Now with this picture of the old Norsemen in mind let us come back to Cumberland of to-day, and see if the sons of the Vikings have much altered, or are in their characteristics Vikings still. (p. 208)

First, they are born farmers.  I suppose there are few men who are so competent to make two ends meet in these days of agricultural depression as the hard-working Cumberland farmer, and there are, for the size of the county, fewer farmers’ sons who take to war as a profession than perhaps in any county in England.  But they have the Viking love of adventure; the men who in our time have made their fortunes in London by sheer pluck and honest industry show this; nevertheless, go where they may, their love of home is very strong.  They have a homing instinct like the heaf-born herdwick, and no matter to what part of the earth they go, or which of the seven seas they cross, the Cumbrian’s heart is back among the blue hills of his native country. (pp. 208-209)

Next about their word being their bond.  I have come across men of the generation passing away, who in all their contracts never once used a piece of written paper.  “Naay, naay,” they would say, “he gev’ me his word, and what, that’s eneuf, or sud be eneuf for any man.” (p. 209)

It is this same feeling about the sanctity of the spoken word that makes a Cumbrian refuse to say he knows to any question, if he does not, also refuses to allow him to speak ill of a neighbour except under great provocation. (p. 209)

As to moral life, I fear that parish registers and statistics point to Cumberland being in one matter Viking still.  The Young Women’s Friendly Societies have of late years done much to raise the tone of thought in this matter, and it is hoped that young men may in the next generation think more nobly of what is due to young women, and be more knightly and more self-restrained for Christ’s sake.  But like the Norsemen of old, if the man and woman once wed, they are true to the contract. (pp. 209-210)

They are men of few words, the exact opposite of the voluble Celt still, but they will still listen for hours to those who will entertain them with stories.  They appreciate a “dounreet good crack”….  As to law and order, where will you find men so manageable in a crowd as in Cumberland, so self-restrained.  They have, side by side with their respect for order, great ideas of having their rights, perhaps almost a love of appeal to law and the judge.  I think this is out of their high sense of the greatness and the majesty of law, but it is also partly the result of their willingness to abide by law. (p. 210)

The Cumbrian, too, of to-day, is like his Viking ancestor in being willing to endure long spells of work if only he may have his Martinmas and his Christmas holiday.  The old days of the ‘Merry Neets’ and junketings from farm to farm have faded away, but these were direct survivals of Viking times.  Notwithstanding that we in Cumberland live under the rain-belt, as a county, men seem to me to be learning to be sober.  I can see a great change for the better in the last fifteen years.  But the Hirings on certain Christmas and New Year festivals seem still to waken Viking echoes, and the idea prevails that at such times the wassail horn should be lifted high.  This, too, I believe to be a survival from Norse Festivals. (pp. 210-211)

Men in Cumberland keep their tempers; if they lose them they do not easily recover peace of mind, and the Cumbrian who thinks himself aggrieved or wronged seems to be unable to forgive and forget. (p. 211)….

As regards humour, there is much of it among the Cumbrians, but a large part of it is unconscious, and it takes the form rather of putting dry sayings in a striking way than of light humour.  But the capacity to enjoy humour is considerable, as anyone may see who hears a good roomful laugh their hearts out at ‘Bobby Banks’ Bodderment’ or ‘Wil Rutson’s law suit.’  I think I can detect in their fondness for proverbial sayings a touch of the Viking strain.  Certainly the old Norse delight in the humour of nicknames survives.  One cannot be at any meeting where the names of several people are mentioned without hearing from some part of the room a second name, the name by which the person is better known, being suggested in an undertone.  We have our ‘Lang Nebs,’ and ‘Hairy-faced,’ and ‘Fish Slayers,’ and ‘Hunter Bills,’ and ‘Wet Shods,’ and ‘One-eyes,’ just as the Vikings had of old.  There is no resentment; a boy at school gets a nickname, and he grows up with it quite naturally, and carries it with him to the grave. (pp. 215-216)

There is one matter in which the modern Viking seems to have degenerated, which, as it is akin to humour, may be mentioned here.  The modern Cumbrian is not imaginative; the old Viking was.  The modern Cumbrian is not a man of artistic idea; the old Viking was.  The modern Cumbrian has a soul for the most part turned away from poetry; the old Viking, if he was not a poet himself, was a lover of the bard and the bardic song, delighted to run into rhyme and hear the singer declaim his verses. (p. 216)

I do not forget that we have had in the past century a number of writers of dialect poems.  That Wilkinson of Yanwath and Richardson of St. John’s in the Vale were true poets, and that Cumberland has produced a William Wordsworth, but if I have observed accurately, the average Cumbrian has not developed, or been encouraged to develop, the imaginative side of his nature.  The more the pity.  It is by the imagination that he becomes sympathetic, and gets the greatest good from “man and Nature, and from human life.” (p. 216)

Last, in matters that pertain to death and the fear of death.  One cannot be at many death-bed sides in Cumberland without noting how, as in the old Viking times so to-day, death is looked upon as a quite natural ending.  There is no fear of it for the most part.  It is accepted in fullest trust that all is for the best.  Both the dying person and those around him often let fall words that make one feel that in the presence of the death hour the Cumbrian is calmly resigned and calmly confident that the proper time has come, and that there should be no questioning, no complaint, and after death words of regret or sympathy, though they may be prized, seem unnecessary.  ‘It was all for the best.’ (p. 217)

As to the power to endure suffering in sickness, I doubt if amongst any other people in England there can be such patient heroism, such stoical endurance to the end.  This, too, is a Viking tradition.  But if men and women in Cumberland are true Norsemen and Norsewomen in their dying, they are not true heirs of the Vikings also in their feeling for the manner of burial and the place of sepulture.  It is true that some of the most remarkable Viking funeral customs are fading out, but the arval cake and the sprig of box may still be seen.  The bidding of friends to the funeral is still carried out.  The touching of the dead man’s face before the coffin is sealed I have myself witnessed.  All these are survivals from the days of our Viking fore-elders.  And the place of burial is as jealously cared for now as in the days of old. (pp. 217-218)

(A Rambler’s Notebook at the English Lakes, pp. 205-219)