POLITICAL HISTORY greater part of the heathen host was destroyed, so that we never heard of their being so defeated either before or since, in any country, on any one day.' He uses no such strong language of any of Alfred's victories. It was no doubt celebrated in song, for Henry of Huntingdon seems to be quoting from a war ballad when he writes : ' The battle was fought between armies of the greatest size, and was greater and more obstinate than any that had been heard of in England. You might see there the warriors thick as ears of corn charging upon either hand, and rivers of blood rolling away the heads and the limbs of the slain. God gave the fortune of the war to those who believed on Him, and ineffable confusion to those who despised Him.' Still more significant is the mention of the victory abroad, for Prudentius of Troyes, noticing the going over of the host from the mouth of the Rhine against the English, says : ' ab eis auxilio Domini Nostri Jesu Christi super- antur.' Prudentius adds that he never heard of such a victory. It is a matter of regret that the Song of Ockley does not exist as the Song of Brunanbuhr does, to tell us how the eagle and the kite and 'the grey deer the wolf of the Weald' scented the carnage from afar, and came up from cliff and forest to the corpse-strewn slopes of the Surrey hills, to the pleasant glades where now the primroses and the wild hyacinths bloom and the oaks grow green, and the peace of a quiet country side has brooded for a thousand years above the graves. After Ockley, with the exception of fighting about Thanet and in Kent, and one attack from Southampton Water upon Winchester, which was defeated, no recorded invasion vexed the southern counties for about twenty years. The West Saxon dynasty had won a notable advantage in time for its consolidation. The date of Ockley was 851. The years 851 and 853 are given in the chronicle in various MSS. But 850 is the date given by the foreign authorities for the recovery of his settlement on the Rhine by Ruric. If the superfluous force of his Danes went on in the next cruising season to England, this would place Ockley in the spring of 851. Moreover, Beorhtwulf of Mercia seems to have been dead before 853, and he was alive in the year in which Ockley was fought. Huda, the only ealdorman of Surrey whose name is preserved, was killed fighting against the Danes in Thanet, soon after Ockley. When the great Scandinavian invasion of some twenty years after this occurred, in Ethelred's reign, Surrey was the scene perhaps of some fighting, and no doubt of much devastation. The Danes were in possession of East Anglia, Essex, London and Mercia, or allied with the inhabitants of these places, so that the whole Thames frontier of the West Saxons lay open to attack. The army, as the chronicler calls it, came to Reading in 871, and nine great battles, 'folk-fights,' were fought, chiefly in Berkshire and Hampshire, in the year. One battle has been commonly attributed to Surrey. Ethelred, and Alfred his brother, fought the invaders at ' Meretun,' and at first were victorious, but the Danes at last had possession of the place of slaughter. The subsequent fame of the religious house at Merton in Surrey made 333
Page:VCH Surrey 1.djvu/397
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