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captivating to a youthful ear; and the classic tales of antiquity were rivalled at least, if not excelled, in Mordaunt's opinion, by the strange legends of Berserkar, of Sea-kings, of dwarfs, giants, and sorcerers, which he heard from the native Zetlanders. Often the scenes around hiin were assigned as the localities of the wild poems,
, which, half recited, half chaunted, by voices as hoarse, if not so loud, as the waves over which they floated, pointed out the very bay on which they sailed as the scene of a bloody sea-fight; the scarce-seen heap of stones that bristled over the projecting cape, as the dun or castle of sone potent Earl or noted pirate; the distant and solitary grey stone on the lonely moor, as marking the grave of a hero; the wild cavern, up which the sea rolled in heavy, broad, and unbroken þillows, as the dwelling of some noted. sorceress.
The ocean also had its mysteries, the effect of which was aided by the dim twilight, through which it was imperfectly seen for more than half the year. Its bottomless depths and secret caves contained, according to the account of Sweyn
and others, skilled in legendary lore, such wonders as modern navigators reject with disdain. In the quiet moonlight bay, where the waves came rippling to the shore, upon a bed of smooth sand intermingled with shells, the mermaid was still seen to glide along the waters by moonlight, and, mingling her voice with the sighing breeze, was often heard to sing of subterranean wonders, or to chaunt prophecies of future events. The kraken, that hugest of living things, was still supposed to cumber the recesses of the Northern Ocean; and often, when some fog-bank covered the sea at a distance, the eye of the experienced boatmen saw the horns of the monstrous leviathan welking and waving amidst the wreaths of mist, and bore away with all press of oar and sail, lest the sudden suction, occasioned by the sinking of the monstrous mass to the bottom, should drag within the grasp of its multifarious feelers his own frail skiff. The sea-snake was also known, which, arising out of the depths of ocean, stretches to the skies his enormous neck, covered with a mane like that of a war-horse, and with its broad glittering eyes, raised mast
head high, looks out, as it seems, for plunder or for victims.
Many prodigious stories of these marine monsters, and of many others less known, were then universally received among the Zetlanders, whose descendants have not as yet by any means abandoned faith in them.
Such legends are, indeed, every where current amongst the vulgar; but the imagination is far more powerfully affected by them on the deep and dangerous seas of the north, amidst precipices and headlands, many hundred feet in height, - amid perilous straits, and currents, and eddies,— long sunken reefs of rock, over which the vivid ocean foams and boils, - dark caverns, to whose extremities neither man nor skiff has ever ventured, -lonely, and often uninhabited isles,—and occasionally the ruins of ancient northern fastnesses, dimly seen by the feeble light of the Arctic winter. To Mordaunt, who had much of romance in his disposition, these superstitions formed a pleasing and interesting exercise of the imagination, while, half doubting, half inclined to believe, he listened
to the tales chaunted concerning these wonders of nature, and creatures of credulous belief, told in the rude but energetic language of the ancient Scalds.
But there wanted not softer and lighter amusements, that might seem better suited to Mordaunt's age, than the wild tales and rude exercises which we have already mentioned. The season of winter, when, from the shortness of the day-light, labour becomes impossible, is in Zetland the time of revel, feasting, and merriment. Whatever the fisherman has been able to acquire during summer, was expended, and often wasted, in maintaining the mirth and hospitality of his hearth during this period; while the landholders and gentlemen of the island gave double loose to their convivial and hospitable dispositions, thronged their houses with guests, and drove away the rigour of the season with jest, glee, and song, the dance, and the wine-cup
Amid the revels of this merry, though rigorous season, no youth added more spirit to the dance, or glee to the revel, than the young
stranger, Mordaunt Mertoun. When his father's state of mind permitted, or indeed required his absence, he wandered from house to house, a welcome guest wherever he came, and lent his willing voice to the song, and his foot to the revel. A boat, or, if the weather, as was often the case, permitted not that convenience, one of the numerous ponies, which, straying in hordes about the extensive moors, may be said to be at any man's commandment, conveyed him from the mansion of one hospitable Zetlander to that of another. None excelled him. in performing the warlike sworddance, a species of amusement which had been derived from the habits of the ancient Norsemen. He could play upon the gue, and upon the common violin, the melancholy and pathetic tunes peculiar to the country; and with great spirit and execution.could relieve their monotony with the livelier airs of the North of Scotland. When a party set forth as maskers, or, as, they are called in Scotland, guizards, to visit some neighbouring laird, or rich udaller, it ugured well of the expedition if Mordaunt