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be summoned to answer Unna's claim; summoned him on the spot as if in jest, and then fled for his life at dead of night. Hrut, of course, as soon as he discovered how he had been befooled, pursued the false pedlar to cut his throat, but being thwarted in this amiable intention, found himself reduced to the alternative of fighting a duel with the redoubtable Gunnar or of paying back the money, and prudently chose the latter course. Strange contradictions we find in the characters of these Norsemen. In the transaction just narrated, this Hrut plays a very poor part-a swindler, a would be murderer, and half a poltroon. A little further on we shall see that he has some fine manly traits about him. Good and evil grow very close together in such wild uncultivated soil.
The time had now come for our hero to display his prowess on a wider stage, and reap with his good sword more glory and pelf than were to be had in his native land. He turned a willing ear to the seductions of a guest who tempted him with the prospect of a cruise in eastern waters; gave over his goods into the keeping of his friend Njal, and set merrily off with his brother Kolskegg, a warrior little inferior to himself, for a little privateering.
Piracy was by no means a specialty of the Norse races; and here again we have a point of affinity between Greek and Scandinavian. In the early dawn of history, we discern the various nations round the basin of the Mediterranean busily engaged in plundering one another by land and sea. Pre-eminent among these ancient buccaneers were the Phænicians, the Tyrrhenians, and the Greeks. Among the last-mentioned race, especially, Ancient Pistol's art of “conveying," not only runs up to a most venerable antiquity, but enjoys the distinction of honourable mention by the first and greatest of poets. If we want to find the real prototypes of the robbers who swept the Spanish main, we must turn, not to the Norse Saga, but to the Homeric Hymn to Dionysius, or the story which Odysseus tells to the swineherd Eumaeus, or the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides. You might be taking a constitutional on the strand of Crete, or going down to the docks at Argos to look at the last new thing in shawls from Sidon, and if your looks promised a good ransom, you would be popped under hatches and spirited off; or you might be quietly tilling your farm, when a crew of gentlemen adventurers would sweep in, fire your house and hayricks, kill your cattle, and carry off your family to be slaves to some little chieftan in Scyros or Aetolia. For ferocity, there does not seem to have been much to choose between the Hellene and the Norseman. All the most ancient Greek towns were built at some distance from the coast, for security against a sudden raid,
The Vikings, as has already been said, varied considerably in their temper and mode of operations. Doubtless some were as ferocious as the most bloodthirsty pirate that ever mounted the black flag. But the Norsemen were not all as bad as their religion. If we may trust a Scandinavian poet, there was even a code of honour among these thieves, which bade them spare the defenceless, and turn their steel only against sea rovers like themselves. " If a chapman sail by, his ship thou shalt shield; but the weak must not
tribute withhold; Thou art lord on thy wave, he is slave of his gain, and thy steel is as good
as his gold." But when Vikings are sighted, then strife comes and blows, under shield, soon the
warm blood is spilt; If thou yieldest one step take thy leave of our band, 'tis the law, and so do
as thou wilt." Certainly it is an evil to be robbed; but the Norseman, we see, had learned the great lesson, that there is an alternative between a man's purse and his life, and that it is not necessary for him to be deprived of both. Though he was a thief, he was not altogether an ungentle thief, if you paid his blackmail, you were rid of him. Though he liked fighting for fighting's sake, and killed his man without many qualms of conscience, he did not like murder. But he certainly did like fighting
Wounds,” the poem just quoted goes on, "are a Viking's delight, and they set off their man, on forehead and bosom when shown; let them bleed, only bind them when day comes again, not sooner." So that the “gentleness" which the Saga writer ascribes to Gunnar, must be taken with a qualification. Still most people have a sort of lurking fondness for Robin Hood, and some of the Viking stories have just that mixture of frank, daring, and easy generosity, which is so charming when we can forget where the materials for the generosity come from. It is fortunate that we are all inconsistent at times, and do not feel the slightest scruple at stringing up the dashing highwayman, whom we can yet think of, not without complacency, in his gold-laced coat, flinging his guinea to a beggar, or stripping a wealthy squire while he lets the poor parson go free.
Gunnar dates a little before the introduction of Christianity into Norway, but we may just observe that the change of religion had almost a miraculous effect, perhaps because the new doctrines happened to fall in with a previous change in the set of Norse opinions. Even the redoubtable king Olaf, who had harried the coasts of the
British Islands time after time, and was hardly bought off by Ethelred the Unready for 16,000 pounds of gold, was no sooner converted and baptized than he set his face against the very practices to which he owed his own wealth. And a Danish king, Canute, the son of Sweyn, says to one of his men, “There thou takest an evil counsel, when thou makest thyself a Viking, that is the heathen's wont, and that I will forbid thee.” From about the year 1000 A.D., then Norse enterprise begins to flow in more legitimate channels, and there is a gradual cessation of those roving cruises which had made half England Danish, and planted Norse kingdoms in France, Sicily, Italy, and Russia, which had been the scourge of all the coasts of Europe—which had covered the marbling of the Athenian Acropolis with barbaric ruins, and provided the Emperor of Constantinople, or, as the Norsemen called it, “Micklegarth," with the surest bulwark of his empire in the Varargian Guard.
And now we must really return to Gunnar. The Icelanders seem to have been regarded as the flower of the Norse races, and any of the Orkney Jarls, or Danish Kings, was glad enough for the most part to secure their services in his personal retinue or his fleet. Gunnar left home with no following but his brother Kolskegg, but such a warrior was not to be allowed to sit with his hands folded. Two Norwegian friends, captivated by his broad shoulders and his frank, soldierlike bearing, equipped him with four war gallies manned by their own thralls, and so Gunnar started gaily for a cruise in the Baltic, with a hundred and twenty tall fellows under his command.
For some eighteen months he kept the sea, and wherever he went, victory followed him. Only two of his fights, the first and the last—are described in detail by the chronicler; but if we may trust Teagner's poem, already quoted, we know pretty well how he spent his time. Sometimes he would lie close in some indentation of the coast-one of the Viks or Creeks from which the name of Viking or Creeker is derived; sometimes he would range
open waters “ hovering about like a hawk on the wing." If a wind arose, he would set every stitch of canvas, and let it drive him withersoever it would. Though the breeze freshened to a gale, and the gale swelled into a hurricane, he would not take in a single reef. His spirits rose with the storm, and he found a fierce delight in driving wildly over the foaming waters, and racing the scudding cloud-rack.
Keep her full, keep her full; none but cowards strike sail-sooner founder than take in an inch.” As night drew on he would stretch himself beneath the open sky on one of the half decks, which, at the prow and stem, overhung the deep waist of his galley, with his
shield beneath him and his sword by his side. How many chapmen he mulcted-how many rovers he fought and conquered—we are left to guess. But it was ill for those who met Gunnar when his blood was up. The last and fiercest of his fights was with the Viking Hallgrim. Hallgrim was armed with a magical bill, which before any one was to be slain with it, gave forth a loud, clear, ringing sound, as if longing to slake its thirst for blood; like the bow of Odysseus which sings like a swallow beneath its master's fingers as the slaughter of the mitors draws nigh. This weapon became Gunnar's prize and did him yeoman's service.
Death of the Reb. (M. Dobson, M.A.,
Formerly Principal of Cheltenham College.
‘HOSE who saw with what feeble steps our former
beloved Principal passed, during the last few Sundays of last half-year, to his accustomed seat in that Chapel where he delighted to join in the worship of God in the midst of his old associations, will scarcely be surprised to hear that the hand of Death has taken him from us—too soon alas! for those who loved him well—not too soon, we trust, for him to enter into his rest.
He was comparatively young, having completed his fifty-eighth year just ten days before he died.
But though his life was short, he did a great work in it. The writer of this feeble tribute to his memory, well remembers the first morning when he took his place in the school. There was a vigorous, though somewhat chaotic, life about the school before he came. Every one who wished well to it, and whose lives were bound up with it, was anxious and troubled as to the future. He passed swiftly to the Principal's seat, said a few words of encouragement in his calm, perhaps somewhat cold manner, and every one felt that the right man was in the right place. From that moment he was a great central force, which kept everything revolving
in its right place, it seemed, by the mere effect of its massiveness, so little was there visible of the ordinary arts of government. His tact and temper were without a flaw; he was incapable of injustice. His wonderful punctuality; his wise forethought ; his strong common sense, which, as was said of him by a distinguished contemporary at Cambridge, almost amounted to genius, formed a model from which those who cared to do so, could not but learn golden lessons.
As time went on, and we knew him better, and the bright prosperity of the school developed his character, we were surprised to find under his cold exterior, a cheerful geniality, a love of fun, powers of wit and humour which to those who came within the magic circle of his intimacy were a perpetual source of delight. The same Cambridge friend says, in a letter to the 'writer since his death, some of his dicta will live in the memory of his friends as rivalling Dr. John'son's best.' His letters were charming. Even when they told but the simplest events, the style was so pure, and the words so well chosen without the least effort, that it was a treat to read them. He had a great horror of 'high polite' English. The flower and fruit of his teaching is of course to be found in that select band of his pupils who gained high honours at the two Universities, but there are hundreds of men scattered over the world, who will carry with them to
the indelible mark of his hand, so far as they learnt to imitate what they saw in him of truth, purity, and goodness. All true work, all true example, is like matter, indestructible. It exhales into the most subtle essences of character, and meets us thousands of miles away, and years afterwards, stealing upon us like a well-known though halfforgotten perfume —
memory of the just is blessed." Mr. Dobson died on Tuesday, 31st December, 1867, and was buried at Prestbury on the 6th instant. Dr. Barry officiated at the funeral, and gave a very beautiful and touching address in the church immediately after the lesson.
J. C. T.