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For very long after they became Christian the Saxons kept their old pagan ways of thought, and Caedmon, when he came to sing of holy things, sang as a minstrel might.
It was still possible, even in that later time of anti-Catholic preaching, for people to hold many pagan ideas, and believe themselves good church-people, notwithstanding; so we need hardly feel any surprise at the fact that Mr.
Great as the differences are, very much of this Anglo-Saxon pagan spirit persists centuries later in the English Puritans.
Still pagan in spirit are certain obscure but, ingenious and skillfully developed riddles in verse, representatives of one form of popular literature only less early than the ballads and charms.
There is still other Anglo-Saxon Christian poetry, generally akin in subjects to Cynewulf's, but in most of the poetry of the whole period the excellence results chiefly from the survival of the old pagan spirit which distinguishes 'Beowulf'.
Why, I will tell you," says he; "except the Russian soldiers in the garrisons, and a few of the inhabitants of the cities upon the road, all the rest of this country, for above a thousand miles farther, is inhabited by the worst and most ignorant of pagans.
Thus it was here; for wherever we came, though at these towns and stations the garrisons and governors were Russians, and professed Christians, yet the inhabitants were mere pagans, sacrificing to idols, and worshipping the sun, moon, and stars, or all the host of heaven; and not only so, but were, of all the heathens and pagans that ever I met with, the most barbarous, except only that they did not eat men's flesh.
What inhabitants we found in it are all pagans, except such as are sent among them from Russia; for this is the country--I mean on both sides the river Oby--whither the Muscovite criminals that are not put to death are banished, and from whence it is next to impossible they should ever get away.
By God the basin is a good one, and worth a real of eight if it is worth a maravedis," and handed it to his master, who immediately put it on his head, turning it round, now this way, now that, in search of fitment, and not finding it he said, "Clearly the pagan to whose measure this famous head-piece was first forged must have had a very large head; but the worst of it is half of it is wanting.
I am laughing," said he, "to think of the great head the pagan must have had who owned this helmet, for it looks exactly like a regular barber's basin.
Thou needst not doubt it, Sancho," replied Don Quixote, "for in the same manner, and by the same steps as I have described here, knights-errant rise and have risen to be kings and emperors; all we want now is to find out what king, Christian or pagan, is at war and has a beautiful daughter; but there will be time enough to think of that, for, as I have told thee, fame must be won in other quarters before repairing to the court.
Oh, if these new pagans would only be old pagans, they would be a little wiser
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