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738
OLD NORSE MIRROR OF MEN AND MANNERS.

have you read in such a plight as that?" cried Clementina.

"I will take good care, my lady. I have books of my own, and I handle them like babies."

"You foolish man! It is of you in your wet clothes, not of the book, I am thinking," said Clementina indignantly.

"I'm much obliged to you, my lady, but there's no fear of me. You saw me wash the fresh water out. Salt water never hurts."

"You must go and change, nevertheless," said Clementina.

Malcolm looked at his mistress. She gave him a sign to obey, and he rose. He had taken three steps toward the house when Clementina recalled him. "One word, if you please," she said. "How is it that a man who risks his life for that of a little bird can be so heartless to a great noble creature like that horse of yours? I cannot understand it."

"My lady," returned Malcolm with a smile, "I was no more risking my life than you would be in taking a fly out of the milk-jug. And for your question, if your ladyship will only think you cannot fail to see the difference. Indeed, I explained my treatment of Kelpie to your ladyship that first morning in the park, when you so kindly rebuked me for it, but I don't think your ladyship listened to a word I said."

Clementina's face flushed, and she turned to her friend with a "Well!" in her eyes. But Florimel kept her head bent over her embroidery, and Malcolm, no further notice being taken of him, walked away.




From The Quarterly Review.

OLD NORSE MIRROR OF MEN AND MANNERS.[1]

What people in England thought of Iceland in former days is pretty clear from the lines which commence the tenth chapter of the "Libelle of Englysch Polycye:"[2]

Of Yseland to wryte is little nede
Save of stockfische,

a verdict endorsed by Dr. Andrew Borde, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, in his "Introduction to Knowledge:" —

And I was born in Island, as brute as a beest;
When I ete candels ends I am at a feest, etc.

Indeed, as history teaches us, Scandinavia generally fared not a whit better in the estimation of our countrymen; but by degrees, with the diffusion of knowledge, a truer light has been thrown upon the subject. The tables have in fact been turned, and it now appears that to despised Scandinavia England owes a great deal. In Iceland, and its language, have been found the key to many a riddle in our national character and national language.

It is only within the last few years, as we have seen, that reading Englishmen have begun to realize the fact, that at a period when our Anglo-Saxon forefathers were innocent of all skill in writing books in their own tongue, in which they were born (the most cultivated among them using Latin as a vehicle for expressing their thoughts), there was a race of men in a far distant island, more than half-way over to south Greenland, who had attained to a power of composition in their own vernacular, which, for vividness and fire, for firmness and breadth of outline, for picturesque grouping of accessories and details, has never been surpassed. Although the rich and racy language in which these imperishable monuments were cast — the Old Norse, Danish, or Icelandic, as it is indifferently called — was current in those days all over Scandinavia, yet they were almost invariably the work of Icelanders living in Iceland. Such were Ari Frodi, born 1067, died 1148, the father of Icelandic history; his friend and fellow-student, Saemund, the reputed compiler of the "Old Edda;"[3] the immortal Snorri Sturleson; and Sturla Thordarson, the continuer of the sagas after Snorri, who died 1284.

What caused this barren island to be so fertile in literary production? Was it the exuberant energy of a race, once lords of the main land, but now cooped up in the narrow confines of that desolate wilderness, that found a partial vent in literary fecundity? Did hard simple fare sharpen the intellectual faculty? Was it the spectacle of fire and frost, fighting for the mastery, that fired or excited their brain? Or the desire to make themselves a name which should penetrate from this remote corner, in which they were voluntary exiles, to the very ends of the earth? Or

  1. 1. Kongs-Skugg-sió. Sorö, 1768.
    2. Speculum Regale. Christiania, 1848.
  2. Cl. "The Babees Book," etc., p. 214, Early English Text Society.
  3. Recent critics have deposed him from his pride of place. Bishop Brynjúlfr, who discovered the Edda MS. at Skalholt (1643), is shown to have ascribed it without warrant to Saemund.