Page images
PDF
EPUB

The work begins with the names of the Twelve Gods, which SNORRO produces a fresh, in order to range under each their several epithets, and synony: mous appellations. Odin'alone has one hundred and twenty-six; wħerice we may judĝe of the number of ancient Poems, which had been written to celebrate this Deity. I shall present the Reader with a few of those Epithets, selecting such as have not already occurred in the EDDA

ÖDIN, the Father of the Ages; the Supercilious ; « the Eagle; the Father of Verses ; the Whirlwind'; “ the Incendiary; he who causes the arrows to show“ er down," &c.

THOR is designed by twelve Epithets; the most common is that of « The Son of Odin and the Earth.”

LOKE is stiled, " The Father of the Great Serpent; < the Father of Death; the Adversary, the Accuser, “ the Deceiver of the Gods," &c. FRIGGA' is c The

e Queen of the Gods." FREYA, “The Goddess of Love; the Nórne, or

Fairy, who'weeps Golden tears ; the Kind and Li"iberal Goddess," &c.

After these Epithets of the Gods, follows an alphabetical list of the Words most commonly used in Poè: trg. Some of them unintelligible, some ap

e non pear insipid, and others are like those idle Epithets of the ancient Classics, which follow a word as constantly as the shadedoes the body, and are introduced rather to fill up the measure of the verše, than to add to the sense.

Some are nevertheless worth knowing, were it only for their singularity. For instance, RIVER'S are called by the SCALDSSO

the sweat of the earth;" and the blood of the vallies.” ARROWS are “ the daughters of Misfortune';*" tħe' hailstones <s of helmets." The BATTLE-AXE is « the hand of

the

1

the Homicide, or Slaughterer: The EYE, “ the « torch, or flambeau of the countenance ;" “ the dias6 mond of the head.” The GRASS and HERBAGE, « the hair and the fleece of the earth.” HAIR, “ the

forest of the head" and if it be white, “the snow w of the 'brain.” The EARTH is," the vessel that « floats on the ages;" " the basis, or foundation of so the air ;" “ the daughter of the night.” NIGHT, << the veil of discourse and cares.” A COMBAT," the “ crash of arms; the shower of darts; the clangor of < swords; the bath of blood.” The SEA iş " the « field of pirates :" A SHIP," their skate,” and “the « horse of the waves."

Rocks are

o the bones of « the earth.” The Wind is “ the tiger, the lion, “ who darts himself upon the houses and vessels," &c. &c.

SNORRO'S work, as published by Resenius, concludes with this collection of Epithets; but in the old MS. preserved at Upsal, and in some others, we find at the end of this Dictionary a small Treatise, by the same Author, on the Construction and Mechanism of the Gothic or Icelandic Metre. If we had a greater number of the ancient Celtic verses remaining, this work would be extremely valuable ; since it would then facilitate the knowledge of a species of Poetry which might serve to many useful purposes: but it has the misfortune to have become exceedingly obseure. However, as some persons of distinguished learning haye undertaken to explain it, there is room to hope that such curious Readers as are fond of researches of this kind, will shortly have nothing wanting to gratify their desires on this subject.

What we know of it at present is, that their of Versification consisted in combining together a number of syllables, with a regular repetition of the same letter at the beginning or end of each verse, at once re

sembling

sembling the nature of our modern Versification with rhyme, and the taste for acrostics. Were this inquiry to be traced very far back, I believe we should find the original or model of this sort of Mechanism, to have been taken from some eastern nation, either from the ancient Persians or the Hebrews. The Hebrew poetry abounded with acrostics of various kinds. The same are found in all the ancient Odes of our Icelandic Scalds. It is equally probable, that the verses of the BARDS, those ancient British and Gallic Poets, were of the same kind: some few fragments which we have of the poetry of Gaul or Bas Bretagne, put this matter out of doubt. The fact is still more certain with regard to such verses of the Anglo-Saxons as have been handed down to us.

REMARKS ON THE FOREGOING PASSAGE.

Our ingenious Author appears to me to have here thrown together several things, in their nature very different, without sufficient discrimination.

In the first place it may be remarked, that even if we should admit that the LOGOGRYPHS of the Icelandic Scalds *, are composed in a taste not very different from that of the Hebrew ACROSTICS; yet these Acrostics ought by no means to be confounded with the ALLITERATIONS of the Runic or Scaldic Metre; for these are as natural to the Icelandic verse, as Dactyl and Spondee feet are to the Greek and Latin numbers f. So that I must beg leave to differ from

my

* See Vol. I. p. 338.-Wormii Literatura Runica, p. 183. 4to. + Vid. Vol. I. p. 336.

my Author, in thinking the Alliterative Metre of the Scalds similar either to the Taste for Acrostics, or our modern Rhyme. Not but the Scalds often used Rhyme in the same manner as the moderns, and that with very nice exactness*.

But granting that the Icelandic Scalds often composed little artificial poems, much in the taste of the Hebrew Acrostics, I fear it will be going too far, to fetch their Original from those of the Hebrews; for it may be safely affirmed, That all nations (without deriving it from each other) have, in the infancy of taste, run into all the species of False Wit. The Chinese, for example, deal in many little artificial forms of poetry, very much resembling the Rondeaus and Madrigals so current among the French and us in the last age t, and yet neither party will be suspected of imitation. So again, some of the other eastern nations have innumerable small poems, very mechanically disposed into the shapes of Ovals, Lozenges, and other mathematical figures I, exactly parallel to the Eggs,

Wings,

* See the Icelandic original of 4to, p. 77, 78. The writer (one EGILL'S ODE, among the “ Five Puttenham) says, These are in “ Pieces of Runic poetry,” 8vo. great request among the Sultans p. 92.-Vid. Vol. I. p. 334, Noce, of Tarcary, Persia, and the Indies,

f See Specimens of Chinese (and even the Chinese) who often. Poetry (the Rhymes of which are make presents to their ladies of very artificially disposed) at the poems arranged in these forms; end of the Translation of a Chi- the letters of which are composed nese novel, intitled, Hau Kiou of diamonds, rubies, &c.This Choaan, &c. 4 Vol. 12mo. 1761. sort of gallantry is also practised

# The Reader may find many of in Turkey, as we learn from Lady these little mechanic Trifles trans- Mary Wortley Montague's LET. lated into English, in an ancient TERS, Vol. II]. Letter XL. Art or ENGLISH Poesie, 1589, Vol. II.

T

Wings, and Axes of some of the Greek minor Poets; yet both sides may be acquitted from the suspicion of stealing this happy invention from each other. Upon the whole, therefore, I much doubt whether we ought to attribute the Icelandic attempts of this kind either to a Persic or Hebrew origin, even though some of the first emigrations of the northern people may be allow.. ed to come from the neighbourhood of Persia.

As to the Anglo-Saxon and Icelandic poetry, these will be allowed to be in all respects congenial, because of the great affinity between the twa languages, and between the nations who spoke them. They were both Gothic Tribes, and used two not very different dialects of the same Gothic language. Accordingly, we find a very strong resemblance in their versifica, tion, phraseology, and poetic allusions, &c. the same being in a great measure common to both nations *.

But there is also a resemblance between the laws of versification adopted by the British Bards, and those observed by the Icelandic Scalds ; at least so far as this, that the metre of them both is of the alliterative kind , and yet there does not appear to be the least affinity in the two languages, or in the origin of the two nations. But this resemblance of metre, I think, may in part be accounted for on general philosophical principles, arising from the nature of both languages t, and in part from that intercourse which was unavoidably produced between both nations in the wars and piratical irruptions of the northern nations; whose Scalds, as we learn from Torfæus I, were respected

and

* Compare the Anglo Saxon the Scaldic poems. See also Re. Ode on Athelstan's Victory, pre- liques of Anc. Eng. Poerry, Vol. served in the Saxon Chronicle, 11. p. 268, 269. 2d Edit. T. (Ann. DCCCCXXXVIII. beginning, † See Vol. I. p. 336. the latter Apelrean cỳning, &c. Gibson. part of the Note. Edit. 1692. p. 112.) with any of * Præfat. ad Hist. Orcad. folio.

« PreviousContinue »