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their subterranean caverns. Tracts of lava traverse the island in every direction.
celebrated is the Great Geyser, in
cations, which are projected in every Great Geyser.
direction. The explosions of the
Great Geyser take place at intervals of about 6 hours. There are many other inferior springs of boiling water, and several of boiling mud.
At Surtshellir is a long cavern, 40 feet high, 50 broad, and 5,034 in length. The entrance is through several chasms in the roof. It was evidently formed by volcanic agency, and is supposed by the natives to have been formerly the residence of the king of the regions of fire. One of the minor caves is beautifully coated with pure ice in every form of crystalization.
5. Natural Productions. Among the vegetables is a species of wild wheat, which may be made into good flour. Besides the lichens, there are many anti-scorbutic roots, and several marine plants, which are used as food. Wild berries of an excellent flavor are found in abundance. Of late years, gardening has been practised throughout the country, but with little success. There are no better trees than birch and brushwood. Immense quantities of pine, firs, and other trees, however, are thrown upon the northern coasts.
6. Minerals. A very singular mineral production of this island is a kind of fossil wood, black, heavy, and slightly carbonized, burning with fame. There is another kind of mineral wood, heavier than coal, which burns without flame, and contains chalcedony in its transverse Gissures. Of the ordinary lava, there are several different formations. The central mountains
contain copper and iron ; which are not wrought for want of fuel ; also marble, lime, plaster, porcelain clay, several kinds of bole, onyx, agate, jasper, and an abundance of sulphur.
7. Towns, Population, &c. The capital is Reykiavik ; it is a seaport with some trade. The other considerable towns are llolm and Husarik. The chief agricultural product is hay. Most of the inhabitants are employed in fishing. The trade consists in the exportation of fish, oil, skins, feathers, and sulphur. The population is about 50,000.
8. Inhabitants. The Icelanders are rather tall, of a frank, open countenance, florid complexion, and yellow, flaxen hair. The women
are short in proportion to the men, and inclined to corpulency.
9. Dress. The common dress of the men is a linen shirt, a
short jacket, and wide breeches reaching above the jacket. Icelanders.
The men wear three-cornered hats. The most curious part of
the female dress is the turban, of white linen, stiffened with a great many pins, and about 20 inches in height. It is fastened to the head by a dark-silk handkerchies, that is tied several times around it, and completely hides the hair. This has for ages been the national dress.
10. Language. This is the Icelandic, an original language, or the Scandinavian, the stock of several languages in the north of Europe.
11. Manner of Building. The houses in Iceland are all constructed in the same manner. The walls are thick, and composed of alternate layers of earth and of stone. The rasters are a few beams of drift-yood, or of whalebones interlaced with twigs, and covered with turf. This kind of roof always bears good grass, which is cut with the scythe. There is generally a dark alley running through the middle of the house, and on either side of this are the entrances to the various apartments, as the kitchen, the stranger's room, the sleeping room, &c. The stranger's room is always the best in the house. The light is admitted from the roof through windows of glass, or of the membranes of sheep. There is no cbimney in the kitchen, and the smoke escapes through a hole in the roof. The Icelanders never have fire even in winter, but for cooking. The beds are arranged on each side the sleeping room. They are very narrow, yet the people sleep by couples, lying head to foot. The floor is commonly the damp earth. This manner of life causes pulmonary diseases, which carry off many people, and few attain to old age.
12. Food. The ordinary diet is of the simplest kind. The breakfast is of sour curds, 'mixed sometimes with sweet milk and flavored with berries. The dinner is of dried fish and butter. The latter, when rancid, is most esteemed, and bears double the price of fresh and new. The supper is like the breakfast, or it is sometimes a kind of porridge; and this is to a foreigner the most palatable of all the Icelandic diet. On great occasions, the people have boiled mutton and rye porridge. Beef is seldom eaten, and there is no bread except a little of the sour, Danish biscuit. The usual beverage is whey mixed with water.
, . 13. Diseases. The most common maladies are obstinate coughs, or consumptions ; and the want of personal neatness engenders cutaneous diseases. Many children die before the 10th year, and about a twenty-fifth of the deaths are from accidents, generally drowning.
14. Mode of. Traveling. No other civilized country offers so many obstacles to the traveler as Iceland. There are no coasting vessels to take him from one place to another along the shore, and there are no vehicles, and scarcely any roads in the interior. The only way of traveling is on horseback, and in general the horse is purchased, not hired. There is, however, a truly hospitable custom and feeling, that leads the inhabitants to exchange with the traveler, without a shilling for boot, a good and fresh horse, for one lean and jaded with a long journey. The horses are seldom housed or sed, even in winter, but subsist chiefly on the sea-weeds thrown up by the tide They are of a stout race, and are broken to an amble, an easy gait for an equestrian. As there are no inns, and little desirable shelter in the small and crowded dwellings, the traveler usually carries a tent, and the nature of the road imposes an equal necessity for a guide ; while the fogs or storms of snow, make it necessary, that he should also be provided with a compass.
He must ford rivers is the ice be too weak to bear him, and if not provided with shelter, he must sometimes seek it in caverns, or build a house of snow. In winter it is impossible to travel at all, and even in summer, when there is no obstruction from ice and snow, there is enough of difficulty and danger, in crossing rivers, climbing mountains, passing morasses, and picking a way over the burning and smoking ground, rent by earthquakes into chasms.
Towards the end of June, the Icelanders make a journey to the coast, to sell their productions to the factories, and bring back other commodities in exchange, for the traffic is carried on rather by exchange, than money, :— though the absence of money has produced a sort of substitute in fish and wadmal (a coarse cloth). Of fish, there were in the time of Von Troil, 48 to the rix dollar. This transportation of goods to the coast and back, leads the people, for mutual assistance, to travel in caravans, and sometimes 70 horses are seen together, going down to the coast, and often at the factories there are 300 horses and half as many tents.
15. Manners and Customs. It is only on the confines of the polar circle, that we must look for society in a state of primitive simplicity, and with a diffusion of a great degree of knowledge, though without the answering grade of refinement. The remote insular situation of Iceland, and its poverty, which one of its pastors called the “bulwark of its happiness,” is a fortunate barrier to the visits of foreigners, who might, indeed, introduce to those secluded regions more knowledge of the world, coupled with a greater familiarity with its vices. The early settlers of Iceland, like those of New England, were a race well fitted to leave a high
state of moral feeling and intelligence to their descendants. Many of them were distinguished men of Norway, who preferred exile to oppression at home, and who carried to their adopted country the germ of republican institutions, and of the knowledge that can the best uphold them.
The most prominent traits in the Icelanders are a love of their country, hospitality, intelligence, simplicity, and piety. Though social, they are rather disposed to be serious. They have little conception of humor, and are seldom known to laugh. Yet they may be called an eminently happy people, and seldom leave their own country ; the few who go to Copenhagen are never satisfied till they return to Iceland. It would almost seem that happiness, and simplicity of character, had deserted the sunny skies and fertile fields of southern Europe, to nestle among the icy crags and volcanic ruins of the frozen zone. In Iceland a stranger is at once struck with the oriental manner of salutation, borrowed probably from the Scriptures, with which all are familiar, though until lately but few copies were possessed. The common salutation on meeting is that of the East, “ Peace be with you,” to which the reply is, “ The Lord bless you.
On knocking at a door to gain admittance it is common to say, The Lord be in this place,” to which the reply is similar to the last.
It is the universal custom to give thanks with clasped hands before and after a meal ; when the meal is over, the guests kiss both the master and the mistress, thanking them for their kindness. At meeting and parting, the kiss is the universal salutation; on entering a family the visiter must thus salute them all, according to seniority or station, beginning with the highest; at his departure he reverses this, and the lowest is taken leave of first. Before and after crossing a river the Icelander raises his hat and makes a mental prayer, and also when he goes in a boat from the shore. This religious sentiment is the leading trait in the Icelandic character. Of their characteristic faith, Doctor Henderson gives this example. “I could not but potice," said he, “the manner in which my hostess spoke of her children ; on my inquiring how many she had, her reply was, I have 4 ; 2 of them are here with us, and the other 2 are with God. It is the best with those that are with him, and my chief concern about those that remain is, that they may reach heaven in safety."
16. Amusements. The amusements of the Icelanders are of a grave character, founded less on levity than the intelligence that is so much diffused among them, and though they have chess, and cards, they generally prefer to pass their evenings in recounting some legend of their ancestors, or reading by turns the history of their own country, or some other useful book. As books are scarce in Iceland, copies are multiplied in manuscript, and many of them are so well executed as to be beautiful specimens of the art.
17. Education. There is no other country in which so great an amount of knowledge is universally diffused as in Iceland ; and yet there is on the island but 1 school, and that is designed chiefly for such as are to fill offices in church and state. The education is strictly domestic, and no one acquires any that he does not get at home. The extent to which it is carried is scarcely credible. It is not uncommon to hear a youth quote a Greek or Latin author, and in almost every hut there is some person capable of conversing well upon subjects, far above the understanding of those of the same grade in other countries. The Icelanders are not only familiar with their own history and literature, but they are in a great degree conversant with those of other nations. It is surprising to hear these self-taught people conversing on subjects that belong to a professor's chair. Among other instances of this wonderful diffusion of education, Doctor Henderson relates, that he was reading to a common person a letter addressed by the King of Persia to the English Envoy, concerning a version of the New Testament. The date was 1229, and a little boy remarked, that it must be a very old letter. “No,” said the peasant, “it was not written according to our computation, but it was dated from the Hegira."
18. Arts, Sciences, &c. Till the year 1264, from the introduction of Christianity into Iceland, it was the only place in the North where literature was cultivated. The Scandinavian legends were wild and warlike. The Scalds were the poets and historians, and the Sagas recalled the memory of the past in stories. These traditional histories and poems were collected by Saemund Sigfussen, who was born A. D. 1056. This collection is called the Edda. The mythology of the Scandinavians was copious. Div
Divine honors were paid to Odin, who was supposed to be a sanguinary deity, receiving into his paradise Valhalla, only the brave and warlike. Friga, his wife, was the second deity, and Thor the third. There were many others inferior.
19. Religion. The religion is strictly Lutheran, and the parishes are in number 184. The clergy, who are all natives of the island, are but partly maintained by tithes; they cultivate the glebe attached to the churches, and many of them are obliged to follow the occupation of fishermen. The richest living in the island does not produce 200 rix dollars, and there are parishes in which the stipend is as low as 5. But the clergy are faithful if not for hire. Every one keeps what is called a “ register of souls,” or a statement of the conduct, abilities, and pro
, ficiency of each individual in the parish. The family books are also entered in this register, which is given to the Dean at his annual visitation. Every clergyman is bound to visit every family in his parish at least twice a year, when he catechizes every inmate, old and young,
20. Government and Laws. Iceland is a colony of Denmark ; the Governor is appointed by the King, and holds his office 5 years. The laws are of the mild character that befits a country where crimes are almost unknown. Fines, imprisonment, and whipping are the only penalties inflicted in Iceland. Criminals that are capitally convicted are sent to Copenhagen to be beheaded, as, for many years, no person has been found on the island to execute the sentence of the law.
21. History. Iceland was settled by the Norwegians in the 9th century, and for many years constituted an independent republic. In 1264, it came under the dominion of the King of Norway, and was subsequently transferred with that country to the crown of Denmark, under which it remains at present.
CHAPTER LIII. REPUBLIC OF TEXAS.
1. Boundaries. Area. The boundaries are unsettled on the side of Mexico ; on the east and north they are the Gulf of Mexico and the frontiers of the United States, as already described. The old province of Texas or Tejas was bounded on the west by the Nueces, and a line drawn from its head to the sources of Red River, that river forming the northern bounda ry.
Within these limits its area is about 160,000 square miles. The republic, however, ex: icods its claims to the Rio del Norte on the west, and to the Arkansas on the north, comprising a tract of 140,000 square miles. The name of the province was derived from one of the native tribes.
2. Face of the Country, &c. The surface along the shore, and to the distance of from 50 to 100 miles inland, is low and level, with occasional swamps and marshes, but generally composed of arable prairie, traversed by lines of wooded river-bottoms. Above this maritime plain, the country is undulating, now here attaining a considerable elevation, but agreeably diversified by gracefully rounded swells, gentle slopes, and broad plains. This region is mostly prairie, the trees being chiefly confined to the river-valleys. On the west, several outliers of the Mexican Cordilleras extend across the Colorado to the Brazos, where they subside into the elevated plains of northern Texas.
3. Climate. The climate of Texas is mild, agreeable, and healthful; the heats of summer are moderated by the sea-breezes, but are sometimes excessive during a few hours before sunset, when the breezes commonly die away. Scarcely any rain falls between March and November, and the vegetation often suffers from droughts. In November north winds set in, and
. heavy rains begin to fall; these winds blow during December and January, when the mountains are covered with snow, and the cold is sometimes severe ; but snow seldom lies long in the lower districts. In the early spring the rains are very copious. 4. Vegetable Productions. The live oak is found of large size in the maritime region,
. chiefly between the Galveston and Matagorda Bays; the wbite, red, post, and Spanish oaks, the cotton-wood, ash, elm, and sycamore or buttonwood, the black walnut, hickory, pekan, the locust, muskit, and bow-wood, the wild cherry, mulberry, chinquapin, persimmon, &c., are among the natives of the forests, and there are extensive cane-brakes between the Colorado and the Brazos. The soil and climate are favorable to the growth of the sugar-cane, indigo, tobacco, cotton, rice, Indian corn, sweet potatoes, and in some parts of wheat, rye, oats, &c. ; and the prairies afford excellent natural pastures all the year round. The cotton crop is nearly 100,000 bales.
5. Rivers. Bays. Texas has a gulf-coast of about 300 miles, exclusive of the windings, but contains no good ship-harbor, and even few ports for smaller vessels. The shallow bays which receive most of the rivers, and the mouths of those rivers which enter the gull, are barred by shifting sand-banks, the channels through which are often intricate, and never have
more than 12 or 13 feet of water ; from April to August, ships may ride at anchor securely in 6 or 8 fathoms ; but from August to April
, the heavy swell renders the coast dangerous, and makes it impossible to lie at anchor off shore with safety. Galveston Bay is crossed by bars having only 5 feet of water. Matagorda Bay has not generally more than 8 or 9 feet in its channels, but the entrance, or Paso Cavallo, affords 12 feet. Espiritu Santo and Aransaso bays are still more shallow. The rivers are generally navigable during a part of the year, by steamboats of moderate burden, being rarely interrupted by falls, although much obstructed by shoals and bars. The Sabine forms the eastern boundary, and is navigable about 300 miles. The Trinidad is a larger stream, but its channel is excessively winding. The Brazos de Dios (Arms of God) is the principal river; it rises on the northwestern borders, and reaches the gulf in a winding course of about 600 miles. The Colorado is little inferior to the Brazos, but is choked up by drift-wood 10 miles from its mouth. The Guadalupe and San Antonio, which unite their waters, and the Nueces, are inferior but navigable streams.
6. Divisions. Population. The republic is divided into 37 counties.* The population amounts to about 100,000 ; of which number 75,000 are Anglo-Americans, 8,000 are negroes (slaves), and 15,000 Mexicans or Spanish Creoles. 7. Indians. The Indians within the limits of the white settlements, are not numerous ; they
are, Cushattos, numbering about 350; Alabamas, 250 ; Wacos, on the Brazos, 400; and the Tonkawas.
There are some Caddos, Cherokees, Choctaws, Shawnees, and other Indians from the United States, the Comanches, and the Towiash, in the northern parts of the republic. The aggregate number is about 12,000.
8. Towns. Although the presidio or fortress of San Antonio de Bejar was founded as early as 1681, no important towns grew up here while Texas belonged to the Spaniards. Bexar or Bejar, the capital of the old Province, is pleasantly situated on the San Antonio, and has a population of about 2,000, mostly Spanish Creoles. The Alamo
or citadel, is a strong fortress, built ly Valley of the Comanches.
the Spaniards, in about 1720; but it has been several times captured during the late struggles. La Bahia, now Goliad, was also a strong post, but the works are now mostly in ruins; the village numbers about 800 inhabitants. Gonsales and Victoria, on the Guadalupe ; Montezuma, on the Colorado ; and Matagorda, on the bay of the same name ; Brazoria, Velasco, Columbia, Bolivar, San Felipe de Austin, and Washington, on the Brazos, are small villages. Houston, the former capital of the republic, on Buffalo Bayou, is a thriving town, with 3,000 inhabitants. Galveston, on the eastern end of the island of San Louis, has lately become an important commercial mart. Population, 6,000. Nacogdoches is an old Spanish post and town, and contains about 1,000 inhabitants ; it is still the principal seat of the Indian trade. San Augustine is a flourishing little village, on the Ayish, a branch of the Naches. The seat of government has lately been removed to the Colorado, where the city of Austin has been laid out, near the centre of the republic.
9. Government. The government is modeled on that of the United States ; the executive authority is vested in a President, who is chosen by popular vote, and holds office for the