Page:A short history of social life in England.djvu/52

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32
PAGAN GIANTS

The Celt was losing the force of his manhood and the strength of his freedom under the somewhat effeminate influence of the luxury-loving Roman, while Jutes, Angles and Saxons on the further shores were developing that rough-and-ready civilisation which was shortly to sweep over our island home. They had come to their own from beyond the distant Caucasus. Westward they had already fought their way till stayed by the waves of the "Western Sea," and amid the waste of sand and heather, where no man dwelt, they made their homes.

A fierce, free, fearless folk were these ancestors of ours—broad-shouldered, large-limbed giants, with masses of long fair hair and confident grey-blue eyes—utterly reckless of life and limb, pitiless, merciless, and bloodthirsty. Worshippers of Woden, whose name we commemorate every Wednesday of our lives, they lived on a traditional creed which enacted "eye for eye and limb for limb." Each limb had its value. An eye or a leg was valued at fifty shillings, the loss of a thumb at twenty shillings, the jawbone and front tooth at six shillings, while the brutality of the age is illustrated in the unwritten code that condoned for three