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20 Philosophical Sparrow, The. By A, B.
Prairies: Lines written on. By WASHING-
357 TON CHILTON..
436 Recluse, The. By RALPH SEAWULF....
503 Rough Sketches of Female Figures...... 590
Truth. By Miss A. C. CHAMBER-
Duty: An Extract...
To My Wife.
Alone. By SIGMA....
By R. S. CHILTON,
ERY D. PARKER..
Summer Twilight: A Sonnet. By “NELL" 420
Seeking Dinner Under Difficulties. By
Sailor Boy's Death-Bed. By Tue WAN-
The Thrce-fold Nature of Man: A Legend. 139
Things I Love. By CHARLES LELAND
The Two Fishermen. From the Greek.... 232
Tyrants in Tartarus. By C. D. STUART.... 588
Vision of Crime: A Freak of Fancy....... 28
Northern Scalds, The. By II. W. Ells-
By F. u.
Wissahicon, The By R. T. MACOUN,
Tue Scalds were the bards of the north, who, like the Celtic poets and Grecian rhapsodists, celebrated the history of gods and heroes. Like the composers of the Spanish 'romanceros,' they sung of glory and the battlefield. As did the Mennisingers, they too indulged in pride of ancestry, and walked by the side of earls and princes. Like Tailefero, the Norman troubadour, and Veit-Weter, the Swiss soldier, they personally mingled in the combats they described, fighting in the front rank of the battle.
The poetry of Scandinavia, like its history, dates from the migration of the Asiatic tribes, and is lost amid obscure tales or fabulous traditions. These tribes, so long called barbarous, exhibited nevertheless great veneration for poetry, which they attributed directly to the gods. They could well exclaim with Ovid :
"Est Deus in nobis, et sunt commencia cæli
Sedibusque ætheris spiritus ille venit.' Their tradition as to the origin of poetry, though abounding in absurdities, is yet strongly characteristic, and deserves a passing notice.
There was formerly a man called Kvaser, who became a god by his wisdom and intelligence. Two dwarfs, jealous of his reputation, slew him; and collecting his blood in a large vase, mingled it with honey. The blood of the sage, thus mixed with the virtue of flowers, became the source of poetry—the hipprocras of the Scandinavians. Whoever drank of it was immediately inspired, and capable of producing most harmonious tones upon the harp. The giant Sutting obtained this precious treasure, to which he attached a countless price, though he used it not, but gave it to the guardianship of his daughter Gunlæda, whom he shut up in a mountain. Meanwhile Odin, one of the chief gods,* was seized
* ELSEWHERE described as chief of the Scandinavian divinities. VOL. XXXVIII.
with a desire to add to his other attributes the power of poetry. To accomplish this, it was necessary to seduce Sutting, whom neither flattery nor promises could soften, and who, barbarian-like, without enjoying his treasure, kept it closely from all others. Odin quitted his celestial abode, and, like Apollo with Admetus, passed a summer at the home of Sutting, busied with the care of flocks and harvests. He demanded as a recompense a few drops of the poetic honey. These were peremptorily refused, and Odin, in despair of overcoming the obstinacy of the giant, had recourse to stratagem. Changing himself to a serpent, he penetrated the mountain which contained the goblet, and approached Gunlæda, whom he flattered with attentions. The poor Gunlæda, as Eve did also, believed the persuasions of the serpent, and forgot the trust committed by her father. Odin obtained permission to take three draughts from the goblet, and in so doing drained its contents. But he forgot the sweet vows he had murmured to Gunlæda, and leaving the poor girl in tears, flew away as an eagle, to which he had transformed himself
. Sutting, however, was a skilful magician, and discovering
the robbery, pursued the ravisher, whom he was about to seize. While Odin was trembling with the fear of paying dearly for his treachery, he was surrounded by the Asers — his celestial companions — presenting a large cup, into which he returned the mixture he had drank; though in the terror caused by Sutting, he suffered a few drops to fall upon the earth.* These constitute the beverage of inferior poets, who have only to embrace the earth for its attainment, while the goblet of the gods is preserved on high, beyond all reach but that of genius and true inspiration. Odin alone distributes from the goblet, and has hence become the god of poetry.
In the reigns of the three earliest Scandinavian monarchs, we find nothing but incomplete references to the Scalds, and mere fragments of their productions. In the sixth and seventh centuries they occupy a distinct place in history, and from the ninth to the thirteenth follow in regular succession, with ample details as to their names, lives, and compositions. The reign of • Harald of the Fair Hair' was the golden era of the Scalds. This ambitious monarch, for the purpose of adding more solemnity to his battles and greater glory to his conquests, surrounded himself with poets. He collected the most renowned Scalds at his court, whom he retained by costly presents and attentions, receiving in return their tributes to his power and greatness. His successors manifested similar tastes; and some, as Magnus the Good and Harald Sigurdson, were themselves composers.
The Scalds resisted for a long time the anathemas launched by the first missionaries of Christianity. Olaf the Saint condemned their mythological superstitions, yet regarded it as due to his royal dignity to have numerous Scalds in attendance at his court. It was he who, when going forth to battle, thus addressed them : 'Place yourselves in the front rank of the army, that you may witness what you must describe, and do not receive the history from others.' Gradually, however, the spirit of Christianity was diffused amid the Northmen, and Scaldic poetry, the
• From respect to poets, the original expression has been somewhat softened.
daughter of Odin, became extinguished with the worship once paid to her great ancestor.
This species of poetry, judging from the earliest specimens, was clear, simple, and energetic, highly epic, and marked with the characteristics of a primitive age. At a later period it was altered by the Scalds, and became more labored in arrangement. In the days of Rolf Krage it was still young and vigorous, bursting wildly from the midst of the masses, and strong in the defence of Scandinavian nationality. Four centuries later it had passed to its decline, becoming vitiated and pretentious, affectedly seeking unusual forms, and buried in absurd neologisms or foreign metaphors. Then might be found poets who, fearing to be truly popular, introduced amid their compositions so many words of Finnish, Scotch, and Anglo-Saxon origin, that they ceased to be intelligible to the masses, and became a puzzle for the learned. When, as the result of great labor, the sense of these productions is finally attained, one is astonished at the resorts of the Scalds to conceal their thoughts from those who heard them. Seemingly ashamed to use the language of the people, they so elaborated their verses, sharpened their periods, and dealt in metaphor, as to leave behind the Italian concetti,' and even the heterogeneous court poetry of the Germans. No where else are to be found poets who so fear neatness and simplicity of expression, or who so continually employ periphrase. If they speak of the heavens, it is invariably as 'the cover of the mountains,' the house of the sun,' or the path of stars ;' if of the earth, they address her as 'the daughter of night,' the flesh of Ymer, the vessel floating upon ages. Fire they designate as 'brother of the wind' and 'the enemy of forests ;' gold they call the ‘light of the waters' and 'the tears of Freya;' the sea is 'the blood of Ymer' and 'the circle of the world;' the head is the harvest-field of hair ;' while blood is the lake of wounds' or the wine of birds of prey.'* To all this must be added the equivocal expressions which they cherished with such predilection. With them, the same word is made to signify sea, horse, ship, buckler, fire, sword, wolf
, and eagle; while often, in the use of these doubtful phrases, they join to one of their possible acceptations epithets properly belonging to another.
Besides all this, the Scalds are continually employing great poetic license. They not only suppress and add at pleasure, but often contract many letters in a word. They employ trope, epenthesis, syncope, metonymy, and ellipsis, like apt pupils of the school of Dumarsais. In the same composition, they often use the metrical verse of the ancients, the Italian sciolto, the rhyme-stanza of the present day, and the old alliterative measure of the German and Anglo-Saxon.
The Scalds have four different kinds of verse, which are as follows: Fornyrda-Lay,' Drott. Kwædit,' 'Togmætt,' and 'Rundherit.' The first is the most ancient, and was sometimes called elf-chant, from a popular belief that fairies used it in their intercourse with men. The second is best known, and was frequently employed in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh centuries. In the third the lines rhyme alternately, some having the full measure, and others a species of demi-rhythm, difficult at first glance to perceive. The fourth is the most recent, and of frequent use at present throughout Iceland.
* Vipi Hist. Anglo-Saxons, by SHARON TURNER, vol. iii. p. 274. CEDmon, in his poem on the Deluge, (Anglo-Saxon,) employs more than thirty synonymes to describe Noau's ark.
The two most celebrated forms of poetry are the Drapa and the FLOCKR. The Drapa is a species of heroic ode adapted to festivals and battles, the dithyrambic measure of which kings loved to hear around them. The Flockr also possesses a certain solemnity, but is shorter. The Scald Loftunya once chanted a Flockr before King Canute, who reproved him, saying he had previously been addressed only in the Drapa.
These two were the great legitimate forms of poetry; but the Scalds varied at pleasure their rhyme, metre, and alliterations. It is apparent, in the fragments which have descended to us, that they sought to create metrical difficulties, in the hope of adding to the value of their efforts. Nor is this poetic error so uncommon as may be supposed. Simon of Rhodes wrote a poem to which he gave the form of an egg, and another shaped like a hatchet. The Latin poem, each word of which commences with the letter P, is well known to classical scholars, and so are the French pieces entitled the Battle of Panard — the acrostic traversed four times by the name it gives; the ‘batelé quartain,' in which the rhyme at the end of each line is repeated near the commencement of the second ;* the quartain double-rhyme, of which Marot has left us some examples; and the quartain fraternisé," where the word ending each line, or part of the same, reäppears in the line succeeding; I together with other forms more or less irregular.
But the poetry of the Scalds possesses another merit than that of versification, in its traditional character and authenticity. It contains documents the loss of which could never be replaced, with numerous essential facts not elsewhere found in northern history. We owe indeed to the Scalds all those precious fragments which form the basis of the chronicles of Saxo Grammaticus and Snone Sturleson. We have also derived from them those beautiful strophes interwoven in the Sagas and Eddas; in other words, the whole Scandinavian cosmogony and theogony.
The Scalds, though apparent, are not real borrowers from others. They were actually inspired by the times in which they lived, the events in which they participated, and the country of their love. None could be better fitted as historians of their respective epochs, grasping as they did, at the same time, the extreme rounds of social progress. By birth they belonged, in general, to the common people, while by education they became the equals of the great and associates of princes, by whose side they marched to battle. They were both witnesses and actors, observing and recounting in verse the results of their observations, some of them being able as improvisators to recount at once the facts that arrested their attention. Raynal, Count of the Orkneys, boasted that he had frequently
• QUAND NEPTUNE, puissant dieu de la mer,
Cessa d'armer casaque et galeas,
Et reclamer ces grands eaux salées.
Souvent je voy priant, criant.
Gente de corps et façon, etc.