Imágenes de páginas

district, Dr. H. found a respectable library; and in the more select collection of his wife, a woman distinguished for piety, were observed ' Hervey's Meditations, Newton on the Pro'phecies, Blair's Lectures on Christ's Sermon on the Mount, 'Sherlock on Death, &c.' The Sysselmand has substituted, ih his family, the reading of the historical books of Scripture, for that (which, it seems, is still very general) of the romantic pagan histories denominated Sagas. The description of this magistrate's method of family worship, introduces a highly gratifying, but, by comparison with our Own country, mortifying statement, respecting the habits of the Icelanders in general.

'The exercise of domestic worship is attended to, in almost every family in Iceland, from Michaelmas to Easter. During the summer months the family are so scattered, and the time of their returning from their various employments so different, that it is almost impossible for them to worship God in a collective capacity; yet there are many families, whose piety is more lively and zealous, that make conscience of it the whole year round.'

There being no public service in the vicinity of the station in this valley where our Author happened to be on the Sunday, he ascended an eminence for the purpose of solitary devotion, and was reading in the Psalms, when, he says,

< I heard the notes of harmony behind me; which, on turning about, I found proceeded from a cottage at a little distance, The inhabitants, consisting of two families, had collected together for the exercise of social worship, and were sending up the melody of praise to the God of salvation. This practice is universal on the island. When there is no public service, the members of each family, (or where there are more families they combine) join in singing several hymns; read the gospel and epistle for the day, a prayer or two, and one of Vidalin's hymns. Where the Bible exists, it is brought for' ward; and several chapters of it are read by the young people in the family. What an encouragement for the distribution of the Scriptures!'

The inhabitants of the district of Eyafiord, are described as the most enlightened and intelligent on the island. They pay great attention to the education of their children; and from the superior fertility of their soil, they are better supplied with the means of obtaining hooks for their instruction; at the head of which books, however, it had hitherto been out of the power of many of them to place the Bible. This will not appear strange when we advert to the circumstance mentioned in this part of the book before us, and which has already been introduced among the many curious anecdotes circulated respecting the Bible, that previously to Dr. Henderson's visit to the north of Iceland, there had been a long and earnest dispute between a church on the mainland and one in the island of Grimsey, at I the distance of sixty miles from the coast, for the right of pos/ session of an old copy of the Scriptures, which had been lent, a great while since, from the former to the latter, and was by both held too valuable a treasure to be surrendered.

Before proceeding on the tour of the eastern coast of the island, our Author made a short excursion westward, accompanied by a clergyman of the name of Jonson, of very extraordinary literary attainments, and, by Dr. H.'s description, not less distinguished by his moral and religious ones. An unexpected gratification, in this excursion, was an interview with Thorlakson, the translator of Milton, and most noted modern bard in this region, once so prolific of poetry. On Dr. H.'s authority we may believe, that the performance has great force and representative truth, even though we were to make considerable allowance for the pleasing impression made by the worthy old man's kind and primitive manners, and for Dr. H.'s quite inevitable partiality for every thing bearing the solemn and romantic character of Iceland. Only three books of this translation were ever printed. Genius, virtue, and theology, have never been less commutable for wealth and state than in the instance of Thorlakson, who was found by our Author // ill the receipt of ecclesiastical emolument to the amount of six pounds, five shillings sterling per ami. to be divided with a curate. He was accustomed to work with his family in the hayfield, notwithstandinging his age and infirmities, and was accommodated, for the uses of both a study and bed-room, with an apartment of the dimensions of eight feet by six; in which temple of the muses it was, that he had followed throughout the stupendous career of the Author of Paradise Lost. But, doubtless, his place of study would often be the open scene of nature, in a region of which the landscapes and aspects might well compensate the ditninutiveness of his habitation.

From the several intelligent clergymen with whom Dr. H. conversed, he learned .

* that the standard of morality was never higher in the north of Iceland, than it is at the present day. Crimes are almost unheard of; and such as do make their appearance are of the less flagitious and notorious kind. The sin of drunkenness, to which certain individuals were addicted, previously to the commencement of the war, has been in a great measure annihilated by the high price of spirituous liquors.'

The Traveller's progress brings successively in view many curious pictures of manners and customs, under the forms of domestic arrangement, riles of hospitality, religious worship and instruction, relics of superstition, und civil regulations. In the last class, there is a practice which must have a strong plea of necessity to make it comport with, the general kindness of th« Icelandic character.


'When any family happens to be so reduced that it can no> longer maintain itself, it is separated, and the members placed out in different households; and if the husband, or wife, belong to a different f part of the island, he is passed on to his native parish, perhaps never more to behold the wife of his youth. On such occasions, a scene presents itself the most affecting that can possibly be conceived. Though there may not be a single morsel in the house, with which to satisfy the craving appetite of four or five young starvelings, and though they are themselves emaciated with hunger, still they cleave to one another, and vow that famine, and even death itself, would be more supportable than a separation.'

At Husavjk, Dr. H. ,was hospitably entertained by a Danish factor who deserves to be mentioned with distinction, as being, according to Dr. II.'s best information, 'the only Dane on * the island who practises family worship.'—At Rcykium, lie observed the operations of several great boiling springs, which would nave appeared magnificent objects had he not first beheld the Geysers, the sublimest spectacle of the kind probably on the whole earth.

,The lijgh and disastrous distinction held in the .history of most other countries, by dreadful commotions, wars, and battles, is held.and rivalled in that of Iceland by the subliiuer tumults and devastations of volcanic fire. The visible monuments of these events have a magnificence and permanence strikingly contrasted with the slight and vanishing traces of most of the tragical events in the human history. The Krabla Yokul is one of the most memorable and formidable names in the history of Iceland. At a great distance from its position, the traveller was encountered by the signs of its character and memorials of its operations.

* Having gained the extremity of the sand, I encountered a prodigious stream of lava, which haviDg insinuated itself into the valleys that open into the plain where it has collected, I had to cross several times before I reached the limit of the day's journey. Of all the lavas I had yet seen, this appeared the freshest and most interesting. It is black as jet; the blisters and cracks are of an immense size; and most of the chasms are completely glazed, and present the most beautiful and grotesque stalactitic appearances. In some places it is spread out in large round cakes, the surface of which is covered with round diminutive elevations, resembling the coils in a roll of tobacco. Where the fiery stream has met with some interruption, and got time to cool, a crust has been formed, which, on a fresh vent having been opened below for the egress ef the lava, has broken, and, intermingling with the more liquid masses, has been heaved and tossed about in every direction, and now exhibits the wildest and most fantastic figures, which the imagination may easily convert into various objects of nature and art.'

4 According to the accounts given by those who' (between the

Vol. X.N.S. P

years 1724 and 1730)' witnessed the eruption, the stone-flood, (Steinu) as they very emphatically called it, ran slowly along, carrying every thing before it, and burning with a blue flame, like that which proceed* from sulphur, yet but partially visible, owing to the dense smoke in which it was every where enveloped. During the night the whole region appeared to be one blaze; the atmosphere itself seemed to be on fire; flashes of lightning darted along the horizon, and announced to the inhabitants of distant districts the terrific scenes exhibited in this quarter. Having overflowed the greater part of the lowlands, the lava was at length poured into the lake of Myvatn, which it filled to a considerable distance, forming numerous little islands, and destroying the fish with which it was stocked.' 'The lake, which is reckoned to be about forty miles in circumference, has been so filled up with the torrents of lava that, at its extreme depth it does not exceed four fathoms and a half, and, in most places i* only between two and three fathoms deep.'.

The description of the tract bordering on this lake; the dark gloomy appearance of the lake itself, boiling here and there above the chasms in the lava at the bottom, and throwing up columns of steam; the volcanic mountains by which it is in part environed; and 'the death-like silence which pervades 'the whole of the desolated region ;'—present a most solemn, and impressive picture, strikingly resembling, as Dr. H. suggests, but we should presume greatly surpassing, the scene of the Dead Sea and its precincts. On this dreary ground he was very naturally surprised to be met by the family of a Sysselman, consisting partly of women and young children, on a journey of five hundred miles, to a new station to which the magistrate had been appointed; a journey which, for such travellers, through such a country, was a daring and perilous undertaking. A stage or two more brought our adventurous Traveller to the Sulphur Mountain, with its mines, and its boiling and exploding pits of sulphur and mud. The incessant eruptions, and smoke, and roaring of these pits, together with the hot, brimstone, treacherous consistence of the soil in the vicinity, forming but a crust over a vast sulphureous fiery quagmire, he describes as quite terrible. It was a worthy prelude to a spectacle of still more appalling aspect. At the moment of his retreating from the ' burning * marl,' bis attention was seized by an immense volume of smoke, ascending with velocity from some chasm or recess about

. two-thirds up the side of Kr.ibla, which was at no great distance. Witu great difficulty and protracted exertion he and bis guide, (whose unaffected dread of the attempt, it required Borne promises of remuneration to counteract,) made their way to a position whence they suddenly beheld beneath them what Dr. II. could not doubt to be the crater of this tremendous volcano; and beheld it in a state which might suggest the image

'of the imperfect troubled repose of some dreadful monster, retainod in a feverish slumber till the time return for him to rise up •gain in his misfit to renew the work of destruction.

'• At the bottom of a deep gully, lay a circular pool of black liquid matter, at least three hundred feet in circumference, from the middle of which a vast column of the same black liquid was erupted, with a loud thundering noise; but, being enveloped in smoke, till within about three feet of the surface of the pool, I could not form any idea of the height to which it rose.

'From every circumstance connected with the vast hollow in which this pool is situated, I could not but regard it as the remains of the crater; which, after having vomited immense quantities of volcanic matter, has loosened the adjacent parts of the mountain, to such a degree, that they have fallen in, and left nothing but the boiling caldron to mark its site, and perpetuate, in faint adumbrations, the awful terrors of the scene. The surface of the pool may be about seven hundred feet below what appeared to be the highest peak of Krabla.'

He descended to the brink of this dreadful abyss, and he adds,

'Nearly about the centre of the pool is the aperture, whence the vast body of crater, sulphur, and bluish black bolus is thrown up; and which is equal, in diameter, to the column of water ejected by the Great Geyser at its strongest eruptions. The height of the jets varied greatly; rising, on the first propulsions of the liquid, to about twelve feet, and continuing to ascend, as it were, by leap*, till they gained the highest point of elevation, which was upwards of thirty feet'—' During my stay, the eruptions took place every five minutes, and lasted about two minutes and a half.'

, The Doctor employs the most emphatic terras to describe the awful impression here made on his mind, ' an impression,' he says, ' which no length of time will ever be able to erase.' He regretted that the necessity of expedition in prosecuting his journey, forbade him to ascend to the summit of the mouu • tain. The evening of this same day was not deficient in excitement, for to a number of untoward circumstances was added, the extreme peril of life with which the traveller crossed a large river, running at the rate, as he judged, of eight miles an hour. For keeping the right direction, for a number of miles over a wild and diversified tract, in the darkness of night and mist, the entire responsibility was devolved oo an old horse, who gave excellent proof of his sagacity, and brought the traveller to the desired station, the residence of a numerous and delightful family, whose innocent simplicity is placed at the distance of thirty miles from any possible contamination of society.— Another adventure, of no very gentle stimulus, was the passing of men and horses over a mighty torrent, confined within a narrow rocky channel, upon a wooden bridge so slender, decaying, and crazy that he says, * I have no manner of doubt but a

« AnteriorContinuar »