent the seed flung from his hand bearing fruit after its kind. The moment when that seed is deposited in the earth is not the time to prognosticate what will certainly come out of it. We must wait till the tree has grown and its fruits have ripened, and then we shall be able to judge betwixt seed and seed. When we unroll the sixth and the thirteenth centuries, and hang up the two side by side, we find that it is a contrasted picture which they exhibit. In the sixth century the legate of Pope Gregory is seen bowing low before King Ethelbert, and accepting thankfully the gift of an old ruinous building for his worship. In the thirteenth century it is King John who is seen kneeling in the dust before the legate of Pope Innocent, and laying crown and kingdom at his feet. The seed planted in the sixth century has become a tree in the thirteenth, and this is its fruit.

When we return to Iona, it is to experience a surprise. Among the scholars, from many lands, seated at the feet of the elders, and drinking in the doctrine of the sacred volume, is a pupil, of all others the last we should have looked to find here. He is of royal lineage, but not more distinguished by birth than he is for his loving disposition, his diligence, his reverence for his teachers, and his readiness to share with his fellows the labours of the field as well as the studies of the school. Who is this youth? He is the son of the cruel, ambitious and blood-thirsty King of Northumbria, the pagan Ethelfrith. Ethelfrith has been slain in battle in 6l7. Edwin has seized his throne and kingdom; his children, chased from their native land, have found asylum among the Scots, and the youth before us is Oswald, the eldest son of the fallen monarch. We shall again meet him. Meanwhile Edwin, whom we now behold on the throne of Ethelfrith, gave a new glory to the English race. His success in war raised Northumbria to the first rank in the Heptarchy, and made its sovereign overlord of its seven kingdoms. He displayed not less genius in governing than bravery in fighting. He made security and quiet prevail from end to end of his realm, which reached from Kent to the shores of the Forth, where he has left a monument of his reign in a city that bears his name, and is now the capital of Scotland.

Ethelbert, King of Kent, gave Edwin his daughter to wife. With his bride came Paulinus, one of the missionaries of Augustine, "whose talk, stooping form, slender aquiline nose, and black hair, falling round a thin, worn face, were long remembered in the North."2 There followed frequent discussions at court betwixt the two faiths—that of Woden, and that of Rome. These discussions resulted in the baptism of Edwin. The conversion of the King of Northumbria woke up the slumbering zeal of the worshippers of Thor. A strong reaction set in on the side of the old paganism. The converts of Augustine, though somewhat numerous, had not strength to stem the tide. Augustine was now dead, and of the bishops whom he had appointed to carry on his mission in England, all fled save one, leaving their flocks to face the gathering storm as best they could. Penda, the pagan King of Mercia, stood forth as the champion of the Thunderer, his zeal for his ancestral gods being quickened, doubtless, by the prospect of throwing off the lordship of Edwin and recovering the independence of his kingdom. The quarrel soon came to the battle-field. The two armies met at Hatfield, A.D. 633. Edwin was slain in the fight, and victory remained with Penda.

Tidings soon reached Oswald, the son of Ethelfrith, in the quiet retreat of Iona, of what had happened on the battlefield of Hatfield. The young scholar had given his heart to his Savious by a real conversion. All the more was he prepared for the task to which the fall of Edwin summoned him. He panted to kindle in Northumbria the fire that burned at Iona, but in order to this he must first seat himself on the throne of his ancestors. Inheriting the courage though not the paganism of his father Ethelfrith, he set out for his native land, and gathering round him a small but resolute band of Northumbrians, he began the struggle for the throne. The distractions into which Northumbria had been thrown by the fall of Edwin favoured his enterprise. Planting with his own hands the Cross as his standard on the field on which the decisive battle was about to be fought, and kneeling with his soldiers in prayer before beginning the fight, he joined battle with the enemy, and when it was ended he found himself master of the field and of the throne of Northumbria (A.D. 634). Oswald’s reign of nine years was a glorious one. To the bravery of his father Ethelfrith, and the wisdom and magnanimity of Edwin, he added a grace which neither possessed, but which alone gives the consummating touch to character—genuine piety. Northumbria speedily rose to the pre-eminence it held under Edwin in the new England.

We have seen that it was good for Oswald that, instead of being on the throne of Northumbria, he was sitting all these years at the feet of the elders of Iona. We are now to see that it was good also for his subjects. A little space sufficed to allay the tumults amid which he had ascended the throne, and then Oswald turned to what he meant should be the great labour of his life, and the crowning glory of his reign. He longed to communicate to his people the knowledge which had illuminated his own mind. The bulk of the Northumbrians were still worshippers of Thor. The Christianity which Gregory had sent them through Augustine, had not power in it to cast out their pagan beliefs, and dethrone their ancestral deities. Oswald turned to the north for a Christianity drawn from an apostolic source and instinct with Divine fire. He sent to the elders of Iona, begging them to send a missionary to preach the Gospel to his subjects. They sent him a brother of the name of Corman. The choice was no a happy one. Corman was an austere man, who would reap before he had well sowed. He soon returned, saying that so barbarous and stubborn a people were not to be converted. "Was it milk or strong meat you gave them?" enquired a young brother sitting near, and conveying by the question as much reproof as a sweet and gracious voice could express. All eyes were turned on the questioner.

Brother, you must go to the pagans of Northumbria," said they all at the same moment. Aidan, for so was his name, joyfully accepted the mission. He was straightway appointed to the charge, Bede tells us, adding, that "Segenius, abbot and presbyter, presided at his ordination.3

Bishop Aidan, as Bede called him, whom we now see ordained by Presbyter Segenius, and sent to King Oswald, had a wide diocese. He had all Northumbria, and as much beyond as he could overtake. But a fellow-labourer came to his side in the cultivation of this large field; and that fellow-labourer was no less than the King of Northumbria. Oswald and Aidan made their missionary tours in company, the missionary preaching and the king acting as interpreter.4 Never was there a more beautiful exemplification of the fine saying of Lord Bacon, "Kings are the shepherds of their people." Ultimately there arose a second Iona on the coast of Northumberland, in the Monastery of Lindisfarne, or Holy Island. The missionaries that issued from it, the lands they visited, chasing before them the pagan darkness, and kindling the light of the Christian revelation, belong to the Celtic evangelisation of the seventh and eighth centuries, which will find a place farther on.

There was peace betwixt Northumbria and Scotland all the days of Oswald. That noble and gracious monarch was too sensible of what he owed to the elders of Iona, in sheltering his youth and opening to him the springs of Divine knowledge, ever to think of invading their country. But when Oswald was succeeded on the throne by his brother Oswy, the relations betwixt the two nations began to be strained. The preponderating power of Northumbria pressed heavily upon all its neighbours, the Scots and Picts included. The latter wished to recover from the Northumbrian monarch the Pictish provinces on the south of the Forth, though they refrained from pressing their demands to open rupture. But religious affronts came to embitter the feeling growing out of political wrongs. Wilfrid, a young Northumbrian, educated at Rome, and a zealous devotee of the Latin rite, appeared at the court of Oswy, and began to proselytise in the interests of the Pontiff. Crafty and ambitious, expert alike at planning an intrigue or conducting a controversy, he succeeded, after several conferences and disputations, the famous Synod of Whitby among the rest (664), in inducing the king and his court to renounce their allegiance to the church of Iona and transfer it to the Bishop of Rome.5 As the first fruits of Oswy’s perversion, the Scotch missionaries were driven out of his dominions. By this time Aidan was dead; but Colman and Finan had been sent in his room from the Presbyters of the Western seas. The enforced return of the missionaries to their own country was felt as an affront by the Picts and Scots, and intensified the feelings rankling in their hearts, and engendered by other causes. Nevertheless, during the lifetime of Oswy, the peace remained unbroken. At this period a plague desolated all Europe, "such as has never been recorded by the most ancient historians’; The Scots and Picts alone are said to have escaped."6

Oswy dying in 670, he was succeeded on the throne by Egfrid, and now the storm which had lowered so long burst. With "the doves of Iona peace would seem to have taken flight from the realm of Northumbria. The reign of the new king was little else than a continual successions of wars in the midst of which Rome worked unceasingly to consolidate in England her ecclesiastical supremacy, ever the foundation of her political dominancy. First, the Scots and Picts broke in to regain their independence, but the attempt was premature. Next Egfrid turned westward, invaded Galloway, and drive the Britons out of Cumbria, annexing the district, of which Carlisle was the chief city, to the dominions of Northumbria, and enriching the Monastery of Lindisfarne, from which the Columban missionaries had already been expelled, with part of the spoils. His success in arms having brought him to the shores of the western sea, Egfrid crossed the Channel and invaded Ireland. The Irish of the day were cultivating, not arms, but letters, especially Divine letters. They were reaping the harvest which Patrick had sowed, and their schools were the glory of their country, and the light of Europe. But their church was not of Roman planting, and their nation found no favour in the eyes of the Northumbrian king. He ravage their sea-board, and would have carried his ruthless devastations into the interior had not the peaceful Irish, stung into sudden passion, taken arms and driven him out of their country. He next turned northward on an expedition from which he was never to return. At the head of a mighty army he crossed the Forth. The Picts pursued the same strategy to entrap Egrid by which their ancestors had baffled Agricola. They drew him, by a feigned retreat, on through Fife, and across the Tay, and into Angus, luring him nearer and nearer the mountains. Pursuing a flying foe, as he believed, he marched on to the spot where the Pictish army waited for him in ambush. The place was Lin Garan, or Nectan’s Mere, a small lake in the parish of Dunnichen, Forfarshire. The battle that ensued was decisive (685). Egfrid lay dead on the field, and around him, in ghastly array, lay the corpses of his nobles and fighting men.7 A few fugitives, escaping from the field, carrying to Northumbria tidings which too sadly realised their presentiment of evil which weighted upon the hearts of his subjects when they saw their king setting out. The woes denounced by the Irish pastors, as he sailed away from their ravaged coast, had in very deed fallen upon the unhappy monarch. The consequences of the battle were important. The fetters of the Scots and Picts were effectually broken. Never again, Nennius tells us, was Northumbrian tax-gatherer seen in their territory. From the height of its fame as a military power, Northumbria fell never more to regain its supremacy. The Northumbrian-Roman bishopric, which had been established at Abercorn on the southern bank of the Forth, was swept away by the same victory which wrested the Lotions from the scepter of the Northumbrian kings, and its bishop, Trumwine, fled, panic stricken, on receipt of the news from Nekton’s Mere, nor halted till he was within the walls of Whitely. This bishopric was an advanced post in the army of aggression which was marching slowly upon Iona with intent of garrisoning the evangelical citadel with Roman monks, or razing it to the ground. The lesser Institution of Lindisfarne had been captured, and was now being worked in the interests of Rome; but the victory was not complete so long as the parent institution retained its independence. Had Egfrid triumphed at Nectan’s Mere, the extinction of Iona as an evangelical school would have speedily followed: its teachers would have been driven out as those of Lindsfarne had already been. But the defeat of the king gave it a respite, and for half a century longer it remained a fountain of Divine knowledge to the Picts and Scots, and to lands beyond the sea. The blood spilt on this Pictish moor was not in vain.

Necan’s Mere killed others besides those whom the Picts slew on the field with the sword, and history sometimes imparts its finishing touch to a national disaster by singling out an individual woe. At the time of the battle the good Cuthbert was bishop at Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, and waiting trembling for news from the battlefield. When tidings came that king and army lay cold on that fatal moor, the aged Cuthbert sickened and died. The circumstances of his last days have a deep pathos. Cuthbert was born at the southern foot of the Lammermoors. Meditative from childhood, when he grew up he entered the Monastery of Melrose, a branch of that of Iona. Daily he wandered by the banks of the Tweed and the Teviot, instructing all he met, whether young or old, in the truths of Holy Writ. He climbed the hills and talked with the shepherds, as they tended their flocks amid the Cheviots; he crossed the wide moors, where the silence seem holy, and entered the lonely huts with the message of life. The flame of his sanctity spread through all the regions. Happy would it have been for Cuthbert if his last years had been passed amid these peaceful scenes, and in the pursuit of these pious labours. But it was fated to be otherwise. King Oswy, as we have seen, at the Council of Whitby, declared in favour of Latin Christianity. The Columban monks were expelled from Holy Island. "Icabod" was written upon the walls of the monastery. And now the question came to be, where could one be found of so great repute for piety, that his appointment as Bishop of Lindisfarne would bring back the glory that had departed. Cuthbert was sought out and installed in the office. Disgusted with the atmosphere of intrigue and selfishness which he here breathed, he fled from the monastery and built himself a hermitage on the mainland. He was dragged from his retreat, and brought back to his post in the island. He had not long returned till the crushing news of the death of the king at Nectan’s Mere, and the consequent distractions of Northumbria, came upon him and broke his heart. He retired to his hermitage on the mainland to die. They who watched at his dying bed agreed to notify by signal to the monks on the island the moment of his departure. They would place a candle in the window of the hut in which he lay. One of the brotherhood, stationed on the tower of the monastery, remained on the outlook. At last the eventful moment came. Peacefully Cuthbert drew his last breath. The faithful attendant by his bedside rushed to the window with a light. The pale gleam, carried the fatal tidings, shot across the narrow belt of the sea that parted the island from the mainland. It was caught by the watchful eye of the monk on the tower. Hurrying down to the chapel, where his brethren were assembled, he announced to them that their bishop was no more, just as it happened to them to be chanting, with dirge-like voices, the mournful words of the sixtieth Psalm, "O God, thou has cast us off, thou has scattered us, thou hast been displeased. Thou has shewed thy people hard things, thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment."


FOOTNOTES

1. Extinctos in ea pugna ferunt de his qui ad orandum venerunt viros circiter mille ducentos.—Beda, lib. ii. cap. 2

2. Green, History of the English People, p, 19, Lond. 1875.

3. Aydanus accepto gradu episcopatus quo tempore eodem monasterio Segenius abbas et presbyuter praefuit.—Beda, lib. iii. cap. v.

4. Beda, lib. iii. cap. 3.

5. Wilkins, Concilia, p. 37; Beda, lib. iii. cap. 25.

6. Buchan., Hist., lib. v. cap. 55.

7. Buchan., Hist. of Scot., lib. v. cap. 56; Robertson, Early Kings of Scotland, vol. i. p. 12.


 

 


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