Ivanhoe (Chapter 1, page 1 of 12)


 
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Chapter 1

Thus communed these; while to their lowly dome,
The full-fed swine return'd with evening home;
Compell'd, reluctant, to the several sties,
With din obstreperous, and ungrateful cries.

Pope's Odyssey

In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the
river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering
the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between
Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster. The remains of this
extensive wood are still to be seen at the noble seats of Wentworth, of
Warncliffe Park, and around Rotherham. Here haunted of yore the fabulous
Dragon of Wantley; here were fought many of the most desperate battles
during the Civil Wars of the Roses; and here also flourished in ancient
times those bands of gallant outlaws, whose deeds have been rendered so
popular in English song.

Such being our chief scene, the date of our story refers to a period
towards the end of the reign of Richard I., when his return from his
long captivity had become an event rather wished than hoped for by his
despairing subjects, who were in the meantime subjected to every species
of subordinate oppression. The nobles, whose power had become exorbitant
during the reign of Stephen, and whom the prudence of Henry the Second
had scarce reduced to some degree of subjection to the crown, had now
resumed their ancient license in its utmost extent; despising the feeble
interference of the English Council of State, fortifying their castles,
increasing the number of their dependants, reducing all around them to a
state of vassalage, and striving by every means in their power, to place
themselves each at the head of such forces as might enable him to make a
figure in the national convulsions which appeared to be impending.

 
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