Henry [Garrett] 1804-1860 Newland.

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

. (page 9 of 36)
Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 9 of 36)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


" While some thirsty soul, after the manner of Bel in the
Apocrypha, plays Nyssen and accepts the offering," said the

" What ! eat Nyssen's offering ! Tom, what do you say
to that ?" — for the men were still fidgetting about the fire,
— " what do you say to that 1 The Captain thinks that
one of you will eat up Nyssen's cake ; what do you say
about it V

" Well," said Tom, " we have bold men in Norway, as all
our histories will tell you ; but bold as we are, [ do
not think you will get a man in the whole country to do

" There was a young fellow once who did it in my country
though," said Jacob, " and dearly he paid for it. The family
used to place the yearly gifts to Nyssen under the sails of
their windmill every Christmas Eve ; — you Norwegians do
not know what windmills are ; you grind all your corn by
water, poor devils !"\

Here Tom and Torkel, both Tellemarken men, broke in
simultaneously ; the one swearing that, in the Tellemark,
windmills were as plenty as fir trees ; the other vociferating,
somewhat incongruously, that no nation two degrees from
actual barbarism could ever think of such a piece of machi-
nery at all.

Birger stilled their national animosities by wishing
"The Thousand" would take them all three, and their
windmills into the bargain, and Jacob went on with his


"The eldest son," he said, " was a sad unbeliever ; he had
been & very good boy as long as he had lived with his father
and mother at Lerum, but when he grew up he had gone to
Copenhagen and got corrupted ; for, as his honour Lieu-
tenant Birger knows, they are all sad infidels at Copenhagen.".
Here was likely to be another outbreak ; for the Danes,
though it is quite true that a great many of them are not
only sceptics in fairy mythology but in religion also, are yet
vehemently regretted by the Norwegians, who were in no
ways pleased with that act of the Congress of Vienna which
separated them from Denmark ; a fact which our friend
Jacob was perfectly aware of.

Peace was again effected by a vigorous kick from his
fellow-countrymen, together with some observations res-
pecting a donkey in a state of eternal condemnation ; and
Jacob went on as if nothing particular had happened.

" Well," said he, " the young man found that the best ale
and sweetest cake were always given to Nyssen, so he slipped
out and gobbled them up himself. During the whole year
that followed that Christmas, no great harm came of it, only
there was always something wrong about the windmill ; now
a sail blown away, now a cog broken ; there was plenty of
grist, trade was lively enough, it was always something to do
with the wind, and, as far as that was concerned, nothing
went right. Still no one suspected the reason, till Christmas
Eve came round again, and another sweet cake and another
bottle of strong ale were placed under the mill for Nyssen.
The night was as still and as quiet as this evening is, — quieter
if possible ; there was not a breath of wind, and the snow
looked like a winding-sheet in the moonlight. Well, the
young man slipped out again ; but scarcely had he stooped
to pick up the bottle, when a furious gust of wind arose,
scattering the snow like flour out of a sack ; the sails flew
round as if they were mad ; it was said that a figure in a
pointed cap and a red jacket sat astride on the axle, and one
of the sails taking the young man on the side of the head,
threw him as far as I could fling a stone. He sank into the
snow, which closed over him, and no one knew what had
become of him till the thaw came on. It was very late that
year, for the ground was not clear till Walpurgis' Night,


and then they found him, and Nyssen's broken bottle still
in his hand. It was by that they found out how it had
happened. I would not be the man to touch anything be-
longing to Nyssen." *

" Nor I neither," chimed in the two Norsemen.

" Johnstone and Maxwell both agree for once," said the
Parson, laughing ; " and I will tell you another thing,
neither would I. But now, Mr. Jacob, that we have done
everything that can be expected of us by the spirits of the
air, who, I hope, in common gratitude, will give us fisher-
men a cloudy sky and a little bit of a breeze to-morrow,
I must say I should like to take my turn at the cakes
and ale ; so let us have whatever you have got in your big
pot there, and bring us a bucket of strawberries and cream
for dessert."

The dinner was by no means so elaborate an affair as that
of yesterday ; this was occasioned, in some measure, by
their want of sport, but, principally, because all had been
far too much engaged in the necessary business of the
camp to think much of eating. The solids, such as they
were, that is to say, beef and pork, out of the harness
cask, were soon despatched, and the huge camp kettle,
one of the old-fashioned ante-Wellingtonian affairs, as big as
a mortar, and nearly as heavy, was sent down to the men,
while the fishermen lounged at full length on the turf, en-
joying their rest over Jacob's plentiful provision of straw-
berries and cream.

Fenelon has, somewhere or other, a fable about a man who
had the power of procuring, "pour son argent" as the good
Bishop says, half-a-dozen men's appetites and digestions.
The man does not seem, in the fable, to have made a very
good use of his extraordinary powers, or to have derived
any extraordinary pleasure from them. If he had only
come out campaigning in Norway, he might have had his
five appetites for nothing, and been much the better for
them all.

Meanwhile, the lower table did not at all seem to be in
want of an appetite ; the kettle was emptied, and whole heaps
of flad-brod, sour as verdjuice, and pots of butter, such as no
nose or stomach, out of Norway, could tolerate, were fast


disappearing beneath the unceasing attacks of seven glutton-
ous Scandinavians — while, as the twilight darkened, and
diminished the restraint they might possibly have felt at the
presence of their superiors, the noise grew louder and louder.
Jacob began some interminable ballad about the sorrows and
trials of little Kirstin, a very beautiful lady, wdio went
through all sorts of misfortunes, and did not seem a "bit
better than she should be ;" but that goes for nothing at all
in Swedish song, and very little in Swedish life. This he
sang, chorus and all, to his own share. It seemed to affect
the worthy man very little, that he was almost his own
audience ; no one seemed to attend him, but his song
went on, stanza after stanza, uninterruptedly, forming a sort
of running accompaniment to the shouts and screams of
" Gammle Norge," " Wackere Lota, or, Kari," which startled
the echoes alternately, according as love, or patriotism, was
the prevailing sentiment.

At last, they began drinking healths — " Skaal Herr
Carblom," "Skaal for the well-born singer;" for, like the
old Spanish nobility, though they addressed one another as
Tom, Piersen, and so forth, they always gave the interloper
his full title.

" Jeg takker de," said Jacob, solemnly, without, however,
pausing for one moment in his song.

"Little Kirstin, she came to the bridal hall, —
We will begin with the wooing, —
And a little page answered to her call,

My best beloved, I ne'er can forget you" —

Here broke in Tom, beating time to his music with a horn
which he had replenished to the very brim, and of which he
was imparting the contents very liberally to the turf round
him —

"Wet your clay, Andy !
Out with the brandy !
We live in jolly way, —
Here's to you, night or day!
Look at sister Kajsa Stina,
See her bottles bright and clear-ah !
Take the horn, good fellow ! grin-ah !
Grin and swill and drink like rnei"


Jacob's voice was again audible —

il She tied her horse in the garden there
We will begin with the wooing" —

" Skaal Thorsen ! skaal Tom Engelsk ! skaal for the British
navy !"

" Rule, Britannia !" shouted Tom. Jacob went on —

"We will begin with the wooing :
She brushed and——"

Here a general chorus —

u To the brim, young men ! fill it up ! fill again !

Drain ! drain, young men ! — 'tis to Norway you drain.
Your fathers have sown it,
Your fields they have grown it ;
Then quaff it, young meu ! for he'll be the strongest'
Who drinks of it deepest and sits at it longest."

Jacob's voice became audible, like a symphony, between
the verses —

" She brushed and combed her golden hair," —

when again rose up the wild chorus, overwhelming it under
the volume of sound:

" To the brim, old men ! fill it up ! fill again !

Drain ! drain, old men ! — 'tis to Norway you drain.

There's health in the cup, —

Fill it up ! fill it up !
And quaff it, old men ! for he'll live the longest
Who drinks of it deepest and likes it the strongest."

" By the Harp of Bragi," said Birger, " I'll back old
Jacob against the field, — that fellow has such bottom !" for
the honest toper's voice came again dreamily up the hill
where they were sitting, during the pause that followed this

"Little Kirstin then passed out from the door, —
We had best begin with the wooing :
She said, I shall hither come no more, —
My best beloved ! I never will forget thee.

Forth she went to the garden there, —

We had best begin with the wooing :
She hung herself with her golden hair, —

My best beloved ! I never can forget thee."


" Skaal for Birger ! skaal for the brave Lieutenant ! skaal
for tlie royal guard !" shouted one, waxing more bold as the
night drew on.

" Gammle Norge ! " screamed back an ' opponent, and
immediately Torkel burst out, with his fine bass voice, into
the national song, drowning entirely poor Jacob's melancholy
ditty, which never got much beyond the wooing after all.

" Tbe hardy Norseman's house of yore

Was on the foaming wave,
And there he gathered bright renown —

The bravest of the brave.
O, ne'er should we forget our sires,

Wherever we may be ;
For they did win a gallant name,

And ruled the stormy sea.

What though our hands be weaker now

Than they were wont to be
When boldly forth our fathers sailed

And conquered Normandy ?
We still may sing their deeds of fame,

In thrilling harmony ;
They won for us that gallant name,

Ruling the stormy sea !" —

Enthusiasm was at its height, as the full chorus thundered
forth irom all the voices —

" Never will we forget our sires,
Wherever we may be ;
They won for us that gallant name,
Ruling the stormy sea!"

Whether Jacob joined in it, or persevered in the sorrows
of little Kirstin, it is impossible to say ; but the loud-ringing
alto of Birger came in tellingly from the house of the Nobles,
accompanied by the bass of his two friends. The compliment
ny as taken at once, "Skaal for the high-born Fishermen !"
" Skaal for the noble gentlemen ! " " Skaal for Victowria ! "
" Skaal for Carl Johann !" " Skaal for England !"

" Skaal for Sweden," shouted Jacob at last.

" Gammle Norge ! Gammle Norge ! Sweden and Norway !
— Sweden and Norway for ever ! Skaal ! Skaal 1"

H 2


" Upon my word," said the Parson, " some one must have
been shelling out in good earnest. There goes something
stronger than water to all that noise."

" Well," said Birger, " it is very true : they did their work
this afternoon like men, and then, instead of going and buying
brandy, and making beasts of themselves, they very properly
sent Torkel as spokesman to me, and asked my permission to
get drunk, which, as they had behaved so well, of course I
granted them, and gave them five or six orts to buy brandy

The Parson burst out laughing : " Well, Birger, it is very
kind of you, to save them from making beasts of themselves :
rather a novel way of doing it, though."

" 0, it is all right," said Birger ; " that is the way we
always do in my country, we get it over at once : they will
be as sober as judges after this — if we had not indulged them
when they knew they had deserved it, they would always
have been hankering after brandy, and dropping off drunk
when they were most wanted : they will be as sober as judges
after this, I tell you," he reiterated, observing a slight smile
of incredulity on the faces of both his companions.

" I do not feel quite so confident of their being as sober as
judges to-morrow, as I do about their being as drunk as pigs
to-night," said the Captain • " though, to be sure, I do not
know what judges are in Norway ; but it does seem to me
that five or six orts* are rather a liberal allowance, in a
country where one can get roaring drunk for half-a-dozen
ski Rings."

" That is just the very thing I do not want them to do,"
said Birger. " Whenever a Norseman gets roaring drunk,
he is sure to kick up a row : it is very much better that they
should get beastly drunk at once ; then they go to sleep and
sleep it off, and no one the wiser."

* An ort, or mark, is the fifth part of a specie-daler, equivalent to
ninepence or tenpence of our money. A shilling' is about the same as
an English halfpenny ; the word, however, is pronounced exactly the
same as our English word shilling, the /.: being soft before i ; a circum-
stance which rather perplexes the stranger in his calculations.


"I should have thought, though," said the Captain, "that
j'ou gave them quite enough for that, and a good remainder
for another day into the bargain."

" It is little you know of the Norwegian, then," said
Birger, " or, for the matter of that, of the Swede either : he
is not the man to make two bites of a cherry, or to leave his
brandy in the bottom of the keg. Besides, they will con-
sider themselves upon honour. They asked my leave to get
drunk on this particular night, and I gave them the money
to do it with ; it would be absolute swindling, to get drunk
with my money on any other occasion."

" Upon my word," said the Captain, " this a terrible draw-
back to your beautiful country. Our fellows in Ireland used
to get drunk now and then, to be sure, but they had always
the grace to be ashamed of it. These scoundrels do it in such
a business-like way."

" Your countryman, Laing, sets that down to the score of
our virtues," said Birger. " He considers it much better to
act upon principle, like our people, than to yield to tempta-
tion, as your English and Irish sots do. I must say, though,
that he is not half so indulgent to us poor Swedes."

" My countryman, Laing," said the Parson, " though a
very observant traveller, is, also, a very extreme re-
publican and a very prejudiced writer. He gives us facts in
monarchical Sweden, as well as in republican Norway, and he
gives them as he sees them, no doubt ; but, he looks at the
two countries through glasses of different tints. Now, my
idea is, that, in point of drunkenness, there is not a pin to

" Yes, but there is, though," said Birger. " The Norwegian
is quarrelsome in his cups ; and you will seldom find that in
any part of Sweden, unless in Scania, and the Scanians are half
Danes yet. I had the precaution to take away those gentlemen's
knives when I gave them the money for their brandy (and,
I must admit, they gave them up with very good grace), or,
the chances are, that we shoukHiave lost the services of that
ass Jacob, and given a job for the Landamptman to-morrow.
Why, half the party-coloured gentlemen in the castle at


Christiania have earned their iron decorations in some
drunken brawl or other." *

" Well, that may be," said the Parson. " I have not ex-
perience enough to gainsay you ; but you must admit that as
far as simple drinking goes, the two nations have the organ
of drunkenness pretty equally developed."

" I should think it must be a barrel organ, then," said the
Captain, "if we are to judge by the quantity it contains."

"Thank your stars it has got a good many stops in it.
The Scandinavian does not drink irregularly, like your
people whom you can never reckon upon for two clays
together. He has his days of solemn drunkenness — some
of them political, such as the coronation ; or the king's
name day ; or, here, in Norway, the signing of their cursed
constitution. Some of them, again, are religious — such as
Christmas, and Easter, and Whitsuntide : these are days in
which all Scandinavia gets drunk as one man. And there
are a few little domestic anniversaries besides — such as
christenings and weddings ; but, this is all, except a chance
affair, like this ; so that, by a glance at the calendar, and a
little inquiry into a man's private history, you may always
know when to find him sober, and fit for work."

" Sober, meaning three or four glasses of brandy ?" said
the Parson.

" Yes," said Birger. " He seldom goes beyond that, on
ordinary days ; and, therefore, on festivals like this, I think
him very well entitled to make up for it."

* Since the abolition of capital punishment in Norway — a measure
that does not seem to answer at all — murderers are confined, like other
criminals, in the castle at Christiania. They may be seen in dresses of
which each sleeve and leg has its own colour, sweeping the streets and
doing other public work ; and a very disgusting sight it is. The average
of crime is very high in Norway — perhaps higher than in any country
known, and particularly crimes of violence. This may be accounted
for, partly by their wonderful drunkenness, and partly by the very
inefficient state of the Church, and the almost total absence of the re-
ligious element in an education which is artificially forced by state enact-
ments. In Norway there is a vei-y great disproportion between intellect
and religion.


"I think, though," said the Parson, " when I was in Swe-
den, last year, I did see such things as stocks for drunkards,
at some of the church doors."

" Yes, you did, at all of them ; but, you never saw any
one in them. How is a mayor to order a man into the
stocks, for drunkenness, when the chances are, that he was
just as drunk himself on the very same occasion ?"

" How do you account for this universal system of drink-
ing spirits V* said the Captain.

" It is easy enough to account for it," said the Parson ; for
Birger rather shirked the question. " Every landed pro-
prietor has a right to a private still ; the duty is a farthing
a gallon, carriage is difficult, and brandy is much more
portable than corn. Will not this account for some of it 1
I do not happen to know what may be the return for
Sweden ; but, for Norway, it is somewhat over five million
gallons a-year, in a country which does not grow nearly
enough of corn to support itself ; and this, as the population
does not come up to a million and a-half, gives three and
a-half gallons per Christian, to every man, woman, and child,
in the country."

" Come, come," said Birger, " if you go to statistics, look
at home. Your Mr. Hume moved, last session, for a return
of all the men that had been picked up, drunk, in the course
of the preceding year ; and, in Glasgow alone, there were
nearly fifteen thousand — that is to sa} r , one out of every
twenty-two of the whole population. Do not talk to us ot
drunkenness. Did you ever hear of the controversy between
the pot and the kettle V

" The Scotch are no more our countrymen, than the
Norwegians are yours," said the Parson ; u and, if I recollect
right, that very return gave no more than one in every six
hundred, picked up, drunk, in our Manchester ; and Man-
chester is not what we call a moral place, either." *

* INlanchester has its faults, and a good many of them, but among
them all its Anglo-Saxon virtue of order and capacity for self-govern-
ment come out in strong relief.

" Where are your policemen ?" asked the Duke, as he glanced at the
masses that thronged the streets during the Queen's visit, — perhaps the


" In that very place, Glasgow," said the Captain, " where,
for my sins, I was quartered last year, I was actually taken
up before the magistrates, and fined five shillings, for what
the hypocritical sinners call ' whustling on the Saubboth,'
and it was only Saturday night, either — the rascally Jews !
They are fellows to

Compound for sins they are inclined to
By damning those they have no mind to.

The scoundrels couldn't whistle a tune themselves on any
day of the week, ' were it their neck verse at Hairibee;' they
have no notion of music, beyond the bagpipe and the Scotch

" Five shillings ?" said the Parson, musingly ; " that is
just the sum they fine people, in London, for being drunk and

" Then, in all human probability, the Captain made one
individual item in Mr. Hume's fifteen thousand himself."

" Yery possibly," said the Captain. " It was Saturday
night, and I will not say I might not have been a little
screwed. "When one is in Turkey one must live as turkeys

" Well," said the Parson," " I believe all northern nations
have a natural turn for drunkenness, but laws and regula-
tions may increase or diminish the amount of it ; and the
laws of both these countries tend most particularly to increase
it. "With you it is a regular case of ' Drunkenness made
easy.' Besides, public opinion sets that way too. If I were
suspected of anything approaching to the state of our friends
down below, I never could face my parish again. Yonr
parish priest might be carried home and tucked into bed by
a dozen of his faithful and hard-headed parishioners on Satur-
day night, and if the thing did not come round too often,

largest crowd that had ever been collected in England. The streets of
the Borough of Manchester were not staked and corded off, and guarded
by men in blue ; but thousands of strong, active warehousemen and
mechanics formed, by joining hands, a novel barricade. And in the
evening, when numbers beyond computation were assembled in the
streets to witness the illumination, amidst all the confusion there was
nothing but good-humour. — Frascr.


would get up not a pin the worse on Sunday morning, either
in health or in reputation."

" I think," said the Captain, " public presents are a very
fair test of public propensities. In the snuffy days of the
last century and the beginning of this, every public character,
from the Duke of Wellington down to William Cobbett, had
the freedoms of all sorts of things given them in golden snuff-
boxes. Now, look at your people. When your king paid a
visit to the University of Upsala, the most appropriate
present he could think of making to that learned body, was
an ancient drinking-horn, — of course, by way of encouraging
the national tastes. And when he made a pilgrimage to
the tomb of Odin and Freya, the most appropriate present
which that learned body could make to him in their turn,
was another ancient drinking-horn, which had the additional
value of having once been the property of those heroic,
but, if there is any truth in Sagas, exceedingly drunken

" Well, well," said Birger, good-humouredly (and it must
be said that his was a case of good-humour under difficulties),
" every nation has its own national sins to answer for, and it
is no use for me to deny that ours is drunkenness. But what
else can you expect from a people whose ideal of the joys of
heaven used to be fighting all clay, and after a huge dinner
of boiled pork, getting beastly drunk upon beer 1 Gangler,
in the prose Edda, asks Har, ' How do your Heroes pass
their time in Valhalla when they are not drinking V And
Har replies, ' Every day, as soon as they have dressed them-
selves, they ride out into the court, and fight till they cut
each other in pieces. This is their pastime ; but when meal-
time approaches, they return to drink in Valhalla." Or, if
you will have the same in verse, this is what the Yafthrudnis
Mai savs : —

On Odin's plain,
Hew dailv each other
"While chosen the slain are ;
From the fray they then ride,
And drink ale with the 02sir."


" After all," said the Parson, " this is nothing more than a
ghostly tournament ; and I have no doubt but that the
haughty tournaments of the middle ages, if deprived of their
mediaeval gilding, would be very like the hewings, ale swil-
lings, and pork banquetings of the Einherjir. I hope, though,
that they brewed good ale in Asgard."

" I dare say," said the Captain, " that, after their carousal,

Online LibraryHenry [Garrett] 1804-1860 NewlandForest scenes in Norway and Sweden: being extracts from the journal of a fisherman → online text (page 9 of 36)