The Northmen in Britain
Two great streams of Northern immigration met on the shores of Britain during the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries. The Norsemen from the deep fiords of Western Norway, fishing and raiding along the coasts, pushed out their adventurous boats into the Atlantic, and in the dawn of Northern history we find them already settled in the Orkney and Shetland Isles, whence they raided and settled southward to Caithness, Fife, and Northumbria on the east, and to the Hebrides, Galloway, and Man on the western coast.
It was out of these viking raids that the Dano-Norse Kingdoms of Dublin and Northumbria grew, the Dukedom of Normandy, and the Earldom of Orkney and the Isles.
The Danish descents seem to have been more directly for the purpose of conquest than those of the Norse, and they ended by establishing on the throne of England a brief dynasty of Danish kings in the eleventh century, remarkable only from the vigour of Canute’s reign.
The intimate connexion all through this period between Scandinavia, Iceland, and Britain can only be realized by reading the Northern Sagas side by side with the chronicles of Great Britain and Ireland, and it is from Norse sources chiefly that I propose to tell the story.
“There is no man so high-hearted over earth, nor so good in gifts, nor so keen in youth, nor so brave in deeds, nor so loyal to his lord, that he may not have always sad yearning towards the sea-faring, for what the Lord will give him there.
“His heart is not for the harp, nor receiving of rings, nor delight in a wife, nor the joy of the world, nor about anything else but the rolling of the waves. And he hath ever longing who wisheth for the Sea.” – “The Seafarer”. (Old English Poem).
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