Page:The Normans in European History.djvu/21

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cattle, of butter and cheese and cider and the kindly fruits of the earth; and the continuity of its history rests upon the land itself. "Behind the shore and even upon it," says Vidal de la Blache, "the ancient cumulative force of the interior has reacted against the sea. There an old and rich civilization has subsisted in its entirety, founded on the soil, through whose power have resisted and endured the speech, the traditions, and the peoples of ancient times."[1] Conquered and colonized by the sea-rovers of the north, the land of Normandy was able to absorb its conquerors into the law, the language, the religion, and the culture of France, where, as Sorel says, their descendants now preserve "their attachment to their native soil, the love of their ancestors, the respect for the ruins of the past, and the indestructible veneration for its tombs."[2]

If the character of Normandy is thus in considerable measure determined by geography, its boundaries and even its internal unity are chiefly the result of history. For good and ill, Normandy has, on the land side, no natural frontiers. The hills of the west continue those of Brittany, the plains of the east merge in those of Picardy. The watershed of the south marks no clear-cut boundary from Maine and Perche; the valleys of the Seine and the Eure lead straight to the Ile-de-France, separated from Normandy only by those border fortresses of the Avre and the Vexin which are the perpetual

  1. La France, p. 161.
  2. Pages normandes, dedication.