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containing the ancient traditionary stories of the country, were found engraven upon rocks in the old Runic character, several of which he has translated into Latin, and inserted into his His. tory.
But his versions are plainly so paraphrastical, and forced into such an imitation of the style and the measures of the Roman poets, that one can form no judgment from them of the native spirit of the original. A more curious monument of the true Gothic poetry is preserved by Olaus Wormius in his book de Literatura Runica. It is an epicedium, or funeral song, composed by Regner Lodbrog, and trans. lated hy Olaus, word for word, from the original. This Lodbrog was a king of Denmark, who lived in the eighth century, famous for his wars and victories; and at the same time an ominent scalder, or poet. It was his misfortune to fall at last into the hands of one of his ene. mies, by whom he was thrown into prison, and condemned to be destroyed by serpents. In this situation, he solaced himself with rehears. ing all the exploits of his life. The poem is divided into twenty-nine stanzas, of ten lines each ; and every stanza begins with these words, • Pugnavimus ensibus,' We have fought with our swords. Olaus' version is in many places so obscure as to be hardly intelligible. I have subjoined the whole below, exactly as he has published it;* and shall translate as much as may give the English reader an idea of the spirit and strain of this kind of poetry.
• We have fought with our swords. I was young, when, towards the east, in the bay of Oreon, we made torrents of blood flow, to gorge the ravenous beast of prey, and the yellow.footed bird. There resounded the hard steel upon the lofty helmets of men. The whole ocean was one wound. The crow waded in the blood of the slain. When we had numbered twenty years, we lifted our spears on high, and every where spread our renown. Eight barons we overcame in the east, before the port of Diminum ; and plentifully we feasted the eagle in that slaughter. The warm stream of wounds ran into the ocean. The
* See the note at the end of the Dissertation.
fell before us. When we steered our ships into the mouth or the Vistula, we sent the Helsingians to the hal of Odin. Then did the sword bite. The waters were all one wound. The earth was dyed red with the warm stream. The sword rung upon the coats of mail, and clove the bucklers in twain. None fled on that day, till among his ships Heraudus fell. Than him no braver baron cleaves the sea with ships ; a cheerful heart did he ever bring to the combat. Then the host threw away their shields, when the uplifted spear flew at the breast of heroes. The sword bit the Scarfian rocks; bloody was the shield in battle, until Rafro the king was slain. From the heads of warriors the warm sweat streamed down their armour. The crows around the Indirian islands had an ample prey. It were difficult to single out one among so many deaths. At the rising of the sun I beheld the spears piercing the bodies of foes, and the bows throwing forth their steel-pointed arrows. Loud roared the swords in the plains of Lano.— The virgin long bewailed the slaughter of that morn. ing.'- In this strain the poet continues to de scribe several other military exploits. The ima ges are not much varied : the noise of arms, the streaming of blood, and the feasting the birds of prey often recurring. He mentions the death of two of his sons in battle ; and the lamentation he describes as made for one of them is very singular. A Grecian or a Roman poet would have introduced the virgins or nymphs of the wood bewailing the untimely fall of a young hero. But, says our Gothic poet, · When Rogvaldus was slain, for him mourned all the hawks of heaven,' as lamenting a benefactor who had so liberally supplied them with prey; for boldly,' as he adds, in the strife of swords did the breaker of helmets throw the spear of blood.'
The poem concludes with sentiments of the highest bravery and contempt of death. • What is more certain to the brave man than death, though amidst the storm of swords he stands always ready to oppose it? He only regrets this life who hath never known distress. The timorous man allures the devouring eagle to the field of battle. The coward, wherever he comes, is useless to himself. This I esteem honourable, that the youth should advance to the combat fairly matched one against another ; nor man retreat from man. Long was this the warrior's highest glory. He who aspires to the love of virgins, ought always to be foremost in the roar of arms. It appears to me, of truth, that we are led by the Fates. Seldom can any overcome the appointment of destiny. Little did I foresee that Ella was to have my life in his hands, in that day when fainting I concealed my blood, and pushed forth my ships into the waves; after we had spread a repast for the beasts of prey throughout the Scottish bays. But this makes me always rejoice, that in the halls of our father Balder (or Odin! I know there are seats prepared, where, in a short time, we shall be drinking ale out of the hollow skulls of our enemies. the house of the mighty Odin, no brave man laments death. I come not with the voice of despair to Odin's hall. How eagerly would all the sons of Aslauga now rush to war, did they know the distress of their father, whom a multitude of venomous serpents tear! I have given to my children a mother who hath filled their hearts with valour.
I am fast approaching to my end. A cruel death awaits me from the viper's bite. A snake dwells in the midst of my heart. I hope that the sword of some of my sons shall yet be stained with the blood of Ella. The valiant youths will wax red with anger, and will not sit in peace. Fifty and one times have I reared the standard in battle. In my youth I learned to dye the sword in blood : my hope was then that no king among men would be more renowned than me. The goddesses of death will now soon call me; I must not mourn my death. Now I end my song. The goddesses invite me away; they whom Odin has sent to me from his hall. I will sit upon a lofty seat, and drink ale joyfully with the goddesses of death. The hours of my life are run out. I will smile when I die.'
This is such poetry as we might expect from a barbarous nation. It breathes a most ferocious spirit. It is wild, harsh, and irregular ; but at the same time animated and strong; the style in the original, full of inversions, and, as we learn from some of Olaus's notes, highly metaphorical and figured.
But when we open the works of Ossian, a very different scene presents itself. There we find the fire and enthusiasm of the most early times, combined with an amazing degree of regularity and art. We find tenderness, and even delicacy of sentiment, greatly predominant over fierceness and barbarity. Our hearts are melted with the softest feelings, and at the same time elevated with the highest ideas of magnani, mity, generosity, and true heroism.
When we turn from the poetry of Lodbrog to that of Oss
sian, it is like passing from a savage desert into a fertile and cultivated country. How is this to be accounted for? or by what means to be reconciled with the remote antiquity attributed to these poems? This is a curious point, and requires to be illustrated.
That the ancient Scots were of Celtic origi. nal, is past all doubt.
Their conformity with the Celtic nations in language, manners, and religion, proves it to a full demonstration. The Celtæ, a great and mighty people, altogether distinct from the Goths and Teutones, once ex. tended their dominion over all the west of Europe ; but seem to have had their most full and complete establishment in Gaul. Wherever the Celtæ or Gauls are mentioned by ancient writers, we seldom fail to hear of their Druids and their Bards; the institution of which two orders was the capital distinction of their manners and policy. The druids was their philosophers and priests; the bards their poets and recorders of heroic actions; and both these orders of men seem to have subsisted among them, as chief members of the state, from time immemorial. We must not therefore imagine the Celtæ to have been altogether a gross and rude nation. They possessed from very remote ages a formed system of discipline and manners, which appears to have had a deep and lasting influence. Ammianus Marcellinus gives them this express testimony, that there fourished among them the study of the most laudable arts; introduced by the bards, whose office it was to sing in heroic verse the gailant actions of illustrious men : and by the druids, who lived together in col. leges, or societies, after the Pythagorean manner, und, philosophizing upon the highest subjects, asserted the immortality of the human soul. Though Julius Cæsar, in his account of