Page:A short history of social life in England.djvu/57

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37
SAXON CUSTOMS

fun and laughter, the wandering gleeman sang his song of heroic deeds performed by noble ancestors, or the harp was taken from the wall and handed round from hand to hand, for it was an accomplishment in those days that none could afford to neglect.

From this period, too, dates the wassail or loving cup, which is passed round to-day at large City feasts. When Hengist, the Saxon, brought his beautiful daughter Rowena to these shores she was introduced to the British King Vortigern at a royal banquet. Modestly advancing towards the King, according to the custom in her own country, she held out a golden cup of ale. "Waes hael hlaford Conny" ("Health to my lord"), she said in her own tongue. The words were interpreted to the British King, and the memory of the event has been preserved in England by the wassail cup at banquets and festivals. The sequel of the story is well known to readers of English history, and their marriage is one of our earliest romances.

Marriage in these early days was a simple business. Each woman had her value, and the man who selected her to be his wife had not only to pay her father a given sum of money,