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They were all much of an age-King Sigurd, Earl Halfdan, and Almstein. The king and the earl were foster-brothers, and they had all three played together as children when they were young. Well, time went on, and King Sigurd fell sick, and his heart told him that this sickness would be his death; so he called Earl Halfdan to him, and made him guardian over all his goods and of his son too, for he thought he could trust him best of all to take care of his son, and keep the kingdom for him for the sake of their foster-brothership and long friendship, and so'a little while after the king breathed his last.
“The Earl became a great strength and support to Prince Halfdan, got in his dues for him, and showed him honour in every way. The Earl had a son too about as old as Halfdan, and they too were very good friends. Almstein, who was now Prince Halfdan's thrall, was a tall man in stature, fair of face, strong in thews, a man who knew many feats, and in short a man of much more mark than most thralls. Of his birth and stock no man knew aught. It befell that this Almstein offered to get in Prince Halfdan's dues for the space of three years, and as he was known to be a fitting man, but more because he had been almost as good as a foster-brother to King Sigurd, who had never reckoned him on the same footing as his other thralls, this offer was agreed to. But it turned out that he behaved so in this business that little of the money came to Prince Halfdan. Then Almstein took to sailing about to foreign lands with Prince Halfdan's goods, turning it over and over again in trade, and keeping it as his own, and gaining many friends and followers by gifts both in Prince Halfdan's realm as in other parts. About that time Earl Halfdan died, but as soon as Almstein heard that when he came back, he set off at once with a great band to Prince Halfdan's house and set fire to it; the Earl's son was inside the house along with Prince Halfdan. But when those who were inside were ware of the strife and the blaze outside, then both the Prince and the Earl's son went into a gallery underground which led out into the wood, and so they got safe off. So Almstein burned the house down, and thought he had burnt along with it both the King's son and the Earl's son. The lads were some time wanderers in the woods and wastes, but at last they came out in Sweden to the house of an earl named Hacon, and begged him for shelter. The Earl was slow to answer, and stared at them a long while, but at last he gave them food and lodging, but he showed them no honour, and they were with him three winters. As for Almstein, he seized Halfdan's realm, and made himself king over it, and no one gainsayed him or withstood him, but all thought it ill living under his sway, for he was quarrelsome, unjust, and
wanton, so that he took good men's wives and daughters from them, and kept them as long as he chose, and got children by them.
“But when the lads had been three winters in Sweden with Earl Hacon, then they went in before the Earl one day to take leave, and thanked him for their board and lodging. This shelter Halfdan," said the Earl, “ that I have given you is little thankworthy. So soon as ever I saw you, I knew who ye were. Thy father King Sigurd was my bosom friend, but why I showed you little favour was that it might not be noised abroad that ye were still alive. But now since ye wish to go away hence, I will give you three hundred men as your followers, and that may be some gain to you, though they be but a little band, if ye fall unawares on that wicked niddering Almstein, as is not unlikely; for now he must have no dread for his own sake when he weens that you have both been burnt with the house over your heads; and sooth to say it were well done if ye two could win back your power and fame.” After that they set off with that band, and not a whisper was heard of them, till they came unawares on Almstein's house and set fire to it. Now when the house began to blaze, the folk went out to whom leave was granted, and then Almstein asked for peace. “ 'Twere but right and fitting," answered Halfdan, “ that the same fate should befall thee which thou hadst meant for me with thy dastardly deed ; but for that we are not equals, thou shalt have thy life on these terms, that thou goest back to thy true nature, be called a thrall, and be a thrall so long as thou livest, and all thy race after thee that may spring from thy loins." Those terms Almstein chose rather than die there and then. So Halfdan handed him along with his thrall's name a white kirtle of plain shape and straight cut. After that a Thing was called, and Halfdan took a king's name, and he got back all the realm his father had before him, and all men were glad at that change.
“Now to make a long story short Almstein had many children, and I trow Ulf that thy pedigree is this :--Almstein was thy grandfather and I am King Halfdan's grandchild, and yet thou and thy kinsfolk have got into your hands so much of the King's goods as may be seen in all this furniture and these drinking vessels. Take now this white kirtle which my grandsire Halfdan gave to thy grandsire Almstein, and along with it take thy true family name, and be a thrall henceforth for evermore; for so it was decreed at that Thing of which I spoke when Halfdan got back his kingly title, that thy ancestor took the kirtle, and the mothers of his children came to the Thing with him, and they and all their children took kirtles of like hue and shape, and so shall their offspring for ever.
Harold absolute in Norway.
“So King Harold made them bring out a white kirtle, and hold it before Ulf's eyes, and he sang these verses :
“Ken'st thou this kirtle ?
Kine are the king's due;
Thou ow'st to the king."
“Much guile is now mingled,
The King claims thyself too." Then Harold went on in prose: Take now this kirtle Ulf which thy friends owned before thee, and along with it such rights and names as they had.” Ulf thought the King's fun most unfriendly, but could scarcely dare to say anything against it, and he hardly knew whether to take the kirtle or not, but his wife and his friends bade him never to accept such an insult whatever the King might say. Then the wife went up to the King with her kith and kin and asked for peace for Ulf
, and that he might not be so shamefully mocked as looked likely, and at last the King listened to their prayer and did not force Ulf to become a thrall, and gave him back one farm out of the fifteen which he owned, but the rest the King confiscated, and all his goods and costly things, gold and silver and drinking cups and all. And so the end of the King's dealings with Ulf was just what Ulf's heart had told him would happen ere he bade the King to a feast. And after that the King fared back to Drontheim and took up his abode at Niđarós.'
By this story, whether he invented it altogether or merely applied a well-known tale to the case of Ulf, Harold meant to show that though all men were equal before the Crown, the King's rights bore down all else. Against the King no lapse of time or right of property could avail anything. It was a sermon on the maxim of English law, nullum tempus occurrit regi, and nothing shows more how completely he had laid Norway under his feet than the way in which he now meddled with the freemen's rights and sought his victims among the vulgar herd, after having brought down so many mighty chiefs. So there he sat at Drontheim that winter of the year 1065 at peace with all the world, enjoying for once in his busy life a short breathing space, while those mighty events were preparing in the West so full of interest for England and the North, and in which Harold was so soon to play a chief part.
ART. V.-Publius Papinius Statius. Recognovit GUSTAVUS
QUECK. 2 voll. Leipzig, 1854.
This is a new recension of the text of Statius' poems, forming part of Teubner's series of Greek and Roman authors. It has no notes; but a critical preface is prefixed to each volume. We do not pretend to give any estimate of its merits, on the only ground which it assumes to itself, that of a compendious critical edition; but we may safely recommend it to our readers as cheap, convenient, and scholarlike, before we pass, as we must now do, from the editor to the poet whose text he exhibits.
There is no stronger attestation of the influence exercised by Virgil on his country's literature than the large space which the epic occupies in the poetry of post-Augustan Rome. In Greece, after the cessation of that creative activity which produced the poems of the Cycle and the legends of Heracles, the epic muse found scarcely any worshipper worthy of the name. For several centuries the hexameter had the whole field to itself ; but when the territory was encroached upon by other settlers, the ancient form of composition dwindled away, like an aboriginal tribe in the presence of later civilisation. While the spirit of Grecian song was pouring itself forth in the lyric and the drama, the recollection of Homer was continued only by a few faint echoes, scarcely audible to contemporary ears, and wholly, or almost wholly, lost to modern times; and though Apollonius Rhodius is not, like Panyasis, Chærilus, and Antimachus, or his own Alexandrian brethren, Rhianus and Euphorion, a mere name to us, we feel as we read him that he would hardly have counted as an eminent poet, among a poetical nation like the Greeks, in an age where poetry was still fresh and vigorous. But in Rome the case is far otherwise. pass from the golden to the silver age, we are confronted by a body of epic poetry which contains more than four times the bulk of the Æneid. The Pharsalia of Lucan and the unfinished Argonautics of Valerius Flaccus are indeed shorter than Virgil's poem ; but the Thebaid of Statius, taken together with the fragment of the Achilleid, is considerably longer, and the Punic War of Silius Italicus is nearly half as long again. These works, in fact, constitute about a third of the extant classical poetry since the Augustan era.
Nor have we any reason to think that they have been preserved to us by mere accident, while others, more worthy of being kept alive, have been left to perish. We may not value these vast heroic efforts as we value some of the less ostentatious performances of the
The Empire favourable to Epic Poetry.
same period, the satires of Persius and Juvenal, or the epigrams of Martial. We may prefer, as we doubtless should prefer, the Silvæ of Statius to his Thebaid, and argue that the other three poets might have expended their powers more profitably in attempts of a less ambitious nature. But we cannot doubt that all four stood high in the estimation of their own period, the period immediately succeeding the acme of Roman culture; two of them conspicuously so; and there is certainly some significance in the fact that so much of the poetical power of a not ungifted generation should have been consumed upon a species of poetry which earlier and later ages, for very various reasons, have been equally forward to extol, and equally backward to cultivate.
Doubtless there were other influences which tended to recommend the epic to the poets of Cæsarian Rome. In the days of the intellectual glory of Athens, the real successors of Homer were to be found in the great fathers of the drama. To the public, the pleasure of listening to a rhapsodist, however skilled, must have been tame when compared with the charm of a dialogue sustained by well-graced actors, relieved by orchestral music, and set off by the accessories of scenery; while the poet would naturally prefer a field of labour, which, independently of the confessed advantages of novelty and popularity, might appear less interminable and more diversified. But the drama, the tragic drama at any rate, had never taken a thoroughly firm hold on Roman soil; and it withered rather than flourished under the imperial sunshine. The degradation of the chorus stamped it from the first with the character of comparative insignificance; it was Greek tragedy shorn of one half of its glory. Already, in the time of Horace, the audience had begun to tire of the tragic dialogue, and to care only for the splendour of the spectacle; and it was not likely that under the successors of Augustus the drama should compete advantageously with the shows of the circus. The tragedy of Seneca was probably unacted tragedy ; and unacted tragedy, as the public opinion of our own day tells us, is a plain confession of weakness. But there was still a field for heroic poetry; a wider one, it might seem, than it had enjoyed even in Virgil's time. The poet of the Æneid had read parts of his work in the presence of the imperial family; but, if we except a doubtful story of the recitation of his Eclogues, we do not know that he ever appeared before a more general audience. But the atmosphere of im
Horace, Epistles, Book 11. Ep. i. 187 foll.
? The story is that the Bucolics were so popular as to be recited repeatedly on the stage, and that Cicero, being present on one of these occasions, pronounced the author “ Magnæ spes altera Romæ.” Cicero was killed before Virgil lost his farm, so the whole may be a figment. VOL. XL.-NO. LXXIX.