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standing. Jón Sigurdsson, the most enlightened and patriotic Fo
Icelander of the century—an O'Connell, a Butt, a Parnell, a o, critic, a historian and man of letters in one—urged on reforms, 5. both at Copenhagen and in the Island, and lived to see them partially embodied in the constitutional, Charter of 1874. , so That Charter, modest as it is, the Icelanders now claim to be * . quite unworkable. The King will only yield, and that ungra- If ciously, to a force which lost him his Duchies; a force which of: bids fair, in a future close at hand, to give that severance and autonomy which are not even asked for at present. o
The Syslumenn, or judges of first instance, are twenty in * ,
number, appointed by the State, and command a salary o equivalent to 200l. of our money. Their number and the amount of their stipends are certainly more than the country o ought to bear, or has any need for. Over the Syslumenn stand or. the two Amtmenn, who share the sub-governorships of the country, and whose infinitesimal duties the Althing considers. vastly overpaid. In fact Government has a representative of one kind or other at each of the twenty daylight ports of call (for there is but one lighthouse in Iceland), which are entered on the placards of the Danish mail-boats. The civil officers (active or retired) amount to one, in a hundred and twenty of the inhabitants; and another feature, demanding the serious attention of the King and his advisers, is the large proportion of paupers, who number one in thirty of the population. Crime o is limited, for a recent census showed less than half-a-dozen persons under detention for the whole country, and half of these were foreigners. One bishop and 144 clergy of the Lutheran Protestant Church attend to the spiritual wants of the community. Dissent is practically unknown, Christian III. of Denmark displaced the Roman Catholic religion, in high-handed fashion, about the middle of the sixteenth century. A strange sight it is to see a church in one of the more exposed places chained down to prevent its being carried off by the gales and hurricanes of winter; still stranger to see the interiors of these edifices so often dedicated to the week-day purposes of a storehouse, for the little community around it. An improved taste is certain to make itself felt at no distant date. It is but a limited income that any of the clergy enjoy, though there are always. candidates waiting preferment, when a vacancy occurs. Hence the priest differs little in appearance from the common farmer, whose labours he shares; but in the priests' houses, especially in those that are situated on the routes frequented by travellers, may often be found evidences of refinement and literature that o are:
are singularly at variance with the outer surroundings. A general reputation for blamelessness of life distinguishes the clergy, and the learning of many of them is beyond dispute. To them the country is indebted, in large measure, for the preservation of its language and literature. They are mostly good Latin scholars, and it is possible to converse in that tongue (with the older pronunciation) when other means fail in the more isolated parts of the country. There are nearly two hundred parishes in the island, so that no district can be regarded as outside the attention of the national clergy, even when the distances are most considerable. As the children are taught at home, the State requires the clergyman to do the work of examination, and to see that a certain standard of proficiency is attained, else confirmation would be refused. . - - The bibliography of Iceland is extremely rich; at least a thousand books, according to Lidderdale, had issued from the Icelandic press between the introduction of printing in 1530 and 1844, when the Government press was finally domiciled at Reykjavik. In the Supplementary Lists of the British Museum some 4,000 titles appear; but the vast collection at the Royal Library, Copenhagen, is inadequately represented on the Bloomsbury shelves. The works include Sagas, Eddas, Law, Theology, Poetry, Romances, Dictionaries, Runic literature, Biographies, Annals, Natural History, and Travels, throwing light on the topography, indigenous products, letters and language of the people. Iceland, like Scotland, has a literature of its own, of which it is justly proud ; and buried in its Sagas, some of which have only been fairly understood in the last quarter of a century, are many portions, otherwise missing, of a historical, narrative. The introduction of the Reformation, which, transformed the literature of Europe, did not produce the same stimulating effect on letters here. It is rare to find illiterate Icelanders, or men who make their “marks’ instead of
signatures, for all possess some education. The favourite studies.
are history, geography, sagas and myths, legends and tradition, for the natives are still a wondering race, and find in their
imagination a refuge from their harsh surroundings, The chief of all Icelandic Sagas is “The Story of Burnt Nial’ (translated by Dasent, 1861), a work which many critics claim as one of the great books of the world. ‘The Story of Gisli, the Outlaw,' ranks lower, though it is one of the best minor Sagas, and has been happily placed within our reach by the same industrious translator. Mr. William Morris and Mr. Magnusson at Cambridge are now engaged in embodying the best best of Ieelandic literature in their ‘Saga Library,’ of which the fourth volume will soon be issued. The older or poetic Edda contains songs only, falling into two groups, mythic and heroic, most of them dating from pre-Christian times. The younger or prose Edda is the work of the famous statesman-poet and historian of Iceland, Snori Sturluson (1178–1241), and falls into three parts, which the learned have delighted to follow out in detail. The Clarendon Press rendered good service by the publication of Cleasby's * Icelandic-English Dictionary,” in 1869—enlarged and completed, as a labour of love, by Vigfusson. As there is no bank” in Iceland, the traveller has to pay as he goes in Danish currency. He therefore often finds it difficult to procure ready money. If the leading men realized the wealth that would be brought into the country by an increased number of tourists, they would provide suitable financial arrangements for cashing letters of credit at several of the more important trading stations; fix a regular tariff for guides; and regulate the charges at given stopping places. Many would then undertake a journey from which they now recoil. Exports of wool, 1,300,000 lbs. ; fish, 6,000,000 lbs. ; eider-down, 7,000 lbs. ; feathers, 15,000 lbs. ; with horses, sheep, and a few cattle, do wonders for the country. The chief imports are cereals, sugar, coffee (450,000 lbs.), chicory (200,000 lbs.), coal (5,000 tons), and salt (46,000 barrels). Most of the trade is done with Great Britain, which is one of the chief causes of irritation at Copenhagen. The highlyvalued Iceland spar is found on the East Coast, in limited quantity. It is simply the purest and most limpid variety of calcareous spar, and is praised for the extreme beauty of its optical effects. When any object is placed on the back of one of the faces of this rhomboid crystal, and is looked at from the opposite face, it is always seen double. The sulphur springs with which Mr. Hall Caine has made us so painfully acquainted, do not now produce any of the mineral worth counting on. It is a mistake to suppose that this substance can be developed as an important article of commerce, for the greater abundance of material, and the far higher facilities of transport, give Sicily a lead which she is likely to maintain in the markets of Europe. As in the Channel Islands, those who are able to save store up money at home; but they find no strong rooms for their hoards and few opportunities for making investments. A Government guarantee would doubtless bring a lot of Danish crowns out of the old stockings and place them in the way of useful service. The system of long credits and of barter puts the farmer at the mercy of the trader, both as to the price and the quality of the goods obtained. The merchant buys, at his own price, whatever the farmer has to sell, and in return gives him the necessaries of life from the outer world, at his own price also ; coffee, sugar, sacks of corn, bar-iron, dried fish, and pieces of timber going to make up the load of the packhorses returning from the settlement. In the bad days when all import and export trade was confined to the tender mercies of the Danish Company, the people lost heart, for their best efforts could never succeed in doing more than make both ends meet. At a still later date (1850), under a semblance of freer trading, the ships of other nationalities might visit Reykjavik, but a ‘sea-pass' was required from them, which cost not less than 2s. 3d per ton on the registered measurement. This was prohibitory enough for all purposes, and it succeeded in so enhancing the prices of imported necessaries that the natives could command but little in the way of exchange. No change in the law of 1850 has taken place, except the abolition of the sea-pass, which has been merged into customs' duties. But previous influences have not yet worn off, and a downtrodden people has not yet attained to the due proportions of an elastic and vigorous manhood. A nation is not born in a day. Dried codfish, haddock, ling, and shark oil are among the chief exports from the harvest of the sea; half a million pounds of salted mutton is consumed chiefly in North Germany; while two million pounds of wool is taken by the manufacturers in other lands. It was indeed a drag, enough to crush hope and effort, when the Danes prohibited Iceland from direct trading with the rest of the world. Everything had to come through the mercantile company at Copenhagen; and even the fish that then still more abounded on the coasts could only reach France and other Catholic (fish-consuming) countries through this circuitous and costly medium. This enhanced the cost so greatly that the French fishermen, as we have seen, encouraged by their Government, equipped a fleet which year by year visis their shores. Even when a relaxation of commercial restrictions was made, the preference was given to Danish vessels; all others Wol. 179—No. 357. G Imust must first have called at a Danish port. The monopoly worked as badly as monopolies ever do. Besides, in 1807, when Denmark joined against England, she was afraid to put a ship on the Iceland seas, as our privateers were sweeping the Northern ocean with a stiff broom; but England permitted the Danes to do a limited amount of trade, so that the islanders might not be deprived of all supplies from the outside world. This partial suspension of her blockade in favour of Iceland inspired the people with an affection for this country, which is stronger now than at any previous period. And now, if Danish statesmanship (asserted to be in this case under Russian inspiration) is successful in expatriating many more of the islanders from their loved home, and the exodus for the year has again begun, Manitoba stands with open arms to welcome them. Those who have gone out West have done well to a man, in spite of the greater extremes of temperature which they have to endure. But we hope that brighter days may dawn even at home for the 60,000 people who remain, for the Icelanders have a typical character that ought not to be allowed to die out. They afford us an example of quiet perseverance under unfavourable conditions, and of the adaptation of men to their surroundings (while rising above these surroundings), which are virtues of no mean order. Compared with Greenland, Iceland possesses many climatological and other natural advantages. Yet it is doubtsul whether other Scandinavians, under the same parallel of latitude, will subscribe to the native proverb that “Iceland is the best land the sun shines on.' If to be contented with one's lot is a Christian virtue, the Icelander ranks high in the calendar of saints. He never grumbles at the inevitable, but stolidly, if not very actively, plods along, thinking much and deeply as he goes, and ever showing towards visitors from without a generous and kindly hospitality, which is often considered well repaid by the news brought, or by some addition to the library of the farmhouse. “You will like this island, I am sure,’ says Mr. Baring-Gould's priest, Swerker, who had come from the Cathedral at Skalholt to see a new Norwegian settler; ‘for it is a delightful spot—just persection, I should call it. There is a song we sing about it ; it runs thus:— “The land is fair and free, The sun doth brightly shine, The skies are blue, and see The Silvery Mountains' line! The sparkling waters are better than wine, On no fairer land doth the sun ever shine!”
* The “Land Bank,' established by the Government in 1886, has nothing in common with ordinary European banking; it is merely a money-lender of the worst kind, exacting enormous (though cleverly concealed) interest, and its notes are not convertible into gold in the island. Through indiscriminate loans in bad years, it holds immense tracts of farms in mortgage. By firmly twisting the screw, it depletes the nation of metallic currency, which all goes into the market of Copenhagen, and drives the inhabitants by thousands to the American Continent.