List Of Contents | Contents of Letters From High Latitudes, by Lord Dufferin
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another four-and-twenty hours where we were. No!--yes!--no!
By Phoebus! there he is! A faint spongy spot of brightness
gleamed through the grey roof overhead. The indistinct
outline grew a little clearer; one-half of him, though
still behind a cloud, hardened into a sharp edge. Up went
the sextant. "52.43!" (or whatever it was) I shouted to
Mr.  Wyse. "52.41, my Lord!" cried he, in return; there
was only the discrepancy of a mile between us. We had
got the altitude; the sun might go to bed for good and
all now, we did not care,--we knew our position to an
inch. There had been an error of something like forty
miles in our dead reckoning, in consequence--as I afterwards
found--of a current that sets to the northward, along
the west coast of Norway, with a velocity varying from
one to three miles an hour. The island upon which we had
so nearly run WAS Roost. We were still nearly 200 miles
from our port.  "Turn the hands up! Make sail!" and away
we went again in the same course as before, at the rate
of ten knots an hour.

"The girls at home have got hold of the tow-rope, I think,
my Lord," said Mr. Wyse, as we bounded along over the
thundering seas.

[Figure: fig-p192.gif]

By three o'clock next day we were up with Vigten, and
now a very nasty piece of navigation began. In order to
make the northern entrance of the Throndhjem Fiord, you
have first to find your way into what is called the Froh
Havet,--a kind of oblong basin about sixteen miles long,
formed by a ledge of low rocks running parallel with the
mainland, at a distance of ten miles to seaward. Though
the space between this outer boundary and the coast is
so wide, in consequence of the network of sunken rocks
which stuffs it up, the passage by which a vessel can
enter is very narrow, and the only landmark to enable
you to find the channel is the head one of the string of
outer islets. As this rock is about the size of a
dining-table, perfectly flat, and rising only a few feet
above the level of the sea, to attempt to make it is like
looking for a needle in a bottle of hay. It was already
beginning to grow very late and dark by the time we had
come up with the spot where it ought to have been, but
not a vestige of such a thing had turned up.  Should we
not sight it in a quarter of an hour, we must go to sea
again, and lie to for the night,--a very unpleasant
alternative for any one so impatient as I was to reach
a port.  Just as I was going to give the order, Fitz--who
was certainly the Lynceus of the ship's company--espied
its black back just peeping up above the tumbling water
on our starboard bow. We had hit it off to a yard!

In another half-hour we were stealing down in quiet water
towards the entrance of the fiord. All this time not a
rag of a pilot had appeared, and it was without any such
functionary that the schooner swept up next morning
between the wooded, grain-laden slopes of the beautiful
loch, to Throndhjem--the capital of the ancient sea-kings
of Norway.



Off Munkholm, Aug. 27, 1856.

Throndhjem (pronounced Tronyem) looked very pretty and
picturesque, with its red-roofed wooden houses sparkling
in the sunshine, its many windows filled with flowers,
its bright fiord covered with vessels gaily dressed in
flags, in honour of the Crown Prince's first visit to
the ancient capital of the Norwegian realm. Tall,
pretentious warehouses crowded down to the water's edge,
like bullies at a public show elbowing to the foremost
rank, orderly streets stretched in quiet rows at right
angles with each other, and pretty villas with green
cinctures sloped away towards the hills. In the midst
rose the king's palace, the largest wooden edifice in
Europe, while the old grey cathedral--stately and grand,
in spite of the slow destruction of the elements, the
mutilations of man's hands, or his yet more degrading
rough-cast and stucco reparations--still towered above
the perishable wooden buildings at his feet, with the
solemn pride which befits the shrine of a royal saint.

I cannot tell you with what eagerness I drank in all the
features of this lovely scene; at least, such features
as Time can hardly alter--the glancing river, from whence
the city's ancient name of Nidaros, or "mouth of the
Nid," is derived,--the rocky island of Munkholm, the
bluff of Lade,--the land-locked fiord and its pleasant
hills, beyond whose grey stony ridges I knew must lie
the fatal battle-field of Sticklestad. Every spot to me
was full of interest,--but an interest noways connected
with the neat green villas, the rectangular streets, and
the obtrusive warehouses. These signs of a modern humdrum
prosperity seemed to melt away before my eyes as I gazed
from the schooner's deck, and the accessories of an elder
time came to furnish the landscape,--the clumsy merchantmen
lazily swaying with the tide, darkened into armed galleys
with their rows of glittering shields,--the snug,
bourgeois-looking town shrank into the quaint proportions
of the huddled ancient Nidaros,--and the old marauding
days, with their shadowy line of grand old pirate kings,
rose up with welcome vividness before my mind.

What picture shall I try to conjure from the past, to
live in your fancy, as it does in mine?

Let the setting be these very hills,--flooded by this
same cold, steely sunshine. In the midst stands a stalwart
form, in quaint but regal attire. Hot blood deepens the
colour of his sun-bronzed cheek; an iron purpose gleams
in his earnest eyes, like the flash of a drawn sword; a
circlet of gold binds the massive brow, and from beneath
it stream to below his waist thick masses of hair, of
that dusky red which glows like the heart of a furnace
in the sunlight, but deepens earth-brown in the shadow.
By his side stands a fair woman; her demure and heavy-lidded
eyes are seldom lifted from the earth, which yet they
seem to scorn, but the king's eyes rest on her, and many
looks are turned towards him. A multitude is present,
moved by one great event, swayed by a thousand
passions,--some with garrulous throats full of base
adulation and an unworthy joy,--some pale, self-scorning,
with averted looks, and hands that twitch instinctively
at their idle daggers, then drop hopeless, harmless at
their sides.

The king is Harald Haarfager, "of the fair hair," the
woman is proud and beautiful Gyda, whose former scorn
for him, in the days when he was nothing but the petty
chief of a few barren mountains, provoked that strange
wild vow of his, "That he would never clip or comb his
locks till he could woo her as sole king of Norway."

Among the crowd are those who have bartered, for ease,
and wealth, and empty titles born of the king's
breath--their ancient Udal rights, their Bonder privileges;
others have sunk their proud hearts to bear the yoke of
the stronger hand, yet gaze with yearning looks on the
misty horizon that opens between the hills. A dark speck
mars that shadowy line. Thought follows across the space.
It is a ship. Its sides are long, and black, and low;
but high in front rises the prow, fashioned into the
semblance of a gigantic golden dragon, against whose
gleaming breast the divided waters angrily flash and
gurgle. Along the top sides of the deck are hung a row
of shining shields, in alternate breadths of red and
white, like the variegated scales of a sea-monster, whilst
its gilded tail curls aft over the head of the steersman.
From either flank projects a bank of some thirty oars,
that look, as they smite the ocean with even beat, like
the legs on which the reptile crawls over its surface.
One stately mast of pine serves to carry a square sail
made of cloth, brilliant with stripes of red, white, and

And who are they who navigate this strange, barbaric
vessel?--why leave they the sheltering fiords of their
beloved Norway? They are the noblest hearts of that noble
land--freemen, who value freedom,--who have abandoned
all rather than call Harald master, and now seek a new
home even among the desolate crags of Iceland, rather
than submit to the tyranny of a usurper.

   "Rorb--ober Gud! wenn nur bie Geelen gluben!"

Another picture, and a sadder story; but the scene is
now a wide dun moor, on the slope of a seaward hill; the
autumn evening is closing in, but a shadow darker than
that of evening broods over the desolate plain,--the
shadow of DEATH. Groups of armed men, with stern sorrow
in their looks, are standing round a rude couch, hastily
formed of fir branches. An old man lies there--dying.
His ear is dulled even to the shout of victory; the mists
of an endless night are gathering in his eyes; but there
is passion yet in the quivering lip, and triumph on the
high-resolved brow; and the gesture of his hand has kingly
power still. Let me tell his saga, like the bards of that
old time.



   All was over: day was ending
   As the foeman turned and fled.
   Gloomy red
   Glowed the angry sun descending;
   While round Hacon's dying bed,
   Tears and songs of triumph blending,
   Told how fast the conqueror bled


   "Raise me," said the King. We raised him--
   Not to ease his desperate pain;
   That were vain!
   "Strong our foe was--but we faced him
   Show me that red field again."
   Then, with reverent hands, we placed him
   High above the bloody plain.


   Silent gazed he; mute we waited,
   Kneeling round-a faithful few,
   Staunch and true,--
   Whilst above, with thunder freighted,
   Wild the boisterous north wind blew,
   And the carrion-bird, unsated,
   On slant wing around us flew.


   Sudden, on our startled hearing,
   Came the low-breathed, stern command--
   "Lo! ye stand?
   Linger not, the night is nearing;
   Bear me downwards to the strand,
   Where my ships are idly steering

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