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the primeval chaos, and say,
66 the world was without form and void ; and darkness was upon the face of the deep."
Whilst all Europe felt the fury of the storm, Germany and France were its focus and centre It was there that the conflicting torrents met, and that the devastation and ruin were complete. It was there, too, that the work of reconstruction was to commence ; “for," in the words of Frederick Schlegel, “it was Charlemagne who laid the sure foundation for Christian government, and all the improvements of its subsequent superstructure. On this basis of Christian government and Christian manners, and under the cover and vivifying influence of Christian faith, sprang human science out of the small fragments of ancient art and learning which had survived all these mighty devastations.” It was, then, an era of vast historical importance.
But the life of Charlemagne has a still further interest and value as a biography. He combined in himself most of the elements of true greatness. Great by his position, through his achievements, and in his character; distinguished as a soldier, a legislator, a church reformer, and a reviver of learning—his personal history demands and amply repays a diligent study. Whilst his genius and energy would have rendered him illustrious in any age, his loneliness and isolation in the period in which he lived make him more signally and obviously so. He stands alone, and there are none around him to contest with him the palm of greatness. Like the pyramid in the desert, the blank waste from which he rises seems to give him a more commanding elevation. Among the generations which preceded and which followed his, our own Alfred * alone can rank with him.
In the brief sketch which follows, we shall endeavour to combine these two sources of interest—the historical and the biographical ; and at the same time to show the relations subsisting between Charlemagne, his contemporaries, and his immediate predecessors, so as to afford some idea of the general character of that eventful era. In doing this, we shall for the most part follow the plan adopted by Eginhardt, the secretary, biographer, and friend, (perhaps, too, as we shall see, the son-in-law) of the hero of our pages. We shall first give a brief and hasty glance at the previous history of the Franks ; thus we shall learn the character of the people he came to rule, and the disorderly condition of society in his day ; then proceed to trace out his career and achievements as a soldier and a legislator, his relations with the papacy, and his personal character, history, and influence.
* A Life of Alfred is published in the Monthly Series,
THE FRANKISH MONARCHY.
The formation of the confederacy of the Franks-Their feelings
toward Rome-Clovis-His victories; his crimes; his conversion-Inquiry into the nature of the national conversions of the middle ages-The successors of Clovis—The Mayors of the Palace-The defeat of the Mohammedans by Charles Martel-Pepin-His character ; legend of the lion and bull; his accession to the throne in place of the deposed monarch -Succeeded by Carloman and Carl-Character and death of the former-Carl becomes sole king of the Franks-Outline of his history-Is acknowledged as emperor of the West,
and receives the name of Charlemagne. Tacitus, in his “ Treatise on the Customs and Tribes of Germany," describes with patriotic shame the defeats of the Roman legions by the barbarians, points out the danger with which the empire was threatened from this quarter, and shows that the best hope of safety for Rome was afforded by the intestine feuds of her enemies. “ Since they will not love us, I pray that their hatred of one another may continue and increase ; for in our present perilous condition, fortune can afford us nothing better than the discord of our foes.” But the evils apprehended by the philosophical historian were not to be thus averted. Pagan Rome had filled up the measure of her iniquities. The blood of
* De Moribus Germanorum, cap. xxxiii.
the martyrs had sapped the foundations of her empire, had paralysed her arm, and blunted her sword. To The souls of thein that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held, cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth ?” Rev. vi. 9, 10. God did not turn a deaf ear, as their blood cried from the ground. “ He will avenge his own elect, though he bear long with them." History teaches no truth with more certainty than that the persecution of the church is the ruin of those empires by which it is inflicted. And now the hour of retribution was come. Those tribes whose union Tacitus deprecated, learning wisdom from their disasters, began to band together to throw off the detested yoke, and to smite the tyrant to the dust. Among the associations formed for this purpose, none were more formidable than that of the Chauci, Catti, Cherusci, Sicambri, and other smaller tribes who inhabited the marshes of the lower Rhine and of the Weser. The spirit and design of the confederation is shown by the name they assumed-Franks, or Freemen. At first, the tribes thus associated retained their distinctness and mutual independence, their only bond of union being the object they had in common. Very soon, however, all tribal distinctions ceased, and they became fused down into one powerful though barbarous nation, divided into two great branches, the Salic and the Ripuarian. These names were probably derived from the localities they respectively inhabited, the Salians being settled on the Saal, the Ripuarians on the banks (ripe) of the Rhine.
In speaking of this and the other confederations as being the instruments of Divine vengeance upon the doomed and guilty city,“ drunk with the blood of the saints," we are only expressing the sentiments of the barbarians themselves. Alaric always professed himself to be the minister of the wrath of the Almighty. Attila took the title of "the Scourge of God.” Genseric, when asked by his pilot whither he should steer, replied, “ Leave that to the winds and waves; they will direct us to the guilty city on which God wills his vengeance to fall.” The language of the Franks is yet more remarkable. In the preamble to the Salic code, composed shortly after their conversion to Christianity, it is said, “ Honour to Christ who loves the Franks. This is the nation, which, though small, yet brave and strong, shook off the hard yoke of Rome, and which, after it had recognised the sacredness of baptism, adorned with gold and precious stones the tonībs of the martyrs whom the Romans had burned with fire, massacred, mutilated, or delivered to be torn to pieces by wild beasts.”
The Franks first assumed an important position in Europe under the reign of Clovis,* the
* Clovis, from Hlodo-wig, “ famous warrior," latinized into Clodovicus and Ludovicus, abbreviated into Clovis and Ludwig, modernized into Louis and Louisa.