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were violently aggressive; they delighted in killing the sacred oxen or burning a temple; and their new converts were beyond measure unruly and barbarous, slaying freely in God's honour, as they would have slain formerly in a private feud. Thus the march of the new faith was the passage of a sword upon earth; and when the banner of the cross was the ensign of Charlemagne's army, and the excuse of all his attacks on native liberty, heathendom became another word for patriotism. To the Old Saxon and Norseman "the white Christ" was only a new Avatar, who claimed a higher power than the old gods; even those who admitted his divinity, would still murmur verses to Thor, if their prayers were not granted by Christ. The whole conception of the conflict of faiths was therefore one of relative advantages much more than of right or wrong: it was a question of calculation, not of conscience; and the Christian priests unhappily pressed this point in a way that disgusted the nobler minds among their adversaries. When Radbod, the Frisian prince, was already stepping into the font, he bethought himself of asking what fate his unbaptized ancestors were undergoing. "They are all burning in the flames of hell," was the ready answer of the monk at his side. "Wherever they are, I will be also," said the true-hearted chief, and straightway drew back into heathendom.5 In fact, the moral aspects of Christianity in the ninth century were little better than

1 Alcuini Vita Willibrordi, lib. i., c. 10; Sulpicii Severi Dialogus, lib. ii., c. 4, 5, 6; Dasent's Tales from the Norse, pp. xxxvii.-xxxix.

2 Bishop Frederic the First, missionary to Iceland, quitted the country in disgust, at not being able to restrain his first convert from murder.-KristniSaga, cap. iv.

3 Thus, in Iceland, Kodran refused to be baptized till he had seen a trial of strength between the bishop and a sacred stone in the neighbourhood. The bishop intoned church hymns over it till it split in two.-Kristni-Saga, cap. ii.

4 On a voyage to Greenland, the first ever made from Europe, the crew, who had been in want of food, found a whale; while they were eating it, one of the party said, "The red-beard Thor has been more helpful to us than your Christ. I have got this for my verses."--Blackwell's Mallet, p. 257.

⚫ Annales Xantenses, A. 718; Pertz, vol. ii., p. 271.



those of Odinism. An unbeliever might fairly balance the persecuting tendencies of the one with the murderous instincts which animated the other; the acquisitiveness of the monks with the pirates' love of plunder; the cowardice and impurities engendered by the monastic theory with the manliness and martial training of the sea-rover. Christianity attracted men by the simple consistency of its narrative, and by laying open the invisible world; it supplanted Odinism, as peace and order in the long run must always supplant war; but its peculiar doctrines, the forgiveness of injuries, the inner spiritual life, are those which, even if the teachers understood them, the barbarous hearers were least likely to appreciate.

Again, in the fusion of men and ideas, the Norse religion. developed a new life, and transfused a grander spirit into its old mythes. It had always been essentially human, conceiving the powers of nature under personal forms, and regarding every tree and stone as instinct with hidden life; and it had been essentially manly, viewing the struggle against time and fate as the real life of the gods. Time and fate were to conquer in the end; but the Norseman still venerated, for he felt that there were greater things than success. In fact, the superstition of all strong characters, a belief in some supreme law directing the outward events of life, was combined with a belief in the entire freedom of will in its own appropriate sphere, the formation of character. Yet while Odinism, in these respects, takes perhaps the highest rank among all mythologies, it had hitherto wanted tenderness: the very sentiment of proud despair with which it looked forward to the crash of the world, made it stern and sombre in its estimate of the unseen. It was now irradiated in its decline by gleams of love and hopefulness from Christianity. The old story of the death of Baldr, the sun-god, told how he struggled with Hödr, the god of war, for the love of the beautiful Nanna; Hödr triumphed through an enchanted sword;

Thus in Thor's visit to the Giants, he meets the Earth, Fire, and Old Age. -Prose Edda, cap. 47.



and Hel, the daughter of Evil, clasped the slain god in her inexorable embrace under earth. Very different was the belief of a later century. In this, the sun-god appears the husband of Nanna, shedding life and light upon earth, and joy among the gods. But evil dreams warn Freia, the mother of the gods, of a dark fate impending over her son. She wanders through heaven and earth, and binds all nature with a sacramental oath, never to harm the sun-god; only she forgets to pledge the mistletoe. Then there is high joy in heaven; the gods place Baldr in their midst, and amuse themselves with seeing how the darts and stones they hurl at him refuse to touch him. But Loki, the spirit of evil, points a twig of mistletoe, places it in the hand of Hödr, the blind god of war, and guides his aim. Baldr falls to the ground, slain; and Nanna's heart breaks with grief, as she sees her husband's body on the funeral pile. An envoy from the gods rides nine days and nights through the dark abysses of the earth, to the gates of Hel, and implores the goddess to give back Baldr to the heavens. Hel promises to restore him, if all nature, living and lifeless, will weep for him. Then man and beast, fountain and tree, lift up their voices, and weep aloud for the sun-god. The envoy returns to claim him, but finds crouched, near the very portal of Hel, a gray witch, who refuses to weep; she can gain nothing by the life or death of any man. Thus Loki's enchantments have prevailed, and the joy-giving god has been withdrawn from the world. "The sword-age, the wolf-age" is coming, when the love of money shall scatter murder and harlotry over the earth; the powers of evil will be unloosed; the gods themselves fall in the desperate death-struggle; fire consume the tree of life and the solid earth; and the dimmed sun sink for ever in the ocean. But a greener earth will rise out of the sea, lighted up by a brighter heaven; and Baldr will ascend from Hel to reign over new gods and nobler men.2

1 Grimm's Deutsche Mythologic, p. 201.

2 Prose Edda, cap. 49-51. Other and somewhat grotesque instances of the temporary fusion of Christianity and paganism may be seen in Dasent's Tales

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The institutions of the Norsemen in their own country resembled those of the Anglo-Saxons in their main features. There were the same distinctions of classes; similar popular assemblies; and the system of money measurement for ranks and offences, was even more complicated in Norway and Iceland than in England. Among Scandinavian specialties, we may class the duel as a form of judicial process; and on the other hand, the frith-guild system was first organized in England, and transplanted from our shores to Norway and Denmark. But the necessities of a seafaring life and of incessant war, developed the military qualities of daring and discipline among the Norsemen to an extent that perhaps has never yet been equalled. The captive sea-rover would sometimes refuse life upon any, even the most honourable terms; as a Danish king expressed it, life with all its old enjoyments, but with the sentiment of a single defeat, would be unbearable.3 In fact, any death, if it were only in battle, was the crown of an honourable life; failing this, the pagan of the north threw himself from a cliff; Siward, of Northumbria, whose Christianity deterred him from suicide, stood armed and erect out of bed in his last moments, that at least he might not die huddled up like a cow. Men thus minded, who compared the joy of battle to the raptures of love, were not likely to be more careful of others' lives than of their own; their very jests had a terrible grimness; they were silent when they suffered, and

from the Norse, Nos. ii., xiv., xxi., and xxviii. In the fragment of the Edda called "Bragi's telling," there are twelve Asa or gods, who are preserved in perpetual youth by eating apples.-Dasent's Prose Edda, pp. 85-88. In the saga of Haco the Good, he is represented as making the sign of the cross on a beaker which he was called upon to drain in honour of Odin. The act was remarked, and he explained it away as the sign of Thor's hammer. This must surely have been imitated from Christian practice.-Wilda's Gilden-Wesen, P. 9.

1 The duel was probably introduced into English law-procedure before the Conquest, but certainly not before the Danish invasions.-See Palgrave's Eng. Com., pp. 223-5.

2 Wilda's Gilden-Wesen; Drittes Haupt-stueck.
3 Blackwell's Mallet, chap. viii.

4 Huntingdon, lib. vi., M. B. 760.

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laughed in death. When Sigurd, the pirate, who had seen his comrades butchered, was asked what he thought of their fate, he answered, "I fear not death, since I have fulfilled the greatest duty of life; but I pray thee not to let my hair be touched by a slave, or stained with blood." His request was granted, and a freeman held up his hair for the fatal stroke; but as the axe descended, Sigurd swayed himself forward, and the blow fell upon his captor's hands. The rough humour of the joke so completely fell in with the spirit of their conquerors, that Sigurd and his remaining companions were spared.1 It was one of the better results of this fearlessness, that it encouraged a punctilious love of truth, resembling honour. The beaten warrior, bound by his word, would remain on the ground while his adversary fetched a weapon to despatch him. Moreover, the pursuit of arms, though it excluded labour from the ideal of life, involved a severe discipline as the condition of success. It would be absurd to say that northern society was pure the women were guarded in separate quarters till marriage; they were commonly married to the rich, and intrigued with the strong; and adultery, though it involved slavery in Denmark, was chiefly reprobated as a breach of the laws of property, was practised by heroes, and praised by bards. But allowing for the necessary absence of all Christian ideas upon this subject, we may fairly say that the Norsemen, if not moral, were not eminently impure; and their crimes were rather those of passion, than of that deliberate vice which eats into the soul.

Although the more prominent aspect of the struggle between Christendom and the Danes was the question which of two religions should prevail, the political results of the contest are not less important. The greatness of Charlemagne's character can scarcely be overrated, but his ideas and policy were Byzantine; he aimed at re-uniting the nations of the

1 Blackwell's Mallet, chap. viii.

2 Thus, in the beautiful Frithiof-Saga, Ingibiörg is placed with her eight maidens within the precincts of Baldr's temple for greater security.

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