Scandinavian Elements in the Works of William Morris - CH I
A thesis submitted to the Division of Modern Languages, Harvard University, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, by Karl O. E. Anderson
In Three Volumes
Chapter I The beginnings of Morris’s Interest in the History and Literature of Early Scandinavia: 1834-1870
William Morris was born in Walthamstow, just outside of London, on March 24, 1834.1 During his childhood and early youth he enjoyed an unusual degree of freedom from restrictions at home, at the elementary schools he attended, and at Marlborough College; and this liberty to read just what he wished and to pursue his natural inclinations in other respects also enabled him at an early age to follow and develop the very strong interest in medieval history, literature, and art with which he seems to have been born, - an interest which was destined to remain with him until his death and was to become the ruling passion of his life. Many years later Morris described the activities of his early youth for one of his friends, Wilfred S. Blunt, who recorded these reminiscences in his diary in the following words:
He talked a great deal about his boyhood, said he had read the whole of Scott’s novels before he was seven, and had gone through the phase of ‘Marmion’ and the ‘Lady of the Lake.’ At his school, Marlborough, he was neither high nor low in his form, but always last in arithmetic . . . ; hated Cicero and Latin generally, but anything in the way of history had attracted him; he knew English history better than Greek history, though only the latter was taught; he had learned nearly everything he knew of architecture and mediæval things running about the country round Marlborough as a schoolboy.2
It should be noted that it was very likely in the works of Scott that Morris first met with references to Scandinavian mythology and
1 For the background of the main facts relating to Morris’s life I am indebted to John W. Mackail, The Life of William Morris (London, New York, and Bombay, 1899).
2 My Diaries. Being a Personal Narrative of Events, 1888-1914 (London: Martin Becker, 1919), I, 285-286.
Early in 1853, when he was nineteen years old, Morris entered Oxford. Here he soon became a member of a small but enthusiastic group of students who, although most of them had come to the university for the purpose of preparing for the ministry, showed from the very beginning a much greater interest in art and literature and in the preaching of Ruskin and Carlyle. J. W. Mackail in his biography of Morris gives a very extensive account of Morris’s reading during his days at Oxford;2 most of the books he enumerates are of the type that we should expect any young man to read who was planning to enter the ministry but who was also filled with a lively interest in literature in general and in the literature of the Middle Ages in particular. In only a few cases are books mentioned that might have served to familiarize Morris with the history and culture of early Scandinavia; one of these works, however, is very important. Among Morris’s closest friends was a young man by the name of Edward Burne-Jones, and between him and Morris there immediately arose a most intimate friendship, which was destined to last throughout Morris’s life. According to Mackail, Burne-Jones had arrived in Oxford “full of the fascination of the Celtic and Scandinavian mythologies,”3 and he soon introduced Morris to Benjamin Thorpe’s Northern Mythology;4 it was this book, as far as we know, that gave Morris his first formal acquaintance with the early literature of the Scandinavian countries.
1 For a discussion of the Scandinavian elements in the works of Scott, see Paul R. Lieder, “Scott and Scandinavian Literature,” in Smith College Studies in Modern Languages, II, No. 1 (October, 1920), 8-57. For a shorter account, see below, pp. 596-598.
2 I, 37-41.
3 Op. cit., I, 39.
4 (London, 1851-1852). 3 vols.
Morris could scarcely have found a better introduction to the subject, for Thorpe’s work, which extends to three volumes, offers an excellent survey of the early mythology and later folklore of the North. Volume I presents first what is practically a translation of the Prose Edda together with some material from the Poetic Edda. Then follow abstracts of the story of Völund, of the tale of Velint from the Vilkina saga, of the Völsunga saga, and of the story of Ragnar Lodbrok’s dealings with Thora and with Aslaug, the daughter of Sigurd and Bryhild. In Section II of Volume I, Thorpe presents various interpretations of the Old Norse myths, and in Section III he tries to explain the meaning of practically all the names that occur in the Eddas. The Appendix contains an account of the “Grottassungr,” a description of various Scandinavian pagan customs, and a lengthy “Epitome of German Mythology.” In Volume II Thorpe presents a great number of Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish popular traditions and superstitions, including in this material several stories about Olaf the Holy and abstracts of many important ballads such as “Axel Thordson and Fair Walborg” and “Hafbur and Signy.” Volume III consists of North German and Netherlandish popular beliefs and tales. Undoubtedly Thorpe’s Northern Mythology was one of the best general introductions to Scandinavian mythology and popular tradition that Morris could possibly have procured at this time.
No other purely Norse works are to be found among the books that we know Morris came across at Oxford, but Mackail states that the young man read and drew inspiration at this time from the
romances of De la Motte Fouqué,1 and some of these include Scandinavian material; although they give a very weak and totally false representation of the vigor and nobility of the life of the Norsemen, they must have served at any rate to acquaint Morris with certain general features of the life and history of medieval Scandinavia, such as the procedure at the ‘alþingi’ in Iceland, the institution of the Varangian Guard at Constantinople, and the extent of the Norse influence in Southern Europe. Since, according to Morris’s own statement,2 he could not read German fluently, it is perhaps safe to assume that he knew only those Scandinavian stories of Fouqué which had at this time been translated into English – namely, Sintram and his Companions,3 Thiodolf the Icelander, and Aslauga’s Knight.4 The action of Sintram, the only one which Mackail mentions specifically as having been known to Morris at Oxford, is laid in Norway, chiefly at Drontheim. A fierce knight by the name of Biorn of the Fiery Eyes makes a vow on the sacred boar’s head at Christmas feast to slay all German traders that come into his power, and then, when the opportunity immediately presents itself, tries, but fails, to carry out this rash promise.
1 William Morris, I, 41.
2 See The Collected Works of William Morris, ed. May Morris (London, New York, Bombay, Calcutta: Longmans Green and Company, 1910-1915), XXII, xv. Scandinavian tales by Fouqué which do not seem to have been translated into English by 1855 include Der Held des Nordens, Die Sae von dem Gunlaugur, genannt Drachenzunge und Rafn dem Skalden, and Eine Grablegung auf Island.
3 Udine, and Sintram and his Companions (New York, 1845).
4 Thiodolf the Icelander, and Aslauga’s Knight (New York, 1845).
As a result of his wickedness, Biorn’s young son Sintram becomes mentally deranged, is visited with terrible hallucinations, and is subjected to dreadful temptations. Finally, through the aid of the Church, Sintram overcomes the curse laid upon him, regains his health, and saves his father from eternal destruction. Thiodolf the Icelander is a lengthy account of an impetuous young man in Iceland called Thiodolf; he entertains at his home a young Italian couple, Pietro and Malgherita, who have been shipwrecked, is summoned before the “alþingi” by Gunnar of Lithend as a consequence of one of his boisterous, thoughtless acts but is acquitted, takes his guests home to Italy, goes to Constantinople and joins the Varangian Guard, wins Isolde, the sister of Malgherita as his bride, and with her returns to Iceland. Aslauga’s Knight is a very short tale of an accomplished young Dane named Froda, who, after reading the old stories of the wondrously fair daughter of Sigurd and Brynhild, resolves to become her knight; at the wedding dance of one of his friends Froda is greeted by a vision of Aslauga, is permitted to dance with her, and is found dead the next morning. The Magic Ring,1 another tale by Fouqué with which Morris may have become acquainted at Oxford, is not laid in Scandinavia, but one adventure takes the hero to Norway and Sweden and there are occasional references throughout the work to Odin, Freia, Gottheim, Asgard, runes, scalds, and “holmbouts.”
1 (London, n.d.) [Translator’s Preface is dated 1846.]
Morris’s sources of information about the Scandinavian countries up to the end of his stay at Oxford seem thus to have been the tales of Scott, Thorpe’s Northern Mythology, and a few of the romances of Fouqué, Thorpe’s work being by all means the most important. Morris does not at this time seem to have formed any great attraction for the North, but, as we shall see, his own writing now and in the next few years shows that he was not totally unresponsive to this part of his reading.
It was not until the winter of 1855, when he had been at Oxford almost two years, that Morris wrote his first poem; when his friends heaped praise upon it, he is said to have remarked, “Well, if this is poetry, it is very easy to write.1 A short time thereafter he learned that he could write prose also, and during the summer of 1855 he was busy composing prose romances, Morris and his friends, who had banded themselves together into an organization called “The Brotherhood,” now decided that they must have some form of publication by which to present their ideas to the world at large, and they therefore began issuing the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, of which twelve monthly numbers appeared during 1856. Here Morris had an opportunity to print a number of his poems and several of his prose tales, together with a few general articles.2
Practically all the poems and prose romances he contributed are vague, dreamy, and unreal, highly imaginative and often pervaded with mysticism; only one, “The Lindenborg Pool,” owes its
1 Mackail, William Morris, I, 52.
2 Most of Morris’s prose contributions to the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine were collected and reprinted by Miss Morris in the Collected Works, I, 147-369. The poetry of Morris himself reprinted in The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems (see below, page 10).
source to a Scandinavian story and is of interest to us here.1 In his own prefatory remarks to this tale Morris wrote, “I read once in a lazy humour Thorpe’s Northern Mythology, on a old May night when the north wind was blowing; in a lazy humour, but when I came to the tale that is here amplified there was something in it that fixed my attention and made me think of it; and whether I would or no, my thoughts ran in this way, as here follows.”2 He then proceeds to tell a story nine pages long based on a tale of twenty-nine lines, the plot of which in the original is very simple. In the Norse narrative the servants at a large estate, in the absence of their master, put a swine in his bed, wrapping it up in the bedclothes, and then summon a priest to administer the last rites to their master, who, they say, is at the point of death. The priest, suspecting nothing, comes and performs his duty; but when he produces the wafer and a swine raises his head and snaps at it, he flees from the house in terror amidst the laughter of all present. No sooner has he come outside than the house begins to crumble and fall, and in its place rises a great lake which covers all the ruins. In Morris’s story the framework is much more involved and complicated. He tells first how on a dark, wet night in early May he went to the lake described in Thorpe’s tale for the purpose of measuring the depth of the pool, which Thorpe had said was unfathomable. He was very much moved by the desolation all around him, and the spot seemed especially horrible to him that night, for it was just ten years ago to a day
1 Collected Works, I, 245-253.
2 Ibid., I, 245. The tale he refers to is “The Sunken Mansion,” which is found in the Northern Mythology, II, 214-215.
that he slew a man. Then suddenly he found himself dressed in a priest’s robes, riding on a mule through a dark forest, accompanied by a drunken guide who sang ribald songs, the whole scene being laid in Morris’s beloved “dim, far-off thirteenth century.”1 Then follows the tale told by Thorpe, the narrator sometimes being the priest and sometimes the nineteenth-century investigator. The whole story is told with the same wealth of vivid and sensuous detail, making the unreal seem very real, that is found in practically all of Morris’s work, and it is marked with the passionateness and nervous energy characteristic of all Morris’s early writings; in contrast to the situation in his other romances in the magazine, however, the narration here is fairly direct, and is free from the usual dreamy atmosphere in which the characters seem to be carried from one action to another without any will of their own. The framework of the tale – the setting of one story within another and the occasional interweaving of the two – foreshadows in a way the treatment Morris was to give another Scandinavian story in the poem “The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon” in The Earthly Paradise.2 Moreover, the tale illustrates remarkably well Morris’s method of composition, for it shows how, when he was fascinated by some story, his imagination immediately began to work on the theme and carried him from one episode to another, each one built up out of a mass of minute observations drawn from his medieval reading and from the actual world around him, until finally he had produced practically a new tale.
1 Collected Works, I, 247.
2 See below, pages 67-87.
It is perhaps idle to seek for traces of Scandinavian influences in Morris’s other contributions to the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine, but it is not at all unlikely that many of the Norse names that appear in the other tales were the result of Morris’s reading of the Northern Mythology and other Scandinavian works; thus in “Gertha’s Lovers” two of the characters are called “Olaf” and “Sigurd,” in “Svend and his Brethren” we find the names Valdemar,” Eric,” “Gunnar,” and Svenn,” and in “The Hollow Land” the queen is named “Swanhilda.”1 It is also very striking that two rather unusual names found in “Svend and his Brethren” – namely, “Siur” and Cissela” – occur in Thorpe’s work.2
In 1855 Morris decided to give up his intention of taking Holy Orders. At the end of that year he passed in the Final Schools and brought to a close his days at Oxford, and at the beginning of the following year he began to study architecture in the office of G. E. Street in Oxford. In August, Street moved his business to London, and Morris of course accompanied him; here the young man came more and more under the influence of Rossetti, who wanted him to become a painter, and before the year was over Morris had left Street and joined Burne-Jones in an endeavor to learn to paint. It was at this time, according to Mackail, that Morris began making illuminated manuscripts, an occupation which, as we shall see, served as his chief amusement for many years later in his life.3 In the summer of 1857 Morris
1 For occurrences of these names in the Northern Mythology, see, for example, I, 95ff. (“Sigurd”), I, 99ff. (Gunnar”), I, 106f. (“Svanhild”), I, 160(“Olaf”), II, 58f. (“Eric”), II, 141ff. (“Svend”), and II, 233f. (“Valdemar”).
2 See ibid., II, 14 for “Siur” and II, 89 for “Cissela.”
3 See below, pages 109 and 179-180.
and Burne-Jones went back to Oxford with Rossetti, who had undertaken to paint the walls of the newly-built hall of the Oxford Union Debating Society. Morris soon finished his picture, but stayed in Oxford during the rest of this year and the next also. While he was there, reunited with many of his old friends, he wrote a great deal of poetry; and early in 1858 he published his first volume of verse, The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems.1 Although later critics have praised this book as one of the most promising initial publications ever made by a poet, it met with practically no response at all, either good or bad, from the public at large at that time; as Mackail points out, Morris was throughout his life almost completely unmoved by criticism of his work, but there can be little doubt that the indifference with which his first volume was received was to a great extent responsible for his failure to write much poetry during the next five or six years.2 Most of the poems appearing in this little book are similar in tone and spirit to the prose romances and verses he had contributed to the Oxford and Cambridge Magazine; his chief inspiration seems to have been the Arthurian stories and the Middle Ages in general.
There are only two references to anything Scandinavian in this volume. In the poem “The Wind” an old man, sitting dreaming in his carven chair in the gray of morning, sees the ghost of
1 The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems was not actually the first volume Morris published, although it is generally considered such, for he had printed a few months earlier a very short poem called Sir Galahad: A Christmas Mystery (London, 1858), which he reprinted in the new volume. (See Harry Buxton Forman, The Books of William Morris (London, 1897), pp. 33-34.)
2 William Morris, I, 134-135.
dead warriors march by,
And faint upon their banner was Olaf, king and saint;1 and in “Rapunzel,” the Prince, describing the tower in which the fair lady was imprisoned by the witch, says that
no soot that tells
Of the Norse torches burning up the roofs
On the flower-carven marble could I see;2
The acquaintance with Olaf the Holy which Morris reveals in the first of these passages he probably derived from Volume II of Thorpe’s Northern Mythology, where the main historical facts and traditions regarding this figure are presented at great length.3 The reference in the second quotation to “the Norse torches burning up the roof” was perhaps the result of his having read somewhere of the practice common among the early Scandinavians, though by no means restricted to them, of burning their enemies, either public or private, in their halls. Thorpe, in the abstract he gives of the Völsunga saga, refers briefly to two such burnings,4 and Mallet’s Northern Antiquities, with which Morris may have at this time become acquainted, presents a summary of the Njáls saga, describing in some detail the burning of Njál;5 it is possible that it was these accounts that suggested to Morris the remark quoted above, although it is just as likely that he simply had in mind
1 Collected Works, I, 110.
2 Ibid., I, 65.
3 Pages 34-43.
4 I, 93 and 106.
5 [Paul H.] Mallet, Northern Antiquities, tr. [Thomas] Percy (London, 1847), 343-344. For an account of this book, see below, pages 44-45.
the many references to Viking raids and burnings in England that he must have come across in his reading of English history.1
While Morris was living in Oxford in the late 1850’s, he met Jane Burden, and in the spring of 1859 he married her. After a short honeymoon spent on the Continent, the young couple went to London, where they lived for a little over a year until the new home, Red House, which Morris was building at Upton, about ten miles from London, was ready for occupancy. It was Morris’s difficulty in finding suitable furnishings for his new home that led to the formation at this time of the firm of “Morris, Marshall, Faulkner and Company, Fine Art Workmen in Painting, Carving, Furniture, and the Metals,” which, after a few uncertain years, became his chief means of support during the rest of his life. Morris spent five happy years from 1861 to 1865, carrying on the work of the firm in London and keeping open house for all his friends at Upton; but this arrangement gradually proved impracticable, and in the autumn of 1865 the family moved back to London.
During the seven years that had passed since the publication of The Defence of Guenevere, Morris does not seem to have done much writing. Mackail says that while Morris was at Red House he worked on the “Scenes from the Fall of Troy,” which he had begun
1 Karl Litzenberg, in his article “William Morris and the Burning of Njál” in Scandinavian Studies and Notes, XIV (1936-1937,) 40-41, compares this brief reference to a Norse burning with the more detailed description at the close of “The Proud King” (see below, p. 37), to show that Morris’s acquaintances with early Scandinavia increased between 1858 and 1868.
in Oxford but never finished.1 Moreover, a number of the short prose romances and poems, often uncompleted, which have come down to us in manuscript form and which are clearly early work, may very likely have been composed during this period. Morris left all these work unpublished, but some of them Miss Morris printed in the last volume of the Collected Works2 and others she described in the Introduction to Volume XXIII;3 all of these compositions are similar in spirit to the works that we may have already considered, and show no traces of Scandinavian influence.4
While Morris was still living at the Red House, according to Mackail, he had begun to consider writing a series of narrative poems connected by some framework similar to that of The Canterbury Tales. When the family moved back to London and Morris thus secured a greater amount of leisure time, he began working on several tales, and the plan of the whole rapidly developed. Mackail summarizes very satisfactorily the evolution of the underlying
1 William Morris, I, 166.
2 Pages 3-83.
3 Pages xvii-xxxv.
4 I should also like to point out that one of these tales, “The Wasted Land,” which Miss Morris merely mentions in the Collected Works, XXI, xx, I have examined in its manuscript form in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England; there are no Scandinavian elements in this work either.
The manuscript in which this poem is written out is a small book measuring 8 ¼ by 8 inches. On the inside of the front cover is pasted a slip of paper bearing the name of Ch: Fairfax Murray. The manuscript contains the poem described by Miss Morris in Collected Works, XXI, xx-xxi, the tale printed in ibid., XXIV, 52-57, the poem called “St. George,” which is found in ibid., XXIV, 75, the story entitled “The Wasted Land,” and two ballads of which I shall speak in detail later (see below, pages 147-158).
structure of what was to be The Earthly Paradise. Morris first intended, he says, to draw indiscriminately upon the whole stock of the world’s tales and legends for the plots of his poems, but later decided to base one half of his narratives on Greek stories and the other half on non-Greek material. In order to bring together two groups of people who would be familiar with these two different bodies of lore, he determined to place the scene of the telling of the stories on a remote island where in early times there might have been an outlying colony of Greeks who, cut off from the rest of the world, had preserved through the centuries down to the end of the Middle Ages the old Greek tales. As a motive for bringing men of Western Europe to the island, he chose the search for an earthly paradise stimulated by the stories of the Norse discovery of America and by a desire to escape the ravages of the Black Death.1
Among the first poems written for this collection, according to Mackail, were three based on Greek legends, the subjects of these being the love of Orpheus and Eurydice, the life of Aristomenes of Messene, and the search for the Golden Fleece.2 None of these tales, however, were eventually included on The Earthly Paradise. The first two Morris never published, and the third one grew to such a length that it could not be given a place in this collection, but had to be published separately as The Life and Death of Jason. The work appeared in January, 1867. As might be expected from its subject, it shows no traces of Scandinavian influence.
1 William Morris, I, 178-179.
2 Ibid., I, 188.
The first part of The Earthly Paradise, however, which was published in the spring of 1868, contains many indications of Morris’s interest in the North. None of the twelve tales in this part are of Norse origin, but the Prologue to the whole poem and a number of the links between the various narratives include numerous references to medieval Scandinavia. Moreover, it is important to note that although none of the stories printed in 1868 were Norse, one of the tales he had decided to include in the collection and which he very likely had already written – namely, “The Palace East of the Sun” – was based on a Scandinavian story. This poem is included in the list of tales that Morris printed in 1867 in his announcement of The Earthly Paradise in the Jason volume.1 Although the mention of the work here does not of course prove that it had already been composed, it is very likely that when Morris prepared this list, he had written, or had at least outlined, many, if not most, of the stories there included. As a matter of fact, all but eight of the twenty-six works mentioned in the list in the first edition of Jason were finally published in The Earthly Paradise, and of these eight unpublished ones, five exist in manuscript form.2 Moreover, in the Preface to one of the volumes of the Collected Works Miss May Morris describes a series of six quarto manuscript
1 Collected Works, III, xi.
2 The eight works not published in The Earthly Paradise are “The Story of Theseus,” “The King’s Treasure-House,” “The Story of Orpheus and Eurydice,” “The Dolphins and the Lovers,” “The Fortunes of Gyges,” “The Seven Sleepers,” “The Queen of the North,” and “The Story of Dorthea.” The three not included in The Earthly Paradise and not known to exist in manuscript form are “The Story of Theseus,” The Seven Sleepers,” and “The Queen of the North.”
notebooks containing Earthly Paradise tales, stating that she is of the opinion that the order in which the poems are given in these manuscripts indicates the order in which they were written; in this list of twelve works “The Palace East of the Sun” comes fourth.1 In a later Preface Miss Morris seems somewhat less confident about using this list as evidence of the order of composition,2 but although these manuscripts may not indicate the exact sequence in which the tales were composed, she feels that there is little doubt that the works included here were among the first written and were thus composed fairly early. In fact, of the twelve poems in these notebooks eight were published by 1868, - one, “The Deeds of Jason,” as a separate volume and seven in the first part of The Earthly Paradise.3 That one version of the tale in question had at any rate been prepared before the summer of 1869 is made clear by the fact that in a letter which Morris wrote in August, 1869, when he was preparing the next volume of The Earthly Paradise for publication, he speaks of completely rewriting this particular poem.4 I have not seen the version of this story in the quarto notebooks described by Miss Morris, but I have examined a manuscript version now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge,
1 III, xv.
2 VI, xvii. It does seem rather unsafe to assume that the tales were written in the order in which they are found in these manuscripts, for in these books “The Deeds of Jason” comes last, and according to Mackail, as I pointed out above, this was one of the first works Morris produced when he began planning The Earthly Paradise.
3 The seven published in the first part of The Earthly Paradise are “The Prologue,” “Cupid and Psyche,” “The Lady of the Land,” “The Doom of Acrisius,” “The Proud King,” The Watching of the Falcon,” and “Writing on the Image.”
4 See below, page 62-63.
England which differs considerably from the published tale and which is very likely in the main a copy of the one referred to by Miss Morris. This is evidently the version Morris rejected in 1869; as compared with the published form, it reveals, as I shall show later, a distinct immaturity of workmanship, and must have been composed at an early date.1 Thus there is every reason to believe that the tale in its original form was one of the earliest poems Morris wrote for The Earthly Paradise although it was not published until September, 1869.
Before proceeding to a detailed analysis of the Norse elements in Part I of The Earthly Paradise, I should like to point out that although Morris did introduce a considerable number of Scandinavian allusions in this section of his work, and had determined to include and seems to have already written at this time one poem based entirely on a Norse story, it is rather surprising that out of the twenty-four tales which, according to the list in the Jason volume in 1867, he originally intended to publish in the new collection and to put in the mouths of a number of Norwegian mariners and their Greek-speaking hosts, only one is Scandinavian in origin; it is evident that at this time Morris’s Norse reading had not made a deep impression upon him.
The majority of the Scandinavian allusions in the first part of The Earthly Paradise are contained in the Prologue, which is called “The Wanderers.” The Prologue that Morris published in 1868, it should be noted, was not his first attempt at writing the poem which furnishes the background and general setting for the whole
1 See below, pages 74-87.
work; according to Miss May Morris there are manuscript remains of three other beginning, all of them in a four-line stanza rhyming abab.1 One of these manuscript Prologues runs to the length of 634 stanzas; it is carried to a conclusion, but it is clearly not in its final form.2 Morris seems to have written this Prologue late in 1865 or early in 1866; he composed the final published version in the summer of 1867.3
Both these forms of the Prologue show unmistakably that by the middle of the 1860’s Morris had become rather well acquainted with early Scandinavian history. It should be noted that the very fact that he decided to make the mariners who went on a fruitless search for an earthly paradise Norwegians reveals an intimate familiarity with many phases of the life of medieval Norway. The appropriateness of representing the wanderers as Scandinavians has not been sufficiently appreciated, it seems to me. In the first place it should be remembered that the Norsemen were known to be the most intrepid sailors of the time, and it was accordingly very fitting that the mariners who sailed forth without hesitation over unknown seas should be pictured as Scandinavians. Again, the tradition of a strange, unexplored land lying westward over the sea would most likely be most alive among the Norsemen, who were obviously well acquainted with the saga stories of the voyages of their kinsemen to North America. Moreover, it was absolutely essential to the plot of the whole poem that the men of western Europe who met with
1 Collected Works, II, xiii-xv.
2 Miss Morris published this version many years after her father’s death in Volume XXIV of the Collected Works, pp. 87-170.
3 Mackail, William Morris, I, 188.
the Greeks and exchanged tales with them should be able to understand and speak Greek readily, and this circumstance was provided for by the fact that many Norsemen in the Middle Ages served in the Varangian Guard at Constantinople and there learned Greek. Finally, the wanderers were to be represented as telling stories drawn from a great variety of sources, and the Norsemen, who had visited almost all parts of Europe, would be more likely than any other people to be acquainted with such a wide range of tales.1
The Scandinavian background is found in both Prologues, but it is presented in much greater detail in the published version than in the other. From the information available it is impossible to ascertain whether in the earlier Prologue Morris was simply not interested in giving his story an air of realism or whether his knowledge of early Scandinavia increased during the year or two that elapsed between the two forms so that he was better able in 1867 to develop in detail the Northern background. It should be noted that the second Prologue is in all respects a much more mature piece of work than the first. It is more carefully planned and developed, and shows a richer imagination and a far
1 In the final published version of the Prologue Morris provides a Breton squire and a Swabian priest to tell some of the tales, but in the earlier Prologue he does not mention any foreigners as being present in the group of Norsemen.
greater mastery of the verse; the other Prologue, written in a jaunty, four-line stanza, is in general much less detailed, the scenes passing by as in a fleeting dream. In view of this change in the character of the work as a whole, it seems very likely that the fuller treatment of the Scandinavian setting in the published version – and I shall make clear the exact difference between the two Prologues in this respect in a moment – was to a great extent, if not wholly, simply the result of maturing literary powers.
In both Prologues the story of the strange voyage in search of the earthly paradise is put into the mouth of one of the surviving mariners, who now for the last time retells the tale to the people at whose shores he and his fellows have finally arrived and with whom they are to pass their few remaining days. In the first version the narrator does not begin with an account of their race and their native land, as we should expect him to do and as he actually does in the second Prologue, but plunges directly into the story of the beginning of their journey. Moreover, the willingness of the sailors to set forth on a perilous journey over unknown seas is not so carefully motivated here as in the later work, for in this first version they decide quite suddenly on their search merely because of a dream and a vision that comes to their captain on one of their trading voyages. During a short stop for water, according to the narrator, their leader dreamt that he was standing in a temple full of images of Greek deities, and that the two men appeared and described the land in which they lived as the home of eternal happiness, which anyone could reach by sailing westward and by praying for the aid of Venus; at this point he awoke, and saw two strange figures close by him;
Waking, I saw two ancient men
There in the corners; of gold fine
One wore a crown; about his head
Shone rings of light, all armed was he
And all his raiment was of red;
He held a great axe handily.
The other man was clad in blue
One-eyed he was and held a spear;
Olaf and Odin straight I knew
And cried the cry that you did hear.
Straightway they vanished, but each one
Beckoned me westward as he went. . . .”1
This account of Olaf and Odin is the first reference to anything Scandinavian in the early Prologue, and is the first indication that the Wanderers may be Northmen. The old sailor then tells how their priest tried to dissuade their captain from setting out in search of this land by pointing out that since King Olaf and Odin had appeared together, it was probably the devil who had assumed these shapes to lead him astray; the priest also related that many years before, several men had gone on a similar search and after many dire experiences
“Came broken-hearted to Norway.”2
The captain, however, was firm in his resolution, and he and a group of his followers set sail. We are now introduced to some of the leading characters, two of whom have Scandinavian names, Sir Rolf the Old and Sir John of Hederby.3 As the story progresses, we learn more about the ancestry of the sailors, for in a dream the captain sees his father and
My mother whom I left alive
In Norway, and my daughter fair,4
1 Collected Works, XXIV, 91-92.
2 Ibid., XXIV, 92.
3 Ibid., XXIV, 93 and 106.
4 Ibid., XXIV, 108.
and a few stanzas later the sailors comfort themselves in their despair by the thought that the worst that can happen to them is to die like their fathers,
“Who fell upon the English shore,
Or sunk below the sandy Seine,
Or back from Russia came no more,
Or got no mercy from the Dane.”1
Two later passages give us more definite information about the Wanderers. On hearing the language of some ladies they have rescued from death, one of the sailors remarks,
“This is the Greek tongue
That erst at Micklegarth I heard
By the Greek king when I was young,”23
and when they are brought before the queen of these ladies, the captain proudly proclaims,
“From Harald Fair-Hair am I sprung
And thence from Odin in right line,
Who was a God, as skalds have sung.”3
The passages that I have quoted here contain all the references to Scandinavia that are to be found in the first completed Prologue, except for a few colorless repetitions that add nothing new;4 but although the references are far fewer in number and much less detailed than in the final published version, they indicate that already by 1865 Morris had a more extensive knowledge of the Scandinavian past than he could have gained from the books that we know he read at Oxford. His description of Olaf and Odin as they appear in the vision may have been based on passages in Thorpe’s Northern Mythology,5 and his information regarding the
1 Collected Works, XXIV, 109.
2 Ibid., XXIV, 120.
3 Ibid., XXIV, 127.
4 Such as ibid., XXIV, 92, 11. 17-19 and 127, 1. 25.
5 See I, 160-161 and II, 38.
Varangian Guard at Constantinople may have been drawn from Fouqué’s Thiodolf the Icelander1; but for the familiarity he shows with the expeditions of the Norwegians to England, France, Russia, and Denmark and for his reference to the captain’s descent from Harald Fairhair and thus from Odin, he seems to have drawn upon some Scandinavian history. As I shall show later,2 we know that by 1868 he was familiar with Mallet’s Northern Antiquities; this book may very well have been known to him in 1865, and may have been the source of the material referred to above.3 It is not at all unlikely that he also knew Laing’s translation of the Heimskringla at this time.4 The Scandinavian allusions in the final form of the Prologue make it almost certain that he was familiar with the Heimskringla in 1867, and he may very likely have been acquainted with the book two years earlier and have been indebted to the very full account of the early history of Norway presented there for the passages cited above.5 Neither of these works, it
1 See pages 163-304.
2 See below, pages 43-45.
3 See pages 168-192 for an account of the foreign expeditions of the Norsemen, pages 75, 121, 182, 183, 187, 235, and 280 for reference to Harald Hárfagra, and pages 193-194 for an account of the service of Scandinavians in the bodyguard of Byzantine emperors. For possible sources of Morris’s statement that Harald was descended from Odin, see below, page 24 and note 1.
4 The Heimskringla; or, Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, tr. Samuel Laing (London, 1844).
5 See, for example, I, 288-289, 293-294, 316-317, 319-323, 396-397 and 459 for references to Norse voyages to other lands of Europe; I, 271-313 for the story of Harald Haarfager; and III, 3-17 for an account of Harald Hardrada in Constantinople.
should be noted, states explicitly that Harald Fairhair was descended in a direct line from Odin; but there is an account in Mallet of the custom of tracing the ancestry of early kings or other heroes back to Odin or to one of the other gods1 and in Laing’s Heimskringla there are occasional references to such traditions,2 and it was probably this material which led Morris to represent the sailor as claiming descent from Odin through Harald. It should also be noted that in Laing’s translation of the Heimskringla there are a number of accounts of the reappearance of Odin and King Olaf after death;3 as I have already stated, Morris very likely drew upon Thorpe for his description of these figures in the captain’s dream, but there is only one account in Thorpe of a vision of Odin4 and none of Olaf, and so it was very likely these stories in Laing that suggested to Morris the idea of picturing
1 Page 80.
2 See, for example, I, 212, 223-224, 242 (“vísa”), and 261 (“vísa”). Moreoever, in one of the “vísur” in the Haralds saga hárfagra (I, 277), Harald is described as
“The fair-haired son of Odin’s line.”
3 See I, 224 and 435-436 and III, 14, 27-28, 53, 167-168, 197-201, 264-265, and 297.
4 I, 160-161.
Odin and Olaf as appearing to a fourteenth-century Scandinavian.1 Finally, I should like to point out that in none of the works mentioned above is the form “Micklegarth,” which Morris used in the next to last quotation, employed in place of “Constantinople”; of all the Scandinavian books with which we definitely know Morris was familiar by 1868,2 I find that only Dasent’s rendering of the Njáls saga uses “Micklegarth.”3
In the final version of the Prologue, as I have already pointed out, the Scandinavian background is developed in more detail; here the Wanderer who relates the story of the voyage begins
1 I have assumed that the “Olaf” Morris meant to represent as appearing in the captain’s vision was King Olaf the Holy. However, Karl Litzenberg, in his article “William Morris and the Heimskringla” in Scandinavian Studies and Notes, XIV (1936-1937), 36-37, identifies this Olaf as King Olaf Tryggvason. That this was the Olaf Morris had in mind seems to me less likely. In the first place the legends telling of the reappearance of Olaf the Holy were much more numerous than the stories of visions of Olaf Tryggvason. There is only one mention in the Heimskringla, as far as I know, of the reappearance of the latter (see II, 295-296), in contrast to the nine accounts of the visits of Olaf the Holy just listed in note 3 on the preceding page. Moreover, since Morris makes the priest say that the appearance of Olaf and Odin together must have been the work of the devil, it is more likely that he had Olaf the Holy in mind, for this Olaf was of course much more famous than Olaf Tryggvason as the champion of Christianity. Furthermore, the “rings of light” which Morris says shone around his head were very likely meant to refer to the halo which would naturally surround a saint. Finally, the fact that the figure carried an axe points toward Olaf the Holy, for Olaf’s axe was supposed to have replaced Thor’s hammer as the symbol of divine might and in all representations of Olaf the Holy he was pictured with an axe.
2 See below, pages 43-47.
3 See The Story of Burnt Njál, tr. George Webbe Dasent (Edinburgh, 1861), I, x. Moreover, in his long introduction Dasent describes, though much more briefly than Mallet and Laing, the foreign expeditions of the Norsemen (see I, ix-x), and refers occasionally to Harald Fairhair (see I, ix and xi.) Furthermore, it is interesting to note that in Mallet and Laing, Harald’s nickname is not translated, but in Dasent, as in Morris, he is called “Harald Fairhair.”
at once with a full account of his Norse origin:1
No wonder if the Grecian tongue I know,
Since at Byzantium many a year ago
My father bore the twibil valiantly;
There did he marry, and get me, and die,
And I went back to Norway to my kin,
Long ere this beard ye see did first begin
To shade my mouth, but nathless not before
Among the Greeks I gathered some small lore,
And standing midst the Væringers, still heard2
From this or that man many a wondrous word;
For ye shall know that though we worshipped God,
And heard mass duly, still of Swithiod
The Greater, Odin and his house of gold,
The noble stories ceased not to be told;
These moved me more than words of mine can say
E’en while at Micklegarth my folks did stay;
But when I reached one dying autumn-tide
My uncle’s dwelling near the forest side,
And saw the land so scanty and so bare,
And all the hard things men contend with there,
A little and unworthy land it seemed,
And yet the more of Asgard3 I dreamed,
And worthier seemed the ancient faith of praise.4
1 In quoting passages from this form of the Prologue, I have followed the edition of The Earthly Paradise that was published in London between 1868 and 1871 in four volumes. The version that was printed in the Collected Works, III-VI, embodies changes that Morris made in his revision of this work in 1890 (see Collected Works, III, xxx), and in this revised form many of the proper nouns in the Prologue are altered. I have preferred to reproduce the original version here, for the names used in this text often throw light, as I shall show, on the source of Morris’s information. When the names occurring in my quotations were later changed, I have given the revised form in the footnotes.
2 Revised form: “midst the Væring warriors heard.”
3 Revised form: “of Asgard’s days.”
4 Earthly Paradise, I, 7.
A few pages later he goes into more detail about his ancestry:
Now if ye ask me from what land I come
With all my folly, - Viken is my home1
Where Tryggve2 Olaf’s son and Olaf’s sire
Lit to the ancient Gods the sacred fire,
Unto whose line am I myself akin,
Through him who Astrid in old time did win,
King Olaf’s widow: let all that go by,
Since I was born at least to misery.3
He relates how he and his companions, when young men in Norway, used to pore over old tales of voyages to strange lands, and how, impelled by the desire to escape the ravages of a pestilence, they themselves finally decided to set out in search of the land of eternal youth.
Now Nicholas came to Laurence and to me
To talk of what he deemed our course should be,
To whom agape I listened, since I knew
Nought but old tales, nor aught of false and true
Amid these, for but one kind seemed to be
The Vineland voyage o’er the unknown sea
And Swegder’s4 search for Godheim,5 when he found
The entrance to a new world underground;
But Nicholas o’er many books had pored
And this and that thing in his mind had stored,
And idle tales from true report he knew.
- Would he were living now, to tell you
This story that my feeble lips must tell!
Now he indeed of Vineland knew full well,
Both from my tales where truth perchance touches lies,
And from the ancient written histories;
But now he said, “The land was good enow
That Leif the son of Eric came unto,
But this was not our world, nay scarce could be
The door into a place so heavenly
As that we seek….”6
1 Revised form: “Wick was once my home.”
2 Revised form: “Tryggvi.”
3 Earthly Paradise, I, 15.
4 Revised form: “Swegdir.”
5 Revised form: “Godhome.”
6 Earthly Paradise, I, 15-16.
These statements by the spokesman of the Wanderers concerning his ancestry and his early life as well as his references to stories of voyages by other Northmen to unknown lands show clearly that Morris had at this time a rather extensive knowledge of early Scandinavian history,1 a far more extensive knowledge than he could have gained from the works of Scott, Thorpe’s Northern Mythology, and the Norse romances of De la Motte Fouqué. The most likely sources of his information about the matters referred to in these passages are Mallet’s Northern Antiquities and Laing’s translation of the Heimskringla. Thus, the service of the Northmen in the Varangian Guard at Micklegarth, to which he refers in the first quotation above, is mentioned on numerous occasions in both these works and also, as I have already pointed out, in Fouqué’s Thiodolf the Icelander.2 It is noteworthy that the rather peculiar form “Væringers,” which is used by Morris, is found in the 1844 edition of Laing’s Heimskringla and in Fouqué’s Thiodolf. Again, the reference to “Swithiod the Greater” was probably based on the description of the world in the opening chapter of the “Ynglinga saga” in the Heimskringla, where we are told that this name was in medieval times applied to the territory now called “Russia.”3 By “Odin and his house of gold” Morris probably meant either Odin and his
1 The more important Scandinavian allusions in this version of the Prologue are discussed by O.F. Adams and W. J. Rolfe in the notes to their edition of Atalanta’s Race and other Tales from the Earthly Paradise (Boston, 1888). Adams and Rolfe, however, are interested only in explaining these references to the general reader, and make no attempt, as I have done in my comments, to ascertain the source of Morris’s information regarding these matters; moreover, they are not at all interested in using these allusions to determine the extent of Morris’s acquaintance with early Scandinavia at this time.
2 See above, page 23, notes 1, 3, and 5.
3 I, 216.
mansion Gladsheimr or Odin and the hall Gimli, both houses being made of gold and being gamed as the abodes of happiness; with both Gladsheimr and Gimli Morris may have become familiar through either Thorpe’s Northern Mythology or Mallet’s Northern Antiquities.1 Laing explains in a footnote to the first mention of “Swithiod the Great” that this territory was often called “Godheim” and was considered the home of the gods;2 it was perhaps for this reason that Morris placed Odin’s “house of gold” in “Swithiod the Greater,” although the two are never linked in Old Norse mythological works. For his information regarding “Asagard” Morris may have been indebted to Thorpe, Mallet, or Laing.3 Rather surprising, however, is his use of the form “Asagard,” which is found in none of these works; very likely Morris’s spelling was simply the result of his having forgotten the correct form.
In the second passage quoted above Morris makes even more extensive use of Laing’s translation of the Heimskringla. It may well be that a footnote by Laing at the beginning of “King Olaf Tryggveson’s Saga” to the effect that “King Olaf, it will be remembered, was one of Harald Haargarer’s sons; King Tryggve Olafsson was the son of this Olaf, and this Olaf Tryggvesson the son of Tryggve”4 suggested Morris’s reference to “Tryggve Olaf’s son and Olaf’s sire”; the spelling “Tryggve,” which Morris used instead of the more correct “Tryggvi,” is found in Laing’s translation,
1 See Thorpe, op. cit., pp. 104, 409, 414, 500, and 504.
2 I, 216. See also page 224.
3 See Thorpe, Northern Mythology, I, 11; Mallet, Northern Antiquities, pages 80, 84-85, and 406; and Heimskringla, tr. Laing, I, 217.
4 I, 367.
it should be noted. Moreover, like Morris, Laing – and Mallet also – give the name “Viken,” with the suffixed definite article retained, to the district around the Oslo Fjord.1 In another of his allusions Morris seems likewise to be drawing on information he had derived from Laing, but here he seems to be making a slight slip: he represents the mariner as saying that he is related to Tryggvi’s line
Through him who Astrid in old time did win,
King Olaf’s widow,
but the only Astrid whom the description “King Olaf’s widow” fits is the Astrid, daughter of King Olaf of Sweden, to whom King Olaf Haraldsson of Norway was married, and the Heimskringla does not record that she ever remarried after her husband’s death at Sticklestad.2 Morris probably had in mind either Astrid, the daughter of King Tryggvi Olafsson and sister Olaf Tryggvason, by whose marriage to Erling Skialgsson King Olaf Tryggvason brought about the baptism of Hordaland,3 or else Astrid, King Tryggvi’s widow, the mother of King Olaf Tryggvason, who fled from home after King Tryggvi’s murder, gave birth to a son, was captured by Vikings from Esthonia, and was sold into slavery, from which she was rescued by Lodin, a rich Norwegian merchant, who ransomed her and brought her home on the condition that she would marry him.4 It is of course impossible to determine to which Astrid Morris intended to refer;
1 See, for example, Heimskringla, tr. Laing, I, 290, 316, 319, 321, and 323 and Mallet, op. cit., p. 183.
2 See Heimskringla, tr. Laing, III, 365 and 368-369.
3 See ibid., I, 429-431.
4 See ibid., I, 367-371 and 425-426.
undoubtedly both these stories appealed to him.1
In the third passage quoted above, Morris’s allusion to “Swegder’s search for Godheim” is in all probability based on the story in Chapter XV of the Ynglinga saga, where it is related that Swegder went seeking for Godheim, was beckoned into a huge rock by a dwarf, and was never again seen on earth.2 The Wineland voyages, also mentioned in this quotation, are described at great length both in the Appendix to Laing’s translation and in Mallet’s Northern Antiquities.3 Laing called the newly-discovered country “Vinland,” and Mallet uses the terms “Vinland” and Wineland”; in neither discussion does Morris’s name “Vineland” occur.
Not only is the Scandinavian setting presented in more detail at the beginning of the final version of the Prologue, but throughout the poem Morris carries out much more completely than in the first Prologue the illusion that the sailors are Norwegians. The characters are given such typically Scandinavian names as “Marcus
1 Karl Litzenberg, in the article already referred to in Scandinavian Studies and Notes, XIV (1936-1937), 35, identifies Astrid as the widow of King Olaf Haraldsson,; he thinks that Morris remembered that the Heimskringla does not mention the remarriage of this Astrid after the death of Olaf, and believes that Morris deliberately chose to refer to a second husband of this Astrid as the ancestor of the sailor Rolf in order to supply a “mysterious and intangible link between Rolf and the imaginary royal genealogy which the English poet has constructed for him.” It seems to me somewhat more likely that Morris made a slight slip in his account, and meant to refer to either Astrid, King Tryggvi’s daughter, or Astrid, King Tryggvi’s widow.
2 See Heimskringla, tr. Laing, I, 227-228. The forms “Swegder” and Godheim” are there used, it should be noted.
3 See ibid., III, 343-361 and Mallet, op. cit., pages 250-276.
Erling,” “Kirstin,” and “Rolf.”1 When the adventurers are making their plans for setting sail secretly, they arrange to leave the town by the gate facing Saint Bride and to meet
“at King Tryggve’s2 hill
Outside the city gates.”3
In referring to “King Tryggve’s hill,” Morris very likely had in mind the account in Laing’s translation of the Heimskringla of the murder of King Tryggvi and the statement “He lies buried at a place called Tryggve’s Cairn.”4 According to the Heimskringla, Tryggvi was slain at Vegger, near Sotaness; if then, by “Tryggve’s hill” Morris means “Tryggve’s Cairn,” as he almost certainly did, the allusion would place the starting-point of the Wanderers roughly in the Oslo Fjord. That this deduction is correct is proved by a statement made by Rolf, the narrator, toward the end of the poem:
But twenty summers had I seen go by
When I left Viken5 on that desperate cruise.6
Rolf further relates in his speech before the Greeks how he stole away that memorable night when he left Norway, bearing
My father’s axe that from Byzantium,
With some few gems my pouch yet held, had come.7
1 See, for example, Earthly Paradise, I, 11 and 12. With the names “Marcus,” “Erling,” and “Rolf” Morris could have met in the Heimskringla (see, for example, I, 244, 245, 292, 293, and III, Thorpe’s Northern Mythology (see II, 232).
2 Revised form: “Tryggvi’s.”
3 Earthly Paradise, I, 12.
4 I, 359.
5 Revised form: “Wickland.”
6 Earthly Paradise, I, 72.
7 Ibid., I, 13.
When he grew downhearted as they journeyed over the vast ocean, he recalled the story told of one of his countrymen who sailed through unknown seas in a heavy fog and came to a rocky island,
And while a little off the land he lay
As in a dream he heard the folk call out
In his own tongue, but mazed and all in doubt
He turned therefrom, and afterwards in strife
With winds and waters, much of precious life
He wasted utterly, for when again
He reached his port after long months of pain,
Unto Biarmeland he chanced to go,
And there the isle he left so long ago
He knew at once, where many Northern were.1
There are numerous references to Norse voyages to Biarmeland in Laing’s translation of the Heimskringla,2 where the name of the country is spelled in just this way, but no story like that resferred to by Rolf is told in the Heimskringla or in any of the other Scandinavian books that Morris is said to have known. Probably Morris had simply become acquainted with some such tale in the course of his extensive reading, and he now localized the story and identified the land as Biarmeland, in the north of Russia, in order to develop further the Scandinavian background of his poem. A little later in his narrative Rolf says that when the mariners began to notice signs of land, one of the sailors brought him some seaweed, and immediately he thought of home:
then knew I certainly
The wreck, that oft before I had seen lie
In sandy bights of Norway.3
1 Earthly Paradise, I, 29.
2 See I, 301 and 362; II, 198-200, 205, 221, and 224; and III, 117.
3 Earthly Paradise, I, 31.
One night they slept, full of hope, on the shore of what they thought was their promised land, and Rolf dreamt; he was straightway carried back to his early days:
But in my sleep of lovely things I dreamed,
For I was back at Micklegarth once more,
But not a court-man’s son there as of yore,
But the Greek king, or so I seemed to be,
Set on the throne whose awe and majesty
Gold lions guard.1
At one time he and his companions dwelt among some savages who knew little of the arts of civilization; Rolf says the Northmen
built them huts, as well we could, for we
Who dwell in Norway have great mastery
In woodwright’s craft….2
On another occasion the Northmen were attacked by a host of vicious savages, against whom they fought so valiantly
That Odin’s gods had hardly scared men more
As fearless through the naked press we bore.3
Towards the end of their journey the Wanderers reached a land of fairly civilized people; Rolf noted at once the character of their writing, and remembered he had seen something similar in his earlier days:
Such lore as we from our own land had brought
Unto this folk, who when they wrote must draw
Such draughts as erst at Micklegarth I saw
Write for the evil Pharaoh-kings of old.4
1 Earthly Paradise, I, 50-51.
2 Ibid., I, 56.
3 Ibid., I, 61.
4 Ibid., I, 72-73.
There are a few other, less important references to Scandinavia in the poem,1 but I have quoted enough to show clearly that by the time Morris wrote the final version of the Prologue – that is, by the summer of 1867 –, he had become very well acquainted with the life, culture, and history of the early Scandinavians, and had begun to digest this material and to learn to think and see from the point of view of the Northmen, so that his Norse allusions in the poems produced at this time seem to be more natural and not so much mere external decoration as in his early work. However, all the compositions written before 1868 show that he had as yet not been moved by the spirit of the saga literature; this development was not to take place until he began reading the sagas in the original and came into contact with a personal representative of the Old Norse culture.
All but one of the remaining Scandinavian allusions in the first part of The Earthly Paradise are contained in the links Morris inserted between various tales. Most of these allusions are general and unimportant, but a few give us more information about the Norwegian sailors and incidentally throw further light on the extent of Morris’s acquaintance with early Scandinavia; for the sake of completeness, I shall list all the passages containing Norse references.
1 See Earthly Paradise, I, 5, 11. 17, and 20; 9, 1. 13; 13, 1. 28; 22, 11. 11-12, 25, 11. 26-28; and 72, 11. 21-25. Only one of these allusions is at all important or interesting. As the Wanderers are sailing through the English Channel, they are stopped by the fleet of King Edward III of England; after learning the purpose of their journey, Edward lets them sail on, and gives Rolf and his fellow-commander parting gifts, bidding them (I, 25)
“Remember me, who am of Odin’s blood,
As heralds say….”
Morris’s authority, if any, for putting this remark in the mouth of Edward III is not known to me. Perhaps he simply had in mind the common medieval custom of tracing the ancestry of kings back to the gods or to mythological heroes; see above, page 24.
In introducing “The Man Born to be King,” one of the tales told by a Wanderer, Morris represents the sailor as saying,
“O kind hosts and ear,
Hearken a little unto such a tale
As folk with us will tell in every vale
About the yule-tide fire, when the snow
Deep in the passes, letteth men to go
From place to place: now from there few great folk be,
Although we upland men have memory
Of ills kings did us; yet as now indeed
Few have much wealth, few are in utter need.
Like the wise ants a kingless, happy folk
We long have been, not galled by any yoke,
But the white leaguer of the winter tide
whereby all men at home are bound to bide.”1
It is impossible to determine the exact source of Morris’s information about the state of Norway in the fourteenth century; the subject is not treated in any of the Scandinavian works with which we definitely know that he was familiar at this time. As I have already pointed out, we learn in the Prologue to the whole poem that Rolf, the captain, was a native of the district around the Oslo Fjord and that the expedition set sail from this region. Some of the sailors, however, seem to have been from the north of Norway, for in the introductory remarks to “The Proud King” one of the Wanderers says,
“Sirs, it happed to me,
Long years agone, to cross the narrow sea
That ‘twixt us Drontheimers and England lies;
……………………….it came to pass
That to this town or that we took our way,
Or in some abbey’s guesten-chamber lay,
And many tales we heard, some false, some true,
Of the ill deeds our fathers used to do
within the land; and still the tale would end,
‘Yet did the Saint his Holy House defend;’
Or, ‘Sirs, their fury all was nought and vain,
And by our Earl the pirate-king was slain.’
God wot, I laughed full often in my sleeve.
1 Earthly Paradise, I, 136.
And could have told them stories, by their leave,
with other endings: but I held my tongue.”1
This charming picture of a fourteenth-century Norseman visiting England adds a great deal of realism to the setting of the poem. With the important town of Drontheim Morris may have become familiar through Thorpe, Mallet, or Laing.2 When the Wanderer had finished his story of “The Proud King,” some of the men began to talk of past events; one of the scenes thus recalled was that of
The fir-built Norway hall
Filled with the bonders waiting for the fall
Of the great roof whereto the torch is set.3
with Norse burnings Morris had already showed himself familiar in 1858 in the poem “Rapunzel”;4 since then, he had very likely become further acquainted with this very common custom through Laing’s Heimskringla.5 Finally, after Laurence, one of the wanderers, has recited the tale “The writing on the Image,” which tells of a scholar who gained access to a treasure-chamber but as a result of his avarice was imprisoned therein forever, then men talk of other seekers after treasures, and mention
the Niflungs’6 fatal hoard,
The serpent-guarded treasures of the dead.7
Here Morris is evidently referring to the tale of the Volsungs. With the story of Sigurd’s slaying of Fafnir and the curse laid on the dragon’s gold Morris had in all probability been long
1 Earthly Paradise, I, 307.
2 See, for example, Thorpe, Northern Mythology, II, 10-11 and 35; Mallet, Northern Antiquities, page 109; and Heimskringla, tr. Laing, I, 275, 276, and 277.
3 Earthly Paradise, I, 343.
4 See above, pages 10-11.
5 See, for example, I, 229, 246, 251, 254, 256, 281, 298, and 304.
6 Revised form: “Niblungs’.”
7 Earthly Paradise, II, 111.
acquainted, for there is a very full synopsis of the Völsunga saga in Thorpe’s Northern Mythology,1 which, as we have seen, Morris read while a student at Oxford. In making the allusion just quoted, however, he seems rather to have had in mind the poetical version of the tale in Thorpe’s translation of the Poetic Edda,2 which we definitely know he had read by 1868,3 for in the Northern Mythology Thorpe calls the family of Gudrun the “Nibelungs,”4 but in his rendering of the Poetic Edda he, like Morris, terms them “Niflungs.”
The one remaining Scandinavian allusion in the first part of The Earthly Paradise is found in “Ogier the Dane.” In this poem Morris followed primarily late French prose romance,5 but he treated his source with a great deal of freedom. In one passage not in the original he makes a remark in which he is evidently referring to the Old Norse Thor and his fellow-gods: when Ogier returns to earth from Avalon and arrives at Paris, Morris represents him as exclaiming to the guard,
“St. Mary! do such men as ye
Fight with the master from across the sea?
Then, certes, are ye lost, however good
Your hearts may be; not such were those who stood
Beside the Hammer-bearer years agone.”6
By the “Hammer-bearer” Morris almost certainly meant Thor. With Thor and his hammer he had very likely become familiar through
1 I, 91-113.
2 Edda Sæmundar Hinns [sic] Frôþa, [tr. Benjamin Thorpe] (London, 1866).
3 See below, pages 43-44.
4 See II, v, vii, 97, and 116-117 for occurrences of the name “Niflungs.”
5 See Mackail, William Morris, I, 206 and Julius Riegel, Die Quellen von William Morris’ Dichtung The Earthly Paradise (Erlangen and Leipzig, 1890), pp. 36-40.
6 Earthly Paradise, II, 308.
the Edda stories in Thorpe and Mallet.1
At the end of this first part of The Earthly Paradise Morris announced the second and, as he then intended it to be, the concluding volume;2 “The Palace East of the Sun” appeared again in this list of forthcoming tales, but this was the only Scandinavian story that he planned even at that late time to include in this lengthy work. Before the end of the year, however, he was destined to meet with a great experience which was to have a decided effect upon the rest of The Earthly Paradise and, indeed, upon the rest of his life.
While Morris was still living at Red House, he had made the acquaintance of Warrington Taylor, an accomplished young man of an artistic temperament who had already squandered two fortunes and was now earning his living as a check-taker at the Opera House in the Haymarket; Taylor and Morris became excellent friends, and, strange to say, Morris appointed Taylor business manager of the firm, a post which he filled exceptionally well until he died of consumption in 1870 at the age of thirty. To this young man goes the credit for having brought together William Morris and Eiríkr Magnússon in the summer of 1868, - an event which was destined to be of the utmost importance both to Morris and to Magnússon and which was to result in the most important contribution of the nineteenth century to the furthering of an interest in Icelandic literature among English-speaking people.
Up to this time Morris does not seem to have ever expressed
1 See Thorpe, Northern Mythology, I, 21-22, 39-40, and 54-56 and Mallet, Northern Antiquities, p. 374-375 and 417.
2 See Collected Works, III, xii.
any desire to learn Icelandic; at any rate, he had never taken any steps in that direction. As we have seen, he was already familiar with the mythology, folk lore, and early history of the Scandinavians, and, as I shall show in a moment,1 he had read some of the English saga-translations then in existence; but as yet the Old Norse literature had made but little impression on him. He seems to have been interested in it only because of his insatiable passion for everything medieval, and the spirit of this Northern literature of the Middle Ages, so totally different from the spirit of the medieval literature of other countries, had apparently had no effect upon him. The only results of his Scandinavian reading had been a short prose tale during his undergraduate days, a few vague references to the North in poems of the same time, a Norse background developed in some detail for the Prologue to his Earthly Paradise, a handful of Scandinavian allusions in the rest of this poem, and a Norse fairy tale in verse destined for the same work. If he had not at this time begun reading the Icelandic sagas in the original and if he had not come into personal contact with a man filled with such a contagious enthusiasm for his native literature as Magnússon, it is doubtful whether the literature of the North would ever have meant more to Morris than it had hitherto done. As a result of his meeting with Magnússon, however, the study of Icelandic literature became the all absorbing interest of his life for a number of years. It led him to new forms of literary production, away from the romance to the epic: it furnished the inspiration for two of his greatest works, “The Lovers of Gudrun” and The Story of Sigurd the Volsung; and it
1 See below, pages 43-47.
colored either the substance or the style of practically all the creative writing he produced during the rest of his life. The union of Morris and Magnússon was, to say the least, a great stroke of luck – and, apparently, simply luck – for all lovers of literature.
By the time Magnússon met Morris, he had already had considerable experience as a translator.1 Magnússon was born and educated in Iceland. In 1862, at the age of twenty-nine, he went to England in order to take charge of the publication of an Icelandic rendering of the New Testament by the British and Forgein Bible Society. On the way he became acquainted with George E. J. Powell, who was returning from a tour of Iceland, and the two men seem to have become excellent friends immediately; a short time after their arrival in England, they began collaborating on a number of translations from the Scandinavian. They first turned into English some of the tales collected by Jón Árnason in his Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og æfintýri, and published these renderings in two volumes called Icelandic Legends, the first one appearing in 1864 and the second in 1866. During the years 1863 to 1865 they worked on an Icelandic-English dictionary, but they gave up this undertaking before any part of it was printed. In 1863 Magnússon translated the Hávarðar saga Ísfirðings and Powell began revising the rendering, but they never published it. Similarly, Magnússon began writing out an English version of the Egils saga in 1866, which he completed and passed on to Powell, but they failed to publish
1 The account that follows, in the test, of Magnússon’s early life and work is based on Stéfan Einarsson’s Saga Eiríks Magnússonar (Reykjavík: Isafoldarprentsmiðja, 1933) and on Einarsson’s article “Eiríkr Magnússon and his Saga-Translations” in Scandinavian Studies and Notes, XIII (1934-1935), 17-32.
this work also. Finally, in the summer of 1866 Magnússon and Powell translated from the Swedish some of Runeberg’s shorter poems, but again they left their renderings unpublished.1 The failure of the two collaborators to carry their undertakings to a completion was, according to Stefán Einarsson in his article “Eiríkr Magnússon and his Saga-Translations,” largely the fault of Powell, for he “seems to have been far too vacillating and inconstant to be able to buckle down to hard and concentrated work,” whereas Magnússon was a sure though rather slow worker.”2 However, although very few of the translations Magnússon had produced before 1868 had actually been published, he had been given an excellent preparation for the work he was now to be called upon to carry on with William Morris.
The meeting of Morris and Magnússon undoubtedly took place in 1868. As Dr. Einarsson points out in the article to which I just referred, Magnússon’s statement in the Preface to the last volume of The Saga Library to the effect that his acquaintance with Morris “began first in August, 1869” is obviously the result of a lapse of memory,3 for the two men began publishing their saga-renderings in January, 1869.4 Both Professor Mackail and Miss May Morris say that Morris met Magnússon in the fall of 1868,5 but this date is not absolutely correct either, for according to Dr. Einars-
1 Magnússon in collaboration with E. H. Palmer published a volume of translations from Runeberg twelve years later; see Johan Ludvig Runeberg’s Lyrical Songs, Idylls and Epigrams (London, 1878).
2 Page 22.
3 Page 23.
4 See below, p. 52.
5 See Mackail, William Morris, I, 200-201 and Collected Works, VII, xv.
son Magnússon wrote a letter to a friend on July 26, 1868 referring to his visit to Morris.1
Very interesting and valuable is the account of his meeting with Morris that Magnússon prepared for Miss May Morris many years later when she was issuing her edition of the Collected Works of her father:
I spent an evening at Mr. Taylor’s, who had much to tell about your father. He was very enthusiastic about his personality and character, and besought me to allow him to mention my name to Morris, for he felt sure he would like to make the acquaintance of a real Icelander. He felt certain that the Saga-literature of Iceland would greatly interest him. A day or two afterwards I had a note from Taylor to say that Morris would be glad to see me on (I forget what) day in the afternoon, I think at four o’clock. I made my appearance at the appointed hour at 26 Queen Square. I met your father in the hall. With a manly shake of the hand he said: ‘I’m glad to see you; come upstairs.’ And with a bound he was upstairs and I after him until his study on the second floor was reached. A very animated conversation ensued on Icelandic matters, especially literature. With the Sagas of Burnt Nial and of Gisli the Outlaw he was familiar from Sir George Dasent’s translations; the former of these he admired immensely and regarded it as one of the greatest productions of medieval literature. His talk about the artistic handling of the characters of Nial’s Saga was as striking as it seemed, and still seems to me, true. He thought the characters were moulded so powerfully, both in respect of dæmonic depth and lofty magnanimity, as in the cases of Hallgerd and Hrapp on one side, and Gunnar and Nial on the other respectively, because the mind of the author was already preoccupied with the grand types of the heroes (Sigurd and Volsung) and heroines (Brynhild, Gudrun) of the Elder Edda. This work he was already familiar with from Benjamin Thorpe’s translation, on the poetical diction of which he made many good-humoured criticisms, e.g., on Hundingcide for Hunding’s slayer, etc. He knew Cottle’s translation (1796) of the mythic songs of the Edda. He was quite familiar with Mallet’s ‘Northern Antiquities’ and Walter Scott’s ‘Abstract’ on Eyrbyggja-saga. From modern books of travel on Iceland he was surprisingly well up in the geography of the island, and from Bishop Finn Jonsson’s ‘Historia ecclesiastica Islandiæ’ he had mastered the main features of the general history of the country.2
In the Preface to the last volume of The Saga Library, in another
1 See Eiríkr Magnússon and his Saga-Translations,” p. 23
2 Collected Works, VII, xv-xvi.
account of his first visit to Morris, Magnússon says that Morris’s “volubility of speech struck me no less than the extensive information he displayed about Iceland and Icelandic literature generally, acquired, of course, at second hand.”1
These statements show clearly, as our examination of the Scandinavian allusions in the first part of The Earthly Paradise also indicate, that Morris had by 1868 considerably extended his acquaintance with Norse literature since his days at Oxford. Let us briefly examine these new books mentioned by Magnússon. Dasent’s translation of the Njáls Saga had been published in 1861, and his rendering of the Gísla saga Súrssonar had appeared in 1866.2 The former is provided with a very lengthy introduction of more than two hundred pages describing Iceland, its settlement by the Norwegians, their religion, their legal institutions, and their way of life in general. With much of the material in Cottle’s translation of part of the Poetic Edda3 and in Thorpe’s complete rendering of the same work Morris was already familiar from the first volume of Thorpe’s Northern Mythology, but both books were nevertheless very important, for they introduced Morris directly to one of the great monuments of Old Norse literature. Mallet’s Northern Antiquities was a vast storehouse of information, on which, as I have already shown, Morris seems to have drawn in writing both versions of the Prologue to The Earthly Paradise. This book, which first appeared in French, was translated into English by Bishop Percy in 1770. the first volume contains an account of the
1 The Saga Library, edd. William Morris and Eiríkr Magnússon (London, 1891-1905), VI, xiii.
2 Gisli the Outlaw (Edinburgh, 1866).
3 Icelandic Poetry, or The Edda of Saemond, tr. A. S. Cottle (Bristol, 1797).
early history of the Scandinavians, their mythology and religion, their government, their methods of fighting, their voyages abroad both for trading and plundering, their visits to America, and finally their customs and manner of life in general; the second volume presents English and Latin translations of parts of the Prose Edda, an English rendering of sections of some of the songs in the Poetic Edda, and an English version of certain Old Norse odes. The book was issued again in 1809 in much the same form,1 and was republished for the third time in 1847, completely revised and enlarged by I. A. Blackwell. Besides the material already found in the book, the new edition contains additional chapters on Icelandic legal institutions and customs, including synopses, by way of illustration, of three sagas, - the Kormáks saga, the Njáls saga, and the Laxdæla saga; inserted at the end is Sir Walter Scott’s “Abstract of Eyrbyggja-Saga.” This edition of 1847 was very likely the one that Morris used. The last book mentioned by Magnússon, Bishop Finn Jónsson’s Historia Ecclesiastica Islandiæ,2 is a very lengthy Latin work running to four volumes, which tells first of the early pre-Christian religion of the Northmen, the visits of Irish monks to Iceland, the settlement of the island by the Norwegians, and the slow Christianization of these heathens, and then gives an account of the history of the Church in Iceland down to 1740.
For the sake of completeness I should like to call attention here to several other Scandinavian works, not mentioned by Magnusson, with which Morris sems to have been familiar at this time. In the Preface to one of the volumes of the Collected Works Miss May Morris mentions the books which she and her sister in their childhood were
1 In the new edition were added “The Incantation of Hervor” and “The Ransom of Egill the Scald.”
2 (Copenhagen, 1772).
given by their parents to read;1 this list includes Thorpe’s Northern Mythology, Thorpe’s Yule-Tide Stories, Hans Andersen’s Tales,2 Magnússon and Powell’s Icelandic Legends, and The Heroes of Asgard. We know that Morris had become acquainted with Thorpe’s Northern Mythology while he was at Oxford; he had very likely known Thorpe’s Yule-Tide Stories for a long time also, for the only Scandinavian poem that he had originally intended to include in The Earthly Paradise – “The Palace East of the Sun” – is based on a tale found in the Yule-Tide Stories, and, as we have seen above, this work seems to have been written at an early date.3 The Yule-Tide Stories, which was published in 1853, contains a fairly large number of Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and North-German popular tales. Magnússon and Powell’s Icelandic Legends was printed in two series, the first series, which appeared in 1864, containing sixty-six Icelandic stories, and the second collection, which came out in 1866, consisting of eighty tales and along list of superstitions. The Heroes of Asgard is a collection of Old Norse mythological stories retold for children; it first appeared in 1857.4 Finally – although this work is mentioned neither by Magnússon nor by Miss Morris – I should like to point out again that it is almost certain that Morris had read Laing’s translation of the Heimskringla at this time, for, as I have already shown, there is good reason to believe that he derived from this book much of the information regarding early Scandinavia that he introduced into the final form of the Prologue to
1 Collected Works, IV, xviii.
2 From this reference it is of course impossible to determine which translation and collection of tales Morris knew and used.
3 See above, pages 15-17.
4 The Heroes of Asgard and the Gians of Jötunheim; or, The Week and its Story, by the Author of “Mia and Charlie,” and her Sister (London, 1857). When this work was reiussed later, the authors were identified as A. and E. Keary.
The Earthly Paradise.
At his first meeting with Magnússon, Morris decided to read Icelandic with his new friend three times a week.1 These lessons probably began shortly thereafter, for a letter written by Morris in October of that year shows that the instruction was then well under way.2 Magnússon and Mackail do not agree in their statements as to which saga was read first. In the obituary notice on Morris which Magnússon wrote almost thirty years later for the Cambridge Review of November 26, 1896 and which is now reprinted in Volume VI of The Saga Library, Magnússon says in regard to his early Scandinavian work with Morris, “His first taste of Icelandic literature was the story of ‘Gunnlung3 the Snaketongue’”;4 and in a letter to Miss May Morris, written most likely some ten years later when she was preparing the Prefaces to the various volumes of the Collected Works, he again states, “The first saga I read with Morris was the short tale of ‘Gunnlaug the Wormtongue.’ It was finished in a fortnight, and then we set to work on ‘The Story of Grettir the Strong.’”5 Mackail, however, says that it was the Eyrbyggja saga that the two translators read together first.6 He does not present the basis for his statement, but very likely he had seen and had in mind a note inserted by Morris at the end of the illuminated manuscript that he prepared of the Eyrbyggja ren-
1 Collected works, VII, xvi.
2 Loc. cit.
3 “Gunnlung” is obviously a mistake for “Gunnlaug.”
4 Saga Library, VI, xiii.
5 Collected works, VII, xvi-xvii.
6 William Morris, I, 201.
dering in 1871; for in this note Morris says, “I translated this book out of the Icelandic with the help of my master in that tongue, Eiríkr Magnússon, sometime of Heydalr in the East Firths of Iceland: it was the first Icelandic book I read with him.”1 Needless to say, this statement by Morris, made three years after he had begun studying Old Norse, ought to be considered more reliable than Magnússon’s recollections thirty or forty years later. Before trying to decide definitely which of these accounts to accept, we should note that whatever the first saga may have been that they read together, it is certain that by the beginning of November of that year the two collaborators had translated the greater part of the Grettis saga, for in a letter quoted by Dr. Einarsson in his Saga Eiríks Magnússonar in another connection, Magnússon wrote under the date November 2,  “að Gretla sé nærri albúin undir prentun”;2 this contemporary statement by Magnússon we can of course accept without question, although, as we already have seen and shall see again, we cannot always rely on accounts Magnússon preprared late in life concerning his early work with Morris.
The confused situation created by these conflicting statements is considerably, though not completely, clarified by the nature of the holograph manuscripts of two of the renderings in question.3 I have not seen the manuscript of the Morris-Magnússon translation of the Gunnlaugs saga ormstungu, but I have examined the holograph manuscripts of their rendering of the Eyrbyggja saga and the Grettis saga, both of which are now in the Fitzwilliam Museum,
1 For a description of this manuscript, see Aymer Vallance, William Morris: His Art His Writings and His Public Life (London, 1897), pp. 381-382. See also below, pages 942-948.
2 Page 98.
3 For an account of these manuscripts, see below, pages 514 and 530.
Cambridge, England. Unfortunately, neither one is dated. However, on the top of page 131 of the Eyrbyggja manuscript, just above and to the right of the beginning of Chapter LV, are written the words “from 15 Feb to 15 March.” The meaning of this remark is not clear. If it refers to the time during which a part of the manuscript was prepared, one would expect to find it at the end of a section rather than at the top of a page over the beginning of a new chapter. Moreover, the phrase cannot indicate the time of the action of that particular part of the saga, for Chapter LV describes the driving away of the ghosts form Frodis-water, an even which the story states explicitly occurred “on the eve of Candlemas.”1 The note might possibly have been inserted by the printer at the time the translation was published, but there is nothing else in the manuscript that might indicate that it was the basis of the printed edition; as a matter of fact, as I shall point out in a later chapter, there are so many discrepancies between the version in the manuscript and that in the published text that it is almost certain that the rendering was completely rewritten when it was printed more than twenty years later.2 There seems, after all, to be no other purpose for the remark than to indicate the time at which part of the translation was composed.
This evidence would thus seem to prove that the Eyrbyggja rendering was prepared fairly late – after the Grettis saga translation. However, an examination of the rendering in the two manuscripts seems to indicate that the Eyrbyggja manuscript – or at
1 Saga Library, II, 151.
2 See below, pages 516-517.
least part of it – is earlier than the other.1 In the first place it should be noted that throughout the Eyrbyggja manuscript Morris very frequently left blanks in his original translation, some of them extending to two or three lines; these blanks he seems to have filled in later, in pencil, or ink, or both, apparently after consultation with Magnússon. We meet this situation extremely seldom in the Grettis manuscript, evidently he was more familiar with the Icelandic when he wrote out his version of the saga. He seems to have been particularly undecided, in preparing the Eyrbyggja manuscript, about the rendering of proper nouns, for he repeatedly omitted these at first and inserted them later, but in the Grettis manuscript he does not appear to have hesitated about translating names directly. Again, in the Eyrbyggja rendering he often omitted the “vísur,” perhaps because he found it difficult to turn the Icelandic verses into English, filled as they are with kennings; all the “vísur” in the Grettis manuscript, however, are written out. Furthermore, in the Eyrbyggja translation he occasionally shows that his knowledge of Old Norse inflections was at this time not very sure; in rendering the Old Norse “Helgason,” for example, he first wrote “the son of Helga,” and then changed “Helga” to “Helgi,”2 and in translating “I Hvammi” he originally used “in Hvammi,” and
1 I shall describe these two manuscripts in detail later (see below, pp. 512-539), but I should like to point out here that in both books the translation has been written out by Morris, apparently on the basis of a rendering by Magnússon; in the Grettis manuscript there are revisions by Magnússon, but in the Eyrbyggja translation there does not seem to be a single correction by Magnússon.
2 See below, page 888, 1.35.
then struck off the final “i.”1 Finally, it is important to note that the frequency of all these changes and corrections decreases in the course of the rendering, and that in the last thirty-five pages of the manuscript there are practically no revisions, corrections, or insertions of any kind.
There seems to be only one possible account of Morris’s and Magnússon’s early work together which will fit all the known facts. Morris apparently began his Icelandic studies with Magnússon by reading the Eyrbyggja saga, as he stated three years later in his illuminated manuscript of his translation of this tale. In view of the nature of the rendering in the holograph manuscript of the saga, it seems likely that he began writing out his own version early in the autumn of 1868 but dropped it before it was completed. He then probably read and translated the Gunnlaugs saga, and next read and wrote out a rendering of the Grettis saga, so much of which was completed by the first part of November that Magnússon could at that time write to a friend that it was almost ready for publication; if the two collaborators first met in July and the lessons began early in the fall, they may easily have had time to read three sagas by November. Morris may then have completed his translation of the Eyrbyggja saga early in the next spring, as the remark at the head of Chapter LV seems to indicate. If this account represents the actual course of events, Magnússon may easily in the course of time have forgotten the early work on the Eyrbyggja saga in the fall of 1868, and hence have been led to say in 1896 and 1911 that he and Morris first read the Gunnlaugs saga and then the
1 See Saga Library, II, 11, 1.10.
Whatever the first saga may have been that Morris and Magnússon studied together, the first translation they published was “The Saga of Gunnlaug the Worm-tongue and Rain the Skald”; this rendering appeared in the Fortnightly Review for January, 1869.2 It is signed by both Magnússon and Morris, Magnússon’s name appearing first. The two collaborators seem to have based their translation on the text in Volume II of Islendínga Sögur, a copy of which Morris is known to have had in his library at his death.3 The Gunnlaug’s saga is one of the most beautiful and best developed of the short Icelandic tales, and it was one of Morris’s favorites throughout the rest of his life.
1 In Scandinavian Studies and Notes, XIII (1934-1935), 23, Dr. Einarsson calls attention to the disagreement in the statements made by Magnússon and Mackail in regard to the early translation work of Morris, but he dismisses the question by pointing out that the rendering of the Eyrbyggja saga is not mentioned in a letter that Magnússon wrote to Powell in January, 1869, in which Magnússon tells Powell that he and Morris had published their translation of the Gunnlauga saga and were just about to issue their rendering of the Grettis saga. However, Magnússon may simply have thought it unimportant to mention that they had read the Eyrbyggja saga, inasmuch as they had not published a translation of this saga and did not intend to do so in the near future.
2 XI (1869), 27-56
3 See below, page 1000. According to Islandica, I (1908), 37-38, there were four editions of the saga available in 1868: Sagan af Gunnlaugi ormstungu ok skalld-Rafni (Copenhagen, 1775); the text in Islendinga Sögur (Copenhagen, 1847), II, 187-276; the text in Analecta Norræna, ed. Theodor Möbius, (Leipzig, 1859), pp. 135-166; and Gunnlauga saga Ormstungu, ed. Oluf Rygh (Christiana, 1862). A comparison of the following passages, for example, in Islendínga Sögur with the correspondence passages in the other editions make it almost certain that Morris and Magnússon based their translation on the text in Islendínga Sögur: II, 190, 11.1-2; 190, 11.5-6; 190, 1.8 – 191, 1.8; 191, 11.9-11; 192, 1.8; and 195, 1.13 – 196, 1.1.
Morris’s style of translation and the changes it underwent in the course of the twenty-eight years in which he engaged in turning sagas into English will be discussed in detail in Chapter V of this study. I should like to point out here, however, that the Gunnlaugs saga rendering, as is to be expected, shows definite signs of being an early work. If, for example, we compare it with the revised translation of the same saga that Morris and Magnússon published in 18751 we find that this first version is not so literal and accurate, does not reproduce so well the style of the original, and is not so careful to avoid non-Germanic words which are apt to clash with the general tone of simplicity and directness found in the saga. Evidently Morris had as yet neither acquired a mastery of the language nor become familiar with the distinctive features of the saga style.
Neither Professor Mackail nor Miss May Morris makes any statement in regard to what sagas, if any, Morris and Magnússon studied during the winter and spring of 1869; evidently the records to which Mackail and Miss Morris had access make no references to this subject. One saga, however, which the two collaborators must have read, in part at least, during this period is the Laxdæla, in spite of the statement Magnússon made many years later that it was in the fall of 1869 that he and Morris took up this work;2 Morris’s long narrative poem “The Lovers of Gudrun” is based on the principal episode in this tale, and as Morris himself states explicitly in the manuscript of this work, he had completed the
1 See below, page 192.
2 Collected Works, VII, 20.
story by the end of June, 1869.1 Morris and Magnússon never published any translation of the Laxdæla saga, but in her William Morris: Artist Writer Socialist Miss May Morris states that there are sixteen pages of such a rendering extant in Morris’s hand; concerning this fragment she says, “These pages of Laxdæla begin with chapter 28 which forms the opening of Morris’s Lovers of Gudrun. They break off at the end of chapter 33, the passage of the interpreting of Gudrun’s dreams.”2 Miss Morris has no information to give as to the date of this translation. In view of the statement by Magnússon referred to above, it is possible that when he composed “The Lovers of Gudrun,” Morris had merely read the saga the Magnússon or had seen a rendering prepared by Magnússon, and that it was not until the fall of 1869 that he wrote out a translation of his own; it is more natural to assume, however, that he had produced his own rendering before he composed the poem. That he had prepared his own translation of at least part of the saga before he began his metrical version is almost certainly proved by an interesting situation which we find in the holograph manuscript of the first draft of “The Lovers of Gudrun.” On page 31
1 On one of the flyleaves of the manuscript of the first draft, which is now deposited in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England, we find a note saying, “This is the first copy of the poem with some of the alterations inserted: I wrote it in June 1869 William Morris,” and at the end of the whole manuscript he has written “Wednesday June 23d 1869.”
It should be noted that no English translation of the Laxdæla saga had been published at this time. There is, of course, as I have already stated (see above, p. 45), a rather detailed abstract of the main episode in the saga in Mallet’s Northern Antiquities, with which we know that Morris was familiar at this time, but this summary could not possibly have been the sole source of Morris’s poem. In the abstract even such important scenes are omitted as Guest’s interpretation of Gudrun’s dreams and Guest’s comments on Kiartan and his brothers as Olaf, their father, and he watch them swimming.
2 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1936), II, 610.
of this manuscript there are at the bottom a few lines of inverted writing, and if we turn the page completely around, we see from the wide margin here before the ruled lines begin that what in this manuscript is the bottom was originally the top of the sheet. Here we find that Morris has
written, “fall down from thee?’ Says Gest, ‘Idle is it to tell thereof, [^ am I loth to] yet I can not hold my peace concerning those things which will befall in thy days, nor will it take me unawares through Bolli stand over Kiartans [sic] dead head, and win his own bane thereby.’” These lines are of course a translation of the end of Chapter XXXIII of the Laxdæla saga. In all probability this page is a rejected leaf of Morris’s rendering of the central episode in the Laxdæla; he apparently had this translation before him while writing “The Lovers of Gudrun,” came across this partly-used sheet, and decided to use the rest of it in scribbling out his first draft of the poem.
As I have already pointed out, Miss Morris states that the section of the Laxdæla rendering now extant extends to only sixteen pages. There are of course two possible ways of interpreting this fact: Morris may have produced a translation of the whole story of Gudrun, Kiartan, and Bolli, of which all but the first sixteen pages have been lost, or he may have read the complete account in the Old Norse with Magnússon but have written out only a few pages of an English version.
To resume our chronological survey of Morris’s Scandinavian work, we must note that in March, 1869, Morris wrote the Earthly Paradise poems dealing with Bellerophon,1 for although these two tales are based on classical sources, we see in them the first signs of the influence his study of the Icelandic sagas in the
1 Mackail, William Morris, I, 201.
original was to have upon the style and character of his creative writing. As Mackail says, “The treatment of the Bellerophon legend clearly shows the epic manner rising beside and partially overmastering the romantic”;1 Percy Lubbock in his article “The Poetry of William Morris” writes that the influence of Morris’s new interest is revealed in “the sumptuous treatment of the Bellerophon legend. . . .”2 This change in tone and spirit, which is very marked in most of the remaining Earthly Paradise stories, I shall discuss in detail later in my account of the publication of the third volume of this work at the end of 1869.3
In April, 1869,4 Morris and Magnússon published their translation of the Grettis saga, the second saga-rendering that they submitted to the public; as we have already noted, it was almost ready for publication early in November, 1868, and in January, 1869, according to a letter quoted by Dr. Einarsson in his article “Eiríkr Magnússon and his Saga-Translations,” Magnússon was busy writing the introduction to the work.5 The rendering, the first one of the Grettis saga in English, was almost certainly based on the text in Nordiske Oldskrifter; this collection of sagas was in
1 William Morris, I, 201.
2 The Quarterly Review, CCXV (1911), 497.
3 See below, pages 64-67.
4 Mackail in his William Morris, I, 201 and Miss Morris in the Collected Works, V, xi say that the Grettis saga translation was published in April; Buxton Forman in The Books of William Morris, p. 55, gives May, 1869 as the date of publication.
5 Pages 23-24.
Morris’s library at his death.1
The translation is furnished with everything necessary for the reader’s understanding and enjoyment of the saga. First there is an introduction of twelve pages, which briefly compares the Grettis saga with the other leading Old Norse sagas, gives a synopsis of the tale to be read, and describes the main characters. This is followed by a list of the main events with their dates and by a map of the northwest corner of Iceland, the principal scene of the action. Then comes the saga itself. At the end we find nine pages of “Notes and Corrections,” three very complete indexes of Personal Names, Local Names, and Things, a list of “Periphrastic Expressions in the songs,” and a collection of “Proverbs and Proverbial Sayings that occur in the Story.” As I have already pointed out, Magnússon states explicitly in a letter early in 1869 that he was then writing the preface to the translation; we can be quite certain that it was he who did most of the works in preparing this other supplementary material also.2
1 See below, page 1000. According to Islandica, I(1908), 31, there were two editions of this saga available in 1868: the text in Nockrer Marg-Frooder Søgu-þæter Islendinga (Holar, 1756) and Grettis saga, edd. G. Magnússon and G. Thordarson (Copenhagen, 1859), in Nordiske Oldskrifter, XVI. A comparison of the following passages, for example, in Nordiske Oldskrifter with the corresponding passages in the other edition makes it clear that Morris and Magnússon based their translation on the text in Nordiske Oldskrifter: XVI, 1, 1.2; 1, 1.3; 1, 1.7; 1, 1.11; 1, 1.12; 1, 1.18; 1, 1.19; 1, 1.20; 1, 1.22; 1, 1.23; 2, 11. 2-3; and 2, 1.4. It should also be noted that in a footnote (see Collected Works, VII, 74) the two collaborators refer to the 1853 edition.
2 This statement by Magnússon that he wrote the introduction is important, for it shows that we cannot take this discussion as an indication of the extent of Morris’s acquaintance with Old Norse literature at this time, as some critics have done (see Mackail, William Morris, I, 201 and Scandinavian Studies and Notes, XIII (1934-1935), 100, notes 36).
That Morris was deeply moved by the tale of Grettir is apparent from the two sonnets he wrote on the subject, one of which he placed at the very beginning of his published rendering of the saga. In this one he comments on the noble lives that many of the Icelanders led under hopelessly adverse conditions, and greets Grettir, who on account of his courage, steadfastness, and nobility has remained alive through the centuries and has now come as a new friend to make the poet’s life richer. In the other sonnet, which Morris himself never published but which Miss Morris inserted in the Preface to Volume VII of the Collected Works, his passion is less restrained, and he exclaims, in lines throbbing with deep emotion,
At least thy life moved men so, that e’en I,
Thy mother’s wail in the lone eve and drear,
Thy brother’s laugh at death for thee, can hear -
Hear now nor wonder at her agony
Nor wonder that he found it good to die -
Speak, Grettir, through the dark: I am anear.1
Twenty-three years later in Poems by the Way, Morris published a short piece consisting of eleven pentasyllabic couplets called “To the Muse of the North.”2 According to Miss Morris, her father originally wrote this poem also as an introduction to the Grettis saga translation.3 Here, however, he does not refer to Grettir in particular, but prays to the Northern Muse that she acquaint him with the tales of old so that he may learn to understand the sorrow and grief experienced by these ancient men, – grief which bowed their heads and turned their hair gray,
But left no stain upon those souls of thine
Whose greatness through the tangled world doth shine.4
1 Page xix.
2 Collected Works, IX, 116.
3 Ibid., IX, xxxv.
4 Ibid., IX, 116.
The Translation of the Grettis saga does not seem to have attracted very much attention in the periodicals of the time. The longest discussion, that in the Saturday Review, is the least favorable.1 The author finds little to admire in the style of the sagas; he has not yet learned to overcome his dislike of the violence, bloodshed, and brutality with which they are filled, and so has not discovered their real art and beauty. But he attacks with most vehemence the statement in the Preface to the rendering to the effect that to “us moderns the real interest in these records of a past state of life lies principally in seeing events true in the main treated vividly and dramatically by people who completely understood the manners, life, and above all, the turn of mind of the actors in them.2 That the saga is a record of “events true in the main” the reviewer absolutely refuses to believe, for, he says, not only is the concluding story of Thorstein Dromund and Spes taken from the romance of Tristram but almost all the other incidents in the saga are to be found in other tales. Then following the methods of many of the students of comparative mythology and folk lore of the day, he gives a long list of episodes in the Grettis saga and points out absurd parallels in Hebrew, Greek, Roman, and medieval stories. Thus, he says,
1 XXIX (1870) 157-159. I should like to point out here that in discussing the reception given Morris’s translations in the contemporary reviews, I have not at this point called attention to the comments on the diction and style of the renderings, this material having been reserved for Chapter IV.
2 Collected Works, VII, xliii.
When Grettir is driven from his home without arms, and his mother draws forth from her cloak a fair sword which has gained many a day, we see before us Thetis and Hjordis bestowing on their children the magic weapon which reappears in the hands of Arthur and of Roland. In the horrible smiting of the Bearserks, who are shut up in a barn, we have the awful Hall of Slaughter in the Odyssey and the Nibelung Lay.1
A few lines later we read that
in the errand on which, when his companions have no fire, Grettir is sent to bring fire from a distant cliff, although “his mind bids him hope to get nought of good thereby,” we see the mytho of Prometheus and his recompense. The conflict of Grettir and Snækoll is related in words so nearly resembling those of the narrative of David and Goliath that it is hard to resist the conclusion that here we have an instance of mere copying, or that we have a travesty of the story of Samson. . . .2
When we are told in the saga that Glam’s curse began to work on Grettir because he grew afraid of being alone in the dark, the reviewer says that Grettir “dreads the darkness, like a child, for Heracles, Helios, Achilleus can do nothing when the sun has gone down.”3 He even tells us that if “Grettir has his brother Illugi in whom he has garnered up his soul, this is the story of Achilleus and Patroklos, of Peirithoos and Theseus, of Heracles and Iphitos, of the Dioskouroi and a host of others.”4 On the basis of these parallels and a great many others, equally absurd, the reviewer proudly proclaims that the saga is merely fiction and is totally unreliable as a picture of contemporary events.
The other reviews that I have seen of this translation are in the main favorable. The author of an article on “Icelandic
1 Saturday Review, XXIX (1870), 158.
2 Loc. cit.
3 Loc. cit
4 Ibid., XXIX, 158-159.
Sagas” in the London Quarterly, who shows that he is thoroughly familiar with Old Norse literature, praises the saga, and cordially endorses the very old passage in Magnússon’s introduction which the critic in the Saturday Review condemns.1 G. A. Simcox, writing of the rendering in the Academy, praises Morris’s sonnet, comments on “the close blending of the historical and the supernatural” in the saga, and calls attention to the information it gives about the state of Scandinavian society at the time.2 The Fortnightly Review states that the “present story is founded on facts full of dramatic interest, and gives a vivid picture of the life and manners of a race nearly akin to ourselves.”3
During the spring of 1869 Morris was apparently at work on “The Lovers of Gudrun,” which, as I have already pointed out, he himself states that he finished June 23rd. Late in the summer he and Mrs. Morris left London, and went to Bad-Ems on the Rhine for the sake of her health; Morris was not very eager to spend several weeks at such a place, and he seems to have occupied most of his time while there in composing new tales and revising old ones for the last volumes of The Earthly Paradise. In a letter written August 15th to Mr. Webb, which Miss Morris quotes in her Preface
1 XXXVI (1871), 56-57.
2 I (1869-1870), 33.
3 VI, New Series, (1869), 120.
to Volume V of the Collected Works, Morris writes, “Magnússon’s Saga has turned up and I have begun it; it is rather of the monstrous order but I shall go through with it, partly to see what there is good in it, partly to fill up the time – sleeping does a good deal of that. . . .”1 In a later volume Miss Morris explains that “this was the Völsunga Saga which Mr. Magnússon had translated in the course of the summer of 1869 and sent out to Ems.”2 Morris did not read very much of this rendering during the summer. About two weeks later, on August 27, he wrote again to Mr. Webb, saying, “I am at work still, I find the Palace East &c., wanted rewriting rather than tinkering, I want to finish it before we get back, so as to have some time for correcting it before going to press.”3 As I have previously pointed out, the poem “The Palace East of the Sun” was already written at this time – in fact, had probably been composed for many years. In her discussion of this work Miss Morris describes the manuscript of the first draft, written on both sides of large sheets of blue paper of foolscap size, and remarks, “This tale was written with apparent ease and little alteration in the early manuscript I have before me, in spite of what he says in one of the letters above mentioned, ‘The Palace East &c. wants re-writing rather than tinkering.’”4 I have not seen the manuscript of which Miss Morris here speaks, but as I have already stated, I have examined a fair copy manuscript of this poem, of quarto size, in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England;
1 Page xvi.
2 VII, xx.
3 Collected Works, V, xviii.
4 Ibid., V, xxiii.
this version of the tale differs to a very great extent, especially in the last part, from the printed form. If this was the version that Morris had with him at Ems – and it very likely was - , he certainly must have rewritten it, and not merely tinkered with it, to give it the form we find in the printed text. This manuscript version will be discussed in detail later.1
The Morrises returned to London in September, and shortly thereafter the tales for the next volume of The Earthly Paradise began to go to press, although the book was not published until the very end of the year.2 During the autumn Morris also resumed his work with Magnússon. In a letter written to Miss Morris many years later, Magnússon describes his Icelandic studies with Morris at the end of 1869 and the beginning of 1870 in the following words:
When he returned from his trip we soon met and had a talk about the Saga.3 He was not so impressed with it as I had expected he would be; but added that as yet he had had time to look only at the first part of it. I explained to him how the Völsunga Saga was based on the heroic cycle of the Elder Edda, with the original text of which as yet he was unacquainted. I resumed lessons with him on the old system – three days a week – this time taking the story of the men of Salmonriverdale (Laxdæla). Some time afterwards – I forget how long – when I came for the appointed lesson, I found him in a state of great excitement, pacing his study. He told me he had now finished reading my translation of the ‘grandest tale that ever was told.’ He would at once set about copying it out, and procure the original for himself, which he promptly did. On my suggesting that it would be desirable for him to go through the originals of the Edda songs on which the story was based, he set aside for a while the Laxdæla Saga and we got to work on the heroic songs of
1 See below, pages 74-87.
2 See Forman, Books of William Morris, p. 56.
3 The saga referred to is the Völsunga saga.
the Edda. They were studied as the Gunnlaug story and Grettir had been, but in this case my translation had to be even more exactly literal. These songs were finished about midwinter 1870.1
I have already pointed out that Magnússon’s remark that he and Morris began reading the Laxdæla saga in the fall of 1869 is very likely inaccurate.2 The rest of the statement, however, that they read together the Völsunga saga and some of the Eddic poems in the winter of 1869 to 1870, is apparently correct.
At the end of November or early in December, 1869, Part III of The Earthly Paradise was published.3 In the spring of 1868 when he issued the first volume, later split into Parts I and II, Morris had intended to include in the rest of the poem only one Scandinavian tale – namely, “The Palace East of the Sun”; but now even in the first part of the second half we find two stories that are Norse in origin. These are “The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” which is almost certainly the same tale he had before designated by the name “The Palace East of the Sun,” and “The Lovers of Gudrun”; these two poems are almost twice as long as the four non-Scandinavian stories in the volume combined.
The influence of Morris’s Scandinavian studies, however, is to be seen not only in the choice of subject for two of the tales in this volume but also in a decided change in the character of most of the poems included here which were written or rewritten
1 Collected Works, VII, xx.
2 As I have also indicated, it is possible that although Morris must have read the whole of the main epidosde in the Laxdæla saga with Magnússon in the spring of this year, he had written out only a part of his own translation at that time, and that it is to the continuation of Morris’s work on his own rendering that Magnússon is referring in the passage quoted above.
3 Forman, Books of William Morris, p. 56.
after the fall of 1868.1 This difference in treatment, which became still more pronounced in the work produced after Morris had carried his Icelandic studies further, was noticed even at the time of the publication of this and the last volume of The Earthly Paradise by some of the more acute reviewers,2 and since then it has been carefully analyzed and described by several critics. Mackail, for example, writes as follows regarding this change in the third volume:
In the eighteen months which passed between the appearance of this and of the earlier volume a silent revolution had been effected in the poet. It was not at once realized even by himself. Yet here and there a critic observed that the Chaucerian manner which had been so unqualified in “Jason” and so powerful in the earlier stories of “The Earthly Paradise” was wearing off, and a new manner replacing it. Some deepening of the poetry they felt there was. What it really meant was a development of capital importance, the transformation of romance into epic. . . . “The Lovers of Gudrun,” his first essay in epic poetry, is in its way as complete and satisfying as any of his later achievements. Between this poem and the story of “The Man Born to be King,” a perfect example of the pure romance, there is in truth no comparison possible. They cannot be weighted in the same scales.3
Percy Lubbock, in his article on Morris to which I have already referred, brings out the importance of the change more clearly:
We come now to the most significant turning-point of Morris’s literary life, the sudden transition from the golden world of ‘The Man born to be King’ or ‘Ogier the Dane’ to the ominous landscape, the naked reality, the difficult passions, of ‘The Lovers of Gudrun’. . . . It. . . becomes intensely interesting to watch the overmastering effect upon Morris, halfway through ‘The Earthly Paradise,’ of his discovery of the heroic literature of the north. . . . He had been
1 The exact date of the composition of many of the poems in the last half of The Earthly Paradise is not certain. We do know, however, that at least “The Death of Paris,” the revised form of “The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” and “The Lovers of Gudrun” in Volume III and “Bellerophon at Argos,” “Bellerophon in Lycia,” “The Hillf of Venus,” and “The Fostering of Aslaug” in Volume IV were written after the autumn of 1868. (See Mackail, William Morris, I, 201; Collected Works, V, xviii and xxii; ibid., VI, ix; and above, pages 16-17.)
2 See, for example, the Academy, II(1870-1871), 57; the North British Review, LII(1870), 296-297; Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, CVII(1870), 646; and the London Quarterly Review, XXXVI(1871), 252.
3 William Morris, I, 196-197.
familiar from the early days with the northern studies of Thorpe and Dasent; but, until he began to learn Icelandic and to read the sagas in the original, their influence had not been strong enough to draw him away from the romance of the ‘happy poplar-land’ which was his imaginative home. . . .1
After briefly comparing the epic and the romance as forms of art, Lubbock says,
There can be no question here of discussing in detail the profound differences which separate these two most significant forms; but it is obvious by how many of them Morris would be drawn towards the earlier. The saner relations between man and man, still more between man and woman; the power of assimilating the whole business of life, instead of a narrow selection from it, as poetic material; the unflinching candour of the whole point of view – all these signs of a stronger and more difficult art would be at once attractive to a man of Morris’s temper, apart from any artistic consideration.2
A little later he quotes the opening lines of “The Lovers of Gudrun,” and exclaims,
That is enough: the honey-tongued story-teller is gone, and another man is attacking another task. There is nothing remote or visionary here. His tale is of men who are dead and gone, no doubt, but who are not so very far off, whose life was real and can be recaptured, who deeds are to be honoured and sung in all their glory, but not translated into a golden light which can never have shone on them. . . . 3
There can be no doubt that Morris’s Icelandic studies with Magnússon had had an immediate definite effect upon his style of narrative. As soon as we turn from the early Earthly Paradise poems and begin reading the tales written after 1868, we realize that here we are no longer in a quiet dream-world of eternal sunshine and beauty, inhabited by a race of people utterly unlike us mortals, whose loves, joys, disappointments, sorrows, and deaths never seem genuine and never move us to either laughter or tears,
1 “The Poetry of William Morris,” pp. 493-494.
2 Ibid., p. 495.
3 Ibid., p. 496.
perhaps because they are described in a most dispassionate manner, but that instead we are now entering a world similar to our own, where people like ourselves, complex and inconsistent like all human begins, suffer real griefs, disappointments, and failures, and in so doing rouse the deepest sympathies of both the story-teller and his readers.
Of the two Scandinavian tales in Volume III of The Earthly Paradise I shall discuss first “The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” which according to Mackail “represents the culmination of the romantic-mediæval method in the strongest antithesis to the epic treatment of a given story.”1 In regard to the sources of this poem Miss Morris says,
For “The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon” my father has followed rather closely the imaginative opening of the tale in Thorpe’s “Yuletide Stories;” but it will be seen that directly the time-worn elements come into the old tale – the trivial explanations, the three gifts and all of what one might call the commonplace of fairy story (so far removed from the true magic of fairy-land), directly all this machinery appears, the poet leaves the tale. He goes to Marie de France’s “Lai of Lanval” for an incident in his own far more complicated tale, and there is possibly a suggestion of the search for his Bird-lady in “Hassan of El-Basrah: “all the rest of it, and more especially the curiously arresting framework of Gregory the Star-gazer, is his own.2
The tale in Thorpe’s Yule-Tide Stories, which Morris probably had known as early as his Oxford days, was of course his main source.3 The only incident in the Lai De Lanval that is similar to anything in Morris’s poems is the attempt of the Queen to gain Lanval’s love, an act which leads Lanval to reveal his love for the fairy lady,
1 William Morris, I, 207.
2 Collected Works, V, xxi.
3 The Beautiful Palace East of the Sun and North of the Earth” is found on pages 158-168 of the Yule-Tide Stories.
contrary to his promise to her, and thus to forfeit her affection;1 Morris may possibly have had this episode in mind in introducing the scene between Thorgerd and John on Christmas Day, when Thorgerd offers her love to him and he, in this deep disappointment at being separated from his true lady, cries out to her and bids her come to him, thus bringing her to his home for that night but losing her for many years thereafter.2 The main theme of this second part of “The Story of Hasan of El-Basrah” in The Thousand and One Nights3 is of course the same as the underlying idea in Morris’s poem, but the whole setting of this tale and the development of the plot are so completely different from what we find in Morris’s work that there seems to be little justification for mentioning it as a source.4
Morris’s treatment of his originals in the three Scandinavian poems included in the last two volumes of The Earthly Paradise has been investigated and discussed by Tollef B. Thompson in a dissertation called Skandinavischer Einfluss auf William Morris in den ersten Stadien (The Earthly Paradise).5 The section of this study that deals with “The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon” is very detailed and complete;6 I shall merely summarize Thompson’s results, making a few comments on some of his statements and adding a few observations of my own.
1 Die Lais der Marie de France, ed. Karl Warnke (Halle: Max Niemeyer, 1925), pp. 95-98.
2 Collected Works, V, 74-77.
3 Tr. E. W. Lane (London, 1865), III, 342-483. The part of the story that is similar to Morris’s tale begins on page 372.
4 Miss Morris herself says a few pages later (in Collected Works, V, xxiv) that she does not think her father used the Arabian tale as a soruce.
5 (Berlin, 1910).
6 Pages, 17-51.
Thompson first very carefully compares Morris’s poem with all the Norwegian, Danish, and German popular tales with the same or a similar theme, and comes to the conclusion that although Morris drew in the main on Thorpe’s story, he was also indebted for some of his details to these other fairy tales.1 It seems to me that some of the incidents Thompson believes were borrowed Morris may very well have invented himself, without the use of any sources,2 but in the main Thompson’s conclusions are probably correct. Morris was of course intimately familiar with all the fairy tales of northern Europe, and it is only natural that when he wished to develop and enlarge upon his immediate source, he borrowed incidents from other folk tales. The four Norwegian stories to which Thompson refers, I should like to point out, are all translated into English in Dasent’s Tales from the Norse,3 and it must have been through this book that Morris had ^become acquainted with these legends. The Danish story Thompson mentions, “Den nedtraadte Ager” in Molbech’s Udvalgte Eventyr eller Folkedigtninger,4 had not been turned into English at this time, so far as I know; it does not seem to have played any important part in Morris’s poem, and most likely he did not know it at all.
Thompson next discusses Dasent’s and Thorpe’s style of trans-
1 Pages 17-23.
2 Thus, for example, Thompson points out that the following incidents in Morris’s poem are not in Thorpe’s version but are to be found only in German tales with a similar subject: “Er spricht nur mit einer Jungfrau, weil die anderen fortgeflogen sind. . . .Sie hieraten sich, ehe er die Heimat wieder besucht. . . .Trotz seiner königlichen Kleidung, verkleidet er sich noch mehr, als er die Heimat betritt.” (page 23).
3 (Second ed; Edinburgh, 1859), pp. 25-40; 105-118; 207-215; and 457-471.
4 (Copenhagen, 1854), I, 288-296.
lation in their English versions of Scandinavian fairy tales, and refers briefly to the influence of their renderings on some of Morris’s Earthly Paradise poems and on his later prose romances.1 The examples that Thompson gives of this influence show that it is rather slight and in no case very important.
Next comes a very detailed account of all Morris’s changes and additions to the original story.2 Thompson mentions first a number of elements which he thinks were suggested to Morris by details in Scandinavian popular tales with an entirely different theme; it seems to me that almost all of these incidents Morris in all probability invented himself, and that there is little need for citing these similar episodes as possible sources. The following examples are especially unconvincing:
(M)3 Bei seiner Rückkehr sieht die Mutter die Kleider des Sohnes furchtsam an und fragt ihn flüsternd, ob er etwas von dem Ort, von dem der neue Glauba spreche, erzählen könne. Dies ist dem norw. Märchen “Somme Kjærringer er slige” entnommen. Thorpe übersetzt es (S. 331): “Where he was from? I come from Ringerige answered the man. Oh, indeed! what, do you say you come from Himmerige (Heaven), then of course you know the second Peter, my poor late husband?” Dasent übersetzt es (S. 202) auf ganz ännliche Weise. Die Freude am Ende der Erzählung (M)3 ist charakteristisch für die meisten Märchen.4
A little later we read, “Auf seinem weg trifft er Leute und ruft sie an: “What land of all lands might this be?” In Dasents Übersetzung von Hv.5 ruft der Held unter åhnlichen Umständen: “What’s the name of this land?”6
lation in their English versions of Scandinavian fairy tales, and refers briefly to the influence of their renderings on some of Morris’s Earthly Paradise poems and on his later prose romances.1 The examples that Thompson gives of this influence show that it is rather slight and in no case very important.
Next comes a very detailed account of all Morris’s changes and additions to the original story.2 Thompson mentions first a number of elements which he thinks were suggested to Morris by details in Scandinavian popular tales with an entirely different theme; it seems to me that almost all of these incidents Morris in all probability invented himself, and that there is little need for citing these similar episodes as possible sources. The following examples are especially unconvincing:
(M)3 Bei seiner Rückkehr sieht die Mutter die Kleider des Sohnes furchtsam an und fragt ihn flüsternd, ob er etwas von dem Ort, von dem der neue Glauba spreche, erzählen könne. Dies ist dem norw. Märchen “Somme Kjærringer er slige” entnommen. Thorpe übersetzt es (S. 331): “Where he was from? I come from Ringerige answered the man. Oh, indeed! what, do you say you come from Himmerige (Heaven), then of course you know the second Peter, my poor late husband?” Dasent übersetzt es (S. 202) auf ganz ännliche Weise. Die Freude am Ende der Erzählung (M)3 ist charakteristisch für die meisten Märchen.4
A little later we read, “Auf seinem weg trifft er Leute und ruft sie an: “What land of all lands might this be?” In Dasents Übersetzung von Hv.5 ruft der Held unter åhnlichen Umständen: “What’s the name of this land?”6
1 Pages 25-35.
2 Pages 35-46.
3 I should like to point out that by “(M)” Thompson indicates that the incident referred to is in Morris’s poem.
4 Pages 36-37.
5 I should like to point out that “Hv.” refers to the Norwegian tale “de tre Prindsesser fra Hvidtenland.”
6 Page 37.
Next Thompson discusses other changes and additions by Morris, and lists the Scandinavian allusions Morris introduced in order to make the Norse setting of the tale more realistic.1 He calls attention to the references to “stockfish,”2 to “Sigurd Fafnir’s-bane,”3 to “Skeggi’s two sons,”4 and to “Haldor the Icelander;”5 he also points out that Morris gave Scandinavian names to most of his characters, such as “Thorgerd,” Asa,” “Kirstin,”6 and “Haldor.”7 For the allusion to Sigurd Fafnir’s-bane,” as Thompson notes, Morris was very likely indebted to Thorpe’s Northern Mythology.8 In his reference to “Skeggi’s two sons” as well-known evil-doers, Morris does not seem to have had any definite historical figures in mind; the name “Skeggi,” however, as Thompson shows, is extremely common in Old Norse works, and Morris had already come across the name both in the Grettis saga and in the Njáls saga.9 With the names “Haldor,” Thorgard,” and “Asa” he had also already met, I should like to add, in the Grettis saga.10 “Stockfish” is likewise mentioned in the Grettis saga and also in the Eyrbyggja saga,11 but for Morris’s
1. Pages 38-40, passim.
2. Collected works, V, 30.
3. Ibid., V, 31.
4. Ibid., V, 28.
5. Ibid., V, 60.
6. Ibid., V, 63.
7. Ibid., V, 60.
8. I, 91-108. The name “Sigurd Fafnisbana” occurs on I, 100.
9. See, for example, Collected Works, VII, 16, 20, 21, 95, and 209 and Njáls saga, tr. Dasent, I, 80, and II, 219, 327, 344, and 347.
10. See, for example, Collected Works, VII, 174, 180, 197, 198, and 199 for “Haldor,” ibid., VII, 66 for “Thorgerd,” and ibid., VII, 4, 5, 15, and 16 for “Asa.”
11. See, for example, ibid., VII, 104 and Saga Library, II, 145, 146, 147, 149, and 173.
acquaintance with the use of stockfish in Scandinavia it is scarcely necessary to seek for any definite source. To Thompson’s list of Norse elements that Morris inserted in the tale itself, I should like to add his use of the term “bonder,”1 an allusion to Micklegarth,2 and his use of the names “Thorolf” and “Thord.”3 With these terms and names Morris had become familiar even before he began studying Icelandic with Magnússon.4 Finally, in regard to the framework of the tale, Thompson calls attention to the fact that Morris presents the whole story as a dream of Gregory the Star-gazer and represents Gregory as living in Norway in the reign of King Magnus.5 Thompson does not point out, however, that Morris further portrays Gregory as a member of the retinue of Marshall Biorn, and designates the scene of the opening of the dream as Ladir.6 For his references to Magnus, Marshall Biorn, and Ladir, I should like to state, Morris was very likely indebted to Laing’s translation of the Heimskringla. In that work there are five Norwegian kings named Magnus whose reigns are described in detail, - Magnus Barefoot, Magnus the Blind, Magnus Erlingson, Magnus the Good, and Magnus, the son of Harald Hardredy;7 which one of these Morris had in mind here there is
1. Collected Works, V, 25 and 60.
2. Ibid., V, 112.
3. Ibid., V, 28-29.
4. For occurrences of the term “bonder,” see, for example, Heimskringla, tr. Laing, I, 272, 274, 283, and 284; for references to Micklegarth, see above, pp. 20, 23, and 24; and for occurrences of the names “Thorolf” and “Thord,” see Heimskringla, tr. Laing, I, 367, 368, 371, and 464 and II, 99, 100, 318, and 330.
5. Page 44. For references in the poem to Magnus, see Collected Works, V, 24-25 and 50.
6. Ibid., V, 24 and 25.
7. See Heimskringla, tr. Laing, III, 115-147; 205-232; 300-340; and II, 359-399 and 82-104.
nothing in the poem to indicate. There is also a Marshall Biorn mentioned in the Heimskringla, but he was one of the chief officers of King Olaf the Holy.1 Moreover, Ladir is frequently referred to in the early part of the Heimskringla, this being the seat of the powerful Earls of Ladir2, but neither Marshall Biorn nor any of the kings by the name of Magnus had any special connection with this place. Morris probably simply remembered these names from his reading of Laing’s translation of the Heimskringla, and introduced them here in order to make more vivid the Norwegian setting he had invented for the tale.
Thompson also suggests a possible modern Scandinavian influence. He calls attention to the similarity between Morris’s description of the youth John and Ibsen’s account of Peer Gynt, and thinks that Morris may have had Ibsen’s character in mind when he wrote his tale.3 The possibility that Morris was influenced in any way by Ibsen is extremely slight. In the first place the similarity pointed out is not very striking. Moreover, Ibsen’s Peer Gynt appeared in 1867; and as we have already seen, Morris seems to have written the first draft of his poem in 1865 or 1866, if not earlier, and already in the manuscript of this work in the Fitzwilliam Museum, which is very likely a copy of this first draft, we find practically the same descriptions of John as those in the printed text to which Thompson calls attention and on which he bases his suggestion.
1. See, for example, Heimskringla tr. Laing, II, 52, 59, 60 and 67-70.
2. See, for example, ibid., I, 277, 307, 314, and 323.
3. Pages 41-42.
It is clear, then, that Morris found the central theme of his poem “The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon” in the tale called “The Beautiful Palace East of the Sun and North of the Earth” in Thorpe’s Yule-Tide Stories, but that he enlarged considerably on this legend, developing in some detail a medieval Scandinavian setting and introducing a number of new incidents, some of them probably suggested by other Norse folk tales and others most likely invented by the poet himself. The finished poem thus differs in a very marked degree from the story in Thorpe. An excellent opportunity to study the evolution of the tale is provided by the holograph manuscript of an earlier version in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, to which I have already on several occasions referred.
In this manuscript Morris has written out the poem very neatly in ink in a small notebook, using only one side of each page.1 There are extremely few corrections throughout the whole work. Frequently we find on the left-handed page, otherwise left blank, brief notes for pictures, similar to the notes which, according to Miss Morris, are found in some of the other early manuscripts.2 Very likely this Fitzwilliam Museum notebook is a fair copy of the manuscript of the first draft of the poem, which Miss Morris describes briefly in the Preface to Volume V of the Collected Works.3 At any rate, it most certainly represents an early form of the story, for the version found here differs considerably from the poem he finally published.
1. This manuscript, measuring 9 1/2 by 8 1/3 inches, is bound in three-quarters dark, purplish-blue leather. The following words, in gold letters appear on the back: “Earthly Paradise The Land East of the Sun William Morris M.S.” On the inside of the front cover is pasted a slip bearing the words “From the library of Ch: Fairfax Murray.” With the exception of the two flyleaves at the beginning and end, the pages are ruled, with twenty-three lines to the page. The writing ends in the middle of page 65.
2. Collected Works, II, xxvii and III, xxiii.
3. Page xxiii.
In order to reveal the extent of these differences and to show how the tale developed under Morris’s hand, I shall present first a brief abstract of the legend as it is found in Thorpe’s Yule-Tide Stories, then a fairly full summary of the plot of the poem in the Fitzwilliam Museum manuscript, going into some detail here since there is no account in print of this manuscript, and finally a synopsis of the printed poem.
In Thorpe’s story, which he translated from G. O. Hyltén-Cavallius and George Stephen’s Svenska Folk-Sagor och Äfventyr,1 an old farmer, often finding on summer mornings that the grass in his best field had been trampled down during the night, once resolved to find out who the malefactors were by sending his oldest son to watch over the meadow. The boy, however, fell asleep and discovered nothing. The next son fared similarly the following night. Finally the youngest boy, amidst the jeers of his brothers, decided to try his luck. Just before sunrise the following morning he saw three doves alight on the grass; they immediately shed their feathers and became three fair ladies, and then began to dance over the meadow. The young lad straightway fell in love with the prettiest one, and decided to steal their plumage and wait for the results. Just after the sun had risen, the three maidens prepared to leave, and not finding their feather-dresses, they searched the field carefully and came across the youth. He refused to return the skins unless they answered two questions. First he demanded to know who they were; one of the girls replied that she was a king’s daughter, and that she and her attendants came from “The Palace Which
1. (Stockholm, 1844), pp. 140-150.
Lies East of the Sun and North of the Earth.” He then made the request that the king’s daughter should promise to marry him, and when she did so and fixed a day for the wedding, he gave back the feather-dresses and the three maidens flew away. The youth now returned home, but said nothing about his adventure. When the day set for the marriage arrived, he asked his father to prepare a feast; at midnight the princess arrived with her two attendants. All were supremely happy, but just before dawn, the young lady revealed to her husband that she must leave at once, because she was held in captivity by a troll who had slain her father and allowed her only a few hours of liberty at midnight. The three guests departed, the princess giving him a ring and her two attendants presenting him with two golden apples. Needless to say, the youth now felt very unhappy, and after a short time he left his home to search for his bride. One day he came across two giants fighting in the woods over a pair of boots which enabled the wearer to cover a hundred miles at every step. He persuaded the giants that the easiest way for them to settle their dispute would be to give him the boots, and he spoke so convincingly that they agreed to this suggestion. In the same way the youth acquired a cloak which rendered the wearer invisible and a sword which possessed such power that its point immediately killed anyone it touched but its hilt restored life to the dead. Delighted with his new possessions he journeyed onward, and came one night to the cot of an extremely old woman, who in return for his kind greeting promised to aid him in his search for the palace east of the sun and north of the earth. In the morning she summoned all the beasts, over which she ruled, and asked whether anyone of them knew this
palace. But no one had heard of it. The old lady then sent the youth to her sister, who held sway over the fishes, but they could not give him any information either. This lady directed him to another sister, who was the ruler of the birds. Here he learned that the phoenix knew of this palace, and the old lady commanded the bird to convey the young man thinner. It did so. As soon as it was midnight, the lad knocked at the gate of the palace, and gained admittance to the princess after he had identified himself by means of the golden apples and the ring that he had received as presents. In the morning, with the aid of the boots, cloak, and sword he killed all the trolls and restored to life the slain relatives of the princess. The young man then became their king.
In the Fitzwilliam Museum manuscript of Morris’s poem, the whole opening scene is very similar to that in the fairy tale. The two older sons, Roger and Hugh, were both unsuccessful in their watch over their father’s field; but the youngest boy, John, kept awake, and early in the morning saw three swans arrive in the meadow. When they removed their swanskins and began dancing, John realized at once that the fairest one was a queen, for on her skin lay a crown. He feel in love with this girl immediately, and stole her skin. When the maidens ceased dancing and discovered that one of the feather-dresses was gone, the queen sent her two attendants home, and remained in shame alone; she then burst into tears. At this point John came forth. She begged him to return the skin, promising as a reward to make him free if he was a thrall and to make him rich if he was poor. John, however, would not be satisfied with these fair words, and demanded that she promise to marry him. She looked
at him askance, noticing that he was fair; and remembering that it often happened that a fool’s heart beat in a king and that a king’s courage and nobility were frequently to be found in a man of low birth, she gave him her promise to marry him. She directed him to wait for ten days, and then to wish to be with her, and he would be transported at once to her land. Then they parted. He returned home, but did not mention his adventure. On the tenth day, following her instructions, he went into the woods, longed passionately for his love, and was immediately carried to a strange country, where he saw before him a royal palace roofed with gold. As he approached the castle, he found a river before him, guarded by huge dragons. He hesitated a moment but then plunged in, and reached the other bank untouched. At the gate of the palace he walked boldly by two lions, and in the doorway he passed unharmed through a fire that burned on the threshold. He then found his beloved seated on a dais surrounded by knights; she praised him for the courage he had shown in not being frightened at all these dangers, and commanded her chamberlains to give him clothes befitting a king.
Here now John passed many a day in perfect happiness, sitting on his throne judging wrong-doers, watching his soldiers engage in tilts, talking with his sailors about far-off lands, or kissing his fair lady in some lone garden. But amidst all his happiness he began to think of Norway, and one day he asked his queen whether it would not be possible for the two of them to visit his country. She replied that she could not accompany him thither, but that he might go alone, assuring him that when he saw the hunger and distress of his own land, he would soon realize how happy he had been with her.
As they parted, she gave him a ring, by the aid of which he could be transported to his father’s house by merely expressing a desire to be there. She also warned him not to wish for her, for then she would be compelled to come to him at once but would also be forced to leave him shortly thereafter forever, and he would no longer be a king. He now followed her directions, and soon found himself before his father’s house. As he approached his old home, he pulled down his hood; and meeting his father at the door, he asked for shelter, saying that his horse had been frightened away when he had alighted to adjust the stirrups. He sat down on the settle by the door, and sang an old song he had learned as a boy, and through this song his family recognized him. The next day John went to the town, bought a horse and a beautiful suit of armor, engaged in a tourney held by the king, and carried off the prize. The young Queen fell in love with him, and bidding him come to her chamber, offered him her love; when her fair words failed, she began to threaten him with death, but he firmly refused, declaring that he had already given his love away to a maiden much fairer than the Queen and finally in desperation uttering the forbidden wish that his beloved would come to him. In a flash his fairy lady stood before him. She told him that all their joy was now at an end, for she must go at once to the land which lies Eastward of the Sun and West of the Moon, and he would never see her again. Then she departed abruptly, and left John plunged in despair.
After a short time had passed, John wandered to the sea and found a dromond ready to sail, the master standing drinking the farewell toasts. The captain announced that he intended to sail to Dunwich, London, Calais Marseilles, and Scanderby in Africa, where
one can see many marvels, such as headless black men and war between birds and men, and from which one can travel “to westward of the moon.” At these last words John decided at once to accompany this skipper. After visiting the places named, the travellers finally arrived in Africa, and sailing up the Nile, came to a city beside and untrodden desert. In the evening John walked alone outside the city-gates, mourning over his loss, and came across two brothers quarrelling over the inheritance left them by their father; this inheritance consisted of a sword which could pierce anything made by a smith and at the same time was able to shield its wielder from all wounds, a pair of shoes which transported him who possessed them whithersoever he wished in a moment, and a cap which rendered the wearer invisible. As the brothers were fighting, John snatched up all three articles, and disappeared. Of course, he immediately wished to be East of the Sun and West of the Moon, and at once he stood in a marvellous land, where the woods were leafless and there was no grass,
But underneath red stones he saw
And emerald without a flaw.
And when he lifted up his face
Skyward, there ever in his place
The sun was set, nor moved at all,
Nor ever seaward did he fall.
And over against him was the moon
That moved not either late or soon.
For there was neither night nor day
But changeless was the light always.
On a river he saw strange ships of gold, manned by golden men with long red beards. On the land uncouth beasts with tongues striped with blue fed on the red pebbles. He soon came across a red and green tower in a garden, and entering, he found a king and a queen
seated on their throne, the king being all naked except for a crown and a heavy belt of rubies. John, wearing the cap of invisibility, approached them, and found that the queen, who was sobbing violently, was his beloved. As the king led her off to the bedchamber, John followed unseen, struck off the king’s head, snatched up a golden cup, gathered his lady in his arms, and wished to be back in his own country. Straightway he and his bride found themselves on a ness in Norway. That night they lay down together on a beech mast, their marriage-bed. The next day they brought the golden cup to the King of Norway as a gift; the King, in return for this present, granted them large estates, and John became a man of wealth and position.
In the published poem the opening scene of the tale itself is very similar to that in the early version and in Thorpe’s story. The two oldest sons, Thorolf and Thord, were unsuccessful in their watch over their father’s field; but John, the youngest, after an uneventful night, found in the early morning that seven white swans came down on the field, shed their skins, and became fair maidens. The description that follows of how John fell in love with one of these damsels and stold her skin is given here in much more detail than in the early version, the account here being more than twice as long. Even more expanded in the published poem is the scene between John and his lady, after others had flown away, when John won the love of the swan-maiden and she promised to remain faithful to him forever; this passage is almost four times as long here as in the Fitzwilliam Museum manuscript. The nature of the scene is also almost entirely different: all the passion, tenderness,
and emotion and the delicate dream-world atmosphere found in the final form are absent in the earlier draft.
From this point on, Morris has completely rewritten his tale. As soon as John and his lady had plighted troth to each other, he was transported directly to her land, where they lived for many years in complete happiness until John returned to his old home for a visit. Morris describes in a very touching manner John’s feelings on seeing all the well-known places again; this whole description is entirely lacking in the account of John’s visit to his home in the early poem. He reached the house just as the family was sitting down to dinner, and although he kept his identity unknown, he was at once invited to come in and partake of the food. He found everything as it had been, except for the fact that his brother Thord was newly married; and John soon became aware that Thorgerd, the bride, had now fallen in love with him. Later in the day, when the men had returned to work, John revealed to his mother, mainly by means of singing an old song, that he was her long-lost son. He now continued to live in his father’s house during the autumn and early winter; he longed desperately for his lady, and went every evening, as she had requested, to the meadow where they first had met to watch for any sign from her. In the meantime Thorgerd’s love for him grew greater and greater, but she was utterly unable to turn his thoughts to her. On Christmas Day, as he returned dejected from his watch in the meadow, he met Thorgerd, and thought for a moment that she was his lady; then, being plunged into despair when he realized his mistake, he forgot that he must not call upon her to come to him, and cried out,
“Would God that her beloved feet
Would bless our threshold this same night’.”1
He repented at once, but it was too late. That night amidst the feast she arrived, and all John’s kinsmen and friends marveled at the beauty of his bride. As it grew late, she drew him away to his chamber, and during the night he slept happily in her arms. Just before dawn she arove while he still slumbered, and amidst stifled sobs and sighs, she prayed that although she must now leave him, he would seek for her in the land which lies east of the sun and west of the moon. Then she slipped away into the night.
When John awoke and discovered his loss, he was of course overcome with despair, and rather than face his family and friends again, he rushed out at once into the snow to seek for her. He soon reached the sea, and early in the spring sailed on the first ship that left the harbor. For a long time he had faintly remembered something told him in a dream, but he could not recall the message exactly; now one morning when he awoke, he saw the pale moon just over the mast, while in the east the sun rose brightly over the horizon, and at once the phrase “East of the Sun, West of the Moon” came clearly into his mind. From that moment he knew where he must search for his love. But although he journeyed far and wide throughout the world, he never met anyone who knew of this land. Finally he found himself sailing over the Indian Ocean; and one night just as the sun was sinking in the west, he saw the moon over the mast, and again the well-known phrase flashed into his mind. That night the ship was wrecked in a storm, and he was washed ashore in a strange land. There he found a beautiful palace, inhabited by people who
1. Collected Works, V, 76.
did not speak either to him or to one another. In a separate chamber he came across his love, as she sat embroidering, but she too remained deaf to his greetings and gave no response to his caresses. At last he repeated the whole story of their love and of his search for her, and as he told how he remembered the words “East of the Sun, West of the Moon,” the spell broke, and she recognized him. From that time forth, as long as they lived, the two enjoyed supreme happiness there in her land.
If we compare Morris’s two versions of this tale, we see at once that the final, rewritten form is far superior in every way. In the early poem all the characters are vague and unreal; the action is not well motivated, and the movement of the plot is not always smooth and natural; many of the incidents are fantastic and even grotesque, and some are colorless conventionalities; the treatment of the whole story is singularly unimaginative, and throughout the poem we find no beautiful descriptive passages, no flashes of insight into character, and no tender, sympathetic portrayal of emotions and feelings. The whole work seems unusually dull and uninspired. In the published poem, however, the situation is just the opposite. Here the main characters, although by no means drawn in detail and fully developed, are not mere types like those found in the medieval romances, but are more individualized and more human. Again, Morris does not here introduce unusual or extraordinary adventures and scenes, but tries to make the action and setting as natural and realistic as possible. In the early poem, when John returned from his lady to his old home he bought a suit of armor and a horse, engaged in a tourney, and won the prize
and also the love of the young queen, who first requested with fair words and then demanded with threats that he become her paramour, - a scene very closely resembling the temptation of Lanval by Queen Guenevere in the Lai de Lanval by Marie de France; in the later version, however, Morris does not borrow any of the conventions of the medieval romances, for here on his visit home John quite simply and naturally awakened the love of his brother’s young bride Thorgerd, and it was through an unexpected meeting with her when his mind was especially occupied with thoughts of his love one that he was led to utter the fatal wish for his lady. Similarly, in the first version John finally reached the Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon and regained his beloved by means of the magic sword, shoes, and cap, but in the published poem Morris does not resort to any of the outworn supernatural devices, bringing John to the home of his fairy love by means of a storm which wrecks his ship and washes him ashore, unconscious, in a strange land. In the first draft Morris describes the country in which John finally discovers his princess as a place of extraordinary marvels: the hills are white but not with snow, the woods are leafless, the ground is not covered with grass but with red stones and emeralds, golden images with red beards reaching to their knees move slowly about, singing, on ships of gold, and golden people tend beasts with blue-striped tongues that feed upon the red pebbles. In the rewritten poem, however, Morris represents the place as being exceptionally beautiful but essentially natural, the only marvels being a tree that bears blossoms and fruit at the same time and the spell of silence which has been laid upon the inhabitants of the palace and
which is broken as soon as the princess recognizes John. Finally, in the rejected version John finds his love just as she is about to be married to a king, all naked except for a crown and a belt of rubies, from whom he rescues her by smiting off his head with the magic sword; in the other poem John discovers his lady as she sits embroidering, surrounded by her maidens, and he awakens her from her trance by reciting the story of their love. Furthermore, not only are the scenes and incidents in the rewritten poem more natural and more pleasing, but the whole story is told here with a wealth of imaginative detail that is especially delightful; I have already called attention to some of the most beautiful passages in my synopsis of the published tale. Moreover, there is a great difference in the attitude of the author toward his subject in the two poems: in the first one he seems to stand apart, showing but little interest in the fate of his characters, but throughout the second version of the story there runs a deep note of tenderness, sympathy, and warmheartedness. Because of all these differences, the original tale as compared with the revised form seems shadowy, vague, and utterly unreal, but the rewritten poem, even though it is purely a fairy story, takes on a human quality and an air of realism, and rouses the deepest interest and sympathy of the reader.
The reasons for this decided difference in Morris’s treatment of the same tale in these two poems are probably numerous. Perhaps he simply lacked inspiration when he wrote the first one. Again, he may have been too close to his sources to give free play to his imagination in the early version. Moreover, the improvements in the second form may merely have been the result of maturing poetical
powers. However, it is not at all unlikely that many of the changes noted above in the revised version – the tendency to avoid the introduction of fairy elements, the attempt to make the setting, characters, and episodes in the tale realistic and natural, and the revelation of a greater understanding of human nature and a deeper sympathy – were all to a great extent a definite result of Morris’s study of the Icelandic sagas in the original, and that these alterations were part of the general change from the method of the romance to that of the epic which, as I have already pointed out, took place in Morris’s creative writing after the fall of 1868. WE seem to have here in these two poems, one written almost certainly before his meeting with Magnússon and the other composed a little less than a year after he had begun reading Icelandic, an illustration of how even in the telling of the same story Morris’s style underwent a change as a result of his becoming acquainted with the saga literature of the North at first hand.
Apart from this change in the general nature of the tale, the growth in Morris’s knowledge of early Scandinavia is apparent in the increase in the number of Norse allusions in the second version. Not only was the whole framework of Gregory the Star-gazer and his dream with the references to King Magnus, Biorn, and Ladir added in the final form, but in the story itself most of the Scandinavian names and several of the allusions to early Scandinavia which I have already pointed out in the published poem, especially in the last part of the work, were inserted in the course of the revision. These added Norse allusions help, of course, to make the setting more realistic.
The other Scandinavian poem that was published in Volume III of The Earthly Paradise was “The Lovers of Gudrun,” a very lengthy tale in heroic couplets based on the central episode in the Laxdaela saga.1 This story is generally considered to be the best one in the whole collection in fact, it is considered by some critics to be one of the finest of all Morris’s literary productions. Apart from its own inherent value, the poem is noteworthy because it was through this work that many Englishmen of the nineteenth century made their first acquaintance with the Icelandic sagas; the publication of this poem was undoubtedly one of the most important factors contributing to the awakening of an interest in the literature of the North among English-speaking people in the second half of the last century. However, although Morris followed very closely the main events described in the saga, he told the story in an entirely different spirit from that found in the original, and many critics familiar with the sagas have resented Morris’s modernizing of the tale and have criticized him for his treatment. Sir Oliver Elton, for example, says of the poem in his Survey of English Literature,
It is a history that is better packed into a ballad, as the late Miss Barmby showed in her noble Bolli and Gudrun,2 than
1. Morris’s poem is based on Chapters XXVIII through LVI of the Laxdæla saga; there are also a few references to material in other chapters. As I have already stated, it is not definitely known which of the two editions of the Laxdæla saga in existence in 1869 (see Islandica, I(1908), 74-75) Morris used in preparing his poem, but it was very likely the edition printed at Copenhagen in 1826 that served as the basis of his work, for this book was in his library at his death (see below, p. 1002) and this edition, but not the other, includes “Húsdrápa,” which he used in his poem (see below, pp. 93-94).
2. Elton here inserts the following note: “In Gísli Súrsson, A Drama, etc., by Beatrice Helen Barmby (pref. by F. York Powell), 1900, pp. 128-9. In Sigurd metre, but only 22 lines. When will this author’s dramatization of Gísli Saga, in the title-poem of her book, cease to be smothered under the rubble-heap of contemporary verse?”
unfold into a long romance. A detailed comparison with the original1 shows how much nerve is lost, and how the characterization is weakened, in the process. The saga deals in a vicious close cut-and-thrust of dialogue; Morris loosens this, and sentences become speeches, and the words do not draw blood, although the incidents are respected and passages versified bodily. In recompense, there is always his diffused beauty of treatment, and much lovely ornamentation.2
Morris’s treatment of the original saga material has been very thoroughly examined and discussed in the second chapter of Thompson’s Skandinavischer Einfluss auf William Morris in den ersten Stadien (The Earthly Paradise).3 In order to indicate in some detail the nature of Morris’s changes, I shall call attention to the most important and interesting observations Thompson makes in this study, adding a few remarks of my own.
Thompson points out that Morris made slight alterations in the character and personality of some of the leading figures; he says, for example, “Gudrun erscheint naiver und schuldfreier, Bodli mehr von Leidenschaft getrieben und mehr wissentlich schuldig, und die Brüder Gudruns boschafter als im Original, diese Personen warden überhaupt am meisten verändert.”4 In the original saga, moreover, the characters as a rule do not reveal their feelings outwardly even in the slightest degree, but in Morris’s poem they are allowed to express their sorrow and grief openly:
S5: B. spricht ruhig mit G. über K. s Aufenthalt in Norwegen
1. Elton here inserts the following note: “See e.g. the dilutions of the Laxdæla Saga, ch. xxxiii. (swimming); ch. xlv. (Kiartan and Hrefna); and ch. xlix. (slaying of Kiartan): and the poet’s omissions in ch. xxxix. (Olaf’s bodings), and in ch. xlix. (the superb dialogue of Bolli and Gudrun). There is a translation of the saga by Muriel A. C. Press, 1906.”
2. IV, 40.
3. Pages 52-90.
4. Page 88.
5. In his dissertation Thompson uses “S” for the Laxdæla Saga, “M” for Morris’s “The Lovers of Gudrun,” “B” for Bodli, “G” for Gudrun, and “K” for Kiartan.
(M: Er nimst ihre Hand, worauf Freudentrånen seine Augen füllen). S: G. zeigt keine Erregung, hat aber ein sehr rotes Gesicht, als sie B. verlåsst. (S1: Sie weint.) S: Als K. von G.s Heirat hört, scheint er darüber nicht traurig zu sein. (M: er wird aufgeregt und bricht in Wehklagen aus)….S: G. spricht wenig mit B. über K.s Rückkehr, zeigt aber, dass sie unzufrieden ist (M: sie kommt zu B. in der Nacht, als er noch auf ist, überschüttet ihn mit Schimpfworten und verlässt ihn, ehe er ihr antworten kann).2
The most important change, however, that Morris made was the addition of psychological analysis of the characters; this literary device was utterly foreign to the sagas.
Alles in allem warden der Liebespsychologie Bodlis, ehe er nach Island zurückkehrt, mehr als 60 Zeilen und bis zu seiner Verheiratung mit Gudrun ca. 125 Zeilen gewidmet; G.s Liebespsychologie, entweder von dem Dichter berichtet oder von ihr selbst in Selbstgesprächen mitgeteilt, umfasst bis zu ihrer Verheiratung mit B. ca. 90 Zeilen; desgleichen bei K. bis zu seiner Rückkehr 30 Zeilen; bei Ingibiorg 45 Zeilen; K.s Gemütsstimmung(liebe, Sorge, Kummer), nachdem er zurückgekehrt ist, 172 Zeilen; bei G. nach K.s Rückkehr bis zu seinem Tod 102 Zeilen. . . . alles in allem umfasst die Psychologie der Personen ungefähr 940 Zeilen, das ist fast ein Fünftel des ganzen Gedichtes.3
Similarly, the style of the sagas was absolutely objective, the teller of the story never introducing his own opinion or his own interpretation of the events described; Morris, however, did not hesitate to insert his own reflections on a number of occasions:
Als B. die G. heiratet, macht der Dichter selber die Bemerkung, “so sprung the evil crop by evil sown”, womit er B.s Handlung vollständig verwirft; er nennt dies spatter die Ernte aus den Leidenschaften und den Lügen. Wiederum tritt seine Persönliche Lebensanschauung spricht er in den Worten aus: “I deem it that use and wont may raise the base, but somewhat abase those that are wise and noble”.4
Less important as far as the general tone of the poem is
1. This “S” is obviously a mistake for “M.”
2. Page 62.
3. Page 70.
4. Page 69.
concerned but nevertheless very interesting are the changes which Thompson shows that Morris made in his original for the apparent purpose of rendering certain scenes more effective from the modern point of view:
S: Guest trifft G. an der Quelle (M: Sie hört, dass er kommt, als sie im Hause sitzt, damit der Dichter ihr Bild in der Tür beschreiben kann). S: Als K. nach Island zurückkehrt, reitet sein Vater zu dem Schiff, um ihn zu empfangen (M: Olaf und seine Söhne waren damals nicht zu Hause, so dass einige Zeit vergeht, bovor K. sie sieht. Dadurch stellt der Dichter die Szene mit Refna mehr in den Vordergrund). . . . S: Der Kopfputz wird gestohlen, ehe Refna Gelegenheit hat, ihm beimfeste zu tragen (M: Sie traågt ihn beim Feste, damit der Dichter ihr Aussehen und die Wirkung auf die anderen schildern kann).1
Finally, it should be noted that Thompson points out here and there in his discussion that in developing the Scandinavian setting of his tale Morris occasionally introduced Norse allusions not found in his immediate source. Thus, for example, he writes,
Das Aussehen König Olafs (roter Bart, breite Schuldern, helle Augen) hat M. vielleicht auch Laings Heimskringla entommen; die Beschreibung past auf einen König Olaf, aber nicht auf Tryggveson, sondern auf seinen christlichen Nachfolger Olaf Haraldson. Dieser Fehler ist sehr leicht zu erklären, den die Geschichte von Haraldson folgt direct auf die Olaf Tryggvesons Saga in der Heimskringla. Hieraus stammt auch vermutlich die Auskunft über des Königs Langschiffe und über den Bischof. Das Christentum wurde im Island auf dem Thinghügel im Jahre 1000 n. Chr. angenommen. Über den Einfluss Grissurs und Hjaltis wird in Heimskringla berichtet; von Snorris Einfluss hat M. vielleicht in Mallet gelesen, auch von dem Gestez der Gastfreundschaft.2
With the stories of the Christianization of Iceland found in the Heimskringla and in Mallet’s Northern Antiquities Morris was very
1. Pages 64-65
2. Page 66. For a description of the King Olaf, see Collected Works, V, 290 and Heimskringla, tr. Laing, II, 2; and for references to the King’s longships, see Collected Works V, 292 and Heimskringla, tr. Laing, I, 441 and 456-458. In stating that Morris was indebted to the Heimskringla for his information about Bishop Thangbrand, Thompson evidently had in mind Morris’s reference to him as the “German bishop” (in Collected Works, V, 296), for the rest of Morris’s account of Thangbrand is to be found in the Laxdæla saga; for a statement in the Heimskringla that Thangbrand was German, see Heimskringla, tr. Laing, I, 441. For references to the Christianization of Iceland, see Collected Works, V, 300-301 and 314; Heimskringla, tr. Laing, I, 441-442, 453-454, and 465; and Mallet’s Northern Antiquities, pp. 310, 352, and 532. Thompson’s reference to “Grissur,” it should be pointed out, must be a mistake for “Gissur.”
likely familiar, as Thompson suggests, but these descriptions seem not to have been the only ones that Morris had in mind in referring to the event, for he mentions details not found in these sources.1 It was very likely the fuller account in Dasent’s translation of the Njáls saga2 which was the basis of Morris’s statement
that the Hill of Laws had heard
Sung through the clear air many a threatening word,
And seen the weapons gather for the fight;
Till Snorri’s wiles, Hall’s wisdom, Gizur’s might,
And fears of many men, and wavering doubt
On the worse side, had brought it so about
That now Christ’s faith was law to everyone.3
In another passage in his study4 Thompson points out that in the account of how Kiartan and his companions were summoned to appear before King Olaf Tryggvason in his council chamber Morris enlarged upon his original and made Bodli say that they must go, and
then, if the worse befall,
There can we die too, as in Atli’s Hall
The Niblungs fell,5
and that somewhat later in the story, when Ingibiorg, the King’s sister, parts with Kiartan and gives him a coif for Gudrun, Morris again departed from his source, representing Ingibiorg as saying that the headdress had been made by “folk of Micklegarth.”6 With indications that Morris was familiar with the story of the Volsungs and with the Norsemen’s visits to Micklegarth we have already met.7
1. Note, in Morris’s description, the references to the bitter dissent at the Thing, the preparations for battle, and “Hall’s wisdom.”
2. See I, xci-xcii and II, 76-80.
3. Collected Works, V, 314.
4. Page 70.
5. Collected Works, V, 295.
6. Ibid., V, 317.
7. See above, pages 22-23, 26, 28, and 37-38.
These are the only Scandinavian allusions inserted by Morris that Thompson notes. It is very surprising that he does not point out anywhere in his study that in the long description given in the poem of the paintings on the walls and ceiling of Olaf Peacock’s hall Morris drew not upon the Laxdæla saga but on the “Húsdrápa” of Ulfr Uggason. The saga refers very briefly to these paintings; in Chapter XXIX, in the account of the building of the hall, it states that “voru þar markadar á ágætar sögur á þili-vidinum ok sva á ræfrinu,”1 and at the end of the same chapter, in telling of the wedding-feast of Geirmundr and Thuridr, the saga further relates, “þar var at bodi Ulfr Uggason, ok hardi ort kvædi um Olaf Höskuldsson ok um sögun þær, er skrifader voru á eldhúsinu ok færdi hann þer at bodinu. þetta kvædi er kallst Hús-drápa ok er vel ort. Olafr launadi vel kvædit. . . .”2 Morris, however, describes the scene at great length:
For over the high-seat, in his ship there lay
The gold-haired Baldur, God of the dead day,
The spring-flowers round his high pile, waiting there
Until the Gods thereto the torch should bear;
And they were wrought on this side and on that,
Drawing on towards him. There was Frey, and sat
On the gold-bristled boar, who first they say
Ploughed the brown earth, and made it green for Frey.
Then came dark-bearded Niörd; and after him
Freyia, thin-robed, about her ankles slim
The grey cats playing. In another place
Thor’s hammer gleamed o’er Thor’s red-bearded face;
And Heimdall, with the gold horn slung behind,
That in the God’s dusk he shall surely wind,
Sickening all hearts with fear; and last of all
Was Odin’s sorrow wrought upon the wall,
As slow-paced, weary-faced, he went along,
Anxious with all the tales of woe and wrong
His ravens, Thought and Memory, bring to him.
1. Page 114.
2. Loc. cit.
Upon the other side, the deeds of Thor
Were duly done; the fight in the far sea
With him who rings the world’s iniquity,
The Midgard Worm; strife in the giants’ land,
With snares and mockeries thick on either hand,
And dealings with the Evil One who brought
Death even amid the Gods – all these well wrought
Did Guest behold. . . .1
The Húsdrápa,” which describes these paintings in much the same way and was obviously the source of Morris’s account, is reproduced with a Latin translation and commentary at the end of the edition of the Laxdæla saga that was published at Copenhagen in 1826.2 Very likely Morris used this edition of the saga, and became acquainted with the “Húsdrápa” through this work. He was of course already familiar with the incidents referred to in the poem, and it should be noted that in his description he enlarged upon the account in the “Húsdrápa,” supplementing the material presented there with information that he had gained from his reading of the Edda stories in Thorpe’s Northern Mythology and Mallet’s Northern Antiquities.3
In addition to this description Morris introduced a few other allsions to Norse mythology in developing the Scandinavian background of his poem, referring on three other occasions to Thor4 and twice to Odin.5 He also inserted two proverbs common in Icelandic, with which he head evidently become familiar in translating the Grettis saga – namely, “Old friends are last to sever”6 and “Bettered is bale by bale that follows it.”7 Finally, I should like
1. Collected Works, V, 263-264.
2. Pages 386-394.
3. See the Northern Mythology, I, 19, 21-22, 24-25, and 72-82, and the Northern Antiquities, pp. 417-419, 430, 446-449, and 452-453.
4. Collected Works, V, 343, 1.18 and 387, 11.16 and 19.
5. Ibid., V, 299, 1.1 and 374, 1.27.
6. Ibid., V, 358.
7. Ibid., V,394. For occurences of these proverbs in the Grettis saga, see Collected Works, VII, 200 and 116.
to point out that when in another passage Kiartan threatens to burn the hall at Bathstead and Morris represents him as exclaiming,
“Come out, I say,
Else o’er your roof the red cock crows to-day!”1
Morris seems again to be trying to add a Scandinavian touch to the poem. The use of this expression is of course by no means restricted to the Scandinavians, but that it was common among Northmen Morris must have learned from Thorpe’s Northern Mythology,2 and it may have been for this reason that he introduced it here.
Morris’s infusion of sentiment into the tale and his addition of psychological analyses are undoubtedly the most important changes made in this retelling of the tragic story of Gudrun, Kiartan, and Bolli. It is of course true that as a result of these alterations the original tale loses much of its force and vividness, as Sir Oliver Elton points out in the quotation presented above, but it must be admitted that Morris was to a certain extent justified in changing the story as he did, in order that he might be able to present it in The Earthly Paradise as one of the old tales told by the Wanderers to their Grecian hosts at the close of the fourteenth century and in order that he might make his poem more acceptable to the average modern reader. Miss May Morris, commenting on the necessity for these alterations, says of “The Lovers of Gudrun,”
. . . as one scene follows on another in the relentless drama, throughout the whole runs an undertone of pity and tenderness – the modern setting of this chronicle of passion that renders it more widely intelligible and sympathetic. It is doubtful whether the general English reader would ever have come to know well this splendid Saga, with its terse self-restraint, its grimly brief handling of the most poignant moments, without some introduction or modern comment. . . .The relation in which the story-teller of modern England is placed
1. Collected Works, V, 362.
2. See II, 7.
to his reader is of necessity different from that which held between the ancient Sagaman and his listeners, and involves a like difference in handling which is apparent in the English poem. In “The Lovers of Gudrun” the wildest and grimmest of the touches are softened or discarded and the writer allows himself some explanation of motive, where the Icelandic historian is able to trust almost entirely to the habit of mind of his audience for the interpretation of external things . . . .
So it is after a different fashion that our poet makes us feel the irony of things and the fate that broods over these passionate conflicting wills; but modern difference and all, the poem stands with the splendid things of the Saga unaltered, none the less impressive for having been brought into the “Earthly Paradise” atmosphere.1
The original manuscript of the first draft of “The Lovers of Gudrun” is now deposited in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, England;2 I have very carefully compared this manuscript with the
1. Collected Works, V, xxxi-xxxiii.
2. This manuscript, measuring 13 by 8 inches, is bound in three-quarters dark, brownish-green leather. On both the front and back covers is found the title “The Lovers of Gudrun”; the back, however, bears no lettering. On the inside of the front cover is pasted a slip of paper bearing the words
Sir Philip Burne-Jones, Bart.
and Mrs. Mackail
On the verso of the first flyleaf is written the following note, apparently in the hand of Sir Sydney Cockerell, the Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1920: “This MS. of the ‘Lovers of Gudrun,’ given by William Morris to Georgiana Burne-Jones, was presented to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, by her son and daughter, Philip Burne-Jones and Margaret Mackail. July 29th 1920.” On the recto of the second flyleaf the inscription “Georgie from W.M. April 15th 1870” is written in the upper right-hand corner, and on the other side of this page is the statement “This is the first copy of the poem with some of the alterations inserted: I wrote it in June 1869 William Morris.”
Most of the pages on which the poem is written out are blue lined foolscap; some of them, pages 13-27 and 32-86, are half an inch shorter than the others, and one small white paper, inserted between pages 16 and 17, measures 7 by 4[?] inches. Morris seems to have written out the poem in great haste. He completely disregarded the ruled lines, putting about sixty lines on a page. He used almost no punctuation of any kind; as a rule, however, he began each line with a capital letter. Frequently he drew flowers and scrolls in the margin. The poem is concluded on page 86; at the end he has written “Wednesday June 23d. 1869.”
published poem, and I have found, as Miss Morris did, “that some of the passages have been amplified, but there are not many alterations and except for two whole pages cancelled(greatly to the improvement of the poem) no serious ones; there is very little groping about or teasing into shape of the verse.”1 Some of the revisions Morris made are interesting, and deserve brief consideration.
The most extensive change Morris made was the cancellation, referred to above, of two whole pages at the very beginning of the episode headed “Tidings brought to Bathstead of Kiartan’s coming back.”2 In the passage struck out, which extended to ninety-five lines,3 Morris drew mainly for his material on the opening of Chapter XLIII of the Laxdæla saga; he described how, after Bodli had returned alone to Iceland, everyone began more and more to doubt that Kiartan would ever tear himself loose from King Olaf and his sister Ingibiorg in Norway, how Gudrun pined away, sometimes dreaming wildly that Kiartan would come back to her unwed, at other times raging at the thought that he would nevermore be hers, how her father and brothers were led to favor her marriage with Bodli because of the increase in power an alliance with the men of Herdholdt would give them, how Olaf
1. Collected Works, V, xxxiii-xxxiv.
2. It was placed directly after line 22 of this section.
3. In the manuscript it runs from page 46, line 34 to page 48, line 11.
tried in vain to dissuade his fosterson from seeking to marry Gudrun, and how the wedding was finally held, with little real pleasure to anyone, while all present wondered how Gudrun could have forgotten Kiartan in this way in only a year. After Morris had written this passage, he seems to have felt dissatisfied with it, for he cancelled it completely; then he rewrote the account of the actual wedding-feast, but said nothing about the reasons which led Gudrun to agree to the marriage, although he had made only very vague references to this matter earlier in the story. Undoubtedly, as Miss Morris says in one of the quotations presented above, the original passage in the manuscript was cancelled “greatly to the improvement of the poem.” In the saga, which aims to present a cross section of life as it actually is, without any very great manipulation of events or scenes for the sake of artistic effectiveness, a detailed account of the circumstances leading to Bodli’s wedding is of course absolutely essential; in Morris’s poem, however, where exactly the opposite method is followed and where the actual incidents and details of the story are rearranged, developed, dropped, or subordinated by the narrator according to what he considers the most effective presentation, there is a distinct gain in omitting a description of these details, for not only is the whole passage dull and uninteresting but the very omission of any direct account of how Gudrun was led to yield to Bodli’s suit makes the marriage itself seem more pitiable and dreadful.
Much later in the poem we find two long passages which Morris left uncancelled in the manuscript of the first draft but which he either rejected or entirely rewrote when he revised the tale. One of these occurs in the very moving description of how Kiartan’s body, after he had been slain by Bodli, was carried to Bathstead, while Bodli, overcome with grief and shame, plodded wearily behind; at this point in the manuscript Morris seems to have been carried away by the pathos and tragedy of the story he was retelling, for he bursts out into a very touching lament over the unworthiness he feels in attempting to describe the actions and feelings of these truly great and noble men.1 These lines are exceedingly interesting, for they reveal very vividly how deeply Morris’s feelings were aroused by this ancient tale.
O ye who hearken as unto the end
I draw of this strange woful history,
A little now I pray you pardon me
My stammering tongue unfit to deal with love,
Unfit to deal with the great thoughts that move
The hearts of great men, for so must I drag down
Their souls unto the level of mine own.
My little longings cling about their lives,
My little fluttering hope that feebly strives
Amidst my life of foolish pettiness
To gain from out the dark some faint redress
Of my life’s vanity, bears to earth again
Their soaring vision that saw heaven so plain.
Great men beloved were these, though in cold verse
And petty do I tell about the curse
They struggled with and fell beneath at last,
That they might please us….2
1. The cancelled passage comes directly after line 13, page 382 of Collected Works, V. In the manuscript it is found on page 79, lines 27-43.
2. Practically all the punctuation in this passage is mine; the only marks of punctuation in the manuscript are a dash after “plain” in line 13 and a comma after “last” in line 16. I should also like to point out that “ye” in line 1 is “Ye” in the manuscript, and “and” in line 16 is “&” in the manuscript.
This passage is completely omitted in the printed poem; it was of course only natural that Morris should realize, when soberly revising the tale, that these personal remarks of the author not only unduly interrupt the action but also have no place whatever in the retelling of a saga-story.
The other passage I referred to occurs only a few pages later in the account of the proceedings in the hall at Herdholt in the evening of the day on which Kiartan was slain. In the published poem Morris tells us that on that night Olaf Peacock sat in his hall, with tears in his eyes, surrounded by his family and friends, that as his gaze fell on Kiartan’s empty seat, he bade them all drink to the memory of “the best man Iceland ever knew,” that threats were muttered against the slayer of Kiartan, that Refna came in, pale-faced, and sat down beside Olaf, and that finally Thorgerd threw a sword upon the table, vowing that Bodli would be slain in revenge, even if she must do the deed herself.1 In the manuscript Morris leads up to Thorgerd’s vow to avenge Kiartan in an entirely different way. According to the manuscript account, as Olaf sat dejected in his hall, he asked the “masspriest” whether there was not any story in the Bible of a man who lost his son, whereupon the priest related the tale of David and Absalom; and when he came to the end and told how David at the news of the death of his son exclaimed, “O Absalom, my son, my son, would God I had died for thee,” Thorgerd rose, threw a sword on the table,
1. See Collected Works, V, 385, 1.26-387, 1.22.
and cried that if all the old gods had departed from the land, she, Thorgerd, had not gone, and she would avenge Kiartan.1 Perhaps Morris originally introduced this allusion to David and Absalom because he wished to make the acceptance of Christianity by the Icelanders, which had been described earlier in the poem, seem more real. He had already made Bodli say, when Oswif praised him for his courage in not hiding after he had killed Kiartan,
“Nay, I am not beguiled
To hope for speedy death; is it not told
How that Cain lived till he was very old?”2
This remark, which is not to be found in the original saga either, Morris retained when he revised the poem, but the reference to David and Absalom he completely omitted when he rewrote the account of the scene in the hall, probably feeling that the sharp contrast between the new Christian and the old Pagan outlook upon life in the manuscript passage, effective as it was, was somewhat too artificial and improbable. There can be no doubt that the account in the published poem is much more in harmony with the spirit of the rest of the story and at the same time is more moving, with its simple description of the grief of Olaf and Refna for Kiartan.
In addition to these changes there are a few other less important alterations in the manuscript and in the printed text which I should like to mention. It is very interesting to note, for example, that many of those passages in which Morris departs most
1. The cancelled passage extends in the manuscript from page 81, line 48 to page 82, line 23.
2. Collected Works, V, 384.
widely from the spirit of his original in the introduction of sentiment are not in the first draft. Thus, in the description of Gudrun’s feelings when she awoke on the morning of the day set for the slaying of Kiartan, we do not find in the manuscript the following lines from the published poem:
And then she thought of Refna’s longing eyes,
And to her face a dreadful smile did rise
That died amidst its birth, as back again
Her thoughts went to the tender longing pain
She once had deemed a sweet fair day would end;
And therewith such an agony did rend
Her body and soul, that all things she forgat
Amidst of it; upon the bed she sat
Rigid and stark, and deemed she shrieked, yet made
No sound indeed; but slowly now did fade
All will away from her, until the sun
Risen higher, on her moveless body shone,
And as a smitten thing beneath its stroke
She shrank and started, and awhile awoke
To hear the tramp of men about the hall.1
At the end of this episode, the long, detailed, and very moving description in the printed text of Bodli’s passionate farewell to Gudrun and his departure from Bathstead with her rude brothers for the purpose of waylaying Kiartan – an account which extends here to forty-nine lines2 – is the result of the expansion of a passage only fifteen lines long in the manuscript.3 The original description, it should be noted, is almost entirely a mere statement of fact. Similarly, part of the account of Gudrun’s wild despair when Kiartan’s body was borne away from Bathstead is not found in the first draft.4
In some cases the revisions in the printed text represent
1. Collected Works, V, 369.
2. See ibid., V, 370, 1.25-372, 1.4
3. See page 74, lines 27-41.
4. Lines 24b-35 in Collected Works, V, 389 are omitted in the manuscript.
corrections. Thus, according to the manuscript, when the idea of going abroad first occurred to Kiartan, he went to Oswif to learn the truth of the reports from Norway that Olaf Tryggvason was waging war against the sons of Grunhild,1 and a little later we are told that he heard that Gunnhild’s sons had been driven from the land and that Olaf had become king.2 Here Morris has become slightly confused about certain facts in the early history of Norway, for it was not from the sons of Gunnhild but from Earl Hakon, son of the powerful Earl Sigurd of Ladir, that Olaf Tryggvason won the country. In the published poem these mistakes have been corrected, the name “Hakon” having been substituted for “the sons of Gunnhild” in the two passages to which I just referred.3 Similarly, later in the tale Morris relates in the printed version that when Bodli sailed from Norway to return to Iceland, Kiartan exclaimed to his foster-brother,
“This is the best face I have seen on thee
Since first our black oars smote the Burgfirth sea.”4
In the first draft Morris incorrectly wrote “the Broadfirth Sea” instead of “the Burgfirth sea.”5 Very likely these errors were pointed out to Morris by Magnússon.
Rather surprising are two cases in which Morris seems to depart deliberately from the facts of the saga in his revisions. At the very opening of the story we are told in the published poem that
Bathsread its roof did raise
Seven miles from Herdholt….6
1. This passage occurs in the manuscript page 22, lines 17-19.
2. This statement is given in the manuscript, page 23, lines 2-6.
3. See Collected Works, V, 281, 11.5-7 and 282, 11.10-14.
4. Ibid., V, 302.
5. See the manuscript, page 34, line 50.
6. Collected Works, V, 252.
The actual distance between the two farms is approximately fifteen miles, and in the manuscript we find that Morris originally correctly wrote “fifteen” instead of “seven” in this passage.1 There is no statement in the Laxdæla saga as to how far Bathstead is from Herdholdt; very likely Morris had learned of the distance from Magnússon when they were reading the saga. His reason for departing from the facts was perhaps that he felt that if he represented the two farms as being only seven miles apart, he would make the frequent visits of Kiartan to Bathstead and the otherwise intimate relations between the two families seem more probable. More puzzling is the other change referred to. In the manuscript when Morris enumerates the members of Olaf’s family, he says,
Two maids Bergthora, Thorbiorg there were.2
This statement is correct according to the account in the saga.3 In the published version, however, he writes,
Two maidens, Thurid, Thorbiorg there were.4
The reason for the substitution of “Thurid” for “Bergthora” is not apparent.
The two Scandinavian tales in Volume III of The Earthly Paradise met with almost unqualified approval in the reviews of the time. Most of the critics considered the two poems the best in the volume, - if not the best so far in the whole collection. Concerning “The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon,” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine said that of all the tales in the volume this “is
1. Page 1, line 25.
2. Page 1, line 18.
3. Laxdæla Saga, p. 108.
4. Collected Works, V, 251.
the most charming in its lingering wistful sweetness.”1 The Atlantic Monthly stated that the “poem is full of tender and beautiful passages, - sensuous often, but pure as the white nakedness of marble, - and is written in the octosyllabic rhyme-verses, which are often managed so happily by Mr. Morris, especially in his effective modulations and skilful use of pauses.”2 Speaking of the “dreamy, sweet, and sad” passages in the tale, the reviewer in the Galaxy pointed out that they
seem all the more dreamy and delicious because of the clear, precise, deeply-tinted realism with which every landscape, figure, and object in the poem is described, and which compels us to see the strange sights and forms in the wondrous land that lies east of the sun and west of the moon as distinctly as if our own feet had trodden there a familiar region.3
The critic in the Spectator voiced a slight dissatisfaction with the poem: “We confess to certain misgivings about ‘The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon.’ It is a region almost too dreamy and misty for living men to walk in; we lose ourselves in rambling melodies, and are oppressed with the vagueness of everlasting twilight.”4 This criticism, however, is by no means severe.
As is to be expected, the reviewers were more lavish in their praise of “The Lovers of Gudrun.” The Atlantic Monthly said of it,
But of all the poems in this new volume, it is in “The Lovers of Gudrun” that we are made to feel that we are in the presence of assured flesh and blood and the hearts of men and women with real personality and characters, and it is here, we think, Mr. Morris touches us most surely. . . .It is written in the simpler heroic rhymed verse, and is generally straightforward and vigorous, not wearying us with languid monotones, as do many of the long poems in stanzas whose lines are too often oppressive with monosyllables.5
1. CVIII(1870), 645.
2. XXV(1870), 751.
3. IX(1870), 570.
4. XLIII1(1870), 333.
5. XXV(1870), 751.
The Atheneæum felt that “in regard to his mastery in tragic narrative and his power over emotion” this work was “the highest achievement in the book.”1 The critic in the Spectator was the most lavish in his praise, and was at the same time the most specific:
The tale is broken up into several sections, and a careful judgment is shown in keeping the less important parts of the narrative at their proper level, as well as in handling and distributing the stronger effects. Mr. Morris had not hitherto shown himself capable of this reserve and discretion, which enhance the impression made by the exercise of an unwonted force. Here, too, is seen in free play that fresh and simple delight in life which contributes so much to the charm of both the Earthly Paradise and Jason. Elsewhere it is well nigh stifled at times in very luxuriance of description, for which there is here little or no place. But the tragic passages of this tale disclose the powers of which the author’s former work had given no sign. The events are brought on by the working of an inevitable doom, and they are told in a way to remind us of the horror subdued by divine awe that pervades the Æschylean drama.2
Only two contemporary notices that I have seen offered any adverse criticism at all. One appeared in the Galaxy; the writer of this review, however, failed to explain and substantiate the first part of his criticism, and the second fault he found with the poem, the scarcity of “tender, spiritual, melodious passages,” is, as the reviewer himself admitted, inherent in the tale.
But as a story it is not artistically constructed, and it has fewer than any other of those tender, spiritual, melodious passages which one delights to read over and over again. The drear Northern atmosphere is all around it; the genius loci makes his presence felt everywhere; and this, undoubtedly a striking artistic merit, yet renders the story less fascinating and delightful than the poems which are warmed by a brighter sun and fanned by more genial airs.3
In a review in the Academy G. A. Simcox pointed out what he considered an inconsistency in the poem:
1. No. 2200(Dec. 25, 1869), 868.
2. XLIII1(1870), 333.
3. IX(1870), 570.
Before leaving the subject of Mr. Morris’s relation to the sources which serve as food to his rare and peculiar inspiration, we may be permitted to express a doubtful regret that while he has dwelt with equal emphasis on each of the four stages of Gudrun’s Dream, he has dismissed the fourth stage of her life, which serves to interpret the dream, with only a hurried and perfunctory mention. If this violation of obvious symmetry is really a fault, it may easily be forgiven to the poet who has transformed one of the least artistic of the Norse sagas into one of the completest of English poems.1
Simcox’s criticism of Morris for not having described in more detail Gudrun’s marriage with Thorkel seems to me entirely unjustified, for in the poem all the interest centers in the unfulfilled love of Kiartan and Gudrun, and any extended account of Gudrun’s life after the death of Kiartan would be entirely out of place. Finally, before leaving these contemporary criticisms, I should like to point out that it is rather surprising that none of the reviews examined raised the slightest objection against Morris’s failure to preserve the grim reserve, the lack of sentiment, and the terseness of expression of the original tale. Most likely very few of the writers of these criticisms knew the sagas at first hand.2
In only two cases do we find references to Scandinavian matters in the links between the various tales in Volume III of The Earthly Paradise. The first is a mere allusion to Micklegarth in the passage in which Rolf, the captain of the Wanderers, introduces his story “The Man who Never Laughed Again” and recalls how he first heard the tale when his father was a member of the
1. I(1869-1870), 122.
2. Of the reviewers quoted above, only the last one, G.A. Simcox, reveals any familiarity with the original saga. For other reviews of these two poems in the contemporary periodicals, see the Eclectic Magazine, LXXIV, New Series(1870), 437-440; the London Quarterly Review, XXXVI(1871), 252; and the Edinburgh Review, CXXXIII(1871), 258-264. The author of this last review expresses great dissatisfaction with “The Lovers of Gudrun.” He seems to have failed utterly to understand the thoughts and feelings which underlie the actions of the main characters, and besides, he makes no allowances for the state of society in Iceland at the time of the tale. However, the faults he finds do not concern us here, for they are inherent in the original saga and are not the result of Morris’s adaptation.
Varangian Guard.1 Later, when one of the other mariners is about to relate the story “The Lovers of Gudrun,” we are given a beautiful and sympathetic description, thirty-four lines long, of Iceland and its people.2 Here as in the published prologue to his translation of the Grettis saga, Morris dwells on the contrast between the barrenness and roughness of the land and the nobility and courage of the men and women who lived there long ago. The passage opens up with the lines,
Then spake a Wanderer: “Long the tale I tell,
Though in few years the deeds thereof befell,
In a strange land and barren, far removed
From southlands and their bliss; yet folk beloved,
Yearning for love, striving ‘gainst change and hate,
Strong, uncomplaining, yet compassionate,
Have dwelt therein …”3
It is interesting to note that Morris considered it worth while to interrupt his description with the statement that the tale that was to follow was historically true; he probably thought it expedient to inform his readers beforehand that the story they were about to read was of a totally different nature from the other poems in the collection, all of which were based on legends or fairy tales. He says,
“…know withal that we
Have ever deemed this tale as true to be,
As thought those very Dwellers in Laxdale,
Risen from the dead had told us their own tale.”4
With these remarks I shall conclude my comments on the Scandinavian elements in the third volume of The Earthly Paradise.
As I have stated before, Part Three was published at the end
1. Collected Works, V, 157.
2. Ibid., V, 250, 11.1-34
3. Loc. cit.
4. Loc. cit.
of 1869. During the late fall of this year and the early winter of the next, Morris was engaged in a number of undertakings, most of which reflected in one way or another his interest in Scandinavia. Thus, as I have already pointed out, he was at work during this time on a translation of the Völsunga saga and of the heroic lays of the Poetic Edda.1 There is also reason to believe, as I shall show presently, that it was now that he composed “The Fostering of Aslaug,” the only Scandinavian poem he included in the last volume of The Earthly Paradise, which appeared a year later.2 Moreover, he seems at this time to have begun turning Norse ballads into English; the manuscript of his rendering of “Hafbur og Signe” is dated February 4, 1870.3 Finally, it should be noted that in February of 1870 he resumed the production of illuminated manuscripts; during the next four or five years he spent almost all of his leisure time at this work, turning out a surprisingly large number of illuminated manuscripts both of his own original compositions and translations and of the works of other authors.4 A great many of these manuscripts were copies of his Icelandic saga-renderings, and are of great interest for this study. These works and his ballad translations I shall discuss in detail in the next chapter, when I describe the Scandinavian work Morris carried on in the years 1871 to 1876.5
On March 12, 1870 Morris wrote in a letter, “I have been hard
1. See above, page 63-64.
2. See below, pages 120-121.
3. See H. Halliday Sparling, The Kelmscott Press and William Morris Master-Craftsman (London: Macmillan and Co., 1924), p. 149.
4. See Collected Works, IX, xviii-xxxi and Aymer Vallance, William Morris: His Art His Writings and His Public Life(London, 1897), p. 379-383.
5. See below, pages 147-175 and 179-189.
at work, but have not done much except the translations as they are rather pressing now, and I want to get all my Volsung work done this week….Ned1 came to see me Sunday; I read him my stanzas for the Volsunga and he thought them good.”2 Morris and Magnússons’s rendering of the Völsunga saga was “through the press by April 1870,”3 and was published the next month.4
In the volume the two collaborators offered to the public, the translation is provided with a great deal of introductory and supplementary material for the benefit of the general reader. First we find a short Preface, in which the two translators express their admiration for the saga and their surprise that it has not hitherto been turned into English, saying that “this is the great story of the North, which should be to all our race what the Tale of Troy was to the Greeks….”5 Morris and Magnússon also call attention here to the ten heroic lays from the Poetic Edda which they have rendered wholly or in part and have added at the end of their version of the Völsunga saga, describing the relation of each one to the story as it is told in the saga; they also point out three cases in which they have inserted passages from the Poetic Edda in the translation proper.6 Then follows a list of “The Names of Those who are most Noteworthy in this Story.” Next comes “A Pro-
1. “Ned” is Edward Burne-Jones.
2. Mackail, William Morris, I, 209.
3. Forman, Books of William Morris, p. 65.
4. Mackail, op. cit., I, 208.
5. Collected Works, VII, 286.
6. In the Notes at the end of the whole work (see ibid., VII, 481, 11. 27-29), they call attention to a fourth passage inserted from the Edda which they seems to have forgotten to mention in the Preface.
logue in Verse” by Morris, consisting of six stanzas in rhyme royal; in these lines Morris describes how this beautiful old tale, dealing only with events which brought disaster, despair, and woe to those involved, has become to us through the passage of many centuries a means of diversion and entertainment,
so we awhile
with echoed grief life’s dull pain may beguile.1
To this attitude toward the legends of old Morris gives expression again and again throughout his writings.2 Directly after this “Prologue” comes the translation of the saga itself. At the end Morris and Magnússon placed “Certain Songs from the Elder Edda, which Deal with the Story of the Volsungs,” then a few notes, and finally an “Alphabetical List of Persons, Places, and Things in the Story.”
The two translators do not state which edition of the Völsunga saga they used in the main part of their rendering or which text of the Poetic Edda served as the basis of their English version of the heroic lays which they added to the tale. However, a comparison of the translation with the texts available of the two works indicates that they used the edition of the Völsunga saga in Fornaldar Sögur Nordrlanda and the text of the Sæmundar Edda issued by Svend Grundtvig.3 The rendering of the saga follows the original
1. Collected Works, VII, 289.
2. See, for example, the cancelled lines quoted above on page 99 from the first draft of “The Lovers of Gudrun” and the stanzas in the illuminated manuscript of the Eyrbyggja saga translation (in Mackail, op. cit., I, 263-264.).
3. According to Islandica, V(1912), 45, there were four editions of the Völsunga saga available in 1869: the text in Nordiska Kämpa Dater, ed. Erik J. Björner (Stockholm, 1737), No. 13; the text in the Altnordische Sagen und Lieder, ed. Friedrich H. von der Hagen (Breslau, ), pp. 17-118; the text in Fornalder Sögur Nordrlanda, ed. C[arl] C. Rafn (Copenhagen, 1829-1830), I, 113-234; and the text in Norrone Skrifter af Sagnhistorisk Indhold, ed. Sophus Bugge (Christiana, 1864-1873), II, 83-192. A comparison of Morris and Magnússon’s rendering
very closely except for the inserted verses to which I have
(continuation of note 3 on page 111) of the Völsunga saga with these texts makes it almost certain that the translators followed the text in Fornaldar Sögur Nordrlanda. Compare, for example, the following lines in the Fornaldar Sögur with the corresponding lines in the other editions and in the rendering: I, 115, 1.2; 115, 11.4-5; 115, 1.8; 115, 1.10; 115, 1.15; 116, 1.2; 116, 1.11; 116, 1.13; 116, 1.20; 116, 1.26; 118, 1.10; 131, 1.10; and 131, 11.14-15. I should also like to point out that a copy of the Fornaldar Sögur was found in Morris’s library at his death (see below, page 1000).
According to Islandica, XIII(1920), 1-5, the following editions of the whole or of the greater part of the Poetic Edda had appeared by 1870: Edda Sæmundar hinns fróða (Copenhagen, 1787-1828); Lider der älteren oder samundischen Edda, ed. Friedrich H. von der Hagen (Berlin, 1812); Lieder der alten Edda, edd. the Grimm Brothers (Berlin, 1815); Edda Sæmundar hinns fróða, ed. Erasmus C. Rask and Arv[id] A. Afzelius (Holmia, 1818); Den Ældre Edda, ed. P[eter] A. Munch (Christiania, 1847); Die Edda, ed. Hermann Lüning (Zürich, 1859); Edda Sæmundar hinns fróða, ed. Theodor Möbius (Leipzig, 1860); Norrœn Fornkvæði, ed. Sophus Bugge (Christiana, 1867); and Sæmundar Edda hinns fróða; ed. Svend Grundtvig (Copenhagen, 1868). I have not collected all of Morris’s Eddic translations with the texts in these editions, but in those cases in which I have compared the rendering with the texts available, it seems almost certain that Morris was following Grundtvig. Thus a comparison of the following words or passages in Grundtvig’s edition with the corresponding words or passages in the translation and in the other texts indicates that the English version was based on Grundtvig: p. 128, col. 2, 11.21-32 (note the order); p. 129, col. 2, 1.20 (“svaran”); p. 142, col. 2, 1.21 (“saefang”); p. 153, col. 1, 11.18-21; and p. 154, col. 1, 11.1-6. Moreover, in a footnote (in Collected Works, VII, 437), Magnússon and Morris state, in commenting on a difficult passage, that the “original has ‘a við less.’” This reading is found in exactly this form only in Grundtvig. However, the translation occasionally departs from Grundtvig’s text. In Collected Works, VII, 410, 1.33, Morris and Magnússon write,
Adrad was Gunnar,
but Grundtvig (on p. 128, col. 2, 1.1) has
Hryygr varð Gunnar.
Moreover, all the other editions have “Reiþr” as the regular reading. Again, in Collected Works, VII, 410, 11.1-6, Morris and Magnússon omit two lines inserted in Grundtvig’s text; it so happens that these lines are omitted in some of the other editions, but Morris and Magnússon do not seem to have been here following any of these other editions either, for all of them adopt a different stanzaic division at this point. Very likely these discrepancies are merely the result of changes that Morris and Magnússon made on their own authority in Grundtvig’s text. Finally, I should like to point out that Grundtvig’s edition of the Poetic Edda was in Morris’s library at his death (see below, page 1006); two other Edda texts were also found in Morris’s library in 1896, the one printed at Copenhagen between 1767 and 1828 and the one edited by Bugge in 1867.
already referred. It ends with the account of the slaying of Hamdir and Sorli, who had been sent by Gudrun, their mother, to the land of King Jormunrek to avenge the death of Swanhild; it does not include the story of Heimir and Aslaug, the daughter of Sigurd and Brynhild, which most editors of the Völsunga saga insert as the last chapter. The reason for this omission, according to a statement made by Magnússon many years later, was that he and Morris “had considered it to belong rightly to the Ragnar Lodbrok saga”;1 the two sagas are found together in the same manuscript, the Ragnars saga loðbrókar being given as a continuation of the other one.2
The heroic lays included in the rendering of the Völsunga saga were not the only Eddic poems translated by Morris. In the Preface to Volume VII of the Collected Works, Miss Morris prints two others, “Baldur’s Dream” and “The Lay of Thrym,” which she says were prepared at this time,3 and in her William Morris: Artist Writer Socialist, she presents an unrevised rendering of the “Voluspá,” which she states she found among her father’s manuscripts
1. Collected Works, VII, xxxii.
2. See Finnur Jónsson, Den Oldnorske og Oldislandske Litteraturs Historie (2nd ed.; Copenhagen: G.E.C. Gads Forlag, 1920-1924), II, 826.
3. Pages xx-xxxii.
 at work, but have not done much except the translations as they are ather pressing now, and I want to get all my Volsung work done this week.,…Ned1 came to see me Sunday; I read him my stanzas for the Volsunga and he thought them good.”2 Morris and Magnússon’s rendering of the Vőlsunga saga was “through the press by April 1870,”3 and was published the next month.4
In the volume the two collaborators offered to the public, the translation is provided with a great deal of introductory and supplementary material for the benefit of the general reader. First we find a short Preface, in which the two translators express their admiration for the saga and their surprise that it has not hitherto been turned into English, saying that “this is the great story of the North, which should be to all our race what the Tale of Troy was to the Greeks….”5 Morris and Magnússon also call attention here to the ten heroic lays from the Poetic Edda which they have rendered wholly or in part and have added at the end of their version of the Vőlsunga saga, describing the relation of each one to the story as it is told in the saga; they also point out three cases in which they have inserted passages from the Poetic Edda in the translation proper.6 Then follows a list of “The Names of Those who are most Noteworthy in this Story.” Next comes “A Pro-
- “Ned” is Edward Burne-Jones.
- Mackail, William Morris, I, 209.
- Forman, Books of William Morris, p. 65.
- Mackail, op. cit., I, 208.
- Collected Works, VII, 286.
- In the Notes at the end of the whole work (see ibid., VII, 481, 11.27-29), they call attention to a fourth passage inserted from the Edda which they seem to have forgotten to mention in the Preface.
 logue in Verse” by Morris, consisting of six stanzas in rhyme royal; in these lines Morris describes how this beautiful old tale, dealing only with events which brought disaster, despair, and woe to those involved, has become to us through the passage of many centuries a means of diversion and entertainment,
so we awhile
with echoed grief life’s dull pain may beguile.1
To this attitude towards the legends of old Morris gives expression again and again throughout his writings.2 Directly after this “Prologue” comes the translation of the saga itself. At the end Morris and Magnúson placed “Certain Songs from the Elder Edda, which Deal with the Story of the Volsungs,” then a few notes, and finally an “Alphabetical List of Persons, Places, and Things in the Story.”
The two translators do not state which edition of the Vőlsunga saga they used in the main part of their rendering or which text of the Poetic Edda served as the basis of their English version of the heroic lays which they added to the tale. However, a comparison of the translation with the texts available of the two works indicates that they used the edition of the Vőlsunga saga in Fornaldar Sőgur Nordrlanda and the text of the Sa͜emundar Edda issued by Svend Grundtvig.3 The rendering of the saga follows the original
- See, for example, the cancelled lines quoted above on page 99 from the first draft of “The Lovers of Gudrun” and the stanzas in the illuminated manuscript of the Eyrbyggja saga translation (in Mackail, op. cit., I, 263-264).
- According to Islandica, V (1912), 45, there were four editions of the Vőlsunga saga available in 1869: the text in Nordiska Kämpa Dater, ed. Erik J. Bjőrner (Stockholm, 1737), No. 13; the text in Altnordische Sagen und Lieder, ed. Friedrich H. von der Hagen (Breslau,  ), pp. 17-118; the text in Fornaldar Sőgur Nordrlanda, ed. C[arl] C. Rafn (Copenhagen, 1829-1830), I, 113-234; and the text in Norrone Skrifter af Sagnhistoriak Indhold, ed. Sophus Bugge (Christiania, 1864-1873), II, 83-192. A comparison of Morris and Magnússon’s rendering
 very closely except for the inserted verses to which I have
(Continuation of note 3 on page 111) of the Vőlsunga saga with these texts makes it almost certain that the translators followed the text in Fornaldar Sőgur Nordrlanda. Compare, for example, the following lines in the Fornaldar Sőgur with the corresponding lines in the other editions and in the rendering: I, 115, 1.2; 115, 11.4-5; 115, 1.8; 115, 1.10; 115, 1.15; 116, 1.2; 116, 1.11; 116, 1.13; 116, 1.20; 116, 1.26; 118, 1.10; 131, 1.10; and 131, 11.14-15. I should also like to point out that a copy of the Fornaldar Sőgur was found in Morris’s library at his death (see below, page 1000).
According to Islandica, XIII (1920), 1-5, the following editions of the whole or of the greater part of the Poetic Edda had appeared by 1870: Edda Sa͜emundar hinns fróða (Copenhagen, 1787-1828); Lider der alteren oder Sämundischen Edda, ed. Friedrich H. von der Hagen (Berlin, 1812); Lieder der alten Edda, edd. The Grimm Brothers (Berlin, 1815); Edda Sa͜emundar hinns fróða, edd. Erasmus C. Rask and Arv[id] A. Afzelius (Holmis, 1818); Den A͜Eldre Edda, ed. P[eter] A. Munch (Christiania, 1847); Die Edda, ed. Hermann Lűning (Zűrich, 1859); Edda Sa͜emundar hins fróða, ed. Theodor Mobius (Leipzig, 1860); Norroen Fornkva͜eði, ed. Sophus Bugge (Christiania, 1867); and Sa͜emundar Edda hins fróða, ed. Svend Grundtvig (Copenhagen, 1868). I have not collated all of Morris’s Eddic translations with the texts in these editions, but in those cases in which I have compared the rendering with the texts available, it seems almost certain that Morris was following Grundtvig. Thus a comparison of the following words or passages in Grundtvig’s edition with the corresponding words or passages in the translation and in the other texts indicates that the English version was based on Grundtvig: p. 126, col. 2, 11.21-32 (note the order); p. 129, col. 2, 1.20 (“avaran”); p. 142, col. 2, 1.21 (“saefang”); p. 153, col. 1, 11.18-21; and p. 154, col. 1, 11.1-6. Moreover, in a footnore (in Collected Works, VII, 437), Magnússon and Morris state, in commenting on a difficult passage, that the “original has ‘a við less.’” This reading is found in exactly this form only in Grundtvig. However, the translation occasionally departs from Grundtvig’s text. In Collected Works, VII, 410, 1.33, Morris and Magnússon write,
Adrad was Gunnar,
But Grundtvig (on p. 128, col. 2, 1.1) has
Hryygr varð Gunnar.
Moreover, all the other editions have “Reipr” as the regular reading. Again, in Collected Works, VII, 410, 11.1-6, Morris and Magnússon omit two lines inserted in Grundtvig’s text; it so happens that these lines are omitted in some of the other editions, but Morris and Magnússon do not seem to have been here following any of these other editions either, for all of them adopt a different stanzaic division at this point. Very likely these discrepancies are merely the result of changes that Morris and Magnússon made on their own authority in Grundtvig’s text. Finally, I should like to point out that Grundtvig’s edition of the Poetic Edda was in Morris’s library at his death (see below, page 1006); two other Edda texts were also found in Morris’s library in 1896, the one printed at Copenhagen between 1767 and 1828 and the one edited by Bugge in 1867.
already referred. It ends with the account of the slaying of Hamdfr and Sorli, who had been sent by Gudrun, their mother, to the land of King Jormunrek to avenge the death of Swanhild; it does not include the story Heimir and Aslaug, the daughter of Sigurd and Brynhild, which most editors of the Vőlsunga saga insert as the last chapter. The reason for this omission, according to a statement made by Magnússon many years later, was that he and Morris “had considered it to belong rightly to the Ragnar Lodbrok saga”;1 the two sagas are found together in the same manuscript, the Ragnars saga loðbrókar being given as a continuation of the other one.2
The heroic lays included in the rendering of the Vőlsunga saga were not the only Eddic poems translated by Morris. In the Preface to Volume VII of the Collected Works, Miss Morris prints two others, “Baldur’s Dream” and “The Lay of Thrym,” which she says were prepared at this time,3 and in her William Morris: Artist Writer Socialist, she presents an unrevised rendering of the Voluspá,” which she states she found among her father’s manuscripts
- Collected Works, VII, xxxii.
- See Finnur Jónsson, Den Oldnorske og Oldislandske Litteraturs Historie (2nd ed.; Copenhagen: G. E. C. Gads Forlag, (1920-1924), II, 826.
- Pages xx-xxxii.
after she had prepared the Collected Works.1 Morris may have turned into English still other poems from the Poetic Edda, for according to Dr. Einarsson in his article “Eiríkr Magnússon and his Saga-Translations,” Morris wrote in a letter in 1874 that he definitely intended to publish a rendering of the Edda at some time.2 However, no other translations by Morris from this collection have ever been printed or are known to exist.3
The publication of Morris and Magnússon’s rendering of the Vőlsunga saga brought forth a variety of reviews in the periodicals of the time. In the Academy appeared a criticism by G. A. Simcox and Guðbrandr Vigfúson, which, as is to be expected, is both thorough and scholarly. At the opening of their review the critics call attention to the translators’ statement that the story of the Volsungs and the Niblungs “should be to all our rave what the Tale of Troy was to the Greeks,”4 and then they explain why this Northern
- I, 9 and 543-563.
- Page 25.
- According to Dr. Einarsson’s article (on pages 26-27), Magnússon wrote out a complete translation of the Poetic Edda and also of the Prose Edda in 1893 and 1894. The manuscript of this rendering survives; it has not been revised by Morris but Dr. Einarsson states that the nature of the manuscript seems to indicate that it was intended to serve as the basis of a translation by Morris. He believes it likely that if Morris had lived longer, he and Magnússon would have included a rendering of the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda in The Saga Library.
- Collected Works, VII, 286.
saga has not had, and cannot have, the same effect upon the thought and art of succeeding generations as the Trojan story.
It is probable that the Greek race was more highly gifted for artistic purposes than the northern; it is certain that the society of the Homeric age was artistically richer than the society of the Icelandic sagas, for it was more complex and more regular. These Icelandic compositions are largely influenced by a spirit of naïve “historical veracity, a desire to get as quickly as possible through all that is remembered of the traditional facts. This tendency is not without its value; it excludes inartistic loitering,” and sobriety is always impressive. But a literature of this kind is not suggestive, it does not germinate; it begins and ends in ballads, and the compilations that come between are scarcely epical – even in dimensions.1
The reviewers next point out certain inaccuracies and inconsistencies they have noted in the rendering itself; I shall refer to these later in my discussion of Morris’s style of translation.2 The second half of the article is devoted, first, to a discussion of certain “gaps and discrepancies” in the story as it is told in the Vőlsunga saga, - omissions and inconsistencies which result from the fact that the “ballads which the compiler tried, or did not try, to work into his narrative, were written at different times and places” and “sometimes represent incompatible traditions…”3 -, and, secondly, to an account of some of the beauties in the saga, “which justify the praise of Mr. Morris’s lovely Prologue in Verse.”4 The whole review is instructive and well worth reading.
Quite different are the notices of the book in the Athenaeum5 and in the Old and New;6 they were apparently written by men who
- I (1869-1870), 278.
- See below, pages 557-559.
- I (1869-1870), 279.
- Loc. cit.
- No. 2224 (June 11, 1870), 763-764.
- II (1870-1871), 364-367.
were only very slightly acquainted with the material to be discussed. The article in the Athena͜eum consists almost entirely of a very full synopsis of the story; the one in the Old and New presents rather superficial comments on some of the most important incidents in the tale. The writer of this last-mentioned review reveals his lack of familiarity with Icelandic literature by confusing Gudrun of the Vőlsunga saga with Gudrun of the Laxda͜ela saga; he says of Gudrun, the daughter of Giuki, that “readers who have fallen in love with her in Mr. Morris’s poem of her lovers will be glad to read of her in these earliest renderings.”1
Two other reviewers devote almost all of their attention to pointing out that parallels to certain elements in the Vőlsunga saga are to be found in Greek, Latin, and Oriental folk lore. The article in the Saturday Review was written by the same critic whose comments on the Morris-Magnússon translations of the Grettis saga in the same periodical I have already discussed.2 He begins by saying that just as he revealed that exact parallels of many of the incidents in the Grettis saga could be found in classical and oriental popular tales and that as a consequence the translators’ statement that the saga treated “events true in the main”3 was incorrect, he will not show in the same way that the Vőlsunga saga does not “reflect the lives of men and women of our own race in any age or in any land,”4 as the translators imply. To be sure, he is somewhat more justified in analyzing incidents in the Vőlsunga
- II (1870-1871), 366.
- See above, pages 59-60.
- Collected Works, VII, xliii.
- Saturday Review, XXX (1870), 83.
saga in this way than he was in subjecting the Grettis saga to a similar examination, for the Vőlsunga saga, particularly the introductory part, from which he takes almost all his examples, is distinctly legendary in nature, whereas the Grettis saga has a definite historical basis; however, just as in the earlier discussion, he frequently carries the methods of the study of comparative mythology too far, especially when he traces certain incidents in the saga back to nature myths. Moreover, it is almost certain that Morris and Magnússon, by their statement that the reader of this story “will be intensely touched by finding, amidst all its wildness and remoteness, such startling realism, such subtilty, such close sympathy with all the passions that may move himself to-day,”1 did not mean that they considered the saga an actual picture of the life of our early ancestors; the reviewer seems to interpret the statement in this way simply because he desired an excuse for attacking it and for applying to the saga the methods of comparative mythology. He writes, for example,
In the northern stories, the hero frequently dies before his son, who is to take his place or avenge him, is born; or, as the Greek story would have it, Apollôn has forsaken Korônis before her child sees the light. This is simply the legend of the birth of Vőlsung, whose father, Rerir, goes home Odin, leaving his wife sick at heart, like Lêtô, while she wandered from land to land before the birth of Phoibos….In a form still more striking, this mythical death of the parents of fatal children is exhibited in the story of Agni, the fire, whose parents are the two sticks, from which his flame is kindled, and which he devours as soon as he is born.2
A little later, in regard to the deadly worm which Sinfjotli kneads up into the bread at the command of Sigmund, the reviewer says:
This worm is almost ubiquitous in Teutonic and Scandinavian myths; and unless all the results of comparative mythology be overthrown or set aside, it is the Python of Delphi, the Aki and Vritra of the Hindu, the Crendel of Beowulf, the Chimara and dragon of Bellerōphontes,
- Collected Works, VII, 286. The statement is quoted by the critic in the Saturday Review, XXX (1870), 81.
- Page 8 2.
 Perseus, or Iason. Its death is the slaying of the darkness, whether of the night or of the winter….1
In only one paragraph of this review does the writer turn from his discussion of comparative mythology. Here, in regard to the translators’ insertion of certain Eddic songs at the end of their rendering of the Vőlsunga saga, the reviewer says,
Many of their readers may regret that the volume which gives them the lays of Helgi Hundingsbana, Sigurd, Brynhild, and Gudrun should not give them those of Regin, Fafnir, and Grifir, or the Greenland lay of Atli; in short, that it should not, on the mere score of convenience, give them all the Edda songs. We are still more inclined to regret that anything should be inserted into the translation of the prose Saga which is not actually found in the original.2
It would undoubtedly have been superfluous to include all the Eddic poems, but, as the reviewer suggests, there would have been a decided advantage for readers to have all those lays bearing on the story of the Volsungs and Niblungs collected in one place, so that these metrical accounts might easily be compared with the prose saga. Moreover, it may have been preferable for the translators to place all the added poems at the end instead of introducing a few of them into the rendering of the saga itself, but inasmuch as the saga-man himself incorporated a number of these songs into the body of his story, it does not seem especially improper or undesirable to have a few more inserted at the proper points.
The other reviewer dealing with the relations of certain elements in the early part of the Vőlsunga saga to the myths of other lands appeared in the London Quarterly Review; the remarks on the Vőlsunga
- Page 82
- Page 81
 translation form only a part of a long article on the “Myths of the Aryans.”1 The writer of this essay points out even more absurd parallels than the Saturday Review critic, and seems still more disposed to find a nature myth as the basis of every event.
These five reviews that I have discussed show not only that Morris and Magnússon’s rendering of the Vőlsunga saga was found to be generally satisfactory and pleasing but also that it appealed to both the general reader and to the student of folk lore who was unable to read Old Norse.
In addition to his translating, Morris was occupied during 1870 with preparing the last volume of The Earthly Paradise for publication. He wrote to his mother on November 25,
I am still hard at work over the proofs; but ‘twill soon all be done…
I feel rather lost at having done my book: I find now I liked working at it better than I thought. I must try and get something serious to do as soon as may be….2
The book was published in December of this year.3 It included six tales, only one of which, “The Fostering of Aslaug,” was Scandinavian in origin.
I have already pointed out that Morris’s study of Icelandic literature in the original gradually turned him away from the style of the romance to that of the epic in his own work and that this transition is first noticeable in certain poems in Volumes Three and Four of The Earthly Paradise.4 In Volume Four the new treatment is best exemplified in the two stories “Bellerophon at Argos” and
- See the London Quarterly Review, XXXV (1870-1871), 77-100. The references to the Vőlsunga saga are found on pages 96-98.
- Collected Works, VI, x-xi.
- See Forman, Books of William Morris, p. 65.
- See above, pages 64-67.
 “Bellerophon in Lycia,” upon which I have already commented.1 In “The Fostering os Aslaug,” the only Scandinavian tale in this volume, “the old and new manners are combined,” as Mackail says, “with exceptional skill and unique fascination.”2
The exact date of the composition of “The Fostering of Aslaug” is not known. In the list of poems to be included in the second half of The Earthly did not mention “The Fostering of Aslaug”; this fact makes it almost certain that he had not at that time composed the tale and had not many any definite plan to write a poem on this subject. Nevertheless, there can be no doubt that Morris was acquainted with the story of Aslaug at this time and had been for many years, for there is a very full synopsis of the legend in Thorpe’s Northern Mythology, and this book, as we have seen, Morris read while he was a student at Oxford.4 In the poem that he did write, he followed in the main Thorpe’s abstract; however, he added some details which are not in Thorpe but which are in the Old Norse original- that is, in the last chapter of the Vőlsunga saga and in the opening chapters of the Ragnars saga loðbrókar. Thus, he could not have composed the poem as we have it until he had read these works, - in fact, it was most likely his reading of this fuller account of the legend as well as the first-hand acquaintance with Old Norse literature that he had gained since the fall of 1868 that inspired him to write a poem based on this story. Now as I have already pointed out, Morris began reading the Vőlsunga saga in the summer of 1869, put it aside for a time,
- See above, pages 55-56
- William Morris, 1, 204.
- I, 109-113.
- See above, pages 2-3.
 and then completed it during the winter of 1869;1 very likely he read with Magnússon the Ragnars saga loðbrókar also at this time, although he never published any translation of this saga. In the Fornaldar Sőgur Nordrlanda, the edition of the Vőlsunga saga that Morris and Magnússon seem to have used, the story of Aslaug is begun in the last chapter of the Vőlsunga, and the Ragnars saga, in which it is completed, is placed directly after the Vőlsunga.
The poem “The Fostering of Aslaug” must then have been written at some time between the late autumn of 1869 and the late summer of 1870. Now Mackail says, speaking of The Earthly Paradise, that by the end of 1869 “the whole cycle was practically complete, and for Part IV, though it was not issued till a year later, little remained to be done beyond revision and selection of poems already written.”2 Unfortunately he does not state on what evidence he bases this remark, and he does not indicate whether his assertion that by the close of 1869 “the whole cycle was practically complete” includes “The Fostering of Aslaug.” On the whole, however, it seems safe to assume that the poem was composed before the end of 1869, for the semi-romantic manner in which Morris treated his original indicates that he wrote the story before he had read the Eddic poems dealing with the Sigurd story in the winter of 1869 to 1870; as Miss Morris says,
“The Fostering of Aslaug” in “The Earthly Paradise,” and still more, perhaps, the unpublished romantic tale of Swanhild, the sun-bright daughter of Sigurd and Brynhild, seem to have been my father’s first reachings-out towards the realization of the Matter of the North before he became fully alive to the splendour of the Sigurd legend.3
The realization of Morris’s tale to its sources has been very
- See above, pages 63-64 and 109-110.
- William Morris, I, 204.
- Collected Works, VII, xxxii.
 fully analyzed by T. B. Thompson in Chapter III of his Skandinavischer Einflusschauf William Morris in den ersten Stadien (The Earthly Paradise).1 Thompson points out, as I have already done, that Morris seems to have followed in the main the abstract in Thorpe’s Northern Mythology but that he added some material given only in the fuller version of the story in the Vőlsunga saga and the Ragnars saga. The details and incidents in “The Fostering of Aslaug” which Morris did not find in Thorpe but seems to have inserted on the basis of the sagas are Grima’s suggestion to Heimir that it would be better for him to sleep outside than inside the house,2 her leading him to the barn for the night,3 the difficulty of Grima and Aki in opening the harp after they have slain Heimir,4 Grima’s statement that “Crow” was her mother’s name,5 Crow’s bath,6 her discovery of Ragnar’s ships anchored off the shore,7 Grima’s assertion to Ragnar’s men that she is too old to help them bake but that her daughter Crow will soon be home and will be able to aid them, and the sailors’ doubt that Crow is Grima’s daughter.9 Al-
- Pages 91-103.
- See Collected Works, VI, 31, 11. 16-27 and Fornaldar Sőgur Nordrlanda, I, 230, 1. 28-231, 1. 2.
- See Collected Works, VI, 32, 11. 11-12 and Fornaldar Sőgur, I, 231, 11. 2-7.
- See Collected Works, VI, 35, 11. 8-14 and Fornaldar Sőgur, I, 233, 11. 5-9.
- See Collected Works, VI, 36, 11. 21-23 and Fornaldar Sőgur, I, 233, 11. 22-23.
- See Collected Works, VI, 39, 1. 20-40, 1. 9 and Fornaldar Sőgur, I, 244, 11. 1-3.
- See Collected Works, VI, 41, 11. 6-16 and Fornaldar Sőgur, I, 243, 1. 26-244, 1. 1.
- See Collected Works, VI, 41, 11. 26-31 and Fornaldar Sőgur, I, 243, 11. 20-25.
- See Collected Works, VI, 42, 11. 83-85 and Fornaldar Sőgur, I, 244, 11. 11-19.
 though Morris could have made one or two of these additions without the use of any source, there can be no doubt that he was here drawing on the Vőlsunga saga and on the Ragnars saga.1
In the course of his study Thompson very carefully lists all Morris’s changes, omissions, and additions. Most interesting are the cases in which he shows that Morris added Norse allusions which he did not find in his immediate sources but drew from his reading of other Scandinavian books. Thus, Thompson calls attention to Morris’s allusions to Odin,2 Freyia,3 and Baldur.4 He also points out that in representing Ragnar as making a vow over his cup at Christmas, Morris was referring to a custom common among the Scandinavians though by no means restricted to them.5 Furthermore, he suggests that the fact that Ragnar
nach Myckklegard wollte, ist…dem Krakamál (83) enthommen, woe s heist:
“Unnun atta jarla
Austr fyr Dynu mynnl.”
Dies hat Morris in der Übersetzung von Percy (Five Pieces of Runic Poetry) gelesen.6
- The additions just enumerated show that Karl Litzenburg’s statement, in Scandinavian Studies and Notes, VIII (1034-1035), 104, that Morris acquired the story of “The Fostering Aslaug” “from the summary in English of the Volsung legends published by Thorpe in Northern Mythology, Volume I” is not entirely correct.
- See Thompson, op. cit., pp. 96, 97, and 98 and Collected Works, VI, 24, 1-4 and 34. 1.11. Thompson does not, however, mention the reference to Odin in Ibid., VI, 45, 1.25. Moreover, in commenting on the allusion to Odin in Ibid., VI, 24, 1.4, he does not point out that in representing the people as thinking that “Odin had called Heimir home,” Morris was using a common Old Norse expression for “to die.” For occurrences of expressions of this type that Morris may well have known, see the Heimskringla, tr. Laing, I, 259, 1.14; 319, 11.8-10; 357, 1.1; 364, 1.11; and 424, 11.25-26.
- See Thompson, op. cit., pp. 95 and 97 and Collected Works, VI, 24, 1.11 and 39, 1.25. Thompson neglects, however, to point out the reference to Freyia in Ibid, VI, 44, 1.24.
- See Thompson, op. cit., p. 96 and Collected Works, VI, 35, 11, 26-27.
- See Thompson, op. cit., p. 97 and Collected Works, VI, 45, 11.15-16.
- Pp. 97-78. For the passage in the poem, see Collected Works, VI, 45, 1.18.
 A little later he writes,
R.1 schlen den Leuten des Nordens ein überaus herrlicher Held zu sein, so dass viele Elaubten, England hätte für seinen Tod in dem Schlandenz…inger in Northumbria nicht Sühne renur bezahalt, bis Harald Godwineson erschlegen und getőtet wurde, und die gesőttigten Raben űber dem Schlactfeld zu genlac in Sussex schweòten. In selner Einleitung zu “the Dying Ode of Ragnar Lodòrok” (2. 23, 24) glòt Percy einen Kurzen Überlich űber diese Geschicte.2
These last two statements, it seems to me, are open to question. In the first place, it is certainly not necessary to suggest that Morris was drawing on Percy’s Five Pieces of Runic Poetry for his knowledge of the death of Ragnar in a snake-pit at the hands of Ella, for there is a very detailed account of the end of Ragnar in England in the Ragnars saga3 and, as I have already shown, there can be practically no doubt that Morris had read this saga. Moreover, it seems to me extremely unlikely that Morris represented Ragnar as going to Micklegarth because he had read now remembered the lines
Unnun atta jaris
Gustr fyr Dynu mynnl
in the “Krakamba,” as Thompson suggests. This statement in the Old Norse poem is of course exceedingly vague, and it certainly does not indicate with any definiteness that Ragnar ever visited Constantinople. Very likely Morris introduced this reference to Micklegarth without having any definitive source in mind,4 merely because he had not read in the Ragnars saga that Ragnar was a great sea-rover and he felt that an allusion to a voyage to Micklegarth would give the
- “R” stands for “Ragnar.”
- Page 98. For the passage in Morris’s poem, see Collected Works, VI, 64, 11.4-13
- See Fornaldar Sőgur, I, 251-288.
- The Ragnars saga does not mention any visit of Ragnar to Constantinople.
poem greater verisimilitude.
In a few other cases also the sources Thompson suggests seem extremely improbable. The following remark, for example, seems entirely unnecessary: “Die Zeile, And smitten or unsmitten, still erinnert an die Zeile in Peer Gynt (Akt I, Szene 1): ,Om man hamrer eller hamres.’” 1 Again, the similarity Thompson points out in the following quotation between a passage in “The Fostering of Aslaug” and two stanzas in the “Eiriksmál” is so slight that it is scarcely justifiable to suggest that Morris’s account was influenced by the Old Norse verses:
- Statt dass Aslaug R.2 später im Lemben űber ihre Herkunft berichtet, last der Dichter sie einem anderen ihre Träume in der Hochzeltsnacht erzählen, in die der Dichter ihre Lebensschicksale verwoben hat. Es ist also keine eigentliche Umgestaltung, sondern es handelt sich hier mehr um ein Ersatzmotiv. Aslaug erzählt, dass sie onverletzt durch ein grosses Feuer gegangen sie, welches einen goldenen Palast umzűngelte; als sie die Halle betrat, sah sie ein Kőnigspaar; sie hőrte ein Horn, und der Kőnig fragte die Kőnigin, warum die Säulen bebten; diese erwiderte, es sei der Ruhm R. As; auf seine Frage, was fűr Schatten er in der Tűr sehe, antwortete sie, es sei ihre eigene Tochter, welche sich mit R., der seit dem Tode ihres Gatten der beste Mann sei, verheriatet habe; dann kűssten sie sich, und Aslaug wachte auf. Dieses Motiv kehrt im Eirikamál wieder:
- “Hvat prymir bar, Bragl,
sem pusund bifisk
eðr mengl til mikit?
Braka oll bekkoili,
sem munl Baldr koma
aptr I Oðins sali.
“Heimsku mala skalatu,
enn horski Bragl,
pvít pú vel hvat vitir
fyr Eiríkl glymr,
es hér mun inn koma
jofurr í Odins sall.”3
- Page 97. Thompson has misquoted the line’ it should read Om jeg hamrer eller hamres. See Henrik Ibsen, Samlede Verker, edd. Francis Bull, Halvdan Koht, and Didrik A. Selp (Oslo: Gyldendal gorsk Forlag, 1928-1937), VI, 66.
- “R” stands for “Ragnar.”
- Pages 100-101. Similarly, Thompson’s reference on page 97 to the poem “The Land of the East of the Sun and West of the Moon” scarcely seem
 On the whole, however, what Thompson has to say about Morris’s use of his Scandinavian sources seems to be correct.
In most of the contemporary reviews of Volume IV of The Earthly Paradise, very little mention was made of “The Fostering of Aslaug,” the critics usually focusing their attention on the two tales dealing with Bellerophon. Most of the brief remarks made about the Scandinavian story are, however, commendatory. Sidney Colvin in the Academy said that the poem was “full of the brightest grace and freshness….”1 The Spectator stated that the tale showed “what a fair structure Mr. Morris can build up on a very slight foundation of incident.”2 The London Quarterly Review called it a “charming poem,” and went on to remark, “To English Saga-lovers not sufficiently erudite to read the Saga of Ragnar Lodbrok in the original, this poem will have an interest beyond its intrinsic interest, when taken as an episode connected with the Volsung tale, which the author has so finely translated into prose….” The Saturday Review considered it “the gem of this volume.” The reviewer in the Athenaeum was the only one to justify his praise. He said that the story was “full of beauty,” but he also felt that the “dreams at the end, and some other passages, might perhaps be called surplusage.”5 Aslaug’s
(continuation of note 3 on page 125.) necessary. Moreover, I cannot understand why Thompson says (on page 96) that Heimir’s reference to Grimhild (in Collected Works, VI, 28, 1. 8) points to the influence of the Nibelungenlied, for the story of Grimhild and her evil deeds is fully told in the Vőlsunga saga.
- II (1870-1871), 58.
- XLIV (1871), 105.
- XXXVI (1871), 253.
- XXX (1870), 808.
- No. 2251 (December 17, 1870), 796. For other reviews of the Volume IV, see the Galaxy, XI (1871), 606-609; the Nestminster Review, XXXIV, New Series (1871), 581; and the Eclectic Magazine, XIII, new Series (1871), 250-251.
 and Ragnar’s dreams do not seem to me to be at all superfluous, for both these visions, with their allusions to Aslaug’s distinguished ancestry and to Ragnar’s great fame, definitely serve to heighten the climax of the story, the wedding of the hero and heroine, by calling attention to the importance of the union. Moreover, both dreams are described with a great deal of beauty and imagination.
Before leaving the last volume of The Earthly Paradise, I should like to point out that Morris made a brief allusion to Brynhild and Sigurd in another poem included here- namely “The Hill of Venus”; in the course of a description of a procession of the world’s immortal lovers, he wrote,
A loveless waste of ages seemed to part,
And through the cloven dullness BRYNHILD came,
Her left hand on the fire that was her heart,
That paled her cheeks and through her eyes did flame,
Her right hand holding SIGURD’S; for no shame
Was in his simple eyes, that saw the worth
So clearly now of all the perished earth.1
It is clear that the great story of Sigurd was very much in Morris’s thoughts at this time.
Among the tales which, according to Mackail, Morris wrote for The Earthly Paradise but decided not to include in that collection, there is one of Scandinavian origin which is called “The Wooing of Swanhild”;2 this poem is based on the story told un Chapters Thirty-Nine and Forty of the Vőlsunga saga concerning the marriage of Hermanaric and Swanhild, the daughter of Sigurd Fafnir’s-bane and Gudrun. It is clear from the argument at the head of the poem that
- Collected Works, VI, 295.
- William Morris, I, 207-208.
- See Fornaldar Sőgur Nordrlanda, I, 224-228.
 Morris had originally intended to retell the whole story of the visit of Rnadver and Bikki to Swanhild, Bikki’s inciting of Randiver to make Swanhild his own, Hermanaric’s discovery of his son Randver’s love for the maiden, and the slaying of Randver and Swanhild; however, Morris did not complete his poem carrying the tale only up to the point where Randver and Bikki are granted their request that Swanhild be given in marriage to Hermanaric, and Randver finally meets Swanhild. As it is, the poem extends to 159 stanzas in rhyme royal. It was not published during Morris’s life, but it was included by Miss Morris in the last volume of the Collected Works.1
The exact date of the composition of “the Wooing of Swanhild” is not known, but, like “The Fostering of Aslaug,” it seems to have been written at the very end of 1869 or at the very beginning of 1870. Morris must, however, have been acquainted with the story of Swanhild long before this time, for there is an abstract of it in Thorpe’s Northern Mythology2 and brief reference to the tale are found in the Poetic Edda.3 There is not much in the poem which he
- XXIV, 281-315.
- I, 106-107.
- The story of Swanhild is related in an extremely abbreviated form in the prose lines introducing the “Guðrunarhvot,” this poem and the one following it in the Poetic Edda, the “Hamðisamál,” dealing with later episodes connected with the tale; the account in these lines, however, is so hort that it does not even mention that Randver and Bikki were sent to woo Swanhild. Very brief references to the tale are also made in stanzas 53 and 61 of the “Sigurðarkvlða in skamma.” With this material Morris may very well have become acquainted before 1869 through Thorpe’s translation of the Poetic Edda (see II, 82-83 and 137 and above, pp. 43-44). There is a fuller account of Swanhild in Chapter XLII of the “Skáldskaparmál” in the Prose Edda, but this part of the Prose Edda had not been translated into English by 1869 and thre is no evidence that Morris had read it in the original at this time. That “The Wooing of Swanhild” had almost certainly not been written or even planned before 1869 is indicated, it should be noted, by the fact that Morris did not mention it in 1867 and 1868 in his announcements of the tales intended at that time for The Earthly Paradise (see Collected Works, III, xi-xii).
 he could not have gotten from Thorpe’s synopsis…
… two details in the story indicate that he was drawing directly on the account in the Vőlsunga saga. Most important of these, perhaps, is the reply that Randver gives his father when he is ordered to go and woo Swanhild, for his statement,
“Meet it is that I, O father, on thine errands still should wend,”1
is almost exactly the same as Randver’s answer in the saga, which, in Morris’s translation, reads, “Meet and right, fair lord, that I should go on thine errands.”2 Another indication that Morris was not following Thorpe in his poem is the spelling of three personal names; in his postical version of the tale he uses the forms “Swanhild,” “Randver”, and “Bikki,” as he does in his translation, but Thorpe spells these names as “Svanhild,” “Randve,” and “Biki.”3 Morris seems, then, to have read the Vőlsunga saga when
- Collected Works, XXIV, 288.
- Ibid., VII, 392.
- In the case of the names of the other two main characters the situation is different. Thus, in his poem Morris calls the stepfather of Swanhild “Jonak” or “Jonakur,” the form depending on the demands of the metre, but in his rendering of the saga he always uses the spelling “Jonakr”; Thorpe adopted the form “Jonakur.” Perhaps Morris varied the spelling in his poem because he wished to make clear to his readers whether the word was to be pronounced as a dissyllable or a trisyllable. In the case of the name “Hermanaric,” Morris departed from the forms used in the Old Norse account, in his own translation, and in Thorpe’s abstract, and adopted the usual spelling of the name of the historical king of the East Goths with whom the Old Norse Jőrmunrekr is to be indentified.
I should also like to point out here that in his article “William Morris and Scandinavian Literature: A Bibliographical Essay,” Karl Litzenburg states (on page 103) that Morris acquired the story for “The Wooing of Swanhild” from the summary in English of the Volsung legends published by Thorpe in Northern Mythology, Volume I,” and later (on page 105) he cites this poem as an example of those works of Morris “which are based on English versions of Scandinavian stories” as distinct from those “which are taken directly from their Old Norse originals….” He also dates the poem “circa 1865-1868.” These statements conflict with my conclusion that the poem was written at the end of 1869 or the beginning of 1870, after Morris had read the Vőlsunga saga. The evidence I have presented in the text above and at the end of note 3 on page 128 is of course not conclusive, but Dr. Litzenberg does not seem to have taken these considerations into account in forming his opinion; he does not state the reason for his…
 he composed his poem. Very likely, just as the case seems to have been with “The Fostering of Aslaug,” it was his reading of the whole story of the Volsunga and the Niblunga late in 1869 that inspired him to produce a poetical version of the legend of Swanhild, although he had been familiar with the tale for many years before that time.
I state above that Morris seems to have written the poem at the very end of 1869 or at the very beginning of 1870. That he composed it later seems improbable, because it is very unlikely that he could have treated his theme in such a romantic manner if he had produced his story after he had read The Eddic lays in the original in the winter of 1869 to 1870. As Miss Morris says in a passage I have already quoted in part,
“The Fostering of Aslaug” in “The Earthly Paradise,” and still more, perhaps, the unpublished romantic tale of Swanhild…seem to have been my father’s first reachings-out towards the realization of the Matter of the North before he became fully alive to the splendour of the Sigurd legend…. It is possible that his more intimate knowledge of the originals changed the current of his thoughts and made it difficult for him to complete this tale in the spirit in which it was begun. It was certainly written before his Northern studies had replaced the earlier background of medieval romance by the simpler and more heroic setting of the Edda fragments. Such lines as
In tilt and pageant and high feast went by
The next few days…
could not have been written by my father coming fresh from the “Lay of Hamdir.”1
Morris’s poem represents a tremendous expansion of his original. In his translation of the Vőlsunga saga, the story up to the point where King Jonakr grants Randver his request for Swanhild occupies twenty-six lines; the poem, dealing with the same incidents, is 1106 lines long. In the course of this expansion Morris changed
- Collected Works, VII, xxx11-xxx111.
 completely the nature of the original tale. Miss Morris has described well the striking difference in spirit and tone between the Old Norse account and her father’s version; she says,
…the wild splendour of the legend- itself but a fragment- is dimmed by the poet’s translation into a comparatively modern atmosphere full of introspection, of hesitancies and dreams within dreams: it is indeed a far cry from the grimly-worded broken record of Sigurd’s daughter preserved in the Edda Songs to this detailed narrative in a suave rhyme-royal. But it is all “part of the story”- part of the growth and development of The Earthly Paradise tales, and a link too between the frame of mind of the time and that of the later handling of the Volsung epic.1
In order to show in some detail how freely Morris dealt with his source, I shall discuss briefly his expansions and additions.
In the saga we are told briefly and bluntly at the opening of this episode that Jormunrek, “a mighty king of those days,”2 summoned his son Randver, and ordered him and Bikki, his counsellor, to go to King Jonakr for the purpose of demanding that Swanhild, the daughter of Sigurd Fafnir’s-bane and Gudrun, be given in marriage to Jormunrek. In Morris’s poetical version, however, we have a much more detailed introduction. He begins his tale by briefly describing Hermanaric, the aged King of the Goths, Bikki, his counsellor, who under the pretense of unflinching devotion to his Kind had secured complete control over the whole realm, and finally Randver, the King’s son, who had never had an opportunity to show his courage and strength in battle and hence was despised by both his father and his people. Morris next relates how at a feast Bikki suggested that the King remarry in order to secure more heirs, and that he should endeavor to
secure as his wife Swanhild, the daughter of Sigurd and Gudrun, who was now living in the land of King Jonakr, Gudrun’s third
- Collected Works, XXIV, xxxi.
- Ibid. , VII, 392.
 husband. The King immediately acquiesced, and all the people shouted for joy, except Randver, who sat quiet and moody. In answer to the King’s inquiries regarding Swanhild, Bikki explained that when Sigurd was burned on his pyre, his young son perished with him, but that at this time Gudrun was pregnant and later gave birth to a girl, who was Swanhild. The King then recalled the story of Gudrun’s marriage to Atli, the slaughter of the Niblunga by Atli, Gudrun’s murder of Atli and his two children and her burning of the hall in revenge, and finally Gudrun’s journey to King Jonakr. The day after the feast King Hermaanaric summoned Randver to him, and bade the young man go together with Bikki to King Jonakr to woo Swanhild for him.
For the references Morris added in this passage to death of Sigurd’s son on the funeral pyre of Sigurd and Brynhild and for his account of Gudrun’s marriage to Atli, the poet was of course indebted to the earlier part of the Vőlsunga saga.1 His description of Hermanaric as the King of the Goths was most likely based on information supplied to him by Magnússon, for there is no such statement in the original.
In the saga Randver agreed at once to perform the mission commanded by his father, but in the poem he was with difficulty persuaded to do so. In reply to the King’s command, he stated that although he considered it proper that his father should send him to woo Swanhild, he had decided to sail at once with an armed band in order to win glory. The King granted him permission to do as he wished, and Randver departed in joy. Bikki, however, learned
- See Collected Works, VII, 375 and 379-392 and Thorpe, Northern Mythology, I, 103-106.
 of Randver’s intentions, and although he commended the King for Randver’s determination to gain fame, he went directly to Randver on the quay in an attempt to dissuade him from this expedition. It is obvious that Bikki earnestly desired Randver’s presence on the journey to King Jonakr, and we begin to suspect that he had some sinister motive for doing so. Bikki succeeded in convincing Randver that he must join in the wooing of Swanhild by saying that he, Bikki, had had a vision of Swanhild in a dream and had at once fallen in love with her, so that he could not now trust himself to bring Swanhild home alone. Randver suspected that Bikki was lying, but he finally resolved to accompany him to King Jonakr. That night at the farewell feast, Randver announced his decision to his father.
The second part of the story, the account of the proceedings at King Jonakr’s court, Morris has not altered so radically. The saga says that Randver and Bikki arrived in the land of King Jonakr and met Swanhild, whom they found marvelously fair. One day Randver explained to Jonakr the object of their visit, saying that Jormunrek wished to become his brother-in-law by marrying Swanhild. Jonakr looked with favor on the request at once, but Gudrun said, “A wavering trust, the trust in luck that it change not.”1 The demand, however, was granted, and Randver, Bikki, and Swanhild departed. In Morris’s poem the journey of Randver and Bikki to Jonakr is described in detail. We are told that when they arrived, Bikki tried to awaken thoughts of love in the young man; and Randver, to whom the idea of love was becoming very welcome, reddened. The next morning
- Collected Works, VII, 393.
 The two visitors were brought before Jonakr and Gudrun; and Randver delivered his message, saying that in return for the granting of Swanhild to Hermanaric, the Goths would aid Jonakr in case of any need. Jonakr was pleased with the request, but Gudrun frowned and seemed unhappy. Later that day Gudrun bade Randver meet her alone in the garden. There she fervently begged him to depart at once with one of her men, Ulf the Red, who was just ready to leave on a plundering expedition, the reason for her request being that she knew that Randver would fall in love with Swanhild when he met her that night, and that then nothing but woe and disaster would ensue for all concerned. In a passage that recalls Chapter forty-two of the Vőlsunga saga and the second half of the “Guórunarnvot,” she bewailed the hardness and cruelty of her life, and lamented that Sigurd, the one man she had loved, had never returned her affection. In spite of her pleas, Randver found himself unable to leave the country, for he was drawn on by a strange desire to meet Swanhild. That night at the feast Swanhild was ushered into the hall by a host of fair maidens. Straightway she and Randver fell deeply in love with each other, and the rest of the world ceased to exist for them both. During the next few days they saw each other frequently, but were never alone so that they could kiss and embrace. At this point the poem ends.
This summary shows clearly that Morris’s poem preserves only the bare kernel of the original saga story. In his poetical version Morris has freely added new scenes and new incidents, changed the nature of his main characters, and introduced and involved motives; and as a result his work is entirely different in spirit from
 the Old Norse tale. Even the central idea is altered in Morris’s poem. In the saga Jormunrek decides by himself to woo Swanhild, and the evil counsellor Bikki does not seem to conceive of his plan to tempt Randver and Swanhild to betray Jormunrek until on the way home from Jonakr. In Morris’s story, however, Hermanaric’s marriage is only a scheme by which Bikki aims to do away with Randver and establish his own power more firmly. It is Bikki who makes the suggestion that Hermanaeric should marry Swanhild; he carefully arranges that Randver should accompany him to King Jonaky, even being willing to cast aspersions on his own character in order to persuade the young man to give up his intended military expedition; and before they meet Swanhild, Bikki strives to turn Randver’s thoughts to love. Morris’s tale is thus superior in the development of the plot and in the motivation of the action, but on the other of the plot and in the motivation of the action, but on the other hand it lacks entirely the vigor, directness, and color of the Old Norse story. Much of the poetry is dull and uninspired; the tale as a whole seems to suffer from diffuseness, and it looks completely the deep emotion, feeling, and tenderness with which Morris treated his other Scandinavian stories. We need not regret too deeply that he failed to complete it.
Among the other unfinished poems which Morris seems to have composed at this time is one called “In Arthur’s House.”1 As the title shows, it is not a Scandinavian story, but it contains a number of Norse allusions which are especially interesting. The poem tells how once, when Arthur and retinue of knights and
- Morris left this fragment unpublished, but Miss Morris included it in the Collected Works, XXIV, 315-328.
 ladies were riding through the forest, they met a very old man who said that he had been a king many years before, and that his castle had stood on the very spot where they now were. The sword that this man carried is described in great detail:
Right great it was: the scabbard thin
Was fashioned of a serpent’s skin,
In every scale a stone of worth:
Of tooth of a sea-lion of the north
The cross was, and the blood-boot stone
That heals the hurt the blade hath done
Rung down therefrom in silken purse:
The ruddy kin of Niblung’s curse
O’er tresses of a sea-wife’s hair
Was wrapped about the handle fair;
And last a marvelous sapphire stone
Amidst of the great pommel shone,
A blue flame in the forest green.
The old king recalled the night when the castle was burned, and related that his grandmother then
Betwixt the foemen’s spears the last
Of all the women, wrapping round
This sword the gift of Odin’s ground.”2
He showed the sword to Arthur, Guenevere, and Lancelot, and exclaimed,
“E’en as the sun arising wan
In the black sky when Heimdall’s horn
Screams out and the last day is born,
This blade to eyes of men shall be
On that dread day I shall not see-“3
Then he took Guenevere’s hand and laid it upon the hilt, saying
“Hold this, O Queen,
Thine hand is where God’s hands have been,
For this is Tyrfing: who knows when
His blade was forged? Belike ere men
Had dwelling on the middle earth.
At least a man’s life it is worth
So draw it out once: so behold
- Collected Works, XXIV, 326.
- Ibid., XXIV, 323.
- Loc. Cit.
 These peace-strings wrought of pearl and gold
The scabbard to the cross that bind
Lest a rash hand and heart made blind
Should draw it forth unwittingly.”1
A little later in the poem the grandson of the old king began to relate a story told to him by his grandmother of the days of old; at that time, he said,
… there were folk who had to tell
Of lyngworms lying on the fell,
And fearful things by lake and fen,
And manlike shapes that were not men.
Then fay-folk roamed the woods at noon,
And on the grave-mound in the moon
Faint gleamed the flickering treasure-flame.”2
Just as the young man’s tale is becoming interesting, the poem breaks off, uncompleted.
It is impossible ascertain definitely the source of the information regarding Tyrfing that Morris reveals in the first four of these quotations. The fullest account of the long history of this famous sword is of course found in the Hervarar saga ok Heidreks konungs. However, this saga had not been translated into English by 1870- in fact, has not yet been turned into English. Moreover, there is no record that Morris read it in the original, though he may possibly have done so at this time. It was included in the volume of the Fornaldar Sőgur Nordrlanda which he seems to have used for his rendering of the Vőlsunga saga,3 and he had other editions of the work in his library at his death.4 However, for the knowledge he shows of Tyrfing, it is not necessary to assume that he had read the Hervarar saga, for there were other sources of infor-
- Collected Works, XXIV, 323.
- Ibid. , XXIV, 325
- Fornladar Sőgur, I, 409-512.
- See below, p. 1001.
 mation, in English, available at the time. Thus, as Frank E. Farley points out in his discussion of the poem “The Waking of Angantyr” in his Scandinavian Influences in the English Romantic Movement,1 Scott gave a brief abstract of the saga-story concerning the forging of Tyrfing and the curse of the dwarfs in his essay “On the Fairies of Popular Superstition” in his Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border, 2 first published in 1802. Moreover, in 1842 William Herbert in his notes to “The Combat of Hialmar and Oddur with Angantyr and his Elven Brothers” in his Horae Scandicae translated Chapters II and III of the Hervarar saga – the chapters which describe the origin of the sword.3 Finally, William Taylor retold the whole story of the making of Tyrfing and the battle on Samsey, with many additions and alterations, in his Tales of Yore in 1810.4 The first of these accounts Morris had almost certainly read,5 and there is reason to believe that he knew Herbert’s work also;6 with the last book it is somewhat less likely that he was acquainted.7 I should also like
- Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature, IK (1903), 44-45.
- See Poetical Works (Edinburgh, 1833-1834), II, 255-257.
- See the Works of William Herbert (London, 1842), I, 267-270.
- I, 151-231.
- As I have already pointed out, Morris even as a boy admired and read Scott avidly (see above, pp. 1-2).
- It is fairly safe to assume that Morris was familiar with the works of Herbert, for an edition of Herbert’s Helga was found in his library at his death (see below, p. 1007).
- I should like to point out here that in his study Farley also calls attention to the fact that the poem “The Waking of Angantyr,” which was included in the Hervarar saga, had at an early date attracted the attention of English antiquaries, and that during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries eight translations or adaptations of this poem appeared in England (see Farley, op. cit., pp. 44-58). Some of these Morris may very likely have known, especially the version included in Percy’s Five Pieces of Runic Poetry, this rendering later appearing also in Percy’s translation of Mallet’s L’introduction a l’hisstoire de Dannemarc or Northern Antiquities (Edinburgh, 1809), II, 289-303. However, these renderings and adaptations could not have been Morris’s sole source of information about Tyrfing, for although many of them are provided with short introductions relating briefly the early history
 to point out that the story of Tyrfing is told briefly in Thomas Keightley’s Fairy Mythology, 1 a work which Morris may very well have known.
However, although Morris must have been drawing upon the saga itself or upon one of these other works for his knowledge of Tyrfing – if he was indebted to a written source -, he did not in certain respects follow these accounts in his description of the sword. Thus, in the first passage quoted above, Morris says that the scabbard was made “of a serpent’s skin” and that the hilt was formed of the “tooth of sea-lion”; but the saga, Scott, and Hervert describe the sheath and hilt as being of gold,2 and Taylor omits any reference to these details. Morris further says that the blade was provided with a “blood-boot stone,” that a sapphire was set in the pommel, and that “peace-strings” bound the hilt to the scabbard; none of these facts are mentioned in any of these four accounts. Of course, Morris may very likely have read the story several years before he wrote the poem, and so he may have forgotten the details in the description of the sword. However, he departs from the accounts given in these fur works even in the matter of the origin of Tyrfing, and the interesting tale of Svafrlami and the two dwarfs Dýrinn and Dvalinn it does not seem likely that Morris could have not forgotten if he had ever read it. Thus, he represents the old man as saying, in the fourth passage quoted above, that no one knows when the sword was forged but that it most likely was made before the time of man. Of course, it is possible that Morris himself knew that the two dwarfs
(continuation of note 7 on page 138) of the sword, none of them mention the fact that the weapon was cursed so that it could not be drawn without killing a man, and to this detail Morris refers in the fourth passage quoted. This quality of the sword, however, is described in Scott’s, Herbert’s, and Taylor’s works.
- (London, 1850), pp. 72-74.
- For the description of Tyrfing in the Hervarar saga, see Fornaldar Sőgur, I, 414-415.
 produced the weapon at the command of Svafrlami, and that he deliberately attributed ignorance of this matter to one of his characters in the interest of the story he was about to tell, of which we know very little since only the opening scene was written out. On the whole, however, Morris’s information regarding Tyrfing seems to have been rather slight. Perhaps he was not drawing on any written account, but was merely basing his remarks on something Magnússon had told him concerning the sword.
In addition to the references to Tyrfing,1 there are a number of other Norse allusions in the poem. Thus, in the third passage quoted above, Morris mentions Heimdall; with this Norse god and the part he is to play at the time of Ragnarók, we have already seem that Morris was familiar.2 Again, as I have just pointed out, in his account of Tyrfing he represents the sword as having a “healing –stone” and as being fastened to its sheath by “peace-strings,” although these details were not mentioned in the references to Tyrfing in the originals he seems to have used. Magic swords which could heal the wounds they had made were of course fairly common in the folk lore of the past.3 In most cases, however, they exercised this power when the flat of the blade was applied to the wound; only in Norse legends, it seems, were magic swords provided with a stone in the hilt for this purpose. With such “lyfensteinar,” as they were called, Morris may have become acquainted through references in  Thorpe’s Northern Mythology1 and from the account of “Skőfnung” in the Laxda͜ela saga.2 Similarly, “peace-strings” or “friðbnd” seem to have been used only on Scandinavian swords. Morris’s source of information regarding them was probably the Gísla saga, which he is said to have known through Dasent’s translation.3 Again, his allusions to “lyngworms” and to “treasure-flames” were both very likely the result of his early Scandinavian studies.4 With the term “lyngormr,” of which the word “lyngworm” is obviously a rendering, Morris had met in his translation of the Vőlsunga saga5 and also, perhaps, in the opening chapter of the Ragnars saga loðbrókar.6 The belief that lights were to be seen at night over buried treasure was very common among the early Northmen, and it was evidently the references to this tradition that he had met in his Scandinavian reading7 that led Morris to mention “treasure-flames” here. Similarly, his use of the term “middle earth” in the fourth passage quoted was very likely due to his studies in Old Norse,8 although the work was of course common in Old English also and he may have known it from non-Scandinavian sources.
Finally, it should be noted that Morris introduced in this poem three metaphors of the type common in early Germanic poetry
- I, 219.
- Pages 350 and 252
- See above, pp. 43-44 and the Gísla saga, tr. Dasent, p. 89.
- See the fifth passage quoted above.
- Fornaldar Sőgur Nordrlanda, I, 151 and 159.
- Ibid. , I, 237.
- See Thorpe’s Northern Mythology, II, 263-265. Morris may also have known the reference to this belief in Percy’s introductory remarks to his translation “The Waking of Angantyr” (in Mallet’s Northern Antiquities) ( Edinburgh, 1809), II, 296.
- See, for example, Thorpe’s Northern Mythology, I, 5 and 11 and Mallet’s Northern Antiquities (London, 1847), p. 405.
 and usually called “kennings.” Thus, in the first of the five passages quoted above Morris says, in describing Tyrfing, that
The ruddy kin of Niblung’s curse
O’er tresses of a sea-wife’s hair
Was wrapped about the handle fair;
and in the second passage he relates that he old king’s grandmother bore Tyrfing from the burning hall,
This sword the gift of Odin’s ground.”
The figures “the ruddy king of Niblung’s curse,” “tresses of a sea-wife’s hair,” and “the gift of Odin’s ground” were obviously formed in direct imitation of the Old Norse kennings. None of these metaphors, so far as I know, actually occur in Old Norse poetry.1 That the first one stands for “gold” is of course obvious, but the meaning of the other two is not clear. Karl Litzenberg, commenting on the first of these two passages in his article “Allusions to the Elder Edda in the ‘Non-Norse’ Poems of William Morris,” suggest that be the term “sea-wife” Morris may have meant to refer to Ran, the wife of the Norse sea-god Aegir, and that Morris may have used the figure “tresses of a sea-wife’s hair” to indicate “gold.”2 This interpretation of the kenning does not seem to me satisfactory, for it would make the passage as a whole mean that gold placed on gold was wrapped around the handle. Perhaps Morris used the expression simply to indicate “seaweed,” thinking fancifully of the “peace-strings,” which he later describes as being made of gold and pearl, as consist-
- They are not listed in Sveinbjðrn Egilsson’s Lexicon Poeticum (2 Udgave ved Finnur Jónsson [Copenhagen: S. L. Møllers Bogtrykkerl, 1931]) no in the section “Skáldskaparmál” in the Prose Edda. Kennings similar to the first one are of course fairly common. The nearest one to Morris’s that I have found is “róg, Niflunga” (see Egilsson, op. cit., p. 471, col.1, s. v. “róg”).
- Page 23.
 ing of seaweed covered with gold. The meaning of the kenning “the gift of Odin’s ground” is equally uncertain. The context seems to indicate that the king’s grandmother hid the sword with something, such as cloth, as she carried it past the foemen; there seems to be no reason, however, for calling cloth “the gift of Odin’s ground.”
The date of the composition of the fragment “In Arthur’s House” is not known. Miss Morris says in one of her Introductions that the tale, “though the subject suggests the earlier conceived Arthurian poems, is of a rather later period, and may be one of the projected stories for The Earthly Paradise.”1 It seems to me that Morris’s use of the three kennings just discussed almost definitely places the poem well after the fall of 1868, for although Morris was of course familiar with kennings before this time from the Scandinavian works he had read in translation, it was when he began turning sagas into English that he first came into direct contact with these elaborate figures. As I shall make clear later in Chapter IV, 2 Morris always showed a fondness in his own writings for using metaphorical expressions in place of the common name of an –object- even before he began studying Icelandic; but the three figures just considered are the first ones he used of this type which seem definitely to have been formed in imitation of Old Norse kennings, and two of these three – “the ruddy kin of Niblung’s curse” and “the gift of Odin’s ground” – are the first, so far as I know, which involves Norse characters. It is most
- Collected Works, XXIC, xxxi.
- See below, pp. 590-593.
 natural to assume that it was the experience, often undoubtedly unpleasant, that he had in analyzing Old Norse kennings and in turning them into English in the course of his saga-rendering that led him to imitate the Icelandic kennings in his own figures. Moreover, although the Arthurian setting of the poem seems at first to indicate that the tale was an early composition, the background does not prevent us from dating the fragment after 1868, for according to Mackail, Morris developed a fresh, but transitory, interest in the Arthurian story in 1870. Mackail says of Morris that during the summer of 1870, when The Earthly Paradise was practically completed, the “Arthurian legend once more attracted him, not now filling his mind, but making in it something of a counterpoise to the Northern sagas…”;1 he further states that Morris thought of writing a long poem on the story of Tristram and another on the tale of Balin and Balan, but that nothing was ever produced. Possible the fragment we have just been considering was a result of this renewed interest in the Arthur story.2
The year 1870 brings to a close what may be considered the first period of Morris’s interest in the history, literature, and general culture of the early Scandinavians. During the years 1834 to 1870, as we have seen, Morris’s acquaintance with the North grew from the general information he derived from Thorpe’s Northern Mythology while a student at Oxford to a first-hand acquaintance with
- William Morris, I, 209.
- In his articles “Tyrfing into Excalibur? A Note on William Morris’s Unfinished Poem, ‘In Arthur’s House’” (in Scandinavian Studies and Notes, XV (1938-1939), 81-83) and “Allusions to the Elder Edda in the ‘Non-Norse’ Poems of William Morris,” p. 20, Dr. Litzenberg assumes that the poem “In Arthur’s Hose” was written early – about 1865. As I have said above, there is no conclusive evidence as to the date of the fragment, but what evidence we do have seems to me to point to a time after 1868; Dr. Litzenberg does not state his reasongs for believing the poem as early as 1865.
 some of the greatest of the Icelandic sagas and with the main part of The Poetic Edda; and his early interest in Old Norse literature, which seems merely to have been a part of his passion for everything medieval, was supplanted by a genuine understanding and appreciation of the great art of the sagas and the Eddic verse. The real impetus to his interest in the North was of course his meeting with Magnússon in 1868. The knowledge of the Icelandic language that he gained from his studies with Magnússon and the first-hand acquaintance that this knowledge gave him with the literature he had hitherto known only through English translations or through general accounts of early Scandinavia awakened in him a deep love for the North, so that in the two years immediately followings his introduction to Magnússon he seems to have turned into English at least six sagas, three of which he published, and he composed three poems based on Norse stories. During these last two years he became more and more absorbed in his Scandinavian studies, but up to the end of 1870 it cannot be said that his Icelandic work was his prime interest. In the period 1874 through 1876, however, which I shall consider in Chapter II, he gave himself up almost exclusively to his interest in medieval Scandinavia.
- In addition to the references to Tyrfing in the quotations given above, there is a mere mention of the sword in Collected Works, XXIV, 324, 1.14.
- See above, pp. 93-94.
- See, for example, The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. F. N. Robinson (Cambridge: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1933), p. 156, p. 323. See also above, on pp. 76-77, the references to such a sword in Thorpe’s tale “The Land East of the Sun and West of the Moon.”