Devoted, however, as were the labours of Boniface and his disciples, all that he and they and the emperor Charlemagne after them achieved for the fierce untutored world of the 8th century seemed to have been done in vain when, in the 9th " on the north and north-west the pagan Scandinavians were hanging about every coast, and pouring in at every inlet; when on the east the pagan Hungarians were swarming like locusts and devastating Europe from the Baltic to the Alps; when on the south and south-east the Saracens were pressing on and on with their victorious hosts.
Beneath the surface of brilliant social culture lurked gross appetites and savage passions, unrestrained by medieval piety, untutored by modern experience.
Too well-informed, too appreciative and too modest to deem himself the peer of the "grand old masters," or one of "those far stars that come in sight once in a century," he made it his aim to write something that should "make a purer faith and manhood shine in the untutored heart," and to do this in the way that should best reach that heart.
But these, to the untutored imagination, present a mystical, as well as a mechanical aspect; and barbaric familiarity with the heavens developed at an early age, through the promptings of superstition, into a fixed system of observation.
Such myths might spring up anywhere among untutored men, and anywhere might survive into civilized literature.