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[Having been favoured by a friend with the following fragment of Icelandic history, in order to insert it, the Gleaner is forced to postpone the critique on Kotzebue to the next Number.]
N the Kriftnifaga is contained an account of the introduction of Christianity among the barbarous inhabitants of Iceland, in the tenth and eleventh centuries, which the curious may compare with the modern rela: tions of the African and South Sea miffions. The ftile of the Kriftni faga is plain, fimple, and unadorned; events are narrated precifely as they are fupposed to have happened; miracles, murders, maffacres, fanguinary combats, and thofe traits of manners which mark the barbarous genius of the age, as in the annals of every rude nation, are related with little attention to order or connection: It is commonly attributed to Hauk the fon of Erland, who in 1306 was elected legiflator of Iceland, and died in 1334. He is the reputed author of the Landnama Bok, to which the Kriftnifaga is generally appended, and of which it is reckoned a part by J. Gudmund. A meagre account of Bp. Ifleif of Iceland is commonly annexed to this Saga. The author relates that Chriftianity was introduced into Iceland about the year 981, by Thorwald the fon of Ko
dran, who having vifited Saxony in queft of adventures, embraced the Chriftian faith, and brought from that country Frederic the first Icelandic bishop.
Thorwald at his re
turn to Iceland attempted to convert his father Kodran, who refufed to fuffer himself to be baptized, until he had determined the comparative power of working miracles, poffeffed by the Chriftian bishop, and the facred ftone which he worshipped as inhabited by a fpirit. The iffue of this conteft was entirely in favour of Frederic, whofe powerful prayer over the facred ftone foon fplit it, and expelled the dæmon. After this triumph Thorwald traverfed Iceland with the bifhop; at Vatnfdal they were encoun tered by two Maniacs or BERSERKER, who raved, ftormed, and, through the power of their familiar fpirits, walked unhurt amid the burning fire; but when Frederic had confecrated the fire, they were miferably fcorched and flain. In their peregrinations the Scalds ridiculed Thorwald and the bishop his attendant; Thorwald revenged himself by killing the bards, and the good bishop refufed any A2
longer to accompany the man of vengeance. As this miffion proved unfuccessful, another attempt was made to convert the Icelanders, by Olaf, king of Norway, who difpatched Stefner for that purpofe. On his arrival in Iceland, Stefner, provoked by the obstinacy with which the iflanders adhered to their ancient opinions, began to deftroy their temples, and break their idols. This fummary method, as may be fuppofed, did not greatly conciliate the minds of the Pagans, or facilitate their converfion; on the contrary, they attacked the reformer, who with difficulty made his escape to Norway. About this time Thangbrand, a prieft, being accufed of piratical practices, reconciled himself to Olaf, by undertaking the converfion of Iceland. Thangbrand, renouncing piracy, proceeded to Iceland, where he quickly converted many heathens, who were enchant ed by the tinkling of his bells, the odour of his frankincenfe, and the fplendor of his fillets and purple garments; and a forcerer was hired, in vain, by the Pagans, to caufe the earth to swallow him up. Thang brand proceeded towards the weft of Iceland, where he was encountered by Tiörin the Berferker or forcerer, who, like another Elymas, challenged him to a trial of fkill. This challenge was readily accepted by the prieft, when the forcerer declared, "Had you known my power, you "would have declined the conteft; "I walk barefooted over the burn❝ing fire, and throw myfelf without injury on the points of naked "fwords." God will determine that, faid Thangbrand, who confecrated the fire, and marked the fword with the fign of the crofs, when the fire fcorched the feet of the Berferker, and the fword penetrated his body, and killed him.
Of these Berserkers, who are frequently mentioned in the Icelandic annals, it is difficult to form any pre
cife or definite idea. They are reprefented as agitated by fits, during which, with wolfifh ferocity, and diftorted countenances, they gnawed and devoured their fhields, difplayed the ftrength of bulls and bears, threw themfelves, without injury, on the points of fwords, walked amidst flames of fire unhurt, and (wallowed burning coals. This unnatural habit is attributed to various caufes, as magical practices, furious paffions, and hereditary disease. The idea of its magical origin is implied in the terms TRYLLAST and HAMAST, by which it is often denominated, and which are properly applied to enchantment, or power derived from malevolent genii. By Snorro Sturlefon, and the author of the Havamaal, it is attributed to Odin. Sometimes it was believed to derive its origin from the giants, or evil beings; at leaft the Jotunmodr, or characteristic madness of the giants, or rather the Jutes, seems to have resembled that of the Berferkers. From the fuppofition of its origin from malevolent fpirits, it was punished with banishment by the laws of Iceland and Norway.
The opinion of thofe, by whom it was attributed to ferocious paffion, is plaufible, and philofophical. Barba rians, whofe conftitutions are hardened by inceffant exertion, and the feverity of the climate, who have been inured to rapine, devaftation, and cruelty from their birth, when exafperated with rage, derive from its ftimulus a prodigious increase of mufcular ftrength. The Berferkers are always reprefented as exafperated to madnefs by oppofition, and advancing to the fingle combat bellowing with rage, and gnawing their fhields. Like the licenfed bullies or champions of former times, they were accustomed to acquire money by their fuccefs in fingle combats. The paroxyfm of fury was commonly fucceeded by a ftate of debility and exhauftion like madnefs, and the violent exertions of
paffion. In fome perfons it feems to have been a hereditary disease, a fpecies of furious melancholy, which generally feized them in the evening. The following defcription of a Berferker occurs in another Saga. "Ketill, from his childhood, was tract "able and taciturn, difplaying but little curiofity; but twice in the "month he was feized with a fit, "when his fkin fhuddered, his teeth "gnafhed, and his body was violent. "ly agitated. This fhivering he "defcribed as refembling the diffufion "of fome cold fubftance between his fkin and his flesh. This cold was fucceeded by violent fury, which "wrecked itfelf indifcriminately on "whatever object occurred, whether "animate or inanimate." The fupernatural strength which these mad men difplayed, the warriors of the north fometimes attempted to acquire by eating the flesh of bears, the hearts of wild beafts killed in hunting, and by drinking warm human blood. The Berferkers derived their name from their customary mode of fighting without armour, or in their bare Shirts, as the term literally fignifies. Trufting to the fupernatural influence of the fpirits which they worshipped, they were the most zealous opponents of Chriftianity in Iceland, where it made confiderable progrefs. The Pagans often reviled Chrift, and the Chriftians fometimes retorted their invectives, till at laft Hiallt the fon of Skegg was banished for blafphem ing the goddefs Freya. He built a barge, and failed to Norway, where he informed Olaf of the fuccefs of his miffion. As the Icelanders appeared to king Olaf unreafonably tenacious of their ancient opinions, he caufed all the Pagans who had vifited his court to be apprehended, and threatened with fevere punishments.
His menaces amazingly facilitated their convertion, and another band of miffionaries failed to Iceland. On their arrival violent debates enfued in the affemblies of the people, during which a volcano, or earthfire, as it is termed, burt forth in Olfus; and, in order to avert the impending deftruction, the Pagans prepared to facrifice two men for every province. Hiallt and Giffur, the chiefs of the Chriftians, likewife affembled their people, as if to a facrifice, and thus addreffed them: "The heathens of"fer as victims to their gods the most "wicked men, whom they precipi"tate from teep rocks; but let us "felect the most virtuous men as "victims to Jefus Chrift, that they "may live ftill more virtuously, and "more unblameably." Thorgeir advifed the Icelanders to compromise their difputes, and preferve internal tranquillity. Being chofen arbitrator of their differences, he enacted, "That the Icelanders fhould all be "baptized, and worship one God; "that the ancient cultom of expof"ing infants, and eating horse flesh, "fhould continue as formerly; and
that facrifices to the ancient gods "fhould not be performed publicly,
under penalty of punishment." After this regulation, the practice of facrifice foon fell into defuetude. The Pagans complained of being deceived in this convention, but fubmitted to baptifm, on condition that the rite fhould be performed in a warm bath. Thus was Iceland finally converted about the year 1000; and this mode of converfion easily accounts for the number of Gothic fuperftitions retained by the common people of that country to a very late period.
(The Critique on Kotzebuè continaed in our next.)
DESCRIPTION OF THE VIEW.
BARNBOUGLE Caftle, the feat beautifully fituate on the fouthern of the Earl of Rofeberry, is fhore of the Frith of Forth, at the
diftance of somewhat more than three miles north-weft from Edin. burgh.
The house is handfome and commodious. The park is beautiful, and confiderably extenfive. The adjacent grounds are fkilfully laid out, and ornamented. But it is from its fituation in a fort of nook upon the Frith, that this houfe derives its principal advantages of afpect and profpect. From certain points of view, its appearance is ftrikingly picturefque. Nothing in landscape can be nobler, or more interesting, than the gradual opening of the Frith, into the unlimited expanfe of the Ocean; as it is feen from Barnbougle Houfe; the fhores winding beautifully on either fide; presenting, here broken, fcarry cliffs,-there green and cultured banks; there towns, groves of mafts, and those varied ob
jects which mark the bufy, crowded intercourfe of men, catching the eye; while, on the liquid expanfe, fhips of all forms and bulks, are continually feen to pafs and repafs, riding at anchor, or toffing before the wind.
Barnbougle Caftle, with its do. mains, were the ancient property of
a branch of the illuftrious Norman family of Mowbray. In the beginning of the fixteenth century, they were acquired by Hamilton, Earl of Haddington. Soon after the reftoration of Charles the Second, Primrofe firft Earl of Rofeberry, who attained to nobility through the gradation of Juridical fervices and honours, purchased thefe poffeffions. They have been inherited by his family. The prefent poffeffor is Neil, third in fucceffion of the Earls of Roseberry:
CAUSES OF OUR PRESENT DISTRESS FOR PROVISIONS.
By William Brooke, F. S. A.
WHEN the nation, about thirty
years ago, began to turn its ferious attention to agriculture, as a fcience of the first importance, a very wrong bias took place in the mind of the public; whether by the contrivance of artful individuals, or by accident, I fhall not pretend to determine. The mistake was, that it would be more for the advantage of the nation, that the fmall farms and cottages fhould be thrown into large farms; and upon this illufive idea, that the large farmer, by the means of his fuperior capital, would work the land which he occupied to greater advantage than the fmall farmer.
Unfortunately, experience, that never failing touchstone to truth, hath convinced us how much we were in the wrong. As the prefent period is not the moment to indulge in fpeculaive rea foning, it will be right to come o the effential points at once.
It may, therefore, be afferted as the general fenfe of the nation, that our diftrefs, for want of greater plenty in the articles of wheat and other grain, butcher's meat, poultry, &c. arifes from various caufes, the principal of which are,
Monopoly of farms;
The immenfe number of horses kept in this kingdom;
The neglect in breeding cows, horned cattle, hogs, affes, and goats; The almoft disuse of fish, and careleffness of our fisheries;
The prefent method of fupporting the clergy;
Too extenfive hop-grounds;
I will boldly affert, that the fecondary caufe of many of the mifchiefs we have experienced of mifery and almost famine, has been from an animal, which, although a noble animal, and of value in himself, has