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Warriors they were; but no legislator or politician among them, till Rollo the Peaceable acquired the dominion of Neustria or Normandy, which he consolidated by a wise system of jurisprudence. Under such a head the Northmen were no longer pirates, but conquerors. We know with what inflexibility he dispensed justice. He abolished theft among his subjects, who had hitherto lived by rapine; and long after his death the very mention of his name was a summons to the officers of justice to run and suppress violence. He thus He thus perpetuated his power and dynasty in France, over the fairest province of that kingdom for five centuries, and Duke William, treading in the steps of his renowned ancestor, became the conqueror and king of England, over which his posterity have reigned for eight hundred
The Danes have been by all historians stigmatised as a cruel people; and such a charge is more than probable. For nations, even the more civilized, whose chief occupation is warfare, becoming familiar with scenes of blood, are steeled against human suffering. It is not, then, surprising that a rude, stern race from a rugged climate, inured to hardship and danger both by land and sea, should be ferocious and sanguinary. Nothing can be more dreadful and revolting, than the manner in which these barbarians made their invasions; they spared neither age, sex, nor condition. One of their own chieftains, protesting against the custom of the soldiery, that of tossing infants upon the points of their spears, acquired the nicname of Burnakal, or the Preserver of infants. But let us take their moral portraiture from our own historian Holinshed, who drew his facts from the most veracious sources : "So great was their lordliness, cruelty, and insatiable desire of riches, beside their detestable abusing of chaste matrons and young virgins (whose husbands and parents were daily enforced to become their drudges and slaves, whilst they sat at home and fed like drone bees, of the sweet of their travail and labours) that God would not suffer them to continue any while over us, but when He saw his time, he removed their yoke, and gave us liberty as it were to breathe us, thereby to see whether this his sharp scourge could have moved us to repentance and amendment of our lewd and sinful lives, or not. But when no sign thereof appeared in our hearts, he called in another nation to vex us, I mean the Normans, a people mixed with Danes, and of whom it is
worthily doubted whether they were more hard or cruel to our countrymen than the Danes, or more heavy and intolerable to our island than the Saxons or the Romans." (Vol. I, p. 6). This grave and sensible author (whose moral reflections are like apples of gold in pictures of silver) repeating the concurrent testimony of all our ancient Chroniclers, has however, like them, overlooked the cause of the inhumanity of the Northmen. This spirit was the dictate of religion, rather than the impulse of wantonness and barbarity; for they were taught, that human sacrifices were acceptable to their gods and to the manes of those slain in battle: accordingly, they always decimated their prisoners, putting every tenth captive to death by the most excruciating tortures."
Tantum relligio potuit suadere malorum.
But, if their cruelty was great, their insolence was greater. "For if a Dane met an Englishman upon a bridge (says J. Brompton) the latter would not presume to stir a foot, until the Dane had crossed; nay further, if the English did not bow the head in honour of the Dane, they quickly felt the grievous punishment of stripes." "Hardecanute suffered the Danes to domineer to such a pitch, that every family through the kingdom had one Dane as the guard and master of the house, and thus (says H. Knyghton) they defloured our wives, daughters, and maid-servants, and inflicted many insults and indignities on our own countrymen, to the dishonour and disgrace of the English." And similar is the testimony of all our Chroniclers.
3. It is not easy to form a just idea of the religion of those tribes who occupied the North of Europe. What we find in Tacitus and others, is vague and uncertain. The only genuine source from which any clear views may be drawn hereon, is, that summary of Icelandish Mythology, called the Edda, the Bible of the northern heathens. Let us, then, taking this as our guide, examine this religion in its purity." "He was the author of all that exists, the Eternal, the Ancient, the Living and Awful One, the Searcher-out of hidden things, the Immutable." To him are attributed "power infinite, knowledge without bounds, justice in
(7) Sidon. 1. VIII. Symmachus, 1. II.
(8) Tacitus asserts that the Germans believed-what indeed reason teaches to all menthe being of a Supreme God, to whom all things were subject and obedient. "Regnator omnium Deus; cætera subjecta atque parentia. c. 85. And whatever is recorded concerning this people, is equally applicable (we repeat) to the Northmen.
corruptible." " "He is the Universal Father; He lives for ever; He governs all kingdoms, and directs great things as well as small. He hath formed the heavens, earth, and air; He hath made more than the sky and the earth; He hath made mankind, and given to him a soul that shall live and never be lost, even after the body shall have vanished into dust and ashes. And all just men shall dwell with Him in a place called Gimlee, i. e. the palace of peace and harmony; but the wicked shall go down to Hella or death; and thence to Nifhleim, which is below in the ninth world." This sublime doctrine is the sum of all natural religion, so far as mere reason can carry us, teaching the Unity of the Godhead, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and punishments. This religion forbids the representation of the Deity under any corporeal form, as derogatory to his greatness and also the confining within the walls of a temple, of Him who is Immensity, whose temple is the Universe, and whose altar is the whole earth: like the ancient Persians, and the Druids they consecrated to Him woods and groves, in the dark, silent and awful recesses of which they might contemplate the Deity seemingly present."
But this pure fountain of worship at length became turbid and corrupt with the taint of idolatry and polytheism; the pure gold was alloyed and almost lost amidst the dross. For from this Great Supreme they drew, as it were emanations, an infinite host of inferior divinities. The sun, moon, stars, earth, water, trees, forests, rivers, mountains, thunder, and tempests had each its presiding deity or genius. And these are the chief traits of that ancient heathenism, common, in the earliest ages, to almost all the nations of Europe, and without doubt to many in Asia, even till the decline of the Roman republic, that is, till the dawning of Christianity. And such is the tendency of all religious systems, however pure their origin, and however enlightened their founders. For men are by nature so gross, weak, and carnal, so narrow in the ideas they form of their Creator, that they cannot conceive how that God, who fills immensity with his presence,
(9) This work has been translated by Mallet. See his Introduction to the Hist. of Denmark, pp. 48, 9.
(10) Cæterum ne cohibere parietibus Deos, neque in ullam humani oris speciem assimilare, ex magnitudine cœlestium, arbitrantur. Lucos ac nemora consecrant, Deorumque nominibus appellant secretum illud quod solâ reverentiâ vident. Tacit. Germ. c. 9.
whose centre is every where, can be present every where at the same moment; how He who made all things by the word of His mouth, can sustain and inform them by the same power; how that Being who is present to all, cannot but be attentive to all, and will, therefore, hear their prayers, and minister to their wants. Thus enveloped in a cloud of ignorance, they have had recourse in time of need, to what they imagined, like all nations ignorant of the nature of the true God, to be a more speedy, certain, and available help, and invoked a host of false deities and tutelar spirits, demons, or angels, to the general neglect of the only and true God. Hence His image being gradually effaced from their hearts, they drew the moral attributes of their imaginary divinities to the standard of their own character, as those who took delight in the display of courage in battle, and in the inflicting of vengeance, in carnage and desolation. And, as war was the dominant passion among the northern nations, before the arrival of Odin among them from Scythia, he became, from his prowess, cruelty, success in battle, and his powers as a magician, the very Being to their humours and habits. Appearing to them something superhuman, his apotheosis and that of his companions in arms, was the natural result. But what a God! instead of a merciful and just One, the maker and sustainer of heaven and earth; the Author of all good, the rewarder of the virtuous, we find him depicted in the Icelandish Mythology, as "the God of war, the terrible and severe God, the father of slaughter, the Depopulator; the Incendiary, the active and roaring Deity, he that giveth victory, who re-animates the combatants, who nameth those who are to be slain."
As this monster of humanity was the principal Deity, like the Jupiter of the Latins, so was Friga, or Frea, his wife the principal goddess. She became, in the sequel, the patroness of love and debauchery, the Venus of the North, and, like her prototype, passed for the principle of all fecundity-for the mother of all that exists. It was to her that women addressed themselves to obtain happy marriages and prosperous accouchments. She was the dispenser of sensual pleasures, repose, and voluptuousness.
The third in this monstrous Theology, was the redoubtable Thor, the God of Thunder. He was always represented as bearing
a massive club or mace, indicative of his immense strength. In these three Persons have we not a glimpse of the Heathen Trinity, denoting wisdom, love, and power? To this Deity they dedicated the fifth day of the week, Thor'sday, as to the Sun and Moon, the first and second; to Woden, the fourth, or Woden's-day, as Tuesday, to the God Tuisco, Friday, to Friga, and Saturday, to a divinity, called Soter. To another goddess, named Eoster, they dedicated the month of April, or that period of the year subsequent to the vernal Equinox, when the wind blows usually from the East; and was, therefore, favourable to their maritime enterprises.
But we refer the curious and learned, for more ample information upon this part of our subject, to the elaborate work of M. Pelloutier. But as to the many popular fictions which their poets taught to the credulous people,-fictions sometimes ingenious, and oftener puerile, with which they sought to gloss over the pure and ancient religion,-we may not believe, that the intelligent portion of those nations looked upon them in any other light.
The manners and customs, as the religion of the Scandinavians, differed little from those of the Saxons; but in human sacrifices, the former were far more cruel. Ditmarus, an ancient bishop, writes thus: "Because I have heard wonderful reports of the ancient sacrifices of the Danes and Normans, I will not pass it by unnoticed. At certain seasons they assemble, and sacrifice, to their Gods, ninety-nine men, as many horses and dogs and cocks, instead of hawks, assuring themselves, that hereby their Gods are fully pleased and pacified." And not only the vulgar, but men of rank and quality were the victims, especially in times of great danger and extremity, thinking that the more noble the victim, the more appeasable will be the Gods. Nay, their very kings' were unspared. The first king of Wermland, a petty province in Sweden, was burnt in honour of Odin, to put an end to a great dearth; and kings, in their turn, spared not the blood of their subjects, or even of their children. For, Hacon king of Norway offered his own son, to obtain of Odin a victory over his enemy Harold'; and Anne, king of Sweden,
(1) Histoire des Celtes.
(2) See also Camden and Speed.
(3) Wormius, in Monum. Danica and North Antiq. I, p. 134. (4) Saxo-Gram. 1. X.