« AnteriorContinuar »
never could afterwards defend himself by oath, or be received as a witness. That, which was the direful cause of war before the rape of Helen, could not fail to infiame the anger of the Scandinavians; and their combats very frequently originated in • ladies love and druery.' The last and most memorable duel in Iceland was fought between the two poets, Gunnlaug with the serpent tongue, and Rafn. They contended for the hand of the fair-haired Helga, whose espousal we have already related, and both died in the conflict. The fate of these youthful lovers excited universal commiseration; and it was enacted, in • one of the greatest folkmotes ever known in Iceland, and by o the advice of the wisest men in Iceland, that thenceforth the * duel should be taken away for ever.' It is scarcely proper, however, to give the name of judicial battle to such conflicts, to which, as in a modern duel, the parties were incited, because no award of a judge could either redeem their honour, or allay their feelings.
Although the Sagas furnish many instances of duels in which mere right of property,—debt, or dowry, or inheritance,—was the object of contention ;-yet, strictly speaking, it cannot be asserted that trial by battle was the legal mode of deciding any civil action. The law put the Sandinavians upon their country; but still they fought, because it was proved by experience, that the stroke of the sword quieted possession more effectually than the judgment of the court; and, like King Frotho, they thought it beseemed them better to strive in strength than in words. We doubt whether any instance occurs of the employment of a champion in Scandinavia, unless we admit the authority of a Danish ballad, in which, according to the usual plot of romance, a maiden is delivered by a friendly arm from the slander of a false accuser. It is singular, that, according to the Teutonic customs, a champion.was not allowed to the weaker sex. A woman appealed by a man was compelled to wage battle in her own proper person ; but a strange device was adopted, by which the combatants were brought to a certain degree of equality. The man was planted, as it were, in a hole dug in the ground, so deep that he sank into it up to his girdle; thus confined, a great advantage was afforded to his female opponent, who could range round and round him, striking him on the head with thong, or sling, to which a heavy stone was attached. He was furnished with a club; and if, in attempting to reach the woman, his blows failed three times, so that the club thrice beat upon the ground, it was decided that he was vanquished.
* In the well known duel between the false traitor Macarius and
Usage determined the size and nature of the weapons, and the theatre of the Scandinavian combat. Desperate warriors chose an island, or a holm,' from whence neither could flee. The duel, therefore, often acquired the name of the holmgang.'. A narrow space was assigned to the duellists. A hide, nine ells in length, was extended upon the ground upon which they fought. Sometimes, also, the lists were enclosed by hazel stangs, or
a ring was marked out by stones ;--many of the Druidical circles, as they are called, were, probably, battle-rings of this nature. He who slipped under the barrier, or he who was beaten out of the ring, though his foot only passed beyond the boundary, was to be considered as conquered. This, indeed, was King Frodo's law. He also was conquered whose blood first stained the hide. Such regulations were obviously intended to save the waste of human life. A conventional termination was given to the battle, which satisfied the honour of the victor, whilst the vanquished knew that he could not obliterate his disgrace by protracting the struggle. It is not
the dog of Montargis, the faithful plaintiff was protected by a contrivance not dissimilar to that which here confined the stronger party. Grave authors who have treated on judicial combat, have receive ed this romantic tale as truth, though it requires no great exertion of sagacity to doubt its authenticity. It has not been remarked, that the whole adventure is in fact borrowed from a romance, most probably of French origin---but which we have only seen in an ancient Spanish translation, [Historia della Reyna Sevilla, Impreso con licencia en Valladolid en casa de la viuda de Francisco de Cordova, 1623.] The murderer, in the romance, bears the same name as in the French tradition, and all the incidents correspond, except that the dog is not furnished with a hiding place. The combat is oddly described ; and an extract may amuse some of our readers. • Dixo
el Obispo, Macayre id a besar las reliquias, y seredes mas seguro • del can e de vuestro hecho acabar.-E dixo Macayre, Señor no,
no besare las reliquias, ni rogare a Dios que me ayude contra uncan ;
- . El duque Don Jayme solto el galgo, y dixole, a Dios • te encomiendo que te vengue de aquel que a tu Señor mato, y el • galgo dexose yr para Macayre. Macayre quando lo vido venir, ' tomo su palo, y pensole herir ; Mas el can se abaxo y salto de • traves y no le pudo alcançar, y dio tal herida en tierra que mas de un
dedo entro en ella, y el galgo andava al derredor mirando por • do podria travar. y Nuestro Señor quiso mostrar ay un gran mila
gro que quiso ayudar al galgo porque tomasse vengança de quien « mato a su Señor Aubertin de Mondifer
assi anduvo asse• chando hasta que se fue a travarle dela gargarta ante que el tray• dor le pudiesse dar el palo y tuvolo como a un puerco que no se
podia partir del'.
difficult to discern the affinity between these customs and the code which governed the more gorgeous exercise of the tournament: Nor do we want a more homely parallel. In the Kamping Matches of Norfolk and Suffolk, our East Anglian clowns are the genuine successors of the Scandinavian Kæmper ;
* and the observances wbich determined the victory of the champions of the heroic age, are rudely imitated by our churls, in wrestling, and single-stick, and boxing.
When we read of Scandinavia, it seems enveloped in a perpetual snow-storm. Its inhabitants are pictured in our imaginations, as a race of stern and barbarous warriors, intent only upon war and plunder ; yet, according to their polity, the members of the community were knitted together by the closest social bonds. Moral duties were enforced by the penalties of the law which came in aid of the precepts and dictates of friendship, of charity, and of natural affection. The husbandman, if his own hinds failed him, could demand the gratuitous assistance of his fellow-yeomen in gathering his crop; and, with solemn earnestness, the law endeavoured to avert the hand of the spoiler, by reminding him, that the field, open to the trespasser, and unguarded by the master, was under God's lock, with heaven for
its roof, though but the hedge is its wall.'+ The crew, whose united strength was unequal to the task of launching the vessel, could summon the people of the country to join in the labour; and if the ship of the seaman was wrecked, they were required to attend with their teams, to help him to save his property. When the mother died in childbed, the law ordered matrons of the hundred to give suck to the infant, each in her turn, and the corpse was borne to the grave by the neighbours of the departed. Even animals were considered as being, in some measure, included in the compact of society, The industrious beaver
hath his house like the husbandman;' and if the beaver was killed, and his cell overturned, a fine of three marks, both for
* See Ihre, in voce KAMP,
† Now, it may happen that a man steals corn out of the field, and • breaks God's lock, and binds his burthen, and bears it into his lathe,
or into the shaw, then he is called strawback, (v. Ihre, in voce • Agnabaker.) If he is taken, and lawfully convicted, then hath he • forefaulted his life, and all his fee. -Ostgolha L. Edzöris, B. F. 33.
The Westmanna lagh, though less severe, is equally poetical in its expression. "If a man plucks ears of corn from the field, and is taken • in the open fact, let him forfeit three marks, or defend himself with • the oaths of twelve men. The field hath the hedge for its wall, and
heaven for its roof.'--W. L. Manhelgis, B. F. 82.
blood-wite, and hamesoken, was paid to the owner of the land. But the grim inhabitants of the forest, the enemies of mankind, were declared by Haco Athelstane to be out of the protection of the law. The bear and the wolf shall be outlaws in every
place." [Biörn og ulf scal hvervetna utlægr vera ;')--a phrase which illustrates the Saxon definition of an outlaw,--the bearer of the wolf's head. Yet, notwithstanding this perpetual sentence of outlawry, the bear himself was entitled to a legal summons, before he could be punished for his misdeeds. But this strange opinion belongs rather to the history of superstition than to the history of law.
Scandinavia affords, we believe, the earliest example of a legislative provision for the relief of the Poor. He who could not earn his food, might claim a home in every house in the township. The owner was compelled to receive the beadsman, passing him on to the next farm, after he had entertained him during the riod prescribed by law. Lest the churlish farmer might ill-treat the needy under the colour of the law, it was forbidden to refuse shelter to any pauper
after sun-set. And if any mischance then befel him, --if he was starved by the cold, or torn by the wolves,--the full blood fine was exacted from the inhuman transgressor. Poverty and riches arise, in an agricultural community, according to their natural and unforced average. Toil is the capital of the husbandman; his weal and his woe, his losses and his gains, are interchanged in each generation like the summer and the winter; and in each generation the account is balanced. Nor was the charity unwise which diminished the sum of human misery, by ensuring to the destitute a small portion of the harvest which others had sown and reaped. In the middle ages, Norway and Sweden alone possessed this system of Poor-laws, which were called into action there by the poverty of the Church. Few religious communities existed. The dole was not dealt to the beadsman at the gate of the abbey. No spire arose amidst the wilds, directing the wanderer to the mansion of the Cross, under whose roof the hungry were fed, and the weary found rest and kindness. It was therefore necessary that each individual hand should be compelled to afford that aid which piety—though perhaps mistaken piety—bestowed in other realms.
War might seem to be the most favourite occupation of the followers of the sea kings, from whose fury Europe prayed to be delivered. Yet their legislation is copious in determining the rights arising from the most peaceful of all human occupations. And the Agricultural laws contained in the Norwegian and Swedish custumals, in the books entitled the Landsleiga Bælkr, the Bygninga Balker, or the Widherboa Balker, are compiled with peculiar care and precision. Under an inclement ský, the harvest was not to be earned but by unwearied labour; and hence the legislators of the North protected the husbandman by their tillage code. No exact parallel can be found to this portion of Scandinavian jurisprudence. In Fleta, there are some chapters relating to the management of a manor, and pointing out the duties of the farming servants, or demesnial vassals of the lord. Of more importance is a treatise on Agriculture, written in Norman French, and which our English lawyers often included in their legal collections. Thus it is inserted in the Liber Horne, to which we have before alluded; but these works merely teach agriculture. They do not legislate upon the subject; whilst the Scandinavians gave a legal sanction to the custom of the country,' As elucidating the history of society in the uttermost march lands of European civilization, the agricultural law of the Scandinavians is of singular value. It presents a perfect view of their rural economy; defining all the rights and duties of the landlord and the tenant, the master and the servant. The following chapter, found in the code of Haco Athelstane, is repeated in the laws of King Magnus. *
• Now it may happen that a man buys work (i. e. agrees for • labour) from a free man, then all the matters upon which they • have agreed shall be well and truly held.'
• If the husbandman (bondi) will not hold his covenant with • his labourer, but discharges him from his service, then the • labourer shall crave his victual in the presence of two witness
es, and offer to do such work as they had before agreed up
on: and if the husbandman will not accept the work of the • labourer, then he forfeits three oras of silver to the King, and • the labourer shall have his wages and the worth of his vic6 tual.'
. But if the labourer will not hold his covenant with the hus• bandman, then the husbandman shall crave the work which • the labourer undertook to perform, and offer to provide his • victual in the presence of two witnesses; and if the labourer • will not perform the work, then he forfeits three oras of silver • to the King; and he shall also pay to the husbandman as much
as he would have received for his wages. But nevertheless, • the husbandman is not to have the worth of the victual, be. cause he keeps that to himself.'
* This chapter relating to a pact, is placed in the Kanpa-Bolkr, though rather out of its natural order.