the North Sea, past an island he calls Thule; his further progress, he asserted, was hindered by a barrier of a peculiar nature,--neither earth, air, nor sky, but a compound of all three, forming a thick viscid substance which it was impossible to penetrate. Now, whether this same Thule was one of the Shetland Islands, and the impassable substance merely a fog,--or Iceland, and the barricade beyond, a wall of ice, it is impossible to say. Probably Pythias did not get beyond the Shetlands.] This gentleman not having a compass, (he lived about A.D. 864,) nor knowing exactly where the land lay, took on board with him, at starting, three consecrated ravens--as an M.P. would take three well-trained pointers to his moor. Having sailed a certain distance, he let loose one, which flew back: by this he judged he had not got half-way. Proceeding onwards, he loosed the second, which, after circling in the air for some minutes in apparent uncertainty, also made off home, as though it still remained a nice point which were the shorter course toward terra firma. But the third, on obtaining his liberty a few days later, flew forward, and by following the direction in which he had disappeared, Rabna Floki, or Floki of the Ravens, as he came to be called, triumphantly made the land. The real colonists did not arrive till some years later, for I do not much believe a story they tell of Christian relics, supposed to have been left by Irish fishermen, found on the Westmann islands. A Scandinavian king, named Harold Haarfager (a contemporary of our own King Alfred's), having murdered, burnt, and otherwise exterminated all his brother kings who at that time grew as thick as blackberries in Norway, first consolidated their dominions into one realm, as Edgar did the Heptarchy, and then proceeded to invade the Udal rights of the landholders. Some of them, animated with that love of liberty innate in the race of the noble Northmen, rather than submit to his oppressions, determined to look for a new home amid the desolate regions of the icy sea. Freighting a dragon-shaped galley--the "Mayflower" of the period--with their wives and children, and all the household monuments that were dear to them, they saw the blue peaks of their dear Norway hills sink down into the sea behind, and manfully set their faces towards the west, where--some vague report had whispered--a new land might be found. Arrived in sight of Iceland, the leader of the expedition threw the sacred pillars belonging to his former dwelling into the water, in order that the gods might determine the site of his new home: carried by the tide, no one could say in what direction, they were at last discovered, at the end of three years, in a sheltered bay on the west side of the island, and Ingolf [Footnote: It was in consequence of a domestic feud that Ingolf himself was forced to emigrate.] came and abode there, and the place became in the course of years Reykjavik, the capital of the country. Sigurdr having scouted the idea of acting Iphigenia, there was nothing for it but steadily to beat over the remaining hundred and fifty miles, which still separated us from Cape Reikianess. After going for two days hard at it, and sighting the Westmann islands, we ran plump into a fog, and lay to. In a few hours, however, it cleared up into a lovely sunny day, with a warm summer breeze just rippling up the water. Before us lay the long wished-for Cape, with the Meal-sack,--a queer stump of basalt, that flops up out of the sea, fifteen miles south-west of Cape Reikianess, its flat top white with guano, like the mouth of a bag of flour,--five miles on our port bow; and seldom have I remembered a pleasanter four-and-twenty hours than those spent stealing up along the gnarled and crumpled lava flat that forms the western coast of Guldbrand Syssel. Such fishing, shooting, looking through telescopes, and talking of what was to be done on our arrival! Like Antaeus, Sigurdr seemed twice the man he was before, at sight of his native land; and the Doctor grew nearly lunatic when after stalking a solent goose asleep on the water, the bird flew away at the moment the schooner hove within shot. The panorama of the bay of Faxa Fiord is magnificent, --with a width of fifty miles from horn to horn, the one running down into a rocky ridge of pumice, the other towering to the height of five thousand feet in a pyramid of eternal snow, while round the intervening semicircle crowd the peaks of a hundred noble mountains. As you approach the shore, you are very much reminded of the west coast of Scotland, except that everything is more INTENSE--the atmosphere clearer, the light more vivid, the air more bracing, the hills steeper, loftier, more tormented, as the French say, and more gaunt; while between their base and the sea stretches a dirty greenish slope, patched with houses which themselves, both roof and walls, are of a mouldy green, as if some long-since inhabited country had been fished up out of the bottom of the sea. The effects of light and shadow are the purest I ever saw, the contrasts of colour most astonishing,--one square front of a mountain jutting out in a blaze of gold against the flank of another, dyed of the darkest purple, while up against the azure sky beyond, rise peaks of glittering snow and ice. The snow, however, beyond serving as an ornamental fringe to the distance, plays but a very poor part at this season of the year in Iceland. While I write, the thermometer is above 70. Last night we remained playing at chess on deck till bedtime, without thinking of calling for coats, and my people live in their shirt-sleeves, and--astonishment at the climate. And now, good-bye. I cannot tell you how I am enjoying myself, body and soul. Already I feel much stronger, and before I return I trust to have laid in a stock of health sufficient to last the family for several generations. Remember me to --, and tell her she looks too lovely; her face has become of a beautiful bright green--a complexion which her golden crown sets off to the greatest advantage. I wish she could have seen, as we sped across, how passionately the waves of the Atlantic flung their liquid arms about her neck, and how proudly she broke through their embraces, leaving them far behind, moaning and lamenting. LETTER VI. REYKJAVIK--LATIN CONVERSATION--I BECOME THE PROPRIETOR OF TWENTY-SIX HORSES--EIDER DUCKS--BESSESTAD--SNORKO STURLESON--THE OLD GREENLAND COLONY--FINLAND--A GENOESE SKIPPER IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY--AN ICELANDIC DINNER-- SKOAL--AN AFTER-DINNER SPEACH IN LATIN--WINGED RABBITS-- DUCROW--START OF THE BAGGAGE-TRAIN. Reykjavik, June 28, 1856. Notwithstanding that its site, as I mentioned in my last letter, was determined by auspices not less divine than those of Rome or Athens, Reykjavik is not so fine a city as either, though its public buildings may be thought to be in better repair. In fact, the town consists of a collection of wooden sheds, one story high--rising here and there into a gable end of greater pretentions--built along the lava beach, and flanked at either end by a suburb of turf huts. On every side of it extends a desolate plain of lava that once must have boiled up red-hot from some distant gateway of hell, and fallen hissing into the sea. No tree or bush relieves the dreariness of the landscape, and the mountains are too distant to serve as a background to the buildings; but before the door of each merchant's house facing the sea, there flies a gay little pennon; and as you walk along the silent streets, whose dust no carriage-wheel has ever desecrated, the rows of flower-pots that peep out of the windows, between curtains of white muslin, at once convince you that notwithstanding their unpretending appearance, within each dwelling reign the elegance and comfort of a woman-tended home. Thanks to Sigurdr's popularity among his countrymen, by the second day after our arrival we found ourselves no longer in a strange land. With a frank energetic cordiality that quite took one by surprise, the gentlemen of the place at once welcomed us to their firesides, and made us feel that we could give them no greater pleasure than by claiming their hospitality. As, however, it is necessary, if we are to reach Jan Mayen and Spitzbergen this summer, that our stay in Iceland should not be prolonged above a certain date, I determined at once to make preparations for our expedition to the Geysirs and the interior of the country. Our plan at present, after visiting the hot springs, is to return to Reykjavik, and stretch right across the middle of the island to the north coast--scarcely ever visited by strangers. Thence we shall sail straight away to Jan Mayen. In pursuance of this arrangement, the first thing to do was to buy some horses. Away, accordingly, we went in the gig to the little pier leading up to the merchant's house who had kindly promised Sigurdr to provide them. Everything in the country that is not made of wood is made of lava. The pier was constructed out of huge boulders of lava, the shingle is lava, the sea-sand is pounded lava, the mud on the roads is lava paste, the foundations of the houses are lava blocks, and in dry weather you are blinded with lava dust. Immediately upon landing I was presented to a fine, burly gentleman, who, I was informed, could let me have a steppe-ful of horses if I desired, and a few minutes afterwards I picked myself up in the middle of a Latin oration on the subject of the weather. Having suddenly lost my nominative case, I concluded abruptly with the figure syncope, and a bow, to which my interlocutor politely replied "Ita." Many of the inhabitants speak English, and one or two French, but in default of either of these, your only chance is Latin. At first I found great difficulty in brushing up anything sufficiently conversational, more especially as it was necessary to broaden out the vowels in the high Roman fashion; but a little practice soon made me more fluent, and I got at last to brandish my "Pergratum est,"
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