Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

a lively interest among the spectators. Later in the middle ages the sword-dance in the Shetland Isles lost by degrees the wildness of its character, the number of dancers being limited to seven, representing the Seven Champions of Christendom, viz., St. James of Spain, St. Denis of France, St. Anthony of Italy, St. David of Wales, St. Patrick of Ireland, St. Andrew of Scotland, all under the command of St. George of England, who both opened and closed the dance by reciting some English verses appropriate to the occasion.

All this, however, is now much changed. In the farthest island towards the west, that of Papa stour (“ Papey stærri,” the great Pap Island, in contradistinction to the neighbouring Papa little, “Papey litla”), a last shadow of the old warlike, sword-dance is occasionally to be seen. Instead, however, of being clothed in armour or shirts of mail, the dancing knights have shirts of sackcloth; and, in place of huge swords, they brandish straightened iron hoops, stripped from some herring-cask. The old Norwegian songs are no longer heard. Of the ancient Norwegian popular language the only remains are partly a few words, which, however, appear conspicuously in the English dialect now used ; and partly a peculiarly sharp pronunciation, with a considerable rising and sinking of the voice, not unlike the vulgar pronunciation in the Faroe Isles. The old Norwegian words are particularly employed for certain objects and implements which have been in use from time immemorial.

Thus, for instance, the hole through which the smoke escapes (Dan., Lyre) in the roof of houses covered with flat turf (flaas) is sometimes still called by the name of “livra" (in the Færoic language : “ ljowari ”). The high seat for the mistress of the house is called, in remote districts, “hoy-saede” (Dan., Höisæde); her " bysmer," which serves her for weighing, exactly agrees, both in name and nature, with the “ Bismer "common in the North. The hand-mill, which is fast disappearing, is calļed as in the Danish part of north England, “qvern.” The turf-spade, called in the Faroe Isles “torvskjæri ” (Dan., Törveskjærer), is here named “tuysker.” The land-tax also, according to Scandinavian fashion, is paid in “merk” and “ure" (Mark and Öre). The outlying fields are called “hogan,” “ hagan " (Old Norsk, “hagi," an inclosed field). The deep-sea fishery (Dan., Hav) is called “the haaf;" the fishing itself, “haaf-fishing" (Dan., Havfiskerie); and the necessary lines, “ tows” (Dan., Touge). To the present day the Shetlanders use, in these fisheries, boats imported from Norway, which are peculiarly suited, by their construction, for the high seas and rapid currents on the coasts of Shetland. The dress worn by the fishermen when out at sea bears a striking resemblance to that of the Faroe men. The head is covered with a cap knit in the form of a night-cap, and ornamented with the most motley colours. They wear a coat of tanned sheep-skin, reaching down to the knees, where it generally meets a pair of huge and capacious skin boots, very carefully sewed. On land the Shetlanders use only a simple kind of shoe called “rivlins," consisting of a square piece of untanned cow-hide, covering little more than the sole of the foot, and fastened with a fishing-line or a strip of skin. The men of Faroe have similar shoes, called “skegrar,” which, however, are far better made.

But what particularly reminds the Scandinavian traveller in Shetland of finding himself in a country formerly altogether Norwegian, is the names of places, all of which bear the impress of their Norwegian origin. This remark applies to the names of the islands themselves, as well as to the names of towns, farms, promontories, and bays existing in them. They, of course, resemble, in a great degree, the old Scandinavian names of places farther south, in Scotland and England. Thus, for instance, a fiord is generally called “firth" (fjorðr); a creek “ wick" (Dan., Vig); a holm, or small island, “holm;" a promontory, or naze, “ness ;” a valley, “ daill,” or “dale.” But it is peculiar to these districts, that the forms of names of places which occur most frequently in the old Danish part of the north of England, namely, those ending in by, thwaite, and thorpe, are extremely rare in Shetland, and in the rest of the old Norwegian possessions in Scotland. Of those in by, only a few instances are to be found; those in thwaite are still more rare; and those in thorpe are not to be met with at all. On the other hand, these districts possess several Scandinavian names of places which are also most frequently found in the old Norwegian colonies in the north and west of Scotland, but which are perfectly unknown in the old Danish part of the north of England. For instance, a small bay (Dan., Vaag) is called “voe” (vágr); whence, on Mainland, we find “ West-voe,” “ Aiths voe” (the bay by the tongue of land), “ Lax-voe” (Lax, or Salmon-bay), “Selia-voe" (sildavágr, the “Silde Vaag," or berring-bay), “Hamna-voe” (hafnarvágr, the Havne Vaag, or harbour bay), together with others. A still smaller bay, navigable only by boats, is called “gjo," or “goo(Old Norsk, gjá, an opening or cleft). For the rest, many farms have names with such endings as seter (Old Norsk, setr), ster and sta (Old Norsk, staðr, a place); and also busta, buster, and bister (contracted from “ bolstaðr,” a dwelling-place); whence, for instance, Kirkbuster (formerly Kirkjubólstaðr); all of which names agree just as well with those found in the Faroe Isles, Iceland, and the mother-country, Norway, as the names of places in the north of England ending in by, thwaite, and thorpe, agree with those in the corresponding mother-country, Denmark. Although the difference between the present traces of Danish colonization in England, and of Norwegian in Scotland, is not considerable, still it may be recognised in this manner.

In consequence of the remote situation of the Shetland Isles, the names of places, in spite of all revolutions, remain so much the same, that the old political and religious institutions of the islands are visible, as it were, through them. In the south part of Mainland lies the farm of Howff, where in ancient times there was certainly a “ Hof,” or house of God; and far northwards, near Hillswick (formerly Hildiswik), is the promontory of Torness (pórsness), which probably once had a Hof for the god Thor. Nor far from thence is the Lake Helgawater (Helgavatn), or the holy water. Heathenism, however, lasted but a short time in the islands. The Irish Christian priests (Old N., “Paper ")—the memory of whom still lives in the names of the islands Papa (Papey), as Papa stour (great) and Papa little-seem to have worked indefatigably; insomuch that the Norwegian king Olaf Tryggvesön was able, at the close of the tenth century, to introduce Christianity throughout the islands. In place of the old god-houses there speedily arose a number of chapels or small churches, consecrated to different saints : viz., to the Norwegian saints, St. Sunifva (the daughter of an Irish king who suffered shipwreck in Norway), St. Olaf, as well as, at a somewhat later time, to St. Magnus, the patron saint of the Orkneys, after whom a great bay on the north-west coast of Mainland is to the present day called St. Magnus' Bay. St. Magnus seems also to have been the patron, or rather the chief saint, of Shetland; at least, the principal church in Shetland is consecrated to him. This church did not stand in Lerwick, the present chief town in Shetland, which has risen far later in the southeastern part of Mainland, on the site of an old sea-side town near Bressasound (formerly “ Breiðeyjarsund"). It lay about four miles to the north-west of Lerwick, in the parish of Tingwall; where, as the name (pingavöllr) denotes, the chief Thing of the islands was held for centuries, and where, in heathen times, the chief place of sacrifice undoubtedly existed. The parish of Tingwall comprises one of the prettiest and best-cultivated valleys in Shetland. The old Thing place is still to be seen near the church, in a small holm, or island, in a lake, connected with the land by a row of large stepping stones. Secure against a sudden attack, here sat, when the island was free, the “ foude" (Dan., Foged), or magistrate, with his law-officers, whilst the multitude of the common people stood round about on the shores of the lake, and listened to what passed. Popular tradition says that the church was at that time a free place, or sanctuary, so that a person condemned to death was entitled to a pardon, if he could succeed in running from the holm over the stones, and reaching the church without being killed by the people. If this was really the case the commonalty must consequently have had power to pardon a convicted person by suffering him to escape into the church.

During the holding of the chief Thing, which in the olden times was generally accompanied with great sacrificial offerings, as well as with fairs and all sorts of merrymaking, a multitude of persons always assembled, and a great many tents and booths were erected, both at the Thing place itself and in the immediate vicinity. Hence it undoubtedly arose that about three miles to the west of Tingwall, near a bay of the sea, there was a collection of Skaaler, or wooden booths; whence the present Scalloway (Skálavágr) which, next to Lerwick, is the most important trading place in the islands.

In Mainland alone there were at least seven lesser Things, under the jurisdiction of the chief Thing in Tingwall. The names of five of these are still preserved in Sandsthing (Sandsþing), Aithsthing (Eiðsþing), Delting (Dalaþing), Lunziesting (Lundeiðisþing), and Nesting (Nesþing); but the two other names, which are known from records, Rauðarþing-probably the most northern parish, Northmavine-and pveita þing (the most southern parish?), have disappeared. Special Things were, of course, also held on the larger islands, such as Yell (“ Jali") and Unst (“ Aumstr," “ Örmst "); but it is certainly very incorrect to infer, as many persons do, from some stone circles near Baliasta, close by Unst, that the chief Thing of the islands was held there in the most ancient times of heathenism.

« НазадПродовжити »