Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

. (page 16 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

habits, and will continue to be so as long as the externals of
religion are preserved with a magnificence and ceremonial
sufficient to keep up their reverence. But they are, merely,
a people of religious habits — they are not a people of religious
feelings. The marriage between faith and works with them
has been " dissolved by Act of Parliament, and neither their
faith nor their works are the better for it."

Nothing of this, however, was visible on that Sunday
morning, as the Parson, when the hospitable and substantial
breakfast of the farm-house had at last come to an end,
walked quietly and musingly along the broad natural terrace


which led to the church, and commanded a beautiful view-
over the wide valley and its quiet lake.

The church was a good-sized building, with nave, and
aisles, and transepts, and chancel. It was handsome and
striking, but very quaint and singular \ every part of it was of
wood — not planks, but great solid beams of absolute timber ;
centuries had passed over them, and there was no perceptible
decay, — they were merely weather-stained, and harmonised
in their colouring ; and the whole edifice looked as if the day
of judgment would find it as firm and as eternal as the
Church it was built to represent. The whole was a confused
collection of acute gables and high-pointed roofs, covered with
diamond-shaped pine shingles. The windows were small,
square-headed, and few in number, barely enough, indeed, to
give light to the interior, and in no way contributing to the
architectural beauty of the church. No Norwegian ever
breathes more fresh air than he can help, or thinks of open-
ing his church windows ; it is not very often that he opens
even the windows of his house.*

The sharp roofs, which are almost universal in the Nor-
wegian churches, though extremely ornamental, especially
where, as in the present case, they are shingled, are erected
not for ornament but for use. It is absolutely necessary,
in a land where snow falls so abundantly, to have such a
slope that will not permit it to lodge in any quantities in a
building which is not inhabited and constantly cleared. Were
the roof no steeper than those of most of our English churches,
the weight of lodged snow would soon become sufficient to
bear clown any strength of timbers they could put into it.

Although there was but little of ornament about the win-
dows and doors — those more ordinary objects of ecclesiastical
decoration — this evidently did not arise from want of respect
or care for their church ; for every gable — and there were
thirty or forty of them, great and small — was decorated with I
elaborately-carved barge-boards, the ridge timber of every]
one of them projected three or four feet beyond the face of I
the building, and terminated in the head of some nondescriptf

* Not many years ago, the "summer parlour " was the only room in
any house that had windows that would open.


mimal, particularly ugly, but still the record and evidence of
.nfinite pains and labour. The chancel, the nave, and the
Delfry, constituted three separate pyramids, rising one above
;he other, consisting of from three to five stages each, and
;erminating in round towers, roofed with short shingled
spires, like so many extinguishers. Each of these carried its
mge cross, for neither Norwegian nor Swede is afraid of that
loly emblem ; and high on the top of all was the typical
;ock — and if it did not warn all sinners to repent, it certainly
vas not for want of being seen, for its size was colossal, and
n its new gilding it glittered in the air for miles on every
dde. At the entrance of the churchyard, on the side facing
,he lake, was a lych-gate, also of solid timber, with a roof
>road enough to shelter a whole funeral. The gate itself,
vhich, when shut, formed a stile, was shod with iron spikes,
.0 prevent the pigs from burrowing under. By the side of
t was that satire upon Norway, the evidence of Karl Johann's
ruitless attempts to stem the tide of national habits — the
tocks — of course unemployed — at least, so far as their legal
nirpose went ; — they formed, however, a very comfortable
eat, upon which Birger was balancing himself backwards and
orwards, and trying to cross one foot over the other. The
>ther fishermen, as decent as they could make themselves up
or Sunday — which was rather dingy, after all, compared
vith the bright colours of the peasants' dresses — lounged
-bout, watching the assembling congregation.

It wanted some time to service, but there were scattered
lere and there about the churchyard several parties, who
lad already been for some time on the ground. Sunday as
b was, they had brought with them their garden tools, and
heir waterpots, and their baskets of plants, or papers of
eeds, and had tucked up their smart embroidered petticoats,
•r turned back their shirt-sleeves, according to their sex, and
rere busily employed about the graves.

These were not oblong mounds of turf, like the graves in
ur English churchyards, but raised borders with iron
dging, and were, for the most part, pictures of neat and
idy gardening ; wild flowers very often were all that grew
here, little blue gentianellas, or lilies of the valley, such as



might be met with anywhere in the open fjeld ; more ofteE
than all, that innocent little white trailer, the antheinis
cotula, which they call Baldur's eyebrow, and to whict
they attach a peculiar sanctity; but, even if they were wild
they always bore the traces of care and cultivation. Now
and then a rose would be woven into the semblance of a
cradle, or an edging of convolvolus major, twining round its
supports, would form a pyramid or a canopy, with its
fragile blue flowers already fading, though so early in the
day, perhaps an apt type of those who lay below them.

In no place does the Norwegian appear to so great
advantage as when busied about the graves of his family
these are cared for by all who cherish the memory of the
dead, as their occupants would be were they still on earth,
Appointments are often made among distant members of a
family, and little parties are arranged to meet at the grave
of a common relative ; the first object of all these is invari-
ably to trim its flowers. These are not sad or solemn
meetings ; they are rather joyful reunions, much as if the
families were visiting the house of their relation, instead oJ
his grave. They are not even dressed in mourning, for theiil
meetings are continued long after the time of mourning is
passed : it is a sort of sober festivity. Much of the good
that exists in the Norwegian character — their family affection
their patriotism, their attachment to their native country
throughout all their wanderings, — may be traced to theii

Suddenly, the bells struck up, and every man removed his
hat, bowing to the church as if returning its salutation.
Other people, besides the funeral parties, now began tc
collect from different quarters ; here and there a straj
cariole rattled up to the churchyard gate, and an old grand-
mother or two was brought along in one of the queer-looking
little carts of the country; but the people of Norway are any-
thing but vehicular in their habits ; indeed, except the main
roads — and these are very few indeed — the country is in nc
ways calculated for wheeled carriages.

Boats were a much more fashionable mode of progression:
several of these were already seen approaching from different


quarters of the lake, pulled by two or four oars, and con-
taining a cargo of many-coloured petticoats, which looked,
in the distance, like bunches of variegated tulips. Every
Norwegian, man or woman, learns to row almost as soon as
he learns to walk, and every Norwegian knows something of
the principles of boat-building; and very elegant little craft,
of the whale-boat build, they frequently turn out.

" Hallo !" said Birger ; " we are in luck. I knew it was
Communion Sunday, but we are to have a lot of christenings
besides. Look at the little white bundles in their chrism-
cloths, and the elegant white satin bows. I do believe they
would none of them consider their children baptized without
those white bows."

" Have you Christening Sundays, then ?" said the Parson.

" Not always : in many places the clergy set their faces
against them. But the Norwegian is a gregarious animal :
he dearly loves a set feast, and hospitably considers the
more the merrier. In these country-places you will often
find not only Communion Sundays, but Christening Sundays,
and Wedding Sundays, and — "

"And funeral Sundays'?" suggested the Captain.

"And funeral Sundays — you need not laugh, I mean what
I say ; in the winter we have a little frost here, hot as it
is now, — and frost, compared to which your English frost is
but a summer's day. They cannot very well bury their dead
in the winter, so they very frequently freeze them, and keep
them till the frost breaks up. Whenever that happens it is
of course necessary to bury immediately all that have died
since the beginning of the winter, and thus — though I suspect
you asked that question in pure joke — it really does happen,
that besides gregarious communions, christenings, and wed-
dings, they have gregarious funerals also."

The bells now began to " ring in," and that portion of the
congregation who were not related to any of the little white
bundles in satin bows, or were not destined to be godfathers
or godmothers to them, came stumbling into the church, and
arranging themselves as best they could on the benches.

To those coming in from the blaze of day outside, the
interior appeared perfectly dark, so that the people were

n 2 '


actually feeling for their places. The little square windows
looked like dots of light against the black walls, but as the
eye accustomed itself to the darkness, the scene came out by
degrees : the tracery of the chancel screen — the great crucifix
seen over it — the altar beyond, heavy with carving and
gilding — the font just within the screen — the pulpit just with'
out it — then the congregation themselves became visible — the
men on one side of the nave, the women on the other. It was
high mass ; for though the Scandinavian Church be reformed,
she still retains the ancient expressions.

The short hymn which begins the service had closed, and
the priest in his wide-sleeved surplice — mass skjorta — was
standing by the altar, while the Candidatus marshalled in the
porch a little procession of the christening parties. When
all was ready they entered the church, the congregation
singing, as they advanced towards the chancel, one of the
numerous hymns from the Bede Psalmer — to which little
book, unpretending as it is, the people owe nearly all the
very small acquaintance with the doctrines of their Church,
which they possess.

In our service we recognise but two parties, the priest and
the people — the English choir being, theoretically, at all
events, merely the leaders of the people's responses ; whereas,
in Scandinavia there are three distinct divisions of the ser-
vice — the prayers of the priest, the responses of the choir, and
the hymns of the people ; which last are collected and
arranged for seasons and occasions, in their Bede Psalmer, a
book which, as they all sing moi'e or less, most of them have
at their fingers' ends.

While this was proceeding, the Candidatus threw open the
richly-carved doors of the chancel screen and admitted the
christening party into the choir, arranging them round the
font which stood at its entrance. The whole service was
very like our own, except that, after the exhortation, the
priest proclaimed his own commission to baptize, in the
words of the three last verses in St. Matthew's gospel, before
reading the gospel from St. Mark which is used in the
English Church ; and afterwards announced the value of the
Sacrament itself in the words of St. John — (chap. 3. v. 5, C).


Before the act of baptism, the priest laid his hand on the
head of each child, severally, and blessed it ; then, after sprink-
ling it three several times as he pronounced the name of each
of the three Persons in the Trinity, he stepped forward to the
doors of the choir, and presented the new Christian to the
congregation, saying, " In the name of the Holy Trinity, this
child is now, through holy baptism, received as a member of
the Christian Church, and hath right given him to all the
privileges joined therewith: God give His grace, that he, all
the days of his life, may fulfil this his baptismal covenant."

After a general thanksgiving for the new birth of the
children, and a general exhortation to the sponsors on the
subject of their duties, the congregation struck up another
hymn from the Bede Psalm er, while the children were
carried round the altar, which does not stand, as in our
churches, close to the well, but has a passage left behind it,
possibly for this purpose, the sponsors depositing on it their
offerings as they passed.

In the meanwhile the priest, kneeling on the altar steps,
was invested by the Candiclatus and Kyrke Sanger (precentor)
with the masse hacke, a crimson velvet chasuble, embroi-
dered in front with a gold glory surrounding the Holy
Name, and behind with a sold floriated cross. He remained
kneeling, while the Candiclatus, paper in hand, went down
the nave, noting those who intended to present themselves
at the communion, in order to be certain that none should
partake of it who had not previously given their names to
the priest for approbation, and attended the early service of
confession — called communions-skrift. This was not so very
difficult to do, though none of the congregation had left the
church ; for each intended communicant wore something
black or grey about him, in memory of the Lord's death.
When this survey had been completed, the priest rose, and
facing the people, intoned the general thanksgiving, and
then turning: asain to the altar, made his confession alone, in
the name of his flock, the congregation itself being silent,
though the choir, at the occasional pauses, chanted the Kyrie
Eleeson. He then placed on the altar the " Oblaten Schalten,"
or wafer basket, the silver flagon, and lastly the chalice and


patin, which were brought to him with great ceremony, the
Candidatus and Kyrke Sanger, who carried them, being at-
tended by the whole choir.

The outer doors of the church were then shut, and the
Candidatus in his black gown and cassock having taken his
place on the lower step, the priest chanted the Gloria in
Excelsis, the choir taking it up after the first sentence.

After the consecration, the communicants were arranged
in four divisions ; the married men, and the married
women, the single men and the single women ; these
knelt in the centre, while the non-communicants stood
round them chanting softly the Agnus Dei, and bowing
their heads as the elements were administered to each com-
municant, which was done individually, as with us.

There was then a general thanksgiving and a Hallelujah
by the choir ; after which the priest dismissed the congrega-
tion with his benediction, making the sign of the cross to-
wards them in the air. This form, which was universal
throughout three kingdoms scarcely more than a hundred
years ago, has almost entirely disappeared from the Swedish
Church, disused rather than forbidden ; but many of the old
customs which in Sweden have become obsolete, in Norway
are religiously kept up. And besides this, politics have some-
thing to do with the matter ; there is always a great affecta-
tion of Danish peculiarities, such as dressing the church with
green boughs on Whitsuntide, among those who are not over
well affected to Sweden. These and many similar ceremo-
nials retained in Norwegian churches are punishable by fine
or deprivation ; but the people will have it so, and the priests
are very willing to indulge them, — members of Storthing and
law-makers as many of them are.

As for theology, the people are profoundly ignorant of that,
while the priests themselves, who, nine out of ten, are learned
divines, — thanks to the severe examination at Christiania
which generally weeds out one half of the candidates every
year, — are almost always politicians enough to borrow their
churchmanship from Denmark, are just as much Grundt-
vigites, or Mynsterites, according as their bias is high or low,
as if they lived in Copenhagen itself.


After tlie conclusion of the service the fishermen were
lounging homewards, taking their time, and enjoying the
weather, and the views, and the sunshine, and the Sunday
quiet, and upon the whole, though all of them ardent
sportsmen, by no means sorry for a day of regular rest,
when the Pfarrherr himself, accompanied by his Candidatus
overtook them. The Carididatus was a long, tall youth, fresh,
from college, conceited and shy at the same time, who looked,
as Birger afterwards observed, as if he smelt of the mid-
night oil; but the Pfarrherr was a gentleman- like man,
with a broad, good-humoured, fresh-coloured face, looking
more like an English old-fashioned squire than anything
else. He had been priest of Soberud for many years, and
being a regular anti-Swede, was very popular. He had
represented the district in several Storthings, and was likely
to do so in many more, though he did belong to the com-
mercial party, which in Norway, as in America, is aristo-
cratic and tory, in opposition to the country party, who in
those nations are the radicals.

In addition to this, he was the probst, or rural dean, which
was a fortunate circumstance for him — for being an enthu-
siastic admirer of Grundtvig, he was a great deal too much
of a ritualist and antiquarian for the continually receding
Swedish Church, and, under other circumstances, could hardly
have failed in being brought up before the Church Committee
at Christiania, for his little peculiarities ; though it is a fact
that most of the ecclesiastical members of Storthing, who
composed it, thought, felt, and, if they dared, would act, pre-
cisely as he did.

He spoke English readily enough — indeed, English is to
the educated Norwegians what French is to us, — and, as a
matter of course, invited the fishermen to share the hospi-
talities of the prsestgaard. This, however, would have been
a mortal offence to poor Torgenson, who, though he could
not speak to his guests one single word except through an
interpreter, would have been deeply scandalized, and, indeed,
would have felt lowered in the eyes of his countrymen, had
they deserted him. The Parson, however, being a profes-
sional man, was an exception, and Pfarrherr Nordlingen


carried him off in triumph, Torkel promising to bring over
his knapsack to the praestgaard.

The jDraestgaard was not so large and rambling a building
as the hall, but was infinitely more comfortable ; highly-
polished birchen furniture, and well-stored bookcases, gave it
an air of habitableness. The room into which they entered
was the summer parlour, whose French windows, shaded by
gauze curtains, were wide open, looking on a broad lawn and
a sparkling little stream beyond it ; a good sprinkling of
juniper twigs took off, in a great measure, from the bare look
of the carpetless floors which always strikes an English eye.
It is a great absurdity, in a country which is not favourable
for sheep, and whose woollen manufactures seldom go higher
than the wadmaal, that the duty upon English woollens
should be so absurdly high. But the fact is, the Storthing is
so entirely in the hands of the democratic, or country party,
that anything beyond a class legislation is hopeless. The
idea is not that all the people should have warm blankets,
but that the democratic and agricultural majorities should
work up inferior wool. Weaving by hand is an agriculturist's
winter work.

The Priestess Nordlingen, as she was called, a smiling,
pretty-looking woman, much younger than her husband, was
occupied in laying the cloth for aftonsmad, assisted by the
dowager priestess, who lived now on the other side of the
little stream, but being on excellent terms with her late
husband's successor, spent a good deal more of her time in
her old home than she did in her new one.* Servants they
had, both of them, in plenty, for the praester are among the
richest in the land ; but no Norwegian wife is above acting
as butler and housekeeper, and no Norwegian damsel, froken
though she be, is above waiting at table. It does not seem
quite the thing to an English gentleman, to have the ladies
waiting upon him ; but certainly in the Norwegian grammar,
if they have one, the masculine is more worthy than the

* All livings in Norway have a dowager-house and farm belonging
to them, for the widow of the late incumbent. At her death, it passes
back to the present possessor of the living.


Forest life is pleasant, but a contrast is pleasant also, and
the Parson, as he lay back in a peculiarly easy chair, sipping
leisurely the dram which invariably precedes a Norwegian
meal, and winch, in the present case, was true cognac of
unquestionable genuineness and undeniable antiquity, con-
sidered himself in veiy great luck indeed ; in fact, much
as he admired the rude abundance of* the hall, he infinitely
preferred the quiet elegances of the prsestgaard. He made
some such observation to Nordlingen.

" Yes," replied he, " the Reformation has injured the
Church cruelly, as an endowment, and has cut off five-sixths
of its clergy ; but we individual prsester have not much to
complain of as regards ourselves."

11 You must have pretty severe duties, though."

" "Well, they are not severe, because they cannot be done,
My parish was originally six ; these have been thrown toge-
ther under one. If I had half-a-dozen curates, the parish
could not be visited, nor the annex kyrker properly served ;
for in former times it supported six priests and six deacons ;
so what one cannot do at all, one soon ceases to distress one's
self about. The work is not done, cannot be done, and no
one expects it to be done. We have work enough — espe-
cially those who, like me, are elevated to the Storthing, — but
it is not ecclesiastical work."

u Do you know," said the Parson, " I wonder that, under
such circumstances, you have no dissenters in Norway ; our
Wesleyans arose from precisely the same cause. The spolia-
tion of our Church having diminished our number of priests,
and very seriously impaired the discipline which might, in
some measure, have kept the remainder to their work, the
people in many districts became heathens, much like your
own people, in fact ; and when teachers rose up among them,
men followed them not because they were orthodox, but
because they were the only teachers to be had. But you
have some sort of dissenters, too, have you not V

" 0, the Haugerites. Yes — they are not dissenters, either.
Hauger held a good many doctrines of that arch-heretic,
Calvin : New Birth, as distinct from Baptism ; Predestination,
Election, and so forth ; but neither he nor his followers sepa-



rated from the Church. In truth, religion is at too low an
ebb among us for dissent ; we have no more strength to
throw up dissenters, than an exhausted field has to throw up
weeds. Hauger succeeded, because he was not only a pious,
but a practical man ; he was rich, too ; he set up saw-mills
and iron-works, and advanced the money ; — it is no wonder
he set up a religious party. But they are going down


" Ah, T understand — what we call in Ireland, soup Chris-
tians ; and now Hauger is dead, the spring has run dry ? "

" No not at all — I do not mean to say that the practical
turn of his mind was not a recommendation to his theology ;
but though he preached and did good, his good offices were
not confined to his own followers ; his sect is subsiding
because it has no distinctive tenets, any more than that of
your Wesleyans. You made a great blunder ; by turning
Wesley out of the Church, you forced him to set up a
Church government of his own ; it is that goverment, and
not his doctrines, which keeps his followers in a state of
antagonism to a Church with which they have no real doc-
trinal difference. We were not such fools with Hauger ; he
met with a little persecution himself — for we Norwegians are