Imágenes de páginas

look, and still fair ; but Njal's body and visage seem to me so bright that I have never seen any dead man's body so bright as this."

. They all said they thought so too.' *

In all, the bones of nine souls' were discovered ; all of which were solemnly conveyed to the churchyard and interred. During the heathen period interments had been made in cairns, not far from the dwelling. But, immediately after the reception of Christianity, churches, with the consecrated enclosure about them, were built in different parts of the island, and in spite of the difficulty of conveying the dead across flooded rivers, and over wild mountain ridges, they were now carefully laid to rest under the shadow of the holy walls. These, as they still are for the most part throughout Iceland, were of wood, either from the drift-logs brought to the coast by the Gulf-stream, or of pine and oak sent for this express purpose from Norway and Great Britain. They were roofed with turf. The churches were nowhere large-although the great landowners, no doubt, did their best for them, since they believed that as many souls would be saved by their means as the church they built could contain. In form they were probably long parallelograms, resembling the stone church of which the ruins have been found on the coast of Greenland. For a certain time after consecration these first churches were said to be in albis,' like men after baptism. An early Icelandic name for the altar, 'Paxspialld’-the table of peace'-is not apparently found elsewhere. It is eminently suggestive of what appeared to the first converts one of the greatest distinctions between the old faith and the new—the duty of abandoning revenge.

Even Njal, as we have just seen, chose to die rather than to live without the power of avenging the loss of his sons. A truer Christian spirit appears in Hall of the Side, Thangbrand's earliest convert, who, when his son Ljot had been killed in a fight at the Althing, would demand no · blood-wite' for him. “I will put no price on my son,' he said, “and yet will come forward and grant both pledges and peace to those who are my adversaries. A great hum in his favour followed,' we are told, and all praised his gentleness and good will,' which few, however, were as yet found ready to imitate. But the peace of the Church' made a great step under Gizur, the second Bishop of Skalholt, who persuaded the Icelanders to appear without their weapons at the Althing.

On the fate of the burners, all of whom were exiled at the next Althing, we cannot dwell. Flosi himself was banished for three years, and undertook a pilgrimage to Rome. Many of his followers sailed from Iceland with him. Their ship was wrecked

* ii. p. 193.


on the Orkneys, where Flosi was made Earl Sigurd's henchman, and soon won his way to great love with the Earl.' At Yuletide, Sigtrygg of the silken beard,' King of the Northmen settled in Ireland, came to seek Earl Sigurd's help in a struggle with the famous Over-king of Ireland, Brian Boroimhe— Brian of the Tribute.' Sigurd consented to assist him, and Flosi offered to join the expedition, but the Earl would not permit him, since he had his pilgrimage to fulfil.' Flosi then offered fifteen men of his band, whom the Earl accepted. In this manner the first race of Icelandic converts were represented in • Brian's Battle,' where, in Mr. Das int's words, the old and new faith met in the lists, face to face, for their last struggle.'

King Sigtrygg's stronghold was the fort at Dublin, near the bridge, and thither by Palm Sunday the whole heathen host had met; but Brian, warned in time by Ospak, was not only ready to meet them, should they fall upon him, but ready to march against and fall upon them. He, too, on Palm Sunday had gathered the Christian host in his leaguer at Clontarf, and so the two armies lay watching one another through Passion week. Brodir, skilled in sorcery, betook himself to his black arts, and from the first got little comfort either for himself or his brothers in arms. If the battle were fought before Good Friday, the heathen host would be utterly routed and lose its chiefs; but if the struggle were delayed till Good Friday, then King Brian would fall, but still win the day. On Good Friday, then, which fell in 1014 on the 18th of April, the heathen made up their minds to fight; and that nothing might be wanting to stamp the struggle with the seal of the ancient faith, Odin himself, as the legend darkly hints, rode up, as we are told in many like stories, on an applegrey horse, holding a halbert in his hand, and held a council of war with Kormlada, King Sigtrygg, and the other chiefs ;-one of the last appearances of the god of battles struggling with the fate which now at last had overtaken him, and helping his own on the very eve of battle with his comfort and advice. Nor were other tokens wanting. In Iceland itself, at Swinefell, where Flosi and the burners had so long stayed, blood burst out on the priest's vestments on Good Friday; and at Thvattwater, Hall's abode, on the same day, the priest saw an abyss open hard by the altar as he sang mass, in which were strange and awful things. The Northern mind plainly long looked on Brian's battle as a blow that went home to the heart of many a household. In Caithness, and in other parts of the west, the Valkyries, Odin's corsechoosing maidens, were seen, twelve of them riding together, dismounting, entering a bower, setting up their mystic

loom, and there weaving out of the entrails of men, with swords for their shuttles, that grim Woof of War, which is at once one of the last, as it is one of the grandest flights of the Scandinavian Swan-maiden, ere she wing her way for ever from the world, together with the faith to which she and that wild strain of melody belonged.'*

* Vol. i., Introd. cxcir-ri.

This is the famous Ode which was translated by Gray from Bartholin's Latin version. As given in the Njal's Saga, the • Woof' has been admirably rendered by Mr. Dasent.

The issue of the battle was as Brodir had foreseen. He himself killed King Brian, but was taken and tortured to death in revenge. One passage from the description of the fight in the Saga we must quote. The account was probably brought back to Iceland by Thorstein, Hall of the Side's son, who figures in it :

"Then Earl Sigurd called on Thorstein, the son of Hall of the Side, to bear his banner (the famous raven banner, wrought by his mother with mighty skill] ; and Thorstein was just about to lift the banner, but then Asmund the White said

"“Don't bear the banner; for all they who bear it get their death."

"“Hrafn the Red !” called out Earl Sigurd ; “bear thou the banner.”

""Bear thine own devil thyself,” answered Hrafn. Then the Earl said

“ 'Tis fittest that the beggar should bear the bag;” and with that he took the banner from the staff and put it under his cloak.

• A little after Asmund the White was slain, and then the Earl was, pierced through with a spear.

• Then flight broke out throughout all the host. * Thorstein, Hall of the Side's son, stood still while all the others: Aled, and tied his shoe-string. Then Kerthialfad asked why he ran. not as the others.

""Because," said Thorstein, “I can't get home to-night, since I am at home out in Iceland.” · Kerthialfad gave

him peace. ‘Hrafn the Red was chased out into a certain river; he thought he saw there the pains of hell down below him, and he thought the devils wanted to drag him to them.

Then Hrafn said

" " Thy dog, Apostle Peter, hath run twice to Rome, and he would run the third time if thou gavest him leave.”

Then the devils let him loose, and Hrafn got across the river.' * The result of Brian's battle was thus complete victory for neither side. Christianity had still a long course to run before its teaching could shine out in its true purity; and in Iceland, as elsewhere throughout the North, the old faith underlay the new, chequering it strangely.

The first Icelandic bishop was Isleif, son of Gizur the White, Hjallti's companion on the Law-Mount. He had been educated

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* Oxonian in Iceland,' p. 74. Vol. 111.-No. 221.



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for the priesthood at Erfurth, in Thuringia, one of the great schools of the time, and brought back to his own country a wide reputation for learning. John, the first bishop of Holar, who was brought up by him, used to say, 'whenever he heard of those who were goodly to look upon, or of great skill in any way, “Such was Isleif the bishop, my foster-father, the goodliest and most skilful of men. His son Gizur succeeded him, and established the see at Skalholt. A second Icelandic bishopric, for the northern division of the island, was soon afterwards established at Holar, with a great-grandson of Hall of the Side for its first bishop.

Ecclesiology is by no means a strong point with the most recent Icelandic tourists, and their descriptions give us but vague ideas of the present state of the churches throughout the island, or of their antiquity and architectural character. According to Mr. Metcalfe, indeed, there is but little to say about them. They are almost all new, and of wood ; they don't look like churches. They might be so many wooden warehouses, with their squareheaded windows and utter want of architecture.' Such, he tells us, is the present church of Thingvalla, which occupies the site of the old heathen temple, near the mouth of the Oxara river. The materials for the first church here, together with a great bell, were sent from Norway by St. Olaf. This building was destroyed by a tempest; and a second, the timber for which was the offering of the Norwegian King Harald Sigurdson, shared the same fate.

Another site on the Thingfield has a still higher interest than that of the church. The two great crosses brought to Iceland by Gizur and Hjallti, and borne before them on the Law-Mount, were afterwards fixed in the rock, where they remained for some centuries. The place of that which measured the height of Olaf Tryggvason is still pointed out as the “Cleft of the Cross.'

The two ancient cathedrals of Iceland have altogether fallen from their high estate.

Skalholt, that is the single farm-house now representing the place, stands on an eminence just in the fork formed by the junction of the Bruará and Hvitá, and overshadowed on the south by the tall Vordufell. As may at once be perceived, the site of the episcopal residence was chosen with great tact and forethought. In the first place, there was abundance of grass in the fertile Biskupstunga to fatten the beeves and palfreys of the bishops. And as for fish, there were waters enough around to supply the extensive demand, and hot springs to cook them when caught, or, if requisite, to wash the ecclesiastics. But what was of great importance, Skalholt was secure against hostile surprise on every side but the north-east in consequence of the riverbarriers about it. ..... Very little now remains to show the former importance of the place. The present little church is merely a chapel


of ease. Grass-grown mounds to the south-west of this edifice indicate the site of extensive ecclesiastical buildings. Yonder, an enclosure marks the large episcopal garden. There are also the foundations of a prayer-house to the east of the church, measuring twelve paces long and six wide.' *

We must not conclude without a special word of thanks to Mr. Metcalfe for one of the pleasantest volumes of Icelandic travel that have come to our hands. It covers wider ground than has been attempted by most recent tourists, and is especially valuable for the local legends and folk-lore' which its author has industriously collected from all quarters. With such excellent claims to attention it is much to be regretted that Mr. Metcalfe, in this book as well as in his former descriptions of adventure in the North, should think it necessary to imitate the German baron who insisted on performing a series of elaborate leaps over chairs and tables, 'pour apprendre d’être vif.' Mr. Metcalfe's caprioles are not quite so heavy, but they are quite as uncalled for, and quite as much out of place. Here and there, indeed, they verge on irreverence—a fault which we scarcely expect to find in the book of an Oxonian.'

Art. V.-1. Anuario Estadístico de España correspondiente al

Año de 1859. Madrid, 1860. 2. Geschichte Spaniens zur Zeit Französischen Revolution. Von

Herman Baumgarten. Berlin, 1861. 3. Spain, her Institutions, Politics, and Public Men. By S. T.

Wallis, Author of Glimpses of Spain.' 4. Espagne en 1860. Par M. Vidal. Paris, 1860. 5. Situation Economique et Industrielle de l'Espagne en 1860. By

M. Lestgarens. Paris, 1861. 6. L'Espagne et son Avenir Commercial. Par Ch. de Hardy de

Beaulieu. Paris, 1861. 7. Papers relating to the Annexation of Eastern Santo Domingo

to Spain. 1861. 8. Letters from Spain. By John Leycester Adolphus, M.A.

London, 1858. 9. The Handbook of Spain. London, 1855. NEW countries have undergone so remarkable a series of

mutations as Spain. Strength and debility, splendour and poverty, glory and shame, have been there exhibited in a manner so surprising, as to have afforded inexhaustible materials for the

Oxonian in Iceland, 335, 336.

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