Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

Forest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman online

. (page 10 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

they wanted a little sleep to fit them for the toils of the next
day ; I am sure I do, and I vote we try what sort of couches
Birger has prepared for us. Our once merry friends below
seem to be as fast asleep as swine now, and as quiet. To
tell you the truth, I am a little tired with our day's work,
and we certainly have another good day's work cut out for us
to-morrow."

" With all my heart," said Birger, finishing off what, from
its colour, might have been a glass of water, but was not.
As Odin says —

" No one will charge thee
With evil, if early
Thou goest to slumber."

" Come along, then," said the Captain, " turn in ; and may
the NTyss to whom we have sacrificed send us to-morrosv ' a
southerly wind and a cloudy sky.' "



There are several national songs in Norway. That which Torkel sings
is an ancient song, and has been adapted and arranged as a chorus, by
Hullah ; but it is not that which is generally known as " Gammle
NorgeY' This, though eminently popular, is but a modern composition.
Its author is Bjerregaard, a Norse poet of some eminence. It has been
thus rendered into English by Mr. Latham : —

Minstrel, awaken the harp from its slumbers!
Strike for old Norway, the land of the free !
High and heroic in soul-stirring numbers,
Clime of our fathers, we strike it for thee !

Old recollections

Awake our affections, —
They hallow the name of the land of our birth ;

Each heart beats its loudest,

Each cheek glows its proudest,
For Norway the Ancient, the Throne of the Earth !



GAMMLE NOEGE. 107

Spirit ! look back on her far-flashing glory,

The far-flashing meteor that bursts on thy glance,
On chieftain and hero immortal in story,

They press to the battle like maids to the dance.

The blood flows before them,

The wave dashes o'er them,
They reap with the sword what they plough with the keel ;

Enough that they leave

To the country that bore them
Eosoms to bleed for her freedom and weal.

The Shrine of the Northman, the Temple of Freedom,

Stands like a rock where the stormy wind breaks ;
The tempests howl round it, but little he'll heed them, —
Freely he thinks, and as freely he speaks.

The bird in its motion,

The wave in its ocean,
Scarcely can rival his liberty's voice ;

Yet he obeys,

With a willing devotion
Laws of his making and kings of his choice.

Land of the forest, the fell, and the fountain, —

Blest with the wealth of the field and the flood, — ■
Steady and truthful, the sons of thy mountain.
Pay the glad price of thy rights with their blood.

Ocean hath bound thee,

Freedom hath found thee, —
Flourish, old Norway, thy flag be unfurled !

Free as the breezes

And breakers around thee —
The pride of thy children, the Throne of the "World !



103 A SOUTHERLY WIND AND A CLOUDY SKY.



CHAPTER IX.

THE HELL FALL.

"If thou hadsfc not been leading a life of sin —

The sun shines over Enen —
Thou wouldst have given me water thy bare hand within —

Under the linden green.
Now, this is the penance that on thee I lay :
Eight years in the wood shalt thou live from this day,
And no food shall pass thy lips between,
Save only the leaves of the linden green ;
And no other drink shalt thou have at all,
Save the dew on the linden leaves so small ;
And no other bed shall be pressed by thee,
Save only the roots of the linden tree.
When eight long years were gone and spent,
Jesus the Lord to Magdalene went —
Now shall Heaven's mercy thee restore — ■

The sun shines over Enen —
Go, Magdalena, and sin no more

Under the linden green."

Svenska Folk-visor.

Whether the Spirits of the Flood and Fell considered
themselves complimented by the homage which had been paid
to them, or whether things would have turned out exactly
the same had there been no offering at all, is a mystery of
mythology which we will not take upon ourselves to deter-
mine. Certain it is, that when the next morning was ushered
in with a soft westerly breeze and a dull cloudy sky, inter-
spersed with bright transient gleams of joyous sunshine, such
as salmon love, the Nyssar got the credit of it all. Not that
the Norwegians were at first aware of the extent of their
blessings, for the barbarians are all unversed in the mysteries
of fly-fishing, but they were not long in finding it out, from
the smiling looks and congratulatory expressions of their
employers.



SUMMER HEAT IN THE NORTH. 109

Englishmen might have felt dull and heavy after the con-
sumption of such enormous quantities of brandy : English
heads might have ached, and English hands might have felt
shaky during the operation of getting sober. Thor himself
could not have risen from the challenge cup, set before him
by Loki Utgard, with more complete self-possession than did
Tom and Torkel, and the mighty Jacob. Sleep and drink
had fled with the shades of night, and it was a steady hand
that served out the coffee that morning.

The party had long separated to their respective pursuits,
for the impatience of the fishermen and the actual dearth of
provisions in the camp did not allow of idling.

Towards noon the breeze had entirely sunk, and the sun,
having succeeded in dispelling the clouds, was shining in its
summer strength into the confined valley, concentrating its
rays from the encircling rocks upon the channel of the river,
and pouring them on the encampment as on the focus of a
burning-glass.

It was not, however, a depressing, moist, stewing heat ;
there was a lightness and elasticity in the air unknown in
southern climes, or if known at all, known only on the higher
Alps, and in the middle of the summer. Men felt the heat,
no doubt, and the thermometer indicated a high degree of
temperature ; but there was nothing in it enervating, nothing
predisposing to slothfulness or inaction ; on the contrary, the
nerves seemed braced under it, and the spirits buoyant.
Work and exercise were a pleasure, not a toil ; and if the
Parson did stretch himself out under the shade of the great
birch tree, it was the natural result of a well-spent morning
of downright hard work. Wielding a flail is a trifle com-
pared to wielding a salmon rod ; and he and the Captain had,
both of them, wielded it that morning to some purpose, for
the salmon had not been unmindful of the soft breeze and
the cloudy skies, but had risen to the fly with appetites truly
Norwegian.

Jacob and Torkel, with one of the boatmen in the distance,
were up to their eyes in salt and blood, cleaning, splitting,
salting, and otherwise preparing the spare fish for a three
days' sojourn in the snioking-house ; while three or four



110 THE WOODPECKER TAPPING.

bright-looking fresli run salmon, selected from the heap, and
ready crimped for the kettle or toasting skewers, were glit-
tering from under the green and constantly-wetted branches,
with which they were protected from the heat of the day.

Birger, who was much more at home with his gun than
with his fishing-rod, had gone out that morning early, at-
tended by his two men, in order to reconnoitre the country,
and see what its capabilities were ; for the Parson's report
had been confined to its excellencies as a fishing station. The
Captain was still on the river ; every now and then distant
glimpses of his boat could be seen as he shifted from throw
to throw, and occasionally condescended even to harl the
river, by way of resting his arms. Such a fishing morning
as they had enjoyed, is not often to be met with, and the
Captain would not take the hint which the cloudless sun had
been giving him for the last half-hour.

The Parson, whose rod was pitched in a neighbouring
juniper, and whose fly, a sober dark-green, as big as a bird,
floated out faintly in the expiring breeze, was stretched at
full length on the turf, occupied, so far as a tired man who is
resting himself can be said to be occupied at all, in watching
the motions of a little red-headed woodpecker, that was dart-
ing from branch to branch and from tree to tree, making the
forest ring again with its sharp succession of taps, as it drove
the insects out of their hiding-places beneath the outside
bark. Taps they were, no doubt, and given by the bird's
beak, too, but by no means like the distinct and deliberate tap
of the yellow woodpecker, every one of which may be counted :
so rapid were they, that they sounded more like the scroop-
ing of a branch torn violently from the tree, and so loud, that
it was difficult to conceive that such a sound could be caused
by a bird comparatively so diminutive.

The woodpecker, which seemed almost tame and by no
means disconcerted by the presence of strangers, pursued its
occupation with the utmost confidence, though quite within
reach of the Parson's rod.

" Take care," said the Parson, as Torkel approached, " do
not disturb it."

" Disturb what ?" said Torkel.



THE GERTRUDE-BIRD. Ill

The Parson pointed to the woodpecker, which was not a
dozen yards from them. The bird paused a moment, and
looked at them, but evinced no symptoms of timidity.

" What, the Gertrude-bird ?" said Torkel ; " no one would
disturb her while working out her penance, poor thing ! She
knows that well enough ; look at her." And, in truth, the
bird did seem to know it, for another loud rattle of taps
formed an appropriate accompaniment to Torkel's speech ;
though Birger and the Captain at that moment came up, the
one with his last fish, the other with a couple of ducks, a
tjader, and two brace of grouse, of one sort or another,
which he had met with during his morning's exploration.

The Parson nodded to the Captain, congratulated Birger,
but, ever ready for a legend, turned round to Torkel.

" What do you mean by a Gertrude-bird, and what is her
penance 1" said he.

Birger smiled — not unbelievingly, though ; for the legend
is as well known in Sweden as it is in Norway ; and
few people, in either of these countries, who believe in any-
thing at all, are altogether sceptical on matters of popular
superstition.

" That bird," said Torkel, " or at least her ancestors, was
once a woman ; and it is a good lesson that she reads us
every time we see her. God grant that we may all be the
better for it," he added, reverentially.

" One day she was kneading bread, in her trough, under
the eaves of her house, when our Lord passed by, leaning on
St. Peter. She did not know that it was the Lord and his
Apostle, for they looked like two poor men, who were tra-
velling past her cottage door."

" ' Give us of your dough, for the love of God,' said the
Lord Christ ; ' we have come far across the fjeld, and have
fasted long !'

" Gertrude pinched off a small piece for them, but on roll-
ing it on her trough to get it into shape, it grew and grew,
and filled up the trough completely. She looked at it in
wonder. ' No,' said she, ' that is more than you want ;' so
she pinched off a smaller piece, and rolled it out as be-
fore ; but the smaller piece filled up the trough, just as the



112 THE GERTRUDE-BIRD.

other had done, and Gertrude put it aside, too, and pinched
a smaller bit still. But the miracle was just the same ; the
smaller bit filled up the trough as full as the largest-sized
kueading that she had ever put in it.

" Gertrude's heart was hardened still more ; she put that
aside too, resolving, so soon as the strangers had left her, to
divide all her dough into little bits, and to roll it out into
great loaves. ' I cannot give you any to-day,' said she ; ' go
on your journey, and the Lord prosper you, but you must
not stop at my house.'

"Then the Lord Christ was angry; and her eyes were
opened, and she saw whom she had forbidden to come into
her house, and she fell down on her knees ; but the Lord said,
' I gave you plenty, but that hardened your heart, so plenty
was not a blessing to you ; I will try you now with the
blessing of poverty ; you shall from henceforth seek your food
day by day, and always between the wood and the bark.*
But forasmuch as I see your penitence to be sincere, this
shall not be for ever : as soon as your back is entirely clothed
in mourning this shall cease, for by that time you will have
learned to use your gifts rightly.'

" Gertrude Hew from the presence of the Lord, for she was
already a bird, but her feathers were blackened already, from
her mourning ; and from that time forward she and her
descendants have, all the year round, sought their food be-
tween the wood and the bark ; but the feathers of their back
and wings get more mottled with black as they grow older ;
and when the white is quite covered the Lord Christ takes
them for his own again. No Norwegian will ever hurt a
Gertrude-bird, for she is always under the Lord's protection,
though he is punishing her for the time."

" Bravo, Torkel," said the Parson. " I could not preach
a better sermon than that myself, or give you sounder
theology."

" You seem always on the look-out for a superstition,"
said the Captain.

" So I am," said the Parson. " There is nothing that

* Alluding to a custom in Norway, of mixing the inner rind of the
birch tree with their rye meal, during times of scarcity.



MORALISING. 113

displays the character of a people so well as their national
legends."

" But do you not consider that in lending your countenance
to them, and looking as if you believed them, you are lending
your countenance to superstition itself?"

" Well," said the Parson, " what would you have me do 1
laugh them out of it, like Miss Marti neau % And if I suc-
ceeded in that, which I should not, what should I have done
then 1 Why, opened a fallow for scepticism. Superstition
is the natural evidence of the Unseen in the minds of the
ignorant ; to be superstitious, is to believe in a Being superior
to ourselves ; and this is in itself the first step to spiritual
advancement. Inform the mind, teaching it to distinguish
the true from the false, and superstition — that is to say, the
reverence for the unseen — brightens into true religion.
Take it away by force, or quench it by ridicule, and you
have an unoccupied corner of the soul for every bad passion
to take root in. Superstition is the religion of the
ignorant."

" Well, there is truth in that," said the Captain. " When
a boy becomes a man, he will not play prison-base, or go a
bird's-nesting ; but prison-base and bird's-nesting are no bad
preparation for manly daring and gallant enterprise."

" Very true ; and when the boy is capable of the latter
he will leave off his prison-base and bird's-nesting without
any trouble on your part."

" There are good superstitions as well as bad," said Birger.
" To be afraid of thinning down a noxious bird, like the
magpie, as our people are, because the devil has them under
his protection, is a bad superstition. It is a distrust in the
power and providence of God ; but, though it is equally a
superstition to imagine that one bird is more a favourite with
God than another, yet the boy who, in your country, in the
ardour of his first shooting expedition, turns aside his gun
because

Cock-robins and kitty-wrens

Are God Almighty's cocks and hens ;

or, in our country, from the Gertrude-bird, because she is
working out the penance which Christ has imposed upon her,

I



114 THE COUNCIL OF WAE.

has, in so doing, exercised self-denial, has acknowledged the
existence of a God, and has admitted the sanctity of His
protection. Many a superstition has as good a moral as a
parable, and this is one of them."

The approach of dinner at once scared away the Gertrude-
bird, and put an end to Birger's moralising ; and as they
discussed the pink curdy salmon, the produce of the morning's
sport, and revelled in the anticipation of strawberry and
raspberry jam, the fumes of which every now and then were
wafted to them from the kitchen, and in the certainty of roast
game and smoked fish for future consumption, they laid their
plans for the afternoon's sport.

The sun was still shining in its strength and cloudlessness,
and bade fair so to shine for the rest of the clay ; and the
breeze, which had been for some time failing, had now sunk
into a perfect calm. No salmon or trout were to be caught
by the usual means — that was clear enough. Jacob, how-
ever, who had procured what might be called with great pro-
priety a kettle of fish, for he had borrowed from a neigh-
bouring farm-house one of the kettles in which they simmer
their milk, and had got it full of minnows and other small
fry — proposed setting his langref. This was unanimously
assented to, for occupation is pleasing, and so is variety ;
and eels, pike, and flounders, which were likely to be I
its produce, were no bad additions to a larder less re- I
markable for the variety of its provisions than for their
abundance.

But the grand scheme was one proposed by the Captain, ;
who had been reconnoitring the higher parts of the river,
and had discovered a very likely place for a bright day,
but one which could not be reached from the shore, or by
any of the ordinary means of propelling a boat. It was a
fall terminating, not as falls generally do, in a huge basin,
but in a shoot or rapid of considerable length, like a gigantic j
mill race, which, after a straight but turbulent course of a <
couple of hundred yards, shot all at once into the middle of a
round and eddying pool. It was called the Hell Fall, pro-
bably from its fury, for the word is Norske ; but possibly f
also, from Hela's Fall, Hela being the Goddess of Darkness ;



THE LANGREF. 115

and well did the yawning chasm, through which the waters
rushed, deserve that name, overshadowed as it was by its
black walls of rock. It was upon this that the Captain had
reckoned ; whatever were the case with the rest of the world,
sunshine or storm must be alike to it, and to the tenants of
its gloomy recesses.

The Captain was confident the thing could be done, and
the Parson was as confident that if it could be done, and the
fly introduced into the numerous turn-holes round which the
water boiled and bubbled, the rapid would require neither
cloud nor wind to make it practicable. And Birger, who
was a great man at contrivances, asseverated strongly that it
should be done.

The first job, however, was to set the langref, and that
was a mode of poaching with which they were all familiar.
The langref, a line of two or three hundred fathoms in length,
with a snood and a hook at each fathom, was baited from
the minnow kettle, and coiled, so that the baited hooks lay
together on a board ; and one end having been made fast to
a stump on the landing place, the boat was pulled diagonally
down and across the stream, and the line gradually paid out
in such a manner that the hooks were carried by the current,
so as to hang free of the back line ; the other end, which
came within a few yards of the farther bank, was anchored
by a heavy stone, backed by a smaller one, and the whole
affair left to fish for itself.

In the meanwhile, some of the men had been sent for-
ward with ropes, and with the boat-hooks and oars belonging
to the expedition ; for, though boats are always procurable
in a place where the river forms the usual means of commu-
nication, their gear is not always to be relied on in cases of
difficulty.

The fishermen selected their short lake rods, as better
adapted to the work they were going about than the great
two-handed salmon rods with which they had been fishing
that morning ; and having fitted fresh casting lines, which, in
consideration of the work they were going about, were of the
strongest twisted gut they could find, they took the path up
the river.

i 2



116 THE PHILOSOPHY OF FLIES.

" I wonder what are the proper flies of this river," said
the Captain. " In Scotland every place has its own set of
flies, and you are always told that you will do nothing at all,
unless you get the very colours and the very flies peculiar to
the river."

" You seem to have done pretty well on this river, at all
events," said Birger, " without any such information."

" No information is to be despised," said the Parson.
" The oldest fisherman will always find something to be
learnt from men who have passed their lives on a particular
stream, and have studied it from their boyhood. There is,
however, only one general principle, and that will always
hold good. By this the experienced fisherman will never be
at a loss about suiting his fly to the water. Here is the
Captain now ; we have had no consultation, and yet I will
venture to say that we are both fishing with flies of a similar
character. What fly did you catch your fish with, this
morning, Captain?"

" I have been using my old Scotch flies," said the Captain,
" such as they tie on the Tay and Spey,* and the largest of
the sort I could find."

" To be sure you did ; and tell Birger why you did not use
your Irish flies."

" They were too gaudy for the water," said the Captain.

* The fisherman is very much recommended to tie his own flies for
the Tay, or to get them at Edmondson's. The author bought a good
many pretty-looking specimens in the country, by way of patterns, all
of which whipped to pieces in half-an-hour's fishing. The fact is, there
is a cheap way of tying flies, which it is impossible to detect by the eye ;
and it is just as well that the young fisherman should ask the character
of his tackle-maker before investing his money in such very ticklish
wares ; the worthlessness of which he will not find out till he reaches
his fishing-ground. The author, a fisherman of some experience, has
tied a good many flies in his time, and has had a good many tied for
him by his attendants and other professionals on the river's banks ; but
the only tradespeople he has ever found trustworthy, in all points, in
such matters are, Chevalier, of Bell-yard, London, and Edmondson, of
Church-street, Liverpool. Their flies have never failed him, whether
in their hooks, their gut. or their tying. All that the fisherman will
want in their shops will be a little science, to enable him to choose his
colours, and a little money to enable him, to pay his bills.



THE PHILOSOPHY OF FLIES. 117

" That, Birger, will give you the principle," said the
Parson. " The Captain has been very successful with flies
belonging to another river ; now, look at mine, which I tied
last night, while I was waiting till you came home from
sacrificing to Nyssen. Except in size, this is as different as
possible from the Captain's ; and yet its principle is precisely
the same ; mine is a green silk body, black hackle, blackcock
wing, no tinsel, and nothing bright about it, except this
single golden jmeasant topping for a tail. ISTow, the Tay
flies are quite different to look at ; they are mostly brown
or dun pig's wool bodies, with natural red or brown hackles
and mallard wings ; but the principle of both is the same ;
they are sober, quiet flies, with no glitter or gaudiness about
them ; and the Captain shall tell you what induced him to
select such as these."

" I chose the largest fly I could find," said the Captain ;
"because the water here is very deep and strong; and as
the salmon lies near the bottom, I must have a large fly to
attract his attention ; but I must not have a gaudy fly,
because the water is so clear that the sparkle of the tinsel
would be more glittering than anything in nature ; and the
fish, when he had risen and come near enough to distinguish
it, would be very apt to turn short."

" You have it now, precisely," said the Parson ; " the
depth of the water regulates the size of the fly, and the
clearness of the water its colours. This rule, of course, is
not without exceptions ; if it were, there would be no
science in fishing. The sun, the wind, the season, the state
of the atmosphere must also be taken into consideration ;
for instance, this rapid we are going to fish now, is the very
same water we have been fishing in below, and therefore
just as clear, but it is rough, and overhung by rocks and
trees. I mean, therefore, to put on a gayer fly than any-
thing we have used hitherto. But here we are," he said, as
they looked down upon the rush of waters, " and upon my
word, an ugly place it is."

The Parson might well say that, for the waters were rush-
ing below with frightful rapidity. Above them was the
fall, where the river, compressed into a narrow fissure, shot



118 DESCENSUS AVERNI.

through it like an enormous spout, into a channel, wider
certainly than the spout itself, but still very narrow ; while
the perpendicular walls reminded the spectators of an arti-
ficial lock right in the middle of the stream; at the very