Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Since that time the Danes have had settlements in the country, and have opened factories and mission-houses for the benefit of these remote colonies.

Leif's Discoveries.—We must now go back to Leif, who after having seen a church established in Greenland and a bishop appointed to take charge of it, began to wish for some new excitement elsewhere. This soon offered itself to him in the prospect of finding a new land as his father Erik the Red had done, when he discovered Greenland. It happened that in the year 1003 an Icelander, Bjarne, while sailing in search of his father who had gone on a trading voyage to Greenland, was carried far away to the west and south, till he reached a flat country so thickly covered with wood, that he felt certain from the descriptions he had heard of Greenland, it could not be the land of which he was in search. He therefore sailed in a different direction and came safely to Greenland, where he spoke to the settlers of the strange land he had seen.

On hearing these accounts Leif became impatient to visit the new country, and buying Bjarne's ship he manned it with thirty-five good seamen, and begged his father Erik to take the command of it. Erik the Red agreed to accompany his son, but being an old man by that time and feeble, he went to the place of embarkation on horseback, when, his horse stumbling, he regarded it as a bad omen and declined to go on board, saying, “I do not believe it is given to me to discover more lands, and here I will abide."

Leif then set sail without his father, and following the course which Bjarne had taken, he reached after a time a long line of coast, at many parts of which he and his men landed, and gathered delicious berries and other fruits, which were unknown to some of them, but which seemed to Leif very like the fruits he had eaten in the south of Europe when serving under Olaf Trygvasson. One day when Leif and some of his men had landed on the unknown coast, he lost sight of his father's servant Tyrker, who was a German. Leif sought him for a long time in the woods, and at length found him gathering bright purple and red bunches of fruit, which the man seemed overjoyed to have found. In his excitement he had forgotten the northern tongue, which he had long used, and began to speak in his own South-German language, and it was some time before he could make his master and his companions understand that he had found grapes, of which in his native country men made wine.

The Northmen spent the winter in this district, which Leif had named “ Vinland den Gode," or “ Wine-land the Good,” and which is believed to have bee the present state of Rhode Island, and after cruising along the coasts further south, they returned to Greenland and told their friends of all the strange lands they had seen. This happened about the year 1003, or 1004, and during the next few years Leif and his brothers, Thorwald and Thorstein, made several voyages to the same shores, with the view of settling in Vinland or in one of the many other pleasant spots which they had seen in the farwest. But the settlements which the Northmen attempted to make on those coast-lands, which we know from their position must have been in the Atlantic states of North America, were too small to resist the attacks of the natives, and thus they were one by one cut off and the leaders killed. Leif died in Greenland amongst his own kindred, but Thorwald and Thorstein, and several other great chiefs were early cut down in hand-to-hand fights with the natives, whom the Northmen called “Skrælingar" or dwarfs, and compared to the savages whom they and their fathers had found in Greenland.

The latest notice of Vinland is to be found in the “ Eyrbyggia Saga,” where it is related that, in the last years of the reign of Olaf the Saint of Norway, who died in 1030, an Icelander named Gudleif, in making a trading voyage to Iceland, was driven far to the south and west till he reached a land where he saw dark-skinned natives on the shore. These men came in great numbers to attack the strangers, and, after seizing them, carried them bound into the country. Here they were met by an old, light-haired chief of tall and commanding stature, whó, spoke to Gudleif in Icelandic, and told him that he and his companions might return to their ships, but that if they valued their lives they would make no delay, as the natives were cruel to strangers. He refused to tell his name, but he asked tidings of Snorre Gode, one of the leading men of Iceland, and begged that Gudleif would carry back with him a gold ring for Snorre's sister Thurida and a sword for her son. When Gudleif returned with these gifts, and told the people of Iceland what had befallen him, it was believed by them that the fair-skinned man in Vinland was Björn, a famous Skald, who had loved Thurida in her youth, and who had never been heard of since he had sailed from Iceland in the year 998.

After Gudleif returned in 1030 from his voyage to the farwest, no settlement of the Northmen is known to have been again attempted, although a Saxon priest is said to have sailed from Iceland in 1059 to convert the heathens of Vinland, but he too was murdered by the natives. For nearly four centuries and a half the western world was again wrapped in darkness, until in 1492 the great Genoese seaman, Christopher Columbus, re-opened the ocean-road to its vast territories, and for the first time made them known to the nations of the old eastern world in which we live.

CHAPTER VII.

THE ESTRIDSENS.

The story of Svend Estridsen, the father of all later rulers of Denmark - His

wars with Harald Hardraade, King of Norway, called Denmark's Blight-Harald's invasion of England, his death on the field of battle -Svend's message to William the Conqueror, demanding homage from him— The fate of Svend's hostile fleet-Svend's learning ; his love of learned men ; his friendship for Adam, Canon of Bremen; his intimacy with the English churchman, William, Bishop of Roeskilde-Svend's act of murder-William's way of turning him out of church ; Svend's penitence--Why Svend was called “Estridsen ”; how he is the ancestor of the Queen as well as of the Princess of Wales-Svend Estridsen the great great forefather of our kings-Svend's death.-The succession of five of his fourteen sons—The reign of Harald Hejn or Whetstone, and why he got that name— The character of his successor Knud, known as the Saint; how he favoured the clergy and oppressed the laity ; what came of his conduct-His murder and the fate of his only son KarlThe laws of succession in Denmark--Olaf-Hunger ; the troubles of his short reign-Erik Ejegod succeeds; his beauty and great skill in arts and exercises—The canonization of Saint Knud-Erik and his Queen Botilda go to the Holy Land, and die on the way-Niels, the last of the five king-brothers, comes to the throne on the death of Erik-- Knud Lavard ; his murder by prince Magnus- The vengeance taken by Knud's brother-Magnus is slain, and King Niels takes refuge in Slesvig, where he is killed by Knud's Guild-brothers, about sixty years after the death of Svend Estridsen, his father.

PART I.

SVEND ESTRIDSEN, THE FATHER OF DANISH KINGS.

Svend Estridsen, 1047-1076. - We have seen how King Magnus the Good did his best before his death to secure to Svend the crown of Denmark; but although in that respect Svend's fortune was better than he had any right to expect, he was not without plenty of troubles. In the first place, King Harald of Norway, the uncle and successor of Magnus, would not leave him at peace, and whenever the Wends and other pagan tribes of the Baltic began to attack one province in Denmark, the King of Norway was sure to fall upon some other part of the kingdom, and thus King Svend was kept in a constant state of unquiet. Once he only saved his life after a lost battle by putting on the dress of a herdsman, and staying in hiding with a peasant called Karl, whose wife not knowing as her husband did the rank of the stranger, roughly told him that she never had seen a man so clumsy and ugly as he was. Although the king was obliged to bear the insult he did not forget it, and some years later when he gave the peasant a large farm in Sjælland, he forbade him ever to bring his wife there.

For seventeen years after the death of Magnus, Harald returned every summer with his fleet to harass the poor Danes, who in their distress called him the “ Lightning of the North," “the Blight of the Danish islands;" and happy they were when at last Harald, wishing to conquer England and not caring to leave a foe so near home, made peace with Svend in 1064. The fate of King Harald Haardrade, who was defeated and slain by the English at the Battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066, did not deter Svend from following in his steps, and making an attempt to invade and conquer England in the year 1069. First he sent, in 1067, to William the Conqueror to demand homage and tribute from him, and to tell him that he, Svend, as the nephew and heir of Knud the Great, was by right of heritage king of England. William the Conqueror, who had not been many months on the English throne when this message came to him, showed no anger, but returned greetings and handsome gifts to his “friend and cousin,” King Svend of Denmark. But when, two years later, Svend despatched a fleet of 240 ships, under the command of his sons, Harald and Knud, to invade England, William very soon proved he was master of his kingdom, and the young princes were forced to return to Denmark without having done any of the great deeds that had been expected of them. It was believed that Svend's brother, Asbjörn, to whose care they had been entrusted by their father, had been bought over to betray and deceive them, and when

« AnteriorContinuar »