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and power, were the foundation of this ubiquitous domination. The vessels of the Northmen were substantially built of the most durable timber; were constructed with covered decks; and their mariners were the first who learned the art of sailing on a wind. The sea was their home. When the head of a family died, it is said that his sons cast lots for his inheritance. He that gained the lot occupied the paternal estate; for the rest of the sons,
66 Their march was on the mountain wave
“They were among the last of the inhabitants of Europe who embraced the Christian religion; and their barbarous faith, their ruthless mode of warfare, and their professed contempt of the laws of nations, which were respected by the population of Christendom, made the name of the Vikingårs terrible in the ears of the civilized world. The period assigned for the discovery of our coast, by their navigators, was perhaps that, at which their power was at its height of development. The cold and cheerless sea, which stretches from the Arctic coast of America to Norway, and entire expanse of the Atlantic, with its encompassed islands down to the Azores, was one great theatre of their activity. The discovery of America is supposed to have taken place in the year 1000. This was but a century after Rollo made the conquest of Normandy; in 1060 we find one Norman prince established in Apulia; and six years after, another conquers England, and founds the present line of British sovereigns. It is plain that no achievement of naval adventure, related of such a people, can be considered beyond the line of probability.”
The Northmen, though rude and barbarous, were by no means an illiterate people. From the earliest times of their history, they had their Skalds, who, like the rhapsodists of ancient Greece, and the bards of the Celtic tribes, were at the same time their poets and historians. Even before their conversion to Christianity they were acquainted with the use of letters; and, though it is probable that the Runes, as their letters were termed, were used for the purpose of_inscriptions only; yet immediately on the introduction of the Latin letters, with the Romish religion, these, which were used elsewhere only to write a dead language, were employed by learned men among the Northmen to express the sounds which had been before expressed by the Runic characters, and to write their own vernacular tongue. Their conversion to Christianity was
nearly contemporary with the period in which the discovery of America is said to have been made; and with that era commenced also the reduction to writing of the poetical and historical lore of the Scalds. So, if this was the period the most favorable for a supposed discovery, of the nature of the one attributed to the Northmen, it was also a period in which such an event would be likely to be chronicled, and to be made the theme of story and of song. This we find accordingly to have been the case. But we will hasten to give our readers an abstract of the voyages and discoveries related in the work before us, from which we have already detained them sufficiently long.
Eric Rufus, or Eric the Red, emigrating from Iceland, in the spring of 986, formed a settleinent in Greenland at Ericsford; accompanied, among others, by Heriulf Bardson, who established himself at Heriulfsnes. Biarne, son of the latter, returning to Iceland from a trading voyage to Norway, and finding his father gone, determined to follow him, and spend the winter with him in Greenland, though neither he nor any of his people had ever navigated the Greenland sea. He set sail, but met with northerly winds and fogs, and was driven for niany days, he knew not whither. When the weather again cleared up, he and his company saw a land which was without mountains, overgrown with wood, and having many gentle elevations, and altogether so different in appearance from Greenland, as it had been described to him, that they did not land; but, changing their course, and leaving this country on the larboard continued sailing for two days, when they saw another land which was flat and overgrown with wood. From thence they stood out to sea, and after sailing three days with a S.W. wind, discovered a third land, which was high and mountainous and covered with icebergs, (glaciers.) Coasting along the shore, it proved to be an island, and so uninviting in aspect, that they did not land : and bearing away, stood out to sea with the same wind, and after four days sailing with fresh gales, reached Heriulfsnes in Greenland.
Sometime after this, and, as is supposed, in the year 994, Biarne paid a visit to Eric earl of Norway, and told him of his voyage and discoveries. He was blamed by many for not having examined these countries more particularly. On his return to Greenland there was much talk of pursuing his discoveries; and Leif, a son of Eric the Red, bought his ship and
* For a further account of the Northmen, their character, history, and literature, we would refer the reader to the valuable “ History of the Northmen,” by Henry Wheaton, Minister of the United States åt Berlin.
equipped it with thirty-five men, among whom was a German named Tyrker, who had long resided in the family of his father. In the year 1000 they embarked on the projected voyage, and came first to what they supposed to be the land which Biarne had seen last. They cast anchor, and went on shore to examine the country. No grass was seen, but every where in this country were vast ice-mountains (glaciers), and the intermediate space between these and the shore, was, as it were, one uniform plain of slate,” (hella, in the Icelandic.) They therefore named it Helluland. Putting out to sea they came to another land, which was level (slètt), and covered with woods,' with numerous "cliffs of white sand (sandar hvitir) and a low coast (ósce bratt.' They named the country Markland (Woodland.) The editor of the volume identifies Helluland with Newfoundland, and Markland with Nova Scotia. Standing out to sea again, with a north-east wind, after sailing two days they made land, and discovered an island to the eastward of the main land, and entered a channel between this island and a tongue of land (lingula) projecting in an easterly and northerly direction from the main land. Sailing westward they passed the cape, and came where they found much land left dry at ebbtide. Here, at low-tide they went on shore at a place where a river, issuing from a lake, fell into the sea.On the return of the tide, they brought the ship first into the river, then into the lake, where they anchored. They then erected temporary huts on the shore; and afterwards, when they had finally resolved to winter in the place, they built larger houses. In the river and the lake salmon were found in great abundance, and of a larger size than they had ever before
The soil was so prolific that it appeared that flocks could not need to be fed in the winter, no storms of snow falling, and the grass becoming but little withered. There too the days were more nearly equal than in Greenland or Iceland; on the shortest day, “the sun continuing above the horizon from half.past seven before noon till half-past four in the afternoon.” Leif divided his men into two companies, which were alternately to guard the houses and to explore the country: He counselled them not to go farther than they might be able to return in the same evening, nor to become separated from one another. One evening it happened that the German Tyrker was missing. Leif accordingly set out with twelve men in search of him, but they had not gone far before they met him coming towards them. In reply to enquiries as to the cause of his absence, he answered first in German, and then, seeing that they did not understand him, in the Norse tongue:
“I did not go much farther, yet I have a discovery for you; I have found vines and grapes.” “Is this true?" said Leif. "It certainly is,” said the German; “for I was bred where an abundance of wines and grapes never fails." They now employed themselves in hewing timber for loading the ship, and in collecting grapes, with which they filled the ship's boat. Leif called the country VINLAND; (Vineland.) In the spring they returned to Greenland. The editor of the work identifies the island last mentioned with Nantucket, and the region called Vineland with the states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The astronomical observation above recorded, making the shortest day in winter nine hours long, gives for the place the latitude of 41 deg. 24 m. 10 sec.
In the year 1002, Thorwald, not being satisfied with the discoveries of Leif his brother, borrowed his ship and embarked with thirty companions to Vineland. They reached the country in safety, and passed the winter in the same spot where Leif had done before them, and in the huts he had erected, which were called "Leifsbooths,” (Leifsbúda). Early the next spring they set out to explore the country along the Western shore, and did not return to Leifsbooths till autumn. They found it beautiful, covered with wood, and a narrow space between the forest and the sea, abounding with white sand. The sea contained numerous islands and shallows. They nowhere saw any habitations of men or wild beasts, nor traces of men except on an island far westward, where they found a cornshed of wood. The succeeding summer, Thorwald, taking with him in the ship such commodities for trade as he had, .coasted along the eastern shore, and came round the land on the North side.' Visited by a severe storm opposite a certain cape, they were driven ashore, and had the keel of their ship broken. Here they delayed a long time refitting their ship, and setting up their broken keel; they called the point Kialarnes (Keel-cape). Sailing past the headland from the east, they enter the nearest friths, and approach a promontory there projecting, all overgrown with wood. Near this they came to anchor, and Thorwald went on shore with all his companions. He was so much delighted with the spot, that he exclaimed, “this is pleasant, and here I could wish to fix my dwelling." Returning to the ship, they saw three hillocks on the sand within the promontory, and found there three canoes, and under each three men. These they called Skrellings (Esquimaux.) They seized and killed all of them but one, who escaped with his canoe. Looking around them they saw along the frith other hillocks, which they thought to be habitations. After this it happened,
when they had fallen into a very sound sleep, that they were all aroused by a clamor and the approach of a vast number of canoes, filled with Skrellings, who attacked them by hurling missiles. Thorwald's party protected themselves by raising battle screens upon the ship's side. The Skrellings were soon beaten off, but Thorwald had been wounded by an arrow under the arm. Finding the wound mortal, he said: “I now advise you to prepare for your departure as soon as possible; but me ye shall bring to the promontory, where I thought it good to dwell. It may be that it was a prophetic word that fell from my mouth about my abiding there for a season.There shall ye bury me, and plant a cross at my head and also at my feet, and call the place Krossanes in all coming time." Professor Rafn supposes Keel-cape to be the present Cape Cod, and Krossanes, where Thorwald was buried, to be Gurnet Point, opposite Plymouth. From considerable familiarity with those localities, and from an attentive perusal of the narrative of the voyage of Thorwald, we think he has fixed the spot very accurately.
The voyage of Thorstein, Eric's third son, to Vineland, to bring back the body of his brother, we pass over; as the narrative is short, and less interesting than the paper following, which is an account of a settlement effected in Vineland by Thorfinn, a wealthy and powerful man of illustrious birth. In the spring of 1007, an expedition set sail from Greenland for Vineland, consisting of three ships, one commanded by Thorfinn, attended by Snorre Thorbandson, the second by Biarne Grimolfson and Thorhall Gamlason; and the third by Thorward, who was accompanied by his wife Freydisa, a natural daughter of Eric the Red. On the ship of the latter was a man of the name of Thorhall, who had long served Eric, as huntsman in summer and as house-steward in winter, and who was much acquainted with the uncolonized parts of Greenland. Thorfinn also was accompanied by his wife, who was a sister-inlaw of Leif. They numbered in all one hundred and sixty men. They took with them all kinds of live stock, intending, if possible, to establish a colony in Vineland. They sailed first to Westerbygd and then to Biarney (Disco,) in Greenland; and then sailed for a night and a day in a southerly direction, when they discovered land, and sent a boat ashore to explore it.. They found,' says the narrative, élarge flat stones, many of them twelve ells (duodecim ulna) broad, and also a great num. ber of foxes.' This proved to be Helluland, before discovered by Leif. From thence they sailed again in a southerly direction a night and a day, and reached Markland (Woodland,)