AN ICELANDIC STORY.
[The following quaint
parable is taken from a MS. collection of Icelandic Fairy Tales and other
Stories, translated by the Rev. Olaf Palsson, Dean and Hector of Reykjavik
Cathedral, and sent to the writer of this by him, to edit and get
published in this country.
I visited the worthy pastor
last summer, and received much kindness at his hands. He reads, speaks,
and writes English fluently. On his bookshelves I observed a presentation
copy of Lord Dufferin's "Letters from High Latitudes," the "Life of the
Rev. Ebenezer Henderson"—whose travels are as freshly descriptive of
Iceland to-day as when they were penned forty years ago — Stanley's "Sinai
and Palestine," and Caird's "Sermons." There is often a peculiar terse
raciness in the English of a learned foreigner—especially when a Northman.
This arises partly from the idiom, and partly from the use of obsolete
words, or of modern ones in their primary significations. Strange effects
are also produced by common words being introduced in unfamiliar and
I have, therefore, with the
exception of one or two trifling corrections, given the text as I find it.
This story—an original and conclusive argument against swearing—might not
inappropriately have been called "Bad Words."]
Sœmunder once had a cowherd
whom he found too much addicted to swearing, and he very often reprimanded
him for this. He told this cowherd that Old Nick and his servants had
people's curses for their food.
"Then I never would say a
bad word," said the cowherd, "if I knew that Old Nick should lose his
meals by that."
"I'll soon see whether you
are in earnest or not," replied Sœmunder; and he lodged a goblin in the
cowhouse. The cowherd did not like this guest, for the goblin did every
kind of mischief and annoyance, and it was very difficult for the cowherd
to refrain from cursing. Yet for a time things went on tolerably well, and
he saw how the goblin grew leaner every day. The cowherd was glad of this,
and never did slip out an oath. One morning, when he entered the cowhouse,
he found everything broken, the cows bound together by their tails; and
there were many of them. He then approached the goblin, who, in his
misery, was couched in his stall, and overwhelmed him in his wrath with
rude words and curses. But to his own great vexation, he in a moment saw
the goblin revive, and get so thriving, that he was almost growing fat.
Then the cowherd checked himself, and left off swearing. He now understood
that Sœmunder was right, left off cursing, and never afterwards said a
nasty word. As for the goblin, who was to feed on his cursing, he is long
ago out of the tale.
Would that you and I were
able to follow the cowherd's example!