The Hall of Waltheof/Chapter II
I MUST now turn over an earlier page, though I am going a little beyond my prescribed limits in describing a hill-fort which is situate on the Hathersage moors about a mile from the boundary of Hallamshire. The hill-fort known as Carl's Wark is so near to that boundary, and has such an important bearing on the subject with which we are dealing, that no apology seems needed for inserting an account of it.
As in other cases the builders of this hill-fort have made use of the defence afforded by a rocky summit with precipitous sides, and have supplemented the weaker parts of a natural fortification by massive walls. The area of ground enclosed by natural rocks and artificial walls is of considerable extent. Its mean length from east to west as taken from actual measurement is 450 feet, and its mean breadth is 200 feet. The northern and eastern sides of the hill-fort are very precipitous and show little sign of artificial work, nor for the purpose of fortification was such work necessary. But the southern and western sides are protected by rude walls built without mortar, and of immense age. Some of the stones in the southern wall, in which, as will be seen in the drawing, there is a gateway or opening about seven feet in breadth, are of Cyclopean size. They are from six to nine feet in length. The walls which they form are not carefully-fitted polygonal masonry, but are built of great unhewn boulders fitted together without mortar and without any small stones in the interstices. But rude as the ancient masonry is these big stones have been fitted to each other with some care. The wall on the western boundary of the hill-fort is eighty-five feet in length, its height being from ten to twelve feet above the level of the ground outside the fort.
The western side of the fort was its most vulnerable part, and the section will show how the earth was thrown up within the fort against this side. The stones of which this western wall are formed are smaller in size than the stones wnich form the wall on the southern side. The average length of each stone in the western wall is about three-and-a-half feet, its depth or thickness one foot, and its width three feet, that being the width of the wall, which consists of one course of stones only. These stones also, like the stones in the southern wall, are fitted together without mortar and without smaller stones to fill up the interstices. A winding pathway goes down from the gateway or opening on the southern side, and on the eastern side is a narrow pathway leading down between the rocks. The eastern side has been strengthened by a wall built into a crevice in the rocks. Both the southern and eastern sides are strengthened by earth which has been thrown up. In some of the isolated boulders are cup-like markings which show curiously the action of the prevailing winds and rain. The walls are built of therough millstone grit which is found on the surrounding moors, and they are worn by the pitiless storms which on this high ground have beaten upon them for ages. In the last century Carl's Wark attracted the notice of Wilson the Sheffield antiquary. He speaks of the west end as being "walled with stones as large as strong gate stoops, some a ton apiece, and twenty or thirty yards long; the north side a steep perpendicular rock, and the south side and east end defended with large stones evidently laid to defend the passage up the hill. No engines now in being could move such great stones."
Like the Acropolis of Tiryns Carl's Wark is a fortified place on a hill, and, as will be seen in the drawing above, there is no small resemblance between it and the ancient hill-forts of Greece.
Writing of the Cyclopean masonry of Greece Dr. Reber says: "Walls built of enormous boulders, unhewn, and roughly piled up without calculation, the larger interstices being filled with smaller stones, are of extreme age. Such masonry appeared to later generations to be the work of giants, of Cyclops, and hence a name which might more fittingly be changed to Pelasgic than to Poseidonic, as suggested by Gladstone. The walls of Tiryns are of such gigantic blocks—bulwarks mentioned by Homer and Hesiod, and admired in their ruins by Pausanias. They are built upon a ridge of rock."
The Cyclops are first mentioned in the Odyssey as a race of one-eyed giants. "We came," says Odysseus, "to the land of the Cyclopes, a froward and a lawless folk, who trusting to the deathless gods plant not aught with their hands, neither plough: but, behold, all these things spring for them in plenty, unsown and untilled, wheat, and barley, and vines, which bear great clusters of the juice of the grape, and the rain of Zeus gives them increase. These have neither gatherings for council nor oracles of law, but they dwell in hollow caves on the crests of the high hills, and each one utters the law to his children and his wives, and they reck not one of another."
In this interesting description Homer seems to have been thinking of hill tribes, or of a race of men who had not yet passed into the agricultural stage, and were without social organization. Such men, he tells us, "dwell in hollow caves on the crests of the high hills." About 1,600 feet to the northwest of Carl's Wark is a hill known as Higgar Torr, on the top of which are small caves into which sheep often retreat for shelter. It is just possible that Higgar may be Yggr (with a genitive Yggjar), a name of Odin. The Old Norse uggr means terror, fear, and Grimm connects Yggr with the Latin Pavor, the god of fear. "Rock of Fear" would be a fit name for this dark and awful eminence.
Just as the Cyclops was a one-eyed giant so in Northern mythology Odin pawned his eye in the well of Mímir. And just as in Greece the great stone walls of the hill-fort were ascribed to the Cyclops, so in England such works, as I shall presently show, were ascribed to the one-eyed Odin. This brings us to the term "Carl's Wark," and its meaning. And first of all it is of great importance to remember that the word "wark" here means "fort," so that in the very name of the place we have proof that it was regarded in ancient times as a stronghold.
It is evident that the making of this fortification was attributed in early times to a being called Karl or Charles. It was not the work of churls or slaves—an explanation which would do violence to the rules of Old English grammar, to say nothing of any other objection. Grimm conjectured that the wagon or wain in Charles's Wain was that of Odin. In the Norse mythology Odin was the wagon-man; the heaven was called the wagon hall, the wagon roof, the wagon road. From the seven bright stars in Ursa Major, which look so like a wagon, it may have been fabled that Odin threw down great stones upon the earth and built the walls. The heap of stones called the Apronfull of Stones formerly existing in Bradfield is evidence of a belief in this district of giants or giantesses scattering big stones upon the ground from their aprons.
Carl's Work or Charles Work is also the name of a cavern in Middleton Dale in Derbyshire, and there is a cave called Odin's Mine at the foot of Mam Tor in Castleton in the same county. There is also a Charles Clough or Churl Clough on the Hallam moors. From the names of these two caverns alone it would appear that Carl and Odin are synonyms. In Old Norse karl, in addition to its ordinary meaning of man, means an old man, and in this neighbourhood the Devil is popularly known as the Old Lad or the Old One. Carl's Wark then is The Old One's fort, otherwise Odin's fort; and the Norse Sagas represent Odin as an old man with one eye. Grimm has shown how the tales about Odin began to be attributed to the Frankish Charles. Just as the one-eyed Cyclops, according to the ancient fable, built the great walls of the Greek hill-forts, so the one-eyed Odin was the fabulous builder of this strong hill-fort on the Hathersage moors. Its very name is a proof of its vast age. In "the dark backward and abysm of time," long before the dawn of English history, there dwelt upon these wild moors "a froward and lawless folk" who, in the words of Homer, planted not aught with their hands neither ploughed. According to Cæsar most of the Britons dwelling in the interior of the island did not sow wheat, but lived on milk and flesh, and were clad in skins.
The view of Carl's Wark and of the surrounding country as seen from "the Duke's drive" is a scene of weird and desolate grandeur. The Wark itself has been compared to an immense blackened altar. There are great stretches of yellow rush-beds lying on all sides below the hill, and these commingled with patches of heather make the moors look like a huge tiger skin spreading far out before the eyes.
- According to Schliemann the usual size of the stones at Tiryns is seven feet long and three feet thick.—Mycenæ, 1878, p. 3. At Carl's Wark the largest stones are not near the gateway.
- In Bateman's Ten Years' Diggings, p. 253.
- History of Ancient Art, trans. by Clarke, London, 1883, p. 187.
- 1 Od. ix, 106-115, in Rutcher and Lang's elegant translation. The original of the words which I have put in italics is—
'Αλλ ὀί γ ίψηλῶν ὸρέων ναίοωι κάρηνα
'Εν σπθτσι γλαφνρόυτι
In Iliad 2, 117, 9, 24, the word κάρηνον is used as the equivalent of άκρὁπολις
- The word σπἐος which in the passage just quoted from the Odyssey is rendered "cave" is applied in Iliad 4, 279 to a cave used for folding sheep in, as well as to the dwelling of the Cyclops in Odyssey ix, 400.
- Thus in Kormaks Saga, 24. we have "virki þat er heitir Skarðaborg" the work (or stronghold) that is called Scarborough. So Aldwark near Rotherham means old fort, old castle.
- Teut. Myth. (Stallybrass) p. 724
- Bray's Tour in Derbyshire, 1783, p. 178. Black's Guide to Derbyshire, 1866, p. 268.
- Sheffield Glossary, p. 40, and Supplement, p. 12.
- Teut. Myth. (Stallybrass) p. 937
- Interiores plerique frumenta non serunt, sed laćte et carne vivunt, pellibusque sum vestiti.—De Bello Gallico, v. 14.