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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 écourt 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
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
* Vidu 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.
glance to perceive. The fourth is the most recent, and of frequent use at present throughout Iceland.
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; † 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.
composed entire poems on unpremeditated subjects ; and the Scald Sivard, who always hesitated when speaking prose, expressed himself with the greatest facility when he sung in verse.
A portion of the Scald songs which we know were composed in Denmark; others in Sweden or Norway; and perhaps the most in Iceland. But from the wandering habits of their composers, they have been circulated throughout Scandinavia.
The Scalds quitted their country animated by the ardent hopes and impatience of youth, but returned to it with the wisdom and reminiscences of maturer age. They passed long years in the search of adventure, singing as they went from village to village, bearing nothing with them but their lute and sword. Poets were they in the midst of poverty, liable at any moment to exchange the melody of verse for the clang of the sabre ; resembling restless, weary birds, to whom Nature had denied the green shelter of the forest, and forced to build their nests on battle-fields or along the shores of wind-vexed oceans.
When a Scald arrived at the court of a prince, he announced himself as a poet, and was so received. In each festive saloon a seat was reserved for him, from which he sung to those assembled. • It was an old custom,' says Odin, in the Hearamal, 'to sit beside the Scalds and reduce to memory their songs of ancient time. While they thus recounted the histories of various people, I regarded and was silent.'
The Scalds frequently repeated their strophes, which the attendant courtiers learned by heart, and thus rescued from oblivion. It was the desire of kings that they should do so; and it is related of Edward of England that previous to recompensing the poet Hille, he commanded his attendance sufficiently long to fix indelibly the songs he uttered.
In those times of general ignorance, the Scald was not only a faithful historian and skilful versifier, but he was also one who had travelled much, and whose judgment and intelligence had been developed by poetic instinct. He was at once poet and philosopher, ranking with the nobles of the empire, having for his armorial bearings a rose upon a buckler.
But whenever a prince had once rendered a proper tribute to the talent and character of these energetic poets, he had also secured their unwavering fidelity. On one occasion a tempest shattered the vessel of the
the coast of Denmark. He was little known, but from his imposing appearance was well received by King Froddr, who, pleased with his martial air, equipped another vessel, in which the poet revisited Sweden, England, Ireland, and subsequently the shores of the Baltic, penetrating even to Poland and Russia. During these voyages he attacked numerous pirates, and amassed vast riches, which he returned to share with the king, to whom he recounted his adventures. Whenever he heard of a celebrated warrior, he sought him out for combat, and hastened to the succor of all who were unfortunate.
Meanwhile Froddr, his friend and benefactor, was assassinated, leaving a son whom Starkoddr would not deprive of the glory of avenging his father. Starkoddr therefore retired to Sweden, where he passed his time in recounting former battles or preparing for new ones, until he learned the seduction of Helge by an under officer. He departed immediately, and arriving in Denmark, entered the tent of the officer in complete disguise, where he seated himself in silence. He soon learned the truth of the report, and observed, while continually pressing his dagger, the numerous caresses Helge lavished upon her seducer. He was finally recognized by Helge, who from that moment rejected the advances of her lover.
Starkoddr sprang to his feet, while the unhappy officer, pale and affrighted, riveted his gaze upon the iron hand and sword which seemed to menace his destruction. Without the means of defence or power of flight, he cowered beneath the indignant glance of the Scald, as a defenceless bird before the bloody vulture. Starkoddr, after having tantalized him with the agonies of anticipated death, turned away with disgust, exclaiming: ‘I will not tarnish my reputation as a warrior by punishing a villain like yourself. I impose no other chastisement than the gift of life.' 'For,' adds Saxo Grammaticus, “Starkoddr was one who believed that crime and its attendant remorse were far more terrible than death.'
At a subsequent period Helge married the son of a neighboring monarch, and the Scald returned to Sweden. But learning that Ingle, the new King of Denmark, so far from avenging the death of his father, had become the friend of his assassin and espoused his sister, he returned to the palace, and without announcing himself
, took the seat of honor assigned of old by Froddr. The queen ordered him to retire, and the Scald, without endeavoring to justify himself, complied, but in his indignation struck so forcibly against the columns of the hall, that the whole house trembled. The king, on returning from a hunt, recognized his father's friend, and although burdened by his presence, ordered him a grand reception, while the queen demanded pardon for her error. Starkoddr, however, heeded neither flattery nor protestations, but seated himself at the festival prepared for the occasion like one in mourning. He could not but compare the table, now loaded with choice meats and costly liquors, with the simpler board of his former patron; and when the king, pressing him to drink, offered also the viands reserved for his own use, the old warrior refused them with unqualified disgust. 'I came here,' he exclaimed, 'to see the son of Froddr, not a wretched voluptuary who dreams only of rich living. Hearing the German language spoken around him, his northern pride revolted at its accents. Suddenly the murderers of the late king appeared to take their places, when the indignant glance of the Scald so affrighted the queen, that snatching the golden diadem from her head, she presented it, hoping to appease his anger. It was rejected with contempt, the Scald exclaiming: Offer not these foolish gew-gaws as a present. Presume you that an old soldier is to be corrupted, like a woman, by the sight of gold? He who could adorn his head with such ornaments is no hero, for the true armor of the warrior is the scar and sword.' Thus speaking, he bounded toward the assassins of Froddr, whom he trampled under foot, and departed to his warriorlife in Sweden.
If, by his natural vocation, the Scald occupied the front rank in the mansions of the great, it is equally to be remembered that, led by the reminiscences of childhood and family affection, he loved also to descend to the hearts of the common people. Even in the midst of the brilliant saloons where the hydromel flowed from golden goblets, he remembered the humble roof which had often sheltered him, and beside his own hearth repeated in the evening to old companions the songs that had won him in the morning the rich decorations of some earl. The cry of the oppressed and the complaint of poverty were softened as they trembled amid the echoes of his harp. When he thus sung, kings listened more attentively, and poetry established a mysterious tie between the slave and the master, the cottage and the throne.
Judging from the history of Saxo Grammaticus, the Scandinavians were passionately addicted to all kinds of poetry. When Froddr III. died, he left no legitimate successor, as the only one who could have any pretensions had fled to Russia, where it was supposed he had long since perished. The Danes therefore promised the crown to him who should compose the best poem on the death of the late monarch. Saxo does not inform us under what circumstances the selection was made, but a poor Scald, named Biarn, until that time little known, bore away the palm from every rival. At the Olympic games, even Sophocles never obtained any other royal decoration than a poetic crown; and Petrarch, when conducted in triumph to the Capitol, received only a laurel-wreath from the attendant cardinals.
Some of the Scalds belonged to the most noble families in Scandinavia, and, as in Germany and France, might be often seen in the midst of mennisingers and troubadours, princes, earls and dukes, composing the Flockr or Drapa, and bearing with pride the name of poet. But whether born in the mansion of the noble or the cottage of the peasant, the Scalds were equally and beyond all else warriors. The sword effaced all rank and distances. War was their delight, and each of them could exclaim with Antor, the Arabian hero, ‘My ancestry is my strength, my nobility, my courage. Am I asked for a genealogy? I present my lance and sword.
We are not to expect therefore, in their compositions, those refined ideas and tender reveries painted by more modern poets. Their harp will not sigh as the guitar, or murmur like the mandolen. The feeble, timid hand of the young maiden cannot woo a sound from it, and even tears will cause no vibration in those strings of steel. But beneath the nervous pressure of the Scald, those cords will ring like the clarion, and reëcho as the trumpet. The Scald sings the intoxication of the battle and heroic glory; he tells of magic bucklers, and wondrous swords, cleaving chains asunder and dividing solid mountains. He chants of the Valkyries, who collect the dead from battle-fields and prepare the banquets of Valhalla. When he abandons himself to the full promptings of enthusiasm, the hearts of surrounding warriors palpitate at the recital
, while each sword springs from out its scabbord. At the hour of combat the Scald, throwing aside his harp, rushes forward, arms in hand, to the front rank of the conflict. While perishing, he smiles at death approaches; and even then, should the memory of early love steal over him, he utters it in poetry !
The Scald Gisle, when pursued by his enemies, bounded upon a rock and defended himself for a long time valiantly. He was finally conquered, and declared in dying, as his greatest consolation, that his wife would know the valor with which he had combated. “My young wife,'