Зображення сторінки

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.

"Before Snorri's time there existed only . . . separate, disjointed biographical monographs on Norwegian kings, written on the modelof the family sagasof 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 reignjThis the writer of lives of kings must bear in mind. And so Snorri addresses himself to writing theJirstpragmatic history ever penned inany 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 fieimskringla 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.

The 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 GyIfaginning,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 Skaldskaparmal with

'See Sturlunga Saga, vol. i, Proleg. pp. Ixxvii, 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 dialogue, called 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 Gylfaglnning 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 Gylfaglnning, 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 skaldshipTfor the guidance of young skalds J

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 textbook for apprentice paets.CGyifaginning, 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 splendid tales of the fathers," Snorri, by implication, says to the youthful bard; "but remember always that these old legends are to be used to point a moral or adorn a tale, and not to be believed, or to be altered without authority of ancient skalds who knew them. Belief is sin; tampering with tradition is a crime against scholarship."J

The second and third sections, Skdldskaparmaland Hat- tata/, offer the rules of composition, and drive them home by means of models drawn, in the one case, from acknowledged masters of the craft, in the other, by the example of a complete skaldic trilogy, the work of a man who was accepted by his own time as a worthy successor of Bragi, Kormakr, and Einarr. A needed transition from the literary to the technical portion of the book is supplied by Bragaradur, which narrates, in the same spirit as Gylfaginning, further useful tales, and concludes with a mythological account of the skaldic art. w

Even the Prologue, which many scholars consider spurious, is an integral part of the work—a fact established by Snorri's single address, in the character of the author, to beginners. In this apostrophe he refers to the Prologue: "Remember, these tales are to be used only as Chief Skalds have used them, and must be revered as ancient tradition, but are neither to be believed nor to be tampered with. Regard them as I have indicated at the beginning of this book." The beginning of the book is a summary of the Biblical story of the Creation and Deluge, followed by a rationalized account of the rise of the ancient pagan faith, according to which the old gods appear, not as deities, but as men.

The word "Edda," as applied to the whole work, has long furnished scholars with material for disputation. The different theories regarding it need not be re-stated here. It is the translator's personal opinion that Magnusson's etymology, if not established, is at least the most satisfactory one likely to be offered. Magniisson1 points out that Snorri passed the interval between his third and nineteenth years at Oddi, under the fostering of the grandson of Ssemundr the Learned; that Saemundr, who had studied at Paris, had founded a school at Oddi; that Snorri became the author of a book which was called Edda; and that this book contains, in its first section, a prose paraphrase of many of the songs from the Elder or Poetic Edda, together with a number of quotations from that work. Now the Poetic Edda was ascribed by its earliest recorded possessor, Bishop Brynjolf Sveinsson,to Saemundr; and while it is improbable that Saemundr composed the poem, it is highly probable that it once formed part of his library at Oddi. There Snorri may have learned to know it; and we may assume that he gave the prose edition the name of its poetical original. That original, "the mother MS.," he thinks would naturally have been called "the book of, or at Oddi," which would be expressed, in Icelandic, either as " Oddabok," or as "Edda," following, in the latter case, accepted linguistic laws.

Snorri's familiarity with the Elder or Poetic Edda is demonstrated by his frequent quotations from VMuspa, Havamal, Grimnismal, Vafthrudnistnal, Alsvinnsmal or Alvissmal, and Grottasongr. He knew Lokasenna as well, but confused three stanzas,apparently failing to remember the order jM'

1 Magnusson's theory, with a summary of all others in the field, was presented in a paper read before the Viking Club on November 15, 1895, published in the Saga Book of that society, and separately printed at London in 1896.


« НазадПродовжити »