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but in which we find that very often in diction and form the West Saxon has had to give way to that Scandinavian dialect which before the Conquest was only to be heard north of the Trent.
We might here pause in our catalogue of the interests which England ought to take in Iceland and Icelandic, but there still remains another to mention. This is that modern but everincreasing love of natural science which is the characteristic of this generation. Time was when there were no ologies' but theology. Let the reader think of that and reflect on the strides one alone of the new 'ologies,' geology, has made in this generation. So also once there was scarcely an “ism' but dogmatism ; when scepticism was only mentioned to be scouted, and magnetism' was neither born or thought of. To this new subject of inquiry, to this Newfoundland of natural science, the physical history of Iceland especially belongs. There, in one corner of the island, may be found a fossil flora belonging to a period when its climate was tropical, when it was shaded by tree-ferns and palms, and when land which is now just without the Arctic circle must have enjoyed a temperature approximating to that of the regions watered by the river Amazon. Nor are its igneous rocks, and lavas, and obsidians, and agates, and zeolites less interesting to the naturalist. Upbeaved out of the ocean by submarine volcanic agency which first threw up what may be called the floor of Iceland, a vast bed of palagonite subsequently pierced by trap, and trachyte, and lava, which thus formed volcanic vents through that original mass, Iceland presents geological formations to which the adherents of the Plutonian theory may point as a great proof of subaqueous deposits thrown up by the action of submarine fire. That there are many discoveries still to be made in this geological field is evident from the asserted detection of silver in this very palagonite in sufficient quantities to pay for its extraction. Should this most recent fact in the mineralogy of the old island be true, there may be a good time coming for Iceland and her inhabitants; if it be a good time to be the apple of discord between rival companies which will assuredly rush like vultures to the carcass which promises them such unlooked-for gains.
We have kept one of the great scientific attractions to Iceland to the last. Quite apart from many of its peaks which have never been ascended, and of valleys and passes scarcely trodden by the foot of man, there exists, as is well known, a vast glacier district in the south-east of the island commonly called the Vatna Jokull, which it has been for years the
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ambition of Alpine climbers and others to explore. Into this desolate region, comprising a tract about as big as Yorkshire, it was one of Captain Burton's objects to penetrate in the journey which he now describes. He was not successful, as will be seen further on, and it has been reserved for an adventurous student of law, Mr. Watts, in two expeditions in the summers of 1874 and 1875, to solve what has so long rested like its native fog over this dreary region.
After this necessary introduction, let us follow Captain Burton on his travels and see what he has accomplished in Iceland, and what he thought of the country and its people. How it was that a man hitherto accustomed to African and Arabian exploration, and who had spent his life under baking heat rather than in chapping frost, was induced to turn his footsteps towards Iceland does not quite appear. Perhaps behind the Vatna Jokull there was some sulphur prospecting to be done on his first, as there undoubtedly was on his second, journey in 1875. Perhaps he too, like many others, went to spy out the mineral treasures of the land, and was ready to turn his attention to deposits of iron, to beds of limestone, and to great deposits of pure silica, as well as those sulphur pits which for centuries have lured capital to Iceland merely to sink it in what even the pious Henderson admits to be the infernal regions of Krabla, as well as in the old mines of Húsavik in the north, and Krisuvik in the south, of the island. Whatever was the reason, wild adventure or mineral hunting, or both combined, Captain Burton embarked for Iceland on June 4th, 1872, at Granton, in the Queen,' chartered for the voyage by a Scottish merchant. The passengers were all first-class, and the fare there and back 61., not including board; in 1861 on board the old · Arcturus,' Captain Andersen, it used to be 71. there and back including board. But that was a Danish, this is a Scottish tariff, and besides have not ‘fares' and · board, like everything else, increased mightily in the past fifteen years. The passengers were most of them good fellows, all but one cockney who would slaughter with his gun the innocent gulls and gannets which they met in myriads on their voyage; and such a nuisance did Burton find him, that when they canie to the Faroes and Iceland, where it is almost felony to shoot the eiders that produce the down, our traveller fervently hoped that the cockney might commit that crime and be put into prison, while his gun was confiscated. As for the Captain, he was 'a regular brick,' only labouring under the disadvantage that neither he nor his company, nor, worst of all, the ship, had ever made the coast of Iceland before: a fact not pleasant to
reflect on as they approached that rock-bound harbourless coast, and might have to contend with fierce winds and wild currents off shores whence no pilot hails, and along which buoys and beacons and lighthouses are unknown. And here we must remark that as the Icelandic proverb says, “A king's
ears are long,' so a traveller's eyes are sharp; for as they went along the Caithness coast and opened the whirlpools of the Pentland Firth the voyagers saw not only John of Groat's House or its site, but also Stroma right down the Firth, and the old Man of Hoy, a great needle at the end of the island of that name, off Stromness, and after running the gauntlet of the roaring Firth, passed the Merry Men of May and the Swelchie, and so on through the channel between Hoy and the mainland of Orkney. Thence the · Queen' plunged north-west into the Mare Pigrum of Tacitus, and dashed into the Deucaledonian Ocean, sighting the Fair Isle, between Orkney and Shetland, on the starboard, and soon afterwards Foula, an outlier of the Shetland group. On June 7th they fell into a sea-fog, and so neared the southern coast of Iceland. This misty veil lost them a grand sight, for it is impossible to conceive anything more picturesque than the great mass of Jokulls and glaciers running down to the sea which meet the eye when that part of the island is approached in fine weather. As it was, the captain of the Queen' hardly knew where he was. He had intended to make his landfall at Portland about forty miles farther west; but he was in fact just off what is called the Side,' that is, the low alluvial or rather sandy strip between the Jokulls and the sea. Having ascertained this, they ran cautiously along the coast, discovering through the mist which gave it fresh terrors, the grisly black and scarped form of Hjörleifshöfði, so called from Hjörleif, one of the first settlers, a free thinker of those days, who believed in himself, and would not sacrifice to the gods; the result being that those whom Landnama, the Domesday of Iceland, calls, in words which Swift might have penned, the basest of
slaves,' some · Westmen’ or Irish thralis, treacherously slew him and ran off to a cluster of isles off the coast, called ever since after them the Westmen's Isles. We hope that as they neared these isles the fog lifted and the sun shone out, if not, Captain Burton and his companions lost another glorious sight. The Journals of 1861–2 tell us of the bluest sea covered with myriads of birds, of huge masses of glaciers on the north-east, and farther on, of the great plain through which the Markarfljot rushes on its way to the sea through roaring channels, while behind it Hekla rears it head laced with stripes of
snow. On the south, the Westmen's Isles are studded on the sea, affording the most picturesque forms. Such is nature off that coast. To those who know the language and the Sagas of the land, a deeper interest than that excited by a fair landscape fills the mind. The district over which the eye ranges is the most famous in Iceland. It is the great plain watered by the two rivers, called Wrongwater, from their wayward course. It is Njals' country, who dwelt yonder at Bergthrorsknoll down on the shore; while at Oddi, farther inland, lived Sæmund, the learned, and a whole host of Icelandic worthies after him. We doubt, however, whether any on board the · Queen’ were alive to these ancient glories of the land. Certainly we should say that the cockney sportsman, Captain Burton's aversion, the representative of a class of Englishmen who have done so much harm to Iceland, was not. He was busy with his gun. Nothing feathered came amiss to him. Divers, puffins, testes, gulls, and even the sacred eider itself, went down before his gun. Skuas and gannets bit the seafoam ; but we are glad to learn that this
wanton crueity was not looked upon by the rest of the pas6 sengers with a favourable eye.'
Quitting this lovely scene, the steamer steamed slowly along the south coast, doubling Cape Reykianess, round which from west to east to west often runs a nasty current, and, as we gather, reached Reykjavik, the capital of the island, on the afternoon of June 8th. Of this town it may be said that it is the exact contradiction of what Gustavus Adolphus said of Munich; he called the Bavarian capital a golden saddle on an ass's back; by which the conquering king meant that the capital, as in fact has been the case ever since, was far too good for the country. In Iceland, on the contrary, the country is far too good for the capital. The view from Reykjavik across the Faxafirth, forty miles away to Snæfell, which rears its cusped head covered with eternal snow, while to the northeast in the middle distance rise the giant steeples of Akrafell and Esja, is one over which tourists may rave, and compare it with the loveliest landscape they have ever seen. And well they may, for before them in an atmosphere of intense purity and brightness are combined all the magic of sea and land, in noble and yet fantastic forms. But when they turn landward and behold the town, they are more forcibly reminded than ever of the truth of the old saying, that God made the country and man made the town, with the addition that in this particular case the handiwork of man is mean and squalid in the extreme. Captain Burton, who like Ulysses has seen
many lands and cities and shapes of men, tells us that before landing he disciplined himself severely,' lest he should be disappointed; but it is evident, though he calls Reykjavik a . fair north of Europe port,' that he was disappointed. In fact the Icelandic capital, with its tumble-down wooden houses, its foul drains, and ancient and fish-like smells, is not likely to be an object of admiration to any traveller. The most that can be said of it is that it is cleaner than it was, and that its population of about 2,000 are much better housed than they were in the days of Mackenzie and Hooker, at the beginning of the century. In one point, too, the improvement is beyond all comparison. In 1810 there was not a single garden or ve
getable of any kind growing in the place.' Now there is an abundance of what Captain Burton calls 'garden sass,' in the American fashion ; parsley and fennel, kail and turnips, fine cauliflowers, and, though last not least, cabbages and potatoes ; before which leprosy, so long the opprobrium of the country, is vanishing and will vanish as that fell disease has vanished from the British Isles where it was in old times so prevalent.
In this town, the seat, be it remembered, of the Government of the island, Captain Burton found lodgings in the house of Fru Jonassen, sister of Geir Zoega, the guide so well known to Iceland tourists. The rooms, with their applepie-shaped 'box beds, about three feet long,' are not to be despised, as they are about the best and quietest that a stranger can find in the town ; nor was the charge, considering the rise of prices in Iceland, at all immoderate ; for about 3s. 6d. a day the Captain was lodged and found in a small breakfast’ or early coffee, and "a big breakfast,' substantial as those of Scotland, at 10 A.M. The coffee, sugar, and cream were excellent. There were no * paltry overcharges and small robberies,'as in English lodginghouses; and Captain Burton left the abode of the motherly Mrs. Jonassen in a contented frame of mind, who, in addition to her other services, took care of his goods for him during his absence from the capital. But we have forgotten something most important to an English traveller-his dinner. That they took at the tavern, turning it for the nonce into a club. There they had food, excellent in some things, for the very small charge of 2s. 2d. a day, including, as we gather, Norway ale, coffee, and a petit verre. The cook was too fond of spices and sugar, but an abundant use of those condiments is according to the taste of the country. The salmon was excellent; 'firmer, ' finer, curdier, and leaner than with us. There were Australian and other preserved meats; a new feature in Icelandic dietary, and which would have saved the traveliers of 1861