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“I see, brother l’’ exclaimed Jökull; “you want to get all the merit of the job yourself. I will sit up in the woodstack with the stick.” “Have your own way,” answered Thorstein; “but you are too rash to be well trusted; you may bring us into a hobble.” Jökull scrambled up into the pile of logs, and the others lurked behind the wall. Presently out came a man, who looked round, and not seeing any one, gave a signal that all was safe, and out stepped a Seeond man, then a third, and the last was Hrolleifr himself. Jökull recognized him instantly, and, turning sharply round, the pile of logs gave way, yet he managed to fling the club towards his brothers; then he slipped down on Hrolleifr and caught him in his arms, but with the impetus both fell on the ground and rolled down the slope, so that one lay on top of the other. Out rushed the brothers, and Högni exclaimed, “Look, only look, a troll is coming towards us, what can it be 2 ” What he saw was Ljót, who was running towards them with her head between her feet, and in a manner truly frightful; flashes of glamour shot from her eyeballs. Just then Thorstein shouted to Jökull, “Kill Hrolleifr at once, now you have the chancel ” “That is what I am about,” answered Jökull, smiting the murderer's head off, with a hope that evil might befall him elsewhere. “Ah, ha!” yelled Ljót: “you sons of Ingimund have luck on your side, or I would have overmastered you !” “Pray, how would you have done that 2 ” asked Thorstein. “If I had only seen you before you caught sight of me, I would have made your heads spin so that you would have grovelled like barrow-hogs on the ground.” “Fortune wills it otherwise,” said Thorstein, cutting the hag down ; and so she perished in her evil temper and her sorcery. So now these two are done for, and badly too.
At Grimstúnga I obtained two MSS. of interest; one was a 12mo volume of Sagas and Rimur, written in different hands, and at different times; of these, the Saga of Asmund the Viking is unpublished; the other MS. was the Harald's Hringsbana Saga, wanting the first leaf, also unpublished, and moreover, not mentioned by Müller in his Saga Bibliothek. At the end of the Nitidar Rimur, in the first book, are some curious broken lines, arranged like the well-known Latin, pit eIn pit rem, qui ca uxor ca, at]ue dolo ret e ret re.
The Icelandic Vers brisés are more ingenious, though less intelligible.
Hnikars talič, or Odin's speech, signifies poetry. It is from this name of the Scandinavian god, that we get our vulgar appellation of “Old Nick,” and the word is derived from some root signifying to rage with freakish violence, common to several of the Aryan tongues. Thus we find the Greek vikm, victory; the old Norse, or Icelandic hnika, to agitate, strike ; and its cognate verbs hniklja, to thrust forward violently, and hneklja, to repel: hence also the AngloSaxon macan, to kill; the Latin, mecare; the German, knacken, the Danish, mykke, whim, freak; and the English, knack, knock.
From having this meaning of violence accompanied with whim, it was early applied, in mythology, to the divinities connected with the elements; and, beneath the tempestuous skies and wild lashing seas of the north, Odin, as their ruler, was termed, Hnikarr, Nikarr, or Hnikušr—the Moeso-Gothic form of which was Nikuz. The rainbow was, “regn booi Hnikars.”
Christianity overthrew the worship of Odin, but, like the polypus, though cut to pieces, he revived in each morsel an entire Nick, to frequent the waters throughout the north of Europe. The Swedish Neck appears, generally, as a handsome youth with his lower extremities like those of a horse. In Norway, the Nök lives in lakes and rivers, and demands a human victim every year. There, any one approaching extensive sheets of water, must not forget to say, “Nyk | Nykl needle in water 1 The Wirgin Mary cast steel into water Sink thou, I float l” In Germany he is called Nisc or Neck—the river Necker is named after him. In the Netherlands he is to be heard of under the same appellation. In North Germany exists, under the surface of the water, the black Nickle man, or Nick, who is formed like a man as far as the middle, but terminates as a fish; he has very sharp teeth; his usual food consists of fishes, but he not unfrequently drags down human beings. In Thale, the country people were obliged, till lately, to throw a black cock into the Bode every year, for, if they omitted to do so, the Nick would catch and drown some one. Nykr, as a water-horse, frequents several Icelandic lakes, among others that in the Vatnsdalr. He is fond of getting human beings to mount his back, that he may plunge with them into his native element, and make them his prey. The Icelanders have a lay about a certain damsel named Ellen, who was thus carried off by Nyk. This ballad exists in other languages, such as Faroese, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, German, English, Wend, Slovakian, Bohemian, and Breton. Poor Nick | I pity him, for he is of honourable family, being, as you will observe, descended from the gods of Asgaard. Why should England have taken upon herself to bedaub him with layer upon layer of lamp-black?” I will tell one story about him, and have done. Once upon a time, an old priest was ambling homewards on his nag, and as, towards even-fall, he neared a pool, to his astonishment he saw a lad, naked to the waist, sitting on
* Among the grafiti, or scrawls, on the walls of Pompeii, is a school-boy sketch of Pluto, in black chalk, armed (as heralds would say) with horns, hoofs, and tail, just the very appearance Nick has taken upon himself now.
the surface of the water, his long golden curls floating over his delicate shoulders, from beneath a jaunty red cap. The Neck held a shining harp in his hand, and from it rang the sweetest harmony as he chaunted, “I know, I know that my Redeemer liveth !” The old priest was indignant that a Neck should apply these holy words to himself, and in his zeal, he cried to him : “Why dost thou sound thy harp so gleefully, O Neck 2 Sooner shall this dried cane that I hold in my hand grow green and blossom, than thou shalt obtain salvation.” Thereupon the gentle minstrel flung aside his harp, and rocked himself, bitterly weeping, on the water. The priest turned his horse and continued his course. But, lo! before he had proceeded far, he noticed that tender shoots and leaves began to bud forth from his old staff, soon bursting into most glorious and fragrant flowers, so that, as the old man rode, he seemed like some saint bearing a branch from Paradise. This seemed to him a sign from Heaven, directing him to preach redemption after another fashion. He therefore hastened back, and found the sobbing Neck on his pool, which was full of water, ready to trickle over, like an eye full of tears just ere they fall. He showed the Neck his green flowery staff, and said—“So this old stock has grown green and blossomed as a young branch in a rose-garden; therefore, like it, may hope blossom in the hearts of all created beings, for their Redeemer liveth.” Then the Neck caught up its harp, and long through the night rang its gladsome song, and the little waves danced around. The old priest was sorry to go, and, as he went, he repeated, “Praise the Lord! His mercy is over all His works!" It will be observed from the foregoing popular tradition, which is found in Iceland, Germany and Norway, that, in other countries than our own, Nick is not considered synonymous with Satan; but rather as a fantastic being with many good points about him. Sunday I spent quietly at Grimstúnga, hoping to see an Icelandic service in the little barn-like church. But I was disappointed. The priest of Underfell came, this being an annexja, or chapel of ease, and was received by the widowed housewife of Grimstúnga with the warmest kisses. The pastor was a small man, not taller than a boy of twelve, with bandy legs, a large head and long arms, and swallow-tails which swept the floor; he reminded me strongly of Quilp, but his face was intelligent, though ugly. Hardly had he been half-an-hour in the house when coffee and cakes were brought him by the widow. The pastor's long arms folded his sheep lovingly to his heart, and repeated kisses testified his gratitude for the coffee. The offer of sugar-candy produced another outburst of affection and a repetition of the same scene. When the coffee was drunk, its excellence was acknowledged with more kisses; the delicacy of the cakes was also duly honoured. “Another cup 2 ” asked the housewife. “You are too good l’’ kisses again. In came the coffee once more, and all the kisses, before and after drinking it, were repeated. Time for church arrived, some farmers dropped in dressed in blue jackets, and hung about the room; four sat down on my bed, and three on Grimr's, others sauntered in and out of the door. “I think we may do without service to-day,” said Quilp ; so the parishioners returned to their homes. “And pray why is there no service 2 " I asked of Grímr. “There are not enough people here to form a congregation,” he answered. Yet there must have been twenty l On Sunday afternoon the members of the household assembled for a family service in the garret above my chamber. This service consisted in reading a chapter of the Bible, saying the Lord's Prayer and the collect for the Sunday, in monotone, singing two hymns, and reading a portion of one of Vidalin's sermons. The singing was execrable, it was like the sound which might be produced by a chorus of CochinChina fowls, accompanied by a hurdygurdy, yet it was sufficient to stir Grímr's enthusiasm. “Is not this beautiful!” he exclaimed ; “yet tourists persist in saying that we Icelanders are not musicall ”