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grapher of 'LAWRIE TODD,' of whose high literary reputation no one of our intelligent readers can be ignorant. Each division will possess its own separate interest, independent of what may precede or follow it. Mr. GALT retains a lively recollection of his journey through, and residence in, this country. It so happens,' he writes, that all I have ever met with in the United States is as agreeable to remember as the aroma in the vase where the rose hath been;' and I have long desired to be able to give some proof of the feeling with which I cherish transatlantic recollections. I owe much in gratitude to American kindness; and it will be a gratification to think, that many of my old friends among your readers will occasionally see that I have not forgotten them. When in America, I was sensible of having obtained many new ideas; and perhaps it may now and then be thought, that one who has seen as much of the world as most men, may have seen some things in your woody land' not quite in the same light as other travellers from this island.'
And WORDSWORTH, too, reader, will be with you anon. An intimate friend of his (and a kind friend of ours) writes us as follows, under date of December 2d: 'WORDSWORTH begs me to thank you for the volumes of the KNICKERBOCKER, and BRYANT's poems, which he greatly admires. His sight is at present very bad, and he cannot write himself; but he says that in a few days Mrs. WORDSWORTH shall copy a few of his best unpublished poems for you.' Moreover, we have a series of delightful Letters from an American gentleman abroad, a graceful writer and ripe scholar, who has eschewed hacknied sights and themes; and — rare tribute from his considerate hand-an original article of poetry, by that variously-gifted and lamented English statesman, GEORGE CANNING. And with this gratifying intelligence, we close our long gossip.
'KNICKERBOCKERIANA.'— The reader is desired to act his own pleasure about perusing the subjoined paragraphs. There's no compulsion:
A DENIAL.— The review of Mr. BROOKS' 'Scriptural Anthology,' in our last number, has been attributed, in one or two local sources, to personal motives of depreciation, and to a narrow sectional feeling. Both charges, we scarcely need say, are alike unfounded. The work alluded to is susceptible of a far more enlarged exposure than it has yet received at our hands. In regard to the writer, he was wholly unknown to us, save as such. Sectional feeling, in literary matters, we utterly disclaim, and appeal to the entire numbers of our work, to disprove the accusation. We aim to recognise and applaud merit, wherever found, whether in the north or the east, the south or the west; and while such will continue to be our course, we shall nevertheless not hesitate to rebuke clamorous mediocrity, whencesoever it may proceed.
'RESUSCITATED JOES, VERSIFIED.'- FOREIGN CREDIT.-Under this head, our droll contemporary of the Gentleman's Magazine' publishes 'The Miniature,' which 'William was holding in his hand,' by our friend Col. MORRIS, of the 'Mirror.' We commend our literary explorer to another ' resuscitation,' in the same number which contains this alleged revivified 'MILLER.' We mean the poetry entitled The Sum of Life,' which appeared, originally, in these pages, bearing the caption, 'Why are we Here? While on the subject of credit, let us add, that the lines beginning, 'Where is the queenly Ship? now making the newspaper cireuit, as from a late London Metropolitan Magazine, were written for these pages, many months since, by an able correspondent in Montreal. We have heretofore cited four or five kindred instances of 'reproductive' eireulation. There is great virtue, it should seem, in sea-air and a foreign stamp!
CARE IN COMPOSITION. The pen is an artificial tongue. It speaks to those that are far off, as well as to those that are near; and it speaks to thousands at once.' So says, and most truly, an old English author. We ask our correspondents to bear this in mind, while enclosing us matter for publication; for, if their favors are accepted, they speak through our pages to at least fifty thousand readers per month, of the most discriminating class; and not only to readers at home, but to large numbers in European towns and cities.
LITERARY BONDS. - New subscribers, who express their approbation of such numbers of the KNICKERBOCKER as they have received, sometimes add, and if the work continues thus, you may count us life-time readers.' Our new friends should remember, that for the fulfilment of our designs, we are already bound, in ELEVEN VOLUMES; and we may add, with 'Boz,' that if it will be any additional security to the public, we have no objection to stand bound, as without doubt we shall, in double the number.
** Publishers and Correspondents must bear with us yet a little. We are compelled to omit several notices of new books, the critiques of our theatrical reporters, etc. We hope to bring up arrears in the number for March.
SCANDINAVIAN LITERATURE AND ANTIQUITIES.
* A STRONG poetical taste, and a passion for traditionary and mythical lore, pervaded the northern race. The order of Skalds or poets, was the immediate depository of the national traditions. They were the friends and confidential advisers of the kings and earls. They were entertained at court in time of peace, and in battle were stationed where they could witness the exploits which they were to commemorate. The Skalds were men of the world. Warriors, rovers, chieftains, they mingled in the stir of life; they were trained in the open air of the mountains and the vales, and amidst the wild creations of arctic nature. After the convulsions of continental Scandinavia, Iceland was their favorite seat, the home of stout-hearted refugees, who made this poor frozen rock the abode of traditionary lore and song. Nature, with a kind of caprice, in re-producing in the polar circle an Ausonian age, associated with it the romantic features of a Campanian region. Volcanoes flamed up from eternal glaciers, and fountains of boiling water spouted from snow-clad NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW.
IN the first number of the article on Scandinavian Literature and Antiquities, the origin of the Scandinavian people was traced, and some of the prominent events in their history related. Mention was also made of the sources of their literature, and the manner in which it has been preserved. In concluding the subject, it will be necessary to speak of the contents of their historical manuscripts, and of the works recently published by the society formed for the express purpose of elucidating and making known the ancient literature of the North. So much of this is connected with their mythology, that it is extremely difficult to comprehend, and to separate truth from fiction. If there were no other analogy between the Gothic nations and the older nations of Asia, their mythological systems would be sufficient to prove their identity. The Gaelic language, which is now acknowledged to be of great antiquity, and if not the same as the ancient Celtic, is not very far removed from it, has been proved by an eminent Scottish philologist, Dr. Jamieson,* to have a very great affinity to the languages of the North; thus showing the intimate connexion between the Celtic or primitive people of Europe, and the Scandinavians. It is worthy of record, that the northern Sagas make mention of several eclipses which occurred in the ninth and tenth centuries. These have been calculated by Sir David Brewster, and the Norwegian astronomer, Hansteen, and found correct. In this way the truth of many historical events, and the precise period of their occurrence, have been corroborated. There is no better method of testing the correctness of the ancient historians of any country, than by investigating the astronomical
* JAMIESON'S Scottish Dictionary.
+ Introduction to the Report of the Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries.
phenomena recorded by them. An eclipse of the sun or moon, or the appearance of a comet, were regarded by them as omens, and generally decided their projected invasions, or a mere voyage by sea. Exerting, thus, so great an influence upon their actions, we find that the Scandinavians, in common with other nations of antiquity, did not fail to record their celestial phenomena.
The most ancient Icelandic literature, is that comprised in the Old Edda, which consists of Icelandic poems, collected by Samund Sigfuson, a learned clergyman of the Island, and Are Frode, an eminent historian of the eleventh century. This collection was either concealed, and subsequently forgotten, or was lost in Iceland, for four hundred years, when the remains of it were again brought to light by Bishop Brynjolf Svensen, in 1643, from which period it has been more or less studied; portions of it having been translated into Danish and Latin, and published.
The first class of the elder Edda is mystical. It includes the Volu-Spa, the oracle or prophecy of Vala, which exhibits the mythological system of the Edda, in a very dark, mysterious, and often unintelligible style, resembling the Sibylline verses. Another poem of the same class, is the Grougaldor, or Groa's Magic Song, which contains a collection of magical terms, supposed to be useful in every sort of peril, and other exigencies of human life. Magic and witchcraft appear to have been regarded by the Northmen as essential attributes of the priestly class, who inherited them from Odin. The women, like the witches of New-England, were conspicuous characters in practising mysterious rites. A third poem of the mystical class is the Solar Ljod, or Song of the Sun. It relates to the doctrine of a future life, and the dwellings and occupations of departed souls. The second class of the elder Edda is called Mythio-didactic; this comprises a dramatic dialogue between Odin, the father of the northern gods, and Vafthrunder, a genii, celebrated for his craft and valor. Odin, in the disguise of a mortal, visits the latter, and claims his hospitality. They engage in a dispute upon the mysteries of sacred science, with the condition, that the losing party should forfeit his head! Their subjects are the origin of the earth and heavens; whence proceed day and night, winter and summer; the creation of the human race, the condition of departed spirits, the occupations of departed heroes, etc., etc.*
Preserving his incognito, Odin, who had assumed the name of Gagnrader, at length asks the Genius what are the words which Odin whispered in the ear of his son, Balder, when the latter was placed upon his funeral pile.' At this the astonished Genius recognises Odin, and acknowledges himself vanquished, saying, No mortal man those words can know, which THOU whisperedst in the ear of thy son, at the Beginning of Ages. I read my doom, written in magic characters, and decreed by the celestial fates, for having dared to encounter the all-wise Odin in sacred controversy.'
The next peom in this class is Grimnis-mal, or the Song of Grimner, which contains a description of the habitations of the celestial deities. Other poems contain a variety of matter, some of
* WHEATON'S, History of the Northmen, p. 65, et seq.
which is very dark and obscure; genealogies of the ancient kings of the North, etc. The Hava-mal, or sublime discourse of Odin, contains a metrical collection of moral precepts, not unlike the Proverbs of Solomon, and is valuable as a record of ancient manners and customs. Many of them deserve a place among the popular maxims of the present day, and a more extensive dissemination than they get, enveloped, as they now are, in a cloud of mysterious tales and ballads. The following may be quoted :
'Mock not the stranger guest, for thou knowest not who he may
'A secret can only be safely kept by a single person, not by two; what three men know, is no longer a secret.'
'I have never found a man so liberal and so magnificent, that he disdained to receive gifts.'
Riches pass in the twinkling of an eye; the most inconstant friends are they.'
'Once I was young; I went alone, and lost my way; but when I found a companion, I seemed to be rich; for man is the joy of man. The tree which stands alone in the field puts not forth; so it is with him whom no one loves: why should he longer live ?'*
The mythological class of poems relate various adventures of their deities, which a knowledge of their mythology renders necessary for a proper understanding of them: a portion of these has been translated into English, by Herbert, and may be found in his Icelandic poetry. In the Vegtams-guida, Odin is represented as mounting his horse and descending into the infernal regions to invoke the spirit of a deceased Vala, or prophetess, to compel her to make known future events, of which the gods were in doubt. A good idea of the wild character of their poetry may be formed from the annexed translation, by the Hon. Mr. Spencer:
'The dog he met from hell advancing;
Strange verse he sung, the slain enchanting,
A part of the poems of this class, where allusions are made to the peculiar situation of the people of the North, to the snow-clad mountains and frozen regions, must be attributed to the Skalds. There are others, however, which give evidence of a more remote antiquity, and are undoubtedly of Asiatic origin. "They may even be regarded,' says Wheaton, as exhibiting traces of a purer religious dispensation, the light of which once shone on the primitive inhabitants of the
The same thought, expressed in the same manner, is found in the Sanscript poem called Maha Barata.
+ Poetry from the Icelandic, etc., by WM. HERBERT. 2 vols. 8vo., London. + Miscellaneous Poetry, vol. 1. p. 50.
earth, but which has since been obscured by the dark clouds of superstition."*
The mystic-historical lays are diversified in their subjects, sometimes blended with their mythological personages, and at others having the appearance of authentic history. Attila and his Huns, as well as other distinguished commanders and their people, have a place in these poems.
The lays of the Anglo-Saxons and of the people of the North, are constructed according to the same metrical rules, with alliterative verse, and employ the same poetical language. The poems of the Edda elucidate many of the obscure passages and phrases that occur in the lays of the Anglo-Saxons, and the latter are equally useful in explaining the relics of old northern poetry. It is a singular circumstance, and worthy of mention, that many of the Icelandic legal terms and phrases, give the best explanation of obscure terms still in use in English law. This may be accounted for by the fact, that the ancient law was, with the language, preserved in Iceland, where it is still, to a certain extent, the law of the land.
The younger or prose Edda, is ascribed to Snorre Sturleson, lagman of Iceland, and Server of King Haco. He was the most eminent historian of the North, and died in 1241. From the collection before referred to, and other songs, written and traditionary, he arranged and composed, what is known as the Younger Edda, a system and cyclus of those songs, showing the versification and grammatical structure of the language. Like the Elder Edda, the wild mythology of the North constitutes its principal feature; a mythology as fanciful as that of Greece or Rome, and in which may be traced a connection with that of Persia and Hindostan. The story of the characters and achievements of the gods is introduced by a fiction, relating how Glyfs, King of Svithjod, (Sweden,) a famous magician, undertook a journey to the Asers, (gods,) to learn from their own mouths their nature and laws. He received from the eldest of the gods an account of the beginning of the world, the primitive Ymir, and the sons of Bor, the origin of men, the giant Niorwi, the creation of the sun and moon, the celestial bridge of Bifrost, the holy places of the gods, the origin of wind, of summer and winter, and finally of all the gods, and their mysterious history.' The second part of the Edda treats of the names of the gods, and of all the synonyms and circumlocutions admissible in poetry, in alphabetical order. The third part contains the rules for one hundred different kinds of verse, and is entitled Hattatal, clavis metrica. The alliterative verse, in which the metrical system abounds, presents a striking analogy with that of the eastern nations, particularly the Hebrew. The most recent publication on the subject is a commentary on the collective songs of the Edda by Finn Magnusen, an eminent antiquarian, and Vice President of the Royal Society of Northern Antiquaries. §
History of the Northmen, p. 81.
+ CONYBEARE'S Illustrations of Anglo-Saxon Poetry, p. 39.
Ency. Am. vol. 11, Art. Scandinavian Literature.
Den ældre Edda, (the Elder Edda,) 1821-23, in 4 vols., Copenhagen.