Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

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figure just as tidy, and just as carefully dressed, as if there
had been no such thing as falling rain, or wet juniper, or
prickly brambles in the world. He was standing with his
back to the fire, and his hands in the pockets of his shooting-
jacket, watching the preparations for a late supper, and singing,
at the full pitch of a very powerful voice, the magic words
which had recalled the Parson to a state of consciousness.
The Captain, who had evidently been furbishing up with


fresh chalk the " S. F." on his cap, which looked quite white
and new, notwithstanding the rain, had just returned from
visiting his sentries, and was examining the lock oi his Ame-
rican riile, which he had carried with him, to see if it had
sustained any damage from the wet. Jacob, and his atten-
dant imps, were emerging from behind the flames with the
everlasting black kettle, which was accompanied this time by
a pile of steaks, cut from some mysterious animal, and served
up on the splash-board of one of the carioles, by way of

" Halloo ! Birger," said the Parson ; " you here ! Rather
a change in the general aspect of affairs since we parted
last !"

" You may well say that ; I never saw such a determined
day's rain ; I thought the twilight of the gods was come in
real earnest."

" To j udge from the fire that you have got up," said the
Parson, emerging from the tent, " you seem inclined to realize
the old prophecy, that that twilight is to finish off by a
general conflagration."

" You need not cast inquiring glances at me," said Birger to
the Captain, who, having satisfied himself about the state of
his weapons, was trying to make out the allusion. " I am
not going to tell you that long story now. The gods them-
selves, if we may trust the high song of Odin, used to take
off the edge of their hunger, and thirst, too, — for they
were thirsty souls, — before they called on Bragi, the god of
minstrelsy, to sing even their own deeds. And, to tell you
^the truth, to say nothing of my being as hungry as a hunter,
these steaks are most magnificent, and this kettle unusually

" What have you got in it ?" said the Parson.

"Andhrinmir cooks Sahrimnir in Eldhrimnir," replied
Birger, quoting from the cookery of the prose Edda. " Do
you not see Odin has sent us a present of heavenly meat
from Valhalla ?"

" Nonsense ! what is the meat of Valhalla called here on
earth ?"

" Goat's flesh," said Birger, demurely.


" Humph !" said the Parson, turning over, with his crimp-
ing knife, a bone almost big enough to have belonged to a
small ox ; " and this is a goat's rib, is it ?"

" Valhalla was always remarkable for its breed of goats,"
said Birger : " but never you mind what rib it is, there's a
biscuit to eat with it, that is all you need care about, just
now. I am afraid our host, the Skalfogdar" (bowing to the
Captain), " cannot find you any currant jelly to eat with

"I can find you some cranberry jelly, though," said the
Captain, " which is a much better thing, and much more cha-
racteristic of the country. Here, Jacob, hand me that mess-
tin, will you. The very first thing I did, after reconnoitring
my post, was to lay in a store of these cranberries, and to
make them into jelly. I had not to go far for them. You
would not like them in the Swedish fashion — pickled, —
would you % I think the men have got some which they
have made for themselves."

" Thank you, yes ; and a little of the forbidden stuff, too,
to wash it down with. Never mind the water, Piersen, I
have taken my share of that already."

Here Jacob made his appearance, with four or five orre
grouse, spitted upon a strip of fir ; — Jacob piqued himself
on his fjeld cuisine, and really did serve up his dinners ad-
mirably. The whole was concluded with split grayling, by
way of cheese, for being north of the Wener Sjon, they were
in the grayling country, — a circumstance which the Captain,
whose post was not a mile from the river, had not been slow
to profit by ; — on the sunny morning of the preceding day,
he had caught them by dozens. The grayling, which are
seldom caught in Norway, where the rivers are mostly too
rough for such tender fish, abound throughout the whole
north of Sweden, and are worth anything to the fisherman ;
they render his chances of sport, as well as of provisions,
very much less precarious, because they do everything which
trout do not ; they are stationary when — in Sweden, at all
events — the trout is migratory ; they come into high' season
when the trout are going out ; they will not rise in a stormy
day, which the trout loves ; but, when the sun is bright and


the wind is low, and not a ripple curls the surface, and not
a trout stirs beneath it, the swift, shadow-like grayling dot
it with their rises like so many hail-stones. They are very
good eating, too, when dressed in any way man can devise ;
but a very excellent method, and a very common method in
Sweden, is to split them down the back, pepper them well,
and dry them in the hot sun before broiling them, or making
them into plok-fiske. This Jacob was unable to do on the
present occasion, for the rain had been falling from the time
of the Captain's return from the river ; so he had substi-
tuted for the sun that which was scarcely less hot — the
Captain's blazing fire ; and his imitation was unanimously
pronounced to have exceeded the original.

" I do not think I should have fared like this at any of
the farm houses," said the Parson, stretching himself at full
length on his cloak and basking at the fire, for the rain had
now entirelv ceased, and the bivouac beo-an to look home-
like and comfortable. I must say it required a pretty firm
determination to keep steadily onward, with soaked clothes
and chilled bones and empty stomachs, such as Ave had this
morning. I was sorely tempted to make for shelter; but I
set before me the comforts of persevering, and I am very
glad I did so. To say nothing of your company and Jacob's
dinner, this glorious blaze is far better than a farm-house
stove, and my old cloak than a dirty sheep-skin. Well,
virtue is its own reward. Jacob, fill the pot with hot water,
and let us have a few embers here to keep it warm. Have
you got any sugar 2"

" There is nothing your countrymen are so remarkable for,"
said Birger, " as a steady, resolute perseverance against diffi-
culties and discouragements."

" Pluck ?" suggested the Captain.

" Yes, Pluck ! you did not know when you were beaten at
Waterloo, and so you won the battle ; Wellington would
have got an army of Englishmen out of the scrape of Mos-
cow, if he had ever been ass enough to get them into it."

" I think," said the Parson, " that this may be traced to a
national peculiarity of ours — love of adventure. Other men
^vill undergo hardships and incur dangers, in search of gain,

2 A


or even in the pursuit of some definite object, but th#
Englishman seeks his hardships for the pleasure of undergoing
them, — courts his dangers for the pleasure of surmounting
them, and follows out his adventure for adventure's sake."

" In fact," said the Captain, " he does just what we are all
doing now."

" Well." said Birger, " and let no one say — what is the use
of it 1 — what is the Englishman the better for diving into
mines, and scaling mountains, and crossing deserts ? — what
has he to show for it 1 He has this to show for it, — a man-
liness of character, — a spirit to encounter the dangers of life,
and a heart to overcome its difficulties. Depend upon it,
while your aristocracy— men brought up and nourished in
the very lap of luxury and ease — seek their pleasures in the
dangers of the wild ocean, or the hardships of the stormy
mountain-side, you will see no symptoms of degeneracy in
the hardihood and manliness of your national character.
Pluck is a genuine English word, slang though it be."

" I think you may translate it into Swedish," said the
Captain, " for our English blood has a cross of Scandinavian
in it, and there really is as great a similarity in our national
characteristics as there is in the structure of our languages."

" I think," said the Parson, " your word ' Mod ' implies
pluck, with a dash of fierceness in it. When it is said of
some grand berserkar, ' har oprist syn mod,' it means that
he has summoned his pluck, with the full intention of making
his enemies aware of that fact. Still, however, it is a fair
rendering of our more peaceable word, and you have a right
to it ; but I am quite sure you cannot translate that ex-
pression into any other language under the sun, without
losing some part of its force."

"Whether any foreigners can translate the word into
their own language," said the Captain, " is more than I will
undertake to say, but they perfectly understand and appre-
ciate this peculiarity of our English character. Last year I
was arranging with one of the Chamouny guides an expedi-
tion into the higher Alps ; I had with me a jolly talking
little French marquis, whom I had picked up at St. Gervais.
He was an ambitious little fellow, and volunteered — Heaven.


help him ! — to be my companion. My guide — (you recollect
old Couttet, Parson 1) — looked rather blank at this, and taking
me aside, said in a low voice, ' absolument je n'irais fas avec
ce Monsieur Id.' 'Why?' said I, rather astonished at the
man refusing that which would certainly have put some
additional francs into his pocket. ' Je connais bien ces
Francais? said he — ' an Englishman is fearful enough in
the valleys, always saying he will not do this, and he cannot
do that, because in truth he is so proud that he does not like
to take anything in hand and be beat in it ; but once get
him on the mountain, and fairly in for it, and be the danger
what it may, he faces it, and be the fatigue what it may, he
keeps up a good heart, and in the end gets through it all as
well as we do ourselves. Your Frenchman is as bold as
brass in the valleys, and does not do badly for a spurt if he
thinks people are admiring him, but he gets cowed when
danger comes and no one to see him, and sits down and dies
when he is tired.' "

"Mr. Couttet was a sensible fellow, and knew his
man," said Birger, who, descended from the old aristocracy
of Sweden, hated and despised the French party most cor-
dially; "and how did you get rid of your travelling com-
panion ?"

" O ! Couttet took the management of that upon his own
hands ; he made the poor little marquis's hair stand on end,
with all sorts of stories about snow storms, and whirlwinds,
and frozen travellers ; which no doubt were true enough, for
there is not a pass in the High Alps without its well-authen-
ticated tale of death ; so the little fellow came to me heartily
ashamed of himself, and looking like a dog that was going
to be whipped, with his " mille excuses," and so forth, and in
fact, we then and there parted company, and I have not
seen him from that time to this. He certainly was rather
an ambitious Tom Thumb for the Col du Geant. — Hallo !
there is something on foot there," said he, interrupting him-
self, " hark to that ! there goes another." And in fact, three
or four shots not very distant from them were distinctly
heard, though they came, not sharp and ringing as such
sounds generally strike upon the ear through the clear air of

2 a 2


the north, but deadened by the mist, as if, so to speak, the
sound had been smothered by a feather-bed. " There goes
another ! and another ! " then came a whole platoon — " 0,
by George ! I must go and visit my sentries."

"All nonsense," said Birger, "one fellow fires at a rustling
leaf, and then all the rest crack off their pieces, by the way
of follow-the-leader ; you may just as well make yourself
comfortable," drawing his cloak round him by way of suiting
the action to the word. " Hand me over the bottle, Jacob !
some more hot water in the pot !"

" I shall go, however," said the Captain, who was young at
picket work, and proportionably anxious ; so shouldering his
rifle, and calling to Tom, his corporal and interpreter, he
disappeared into the outer darkness, while his friends
settled themselves more comfortably in their cloaks, and
threw half a dozen additional, not to say superfluous, logs
into the glorious blaze.

The dispositions at the foot of the pass had been made
with great judgment ; the object was, if possible, to prevent
anything from passing during the night, but at any rate
to arrange matters so that nothing should pass without being

For this purpose a pretty large fire was lighted so near to
the perpendicular part of the rock that nothing would be
likely to go behind it, the shrubs of course being cleared
away from its vicinity ; and on the opposite side of the
passage was a little sentry-box of fir branches, under which
sat two Swedes, with directions to let fly at anything that
crossed between them and the fire ; so that if they missed, as
most likely they would, the picket above might at least be

The men, who had been excited by the firing, were sharp
as needles, and indeed, were not very far from letting fly at
their own commander, but they had seen nothing that they
could be very certain about, though of course their imagina-
tions were full of half the beasts in Noah's Ark ; and so, after
straining his eyes into the thick darkness for half an hour or
more, the Captain heaped fresh fuel on the fire, recom-
mended a sharp look-out, returned slowly up the pass,


and was well laughed at for his pains as he resumed his seat
by the blazing tree.

" By the way, Birger, what is that story that you and the
Parson were alluding to just before dinner, I hope you have
eaten and drank enough by this time to qualify you for
relating it."

" What, the twilight of the gods ? the Bagnarok, as the
Edda calls it ; that is not a story, it is a bit of heathenism."

" It seems to me," said the Captain, " that you Swedes
keep your heathenism a great deal better than you do your

" The Norwegians do, certainly," said Birger, " the fact is,
their conversion was effected by force of arms, rather than by
force of argument ; the party of Olaf the Christian was
stronger than the party of Hakou the heathen, so they killed
and converted, and the people became Christians, and very
appropriately adopted the saint's battle-axe for their national
emblem. As for their Beformation, that was simply an
order from a despotic court, not resisted, only because the
people did not care much about the matter. 'It will not
make herrings dear,' was the popular remark on the subject.
The creed of Odin was the only religion that they were in
earnest about, and that is why the legends that they cling
to, are, nine times in ten, heathen rather than Christian."

" I think I have read that story about the herrings in
Geijer, but applied to a different nation," said the Parson ;
" it will not do for you Swedes to be throwing stones at
Norway, in the matter of that Beformation ; your original
conversion by St. Ansgar, was a good deal more creditable
than theirs, but your Beformation was simply the party of
Gustaf stronger than the party of Christiern — you reformed
your Church because you wanted to dissolve the union of

" What do you say about your own Beformation 1 " said

" That it has nothing to do with the twilight of the gods,
which the Captain wants to hear about — tell us what you
Swedes believe about that."

" Why, we Swedes do not believe in it at all ; it is not


like the legends of the Walpurgis Night, or the death of
Baldur, which are annually kept alive by the change of
seasons which they commemorate. This legend has lost its
hold on the popular mind ; but it is a curious theory, not-
withstanding, because it contains evident traces of a revela-
tion corrupted, because disjoined from that people to whose
guardianship had been committed the oracles of Divine
Truth. In the twilight of the gods may be clearly traced
a representation of the end of the world, such as is revealed
to us : — a fierce winter, the most terrible natural afflction
to the northern mind, is to usher it in ; then comes the
general falling away, which we are ourselves taught to

" The sun and the moon are to be devoured by the wolves,
that have been continually pursuing them ever since
creation, and every now and then, by seizing them, have
caused eclipses; the stars fall, the earth quakes so that the
trees are shaken from their roots, and the mountains totter ;
— then the Midgard Serpent turns on its ocean bed, and an
immense wave rushes over the land, upon which floats the
phantom ship, Naglfar, which is built of the nails of dead
men — the wolf, Fenrir, together with the midgard serpent,
— both of them the offspring of Loki, the Principle of Evil, —
which hitherto have been chained down by the .^Esir, are
now permitted to break loose ; the heavens are cleft in
twain, and the sons of Muspell, the Band of Brightness,
headed by Surtur the Avenger, ride through the breach, and
advance by the bridge of Bifrost which bursts asunder
beneath them. For the time the Avengers join their

* "Then shall brethren be
Each other's bane,
And sister's children rend
The ties of kin.

"Hard will be the age,
And harlotry prevail, —
An axe-age, a sword -age —
Shields oft cleft in twain, —
A storm-age, a wolf-age,
Ere earth shall meet its doom."

The Volusjia.


bright bands with Loki and the Children of Darkness, and
advance to the battle-field of Visrid, where the destinies of
the world are to be decided.

" In the mean while the gods are fully prepared ; Heim-
dall, the Warder of Heaven, has sounded the Horn Gjallar,
and the gods assemble in council; — Valhalla pours out from
its five hundred and forty gates its hosts of heroes ; these,
which are the men who have been slain in battle from the
beginning of the world, and ever since have been trained by
daily tournaments for this very purpose, are eager for the
combat ; and Odin, having previously ridden over for the last
time to the "Well of Mimir, and consulted the Noma, mar-
shals his hosts on the field of Vigrid ; loud and desperate is
the battle, the Powers of Evil fall one by one before the gods,
but very few of these survive the conflict. Thor, having
killed the Midgard Serpent, falls exhausted with his eftorts
and dies ; Frey, who has parted with the sword of victory,
falls before the avenger, Surtur ; Loki and Heimdall engage
in battle and mortally wound each other ; Odin himself is
swallowed up by the wolf Fenrir, which is instantly destroyed
by Yidar ; and last of all, Tyr, the God of Victory, ialls in
the very act of overcoming the dog Garm.

" Surtur the Avenger, having now no opponent, sets the

earth and the heavens on fire with his excessive brightness,

and the whole race of men is consumed, with the exception

of certain chosen individuals who lie hid and protected in

the forest of Hodmimir. Then Surtur himself retires belore

Vidar, the God of Silence, who, calling to him Modi and

Magni (Courage and Might) the sons of Thor (Violence),

and summoning Baldur (Innocence) from the realms of Hela

(Night or Invisibility), founds a new heaven and a new earth,

and a new race of inhabitants, and they dwell on the plains

of Ida (perpetual youth), where Asgard formerly stood, and

their descendants shall spread over the new earth, which

shall be lighted by a new sun.

" 'The radiant sun
A daughter bears
Ere Fenrir takes her ; —
On her mother's course
Shall ride that maid
When the gods have perished.'


" And now, to quote the conclusion of the Prose Edda, ' If
thou hast any further questions to ask, I know not who can
answer thee, for I never heard tell of any one who could
relate what will happen in the other ages of the world.
Make, therefore, the best use thou canst of what lias been
imparted to thee.' "

" Why," said the Captain, " this is Revelation !"

" To be sure it is," said the Parson ; " and my wonder is
not that so much of revealed truth should have been cor-
rupted, but that so much should have been preserved. There
is no occasion for the sneers of those who say that in the
conversion of Scandinavia, St. Ansgar merely substituted
Valentine for Vali, St. Philip for Icluna, and our Lord for
Baldur. He had, in truth, little to teach his converts beyond
explaining allegories, and shewing them that their religion
was only a mild, yet tolerably faithful type of that which
was actually true, — that Thor and Odin were attributes, not
persons, and that Asgard and Gimli, and Hela and Nifle-
heim, were states and conditions, not places."

It must not be supposed that this conversation had been
continued altogether without interruption. Shots had from
time to time rung through the night-air ; some faintly and
from great distances ; some, as it would seem, within a few
hundred yards of them ; there was evidently something rest-
less in the circle of the skal, but their own sentries gave no
notice, and the ear becoming accustomed to such noises, the
shots had of late been little regarded.

One moment, however, changed the whole aspect of affairs,
and recalled the thoughts of the party from the heights of
Asgard to the affairs of middle earth.

A shot from the foot of the pass ; then another ! " Hjor-
tarne ! hjortarne !" (the stags! the stags!) roared out the

The Captain sprang into a dark corner, bringing the whole
blaze before him, and cocked his rifle. Then came a sound
like a troop of horse at full gallop — a rush ! — a charge !
Jacob flying into the arms of the sportsmen, Ins coffee pot
scattering around its fragrant contents, — dark forms bound-
ing across the bright spot of light, scattering the men, and
the wet clothes, and the cookery, and the crockery ! A


crack from the Captain's rifle ! a crash ! and the whole scene
passed away like an illusion, leaving the circle tenantless, in
the midst of which the great fire was blazing away as quietly
and peaceably as if nothing unusual had ever been illumined
by its light.

" By the Thousand ! that shot told somewhere," said
Birger, picking himself up. By George, it is Jacob ! poor
devil ! Well, I am sorry for him, the old scoundrel."

But Jacob, when he could be brought to his senses, could
not find out that he had been wounded at all, though his
great unwieldy frock-coat was sj^lit up the back, and the tails
rolled in some unaccountable way round his head. His
ideas, which were never peculiarly bright, had got completely
bewildered, and nothing could convince him that a legion of
Trolls had not been making a ball-room of his ample back.

" It was not Jacob I fired at," said the Captain, quietly
reloading his rifle ; " take a pine knot, and look a little
further up the pass ; I suspect you will find something more
valuable than our fat friend. Oh, that's it !" as a loud shout
was heard ; " I thought it could not be far off, — bring him
into the light."

Birger repeated the command in Swedish, and presently
three or four of the men emerged from the outer darkness,
bearing, with some difficulty, an enormous elk, the patriarch
of the forest.

" Well done," said Birger ; " capital shot ! Here ! Tom,
Torkel, out with your knives, and off with the skin ; do not
think twice about it. Ten to one we shall have Moodie
here ; he will not mind his own people much, but he knows
that we are Hot in the habit of firing into the air, and he will
be coming to see what has been disturbing the camp all
night. There, look sharp ! never mind a tear or two ; make
that beast into goat's flesh as soon as you can. Cut off the
head at once, you cannot disguise the horns !"

" Well, but what if Moodie does see it V said the Parson.

" Why," said the Captain, " Birger is quite right. Moodie
is in command, and he would consider it his duty to report
us ; and besides, I will answer for it he would jump at the
chance of playing Brutus, and delating his own friends.


There was a good deal of significance in the way he cautioned
us that elks and red-deer were strictly preserved. It is a
fact, too, that with all that immense range of royal forest at
his undivided command, he has never shot a stag or an elk
yet. He considers himself on honour, and behaves like a

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 31 of 36)