« AnteriorContinuar »
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 period 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 Slood 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 Landsleigo Bælkr, the Bygninga Balker, or the Widherboa Balker, are compiled with peculiar care and precision. Under an inclement sky, 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 6 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 Kampa-Bolkr, though rather out of its natural order.
. And if any man knowingly takes another man's labourer • into his service, then he forfeits half a mark of silver to the « King.'
• And if a labourer undertakes to do one man's task, and ( cannot work it out, then trustwory men shall reckon how o much ought to be foreprized out of his wages.'
• If a labourer is sick or rounded, and lies thus during one • fortnight, and no longer, then no abatement shall be made • out of his wages, (provided it be ascertained by trustworthy • men, that the husbandmanath enough to maintain himself); . but if he lies longer, the loss of work is to be reckoned by • trustworth men, together with the worth of the victual he • enjoys, both which shell va deducted; or otherwise let him " leave his service and go to his relations.'
Equally minute and perspicuous are the laws which regulate the cultivation and management of the land; and they may be put in competition with the most accurate farming lease of mo. dern days. The details of cro")s and fallows, of the manure which the farmer was to beston upon the fields, of the course of cropping which he was to pursue, and of the stock which he was to leave at the expiration of his tenure, occupy many a chapter in these ancient monuments of legislation, and afford frequent prcof of the conforts which had fallen to the lot of the Northmen. Luxury was denied to them by nature, and the magnificence of art was unknown; but they had corn in the barn, and kine in the byre; and the free and opulent yeoman ploughed the stubborn soil. *
* If the Brehon laws were collected, they would outweigh and outvalue all the jurisprudence of Scandinavia. Hitherto, the authentic antiquities of Ireland have been miserably neglected; but we may now hope for better days, since the learning of an O'Connor is patronized by the munificence of a Grenville. That the ancient Irish, the world Irish, calumniated as they have been by their invaders, had attained a high degree of civilization, may be inferred from the agricultural laws included in the Fragments published by Val. lancey. The fines for trespasses are curiously detailed and graduate ed. They had common land, and also much enclosed land. Heavy penalties were imposed for breaking fences. For a gap of the width of three stakes, a young bull heifer was paid ; for five, a full grown bull heifer ; for eight, a good heifer; for twelve, five cows. Timber trees were protected against injury: the country, therefore, must have been cleared, and well cultivated. We pen this note with peculiar pleasure, when we recollect that we first derived our information from one of the fairest of the daughters of the Gael.
The safeguard of the wealth and of the liberty of the Scandinavians, was found in the popular tribunals which were the origin of our juries. These institutions have been imperfectly explained by Stiernhook, whose abridgement of the Swedish laws is the only work relating to the subject which is easily accessible to the general reader; and we would willingly enlarge upon them, were we not compelled to close our desultory observations. We now find, that we have lingered too long amongst the singularities of the Northern law, without attempting to investigate its essential basis. Contemplating the antique garb of the judges, as they are seated on the Hill of Pleas, we have neglected to listen to their wisdom; yet we are less willing to regret our negligence, when we recollect, that the principles embodied in the judicial polity of the Scandinavians, may receive a more familiar and useful illustration, by considering them in conjunction with the ancient common law of England. If we return to these investigations, it is because the details of the law are the fresh and perennial comments of history. The life of man is consumed in striving against bis own follies, his own vices, and his own crimes;—and the volumes which teach us to consider every fellow-creature as a fellow-knave, afford the most afflicting, yet the most instructive, anatomy of the human heart.
Art. X. 1. Endymion : A. Poetic Romance. By John KEATS.
8vo. pp. 207. London, 1818. 2. Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes, and other Poems.
By John KEATS, Author of Endymion. 12mo. pp. 200. London, 1820.
W e had never happened to see either of these volumes till
! very lately—and have been exceedingly struck with the genius they display, and the spirit of poetry which breathes through all their extravagance. That imitation of our older writers, and especially of our older dramatists, to which we cannot help flattering ourselves that we have somewhat contributed, has brought on, as it were, a second spring in our poetry ;-and few of its blossoms are either more profuse of sweetness or richer in promise, than this which is now before us. Mr Keats, we understand, is still a very young man; and his whole works, indeed, bear evidence enough of the fact. They are full of extravagance and irregularity, rash attempts at originality, interminable wanderings, and excessive obscurity. They manifestly require, therefore, all the indulgence that can be claimed for a first attempt :--but we think it no less plain that they deserve it; for they are flushed all over with the rich lights of fancy, and so coloured and bestrewn with the flowers of poetry, that even while perplexed and bewildered in their labyrinths, it is impossible to resist the intoxication of their sweetness, or to shut our hearts to the enchantments they so lavishly present. The models upon which he has formed himself, in the Endymion, the earliest and by much the most considerable of his poems, are obviously the Faithful Shepherdess of Fletcher, and the Sad Shepherd of Ben Jonson ;-the exquisite metres and inspired diction of which he has copied with great boldness and fidelity-and, like his great originals, has also contrived to impart to the whole piece that true rural and poetical air which breathes only in them and in Theocritus--which is at once homely and majestic, luxurious and rude, and sets before us the genuine sights and sounds and smells of the country, with all the magic and grace of Elysium. His subject has the disadvantage of being mythological; and in this respect, as well as on account of the raised and rapturous tone it consequently assumes, his poetry may be better compared perhaps to the Comus and the Arcades of Milton, of which, also, there are many traces of imitation. The great distinction, however, between him and these divine authors, is, that imagination in them is subordinate to reason and judgment, while, with him, it is paramount and supreme--that their ornaments and images are employed to embellish and recommend just sentiments, engaging incidents, and natural characters, while his are poured out without measure or restraint, and with no apparent design but to unburden the breast of the author, and give vent to the overflowing vein of his fancy. The thin and scanty tissue of his story is merely the light frame work on which his florid wreaths are suspended; and while his imaginations go rambling and entangling themselves everywhere, like wild honeysuckles, all idea of sober reason, and plan, and consistency, is utterly forgotten, and are • strangled in their waste fertility.' A great part of the work indeed, is written in the strangest and most fantastical manner that can be imagined. It seems as if the author had ventured everything that occurred to him in the shape of a glittering image or striking expression-taken the first word that presented itself to make up a rhyme, and then made that word the germ of a new cluster of imagesa hint for a new excursion of the fancy-and so wandered on, equally forgetful whence he came, and heedless whither he was going, till he had covered his pages with an interminable arabesque of connected and