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ICELANDIC WITCHES.

OF the witches, and the estimation in which they were held among the Danes and AngloSaxons, we have some curious notes in Erin's Rauga Saga, and other Icelandic annals. One of them is thus described : « There was an old woman named Heida, famous for her skill in divination, and the arts of magic, who frequented public entertainments, predicting what kind of weather would be the year after, and telling men and women their fortunes. She was constantly attended by thirty men' servants, and waited on by fifteen

young

maidens." These venerable hags were all old women; for age among our ancestors was always connected with an idea of wisdom; and princes and great men were desirous to invite them to their houses, to consult them about the success of their designs, the fortunes of themselves and families, and any future event which they desired to know. On these occasions, they made great preparation for their honourable reception, and entertained them in the most respectful manner. The description of the witch Thorbiorga, in Rauga Saga, and her interview with Earl Thorchill, are curious. She is represented as the only survivor of nine sisters, all witches or fortune-tellers, who were famous for their knowledge of futurity, and who

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frequented public entertainments, when invited. Earl Thorchill, in order to be informed when a sickness or famine would cease, which then raged in the country, sent for, and made proper preparations for the reception of Thorbiorga. On her arrival in the evening, she was dressed in a gown of green cloth, buttoned from top to bottom; about her neck was a string of glass beads, and her head was covered with the skin of a black lamb, lined with that of a white cat; her shoes were of calf's skin, with the hair on, tied with thongs, and fastened with brass buttons ; and on her hands were a pair of gloves, of white cat's skin, with the fur inward; about her waist she wore a Hunlandic girdle, at which hung a bag, containing her magical instruments; and she supported herself on a staff, adorned with many knobs of brass. On her entrance, the whole company rose and saluted her, and Earl Thorchill advancing, took her by the hand, and conducted her to the seat prepared for her, on which was a cushion of hens' feathers. After some ceremony, and refreshment was set before her, Thorchill, humbly approaching the prophetess, requested to know what she thought of his house and family, and if she would be pleased to tell them what they desired to know? She answered, next day she would fully satisfy them; accordingly, on the morrow, having put her inKING OF PRUSSIA AND PROF. GELLERT. 99 struments of divination in order, she commanded Godreda, one of her maidens, to sing the magical song called Vardlokurb, which she sung with so elear and sweet a voice as delighted the company, and in particular the prophetess, who declared that she then knew many things respecting the famine and sickness which before she was ignorant of. The famine would be of short continuance, and the sickness would abate. Each of the family then asked her what questions they pleased, and she : told them every thing they desired to know.

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KING OF PRUSSIA AND PROFESSOR GELLERT.

Conversation between the King of Prussia and

Christian Gellert, Professor of Philosophy at
Leipsic; extracted from a Letter, dated Leipsic,
January 27, 1761.

THE 18th of October last, about three in the afternoon, as Doctor Gellert, who was indisposed, was sitting at his writing-table, in his morning gown, he heard a rap at his chamber door, and desired the person to enter. The gentleman who made his appearance said to him, My name, Sir, is Quintus Julius; I have long wished to

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have the honour I now enjoy, of beholding one of the greatest men in the republic of letters: it is not, however, in my own name, that I approach you ;-it is on the part of his Prussian Majesty, who is anxious to see you, and he has ordered me to invite you to call on him.”

Mr.Gellert, after some apologies on the ill state of his health, was at length induced to accompany Major Quintus, who introduced him to the King, when the following conversation took place :

The King. You are Professor Gellert ?
Gellert. Yes, Sire.

The King. The British envoy has spoken of you as a man of great merit. ---Of what country are you?

Gellert. Of Hanichen, near Freyberg.

The King. What is the reason that Germany has not hitherto produced any good writers ?

Gellert. Your Majesty need only cast your eyes on one this instant, whose writings have been judged' worthy even by the French themselves, to be translated into their language, whence he has been honoured with the name of the German La Fontaine.

The King. That is, undoubtedly, a great proof of merit.-Have you ever read La Fontaine ?

Gellert. Yes, Sire, I have read him; not with a view of imitating him; I am ambitious of being an original in my own manner.

The

The King. And I find that you have succeeded ; but, after all, what is the reason that our Germany cannot boast of many such writers as

you?

Gellert. Your Majesty appears to be preju. diced against the Germans.

The King. Not at all, I assure you.
Gellert. Or at least, against those that write.

The King. It is true, I don't entertain a high opinion. How comes it that our country is not yet indebted to one good historian?

Gellert. Sire, to many : Cramer, amongst the rest, has continued Bossuet: I need scarce mention the learned Mascow. 'The King. A German, the continuator of Bossuet !-how can that be?

Gellert. He has not merely continued, but he has executed that difficult task with such suc. cess, that one of the ablest professors in your Majesty's states has not hesitated to pronounce the continuation, in point of style and arrangement, to be superior to that which Bossuet began.

The King. Be it so: but how is it that Tacitus has not yet found a successful translator in Germany?

Gellert. Tacitus is one of those writers that set translation almost at defiance; he is extremely difficult. Little can be said even in praise of the French translations.

The King. On this point, I am of your opinion.

Gellert.

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