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Skálldaspillir*,] and fought in the battle which he celebrated. Hacon earl of Norway was accompanied by five celebrated bards in the battle of Jomsburgh: and we are told, that each of them sung an ode to animate the soldiers before the engagement began". They appear to have been regularly brought into action. Olave, a king of Norway, when his army was prepared for the onset, placed three scalds about him, and exclaimed aloud, “ You shall not only record in your verses what you have HEARD, but what you have seen.” They each delivered an ode on the spot'. These northern chiefs appear to have so frequently hazarded their lives with such amazing intrepidity, merely in expectation of meriting a panegyric from their poets, the judges, and the spectators of their gallant behaviour. That scalds were common in the Danish armies when they invaded England, appears from a stratagem of Alfred; who, availing himself of his skill in oral poetry and playing on the harp, entered the Danish camp habited in that character, and procured a hospitable reception. This was in the year 8784. Anlafft, a Danish king, used the same disguise for reconnoitring the camp of our Saxon monarch Athelstan : taking his station near Athelstan's pavilion, he entertained the king and his chiefs with his verses and music, and was dismissed with an honourable reward w. As Anlaff's dialect must have discovered him to have been a Dane; here is a proof, of what I shall bring more, that the Saxons, even in the midst of mutual hostilities, treated the Danish scalds with favour and respect. That the Islandic bards were common in England
[Skálldaspillir, poetarum alpha, cui he spoke the dialect of his province, or omnes invident poetæ. ]
what Hickes calls the Dano-Saxon.• Bartholin. p. 172.
Edit.] Olaf. Sag. apud Verel. ad Herv. Malmesb. ii. 6. I am aware, that Sac. p. 178. Bartholin. p. 172.
the truth of both these anecdotes respectIngulph. Hist. p. 869. Malmesb. ii. ing Alfred and Anlaff has been controc. 4. p. 43.
verted. But no sufficient argument has + (This is the same Anlaf mentioned yet been offered for pronouncing them above, p. xxxix. Though of Danish de- spurious, or even suspicious. See an inscent, yet as his family had possessed the genious Dissertation in the ARCHÆOthrone of North-humbria for more than LOGIA, vol. ii. p. 100. seq. A. D. 1773. one generation, it is most probable that 4to.
during the Danish invasions, there are numerous proofs. Egill, a celebrated Islandic poet, having murthered the son and many of the friends of Eric Blodoxe, king of Denmark or Norway, then residing in Northumberland, and which he had just conquered, procured a pardon by singing before the king, at the command of his queen Gunhilde, an extemporaneous ode*. Egill compliments the king, who probably was his patron, with the appellation of the English chief. “I offer my freight to the king. I owe a poem my ransom. I present to the ENGLISH CHIEF the mead of Odiny.". Afterwards he calls this Danish conqueror the commander of the Scottish fleet. “The commander of the Scottish fleet fattened the ravenous birds. The sister of Nera (Death] trampled on the foe: she trampled on the evening food of the eagle.” The Scots usually joined the Danish or Norwegian invaders in their attempts on the northern parts of Britaina : and from this circumstance a new argument arises, to show the close communication and alliance which must have subsisted between Scotland and Scandinavia. Egill, although of the enemy's party *, was a singular favourite of king Athelstan. Athelstan once asked Egill how he escaped due punishment from Eric Blodoxe, the king of Northumberland, for the very capital and enormous crime which I have just mentioned. On which Egill immediately related the whole of that transaction to the Saxon king, in a sublime ode still extanta. On another occasion Athelstan presented Egill with two rings, and two large cabinets filled with silver; promising at the same time, to grant him any gift or favour which he should choose to request. Egill, struck with gratitude, immediately composed a panegyrical poem in the Norwegian lan
* See Crymogr. Angrim. Jon. lib. ii. * [Egill fought on Athelstan's side, pag. 125. edit. 1609.
and did signal service in the battle at See Ol. Worm. Lit. Run. p. 227. Brunanburh.-Edit.] 195. All the chiefs of Eric were also Torfæus Hist. Orcad. Præfat. “Rej present at the recital of this ode, which statim ordinem metro nunc satis obscuro is in a noble strain.
exposuit.” Torfæus adds, which is much ? See the Saxon epinicion in praise of to our purpose,
nequaquam ita narraking Athelstan, supr. citat. Hen. Hun- turus NON INTELLIGENTI. ting. I. v. p. 203. 204.
guage, then common to both nations, on the virtues of Athelstan, which the latter as generously requited with two marcs of pure goldb. Here is likewise another argument, that the Saxons had no small esteem for the scaldic poetry. It is highly reasonable to conjecture, that our Danish king Canute, a potentate of most extensive jurisdiction, and not only king of England, but of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, was not without the customary retinue of the northern courts, in which the scalds held so distinguished and important a station. Human nature, in a savage state, aspires to some species of merit, and in every stage of society is alike susceptible of flattery, when addressed to the reigning passion. The sole object of these northern princes was military glory. It is certain that Canute delighted in this mode of entertainment, which he patronized and liberally rewarded. It is related in KNYTLINGA-SAGA, or Canute's History, that he commanded the scald Loftunga to be put to death, for daring to comprehend his atchievements in too concise a poem.
Nemo," said he, “ante te, ausus est de me BREVES CANTILENAS componere.” A curious picture of the tyrant, the patron, and the barbarian, united! But the bard extorted a speedy pardon, and with much address, by producing the next day before the king at dinner an ode of more than thirty strophes, for which Canute gave him fifty marcs of purified silver. In the mean time, the Danish language began to grow perfectly familiar in England. It was eagerly learned by the Saxon clergy and nobility, from a principle of ingratiating themselves with Canute: and there are many manuscripts now remaining, by which it will appear, that the Danish runes were much studied among our Saxon ancestors under the reign of that monarchd. The
songs of the Irish bards are by some conceived to be
• Crymog. Arn. Jon. p. 129. ut supr. you not ashamed to do what none but
© Bartholin. Antiquit. Danic. lib. i. yourself has dared, to write a short poem cap. 10. p. 169, 170. See KNYTLINGA- upon me? Unless by to-morrow's dinSaga, in Catal. Codd. MSS. Bibl. ner you produce above thirty strophes on Holm. Hickes. Thesaur. ii. 312. the same subject, your head shall be the
[Canute's threat-for he did not“com- penalty." Hist. of Anglo-Saxons, vol. i. mand the scald to be put to death "-is p. 437. The result was as Warton states. thus translated by Mr. Turner : “ Are –Edit.] Hickes, ubi supr. i, 134.136.
strongly marked with the traces of scaldic imagination; and these traces, which will be reconsidered, are believed still to survive among a species of poetical historians, whom they call TALE-TELLERS, supposed to be the descendants of the original Irish bards. A writer of equal elegance and veracity relates, " that a gentleman of the north of Ireland has told me of his own experience, that in his wolf-huntings there, when he used to be abroad in the mountains three or four days together, and laid very ill a-nights, so as he could not well sleep, they would bring him one of these TALE-TELLERS, that when he lay down would begin a story of a King, or a Gyant, a DWARF, and a DAMOSELf.” These are topics in which the Runic poetry is said to have been greatly conversant.
e We are informed by the Irish histo- countries, in the lowest station. “ Fugirians, that saint Patrick, when he con- tivos, BARDOS, otio addictos, scurras et verted Ireland to the Christian faith, de- hujusmodi hominum genus, loris et flastroyed three hundred volumes of the gris cædunto.” Apud Hector. Boeth. songs of the Irish bards. Such was their Lib. x. p. 201. edit. 1574. But Salmadignity in this country, that they were sius very justly observes, that for BARDOS permitted to wear a robe of the same co we should read Vargos, or Vergos, i.e. lour with that of the royal family. They Vagabonds. were constantly summoned to a triennial [Such, said the late ingenious Mr. festival: and most approved songs Walker, was the celebrity of the Irish delivered at this assembly were ordered music, that the Welsh bards condescendto be preserved in the custody of the ed to receive instructions in their muking's historian or antiquary. Many of sical art from those of Ireland. Gryffydd these compositions are referred to by ap Conan, king of North Wales, about Keating, as the foundation of his History the time that Stephen was king of Engof Ireland. Ample estates were appro- land, determined to reform the Welsh priated to them, that they might live in bards, and brought over many Irish à condition of independence and ease. bards for that purpose. This Gryffydd, The profession was hereditary; but when according to the intelligent Mr. Owen, a bard died, his estate devolved not to was a distinguished patron of the poets his eldest son, but to such of his family and musicians of his native country, and as discovered the most distinguished ta- called several congresses, wherein laws lents for poetry and music. Every prin- were established for the better regulation cipal bard retained thirty of inferior of poetry and music, as well as of such note, as his attendants; and a bard of as cultivated those sciences. These conthe secondary class was followed by a re gresses were open to the people of Wales, tinue of fifteen. They seem to have been as well as of Ireland and Scandinavia, at their height in the year 558. See and professors from each country atKeating's History of Ireland, p. 127. tended : whence what was found peculiar 132. 370. 380. And Pref. p. 23. None to one people, and worthy of adoption, of their poems have been translated. was received and established in the rest.
There is an article in the Laws of Ke Hist. Mem. of Irish Bards, p. 103. neth king of Scotland, promulged in the Cambrian Biogr. p. 145.–Park.] year 850, which places the bards of Scot f Sir W. Temple’s Essays, part iv. land, who certainly were held in equal p. 349. esteem with those of the neighbouring
Nor is it improbable that the Welsh bards: might have been acquainted with the Scandinavian scalds. I mean before their communications with Armorica, mentioned at large above. The prosody of the Welsh bards depended much on alliteration h. Hence they seem to have paid an attention to the scaldic versification. The Islandic poets are said to have carried alliteration to the highest pitch of exactness in their earliest periods: whereas the Welsh bards of the sixth century used it but sparingly, and in a very imperfect degree. In this circumstance a proof of imitation, at least of emulation, is implied i. There are moreover, strong instances of conformity between
& The bards of Britain were originally Cumbrian, or the Strathcluyd Britons. a constitutional appendage of the druidi. Among other British institutions grown cal hierarchy. In the parish of Llani- obsolete among them, they seem to have dan in the isle of Anglesey, there are still lost the use of bards; at least there are to be seen the ruins of an arch-druid's no memorials of any they had, nor any mansion, which they call Trer Drew, of their songs remaining: nor do the that is the Druid's MANSION. Near it Welsh or Cumbrian poets ever touch are marks of the habitations of the sepa- upon any transactions that passed in rate conventual societies, which were those countries, after they were relinunder his immediate orders and inspec- quished by the Romans. tion. Among these is 'Tree BEIRD, or, And here we see the reason why the as they call it to this day, the HAMLET Welsh bards flourished so much and so OF THE BARDS. Rowland's Mona, p. 83. long. But morcover the Welsh, kept in 88. But so strong was the attachment awe as they were by the Romans, haof the Celtic nations, among which we rassed by the Saxons, and eternally jeareckon Britain, to poetry, that, amidst lous of the attacks, the encroachments, all the changes of government and man- and the neighbourhood of aliens, were ners, even long after the order of Druids on this account attached to their Celtic was extinct, and the national religion manners: this situation, and these cir. altered, the bards, acquiring a sort of cumstances, inspired them with a pride civil capacity, and a new establishment, and an obstinacy for maintaining a nastill continued to flourish. And with tional distinction, and for preserving regard to Britain, the bards flourished their antient usages, among which the inost in those parts of it, which most bardic profession is so eminent. strongly retained their native Celtic cha h See vol. ii. p. 148.
The Britons living in those i I am however informed by a very incountries that were between the Trent or telligent antiquary in British literature, Humber and the Thames, by far the that there are manifest marks of alliteragreatest portion of this island, in the tion in some druidical fragments still remidst of the Roman garrisons and colo- maining, undoubtedly composed before nies, had been so long inured to the the Britons could have possibly mixed in customs of the Romans, that they pre. the smallest degree with any Gothic naserved very little of the British; and tion. Rhyme is likewise found in the from this long and habitual intercourse, British poetry at the carliest period, in before the fifth century, they scein to those druidical triplets called ENGLYN have lost their original language. We Milwr, or the Warrior's Song, in cannot discover the slightest trace, in the which every verse is closed with a conpoems of the bards, the Lives of the sonant syllable. See a metrical Druid British saints, or any other antient mo oracle in Borlasc's Antiquit. Cornwall. nument, that they held any correspon. B. iii. ch. 5. p. 185. edit. 1769. dence with the Welsh, the Cornish, the VOL. I.