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able promise to Norway, but I think it by no means certain that repentance stayed his hand. Indeed, familiar as he was with the hopelessly anarchical conditions of his native land, its devastating feuds, its plethora of lawless, unscrupulous chiefs, all striving for wealth and influence, none inspired with a genuine affection for the commonwealth, nor understanding the fundamental principles of democracy, Snorri may well have felt that it were far better to endure a foreign ruler who could compel union and peace. If this was the motive underlying his self-atfasement at the Norwegian court and his promises to Hakon, then weakness alone is sufficient to account for his failure; if he had no such purpose, he must be regarded as both weak and treacherous.
It is with relief that we turn to Snorri's works, to find in them, at least, traces of genuine nobility of spirit. The unscrupulous politician kept sound and pure some corner of his heart in which to enshrine his love for his people's,tf glorious past, for the myths of their ancient gods, half grotesque and half sublime: for the Christ-like Baldr; for Promethean Odin and Tyr, sacrificing eye and hand to save the race; for the tears of Freyja, the tragic sorrows of Gudrun, the pitiful end of Svanhildr, the magnificent, alldevastating fire of Ragnarok.
His interest in these wondrous things, like Scott's love for the heroes, beliefs, and customs of the Scottish folk, was, I think, primarily antiquarian. Indefatigable in research, with an artist's eye for the picturesque, a poet's feeling for the dramatic and the human, he created the most vivid, vital histories that have yet been penned. Accurate beyond the manner of his age, gifted with genius for expression, divining the human personalities, the comic or tragic interplay of ambitions, passions, and destinies behind the mere chronicled events, he had almost ideal qualities as an historian.
Poet he was too, though the codified rules, the cryptic phrase, and conventional expression, which indeed "bound" together the words of the singers of ancient Scandinavia, must spoil his verse for us. Yet it is well to remember that in his own lifetime, not his natural prose, but his artificial poetry was famous throughout the North.
Snorri's greatest work is undoubtedly the Heimskringla.1 Beginning with a rationalized account of the founding of Northern civilization by the ancient gods, he proceeds through heroic legend to the historical period, and follows the careers of his heroes on the throne, in Eastern courts and camps, or on forays in distant lands, from the earliest times to the reign of Sverrir, who came to the throne in 1184, five years after the author's birth. NC^ "The materials at Snorri's disposal," says Magnusson,2 '"were: oral tradition; written genealogical records; old songs or narrative lays such as ThiodolPs Tale3 of the Ynglingsand Eyvind's HalogaTale; poems of court poets, i.e., historic songs, which people knew by heart all from the days of Hairfair down to Snorri's own time. 'And most store,' he says, 'we set by that which is said in such songs as were sung before the chiefs themselves or the sons of them; and we hold all that true which is found in these songs concerning their wayfarings and their battles.' Of the written prose sources he drew upon he only mentions Ari the Learned's 'book,' . . . probably, as it seems to us, because in the statements of that work he had as implicit a faith as in the other sources he mentions, and found reason to alter nothing therein, while the sources he does not mention he silently criticises throughout, rejecting or altering them according as his critical faculty dictated.
1 An excellent description and classification of the MSS. may be found in The Saga Library, vol. vi, Introductory, pp. lxxiv-lxxvi. For Snorri's sources consult pp. lxxvi ff.
2 Ibid., p. lxxxvi.
5 Tal is used here in the sense of an enumeration (of ancestors); hence, a genealogy.
"Before Snorri's time there existed only . . . separate, disjointed biographical monographs on Norwegian kings, written on the model of the family sagas of Iceland. Snorri's was a more ambitious task. Discerning that the course of life is determined by cause and effect, and that in the lives of kings widely ramified interests, national and dynastic, come into play, he conceived a new idea of saga-writing: the seed of cause sown in the preceding must yield its crop of effect in the succeeding reign. This the writer of lives of kings must bear in mind. And so Snorri addresses himself to writing the first pragmatic history ever penned in any Teutonic vernacular—the Heimskringla."
The evidence for Snorri's authorship of Heimskringla is not conclusive; but Vigfusson's demonstration is accepted by most scholars.1 We may safely assume, apart from the general tendency of the external evidence, that one and the same author must have written the histories and the Prose Edda. A comparison of the names of skalds and skaldic poems mentioned in both works will show that the author of each had a wide acquaintance with the conventional poetic literature of Scandinavia, particularly of Iceland, and that, if we suppose two distinct authors, both men had almost precisely the same poetic equipment. Each of the works under consideration begins with a rationalization of the Odinic myths, and reveals an identity of attitude toward the ancient faith. Furthermore, the careful reader will be charmed with the sinewy style of both the Heimskringla and the Edda, and will be obliged to admit the close similarity between them in structure and in expression. Finally, Vigfusson has shown that they exhibit occasionally a remarkable identity of phrase.1
1 See Sturlunga Saga, vol. i, Proleg., pp. lxxv ff. The limitations of an introduction do not permit an abstract of the discussion in this place.
.T.hp.-Prose Edda is undoubtedly by Snorri. It is preserved in three primary manuscripts: Codex Regius, early fourteenth century; Codex Wormianus, fourteenth century, named from Ole Worm, from whose hands it passed, in 1706, into the hands of Arni Magnusson; and Codex Upsaliensis, about 1300, perhaps a direct copy of Snorri's own text. This last manuscript, and also the Arnamagnaean vellum No. 748, which preserves a portion of the text, testify unmistakably to Snorri's authorship; the Codex even gives, in detail, the subjects of the three divisions of the book.
These three divisions, but for the evidence of the manuscripts, might seem to afford ground for assuming plural authorship. The first part,the Gylfaginning,or Beguiling of Gylfi, is an epitome of Odinic mythology, cast in the form of a dialogue between Gylfi, a legendary Swedish king, and the triune Odin. Snorri, though a Christian, tells the old pagan tales with obvious relish, and often, in the enthusiasm of the true antiquary, rises to magnificent heights. Ever and again he fortifies his narrative with citations from the Poetic Edda, the great treasure-house of Scandinavian mythological and heroic poetry.
One passes from Gylfaginning to Skalds kaparmal with
'See Sturlunga Saga, vol. i, Proleg. pp. lxxvii, and note.
very little shock, in spite of the great difference in subject and treatment, which the author has attempted, rather skilfully, to modulate through a second dialogue. The questioner this time is one iEgir; and replies are made by the god Bragi, famed for eloquence and the gift of poetic expression. This intermediate, Hialo<jn<y*allr:d Bragaradur, or Bragi's Discourses, strikes the keynote of the entire book, and really reconciles the first section to the second and third, whose dissimilarity to Gylfaginning have led some scholars to believe that one or the other is not Snorri's work. The god relates several adventures of the iEsir of the same character as those recounted in Gylfaginning, and concludes with a myth concerning the origin of the poetic art. From this point on, barely maintaining the fiction of the dialogue, Snorri makes his work a treatise on the conventional vocabulary and phraseology of skaldship, for the guidance of young skalds.
The third section of the Edda is the Hattatal, or Enumeration of Metres, and combines three separate songs of praise: one on King Hakon, a second on Skuli Bardsson, the King's father-in-law and most powerful vassal, and a third celebrating both. Each of the hundred and two stanzas of the work belongs to a distinct metric type or subtype, and between stanzas Snorri has inserted definitions, occasionally longer notes, or comments.
We are now in a position to see the purpose and the artistic unity of the Prose Edda: the entire work is a text/book for apprentice poets. Gylfaginning, conceived in the true antiquarian spirit, supplies the mythological and legendary background which, in the Christian age that had superseded the vivid old heathen days, a young man might not know or might avoid. "Do not lose sight of these