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The sun at midnight must have been, independently of all circumstances of locality, a very striking spectacle; but this appearance in such a combination as the following, must have created a scene inexpressibly strange and magical, and of almost ghostly magnificence.
'Close by, toward the west, lay the Trolla-h/rkia, or " Giant's '* Church,'' an ancient volcano, the walls of whose crater rose in a ▼ery fantastic manner into tlie atmosphere, while the lower regions were entirely covered with snow; to the south and east stretched an immense impenetrable waste, enlivened on the one hand by a number of hikes, and in the distmce by vast ice-mountains, whose gloss surface, receiving the rays of the midnight sun, communicated a olden tinge to the surrounding atmosphere; while, toward the north, he long buy of Unittifiord gradually opened into the ocean. Here the king of day, like a va.-.t globe of fire, stretched his sceptre over the realms of night, divested indeed of his splendour, but more interesting, because more subject to view. The singing of swans on the neighbouring lakes added to the novelty of the scene.'
A storm imperatively intercepted our enterprising traveller, much to the joy of his superstitious attendant, in a resolute attempt to reach the summit of Baula, a noble volcanic cone of three thousand feet high. This he pronounces ' the most re'mark >ble mountain on the island,' fin account of the extraordinary quality of its material. Up to the utmost height which he" laboriously attained, towards 1200 feet, it was found to consist wholly ' of a singular kind of white coloured basaltes, none of 'which lay in their original bed, but were scattered about, audi 'piled one upon another in the wildest disorder. They are for 'the most part five and seven-sided ; some have three, and a few 'nine sides, and measure from three to seven feet in length, by 'five and nine inches in diameter.' As no human being has ever yet, it is asserted, stood on its sublime apex, it is to be regretted that time did not permit our Author a second and successful trial, for die privilege of looking into its crater, even though he should not have verihVd the faith of the good Icelanders, that it is the ' entrance to a rich and beautiful country, constantly green, 'abounding in frees, and inhabited by a dwarfish race of men, * whose sole employment is the care of their fine flock of sheep.' It is a little strange, that with so much of the ancient Scandinavian mental mist hovering round them, they should not have descried more portentous visions, and imagined rather a descent to Valhalla. Perhaps it is their quiet innoxious disposition that has brightened and at the same time dwarfed the ligurings of their imagination.
At Reykollt it was impossible that the fame of ' the northern 'Herodotus' should fail to inspire great interest in examining those massive works of stone in which Snorro Sturlustou has
raised for himself a local monument as lasting as his writings, His Bath requires no reparation, after nearly six hundred years. An immersion which Dr. H. enjoyed in this venerable basin, filled by a current from the ever-boiling fountain of Scribla, with the vivid associations of the ancient poet, mythologist, historian, and political enterpriser, and the view at the same time of the prodigious columns and clouds of vapour perennially rising from the hot and spouting springs all over Reykiadal, 'the Valley of 'Smoke,' must have been a luxury hardly to be equalled by a plunge in the tepid reservoir of any of the famous fountains of Italy or Greece, in which poets, and heroes, and emperors have laved. The short memoir introduced of Snorro, the most.celebrated name, probably, in Icelandic biography, gives cause to regret in behalf of his character, that a little more of the obscurity of ancient time had not settled on his history, to veil, in some degree, the too palpable features of avarice, and intriguing and turbulent ambition.
The account of one situation in the ' Valley of Smoke,' may be transcribed, to shew how much of the inconvenience of magnificent spectacles is saved to persons who can contemplate them only in description.
'We proceeded to the Tungu-hvezar. As the wind blew the smoke directly upon us, it was not without some danger that we approached them. Having cautiously leaped over a rivulet of boiling water, I took my station in front of the springs; but ere ! was aware, I was nearly suffocated with hot and dense vapours, which so closely surrounded me, that I could neither see my companion, nor how to make my escape from the spot on which I stood. At the distance of only a few yards before me roared no fewer than sixteen boiling cauldrons, me contents of which, raised in broken columns of various heights, were splashing about the margins, and ran with great impetuosity in numberless streamlets, down the precipice on which the springs are situate. Vv hat augmented the irksorneness of my situation, was the partial darkness in which the whole tract was enveloped, so that it was impossible for me to form any distinct idea of the terrifying operations that were going on before me. After the wind had somewnat abated, the vapours began to ascend more perpendicularly, and I again discovered Mr. Jonson, who was in no small degree concerned about my safety.'
A vast body (or shall we rather, from its powerful and incessant agency, call it soul ?) of fire, maintains dominion under the whole extent of the valley, keeping the water every where in perp tual agitation, insomuch that even the river is disturbed, in the middle of its channel, by boiling springs throwing up their columns of steam.
The direction of a number of the last mentioned stages will shew that Dr. H. was returning toward Reykiavik, where he
arrived on the 29th of June. On the 18th of July he again set out for the north, to be accompanied, through some part of the journey, by two gentlemen of Holstein.
At Husafell, and indeed elsewhere, he very properly took occasion to make particular inquiry respecting the famous species of mice, of which Olassen and Povelson have reported what Mr. Pennant believed, but Mr. Hooker and other writers have pronounced ridiculously incredible. Most readers will immediately recollect the story to be, that these mice, besides other points of extraordinary sagacity, have admirable talents for navigation; going to considerable distances from their lodgements, in small foraging parties, to collect berries for their store, which berries they import, across rivers and lakes, on flat pieces of dried cow-dung, each manned by a crew of six or ten, all standing with their heads toward the centre, and rowing the vessel by means of their tails.
"'Having been apprised,' says Dr. H. * of the doubts entertained on this subject, I made a point of inquiry at different individuals as to the reality of the account, and am happy in being able to say, that it is now established as an important fact in natural history, by the testimony of two eye witnesses of unquestionable veracity, the clergynfan of Briamslaek, and Madame Benedictson of Stikesholm, both of whom assured me they had seen the expedition performed repeatedly. Madame 13. in particular, recollected having spent a whole afternoon, in her younger days, at the margin of a small lake on which these skilful navigators had embarked, and amusing herself and her companions by driving them away from the sides of the lake as they approached them. I was also informed that they make use of dried mushrooms as sacks, in which they convey their provisions to the river, and thence to their homes. Nor is the structure of their nests less remarkable, &c &c.'
Whatever is not, in its own nature, plainly impossible, may be believed on testimony, strict regard being had to the qualifications indispensable to constitute the competence of witnesses to an antecedently improbable fact. We can have no reason to question the competence of the witnesses here cited by our Author; but it is obvious that a more minute statement was necessary, to inform us precisely what it is that these witnesses testified.
In passing through the book, the reader may perhaps meet with some very few occasions for wishing to check, in the Author, a little too inconsiderate a facility of faith; as, for instance, when he cites (Vol. II. p. 25.) without any decided expression of incredulity, from an ancient Norwegian work, the description of a celebrated mineral spring in Hytardal, attributing such almost whimsical properties to the water, as it would really seem quite absurd to believe. And again, in a very curious account of the foxes, which are numerous and very mischievous in Iceland, (Vol. II. p. 98.) he introduces, ,with expressions of uncertainty whether it should be positively disbelieved, the wellknown tale which describes the foxes at the northernmost extremity of the island, as accustomed to assemble in a wrestling match, to ascertain which is the strongest; and then, in order to reach tbe sea-low I sitting on the ledges and in the holes of the rocky perpendicular coast, suspending themselves from the edge of the cliff in a chain, formed by their holding, each a tail ia its mouth, the strongest stationed at the top, and holding the ■whole adventurous band. We must stop, at any rate, at the line of mechanical impossibility, in that tendency to credulity, which is evidently an unavoidable and rational consequence of our enlarging knowledge of the natural history of the world. That such is the natural consequence, no one can deny who considers what a multitude of things have been placed on the ground of incontestable fact, within the last half century, which, if previously asserted, would have encountered universal disbelief.
A number of hours were spent in exploring the grand cavern of Surtshallir, extending about a mile under an enormous lava from the Bald Yokul, of the dimensions, through two thirds of its length, of fifty feet in breadth, and forty in height, and reputed, by the early inhabitants, to be the abode of Surtur, * the 'black prince of the regions of fire,' whose appointed office, according to their mythology, was to burn the woild at the conclusion of the present system of things The description of one part of this cavern will rt-cal that of Antiparos. Its m»sr<iificent exhibition is indeed of a more f;ail material, but it will ut fact probably last as long.
* The roof and sides of the cave were decorated with trie most superb icicles, crystallized in every possible form, many of which rivalled in minuteness the finest Zeolites: while, Irom the icy floor, rose pillars of the same substance, assuming all the curious and fantastic shapes iir.agin .ble, mocking the proudest specimens of art, and counterfeiting many well-known objects of animated nature. A more brilliant scene perhaps never presented itself to the human eye, nor was it easy to divest ourselves of the idea that we actually beheld one of the fairy scenes depicted in eastern fable. The light of the torches rendered it peculiarly enchanting.'
From this cavern, the route was directed toward the hot springs of Hvcraveltir, across a trackless desert, of lonely and formidable aspect, shining and frowning with icy and volcanio sublimities, and of a substance which entirely baffled the magnetic needle to which the party had recourse on their becoming enveloped in a very dark mist, in a place where they were passing among, deep chasms, and where a- temporary return of light presented to their view, directly before them, * an immense Al'pine harrier,' which tin bade all further progress. The only expedient for extrication was to go with the course of a great ancient stream of lava, which brought them at length, after many hours of toil, during which their anxiety would not permit the examination of * volcanic c-himnies' on their right hand or their left, to the welcome banks of a rivulet, at a spot whence they proceeded the next day to the boiling springs. 'It * was not,' says Dr. II. ' without sensations of awe, that we be'held the columns of smoke that were issuing from almost in'numerable apertures, and heard the thundering noise attending 'its escape.' Among this prodigious and raging assemblage of cauldrons, most of them, like the Geysers, ejecting at intervals, i columns of water, there is the grand singularity denominated the i ' Roaring Mount,'
—* a circular mount of indurated bolus, about four feet in height from an aperture, on the west side of which a preat quantity of steam makes its escape with a noise louder than that of the most tremendous cataract. The steam issues with such force, that any stonefl you may throw into the aperture are instantly ejected to a considerable height. On thrusting a pole clown the hole, we observed a very considerable increase, both in the quantity of steam emitted, and the noise accompanying its escape.'
Exceedingly s rikiug too, is 'he account of the regulated tynteot manifest throughout the tn.ien<u>us tumult of operations, to which this singular ' Mount' seems appointed to act in qu dity of a magnificent trumpeter, a part which is performed in a manner which may, without presumption, claim to appropriate the description,
'Sonorous as immortal breath can blow.'
'From an elevated part of the adjoining lava we had a grand view of the tract, and could not sufficiently admire the connexion and regularity observable in the bursts of steam and jets of water that continued to ascend into the atmosphere the whole of the evening. The order they maintained can only be compared to that observed in the firing of the different companies of a regiment drawn up in the order of battle. The play commenced on a signal being given by the Roaring Mount, which was instantaneously followed by an eruption of the largest jetting fountain at the opposite end of the tract; on which the turn went to the rest, vast columns of steam bursting from the surface of the general mound, while the jets rose and fell in irregular beauty. Having continued to play in this manner for the space of four minutes and a half, the springs abated for nearly two minutes; when the Roaring Mount renewed the signal* and the explosions took place as before.'
In this tract of (ires and thunders, the Catnpi Phlegrmi of Iceland, as our Author justly denominates it, there are still and