previous next

[397] Its gods were brutal giant forces, patrons of war, robbery, and drunken revelry; its heaven a vast cloud-built ale-house, where ghostly warriors drank from the skulls of their victims; its hell a frozen horror of desolation and darkness,—all that the gloomy Northern imagination could superadd to the repulsive and frightful features of arctic scenery: volcanoes spouting fire through craters rimmed with perpetual frost, boiling caldrons flinging their fierce jets high into the air, and huge jokuls, or ice-mountains, loosened and upheaved by volcanic agencies, crawling slowly seaward, like misshapen monsters endowed with life,—a region of misery unutterable, to be avoided only by diligence in robbery and courage in murder.

What a work had Christianity to perform upon such a people as the Icelanders, for instance, of the tenth century!—to substitute in rude, savage minds the idea of its benign and gentle Founder for that of the Thor and Woden of Norse mythology; the forgiveness, charity, and humility of the Gospel for the revenge, hatred, and pride inculcated by the Eddas. And is it not one of the strongest proofs of the divine life and power of that Gospel, that, under its influence, the hard and cruel Norse heart has been so softened and humanized that at this moment one of the best illustrations of the peaceful and gentle virtues which it inculcates is afforded by the descendants of the sea-kings and robbers of the middle centuries? No one can read the accounts which such travellers as Sir George Mackenzie and Dr. Henderson have given us of the peaceful disposition, social equality,

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
George Mackenzie (1)
Henderson (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: