The Danish History, Books I-IX eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 572 pages of information about The Danish History, Books I-IX.

A sufficient account of the other fragments will be found in Holder’s list.  In 1855 M. Kall-Rasmussen found in the private archives at Kronborg a scrap of fourteenth century Ms., containing a short passage from Bk. vii.  Five years later G. F. Lassen found, at Copenhagen, a fragment of Bk. vi believed to be written in North Zealand, and in the opinion of Bruun belonging to the same codex as Kall-Rasmussen’s fragment.  Of another longish piece, found in Copenhagen at the end of the seventeenth century by Johannes Laverentzen, and belonging to a codex burnt in the fire of 1728, a copy still extant in the Copenhagen Museum, was made by Otto Sperling.  For fragments, either extant or alluded to, of the later books, the student should consult the carefully collated text of Holder.  The whole Ms. material, therefore, covers but a little of Saxo’s work, which was practically saved for Europe by the perseverance and fervour for culture of a single man, Bishop Urne.


Saxo’s countrymen have praised without stint his remarkable style, for he has a style.  It is often very bad; but he writes, he is not in vain called Grammaticus, the man of letters.  His style is not merely remarkable considering its author’s difficulties; it is capable at need of pungency and of high expressiveness.  His Latin is not that of the Golden Age, but neither is it the common Latin of the Middle Ages.  There are traces of his having read Virgil and Cicero.  But two writers in particular left their mark on him.  The first and most influential is Valerius Maximus, the mannered author of the “Memorabilia”, who lived in the first half of the first century, and was much relished in the Middle Ages.  From him Saxo borrowed a multitude of phrases, sometimes apt but often crabbed and deformed, as well as an exemplary and homiletic turn of narrative.  Other idioms, and perhaps the practice of interspersing verses amid prose (though this also was a twelfth century Icelandic practice), Saxo found in a fifth-century writer, Martianus Capella, the pedantic author of the “De Nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii” Such models may have saved him from a base mediaeval vocabulary; but they were not worthy of him, and they must answer for some of his falsities of style.  These are apparent.  His accumulation of empty and motley phrase, like a garish bunch of coloured bladders; his joy in platitude and pomposity, his proneness to say a little thing in great words, are only too easy to translate.  We shall be well content if our version also gives some inkling of his qualities; not only of what Erasmus called his “wonderful vocabulary, his many pithy sayings, and the excellent variety of his images”; but also of his feeling for grouping, his barbaric sense of colour, and his stateliness.  For he moves with resource and strength both in prose and verse, and is often only hindered by his own wealth.  With no kind of critical tradition to chasten him, his force is often misguided and his work shapeless; but he stumbles into many splendours.

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The Danish History, Books I-IX from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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