Imágenes de páginas

of the ship's company being placed under our windows to her home in the centre of the permanent a lifeless corpse. encampment. It is a mode of provision peculiar, I believe, to Sweden; and was made, during a former reign, by the application of certain lands of the crown to this purpose. The advantages of this plan of maintenance are extended to the army as well as the navy, for the regiments of provincial militia are all supported in the same way; and these (if we except the artillery, and a few regiments of guards), form, in fact, the only standing force of the country.

Jan. 25. At this time the cold was excessive, generally below 20°, and on the 21st day of this month the mercury stood at 33° of Celsius's scale below freezing point, or 28° below zero of Fahrenheit. It is impossible to recount all the horrors of such a season: no example had occurred during the last sixty years of one so severe. The peasants attending the market came with their faces, arms, and legs, frozen the soldiers on guard, though relieved every hour, were often taken up in the same condition; and one, it was said, had been found dead at his post. Besides the miserable cases of persons frostbitten that daily thronged the hospitals, several deaths took place among those who were out of the way of immediate assistance. poor

woman, to mention one iance, being ignorant of the unusual inclemency of this morning, had gone early to her usual occupation of washing on the river side; scarce half an hour elapsed before we saw her on her return, borne VOL. LIX.

It will be well to observe, that the extraordinary increase of cold is not directly made known by symptoms such as might be expected; no external sensation will enable any person to form an estimate of its comparative rigour. The action of a temperature such as the above is not like the nipping of a frost in England, but a general extension of its baneful influence is felt over the whole body, its access being so gradual that, for several minutes after leaving a warm room, the air seems to make little or no impression: an attempt, however, to endure it for even a quarter of an hour, unless extraordinarily well wrapped up in fur or wadded clothing, would be attended with the highest degree of danger. Exercise alone is totally unable to keep up the necessary vital warmth: the linen becoming moist is instantly converted to a covering of ice, and the animal heat escapes as fast as it is excited.

Even with the adoption of every possible precaution, very injurious effects will sometimes manifest themselves. A soreness in breathing, an oppressive headach, a want of sense in the extremities, and a stiffness in the thighs, are the first symptoms which give the stranger warning to seek again the timely shelter of his house.

Frequently did we remark the dead white patch on the cheek, the ears, or the noses of the lower class, who were moderately provided in point of clothing; and to guard against such contingencies, it was usual to see many of 21*


the well furred gentry with the upper part of their faces in masks, with coverings fitted to their ears, and applying their fingers with incessant care to every part of their visages in succession: or sometimes, which is the best preservative for travelling, their skins, where exposed, were greased with oil. Salutations in the street at this period are short; scarce a word or an answer; and the greatest assemblage of people (for the groups are seldom numerous) can be compared only to a meeting at a deaf and dumb asylum. A north-east wind, during such weather as this, is a chill blast of death that exceeds in horror any other curse of heaven.

It is not without reason that so much care is used to prevent the face from being taken by the frost, for as the skin is destroyed by its action, a blemish like the sore of a burn serves to recal the memory of the accident during the whole of the succeeding summer. As to the general effects of the constant cold on the body, I cannot help remarking that the women of all classes both here, and as I afterwards observed in Russia, seemed to be much less affected than the men. It may be that they seldom stay out of doors for so great a length of time as the other sex, but it is certainly true that the influence of the climate on the body varies much in degree upon different habits; but I think I may be warranted in saying, that it is most commonly manifested in a determination of blood to the head, and a tendency to lethargy, but this is by no means universal.

The extreme accumulation of

animal electricity in the frame is also remarkable; the natural moisture necessary to carry it off not having been produced during the day, it is retained in great quantities, which are visibly discharged at night on undressing in

a warm room.

The power of the constitution to bear against cold, contrary to vulgar ideas, is weakened gradually more and more by endurance; the frame is enervated, in artificial life at least, and a stranger, instead of growing more hardy and secure, braves the sharpness of the first winter with much greater success than he can attempt a second year. In the course of the first spring, indeed, after his arrival, he feels infinitely more sensible of its injury than he had been of a similar temperature in the preceding autumn.

Several striking natural phenomena attend this season: syn.ptoms of a degree of rigour of which an Englishman has little or no conception. The smoke seems to ascend from the chimney-tops a dense compact cloud, and the atmosphere itself, though not obscure, assumes a heavy aspect, more particularly made observable at the rising and setting of the sun. While no sooner has the thermometer fallen to 20°—(Celsius), or 4 below the zero of Fahrenheit's scale, than the cel lars of the houses emit a strong vapour to the streets; and all the streams of water, whose rapidity is sufficient to check congelation, give out in similar way a powerful steam during day and night from their surface. It was an extraordinary spectacle to see the bridge at Stockholm, through

which the waters of the Mælar were discharged, constantly enveloped during the month in a thick exhalation, as if rising from boiling water.

This effect admits of an easy explanation: a perpetual supply of water takes place from under the ice, great part of which (since the freezing of its surface) has reassumed a higher degree of temperature from the warmth of the earth; the interchange of particles occurring in the steam, because they are in this way possessed of a different quantity of heat, prevents the whole from being cooled down to the point necessary for congelation: the declivity continually keeps up the effect; and so great a difference existing between the temperature of the air and that of the water will occasion steam to be given out from its surface at any point of the thermometer.

The wolves at this time, severely pressed by famine, lost their usual dread of man, and prowled fearlessly on the roads, following the track of the carriages, to a great distance; in one or two instances indeed they were known to venture, during the night, into the villages in search of prey.

All communication with England, through the port of Gottenburgh, was entirely cut off; the packet-boat came in sight, but was inaccessible from the regions of broken ice that encircled the coast an hundred guineas were offered to any one that would undertake the perilous office of fetching the mails ashore; yet even this temptation was held out in vain, and after waiting more than a fortnight the vessel returned to Harwich.

On setting foot in the Aland islands we passed the frontier of the Russian empire, for the line of their coast was settled as the boundary by the treaty of 1809: it is singular, that notwithstanding their vicinity to Stockholm, so dangerous in case of a rupture, the Swedish government has not reclaimed these important posts, for there was a time when Russia could not have refused to cede them.

The island scenery appeared, as we journeyed, even at this time, beautiful; the dark lush of the fir formed a strong contrast with the silvery fleeces of snow that roofed the forest, and the whole seemed to have assumed a new charm in this livery of winter. Our road


an undeviating line from place to place, no obstacle presented itself; we passed over the fields, through the woods, across the ice; hill and dale, land and water, were all alike sometimes we traversed the rocky channel of a deep-bedded river, at other times wandered among the inlets of a lake, at others again steered our way between the islands over the open sea. The path was traced out on shore by large poles headed with straw, over the ice by boughs of trees, stationed at intervals, drawing a long thread over its surface that in some places reached to the very edge of the horizon; we were skirted, indeed, by one of these hedges in our passage across the Delet, for the distance of more than twenty English miles.

The burden of providing these necessary marks is a duty that falls upon the inhabitants of the several parishes respectively; notice is given at the church as soon as the ice may be reckoned secure, and 212


certain distances are allotted to the share of each individual. Without such an arrangement all communication would be entirely at an end, not only during the long winter nights, but every time that the snow was falling, or that a mist should arise to intercept the sight.

The cottages of the islanders were rough-hewn log-houses, and they were themselves people apparently of such simple manners and habits, as their secluded situation and scanty number might lead one to expect each rustic householder was provided with the tools and implements of a dozen necessary arts or professions, performing for himself with equal address the duties of carpenter, shoemaker, tailor, fisherman, baker, miller, &c. So little was the division of labour studied, or the appropriation of means, that we observed the corn-mills almost equalled in number the houses of the villages; they were cheap and of simple form, acting by sails constructed of wooden planks, and their mill-stones shaped like the querne or old Celtic machine for grinding with the hand.

Luxuries, such as ochre paint for their cabins, or coats of woollen cloth, where sheep-skins would suffice, were not common. Caps of the most ordinary fur served as covering for their heads; and for their feet the want of shoes was supplied by a mis-shapen bag of dried seal-skin: the harness of their horses consisted of nothing more than a plain collar attack.ed to the shafts of the cart or sledge; the horse's neck was thrust in, and he had nothing to do but proceed; the contrivance, it must be added, answers all the purposes

of draught, because neither here nor in Sweden is the animal trained to resist the weight of the carriage on a descent, however steep it may be.

Very little grain is produced; the chief dependance of the people is placed on the purchases they are enabled to make at Stockholm by the sale of their wood. For our own subsistence, it was absolutely necessary to carry with us our provisions; coffee being the only article of luxury which they had hoarded up for the use of a chance traveller. We cut off our meat and bread, as occasion required, from our store with a cleaver or hatchet, and having been dressed at Stockholm before we set out, the beef steaks, &c. were unfrozen by the application of cold water, then placed for a few minutes in the stove-oven, and served up to table as if fresh from the hand of the cook. Our wine and brandy underwent a partial decomposition, and the watery particles were converted to a core of ice; nevertheless, after' what we had before endured, the weather could not now be called severe, except during a few hours of the night, and these accidents were regarded but as so many agreeable novelties that relieved the weariness of our journey.

Four days were spent in our passage, when we once more set our feet on the continent, and after a short stage arrived at Abo, the great university of Finland.

[blocks in formation]

there are yet some few moments when the local interest of a particular spot, heightened perhaps by the accidental glow of sunset, or other adventitious circumstances, has power to excite a sentiment of ecstasy that amply compensates all the privations and inconveniences one had undergone. The imagination, which riots to satiety on the battleground, or dwells with rapture on proud memorials of ancient art, may yet feel a quiet enjoyment in the contemplation of a scene which appears to lull in harmonious repose all the higher feelings of our nature. Such was the delight with which we closed our journey on the evening of the 19th of July. The Dnieper rolled at our feet, a smooth majestic river, of more than a verst in breadth; on its banks was a caravan of Tartars and Russians, listening to the simple notes of the balalaika; above our heads rose a long range of hills encircled by a rich foliage of trees, and crowned with the gilt domes of the sacred city

Having waited some time while the horses and carts, near twenty in number, were placed aboard, we at length crossed the ferry, and toiled up the steep ascent, over a road as usual covered with planks, When arrived at the summit, a new scene presented itself: the cupolas that before were but as spots in the view, faced us with a blaze of gold, and a thousand gay colours shining around us dazzled the eye if we looked to the country below, one unvaried plain appeared of immeasurable extent, and covered with a thick forest, through the middle of which the Dnieper, now dwindled to a

streamlet, was seen winding its silvery path into the horizon: it was a land seemingly untouched by man, and affording a prospect as wild in its character as any that the most uncivilised tracts of America could furnish.

Our first duty on the morning after our arrival, in the true spirit of pilgrimage, was to pay a visit to the catacombs. Upon proper application being made at the fortress called Perchask, within which the monastery is situated, we were admitted; and received infinite amusement from all we saw. The entrance was ornamented with pictures, that, like those used for country shows in England, were illustrative of the exhibition in the interior; around stood a miserable looking crowd, the purchasers and venders of crosses, relics, and various other articles of superstition: the walls of the court within too were covered with huge religious paintings; and numberless pilgrims, of both sexes, were assembled in groups, reading, admiring, bowing, praying. stories were chiefly selected from the legendary tales of the lives of the saints; on one side was represented the virgin Theodosia, accompanied at each stage of her life (a continued series of temptation) by two guardian angels, and three or four ininisters of darkness; the devils always defeated, the angels ever triumphant; and in the last painting she was represented as having surmounted all her difficulties, and arrived in heaven. The artist's imagination, however, has somewhat failed, and seems not quite to have seized, on this occasion, the true notion of the sublime, or the beautiful;



« AnteriorContinuar »