Imatges de pÓgina

reliable testimony of two historians that the Cimbri were located in Denmark a hundred years before and a hundred years after the Christian era. Odin, therefore, who, according to tradition, appeared in the interval, did not displace them, as the leader of an overwhelming host of invaders certainly would have done. He must either have been a native chief, which we think is the more probable conjecture, or an artful impostor, like Mahomet, belonging to some neighbouring tribe. This does not in any way invalidate the claim of the Norsemen to an eastern descent, for Plutarch seems to have been of opinion that all the tribes then located in the north of Europe were of the same blood, reaching from the German Ocean to the Sea of Azoff; and as the tide of population must have rolled from the east to the west, their origin was no doubt Asiatic. That Odin invented or introduced the Scandinavian mythology, is, we think, very unlikely, for it bears internal evidence of a much older date. He had the address, however, or his followers did it for him, to claim a prominent place in that mythology; in which attempt he succeeded better than Romulus, who, though he vehemently desired to be worshipped as a deity, received barely that secondary honour of heathen canonisation, the questionable rank of a demigod.

We do not believe that any of these tales which Mr Dasent has given us from the Norse, came through Seythia from the east. If they are oriental which may well be, for some of them appear too light and airy to have been hatched in the rugged north-we think it most probable that they were brought into Europe by the Saracens who came into Spain in the year 713. This store may have been increased about the time of the Crusades, and as trade was opened with the Levant; and the subsequent wide dissemination of the tales throughout Europe is very easily accounted for. Besides the Troubadours of Provence, and the Trouveres of France, who took rank as original poets-besides the minstrels, jong leurs, and others who itinerated Europe during the middle ages as dispensers of song and music--there

was a numerous class of men who earned their livelihood simply by the recounting of tales. As in a ruder age the appetite for the marvellous is always strongly developed, these narrators, for so we must style them rather than reciters, were obliged to tax their powers of invention to the uttermost; and as the priesthood was jealous of allowing legends of the saints to be promulgated otherwise than from the pulpit, these caterers for the popular taste took possession of fairyland, conjured up whole armies of giants, dwarfs, mermaids, enchanters, and the like, were most deft at metamorphoses, and made the services of the animal kingdom available by endowing birds, beasts, and even fishes, with human intelligence and speech. A good tale, therefore, whether newly invented or borrowed from an eastern apologue, was passed rapidly from mouth to mouth, and translated from speech to speech, undergoing no other variation than such as was necessary to recommend it to a new locality. That we conceive to be the true explanation of the universality of the European tales, which, in the middle ages, welled up in France as a common centre-spring, and thence diffused themselves to the remotest nooks and regions, where they are still cherished and recited by the peasantry, whose taste for traditionary lore has not been superseded by the efforts of an industrious press. It is curious to remark that, while these tales have floated all over the Continent, the ballads or rhyming traditions of each people, except where the languages are cognate, are national and apart. The reason is simply this. A prose story, once comprehended, can be retailed without difficulty in another tongue. The substance is all in all. But a ballad is a much more artistic performance. Its excellence does not depend so much upon the subject as upon the expression; and in times when written copies of popular recited ballads could not be procured, there was, of course, a serious obstacle in the way of translation. In a few instances we find some resemblance between Danish and Scottish ballads-so much, indeed, as to warrant the conclusion

that one or other of the writers must have heard them chanted in a foreign tongue; but these are exceptional cases. The general rule is that the popular ballad poetry of each country is indigenous; but that the popular prose legends are common European property.

Accordingly, in reading Mr Dasent's collection, we recognise, with great delight, many of our oldest friends, a little disguised, no doubt, in the Norwegian garb, as was to be expected, seeing that they have tarried so long among the fiords, but as easily detected by us as is a deserter from one of her Majesty's regiments by a lynx-eyed recruiting sergeant. We can, however, take little credit to ourselves for clairvoyance, as Mr Dasent has been most candid as to the personality and antecedents of his legendary contingent. In "Lord Peter" we recognise at once our favourite "Puss in Boots;" the story of " Boots who ate a match with the Troll" is an episode from "Jack the Giantkiller;" and "The Husband who was to mind the House," is a wonderfully accurate prose version of the very old Scottish ballad of "The Wife of Auchtermuchty." But perhaps the most curious story in the whole collection is that entitled, "East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon," which appears to us, beyond a doubt, to have been founded upon the very beautiful legend of Cupid and Psyche, as told by Apuleius of Madaura. We perceive at once that it is an original form of the tale of "Beauty and the Beast," but here alone, so far as we are aware, can it be distinctly traced to the classic source; and, what is still more remarkable, the Scottish popular version of that tradition has been derived from the Norse. Mr Robert Chambers, in his Popular Rhymes of Scotland, has given us two prose versions of the same story, collected from tradition, as the "Red," and "Black Bull of Norroway," which obviously must have come to us from Scandinavia; so that diluted Apuleius, after having undergone the probation of many Norwegian crones, seems to have passed into Scotland, where unfortunate Cupid, not visible in the ancient legend, appears as the

"Red Etin;" a monster so frightful, that no mythologist has dared to give a sketch of his appearance. It is curious also to remark that the wellknown German story of Rumplestiltskin is current in Scotland under the name of "Whuppity Stoorie," the heroine being called the Guidwife of Kittlerumpit, a coincidence in sound which we can hardly regard as fortuitous.

As no review that does not furnish a specimen of the author's matter can be altogether satisfactory, we shall extract one short story, premising that it is by no means the best in the volume. Want of space compels us to pass over the longer tales, of which "Hacon Grizzlebeard," "The Master Thief" (originally published in the Magazine), "Rich Peter the Pedlar," "Dapplegrim," and "The Twelve Wild Ducks," are, besides those which we have already mentioned, the most lively and characteristic; and we prefer giving a story which is clearly of Norse invention; not the echo, however pleasantly repeated, of some old European tradition.


"Once on a time there was a man up in Finnmark who had caught a great white bear, which he was going to take to the King of Denmark. Now it so fell out that he came to the Dovrefell just about Christmas Eve, and there he turned into a cottage where a man lived whose name was Halvor, and asked the man if he could get house-room there for his bear and himself.

"Heaven never help me, if what I say isn't true!' said the man; 'but we for every Christmas eve such a pack of can't give any one house-room just now, Trolls come down upon us, that we are forced to fit, and haven't so much as a house over our own heads, to say nothing of lending one to any one else.'

"Oh !' said the man, if that's all, you can very well lend me your house; my bear can lie under the stove yonder, and I can sleep in the side-room.

"Well, he begged so hard, that at last of the house flitted out, and before they he got leave to stay there; so the people went, everything was got ready for the Trolls; the tables were laid, and there was rice porridge, and fish boiled in lye, and sausages, and all else that was good, just as for any other grand feast.

"So when everything was ready, down came the Trolls. Some were great, and some were small; some had long tails, and some had no tails at all; some, too, had long, long noses; and they ate and drank, and tasted everything. Just then, one of the little Trolls caught sight of the white bear, who lay under the stove; so he took a piece of sausage and stuck it on a fork, and went and poked it up against the bear's nose, screaming

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again in the character of a Norse interpreter. In these days of literary activity every novelty has a charm; and there is one field open to legendary research which, so far as we know, remains still unexplored. We allude to Iceland, the mother country of the Sagas, which has provided and preserved the historical materials that throw so much light on the early movements of the northern nations, their vast enterprise and activity, and the extent of their conquests and explorations. Iceland, discovered and colonised so early as the ninth century, never disturbed by war, and never implicated in any European strife, has long enjoyed, especially among the other Scandinavians, a high literary reputation. In olden times it was peculiarly the country of the poet and the historian; the most famous of the Skalds were natives of Iceland; and it was the sole repository of Runic lore. Even now the acquirements and accomplishments of the people are much greater than could be expected from their isolation and apparent scantiness of means; and as they still adhere to their old customs and pastimes, cheering the long arctic nights with tale and song, we are entitled to believe that a rich legendary treasure would reward the efforts of an adventurous and competent collector.


THE session of Parliament has open ed under circumstances which are momentous, and may prove memorable. The present is a Reform Parliament. The successive pledges of the last half-dozen years are at last about to be redeemed, and by men unbound by pledges. What the Whigs promised, and promised again, yet never did more than promise, the Conservatives are about to fulfil. The question of Parliamentary Reform, which, ever since his fall in the beginning of 1852, Lord John Russell has attempted to trade on as a means of regaining his lost popularity, and which Lord Palmerston took up only that he might shirk it, Lord Derby

is resolved to deal with, that it may be settled. Was it this that gave to the opening of Parliament its unusual interest? Mr Bright had been doing his best to get up an agitation

holding meetings in half-a-dozen of the larger towns best affected to Radicalism-denouncing everything as wrong-exhorting the working classes to remember 1832, and warning them that unless they carried the agitation to "the brink of civil war," they need not even yet hope to obtain their "rightful heritage!" So that a stormy session may by some have been looked for, in which the very bases of the constitution would be shaken by the surges of Radical

ism, the House of Lords put an end to, and even our gracious Sovereign reduced to a tenure of good behaviour, or what might appear so in the eyes of Mr Bright. Notwithstanding all this, however, it was not Reform-it was not the pacific work of domestic improvement, that excited most attention in the Royal Address, or gave the tone to the debates which followed. It was the rumours of war coming thick and fast from the Continent, and the note of defensive preparation contained in the royal statement that it had become necessary "to reconstruct the British fleet." When had such an announcement been made before? What did it point to What were the urgent circumstances which called it forth now?

The year had opened ominously. For some weeks before the old year expired, rumours of unusual disaffection and incipient revolt had reached us from the Italian possessions of Austria-rumours, it was remarked, which were always magnified as they passed through Turin, and which were reproduced in their gravest form in the Parisian journals. At the same time Sardinia had been keeping up a larger army than needful, and at a review the King had brusquely exhorted the troops to maintain their efficiency, as they would be needed in spring. Sardinia seemed bent on exciting troubles; yet her power was so incommensurate with her obvious wish, that little uneasiness was created in the public mind, as it was felt that peace could not be broken so long as the great Powers were resolved to maintain it. And that view was a true one. But on New Year's Day a report suddenly flashed abroad that the French Emperor, while greeting cordially the representatives of all the other Powers, had addressed angry words to the ambassador of Austria, a report which at once embodied itself at Paris in a panic; and the sight of the French Funds dropping down five per cent was, like the sudden fall of mercury in a barometer, received by the European public as indicative of coming storms. The words actually spoken by the Emperor (and doubtless used by him with most perfect premeditation) might mean nothing

or everything; and the fact that they were immediately understood in the latter sense in Paris, seems to imply that this was the view adopted by those who were partially admitted to the secret thoughts of the Imperial mind. Days passed, and the panic continued, and every journal in Europe was commenting on this unexpected portent of troubles; yet the Moniteur was silent. Had the Emperor not been known to have been revolving in his mind the expediency of a quarrel with Austria, no such warlike meaning would have been attached to his words by those who were present and spread the report; or if the Emperor had felt himself misunderstood, and had desired to remove the warlike impression, the Moniteur would have spoken out immediately. But it kept silence. The Imperial ear wished to hear distinctly the echoes which his words awakened. And when at length a "note" did appear in the official journal, its language was not very reassuring: it seemed little else than the voice of one who, whatever his designs, wished to preserve the courtesies of imperial intercommunication. The facts, too, now began to corroborate the warlike meaning attached to the Emperor's words. The din of preparation became loud in every arsenal of France. The cannonfoundries were actively at work; whole regiments of soldiers were drafted from their ordinary duties to assist in the manufacture of cartridges; stores of biscuit, wine, and other commissariat supplies, began daily to arrive at Toulon and Marseilles; some batteries of the Emperor's new cannon, of which such marvels are reported, were placed ready for the field in the same arsenals; floating batteries on a new model were ordered to be constructed; transports were largely contracted for; the spare troops were ordered home from Algeria, and the men-ofwar were summoned to return from all quarters of the sea. Sardinia had been long engaged in similar preparations. And, to add to the fast-increasing disquietude, it was suddenly announced that a matrimonial alliance between the French and Sardinian Courts was about to be formed,

by the marriage of Prince Napoleon to the eldest daughter of King Victor Emmanuel. Hardly was the union announced ere it was consummated. The contracting parties were quite unknown to each other; yet so hurriedly was the affair carried through, that the Prince, who arrived in Turin on one Sunday, left it on the Sunday following with the young Princess as his wife. And on embarking at Genoa, Prince Napoleon assured the authorities who waited to pay their homage, that, "in evil fortune or in good, the two nations were now allied as well as the dynasties." Meanwhile General Niel, the first military engineer of France, and who had accompanied Prince Napoleon, paid visits of inspection to Alessandria and other Sardinian strong places, manifestly with a view to help with his advice the Sardinian generals, as well as be able to report precisely to his Imperial master as to the military resources of the Court of Turin. Very express rumours at the same time began to circulate, to the effect that a treaty had been concluded between France and Sardinia, the contents of which had, by these Powers, been communicated to, and approved of by Russia. "On the next day but one to that on which Prince Napoleon had his first interview with the Princess Clotilde," says the Independance Belge (a journal especially well informed in Russian diplomacy), "a secret treaty was signed by M. de Cavour, Minister for Foreign Affairs in Sardinia, on the one hand, and by General Niel, on behalf of the Emperor Napoleon, on the other." A statement which, we believe, will be found to be correct. Austria, of course, by this time had taken the alarm. She also was now busy with warlike preparations, hurrying fresh troops into Italy, reinforcing the garrisons of Ancona and other menaced points-erecting defences for the seaward front of Venice-placing troops in all her seaports of Istria-and summoning her few ships of war to return immediately to the Adriatic, in evident anticipation of being attacked in that quarter by the French fleet. She also came into the money market to raise a loan of £6,000,000, while

Sardinia was known to be about to adopt a similar course with a view to providing herself with the sinews of war.

Such was the aspect of affairs when the British Parliament opened on the 3d of February. A crisis so serious was too delicate a matter to be handled by the movers and seconders of the Address in either House; but no sooner was this comparatively routine portion of the proceedings gone through, than the chiefs of the Opposition rose to require from the Government information as to the exact position of affairs, and as to the line of policy which they were pursuing in regard to it. The subject is a momentous one-the question is only at its beginning, and it is important to note the views expressed on this occasion by the parliamentary leaders. Earl Granville, who introduced the subject, began by describing the state of Italy. "Your lordships," he said, "are all aware of the kind of government that exists in Naples. But with regard to that kingdom the case presents no complication; because it depends solely on a change of opinion in the ruler, who may yet call to his counsels some wise and influential minister, or may, in the natural course of events, be succeeded by his son, when it is quite possible that that which is now a bad government may be converted into a good one. With respect to Central Italy the question is very different. I have lately come from the capital of the Papal States, and... it is undoubtedly the fact that the entire lay population of these States are, almost to a man, hostile to the polity under which they now live." Coming to Lombardo-Venetian provinces of Austria, he said that the evils of a rigorous rule which they experienced were common to the majority of the Continental nations;" that some of the evils complained of by the Lombards were, "he would not say sentimental, but hardly of a very practical nature; and that "their internal government is certainly better cared for than that of any part of Southern Italy. But," he continued, "it is not for us to discuss whether Lombardy might or might not be better governed;" for "these provinces belong to Austria under treaties

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