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ART. III.-1. Icelandic Pictures. By Frederick W. W. Howell, F.R.G.S. London, 1893. 2. A Ride across Iceland. By Rev. W. T. McCormick. London, 1893. 3. The Oroefa Jokull. By F. W. W. Howell, F.R.G.S., in joins. of the Royal Geographical Society.” London, 1892. 4. Geographische Workingen der Eiszeit. In “Verhandl. d. #" deutschen Geographentages zu München.' Berlin, 1891. 5. Jón Sigurdsson, the Icelandic Patriot. By one of his Relatives. Reykjavik, 1887. 6. The Story of Egil Skallagrímsson ; an Icelandic Family History of the Ninth and Tenth Centuries. Translated by Rev. W. C. Green. London, 1893. 7. Across Iceland. By Karl Grossman, M.D., F.R.C.S.E. In ‘Geographical Journal,’ London, April 1894. 8. The Icelander's Sword; a Tale of Oroefa-dal. By S. BaringGould. London, 1894.
HIS old-world island, partly situated in the Eastern, partly in the Western hemisphere, is but a burnt-out cinder, more akin to a bit of the moon than to anything on this planet. Its northern coast touches the Arctic Circle, and it is six hundred miles from the coast of Norway, five hundred from Scotland, and about half as much from its nearest neighbour, Greenland. The North Atlantic surrounds it in rough and turbulent fashion with great dark-green rollers, that rival in size those of the Indian Ocean east of the Cape of Good Hope, and that try the landsman as severely as any waves that can be encountered within a week's sail of England. Still, year by year Iceland is growing more attractive to the tourist. The works of Ida Pfeiffer, Lord Dufferin, and others, besides a host of Scandinavian and German writers, have brought the spirit of the country home to us. It is not yet flooded with touristticket holders; it has no ‘Grand Hotels,' and waiters and ‘tips’ form no institution there. But it is by no means inaccessible: trading steamers run from Newcastle and Leith, and twelve times a year the Danish mail-boats come over from Copenhagen to Granton (Edinburgh) to complete cargo and to take on board the English mails before departing for the run to these northern regions. If none of these means of communication serve, there are, from March to September, a fleet of fishing-boats belonging to all nations, but especially to Norway and France, and an increasing number of trawlers from Grimsby. From From the Faroe Islands, where the mail-boats call, to Iceland is about forty hours' steaming. No part of the voyage is out of soundings, seeing that it follows the line of submarine plateau which, in the cretaceous period, existed as dry land right on from Norway to Greenland, and at that time shut out the waters of the Arctic Sea from mixing with the warmer Atlantic. This barrier gave Southern Europe a warm and moist climate, while it evidently afforded to Iceland itself something of the weather of Naples to-day. The greatest difference lay in the extremes of winter cold rather than in the extremes of summer heat, and this difference was maintained geographically along to the mouth of the great Siberian rivers, as recent geological recoveries of the mammoth prove to a certainty. But even in that remote past the flora of Iceland could not compare with that of the now treeless Orkney and Shetland Isles, where (as well as in Caithness and Sutherland) oak forests luxuriated in the vales, and the Scotch fir held undisputed possession of the hill-sides. The great ice sheet that subsequently enveloped Central Europe swept all before it, and vegetation became almost limited to the sphagnums, or, in favoured spots, to the diminutive birch or salix, which are still found within the Arctic Circle.
Most tourists see little of the approach to Iceland, having to remain below while this last piece of rough sailing is traversed, for the waters of the Arctic Sea welcome the warmer Atlantic in tumultuous, if sportive, mood; but throughout the summer months the sea is full of life and activity, even before sighting the east coast of Iceland. Here lies the chosen haunt of the most gigantic cod in the world, and a Catholic country like France, with its special needs, is fully alive to the fact. The Bretons in particular, from Paimboeuf and St. Malo, are strongly represented, while Tréport, Boulogne, and Dunkirk send their contingents. As the steamer makes her way among these broad-beamed roomy tubs of ponderous size, each with the image of the Virgin Mary in its cabin, the unvarying monotone of the fisherman breaks upon the ear:
‘Jean François de Nantes,
reminding the traveller that the singer's heart is far off, along the shores of La Manche, or on the Biscayan coast. The boats now reeking of bilge-water and salt pickle will be laden to the gunwales by August, when the fogs and mists come down, and the shortening days and driving hurricanes warn them to make
for more favoured regions. But the warning does not come to all. This Iceland sea, generous in her gifts, exacts blood-money in lavish fashion. A bit of consecrated ground up one of these fiords, where the lava blocks and the glaciers hug the land, receives the bodies that are washed ashore; and every fishing centre of the west of France also has a tablet to those ‘Lost at Sea, oft the coast of Iceland, with blank spaces left for those that are to follow. A national cruiser is sent North by the French Republic to maintain order, to deliver the fishermen's letters, and to superintend a commercial undertaking which annually produces for France a liberal harvest during the short summer that it lasts. The labours of the fishermen are all but incessant. There is little to remind them when night comes round; only the crow of the watchful cock that they have on board tells when it ought to be morning at home. The almost unending day varies somewhat in its moods; ‘night’ (by the clock) gives a pale cold light resembling no other, until again the sun hastens up boldly, after his brief dip in the Arctic Sea, and the true morning at last appears in an
40rthodox and proper manner. The story of the discovery of Iceland requires to be retold. The Irish monk, Dicuil, wrote, about the year 825, a book “De mensura orbis terrae.’ In the 7th chapter he relates how some clerics, with whom he had conversed about thirty years before, described to him Ultima Thule, a land in the Northern Ocean. The description applies accurately to Iceland. Seventy years later the Norwegian Viking Naddod (Naddoğ) was blown out of his course upon the shore. He gave the country the name of Snowland (Snaeland). Shortly after him Gardar Svavarson, a Swede domiciled in the Danish island Sealand, sailed round leeland, and from his name it was called Gardar'sHolme. A third discoverer was Floki, Wilgerda's son, who gave the island the name in which it sadly glories to this day. The dates of these discoveries must lie within the decade 860–70. Four years later Ingolf Arnarson took up his abode on the barren shore of Reykjavik, where now stands the capital of Iceland. The work of colonization, thus begun, was completed about sixty years later. Fair-haired Harold of Norway so oppressed the old independent tribal rulers that many of his subjects fled,—men of good family and position, —to seek a home and freedom in Iceland; and, while the tenth century was but in its second decade, the colonists established a free republic, which lasted for over three hundred years. At this time the Althing met for two weeks each summer, and under its own independent government a considerable considerable degree of national prosperity was attained. But quarrels which arose in the beginning of the thirteenth century between the ecclesiastical and secular authorities, on the fateful question of the immunities of the clergy, brought about interserence by the Metropolitan of Drontheim, and also by the King of Norway, who suborned chief against chief in the island, and kept a civil war alive for nearly half a century. The exhausted country then joined Norway in a personal union, 1262–64, and remained united till 1380, when both countries were joined to Denmark through the marriage of Hakon VI. of Norway with Margaret, Queen of Denmark. Various attempts, subsequently made, to incorporate the island with Denmark have failed, though at times the lamp of national life has burnt so low as nearly to be extinguished. It would be difficult therefore to say whether Iceland is now regarded at Copenhagen as a colony, a province, or a dependency, and the Icelanders wisely content themselves with carrying their assertion of autonomy only as far as existing laws and obvious expediency warrant. After 1850 much bad blood between the island and Denmark was created, chiefly from the fact that the measures which Christian VIII. had adopted for settling the position of Iceland in the new constitutional empire of Denmark were immediately after his death faithlessly suspended. Disaffection was at once fanned into a flame by the dispersion, in 1851, of the Constituent Assembly, accompanied by a foolish threat of military interference with a country where it is penal to bear arms, and where the whole Population represented the very ideal of loyalty. Especially were the people indignant at the attempt to make a country, which enjoyed special laws, customs, and privileges, into a province of Denmark; and at the proposal to send the customs and indirect taxes direct to the Danish Exchequer, without allowing the Althing to have a voice in the raising of the levies. The principle contended for by the early colonists in America soon showed itself here; namely, that “taxation and representation go together.’ Reykjavik salutes the traveller with an ancient fishy smell; and it is, as a harbour, difficult of approach, for every vessel from the south or the east has to round a rather extensive peninsula, and to skirt the volcanic rock of Eldey. Still, it is partially sheltered on the landward side, and it has a few islands stretching out to break the surf seaward. Fish predomimates there; fish in every stage of salting and drying; fish waiting to be cured; stacks of fish ready for transport; great packages of fish loading the ponies. Fish is indeed a prime necessary
necessary of life for the whole people. No true Icelander ever
“Old land of ice,
An atmosphere of singular clearness and purity is secured by the dryness of the summer, and by the winds that sweep the island