Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

HESE Fragments of the Ancient EDDA are foi

lowed, in the Edition of Resenius, by a little Poem, called The RunIC CHAPTER, or The MAGIC OF ODIN. I have before observed, that the Conqueror, who usurped this name, attributed to himself the invention of Letters ; of which they had not probably any idea in Scandinavia before his time. But although this noble árt is sufficiently wonderful in itself to attract the veneration of an ignorant people towards the teacher of it; yet Odin caused it to be regarded as the Art of MAGIC, by way of excellence, the art of working all sorts of miracles: whether it was that this new piece of fallacy was subservient to his ambition, or whether he himself was barbarous enough to think there was something supernatural in writing. He speaks, at least in the following Poem, like a man who would make it so believed.

O you know (says he) how to engrave Runic

[ocr errors]

procure them? how to prove their virtue?" He then goes on to enumerate the wonders he could perform, either by means of these letters, or by the operations of poetry

« * I am, possessed of songs : such as neither the spouse' of a king, nor any son of man can repeat;

one of them is called the HELPER: it will HELP “ thee at thy need, in sickness, grief, and all adversi


“I know a Song, which the sons of men ought to “sing, if they would become skilful physicians.

[ocr errors][merged small]

« * I know a Song, by which I soften and enchant " the arms of my enemies, and render their weapons 56 of none effect.

« I know, a Song, which I need only to sing when « men have loaded me with bonds.; for the moment I « sing it, my chains fall in pieces, and I walk forth at

« liberty.

“ I know a Song, useful to all mankind; for as

soon as hatred inflames the sons of men, the mo« ment I sing it they are appeased.

" I know a Song, of such virtue, that were I caught 66 in a storm, I can hush: the winds, and render the « air perfectly calm.”

One may remark upon this last prerogative of the verses known to Odin, that among all the Gothic and · Celtic nations, the Magicians claimed a power over the Winds and Tempests. Pomponius Mela tells us, that in an island on the coast of Bretagne (he probably means the Isle of SAINTS, opposite to Brest) there were priestesses, separated from the rest of the people, who were regarded as the Goddesses of Navigation, because they had the winds and tempests at their disposal. There are penal statutes in the Capitularies of Charlemagne, in the canons of several couna cils, and in the ancient laws of Norway, against such as raise storms and tempests; Tempestarii is the name there given them. There were formerly of these impostors on the coasts of Norway, as there are at present on those of Lapland, to whom fear and superstition were long tributary. Hence silly travellers have

[ocr errors]


Barthol. p. 347.

with much gravity, given us. ridiculous accounts of witches who sold wind to the sailors in those seas. It is no less true, that the very Norwegian fishermen would long since have forgotten that so foolish an opinion had ever existed, if foreign mariners, who were not disabused like them, did noti often come to buy their wind of them, and pay them money for being the objects of their ridicule.

The Missionaries and first Bishops were early in their endeavours to root out this pernicious weed from the soil where they wished to plant the Gospel. They attacked the Pagan religion with all sorts of weapons. As they were often so credulous as to believe the false miracles of Paganism, they were weak enough to oppose them with others that were no whit better, except in the purity of the intention. In an old Icelandic Chronicle * we meet with a bishop laying a storm with Holy-water, and some other ceremonies. But to proceed on with the discourse of Odin :

" When I see (says he) Magicians travelling

through the air, I disconcert them by a single look, a and force them to abandon their enterprize. He had before spoken of these aerial travellers.

« * If I see à man dead, and hanging aloft on a

tree, I engrave Runic characters, so wonderful, that « the man immediately descends and converses with

6 me.”

By the operation of these Characters, and at other timęs by Verses, Odin had frequently raised the dead There is a very ancient Ode preserved to us by Bartholin *, wherein this Deity causes a prophetess, whom he wanted to consult, to rise from her tomb. The beginning of this Ode may serve to give us an idea what kind of Magic Poetry it was, which the northern + nations were heretofore possessed of.


* K. Oloff Trygguason Saga, c. 33..

Barthol. p. 641.

ODIN, the sovereign of men, arises : he sad6 dles his horse SLEIPNER, he mounts, and is con“ veyed to the subterraneoigs abode of Hela (i.e. « Death.)"

" The Dog who guards the gates of DEATH “ meets him. His breast and his jamus, are stained with blood; he opens his voracious mouth to bite, and barks a long time at the father of Magic.

" Odin pursues. I

his way; his horse causes the in fernal caverns to resound and tremble : at length u he reaches the deep abode of DEATH, and stops

near to the eastern gate, where stands the tomb of the Prophetess.

" He sings to her verses adapted to call up the "dead. He looks towards the north; he engraves « Runic characters on her tomb; he utters myste«c rious words; he demands an answer: until the « Prophetess is constrained to arise, and thus utters the words of the dead.

« WHO is this unknown that dares disturb my repose, and drag me from my grave, wherein I

o have

* Lib. III. cap. 2. p. 632.- -The original in Bartholin consists of Fourteen Stanzas, of which M. Mallet has here produced only five. In the following Version, the Latin of Bartholin has been consulised,

Tous les Peuples Celtes. Fr. Orig,

have lain dead so long, all covered with enoto, and « moistened with the rains," &c.

The other prodigies which Odin in the Runic Chapter boasts he has the power of performing, are not of less importance.

6 * IF I will that a man should neither fall in bat. « tle, nor perish by the sword, I sprinkle him over « with water at the instant of his birth.” We may here recollect what I have said in the former Volume concerning the baptism of the people of the north, while they were yet Pagans 4.

« If I will,. I can explain the nature of all the dif« ferent species of Men, of Genii, and of Gods. None 66 but the wise can know all their differences.

" I If I aspire to the love and the favour of the so chastest virgin, I can bend the mind of the snowy. " armed maiden, and make her yield wholly to my s desires.

" I know a secret which I will never lose ; it is, to “ render myself always beloved by my mistress.

« .But I know one which I will never impart to any female, except my own sister, or to her whom I “ hold in my arms. Whatever is known only to “ one's self, is always of very great value."

After this, the Author concludes with exclamations on the beauty of the things he has been describing.

« NOW,

* Barthol. p. 348.

† Page 283.

Barthol. p. 658.

« PreviousContinue »