Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

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by the side of the great fall, and to penetrate it for some
distance ; at least, the depth was sufficiently great to be lost
in darkness ; the bottom of it was on a level with the water,
and was not accessible without a boat.

" That ! " said Birger, " that is Polheim's grave."
" Do you mean to say that any man was buried there V
" Not the man himself, only the best part of a man — his
reputation. Polheim was an engineer, and when the first
idea of makiug a practicable communication between the



Wener and the sea was entertained, he attempted to carry
it into effect by burrowing out that hole. If he had suc-
ceeded in boring through the rock, he would have accom-
plished the largest jet d'eau in the world. However, Go-
vernment were wise enough to put a stop to it, and to employ j
a cleverer man. Polheim died — it is said of grief, — his body i
buried at Wenersborg ; what became of his soul, I will notj
take upon me to say ; but as for his reputation, there is no
doubt about that — that lies buried there."

"That canal certainly is a wonderful work for a country I
like yours, where the extent of land is so great, and the pro-*
cluce from it so small."

"It would have been more wonderful still," said BirgerJ
"for it would have been done when the country was stilL
poorer, had it not been for the Reformation."

"The Reformation!" said the Captain. "What, in the!
name of Tenterden Steeple and the Goodwin Sands, has the
Reformation to do with the Gotha Canal 1 "

" Not much with the canal, but a good deal with Bishop
Brask who planned it — the man whom Geijer calls, and
very deservedly, ' the friend of liberty, and the upright
friend of his country.' The present canal, nearly as you seei
it now, was sketched out in a letter still preserved, which
was written in the year 1526, by the Bishop, to stout old
Thure Jensen, whom men called King of East Gothland —
that gallant old fellow, who, when he saw how the Diet of
"Westeras was going, struck up his drums and marched forth,
swearing that no man in Sweden should make him heathen,
Lutheran, or heretic. Before the Bishop's scheme could be
converted into a reality, stout old Thure was a headless
corpse, and -Brask a voluntary exile. But the good which
men do, lives after them. Gustavus, who had alway!
respected Brask, and would fain have retained him in his See
of Linkoping, carried out many of his plans — and in the
course of time this, as you see, was carried out too, though
it was not for a hundred years or more after the successin
king and the deprived bishop had gone to their respective

"Jacob has just been giving us another version of th(


story," said the Captain, " something about Gefjon and

" O, the Gylfa-Ginning. Stupid old fool ! — that did not
happen here, but down in the south, between Sweden and
Denmark. So far, however, he is quite right, — at least,
if you believe the Prose Edda ; the Goddess Gefjon was the
first canal maker in Sweden, and the event happened in the
reign of King Gylfi.

" Thus it was : —

" King Gylfi ruled over the land of Svithiod (Sweden),
and at that uncertain date which is generally known as ' once
upon a time,' he recompensed a strange woman, for some
service she had done him, with as much land as she could
plough round with four oxen in a day and a night ; but he
did not know, till the share struck deep into the earth and
tore asunder hills and rocks, that it was the Goddess Gefjon
that he was dealing with. So deep were the furrows, that the
place where the land had been became water, for the oxen,
which had come from Jotenheim (the land of the Goths),
were realiy her sons, whom she had yoked to her plough/'

"Phew-w-w," whistled the Parson.

" What is the matter V said Birger.

" Only that as Gefjon is the northern Diana, I thought
you might have made a mistake ; her nephews, possibly, not
her sons V

" 0, that goes for nothing in Sweden," said the Captain,
laughing ; " there are plenty of cases in point. I have no
doubt Birger is quite right."

"Well, if you come to scandalising national divinities."
retorted Birger, " I am sure that story about Endymion was
never cleared up very satisfactorily."

" Clear up your own story, at all events, and place the
oxen in any relationship to the maiden goddess which you
may think best suited to her fair fame."

" Then I will call them what the Edda calls them," said
Birger, gallantly, " her sons, and never sully the fair fame of
the maiden Gefjon either. The whole is an allegory. Sweden
achieved the sea-path, or inland navigation by the labour of




her own sons, and that is what the old Skald Brasji meansk
when he likens them to oxen, and says —

" ' Four heads and eight eyes bearing,
While hot sweat trickled down them,
The oxen dragged the reft mass
That formed this winsome island.'

And now Gefjon and her sturdy sons have been at work
again. The whole south of Sweden is an island now, and it is 1
this canal from the Cattegat to the Baltic that makes it so."i

" Well, so it is ; and though it is a long while since the,
days of the Goddess Gefjon, or even of good Bishop Brask,;
the work is complete at last, and a very creditable work it
is. I think, by-the-way, that we English had something,
to do with it."

" England had a hand, and a very considerable one, in the'
other end of it," said Birger, " but these locks are homei
manufacture, and the thing really has answered very well.
See what a trade it has opened with the Wener only, which*
was the original plan ; the communication with the Baltic'
being a sort of after-thought of the Ostergothlanders, carried!
out by Count Platen. This part of the canal, which was:
opened in 1800, has made four of our inland counties, Weners-
borglan, Mariestadslan, Carlstadslan, and Orebro, into so
many maritime states ; and now the other end has done the
same for Jon hoping and Linkoping. In national wealth, it
has paid a dozen times over. There is no one who has ever,
lived, since the days of Oxenstjerna, to whom we owe so
much as we do to Count Platen. In the very heat of the
war — that is to say, in 1808 — he conceived the idea of pro-
longing the water communication to the Baltic. He went'
over to England to inspect, with his own eyes, the Caledonian
canal. He engaged Telford, returned to Sweden, and, within
two months, sent in his plans, with their specification and
estimates, which, strange to say, have not been exceeded ii
the execution. It is this old j^art of the canal, however,
which is, at all events, the most showy job ; here are two
miles of solid rock cut through, and, as you see, these tails
are pretty high — not less than a hundred and twenty feet


of them, besides the rapids, — they require, therefore, a good
many locks ; in fact, as you see, it looks more like a staircase
than anything else."

" It certainly was a singular sight," said the Captain, "to
see our steamer high above our heads, and the masts of the
brigs sticking out from the tops of the rocks, and far above
the highest trees."

" This part of the canal is the most showy," said Birger ;
"no doubt but Platen's work was not altogether so easy
as it looks. Any one can appreciate the skill of an engineer,
who sees a great body of water surmounting a steep wall of
rock ; but a still greater amount of skill is evidenced in laying
out a plan, so as to render such tedious and expensive works
unnecessary. When I was a youngster, I was sent by the
Kongs-Ofwer-Commandant's Expedition, to survey, by way
of practice, the two lines from our fortress of Wanas-on-
Wettern to the two seas, and I really do not know which is
the most wonderful conception. The original plan was only
eight feet deep, but they are deepening it two feet more, and
making the width of the locks twenty-two feet throughout.
We shall see the Linkoping battalion at work on this to-
morrow. I must go and pay them a visit while we are
staying at Gaddeback. I know a good many of the officers."

" It is a military work, then ?"

"Not exactly, though, like most other large undertakings,
it is done by soldiers. It is a speculation, something like
those in your own country, which is taken in hand by share-
holders, with a board of directors, though I believe Government
gives them a lift of some sort or other ; but in this country,
in time of peace, you can always get as many soldiers as you
want for labourers, from a corporal's party up to a battalion,
or a brigade, for matter of that. You lodge so much money
in the hands of the Government officer appointed for that
purpose, and a regiment, or a company, or a detachment, re-
ceives orders to march and hut themselves in such a place.
Your engineer, or foreman, or bailiff, as the case may be,
gives his orders to the officer in command, who sees them
carried into effect. It costs more in hard money — and, what
is a worse thing for us Swedes, ready money — than any other

s 2



sort of labour, but it answers exceedingly well for those who
can afford the first outlay, for the men are under military
discipline, and Government are responsible, not only that you
shall have so many men to work, but so many sober men, fit
to work, which, in this country, as you know, is not exactly
the same thing."

" And how do the soldiers like it ?" said the Captain, who,
though he did not say so, certainly w~as thinking that it w T as
not precisely the situation of an officer and a gentleman, to
do duty as foreman of the works for some speculating farmer,
or builder, or engineer.

The idea never seemed to strike Birger, who, by-the-way,
belonging to the Royal Guards, was himself exempt from
such service. " It is rather popular," said he, " with all
classes ; the men like it because they have a considerable in-
crease of pay, and as for the officers, except one or two who
are on duty for the day, they have but a short morning and
evening parade, just to see that their men are all right, and
then they may do what they please. They lose nothing,
either, for all places are equally dull in the summer, when
everybody is at work ; there can be no festivities going on
anywhere, and so they shoot, or fish, or lounge, or make love,
at their leisure. But here we are at the parade-ground," he
continued, as they came upon a cleared space in the forest,
surrounded by very neat and compactly-built huts, some of
considerable pretensions, framed with trunks of pines, and
walled and roofed with outsides from the saw-mills, arranged
as weather-boards ; others, more humble, were constructed of
pine-branches and heather ; but all alike compact, neat, firm,
tidy-looking, and arranged in military order, in straight lines,
with their officers' huts in front.

The sun w T as not far from its setting, and the soldiers
having put aside their tools, were throwing on their belts in
a way that certainly would not have satisfied an English
adjutant, and were hurrying, with their muskets in their
hands, to their respective posts. There was a short private
inspection by the non-commissioned officers, while the band,
a pretty good one, were tuning their instruments ; after
which the companies formed into line, faced to the west, and


as the lower limb of the sun touched the horizon, the officers
saluted with their swords, the men presented arms, and
accompanied by the band, sang in chorus, every man of them
joining in and taking his part in it, the beginning of Grundt-
vig's glorious hymn to the Trinity.

"0 mighty God ! we Thee adore,
From our hearts' depths, lor evermore ; —
None is in glory like to Thee
Through time and through eternity.
Thy Name is blessed by Cherubim —
Thy Name is blessed by Seraphim —
And songs of praise from earth ascend,
With thine angelic choirs to blend.

Holy art Thou, our God !

Holy art Thou, our God!

Holy art Thou, our God !

Lord of Sabaoth."

The air was simple enough, though beautifully harmonized ;
but there is nothing in the whole compass of music so mag-
nificent as the combination of some hundreds of human voices
trained to sing in harmony ; the band would have injured
the effect, but in truth it was hardly heard, overwhelmed as
it was by that volume of sound, — except, indeed, the roll of
drums which accompanied the final "Amen," swelling and pro-
longing the notes, and then dying away like a receding peal
of thunder. The men recovered arms, were dismissed, and in
ten minutes were dispersed over the parade ground, playing
leap-frog, fencing, wrestling, foot-ball ; while not a lew were
lighting fires, and boiling water for their evening grod.

Birger stepped on, to see if he could meet with his
friend, while the other two, thinking that they should most
likely be in the way among people who, if they spoke
English or French at all, spoke it with difficulty ; turned
into the w r ell-beaten track that led to the inn and landing
place of Trollhatten.

Before they arrived there the night had already closed in ;
that is to say, it had faded into twilight, for that is the
nearest approach which a northern summer's night makes to
darkness. All that the travellers then saw of the inn was
the light which, glancing from every window, beamed forth


a welcome which it had evidently been beaming forth to
others before them ; judging from the din which arose from
the evening relaxations of a dozen or so of jolly subalterns.
These, who had money enough, or who fancied they had
money enough to spend in luxury, had fixed their quarters
at the inn, instead of the pretty looking green huts which
their less wealthy or more prudent comrades had run up in
the camp.

In fact, the sitting rooms of the inn offered at that time
fewer temptations than the very clean, bare bed-rooms, with
their very white sheets, and very warm down coverlets.
Winter and summer alike, the feather bed is uppermost, and
here it was still ; though the only reason why the windows
were not left wide open all night, was the clouds of musquitos
which, entering by them, menaced the repose of the

Jacob, whom the party had somewhat inconsiderately left
in charge of the baggage, had, much to their surprise,
deceived them all in making no mistake, and leaving nothing
behind ; the carioles had been landed, and were ready packed
for their journey on the morrow, as duly as if the fishermen
had seen to them themselves ; but in his own country Jacob
had become quite a different character, and piqued himself
in showing to the Norwegians in his own person how vast
was the superiority of the Swedes.

Birger was not seen again till the party was collected at a
sufficiently early hour of the morning round a magnificent
breakfast of fruit and fish, which had been laid out under
the verandah of the inn, — a narrow esplanade which looked
out upon the yet quiet waters of the brimming Gotha, at
the very point where they were gathering their strength for
their first furious plunge.

Most cataracts commence with a rapid : so still and calm
was the Gotha at this point, that the esplanade in question
was the general landing place from Wenersborg, and was
furnished with iron rings for the purpose of mooring the
boats, several of which, very fair specimens of Swedish boat-
building, were hanging on to them, scarcely stretching out
their respective painters, so gentle was the current. Among


them lay a very handsome gig with bright sides, well scraped
oars, and a white English ensign fluttering in the morning
breeze ; from which Hoodie, who had come in state with
four rowers, had just landed, and by means of which, the
travellers were to complete their journey.

In truth, Gaddeback was not very accessible in any other
way ; it had been originally built as a pic-nic house by the
Mayor of Wenersborg, who, when he had been hall-ruined
by the great fire that had taken place there the year before,
was glad enough to contract his expenses, and to find a
person to take it off his hands. It suited Hoodie well
enough, and its low rent suited him also, but there were not
many men whom it would suit at all. It had been built
exclusively for pleasure parties, and these were expected to
arrive there either by boat or by sledge, according as the
surface of the river was, water or ice. No one had ever
troubled themselves with any other entrance, and it was no
sort of drawback to the place in its original state, that com-
munication with the main land was entirely cut off. The
still, deep brook which gave to the place its name (pike
brook), had spread out behind the house into a broad reedy
morass, which in spring, during the floods, was a broad reedy
lake, but in summer a sort of neutral ground, between land
and water, through which was led a precarious track, which,
might be passed on wheel, or indeed on foot, provided the
traveller did not object to very clear water, not much above
his knees. The actual spot on which the house was situated in
the middle of all this, was a patch of parky ground, abound-
ing in beautiful timber, which was five or six feet above the
general level ; that part of it which lay next the river was
firm, and hard, and covered with short green turf, but this
subsided to landward, first into wet sponge, secondly into
bog, and lastly into reedy water, in proportion as it receded
from the river. The brook, divided by this patch of dry land,
soaked into the main stream, on either end of it, completely
insulating the domain.

This suited Moodie exactly, for the little park was full of
all sorts of grouse and other birds, which looked as if they
were at perfect liberty, as indeed they were, only that



having had their pinions cut, and not being able to swim,
they could not pass the girdle of water — herons, and cranes,
and bitterns, were stalking about, or watching for fish in the
shallows, like their wild brethren, for though excellent
waders, and quite in their element on the soppy shores to
landward, they could not swim any more than the grouse.
There were some deer, also, of various kinds, but as these had
no sort of objection to take the water, they were confined in
little paddocks, those being classed together who would keep
the peace.

On the esplanade, between the house and the river, lay a
dozen dogs, mostly English, on excellent terms with the
great brown bear, who, though perfectly tame, was secured
from paying any inquisitive visits to the deer paddocks by a
collar and chain, with which he was made fast to a substan-
tial post at the door.

The whole front of the house had been occupied by a ball
room, with windows opening into a verandah. This verandah
had become a general marine store — oars, boat-hooks, masts,
sails, were arranged along it on hooks ; but so tidily and
regularly were they disposed, that they looked as if they had
been placed there for ornament \ — fishing rods of all lengths
were there, and a large assortment of eel-lines and night-
lines, and trimmers, and gaffs, and pike-wires, and spears,
and other poaching implements, together with a goodly
assortment of drags and flues in the back ground ; while
a full-sized casting-net, hung up to dry, displayed its
leaded semi-circle to the sun : for be it remembered,
Moodie made a profit of his pleasure, and not only kept
liis own establishment in fish, but very seldom allowed the
Gotheborg steamer to pass without dispatching in her a
heavy birchen basket, consigned to Jacob Lindegren, the

Neither was the interior at all out of character : the ball
room had been divided by wooden partitions into three
very tolerable apartments — an ante-room or broad passage m
the middle, and on either side his dining room and what he
called his study, that is to say, the place where he made his
Hies. The passage, which was sufficiently littered, contained


little other furniture than a turning-lathe and a carpenter's
bench, with shelves and pigeon-holes round the sides for the
necessary tools ; but both rooms were pictures of tidiness ;
the furniture was plain enough, certainly, but the walls were
covered with sketches, of Hoodie's own drawing, and with
sporting trophies of every kind : huge bear skins and wolf
skins occupied whole pannels, surmounted, perhaps, by the
grinning skull of a lynx, or a huge antlerecl head with the
skin on ; between these were cases containing most of the
wild birds found in the country, all stuffed by his own
hands ; together with specimens of eggs, hung up in a pat-
tern, but each labelled with the name of the bird it belonged
to. Between the windows was a formidable armoury, while
over one door was a stuffed otter, and over the other a wild
cat, and the rug itself was formed of badgers' skins bordered
with fox ; for Moodie had imported an English grate and
had built a fire place, besides the invariable stove.

Such was the sportsman's paradise, into which Moodie
welcomed his guests. There was accommodation, such as it
was, for an unlimited number of them ; for there were several
empty rooms of one sort or another ; and a rough box, hastily
run up with planks from the saw mills, filled with dry pop-
lar leaves and covered with a bear skin, was a bed much
better than any of them had been accustomed to. As for
washing, their toilet apparatus was laid out every morning
on the stage to which the boats were moored, and a dive
into the river was the very best way of washing the face
after shaving, — at least, so Moodie seemed to think, for
though his room was pretty well fitted up, inasmuch as such
toilet would be difficult in the winter, when the river was as
hard as a stone, in summer he always chose the boat
stage for his own dressing-room, as well as for that of his

No one was sorry for a rest ; journals had to be written
up, notes had to be compared ; there was something, too, in
lounging lazily in the sun, or smoking a peaceful cigar under
the shade of the awninsr, or teasing- the bear, or feeding the
grouse, and knowing all the while that there was no duty
neglected, and no opportunity lost. Not but that excursions



in a quiet way were made — now upon the water with the
trolling tackle, now on the high grounds of the royal forest,
now on neither land nor water, but on the marshy debateable
land, astonishing the ducks that swarmed among the reed
beds which divide the left bank of the river irom the sound
land ; but nothing very particular was done, beyond exist-
ing in a very high state of quiet enjoyment.




"I hung fine garments
On two wooden men
Who stand on the wall ;
Heroes they seemed to be
When they were clothed ;
The unclad are despised."


The day had been oppressively hot, more actual heat,
perhaps — reckoning by the degrees of Reaumur or Faren-
heit — than had been experienced on the fjeld of the Telle-
mark ; — but that was dry, bracing, exhilarating heat, such as
is felt on the mountain side ; this was the moist, feverish
warmth, caused by the sun's rays acting on the wide ex-
panse of the Wener Sjon and its marshy shores, and secretly
and imperceptibly drawing up vajDours, which would even-
tually fall in rain, — not, perhaps, on the spot from which
they had been raised, but on the cold distant mountains of
Fille Fjeld, which at once attracted and condensed them.
There was not a cloud in the sky, but the sun would not
shine brightly or cheerily either.

The long summer's day was, however, drawing to a close,
and the party were sitting at the extreme end of a little
jetty which Moodie had built out into the river on piles of
solid fir. This was covered with an awning of striped duck,
— of little use as an awning so late in the day, for the sun
was low enough to peep under it, but still kept up, partly to
tempt the air of wind, which every now and then fluttered
its vandyked border, and partly as a preservative against the
dews, which would be sure to fall as soon as the sun dipped
below the horizon.


From a flag- staff, stepped on the outermost pile, hung a
huge red English ensign, every now and then stirring in the
breeze, half unrolling its lazy folds and then dropping
motionless against its staff. Moodie was very particular
about this flag, and hoisted it every morning with his own
hands, — for ever since he had fairly turned his back upon

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 23 of 36)