Abbildungen der Seite

peaceful dwellers on hill or plain; the land was sparsely peopled, while ocean swarmed with the “nailed ships” of the sons of Odin. The restless, the ambitious, the disappointed, rushed upon the sea, exulting in the skill which to them rendered mists and storms a friendly shelter, and revelling in the plunder which they tore without compunction, not only from the then slender commerce of nations, but from the quiet fertile fields of the English or French husbandman. Nay, the mighty Charlemagne wept as he beheld their ill-omened vessels sweeping up the Mediterranean, and the fair coasts of Greece did not escape their ravages.

We must pass unnoticed Frithiof's Apostrophe to the broad, unsettered Sea, to his Father's Tomb, his Farewell to the North, and his Code of Regulations for his Warriors. The poet has here embodied in a few stanzas the fierce laws, by which the Scandinavian bands of corsairs were held in bloody cohesion; for true is it, that no form of society can be utterly lawless.

The reckless youth wanders over the deep, winning much gold, which he despises, and a horrid fame, which cannot make him happy. He looks on the marble temples of Greece, and remembers Ingeborg, whom he had vainly wooed to these sunny realms; he pines for the bleak hills of the North, thinks of the tree he had planted on his father's grave, and at last, finding no relief from his wretchedness in this fearful species of exile, with the vane at his mast-head blowing towards the north, he again cuts through the German ocean.

In disguise he visits the court of King Ring, to look once more on his lost one; she recognises him, and “Swist on Ingeborg's cheek the roses come and go,

Changing its hue like northern light reflected on the snow.” In spite of the warnings of Frithiof, Ring sets forth with his young queen in a sledge upon the frozen lake ; the ice bursts, and Frithiof, who is beside them, “steel-shod,” rescues both from a watery grave. He afterwards accompanies the monarch in the chase, and resists a terrible, tempting opportunity to slay his aged rival, which is very poetically told. King Ring knows the young man's trial, but his words of approbation cannot cheer the 'withered heart. Still, conscience-stung and restless, Frithiof resolves to seek the ocean once more, and there perish; when lo! King Ring, scorning to die of mere old age, and bent on following “his great forefathers' law," calls for a sword, and

but our

deliberately cutting his veins to Odin, bequeathing his queen to Frithiof, and his kingdom, too, in trust for his infant son, - dies triumphantly and opportunely. This seems to us an abrupt and shocking way of extricating a hero from his perplexities ; though the nodus" is assuredly“ dignus vindice; poet is borne out by the spirit of the times when King Ring Aourished. It is well known that many a Scandinavian warrior so fell, who found himself in danger of dying ignobly “on straw."

The “ Ting,” or national council, is held in the open air, to which the peasantry flock, armed; they choose the boy for their future king, bidding Frithiof marry the widowed Ingeborg, and rule till the child is of age. Frithiof dares not obey till he has consulted the Nornas, or Fates. His unenlightened conscience pursues him with reproaches, not for his piratical career, but for the frantic and partly accidental act of violence which had laid a temple in ashes ; so false are the distinctions between vice and virtue in the heart of the heathen..

He hastens to the green mound where his father lies buried, and there in sight of the ruined fane, pours forth his heartfelt contrition till sunset, when, floating over the western wave,

"A vision draweth near of mingled fire and gold.” It assumes the form of a gorgeous temple, and descends upon the site of the blackened shrine;

" And see! where leaning on their shields they pause,

The solemn Nornas at the temple's base,
Like three fair roses in a single vase,

A serious beauty beaming from each face." Frithiof comprehends the vision, and rejoices in the hope, that by deeds of peace he may atone for youthful crimes. His first act of power is to rebuild the temple with splendor; and at-its dedication the High Priest delivers to him an exhortation, containing much of the doctrines of that remarkable compilation, the Edda. After a beautiful allusion to the approaching religion of Christ, whose tomb, he says, lies " under distant palmtrees,” but the fame of whose peaceful doctrines has reached him, he boldly rebukes the proud, wrathful, and vengeful spirit of Frithiof. He tells him that to little purpose hath he rebuilt the temple, unless he make expiation within his own breast, by sacrificing all anger and hatred. Then announcing the death of Helge, he bids the penitent reconcile himself with Halfdan, who enters through the gate of bronze, hesitating and silent. The hero promptly obeys; the ban which had hung over him is dissolved; Ingeborg suddenly advances in bridal array, and their hands are joined in the glittering, newly-consecrated temple.

That Tegner is a man of genius none can doubt, who read “ Frithiof's Saga,” even through the medium of a translation. of the accuracy of the translation we have no means of judging. But if we admire the glowing imagination of the poet, pouring forth a redundancy of images and illustrations like a fountain of fire, corruscating like the Aurora Borealis of his native skies, still deeper homage do we pay to his fine moral sense, which has portrayed a character so exalted as that of Ingeborg. The narrative is beautifully pure; the contrasts of character well managed ; that between the brothers Helge and Halfdan, though the latter be only an outline, is distinct; and that between Frithiof and Ingeborg, both true to nature and well sustained. Her gentleness, her integrity, her tenderness of conscience, that loveliest trait of innocence, and her firmness of purpose, are so mingled with a womanly strength of affection, as to raise her far above the ordinary standard of heroines. Indeed, a common-place poet or novelist would have disposed of her very differently; and instead of wedding her to King Ring, would have striven to interest us by her sufferings in a mad flight with her lover ; or would have bidden us weep over the fair and youthful self-murderess. Tegner has painted one who can rule herself

, despising the romantic and dangerous sentiment, on which so many bewitching fictions have been based, so much real usefulness and happiness wrecked. Frithiof, on the other hand, stands forth, the wild and fiery child of impulse ; headstrong and headlong, he listens only to the first hasty promptings from within ; and well has Tegner painted the ever recurring regrets, the outward violence, the inward restlessness and misery of such a being. We think, therefore, that this poem has a moral, and a fine one. If there be an anachronism in the production, it is the pervading one of carrying on the action in a pagan land, with pagan agents, yet allowing the whole poem to breathe a Christian spirit, a Christian moral. But we cannot quarrel with our author for this; our hearts tell us he has done right. And he may, indeed, plead that he has carefully abstained from representing Frithiof as enduring remorse on account of his piracies ; that he has but followed tradition and legend, which assign to the women of the ancient North many exalted traits, (beautifully developed afterwards in the Anglo-Saxon princesses, who were the first Christian converts of their country,) and that he has borrowed most of his direct moral axioms from the Edda itself.

And now we part from him gratefully, musing over what the world was before Christianity came into it; and what it would be should Christianity soar away, and leave it to its own lights of reason. Should the God-enkindled sun be quenched, what flame that mortal hand might light could supply its place? He has set the distant stars in the firmament; but would their rays give man sufficient light and heat ?

These thoughts are not so apt to be roused by the fables of classic mythology, because with their horrors and absurdities we have been familiar from youth ; they have ceased to startle. But, as we rose from this Swedish poem, in which, as we remarked before, is exemplified the actual operation of a religion, which sprang from man's own upward impulses, and grew up in his unaided soul, and which once ruled succeeding generations over many a wide country, our own remote ancestors, how pure, lovely, transcendant, and perfect seemed to us the doctrines of Jesus of Nazareth! Who would dare risk the consequences of reverting to those days, of being thrown back upon the 66 instincts and intuitions” of his nature ? Who can endure that a single stone should be thrown at the faith which had the power to supersede superstitions, deep-seated as they were borrible, and to teach men to conquer their passions instead of deifying them, when no competent substitute is offered? And who can help fearing that if the religion of all enlightened men could possibly become Pantheism, monstrous Polytheism would inevitably be that of the ignorant and less intellectual ?

L. J. P.

Art. V.- Eighth Annual Report of the Trustees of the

Perkins Institution and Massachusetts Asylum for the Blind, to the Corporation. Boston : John H. Eastburn. 1840.

This pamphlet, though of an unpretending size and form, contains matter interesting and useful to the philanthropist and the philosopher. It renders an account of sums placed in the hands of the Trustees of the Perkins Institution for the Instruction of the Blind, and briefly states some of the results which have followed the employment of these funds, bestowed by the generosity of private individuals, or the munificence of the state.

The art of introducing knowledge into minds, shut against its entrance by the privation of one or more of the senses, (those indispensable avenues to intelligence,) has a strong claim to our attention. To learn its method, to contemplate its results, cannot but be interesting to those, who have at heart the improvement and the happiness of their fellow-creatures. The records of this and similar institutions would unfold to us tales of thrilling interest, not surpassed by those of the novelist ; and histories of the pursuit of knowledge under difficulties, as astonishing and as replete with encouragement as any we now possess. Here we shall find cases in which the rational powers have been awakened, as it were, from a deep sleep, and the individual put in possession of all the independence and delight which accompany their exercise. Within that dull and listless exterior dwelt the spirit in its godlike power, formed to look back on the past, and gather up its wisdom, to pierce the future, and anticfpate and accomplish its glorious results, endowed with the prerogative of investigating the secrets of nature, learning her laws, commanding her powers, performing her works; but this spirit is imprisoned, its eye is closed, or its ear is dead. The heart is there, it throbs in that bosom with undefined desires, but it has no language to tell its emotions, it sees not the answering glow, it hears not the affectionate voice. These beings are neglected, except by the fvery few, on whom the ties of consanguinity or the laws of common benevolence impose the task of supplying their immediate wants. Fetters are on their souls, the bright world of knowledge and of love forever barred. The steps by which the spirit is released from bondage, re

« ZurückWeiter »