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is aware that she gives herself altogether," that she will have but one body, one life with him ; that she will have no thought, no desire beyond ; that she will be the companion of his perils and labours ; that she will suffer and dare as much as he, both in peace and war.' And he, like her, knows that he gives himself. Having chosen his chief, he forgets himself in him, assigns to him his own glory, serves him to the death. He is infamous as long as he lives, who returns from the field of battle without his chief.' It was on this voluntary subordination that feudal society was based. Man, in this race, can accept a superior, can be capable of devotion and respect. Thrown back upon himself by the gloom and severity of his climate, he has discovered moral beauty, while others discover sensuous beauty. This kind of naked brute, who lies all day by his fireside, sluggish and dirty, always eating and drinking,' whose rusty faculties cannot follow the clear and fine outlines of poetic forms, catches a glimpse of the sublime in his troubled dreams. He does not see it, but simply feels it; his religion is already within, as it will be in the sixteenth century, when he will cast off the sensuous worship of Rome, and confirm the faith of the heart. His gods are not enclosed in walls; he has no idols. What he designates by divine names, is something invisible and grand, which floats through nature, and is conceived beyond nature, a mysterious infinity which the sense cannot touch, but which " reverence alone can appreciate ;' and when, later on, the legends define and alter this vague divination of natural powers, an idea remains at the bottom of this chaos of giant-dreams; that the world is a warfare, and heroism the greatest excellence.
In the beginning, say the old Icelandic legends, there were two worlds, Niflheim the frozen, and Muspell the burning. From the fall. ing snow-flakes was born the giant Ymir. There was in times of old, where Ymir dwelt, nor sand nor sea, nor gelid waves; earth existed not, nor heaven above; 'twas a chaotic chasm, and grass nowhere.' There was but Ymir, the horrible frozen Ocean, with his children, sprung from his feet and his armpits; then their shapeless progeny, Terrors of the abyss, barren Mountains, Whirlwinds of the North, and other malevolent beings, enemies of the sun and of life; then the cow Andhumbla, born also of melting snow, brings to light, whilst licking the hoar-frost from the rocks, a man Bur, whose grandsons kill the giant Ymir. •From his flesh the earth was formed, and from his bones the hills, the heaven from the skull of that ice-cold giant, and from his blood the sea; but of his brains the heavy clouds are all created.' Then arose war between the monsters of winter and the luminous fertile gods, Odin the founder, Baldur the mild and benevolent, Thor the summer-thunder, who purifies the air and nourishes the earth with showers. Long fought the gods against the frozen Jötuns, against the dark bestial powers, the wolf Fenrir, the great Serpent, whom they drown in the sea, the treacherous Loki, whom they bind to the rocks, beneath a viper whose venom drops continually on his face. Long will the heroes, who by a bloody death deserve to be placed in the halls of Odin, and there wage a combat every day,' assist the gods in their mighty war. A day will, however, arrive when gods and men will be conquered. Then “trembles Yggdrasil's ash yet standing; groans that ancient tree, and the Jötun Loki is loosed. The shadows groan on the ways of Hel, until the fire of Surt has consumed the tree. Hrym steers from the east, the waters rise, the mundane snake is coiled in jötun-rage. The worm beats the water, and the eagle screams; the pale of beak tears carcases ; (the ship) Naglfar is loosed. Surt from the South comes with flickering flame; shines from his sword the Val-god's sun. The stony hills are dashed together, the giantesses totter; men tread the path of Hel, and heaven is cloven. The sun darkens, earth in ocean sinks, fall from heaven the bright stars, fire's breath assails the all-nourishing tree, towering fire plays against heaven itself."? The gods perish, devoured one by one by the monsters; and the celestial legend, sad and grand now like the life of man, bears witness to the hearts of warriors and heroes.
1 Tacitus, xix., viii., xvi. Kemble, i. 232.
? Tacitus, xiv. 3. In omni domo, nudi et sordidi. . . . Plus per otium transigunt, dediti somno, ciboque ; totos dies juxta focum atque ignem agunt.'
4 Grimm, 53, Preface. Tacitus, x.
6. Deorum nominibus appellant secretum illud, quod sola reverentia vident." Later on, at Upsal for instance, they had images (Adam of Bremen, Historia Ecclesiastica). Wuotan (Odin) signifies etymologically the All-Powerful, him who penetrates and circulates through everything (Grimm, Mythol.).
6 Edda Sæmundi, Edda Snorri, ed. Copenhagen, three vols. passim. Mr. Bergmann has translated several of these poems into French, which Mr. Taine quotes. The translator has generally made use of the edition of Mr. Thorpe, London, Trübner, 1866.
There is no fear of grief, no care for life; they count it as dross when the idea has seized upon them. The trembling of the nerves, the repugnance of animal instinct which starts back before wounds and death, are all lost in an irresistible determination. See how in their epic the sublime springs up amid the horrible, like a bright purple flower amid a pool of blood. Sigurd has plunged his sword into the dragon Fafnir, and at that very moment they looked on one another; and Fafnir asks, as he dies, “Who art thou ? and who is thy father ? and what thy kin, that thou wert so hardy as to bear weapons against
· Hel, the goddess of death, born of Loki and Angrboda.---TR. 2 Thorpe, The Edda of Sæmund, The Vala's Prophecy, str. 48-56, p. 9 et passim.
3 Fafnismál Edda. This epic is common to the Northern races, as is the Iliad to the Greek populations, and is found almost entire in Germany in the Nibelungen Lied. The translator has also used Magnusson and Morris' poetical version of the Völsunga Saga, and certain songs of the Elder Edda, London, Ellis, 1870.
me ?' 'A hardy heart urged me on thereto, and a strong hand and this sharp sword. ... Seldom hath hardy eld a faint-heart youth.' After this triumphant eagle's cry Sigurd cuts out the worm's heart; but Regin, brother of Fafnir, drinks blood from the wound, and falls asleep. Sigurd, who was roasting the heart, raises his finger thoughtlessly to his lips. Forthwith he understands the language of the birds. The eagles scream above bim in the branches. They warn him to mistrust Regin. Sigurd cuts off the latter's head, eats of Fafnir's heart, drinks his blood and his brother's. Amongst all these murders their courage and poetry grow. Sigurd has subdued Brynhild, the untamed maiden, by passing through the flaming fire; they share one couch for three nights, his naked sword betwixt them. Nor the damsel did he kiss, nor did the Hunnish king to his arm lift her. He the blooming maid to Giuki's son delivered,' because, according to his oath, he must send her to her betrothed Gunnar. She, setting her love upon him, • Alone she sat without, at eve of day, began aloud with herself to speak: “Sigurd must be mine; I must die, or that blooming youth clasp in my arms." But seeing him married, she brings about his death. 'Laughed then Brynhild, Budli's daughter, once only, from her whole soul, when in her bed she listened to the loud lament of Giuki's daughter. She put on her golden corslet, pierced herself with the sword's point, and as a last request said:
'Let in the plain be raised a pile so spacious, that for us all like room may be ; let them burn the Hun (Sigurd) on the one side of me, on the other side my household slaves, with collars splendid, two at our heads, and two hawks ; let also lie between us both the keen-edged sword, as when we both one couch ascended ; also five female thralls, eight male slaves of gentle birth fostered with me.'I All were burnt together; yet Gudrun the widow continued motionless by the corpse, and could not weep. The wives of the jarls came to console her, and each of them told her own sorrows, all the calamities of great devastations and the old life of barbarism.
Then spoke Giaflang, Giuki's sister : “Lo, up on earth I live most loveless, who of five mates must see the ending, of daughters twain and three sisters, of brethren eight, and abide behind lonely." Then spake Herborg, Queen of Hun. land: “Crueller tale have I to tell of my seven sons, down in the Southlands, and the eight man, my mate, felled in the death-mead. Father and mother, and four brothers on the wide sea the winds and death played with ; the billows beat on the bulwark boards. Alone must I sing o'er them, alone must I array them, alone must my hands deal with their departing; and all this was in one season's wearing, and none was left for love or solace. Then was I bound a prey of the battle when that same season wore to its ending; as a tiring may must I bind the shoon of the duke's high dame, every day at dawning. From her jealous hate gat I heavy mocking, cruel lashes she laid upon me.”2
1 Thorpe, The Edda of Sæmund, Third lay of Sigurd Fafnicide, str. 62-64, p. 83.
2 Magnusson and Morris, Story of the Volsungs and Nibelungs, Lamentation of Gudrun, p. 118 et passim.
All was in vain; no word could draw tears from those dry eyes. They were obliged to lay the bloody corpse before her, ere her tears would come. Then a flood of tears ran down over her knees, and 'the geese withal that were in the home-field, the fair fowls the may owned, fell a-screaming.' She wishes to die, like Sigurd, on the corpse of him whom alone she had loved, if they had not deprived her of memory by a magic potion. Thus affected, she departs in order to marry Atli, king of the Huns; and yet she goes against her will, with gloomy forebodings : for murder begets murder; and her brothers, the murderers of Sigurd, having been drawn to Atli's court, fall in their turn into a snare like that which they had themselves laid. Then Gunnar was bound, and they tried to make him deliver up the treasure. He answers with a barbarian's laugh:
""Högni's heart in my hand shall lie, cut bloody from the breast of the valiant chief, the king's son, with a dull-edged knife.” They the heart cut out from Hialli's breast ; on a dish, bleeding, laid it, and it to Gunnar bare. Then said Gunnar, lord of men: “Here have I the heart of the timid Hialli, unlike the heart of the bold Högni ; for much it trembles as in the dish it lies; it trembled more by half while in his breast it lay." Högni laughed when to his heart they cut the living crest-crasher ; no lament uttered he. All bleeding on a dish they laid it, and it to Gunnar bare. Calmly said Gunnar, the warrior Niflung: “Here have I the heart of the bold Högni, unlike the heart of the timid Hialli ; for it little trembles as in the dish it lies : it trembled less while in his breast it lay. So far shalt thou, Atli! be from the eyes of men as thou wilt from the treasures be. In my power alone is all the hidden Niflung's gold, now that Högni lives not. Ever was I wavering while we both lived ; now am I so no longer, as I alone survive." It was the last insult of the self-confident man, who values neither his own life nor that of another, so that he can satiate his vengeance.
They cast him into the serpent's den, and there he died, striking his harp with his foot. But the inextinguishable flame of vengeance passed from his heart to that of his sister. Corpse after corpse fell on each other; a mighty fury hurls them open-eyed to death. She killed the children she had by Atli, gave him their hearts to eat, served in honey, one day on his return from the carnage, and laughed coldly as she told him on what he had fed. Uproar was on the benches, portentous the cry of men, noise beneath the costly hangings. The children of the Huns wept; all wept save Gudrun, who never wept, or for her bear-fierce brothers, or for her dear sons, young, simple.'3 Judge from this heap of ruin and carnage to what excess the mind could attain. There were men amongst them, Berserkirs,' who in battle, seized with a sort of madness, showed a sudden and super
1 Thorpe, The Edda of Sæmund, Lay of Atli, str. 21-27, p. 117. ? Jbid. str. 38, p. 119.
3 This word signifies men who fought without a breastplate, perhaps in shirts only; Scottice, ‘Baresarks.'-TR.
human strength, and ceased to feel their wounds. This is the conception of a hero as engendered by this race in its infancy. Is it not strange to see them place their happiness in battle, their beauty in death? Is there any people, Hindoo, Persian, Greek, or Gallic, which has formed so tragic a conception of life? Is there any which has peopled its infantine mind with such gloomy dreams? Is there any which has so entirely banished the sweetness from enjoyment, and the softness from pleasure ? Energy, tenacious and mournful energy, an ecstasy of energy—such was their chosen condition. Carlyle said well, that in the sombre obstinacy of an English labourer still survives the tacit rage of the Scandinavian warrior. Strife for strife's sake—such is their pleasure. With what sadness, madness, waste, such a disposition breaks its bonds, we shall see in Shakspeare and Byron ; with what completeness, in what duties it can entrench and employ itself under moral ideas, we shall see in the case of the Puritans.
They have established themselves in England ; and however disordered the society which binds them together, it is founded, as in Germany, on generous sentiment. War is at every door, I am aware, but warlike virtues are behind every door; courage chiefly, then fidelity. Under the brute there is a free man, and a man with a heart. There is no man amongst them who, at his own risk, will not make alliance, go forth to fight, undertake adventures. There is no group of men amongst them, who, in their Witenagemote, is not for ever concluding alliances one with another. Every clan, in its own district, forms a league of which all the members, brothers of the sword,' defend each other, and demand each other's blood at the price of their own. Every chief in his hall reckons that he has friends, not mercenaries, in the faithful ones who drink his beer, and who, having received as marks of his confidence, bracelets, swords, and suits of armour, will cast themselves between him and danger on the day of battle. Independence and bravery smoulder amongst this young nation with violence and excess; but these are of themselves noble things, and no less noble are the sentiments which serve them for discipline,—to wit, an affectionate devotion, and respect for plighted faith. These appear in their laws, and break forth in their poetry. Amongst them greatness of heart gives matter for imagination. Their characters are not selfish and shifty, like those of Homer. They are brave hearts, simples and strong, faithful to their relatives, to their master in arms, firm and stedfast to enemies and friends, abounding in courage, and ready for sacrifice. "Old as I am,' says one, ‘I will not budge hence. I mean
1 See the Life of Sweyn, of Hereward, etc., even up to the time of the Conquest. · Beowulf, passim, Death of Byrhtnoth. 8 Tacitus, 'Gens nec callida, nec astuta.'