Page images
PDF
EPUB

have made the early literature of Iceland the particular object of their studies; and Steingrim Jonas of Bessested; the Rector Hialmarson, who formerly conducted the school at Holum ; and Arnes Helgeson, the driest of Vatnsfiord, who have distinguished themselves in classical knowledge. Assessor Benedict Grondal, a judge in the high court of justice, is mentioned as the most eminent among the poets, although his performances are almost wholly confined to odes, epitaphs, and other detached pieces, among which are many excellent translations from Theocritus, Anacreon, and Horace. Finnur Magnusen is likewise celebrated for the facility with which he composes in the Latin and Danish languages, and for the extreme accuracy of his Icelandic style*. Jonas Thorlaksen, the translator of Milton, has composed many original poems of great merit. Sigurdar Petersen of Reikevig, has written, among other things, a poem, in six cantos, called Stella, in which, under a fictitious form, the;

* I have before alluded to his poem, inserted in the Appendix of the second volume of this Tour, and, at p. 39 of this volume, is noticed a translation of the Georgics of Iceland, into Danish ve«e,

manners and habits of the Icelanders are minutely described. Magnus Stephensen, the Etatsroed, is justly entitled to the first rank among the historical writers; and, in a list of his works, no less than twenty, on various subjects, are enumerated by Dr. Holland: many of them, however, are published for the use of a literary society, of which Mr. Stephensen is president. Numerous works on divinity have appeared since the time of the reformation; but, happily for Iceland, metaphysics do not appear to have occupied the attention of the Icelanders in a great degree. The sciences, strictly so called, Dr. Holland goes on to observe, engage but few votaries. In natural history * the Enarrationes Historical de Natura et Constitutione Islandice of Eggart Olafsen deserve notice; as do the Travels in Iceland, published by the same gentleman, in conjunction with his companion Paulsen; a work con

* The authors of the Voyage en Islande make mention of a Latin work published one hundred and 'fifty years ago, entitled Theatrum Fiventium, and they speak of Jon Olafsen, who flourished about the middle of the seventeenth century, and had made natural history his particular study. He travelled much in Europe and in the East Indies, and wrote an account of his life and travels.

g

IxXXU INTRODUCTION.

taming a vast store or information, but miserably deficient in arrangement. Olaf Olatsen printed, m 1780, his (Economical Travels through Iceland, containing much valuable matter, Jon Soemundsen has written oh Jfhe volcanic eruptions that have happened" in trip neighborhood of the lake Myvatn;!"aijd Bishop Finnsen on Hecla; and Mr.' S>tephensen*s ^Account of the l£ru^$o'nof S$aptefield Jokul will be found translated mifo English, in the latter end of 'this journal'. „

Mathematics and astronomy are ^mit little cultiva^d^ though the eider Mr. St^phehseh and Stephen BiBrhsen have written on theSe *suDjects!.

* • .* >> •. i ... . . .. . . i.. > . . ^ .

i In the fine arts no progress whatever. has been made; but,, as a proof. that this deficiency is rather to be ascribed to the situation of the .people, than to a want q£ original genius, Dr. Holland remarks, that Thorvaldsen, the son of an Icelander, dwelling on

j the classic ground of Rome, is second only to Canova among the statuaries of Europe.

't'L. . 4u.u K*f .. •> Jt..i*'..j ... 3.1. 1'.. „i. LHJ.

. The remains of antiquity in Iceland are few and of small importance, since the country has been plundered of all its old

manuscripts. . Of ancient edifices scarcely any traces remain; for the mode of building practised in the island with pieces of rock without cement is of itself naturally unfaworable to the duration of the walls, and has also greatly facilitated the attempts of the natives to take them in pieces as often as they wanted the materials to erect others. The mere foundations of large structures are alone now and then to be traced, one of which that served as a pagan temple is distinguishable by the Blodstein, or stone for sacrifice, which is of an oval form, a little pointed at the top. Equally insignificant are the ancient in-scriptions that have been found in the island: the most remarkable among which is that at ;Borg, in Myrar, the epitaph of one Kartan, ła man of regal extraction, who fell by the shands of an assassin. It is engraved in Runic characters upon a kind of rock resem‘bling basalt.

some fragments are still preserved of the armour of former days, such as a halbert, long kept in the cathedral of Skalholt; and

[ocr errors]

a few swords, with a lance and helmet, which are to be seen at Hlidarende; but they are said to possess nothing remarkable in their form. v Sepulchral monuments, consisting of heaps of stones, resembling the cairns of Wales and Scotland, are scattered in small quantities over the island;

The principal exports of Iceland are dried fish, mutton, lamb and beef, butter, tallow, train-oil, coarse woollen cloth, stockings, gloves, raw wool, sheep-skins, lamb-skins, fox-skins, eider-down, and feathers, to which in former times was added sulphur. They import timber, fishing-tackle, various implements of iron, tobacco, bread, spirituous liquors, wine, salt, linen,' with other necessaries of life for the people in general, and a very few superfluities for the richer class of inhabitants. At its earliest period Iceland appears to have been the rendezvous for all the disaffected and discontented among the Norwegians and Danes, and was little more than a nest of pirates; but after the island had submitted to the Kings of Norway, and a security was afforded to commerce, the vast quantities. of wool, tallow, oil, and other

« PreviousContinue »