The Heitoskringla; or Chronicle of the Kings of Norway. Translated from the Icelandic of Snurro Sturleson. With a Preliminary Dissertation. By Samuel Laing. Esq., Author of "A Residence in Norway," "A Tour in Sweden," &c.
In three volumes Longman and Co.
The Modern Syrians ; or Native Society in Damascus, Aleppo. and the Mountains of the Druses. From Notes made in those parts during the years 1841-2-3. By
an Oriental Student. Longman and Cap.
MR. LAING'S TRANSLATION OF THE CHRONICLE OF THE KINGS OF NORWAY.
THE reputation of Mr. LAING, the bulk of his publication, and its twofold character, (for besides the Chronicle of Somata° STURLE- SON, it contains the translator's Dissertation on the ancient North- men, and on the life and work of their historian,) induced us to put aside these three ample volumes during the pressure of the London season, in order to examine them at a time of greater leisure and when there were fewer demands upon our space. This precaution was in some measure needless ; for, though possessing literary curiosity and antiquarian importance, the work is not of a very attractive kind, and is of a bulk disproportioned to its popular value.
The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway was originally composed
in Icelandic by &maim STURLESON, an Icelander, who was born in 1178, and died, or rather was taken off by his family, in 1241. His narrative begins with the fabulous times of Odin, and closes a few years before his own birth, 1171. In a distributive sense it may be divided into two distinct parts,—the marvellous or mythological period, ending in the middle of the ninth century, when the reign of IIALFDAN the Black commenced (about 841); the second em- bracing the next three hundred years, and wearing the air of a more probable if not a more authentic history. In a strict sense, how- ever, the probability of the greater part rests upon its internal evidence, rather than upon any proof. It was not till the eleventh century that any sagas or stories began to be committed to writing; and even then, as Mr. LAING truly argues, the manuscripts must have been few. Tradition, thrown into the shape of family ballads, preserved by memory for oral purposes, and corrupted by the flattery or the hostility of the original bard or his successor in recital, is the foundation of STURLESON'S narrative, except for the last hun- dred )ears. For the latter part of this period, however, he is en- titled to the character of an original historian, since he incidentally mentions having received particulars of events from persons who were present, or derived their knowledge from the actors. For historical use such stories have slender value in matters of
fact, even if the narrative of this history had any interest, which it has not to foreigners. Mr. LAING, indeed, labours with a theory that we are indebted to the Northmen for the living spirit of our con- stitution if not for its forms, and therefore that it is "important" for us to have this book. One answer to this view is, that Danes, not Norwegians, ascended the throne of England in the exhausted State of the Anglo-Saxon monarchy ; as appears from the narrative of STURLESON himself. Should it be argued that Mr. LAING alludes not to the narrative of the facts but to the deductions to be drawn from them respecting the institutions and customs of the people, we answer, that to draw such deductions is the business of the writer rather than of the reader; who has not time, and may not have ability or inclination for the task. Such we think peculiarly the case with the Chronicles of the Kings of Norway. The incidental mention of the germ of our institu- tions requires a prepared mind to apprehend their bearing. There is so little resemblance in the " Things " of Norway to our Parlia- mentary constitution, or even to the House of Commons, with its delegates of burgesses and knights of the shire—whereas the bonders (or landholders) of Norway appear to have been present in a per- sonal or rather territorial right—that even a prepared mind may sometimes think the Saxon Witenagemot as good an origin of the Commons as the Northern "Thing." Or, looking to the States-General in France, and to the Cortes in Spain, (where the Northmen never settled,) he may consider that the feudal and mu- nicipal systems, together with national circumstances, had a good deal to do with the origin of our Parliament.
Apart from its value as a quarry of materials for the antiquarian
or general historian, who sits down to a book of this kind as a lawyer to a deed or an artisan to his work, The Chronicles of the Kings of Norway must be estimated by its attractive power. This we do not think considerable to the bulk of readers. Part of it is fable, and fable in which we have not been taught to take an interest as in the classical mythology or the systems of demon- ology and the fairies ; whilst the style of telling them is dry and curt, though Mr. Lento calls it rapid. The historical portion is often occupied with trifling events, and nomenclatures, or gene- alogies put into prose,—a fact which the translator says gave much value to the sagas; for the Udal system being of the nature of an entail that could not be cut off, any connexion of the family had a right of remainder in the estate : an important point, no doubt, to a Northman; but as the English reader has no such prospect, of slender interest to him. Even about the larger events there is often a sameness and a remoteness which deprive them of much attraction. At the same time, many of the incidents have an in- trinsic interest for the fortunes of the story, the simple strength of the characters, and the curious picture of ancient manners which they display. There is, too, in many parts of the narrative an old simplicity almost Homeric in its character, but which perhaps ap-
pertains to the times as much as to &warm Sruatasott, for he is deficient in Homeric fire or Homeric art. There is little connexion, and no whole. The reader passes from an historical or a romantic incident to a bald narrative of trifling affairs, or some tedious local or family particulars.
These characteristics indicate that "Selections from the Heim- skringla,* or Chronicle of the Kings of Norway," would have been the proper mode of presenting the work, whilst the political de- ductions might have been presented (as indeed they now are) in a preliminary dissertation. We can, however, readily perceive the cause of Mr. LAirro's misconception of the general literary character and importance of the Chronicle, as well as his over-estimate of its author ; whom he places "on the same bench—however great the distance between—on the same bench with Shakespeare, Car- lyle, and Scott, [odd conjunction!] as a dramatic historian." As- sociation is the basis of all our interest ; we only care for what we know, or what we can associate with our own knowledge. A na- tional poet owes much of his attraction to those national manners, feelings, and opinions, which he first reflected and subsequently strengthened. These in turn more or less militate against his po- pularity in other countries, where he must depend for his general re- ception upon the broad principles of human nature, excepting with those who have studied the national circumstances that he cannot help delineating. Even the taste for the greater classics is artificial, or at least taught. There are British scholars (without scholarship sufficient to be "illustrious by their learning ") who know a good deal more of the localities of ancient Rome than of modern London, and whose classical geography is perhaps better than their English—they would rather bear an examination in one than the other. Something analogous, though in a less degree, takes place with every one of liberal education ; and though this knowledge has not the distinctness and intensity of living knowledge—though the scholar who has never visited the localities described by the Greek or Roman poets will not have so vivid an idea of their re- presentations, and will miss the truth of many little natural touches—yet he has some knowledge ; and, what is more to our present purpose, he feels an interest in the subject. Even the names suggest ideas, sometimes general to educated men, some- times personal to himself. But few have such a frame of mind towards the Danes or Northmen : the mass, even of learned readers, care nothing about them, unless the subject has breadth enough in human nature or general manners to give it intrinsic interest.
Mr. LAING is in a different position. He has resided long in Norway ; he has visited Sweden and Denmark ; he has studied the modes of life which STURLESON describes ; be has examined and seen the working of the living institutions into which the ancient customs have grown. With many of the localities in which the scene of the ancient sagas are laid he is not only acquainted but familiar. Outlandish names, which the English reader cannot pro- nounce with certainty, call up to him visions of beauty or wildness ; the more domestic manners of the work have not changed so much FIS might have been expected in the lapse of nine hundred years ; and he even thinks he can trace the descendants of many heroes in modern farmers, or at least he knows the parish where they are to be found. But this zest cannot be infused into the reader ; and Mr. LAING has fallen into the error, common enough in life if not in literature, of ascribing a general interest to things which owe their attraction to personal circumstances. Some might incline to shift part of the fault upon the translation ; for the translator admits that his knowledge of Icelandic is scanty, and that he continually resorted for help to an old Latin and some modern Northern versions. This may have produced defects to a critical Scan- dinavian eye ; and we think the translation, especially in the snatches of' popular verses that STURLESON so continually inter- mingles with his narrative, may have a Laingish air : but the de- ficiency we allude to is pervading, and such as no graces of elo- cution could remove.
As far as raw material is concerned, the Heimskringla is a necessary book to the general historian, or the Northern (in contradistinction to the Classical or Oriental) antiquarian. In general attraction, we suspect the Preliminary Dissertation of Mr. .LAING is likely to equal the Chronicle of SNORE° STUELESON. However, our notice would be incomplete without a few extracts illustrative of the character of the latter. The following is a sketch of Scandinavian geography, curious for the mixture of accurate fact in its picture of regions with which the Northern voyagers were practically acquainted, with ancient and middle-age fables in the countries beyond.
It is said that the earth's circle which the human race inhabits is torn across into many bights, so that great seas run into the land from the out-ocean. Thus it is known that a great sea goes in at Niorvasund,* and up to the land of Jerusalem. From the same sea a long sca-bight stretches towards the North-east, and is called the Black Sea, and divides the three parts of the earth; of which the Eastern part is called Asia, and the Western is called by some Europa, by some Enea. Northward of the Black Sea lies Swithiod the Great,t or the Cold. The Great Sweden is reckoned by some not less than the Saracens' land $ ; others compare it to the Great Blueland.§ The North- ern part of Swithiod lies uninhabited, on account of frost and cold; as likewise the Southern parts of Blueland are waste from the burning of the sun. In Swithiod are many great domains, and many wonderful races of men, and * Beimskringla, "the world's circle," is the antiquarian title of the work. This, however, is only accidental; " Ideimakringla" being the first prominent word in the manuscript that catches the eye, and hence hal, grown into use, Mr. LAING conjectures, from the facility in libraries of directing unlettered persons to bring a particular manuscript. He might recognize a staring word though he could read but little.
many kinds of languages. There are giants, and there are dwarfs, and there are also blue men. There are wild beasts, and dreadfully large dragons. On the North side of the mountains which he outside of all inhabited lands runs a river through Swithiod, which is properly called by the name of Tanais, but was formerly called Tanaquisl, or Vanaquisl, and which falls into the ocean at the Black Sea. The country of the people on the Vanaquisl was called Vana- land, or Vanahcim ; and the river separates the three parts of the world, of -which the Eastermost part is called Asia, and the Westermost Europe.
The country East of the Tanaquisl in Asia was called Asaland, or Asaheirn, and the chief city in that land was called Asgaard. iii that city was a chief called Odin ; and it was a great place fur sacrifice.
SCANDINAVIAN VIEWS ON SCARCITY.
There were a great many people who fled the country from Sweden, on ac- .count of King Isar; and when they heard that King Olaf had got good lands iii Vermeland, so great a number came thin to him that the land could not support them. Then there came dear timis and famine, which they ascribed to their King: as the Swedes used always to reckon good or bad crops for or against their Kings. The Swedes took it amiss that Olaf was sparing in his sacrifices, and believed the dear times must proceed from this cause. The Swedes therefore gathered ;together troops, made an expedition against King Olaf, surrounded his house, and burnt him in it, giving him to Odin as a sacrifice for good crops.
There is something of the grotesque-heroic in the following -account of their
TREATMENT OF PRISONERS.
Earl Eric then laid himself alongside of Vagn's ship, and there was a brave -defence ; hut at last this ship too was cleared, and Vagn and thirty men were taken prisoners, arid bound aid brought to land. Then came up Thorkel Leire, and said, "Thou made: t a solemn vow, Tans, to kill me ; but now it seems more likely that I will kill thee." Vagn and his men sat all upon a log of wood together. Thorkel had an axe in his hands, with which be cut at him who sat outmost on the log. Vagn and the other prisoners were bound so that a rope was fastened on their feet, but they had their hands free. One of them said, "I will stick this fish-bone that I have in my hand into the earth if it be so that I know anything after my head is cut off." His head was cut off, but the u:1-bone fell from his band. There sat also a very handsome man with long hair, who twisted his hair over his head, put out his neck, and said, "Don't make my hair bloody." A man took the hair in his hands and held it fast. Thorkel hewed with his axe ; but theViking twitched his head so strongly that he nho was holding his hair fell forwards, and the axe cut off both his hands, and stuck fast in the earth. Then Earl Eric came up, and asked " Who is that handsome man ?"
Be replies, "I am called Sigurd, and am flue's son. But are all the Joms- burg Vikings dead?"
Erie says, "Thou art certainly Bue's son. Wilt thou now take life and peace ? " "That depends," says be, " upon who it is that offers it." " He offers who has the power to do it—Earl Erie."
"That will I," says he, "from his hands." And now the rope was loosened from him.
Then said Thorkel Leire, "Although thou should give all these men life and peace, Earl, Vagn Aakeson shall never come from this with life." And he ran at him with uplifted axe ; but the Viking Skarde swung himself in the rope, and let himself fall just before Merkel's feet, so that 'Merkel fell over him, and Vagn caught the axe and gave Thorkel a deatk.wound. Then said the Karl, "Vagn, wilt thou accept life?"
"That I will," says he "if you give it to all of us." "Loose them from the rope," said the Earl; and it was done. Eightecn were killed, and twelve got their lives,
Earl Hakon, arid many with him, were sitting upon a piece of wood ; and a bowstring twanged from Hue's ship, and the arrow struck Glaser from Valders, who was sitting next the Earl, and was clothed splendidly. Thereupon the people went on board, and found Haavard Hogvande standing on his knees at the ship's railing, for his feet bad been cut off, and he had a bow in his hand. When they came on board the ship, Haavard asked," Who fell by that shaft?-'
They answered, "A man called Gissur." Then my luck was less than I thought," said he. "Great enough was the misfortune," replied they ; "but thou shalt not make it greater." And they killed him on the spot.
The dead were then ransacked, and the booty brought all together to be divided.
GETTING RID OF SUITORS.
Now Harald returned about harvest to Norway, and was at home all winter ; but was very silent and cast down. In summer he went once more to the Baltic with his ships, and steered to Sweden. He sent a message to Queen Sigrid that be wished to have a meeting with her; and she rode down to meet him. They talked together, and he soon brought out the proposal that she should marry him. She replied, that this was foolish talk for him, who was so well married already that he might think himself well off. Harald says, " Aast a is a good and clever woman ; but she is not so well born as I am." Sigrid replies, "It may be that thou art of higher birth, but I think she is now pregnant with both your for- tunes." They exchanged but few words more before the Queen rode away. King Harald was always dull in apprehension, and prepared himself again to ride up the country to meet Queen Sigrid. Many of his people dissuaded him ; but nevertheless be set off with a great attendance, and carte to the house in which the Queen dwelt. The same evening came another King, called Visa- vald, from Russia, likewise to pay his addresses to Queen Sigrid. Lodging was given to both the Kings, and to all their people, in a great old room of an out- building, and all the furniture was of the same character; but there was no want of drink in the evening, and that so strong that all were drunk, and the watch, both inside and outside, fell fast asleep. Then Queen Sigrid ordered an attack on them in the night, both with fire and sword. The house was burnt, with all who were in it, and those who slipped out were put to the sword. Sigrid said that she would make these small Kings tired of coming to court her. She Was afterwards called Sigrid the Haughty.
The Preliminary Dissertation—in other words, Mr. LAING'S in- troductory matter—consists of a life of SNORE° STURLESON, and five essays or disquisitions-1. of the Literature and Intellectual Condition of the Northmen ; 2. of their Religion ; 3. of their
Social Condition 4. on the State of the Useful Arts among the Northmen ; 5. of the Discovery of Greenland and America by the • N'iorvasuud, the Straits of Gibraltar; so called from the first Northman who sailed through them.
Swithiod the Great, or the Cold, is the ancient Sarmatia ; and is also called God- 'beim in the my thological sagas, or the home of Odin and the other gods. Swithiod the Less is Sweden proper, and is called Mannheim, or the home of the kings the descend- ants of these gods. I Serklaud means North Africa and Spain. and the countries of the Saracens in Asia. Blatant!, the country of the Blacks in Africa. Asgaatd is supposed by those who look for historical fact in mythological tales to be the present Assort others, that it is Chasgar in the Caucasian ridge, called by Strabo stspurgum—the Asburg or castle of Ass; which word Ass still remains in the N...rthern languages, signifying a ridge of high laud. Northmen. In each of these a good deal of Scandinavian know- ledge is displayed, animated by a strong rather than a lively ani- mal spirit, and exhibiting much of shrewd keenness applied to the physical character of countries and to the condition of life in those ancient times. But it is in an economical point of view that these Dissertations are chiefly valuable. As an editor, Mr. LAING is impressed with the usual over-zeal of editors for their authors ; as a commentator or expositor, we think hint deficient in learning—in that scholastic training which forms the mind to habits of critical investigation, in opposition to the reading which merely informs it ; and be has a bold, con- fident, dogmatic tone, but ill adapted to philosophical inquiry on a remote and obscure subject. These defects are aggravated by his zeal for the ancient Northmen, which blinds him to some ob- vious conclusions. He claims for them a great superiority over the Anglo-Saxons, because they had a national literature however poor it might be ; whereas the Anglo-Saxon writers were monks compos- ing in bad Latin, and possessing not an English but a Romish spirit. Part of this is true, and a truth deserving of more consideration than it has received ; but in their songs the Anglo-Saxons had a sort of sagas ; and though many of these are lost, yet that rather argues the superior merit of the literature which superseded them, especially as there was not the patrimonial motives of the Northmen for retaining them in memory. Mr. LAING argues for the superior civilization of the Northmen, or at least their progress in the use- ful arts, because they equipped vessels and made long voyages. But their nautical vocation arose, as he himself indicates, from natural circumstances. The soil was comparatively barren, and cultivated with difficulty ; the country was intersected by arms of the sea, which teemed with fish that furnished the food the land denied them. They consequently became mariners of necessity ; the long leisure between seed-time and harvest in the fine months, together with the pressure of an increasing population, turned them into pirates, sea-rovers, and adventurers. In all this there is nothing more surprising than the horsemanship of the Arabs or the Tartars, or the skill with which the Red Indian tracks his prey. As regards the advance in the arts, indicated by their vessels and their voyages, we suspect the Polynesians could nearly match them ; that the war-canoes of some of those islands were as good examples of mere mechanical art as theirs ; and their voyages, except the colonization of Iceland and Greenland, as difficult, for the Northmen kept along the shore—the Polynesians in some of the groupes had to launch upon the ocean. The Malay pirates, again, are good mariners in their way, without being remarkable for civilization. These in- stances might be extended, but we have said enough to indicate our meaning. Occasionally, the same onesided or at least extreme view may be found in the better parts. Mr. LAING, though not at all an enthu- siast, is a thoroughgoing or earnest man, who pushes whatever he takes up as far as it will go. There is, however, great shrewdness in many of his general arguments upon the state of Northern Europe in ancient times, and much originality, from his application of economical considerations to enforce his views. There is some- thing of both these qualities in the following argument to show that the Scandinavians were originally Asiatics, and why the emigra- tions turned Northward.
WHY THE ASIATICS EMIGRATED TO SWEDEN.
The fact itself admits of no doubt ; for it rests not only on the concurrent traditions and religious belief of the people, but upon customs retained by them to a period far within the pale of written history, and which could only have arisen in the country from which they came, not in that to which they had come. The use, for instance, of horse-flesh could never have been an original indi- genous Scandinavian custom, because the horse there is an animal too valuable and scarce ever to have been an article of food, as on the plains of Asia; but down to the end of the eleventh century the eating of horse-flesh at the reli- gious feasts, as commemorative of their original country, prevailed, and was the distinctive token of adhering to the religion of Odin : and those who ate horse-flesh were punished with death by Saint Olaf. A plurality of wives also, in which the most Christian of their Kings indulged even so late as the twelfth century, was not a custom which in a poor country like Scandinavia was likely to prevail, and appears more probably of Asiatic origin. But what could have induced a migrating population from the Tanais, (the Don,) on which traditionary history fixes their original seat, after reaching the Southern coasts of the Baltic, to have turned to the North and crossed the sea to esta- blish themselves on the bleak inhospitable rocks and in the severe climate of Scandinavia, instead of overspreading the finer countries on the South side of the Baltic ? The political causes, from preoccupation or opposition of tribes as warlike as themselves, cannot now be known from any historical data ; but from physical data we may conjecture that such a deviation from what we would con- sider the more natural run of the tide of a population seeking a living in new homes, may have been preferable to any other course in their social condition. We make a wrong estimate of the comparative facilities of subsisting, in the early ages of mankind, in the Northern and Southern countries of Europe. If a tribe of Red-men from the forests of America had been suddenly transported in the days of Tacitus to the forests of Europe beyond the Rhine, where would they, in what is called the hunter state—that is, depending for subsistence on the spontaneous productions of nature—have found in the greatest abundance the means and facilities of subsisting themselves ? Unquestionably on the Scandinavian peninsula, intersected by narrow inlets of the sea teeming with fish, by lakes and rivers rich in fish, and in a land covered with forests, in which not only all the wild animals of Europe that are food for man abound, but, from the numerous lakes, rivers, ponds, and precipices in this bunting- field, are to be got at and caught with much greater facility than on the bound- less plains, on which, from the Rhine to the Elbe, and from the Elbe to the Vistula or to the steppes of Asia, there is scarcely a natural feature of country to hem in a herd of wild animals in their flight, and turn them into any par- ticular tract or direction to which the hunters could resort with advantage, and at which they could depend on meeting their prey. At this day Norway ia the only country in Europe in which men subsist in considerable comfort an what may be called the hunter state—that is, upon the natural products of the earth and waters, to which man in the rudest state must have equally had access in all ages—and derive their food, fuel, clothing, and lodging, irons the forest, the field, the fiords, and rivers, without other aid from agriculture or the Arta of
civilized life than is implied in keeping herds of rein-deer in a half tame state, or a few cows upon the natural herbage of the mountain-glens. We, in our state of society, do not consider that the superior fertility of the warmer climes and better soils of Southern countries adds nothing to the means of subsist- ence of those who do not live upon those products of the earth which are oh- taMed by cultivation. A hermit at the present day could subsist himself, from the unaided bounty of nature, much better at the side of a fiord in Norway than on the banks of the Tiber, or of the Tagus, or of the Thames. Iceland, which we naturally think the last abode to which necessity could drive settlers, had in its abundance of fish, wild fowl, and pasturage for sheep and cows, although the country never produced corn, such advantages that it was the earliest of rcodern colonies, and was a favourite resort of emigrants in the ninth century.
To which reasons Mr. LAING might have added, the highly pro- bable fact, that the difference between the climates of Northern and Middle Europe was then much less than it is now. If ancient writers are to be depended upon, we know that the winters, even so far South as France and Italy, were much severer in ancient times than at present ; and the amelioration is generally attri- buted to the clearing of the forests, the draining of marshes, and the general cultivation of the soil. At the periods in question, Germany and Poland, covered with a vast forest, had probably no single advantage over Sweden, except in the greater length of days. The cold, measured by the thermometer, might be more intense in Scandinavia, but the dampness in Middle Europe might render it more disagreeable to the frame. Here, however, is another argu- ment for emigration to Sweden, coupled with a curious view of ancient military appointments, though pushed to an extreme.
IMPORTANCE OF ARMS IN ANCIENT TIMES.
Sweden bad a still stronger attraction for the warlike tribes from the in- terior of Asia, w ho were pressing upon the population of Europe South of the Baltic, and which has been overlooked by the historians who treat of the mi- grations of mankind from or to the North in the rude ages. Sweden alone had Iron and copper for arms and utensils close to the surface of the earth, and, from the richness of the ores, to be obtained by the simplest processes of smelt- ing. This natural advantage must, in those ages, have made Sweden a rallying. point for the Asiatic populations coming into Europe from the North of Asia, and from countries destitute of the useful metals in any abundant or easily- obtained supply. To them Sweden was a Mexico or Peru, or rather an arsenal from which they must draw their weapons before they could proceed to Ger- many. This circumstance itself may account for the apparently absurd opinion of the swarms of Gotha who invaded Europe having come from Scandinavia; and for the apparently absurd tradition of Odin or the Asiatics invading and occupying Scandinavia in preference to the more genial countries and climes to the South of the Baltic; and for the historical fact of a considerable trade having existed from the most remote times between Novogorod and Sweden, and of which, in the very earliest ages, Wisby, in the Isle of Gotland, was the entrepfit or meeting-place for the exchange of products. The great im- portance of this physical advantage of Scandinavia in the abundance of copper and iron, to an ancient warlike population, will be understood best if we take the trouble to calculate what quantity of iron or copper must have been ex- pended in those days as ammunition, in missile weapons, by an ordinary army in an ordinary battle. We cannot reckon less than one ounce weight of iron, on an average, to each arrow-head; from twenty to twenty-four drop, or an ounce and a quarter to an ounce and a half, being considered by modern archers the proper weight of an arrow : and we cannot reckon that bowmen took the field with a smaller provision than four sheaves of arrows, or beads for that number. A sheaf of twenty-four arrows would not keep a bowman above ten or twelve minutes ; and in an ordinary battle of three or four hours, allowing that arrows might be picked up and shot back in great numbers, we cannot suppose a smaller .provision belonging to and transported with a body of bow- men than ninety-six rounds each; which, for a body of four thousand men only, would amount to above fourteen tons weight of iron in arrow-heads alone. For casting spears orjavelins, of which in ancient armies, as in the Roman, more use was made than of the bow, we cannot reckon less than six ounces of iron to the spear-head, or less than two spears to each man : and this gives us nearly two tons weight more of iron for four thousand men as their provision in this kind of missile. Of hand-weapons, such as swords, battle-axes, halberds, spears and of defensive armour, such as head-pieces and shields, which every man I;ttd, and coats of mail or armour, which some had, it is sufficient to ob- serve that all of it would be lost iron to the troops who were defeated, or driven from the field of battle leaving their killed and wounded behind; and all had to be replaced by a fresh supply of iron. We see in this great amount of iron or bronze arms, to be provided and transported with even a very small body of men in ancient times, why a single battle was almost always decisive, and every thing was staked upon the issue of a single day ; and we see why defeat, as in the case of the battle of Hastings and many others, was almost always irrecoverable with the same troops : they bad no ammunition on the losing side after a battle. We may judge from these views how important and valuable it must have been for an invading army of Goths, or whatever name they bore, coming from Asia to Europe, to have got possession of Sweden; an important, indeed, that it is reasonable to believe that if ever an Asiatic people invaded Europe North of the Carpathian mountains, the invaders would first of all proceed North along the Vistula and other rivers falling into the Baltic, and put themselves in communication, by conquest or commerce, with the country which supplied their ammunition ; and would then issue armed from the North, and break into the Roman empire, and be considered as a people coming originally from some Northern hive. Scandinavia certainly never had food for more human beings than its present inhabitants, and could never have poured out the successive multitudes who, by all accounts, are said to have come in from the North upon the Roman provinces.
Mr. SNORRO STURLESON himself does not appear to have been what we call a "respectable man." He had more than one esta- blishment ; he cheated his children out of property that was their due; he was proud, rapacious, overbearing ; and in short, looking at the manners of the age, there seems to have been some sort of reason for the STURLESON families taking the law into their own hands and making away with the family head. A disquisition on these points leads to an ingenious view of the utility of Crusades : perhaps we have now something analogous to the old state of society, and require a drain. "The judgment for posterity to come to probably is, that Snorro Sturleson, and even his relations who murdered him, were rather a type of the age in which they lived than individuals particularly prominent for wickedness in that age. The moral influences of Christianity had not yet taken root among the Northmen, while the rude virtues of their barbarous Pagan forefathers were extinct. The island of Iceland had never contained above sixty-three or sixty- four thousand inhabitants—the population of an ordinary town. The providing of food, fuel, and of winter provender for their cattle, and such employmentr, have necessarily at all times occupied a much greater proportion of the popu- lation than in more favoured climes. The enterprising, energetic, and restless spirits, found occupation abroad in the roving viking expeditions of the Nor- wegians, for the Icelanders themselves fitted out no viking expeditions: while the equally ambitious but more peaceful and cultivated appear to have ac- quired property and honour, as scalds, in no inconsiderable number. But the rise of the Hanseatic League, and the advance of the South and West of Europe in civilization, trade, and naval power, had extinguished the vikings on the sea. They were no longer, in public estimation, exercising an allowable or honourable profession ; but were treated as common robbers, and punished. The diffusion of Christianity and of a lettered clergy over the Scandinavian peninsula, had in the same age superseded the scalds, even as recorders of law or history. The scald, with his saga and his traditional verses, gave way at once before the clerk, with his paper, pen, and ink. Both occupations—that of the viking and of the scald—fell as it were at once, and in one generation, in the end ot the twelfth and beginning of the thirteenth century ; and the wild, unquiet, ambitious spirits, in the small Icelandic population, which were formerly absorbed by them, were thrown back into their native island, and there, like I igers abut up together in a den, they preyed on or worried each other. In Scan- dinavia itself the same causes produced in that age the same effects. The Birkebeiners and the Baglers, who, from the middle of Magnus Erlingssou's reign, raised their leaders alternately to the Norwegian crown, were in reality the vikings, driven from the seas to the forests ; were the daring, the idle, the active of society, who could find no living or employment in the ordinary occu- pations of husbandry, which were preoccupied by the ordinary agricultural po- pulation, nor in the few branches of manufacture or commerce then exercised as means of subsistence ; and whose former occupations of piracy at sea, or marauding expeditions on land under foreign vikinge, was cut off by the pro- gress of Christian influences on conduct, of the power of law, and of the naval, military, and commercial arrangements in all other countries. The employments and means of living peaceably were not increased so rapidly as the employment given by private warfare on sea and land had been put down ; and in all Europe there was an over-population, in proportion to the means of earning a peaceful livelihood, which produced the most dreadful disorders in. society. This was probably the main cause of the unquiet, unsettled state of every country, from the eleventh century to the fifteenth. The Crusades even appear to have been fed not more by fanaticism than by this want of employ- ment at home in every country. Law and social order were beginning to pre- vail, and to put down private wars, and the claim of every petty baron to gar- rison his robber-nest and pillage the weak ; but this growing security had not. advanced so far that trade and manufacture could absorb and give a living to the men not wanted in agricultural and thrown out of military employment.. It takes a long lime, apparently, before those tastes and habits of a nation on which manufactures and commerce are founded can be raised. Society was in a transition state. The countries which took but little part in the Crusades,— such as Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and this little population of Iceland,—and which had no outlet for the unquiet spirits reared in private wars or piracy, present a deplorable state of society for many generations. A bad, unquiet, cut-throat spirit, was transmitted to succeeding generations, and kept those countries in a half-barbarous state to a much later period than the other countries which had got rid of a prior turbulent generation in the Cru- sades."
The remarks we have made upon The Heimskringla apply only to its popular character. To the antiquarian, and the historical or critical student, its use is obvious ; nor can any private collectiort pretending to the character of a library be complete without it.