Page images


The history of Denmark, from the death of Ragnar Lodbrog to the accession of Harald Blaatand, or Blue Tooth, is confused and inaccurate (1). Harald was the son of Gormo the Aged, and Thyra the Saviour of Denmark. He acceded în 936, on his father's demise. He suffered from a calamitous invasion of Jutland by the emperor Otho (2), who married Athelstan's sister.

The state of


City of Jomsburg.

He built the famous city of Jomsburg (3) near the great Pomeranian lake, made by three rivers, in their conflux to the sea. This city became very distinguished for the courage of its inhabitants, their depredations and opulence (4). It was perhaps the only instance in the world of a government of pi

his paws on each shoulder, opened his jaws to devour him; when he fortunately awoke, shook him off, struck at him with his staff, and, by chanting the 68th Psalm, drove him away. After this, a great stone was hurled at him, which carried away with it his cap; and this he ascribed to the evil being.

He seems to have been distinguished for his intercourse with devils, and for his power of discerning them; for as he was travelling with a nobleman to a royal banquet, he suddenly perceived his enemy running playfully about among the royal trumpeters; he bade the dux, who saw nothing, make the sign of the cross on his eyes, who then beheld a devil leaping about in the shape of a little black man. It was from seeing him again wandering about among the servants of the household, that he declared the king would die in three days; and he beheld him a third time carrying great rolls of writing in his hands, at the very moment when his sovereign Edmund was parsing from mass to the banquet in which he was stabbed. These tales must have been invented for him, or told by himself; if the latter, we must suppose either that he had a diseased imagination, or that he wilfully fabricated them.

From these narratives of Bridferth and of Athelard, the contemporaries of Dunstan, we have a right to say, that there is no anile credulity nor peculiar love of the marvellous in Osberne in what he relates, more than in any other of the Catholic hagiographers. All these report analogous improbabilities in greater or less number. Even the popes have distinguished themselves in this line of narration; for no miracles exceed those recorded by Gregory the Great, in his Dialogues, and by = Calixtus II. in his Miracles of St. James. All the Catholic clergy not only accredit the miracles of their saints, but even build an argument for the superiority of their church upon their occ nce. The late Dr. Milner's works display lly as much of that quality, which has been called anile credulity in Osberne, as those of this now depreciated biographer. With every desire to be as impartial as I can be, I see, therefore, no sufficient reason for discrediting this portion of their friendly biography.


(1) The confusion of this part of Danish history was observed and complained of by Adam of Bremen. Tanti autem reges, immo tyranni Danorum, utrum simul aliqui regnaverunt, an alter post alterum brevi tempore vixit incertum est." c. xliv. p. 17. Many chronicles and histories have appeared since Adam's time, but they have only made the confusion of the period more visible to all who collate their

(3) Saxo, 182.

(4) See Bartholin, 446.


(2) To protect Denmark from the Germans, he completed the celebrated trench and wall called Dannewirke. See Snorre's description of it, vol. i. p. 217.; and sec Stephanius, 199-201.

rates (1). Its first legislator, Palnatoko, enacted it as one of his laws, that no man should live at Jomsburg who breathed a word of fear, or who showed the least apprehension in the most critical danger (2). Their depredations were conducted on a principle of equality; for all the plunder, whether small or great, was brought to the spear and divided (3). The modern Wollin, which has succeeded the ancient city, is not one-thirtieth part of its size. Ploughs now cut the soil on which splendid buildings stood. It became the emporium of the north. It was the last state of the north which admitted Christianity. All nations but Christians, who were interdicted on pain of death, were allowed to inhabit it, and each people had a separate street. They were idolaters, and for the most part polygamists (4). Their riches at last introduced factions, disorders, and civil fury, till Waldemar took and destroyed it in 1170 (5). .

Harald Blaatand had a successful war with Haeo of Norway, but towards the close of his life, the discontent of his subjects (6) enabled his son Svein to commence an unnatural warfare against him (7). Svein required of his father a share of his dominions (8). This demand being refused, he pretended to be collecting a fleet against the pirates, and with this surprised Harald. The old king fled to Normandy with sixty ships, and the son of Rolla entertained him hospitably, until he prepared a fleet capable of regaining his kingdom (9). A reconciliation for a while suspended the immoral war (10), and Harald gratefully returned to Richard of Normandy the aid which he had received from his father (11). The conflict was soon renewed between Harald and Svein, whose tutor, Palna

(1) Inter omnes vero Vikingos quos historiæ nostræ celebrant famosissimi erant Jomsvikingr dicti qui Julini olim Jomsburg sedem fixam et rempublicam certis ac firmis legibus constitutam habebant. Wormius, Mon. Dan. 270.

(2) Jomsvikingr Saga, c. xiv., cited by Bartholin, p. 3. This Saga gives a curious account of the answers of eight men of Jomsburg who were captives, on their being brought out to be slaughtered. Bartholin, 41-51. If they can be credited, they evince a horrible fearlessness. They were taken prisoners in a great invasion of Norway by their countrymen. Snorre narrates the aggression, p. 231-240., and gives extracts from the Scallds who mention it.

(3) Bartholin gives extracts from the Hirdskra and the Jomsvikingr Saga, on this subject, p. 16.

(4) See the descriptions of Munster and Chrytæus, cited by Stephanius, 197, 198. Chrylæus was so interested by it, as to make a particular survey of its site and remains.

(5) The ancient Sveno Aggo thus mentions its fate :- "Whose walls I Sveno beheld levelled to the ground by the Archbishop Absalom," c. iv. p. 51.

(6) Sveno Aggo, p. 51. Saxo, p. 185. (7) Adam Brem. 25.

(8) Snorre, vol. i. p. 229.

(9) Will. Gemmet. lib. iii. c. 9. p. 237. Pontanus dates Harald's arrival in Normandy in 943. Hist. Dan. lib. v. p. 135.

(10) Will. Gemmet. lib. iv. c. 9. p. 243. Sveno mentions the agreement, though, in his additions to it, I think he confuses several distinct incidents.

(11) Dudo, lib. iii. p. 122. Gemmet. p. 246.

[ocr errors]

toko, in revenge of an injury (1) which he had endured, stabbed Harald. The wounded king fled to Jomsburg, where he soon died, in 985 (2).

Svein's reign.

Svein, who has received the surnames of Otto from the emperor Otho, and Tiugoskegg from the shape of his beard, became now the undisputed master of a throne, which he had so foully earned. His life was romantic; but at a period when the manners of society, viewed with the eye of reason, seem unnatural and distorted, the actions will be often extravagant. He was three times taken prisoner by the Jomsburgers, and was three times redeemed. His last liberation was accomplished by the generosity of that sex, whose pity is never asked in vain ; whom nature has made lovely in person, but still more lovely in heart (3).

New misfortunes divested the ill-gotten crown of its expected charms. Eric, the prevailing king in Sweden, invaded Scania, and after many battles expelled Svein, and for many years remained the master of the Danish isles (4).

The exiled Svein fled humbly to Tryggva of Norway, but was disdainfully spurned. England was his next resource, but Ethelred, offended at incursions of the Northmen, with which he had been harassed, would not admit him. He then sailed to Scotland, and there met an asylum, and a hospitable friend (5). He resided there fourteen years.

On the death of his enemy he returned to Denmark, but was driven out again by the son of Eric, who at last reinstated him, and gave him Syritha his mother in marriage (6). Soon after this period England felt his power.


Haco the Good was reigning in the time of Athelstan. His character is interesting and great; his hilarity of

Haco's reign.

(1) This injury, as related by Saxo, p. 184., is the story of William Tell and Geisler. Toko was a famous archer, and boasted of his skill. Harald bid him with his first arrow, on pain of death, pierce an apple on his son's head. Toko, compelled to obey, exhorted his son not to stir. He took out three arrows. The first was successful. The king inquired why three arrows "To have shot you if I had killed my son." Saxo lived long before William Tell.

(2) Saxo, 186.; and see Ad. Brem., 25., Helmoldus, p. 14., Snorre and 2 Langb. 149., for some variation in the circumstances. I take the date from the ancient Icelandic annals. 2 Langb. 189.

(3) On these incidents, see Saxo, 180.; Sveno, 54.; Chron. Erici, 298.; Adam Brem. 26. Saxo and Sveno mention, that in grateful return, the ladies were presented with a law entitling them to a share of their paternal property, from which till then they had been excluded.

(4) Ad Brem. c. lxxii. p. 26. Frag. Isl. 2 Langb. 150. Saxo, 188.

(5) Ad. Brem. p. 27. says, Thrucco of Norway. Saxo, his son Olave, p. 189. Saxo, and Hector Boethius, mention Edward as the English king. This is wrong. Adam is correct in stating Ethelred, who began his reign in 978. (6) Adam, p. 28.; and see Saxo, 189.

mind was peculiar; his eloquence, his prudence, and his modesty, were equally distinguished. Peace, with her abundance and felicity, blessed both the agriculturist and the merchant of Norway during his reign, and he was diligent in his legislation. Two laws are particularised which he made, like the Anglo-Saxon kings, with the advice of his wisest men (1). Among others, he provided for the defence of the maritime regions of Norway by a sort of coast militia. The country on the shore, and as far up the river as salmon ascended, he divided into provinces, and these into territories, each of which was to be provided with a definite number of war-ships, of a stated size. The population of the district was to be always ready to act in these vessels whenever a hostile force drew near (2). To give celerity to their movement he established a sort of telegraph. On high mountains, piles of wood of the largest trees, to be fired on exigency, were so placed as to be visible from mountain to mountain; by these means in seven days the news was transmitted from one end of Norway to the other (3).

Haco retaliated the invasion of the Danes on Vikia, by driving them into Halland and Jutland (4). He passed into Zealand with successful outrage, took eleven Vikingr ships, and obtained great booty from the island; he then turned his conquering arms upon Scania, and even ventured to attack, with equal good fortune, the Swedish province of Gothland. In the following autumn he returned to Vikia, with an immense burthen of booty (5).

Harald Blaatand, who at this time ruled Denmark, beheld, with unavailing displeasure, the desolating victories of Haco. To humble the Norwegian, he admitted into his kingdom the children of Eric, the expelled king of Norway, whom Haco had succeeded, whom Athelstan had received into Northumbria, and who at last had perished there. Harald gave them possessions, and permitted them to pirate (6). Thus encouraged and supported, the sons of Eric assailed Haco (7); but the star of his prosperity still continued to beam.

Haco had long cherished a love for Christianity in secret. When he thought his power consolidated, he sent to England (8) for ecclesiastics capable of teaching the religion to the Norwegians. On their arrival he avowed his wishes, and exhorted the nation, in a

(1) Snorre Hakonar Goda, p. 135.

(2) Ibid. p. 146.

(8) Ut in montibus excelsis ex ingentibus arboribus pyræ ita struerentur (s. angari) ut ab una pyra ad alteram facilis et liber esset prospectus. Excitatus hoc pacto hostilis irruptionis nuntius, a prima in extremo regni ad meridiem angulo extructa pyra, ad remotissimum boream versus publicorum comitiorum in Halogalandia locum 7 dierum spatio volitasse fertur. Snorre Hakonar Goda, xxi. p. 146.

(4) The Scalld Guthormr Sindri records this invasion in his Hakonar Drapa. Snorre has quoted one of his verses. Saga Hak. c. vi. p. 131.

(5) Saga Hak. c. vii. p. 132, 133.

(6) Ibid. c. x. p. 134.

(7) Ibid. c. xx. p. 145.

(8) Missis in Angliam nuntiis, episcopos aliosque doctores arcessivit post quorum in Norwegiam adventum mentem suam aperuit rex Hakonus. Snorre, p. 138.

public assembly, to adopt his faith; but he experienced from the peasantry such a decided opposition, that he was even compelled by them to assist in their idolatrous superstitions (1).

Tryggvi, the son of one of those children of Harald Harfragre who fell by the hostilities of their brother Eric, so often mentioned in this history, obtained from Hakon the Good some little principalities towards the south of Norway, for which he assisted Hakon against his enemies, the children of Eric (2). These restless enemies were frequently assaulting Hakon with various devices, but he reigned prosperously for twenty years (3).

At last Harald, the eldest of these sons of Eric, surprised Hakon at a disadvantage. He fought with his usual success, but a dart wounded him under the arm. He retired to his ship; no art could stop the blood, and Hakon the Good sunk gradually into death. Friends and enemies enshrined his memory with a general lamentation. The exclamation was unanimous, that no king, his equal in virtue, would again bless Norway (4). Eywind the Scald has honoured his memory with an ode, which gives dignity to the character of Norwegian poetry (5). The civilization of every country has been of such tardy vegetation, that such kings as Hakon must be hailed with blessings, for to them the precious plant owes principally its preservation and progress, during these dark and stormy ages.


On Hakon's death the sons of Eric predominated in Norway, and their mother Gunillda shared in the government; but they held at first only the middle regions, for three others were governing in other parts of Norway; as Tryggvi in the south-east; Gudrod in Westfold; and Sigurd Jarl in Throndheim (6).

Gunillda stimulated her sons to destroy Sigurd Jarl, as a step to the monarchy of Norway. Her soliciting prevailed. The brother of Sigurd was seduced to conspire against him. The Jarl was surprised at a feast, and burnt alive, with the edifice, two years after Hakon's death (7).

(1) Snorre, 139–143.

(2) Ibid. 121-135.

(3) See one of the schemes to baffle the effect of Hakon's telegraphs. Snorre, 147-152.

(4) Snorre, 155–161. One of his last actions was to request the sons of Eric to spare his friends and relations, p. 160. The Icelandic Annals place his death in 961. 2 Langb. 188.

(5) Snorre, 161-165. This fine Runic ode is better known by the name of the Elegy or Eulogium of Hakon.

(6) Snorre Saga af Haralldi Graffeld oc Hakoni Jarli, p. 165. Glimr the scalld of Haralld, by his verses, excited Eyvindr to an emulating eulogium of Hakon. This offended Haralld, but his displeasure was appeased by Eyvindr becoming his scalld, and resounding his fame, 166.

(7) Snorre, 170-173. Sigurd had greatly assisted in the elevation of Hakon the Good, who, in return, made him Jarl of Throndheim. He is called by Snorre the wisest of the Norwegians, 125.

« EelmineJätka »