« IndietroContinua »
with sound, as if from the heavy bass fell asleep, and did not wake until near of a great organ. For fully a minute morning heaven and earth seemed to be filled With the first streak of dawn the with yelling, shrieking fiends. Then camp began to hoy signs of animaone by one they began gradually to tion. The dogs crawled out of the drop off, the unearthly tumult grew deep holes which their warm bodies had momentarily fainter and fainter, until melted in the snow, the Cossacks poked at last it ended, as it began, in one long their heads out of their frosty fur-coats, inexpressibly melancholy wail, and all and whipped off, with little sticks, the was still. One or two of our men mass of frost which had accumulated moved restlessly in their sleep, as if the around their breathing-holes; a fire mournful howls had blended unpleas- was built, tea boiled, and we crawled antly with their dreams, but no one out of our sleeping bags to shiver around awoke, and a death-like silence again the fire, and eat a hasty breakfast of pervaded heaven and earth. Suddenly rye-bread, dried fish, and tea. In twenthe aurora shone out with increased ty minutes the dogs were harnessed, brilliancy, and its waving swords swept sledges packed, and runners covered back and forth in great semicircles with ice, and one after another we across the dark, starry sky, and lighted drove away at a brisk trot from the up the snowy steppe with transitory smoking fire, and began another day's flashes of colored radiance, as if the journey across the barren steppe. gates of heaven were opening and clos- In this monotonous routine of riding, ing upon the dazzling brightness of the camping, and sleeping on the snow, day celestial city. Presently it faded away after day slowly passed, until, on Dec. again to a faint, diffused glow in the 20th, we arrived at the settled Korak north, and one pale green streamer, village of Shestakova, near the head of slender and bright as the spear of
Penzhinak Gulf. From this point our Ithuriel, pushed slowly up toward the Geezhega Cossacks were to return, and zenith, until it touched, with its trans- here we were to wait until the expected lucent point, the jewelled belt of Orion. sledges from Penzhina should arrive. Then it, too, faded and vanished, and We lowered our bedding, pillows, camp nothing but a bank of pale white mist, equipage, and provisions down through on the northern horizon, showed the the chimney-hole of the largest yourt location of the celestial armory, whence in the small village, arranged them as the arctic spirits drew the gleaming tastefully as possible on the wide woodswords and lances which they shook en platform which extended out from and brandished nightly over the lonely the wall on one side, and made ourSiberian steppes. Crawling back into selves as comfortable as darkness, smoke, my bag as the aurora disappeared, I cold, and dirt would permit.
In Denmark the peasants comprise less, as little his own master; for he two thirds of the whole population ; was forbidden to move from the place and, as agriculture is the main resource where he was born until he had comof the country, the tillers of the soil pleted his sortieth year. Thus he lost are the main body of society. In the almost entirely a man's first right, the middle of the eighteenth century their right to live where he likes; for if one social advantages were, nevertheless, has been shut up within the same box very small. Statesmen in those times, for forty years of his life, he is likely to especially those of narrow mind and have lost all energy to move away from sentimental tendencies, considered the it. State a large household, and according This regulation was, strictly speakto this idea society was planned and the ing, not a feudal bondage, but rather a Government conducted. The king was sort of military duty.
The lord was considered the master, the noblemen compelled by law to supply the army his family, the royal officers a sort of out of his tenantry with a certain numstewards, and the lower classes-the ber of soldiers. He had received his peasants--his servants. But in the real estate from the king, and still held household, where the master has the it on this condition. It was, however, right to do all that he likes, his family often impossible for him to fulfil it, bethe right to do all that the master does cause the young people ran away when not dislike, and the stewards. the right the time of enlistment arrived. In conto cheat both of them, there can be but sequence of this, the Government tied a small portion of rights remaining to the peasants by law to the soil on which the servants. So it was at that time. they were born. Military service was,
The Danish peasants were not exactly indeed, a horror to the peasants, and slaves, but something still worse. Το could not fail to be so, for it was such the slave, who has no rights at all, his as to be to them an anticipation of hell poverty and defencelessness are, in a itself. The Danish king kept up a large measure, a passport to his master's com- standing army, with which to ornament passion ; but the Danish peasants, who his palaces, to wage some wars, and to were tenants, had a form of rights, provide his treasury with money. It which deprived them of the lord's be- seems a singular business to make monnevolence, without enabling them to ey by dealing in soldiers; yet, Freddefend themselves against his despotic erick IV. let out his soldiers to William encroachments. A century ago the III. of England for a considerable sum, peasants were the property of their and an additional amount for each one lords; and if the lord was gambling, who happened to be shot. When Marland had no more money left, he set a borough advised him that such or such number of peasants, instead of dollars, a regiment or battalion had been mown on his card. At the end of the eight down by the enemy's grapeshot, this centh century this had changed, but dreadful report was softened to his still a deed of conveyance would some- royal heart by an enclosed assignment times enumerate: an estate, consisting on the English treasury; and it was his of two hundred acres of ground, with comfort that peasants, like rabbits and house and barns, with four horses, rats, are very prolific. The Danish twenty cows, eight peasants, and so kings themselves sometimes waged wars, forth. Even if the tenant was not the never by virtue of any war-like temper property of the lord, he was, neverthe- or military talent, seldom for any useful purpose, but from futile reasons, part of it pulled out. All military matsometimes only because it was consid- ters were pedantic, as the whole miliered for the royal glory to have waged tary method was barbarous. The greatwars and shed blood--the people's, of est injuries and cruelties that Heaven course, not their own. The war, how- ever looked upon have perhaps been ever, was a relief to the soldiers. They committed in the European armies of fared much worse during peace, when the eighteenth century. No wonder, only used as an ornament. When the therefore, that the young peasants used king took a ride, the soldiers had to every possible means to avoid the army. accompany him in large numbers and They sometimes cut off their forefingers, in pompous array. It was a brilliant in order to be incapable of using arms, show. The coach itself, though it and consequently unfit for military serlooked very like a cage in our menage- vice. Often, at the time of enlistment, ries, was, nevertheless, something im- the lord had to establish a regular sysposing, for it was gilded and uphol- tem of hunting after the youth of his stered all over, and it moved gravely tenantry. They would disappear from and majestically along, drawn by eight their homes and flee into the forests. horses. Within sat the king; without But the lord scoured the forest with rode on horseback the dragoons and rifle and horn, with huntsmen and dogs, hussars, certainly not to prevent the coursing the deserter from tree to tree, royal beast of prey from breaking out, over the hills, down to the swamp, but as little to prohibit the subject- where usually he was taken, sitting in lambs from breaking in; for, indeed, the mud up to the neck, and with all these last stood humbly bowing on the dogs barking around him. both sides of the road. When the king The military duty, however, as it was returned home, the infantry were drawn called, was not completed by an actual up in the court-yard, upon the stairs, service of eight or ten years; for the and along the corridors, presenting peasant was still nominally bound by arms; and through these brilliant ranks law to the same duty. This, however, he dragged along his rheumatism or was a sort of imposition in behalf of his gout, his waking vices and his sleep- the nobleman, in order that his ground ing conscience. Such a military ser- might be cultivated. When the service vice seems not difficult to performi; yet was over, the peasant had to return to it was difficult to learn, and could not his birthplace and remain until the forbe acquired without almost intolerable tieth year of his age. But though this vexations. The officers were Germans, command was issued under pretext of and perhaps not one of them could a military duty, the real cause was, nevspeak Danish. At all events, the words ertheless, the miserable system of gathof command were in German, The ering taxes. The peasants paid their army, being Danish peasants, of course taxes not to a royal tax-gatherer, but to did not understand these commands; the lord, and he himself was tax-free, nevertheless, if they were mistaken, the on condition that he should be security soldiers were soundly flogged. To be to the king for the tenants' taxes. This, beaten and basted, drubbed and cudg- however, he could not be, unless the elled, was the soldier's natural lot; for, king, on his part, would be security to indeed, this was the only language the lord that he should not lack tenthrough which the officer could make ants. Hence the command that the his will understood. And what was his young peasant should go back to his will? It was, to have all his soldiers birthplace. After being a soldier, he exactly alike in size and form. The became a tenant; but he was only blown thick were to be laced and the thin to from the thunder into the lightning. be stuffed. Those who had no beard, Thraldom was now his condition, and had to wear a false one; and those who a hundred hindrances were placed in had a full beard, to have the greater the way of his labor. He was compelled to take whatever farm, and for their virtue, indolence their vice. The whatever rent, the lord chose to desig- Danish history, through the last five or nate; and the rent was to be paid part- six centuries, presents many instances ly with money, but chiefly with labor. of bold defence, but none of brilliant At any time he could be commanded to assault; many of indomitable will, but go to the manor and work for the lord, none of impulsive passion. And these when he had instantaneously to let his poor fellows, moreover, had grown up own work wait, if he would not ride in the conviction that all was as it the wooden horse. This was a board, ought to be; that life on earth ought on the edge of which the refractory to be a hell to them and a paradise to tenant was placed astride without pil- the lord, and that this was the will of lion, but with weights tied to bis feet, the Creator. They could neither read, and from which he often dismounted write, nor cipher; and as to religion, cripple. Thus, he could seldom get his they knew Satan better than God. The own soil tilled or his own crop gathered minister was a stout theologian, who rein due time, particularly as he had to ceived the office from the nobleman's wait for the tither. He paid the tithe bands by marrying his predecessor's in kind, and had to let the crop remain widow. He was always very busy in in the field until the tithe-gatherer had bringing accusations of heresy against come to count the sheaves and take a the neighboring clergyman, and with tenth part. Meanwhile, the grain often writing congratulatory verses to his sprouted and was spoiled. His harvest patron; but he took little care of his was small and bad, sufficing perhaps to flock, and suffered them to feed upon feed himself and his family upon, but the most foolish superstitions. He was leaving nothing for the market; and as often a sort of maître de plaisir to the bis condition was thraldom, so his life lord ; and while the minister was thus, was starvation. If, however, some in a great measure, taken up with arstrenuous and industrious tenant hap ranging the amusements at the manor, pened to conquer his fate so as to gain his neglected parishioners sought the a little surplus, it was none the better witch for help in all spiritual matters. for him, and the money had to be care- The witch was not only the peasant's fully concealed, because, if the fact physician, but also his judge and his came to the knowledge of the lord, the priest. To her he went, if any thing tenant was likely to be robbed by him, had been stolen, that she might detect The lord could, indeed, seize upon the and punish the thief by her sorcery. tenant's property without violating the To her he brought the new-born little law. He could arbitrarily increase the one to have it blessed with a sign, lest rent; he could, without any possible the elf should take it away and substiprotest, remove him to a poorer farm, tute a child of its own. She was, inand could enforce his demands in pref- deed, his faith, his hope, and all his erence to all other creditors, even with comfort; but her business was very out presenting any certificate of debt. dangerous to herself. If the minister Thus robbery was legal, if the lord was became jealous, and waged war against the robber and the tenant the robbed; her, there could be no terms of peace. and the poor peasant, after losing the The old hag was to be thrown into the enjoyment of personal freedom, lost, sea. If she sank to the bottom and was moreover, the right of accumulating drowned, she was declared innocent of wealth-yea, of having property. Was sorcery, and buried like a Christian there now any thing left for him to woman; but if she floated on the lose ?
water, she was deemed able to do so But why did he not rebel, rather than only by help of Satan himself, and she lose all in such a manner ? Alas, poor was burned to death. If once accused unfortunate! To endure is the charac- of sorcery, water or fire was inevitably ter of the Danish nation, perseverance her death; and with her died the spiritual matron of the parish. The school- labor which develops the laborer. But master was a weak theologian, who got the Danish peasants, in the middle of his employment at the hands of the the eighteenth century, lived only to steward, by marrying the landlord's put meat into the nobleman's pot. chambermaid. He was a man of wit, From a life of such labor nothing is able to demonstrate that the earth was learned but to steal the meat. A peoflat, like a pancake; he could speak ple thus trained are not fit for rebellion. Latin and make altar-candles, but he If they are good-nătured, they will only never taught his pupils any thing worth suffer and degenerate. learning. He was an itinerant teacher, Yet, in process of time, a feeling of and did not tarry in one place longer 'the cruel injustice of this state of things than three or four days at a time. began to dawn in the higher classes of When he reached a village, he gathered society. The first who gave public exthe children into a barn, and began his pression to this sentiment was a poetinstructions. Standing on a table or Louis Holberg. In his comedy of barrel, and crying out the articles and Jeppe, which has been translated into commandments from the catechism, all European languages, he has pormajestically beating time with a switch, trayed to the life the Danish peasantry and now and then animating his spirit of that time. He drew a picture of the by a dram of brandy, he made the chil- drunkenness, indolence, superstition, dren repeat these matters over and over and silliness of that class, with such again. At last, getting drunk, his leg- humor and wit as to convulse the readsons would end. Such instruction, even er with laughter, and with such energy though it was religious instruction, was of truth as to make him shrink before a mere matter of memory to the chil- the naked ugliness. But though the dren ; and he left to their hearts only likeness has by no means been flattered his own example—an example of drunk by the poet, it savors, nevertheless, of enness. But did he never give their something not directly said, like Beauintellect any thing ? Certainly. Some- marchais' Figaro. We laugh at Jeppe, times, when in splendid humor, he and we shrink before him, but we take poured out his wits, consisting of a pre- an interest in him. Glimpses of strong cious combination of sagacious ques- common sense and sound feeling, in tions and answers. For instance : connection with some undefinable love“ Who cried so loud as to be heard by liness of mind, prove him to be a goodall living on the earth ? "_" The ass in natured man, only depraved by odious Noah's ark; for in it were all living conditions. He touches our feeling and beings enclosed.” Or: “What grows excites our indignation on account of larger by subtracting from it, and small- his social position. It is a masterpiece, er by adding to it?"_“A pit-hole.” and it was fully understood. Upon the The worst of all, however, was, that the whole, the Europeans have a talent for most benevolent teacher of man-life catching the pith of a drama ; and the itself-could teach the poor peasant Revolution of 1830, in Paris, is not the nothing. Horace has said, that the only one which has begun in the theaowner's two eyes see more than the ser- tre. vant's hundred--and there is deep truth A little after this event, the condition in these few words; for, indeed, if of the peasantry became the subject of labor is to be not a dumb drudgery, animated debates. In 1770, Denmark but a development of strength and obtained the liberty of the press. It mind—if one is to work strenuously was, later-in 1772—much limited, but and with prudence, gaining by work- the debate had begun, and could not ing, he himself must be the possessor of be kept down. The facts were too the results of his labors. It is only the striking. When travelling through the enjoyment of the fruit which dignifies country, one would meet with only the labor, and it is only the dignified painful scenes. The dwellings were in