List Of Contents | Contents of Letters From High Latitudes, by Lord Dufferin
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thoughts of the warlock and you.

Yesterday, we made an excursion as far as Lade, saw a
waterfall, which is one of the lions of this neighbourhood
(but a very mitigated lion, which "roars you as soft as
any sucking dove"), and returned in the evening to attend
a ball given to celebrate the visit of the Crown Prince.

At Lade, I confess I could think of nothing but "the
great Jarl" Hacon, the counsellor, and maker of kings,
king himself in all but the name, for he ruled over the
western sea-board of Norway, while Olaf Tryggvesson was
yet a wanderer and exile. He is certainly one of the most
picturesque figures of these Norwegian dramas; what with
his rude wit, his personal bravery, and that hereditary
beauty of his race for which he was conspicuous above
the rest. His very errors, great as they were, have a
dash and prestige about them, which in that rude time
must have dazzled men's eyes, and especially WOMEN'S, as
his story proves. It was his sudden passion for the
beautiful Gudrun Lyrgia (the "Sun of Lunde," as she was
called), which precipitated the avenging fate which years
of heart-burnings and discontent among his subjects had
been preparing. Gudrun's husband incites the Bonders to
throw off the yoke of the licentious despot,--Olaf
Tryggvesson is proclaimed king,--and the "great Jarl of
Lade" is now a fugitive in the land he so lately ruled,
accompanied by a single thrall, named Karker.

In this extremity, Jarl Hacon applies for aid to Thora
of Rimmol, a lady whom he had once dearly loved; she is
faithful in adversity to the friend of happier days, and
conceals the Jarl and his companion in a hole dug for
this purpose, in the swine-stye, and covered over with
wood and litter; as the only spot likely to elude the
hot search of his enemies. Olaf and the Bonders seek for
him in Thora's house, but in vain; and finally, Olaf,
standing on the very stone against which the swine-stye
is built, promises wealth and honours to him who shall
bring him the Jarl of Lade's head. The scene which follows
is related by the Icelandic historian with Dante's tragic

There was a little daylight in their hiding-place, and
the Jarl and Karker both hear the words of Olaf.

"Why art thou so pale?" says the Jarl," and now again as
black as earth? Thou dost not mean to betray me?"

"By no means," said Karker.

"We were born on the same night," said the Jarl, "and
the time will not be long between our deaths."

When night came, the Jarl kept himself awake,--but Karker
slept;--a troubled sleep. The Jarl awoke him, and asked
of what he was dreaming. He answered, "I was at Lade,
and Olaf was laying a gold ring about my neck."

The Jarl said, "It will be a RED ring about thy neck, if
he catches thee: from me thou shalt enjoy all that is
good,--therefore, betray me not!"

Then they both kept themselves awake; "THE ONE, AS IT
WERE, WATCHING UPON THE OTHER." But towards day, the Jarl
dropped asleep, and in his unquiet slumber he drew his
heels under him, and raised his neck as if going to rise,
"and shrieked fearfully." On this, Karker, "dreadfully
alarmed," drew a knife from his belt, stuck it into the
Jarl's throat, and cut off his head. Late in the day he
came to Lade, brought the Jarl's head to Olaf, and told
his story.

It is a comfort to know that "the red ring" was laid
round the traitor's neck: Olaf caused him to be beheaded.

What a picture that is, in the swine-stye, those two
haggard faces, travel-stained and worn with want of rest,
watching each other with hot, sleepless eyes through the
half darkness, and how true to nature is the nightmare
of the miserable Jarl!

It was on my return from Lade, that I found your letters;
and that I might enjoy them without interruption, I
carried them off to the churchyard--(such a beautiful
place!)--to read in peace and quiet. The churchyard was
NOT "populous with young men, striving to be alone," as
Tom Hood describes it to have been in a certain sentimental
parish; so I enjoyed the seclusion I anticipated.

I was much struck by the loving care and ornament bestowed
on the graves; some were literally loaded with flowers,
and even those which bore the date of a long past sorrow
had each its own blooming crown, or fresh nosegay.  These
good Throndhjemers must have much of what the French call
la religion des souvenirs, a religion in which we English
(as a nation) are singularly deficient. I suppose no
people in Europe are so little addicted to the keeping
of sentimental anniversaries as we are; I make an exception
with regard to our living friends' birthdays, which we
are ever tenderly ready to cultivate, when called on;
turtle, venison, and champagne, being pleasant investments
for the affections. But time and business do not admit
of a faithful adherence to more sombre reminiscences; a
busy gentleman "on 'Change" cannot conveniently shut
himself up, on his "lost Araminta's natal-day," nor will
a railroad committee allow of his running down by the
10.25 A.M., to shed a tear over that neat tablet in the
new Willow-cum-Hatband Cemetery. He is necessarily content
to regret his Araminta in the gross, and to omit the
petty details of a too pedantic sorrow.

The fact is, we are an eminently practical people, and
are easily taught to accept "the irrevocable," if not
without regret, at least with a philosophy which repudiates
all superfluous methods of showing it. DECENT is the
usual and appropriate term applied to our churchyard
solemnities, and we are not only "content to dwell in
decencies for ever," but to die, and be buried in them.

The cathedral loses a little of its poetical physiognomy
on a near approach. Modern restoration has done something
to spoil the outside, and modern refinement a good deal
to degrade the interior with pews and partitions; but it
is a very fine building, and worthy of its metropolitan
dignity.  I am told that the very church built by Magnus
the Good,--son of Saint Olave--over his father's remains,
and finished by his uncle Harald Hardrada, is, or rather
was, included in the walls of the cathedral; and though
successive catastrophes by fire have perhaps left but
little of the original building standing, I like to think
that some of these huge stones were lifted to their place
under the eyes of Harald The Stern. It was on the eve of
his last fatal expedition against our own Harold of
England that the shrine of St. Olave was opened by the
king, who, having clipped the hair and nails of the dead
saint (most probably as relics, efficacious for the
protection of himself and followers), then locked the
shrine, and threw the keys into the Nid. Its secrets from
that day were respected until the profane hands of Lutheran
Danes carried it bodily away, with all the gold and silver
chalices, and jewelled pyxes, which, by kingly gifts and
piratical offerings, had accumulated for centuries in
its treasury.

He must have been a fine, resolute fellow, that Harald
the Stern, although, in spite of much church-building
and a certain amount of Pagan-persecuting, his character
did not in any way emulate that of his saintly brother.
The early part of his history reads like a fairy tale,
and is a favourite subject for Scald songs; more especially
his romantic adventures in the East,--

   "Well worthy of the golden prime
    Of good Haroun Alraschid."

where Saracens flee like chaff upon the wind before him,
and impregnable Sicilian castles fall into his power by
impossible feats of arms, or incredible stratagems. A
Greek empress, "the mature Zoe," as Gibbon calls her,
falls in love with him, and her husband, Constantine
Monomachus, puts him in prison; but Saint Olaf still
protects his mauvais sujet of a brother, and inspires "a
lady of distinction" with the successful idea of helping
Harald out of his inaccessible tower by the prosaic
expedient of a ladder of ropes.  A boom, however, across
the harbour's mouth still prevents the escape of his
vessel. The Sea-king is not to be so easily baffled.
Moving all his ballast, arms, and men, into the afterpart
of the ship, until her stem slants up out of the sea, he
rows straight at the iron chain. The ship leaps almost
half-way over. The weight being then immediately transferred
to the fore-part, she slips down into the water on the
other side,--having topped the fence like an Irish hunter.
A second galley breaks her back in the attempt.  After
some questionable acts of vengeance on the Greek court,
Harald and his bold Vaeringers go fighting and plundering
their way through the Bosphorus and Black Sea back to
Novogorod, where the first part of the romance terminates,
as it should, by his marriage with the object of his
secret attachment, Elisof, the daughter of the Russian

Hardrada's story darkens towards the end, as most of the
tales of that stirring time are apt to do. His death on
English ground is so striking, that you must have patience
with one other short Saga; it will give you the battle
of Stanford Bridge from the Norse point of view.

The expedition against Harold of England commences ill;
dreams and omens affright the fleet; one man dreams he
sees a raven sitting on the stern of each vessel; another
sees the fair English coast;

   "But glancing shields
    Hide the green fields;"

and other fearful phenomena mar the beautiful vision.
Harald himself dreams that he is back again at Nidaros,
and that his brother Olaf meets him with a prophecy of
ruin and death. The bold Norsemen are not to be daunted
by these auguries, and their first successes on the
English coast seem to justify their persistence. But on
a certain beautiful Monday in September (A.D. 1066,
according to the Saxon Chronicle), part of his army being
encamped at Stanford Bridge, "Hardrada, HAVING TAKEN
BREAKFAST, ordered the trumpets to sound for going on
shore;" but he left half his force behind, to guard the
ships: and his men, anticipating no resistance from the
castle, which had already surrendered, "went on shore
(the weather being hot), with only their helmets, shields,
and spears, and girt with swords; some had bows and

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