Page images
PDF
EPUB

As we rode into the tün of the farm, a man stepped forward and asked my guide's name. He told it. The man nodded, and then turned to me. “Hvat heitith ther?” (What is your name?) “Sabine Jatvartharson’’ (Sabine Edward's son), I replied, for Icelanders have no surnames, and are called So-andso's son, after their father. My guide was named Grimr, his father Arni; consequently he went by the name of Grimr Arnason, but his son would be Grimsson. “Okhvat heitir méthir thin 2 ” (What is your mother's name 2) “Sophia,” I replied. This was a name new to him, so he exclaimed “Svóinna! Ok fathir hennar 2 ” (Indeed! and what was her father's name 2) This he asked, because a wife in Iceland does not take her husband's name, but is called So-and-so's daughter. Thus if Grimr had a daughter, married or single, to the end of her days she would be Grimsdottir. We had no time to waste, so Grímr called the farmer, and asked him whether it were possible to cross the Hvítá, or White river, a rapid and deep stream a quarter of a mile below the farm. “No l’” said the farmer. “You will want the ferry-boat. I will row you across for a dollar.” “That is not true,” said one of the farmer's maids, who was making hay. “There is a ford, only it is not very safe.” The man now acknowledged that there was a ford, but said that it was dangerous, and he undertook to show it us. We crossed the river, and then scampered over a hill till we came out above the Walley of Smoke. Immediately below us there rose a dense white cloud, and we trotted towards it. This we found to arise from Tunguhver, the spring which Sir G. Mackenzie calls the alternating Geysir. From the hill-side starts up a mound about fourteen feet high, composed of brick-red clay. From the side of this, jet more than sixteen springs of water, all boiling furiously, fizzing, and puffing off steam, pouring down the side of the hillock in scalding rills, forming pools of hot clear water, and then gurgling between banks of green moss to meet the river. I ascended the mound, and looked at the jetting spluttering fountains hard at work below me; the sun flung my shadow on the ascending masses of steam with perfect distinctness, surrounding my head with a bright rainbow.

TUNGUliver.

The spring which Sir G. Mackenzie describes as squirting up about fourteen feet is now choked with stones, which thoughtless travellers have rolled into its bore. It can now only throw up water to the height of three feet, and all signs of alternation have disappeared. Close to it I found a specimen of crimson Alga * growing in the almost scalding spray

* The Rev. M. J. Berkley, to whom I sent the specimen I collected at Tunguhver, writes to me: “Had I received your Icelandic cryptogam without any note as to its habitat, I should have said at once it is a barren Fusisporium. As, however, it is a production of hot-springs, it must be an Alga, and is nearer to Kützing's genus Hypheothrix than anything else that I know. I have not been able, however, to refer it to any species described in his species Algarum. The most like it is H. Teukeri. It has some resemblance to Leptothrix Kermesina, but if I mistake not, the threads are vaginate, and, if so, it is not a Leptothrix."

[graphic]

from the jet, and overflowed by a boiling ripple at every explosion. Having satisfied our curiosity, we remounted our horses, and ascended the valley, crossing the river repeatedly. Ten or twelve steam clouds rose from different sides of the dale. One we noticed in the middle of the river, where the boiling water had heaped up a mound of red, black, and purple deposit about ten feet high. On the top of this are three boiling jets, the largest of which plays to the height of three feet; the others boil briskly, but do not erupt. I rode my horse into the river, and tried to reach the mound, but he reared and snorted in such manifest alarm that I was obliged to conduct him to the bank, and wade through the river myself without shoes and stockings. I found now that the main cause of the horse's alarm had been a line of little hot springs, rising in the bed of the stream; these had undoubtedly scalded his feet as they sank into the mud and gravel through which the hot water rises. On reaching the heap I was obliged to put on my shoes, as the stone was too hot and too covered with rills of boiling water for the naked foot to rest upon it. The volumes of steam which rose from the three orifices were blinding; however, I was able to mix a glass of hot brandy and water at the main jet, and then I jumped down into the river with my coat, cap, and hair, drenched in the condensed steam. There are other interesting springs in the valley, which need not be described, as careful accounts of their phenomena have been given by Sir George Mackenzie, Henderson, and Captain Forbes. At nine o'clock we reached the parsonage of Reykholt, near which are situated Snorro's bath and castle. The former consists of a circular pool enclosed within walls of hewn stone, about fifteen feet in diameter, and cemented with clay; the floor is paved with slabs, and a stone bench runs round the inside of the bath; water is conveyed to it through a stone°oated drain from Skrifla, a furiously boiling spring, about 150 Wards distant, which is surrounded by a mud and stone wall. The bath is now used only for washing clothes, the idea of corporeal ablutions being quite foreign to the Icelandic mind. The water can be raised to the height of four feet, above which there is an escape pipe, the whole depth of the bath being ten feet. Snorro, who constructed the bath, supplied it as well with a stream of cold water, so that the temperature could be regulated at pleasure. This conduit has fallen into decay, and in the 500 years which have elapsed since his death no Icelander has arisen of sufficient enterprise to clear out or re-dig the old channel, a labour which might occupy an English workman two or three days. Skrifla is about fourteen feet in diameter, and discharges a considerable amount of water. A little north of this fountain is another boiling spring, into which I amused myself by plunging my shirts. The farm-servants undertook to wash my stockings and the rest of my clothes, and I was obliged to ride next day without a shirt, as it was not dry, but in an unwonted condition of jubilation at being free at last from my tormentors. The castle of Snorro is simply a large tumulus covered with grass. It is situated in the tün, so that there is no prospect of its being dug into for many a day. The church is interesting, as it contains several relics of antiquity. Over the altar is a triptych, containing a crucifix with SS. Mary and John beside it. There are other saints on the doors. These figures are probably old, and are not wanting in spirit, but they have been reset and freshly coloured. There is a magnificent brass basin serving as font, and a chandelier of the same metal, of excellent design, but late. A modern chasuble of violet cloth, embroidered with yellow and crimson flowers, is the work of the farmers' daughters in the neighbourhood. Outside the church door is a stone slab, on which are engraved Runes. This the old man who unlocked the church door for me assured me was the tomb of Snorro Sturlason, the author of the Heimskringla, or World's Circle, a history of Norway, and the compiler of the Younger Edda, a composition giving an account of ancient Icelandic mythology. I believe, however, that the statement of the old gentleman is not to be relied upon.

[ocr errors]

Snorro was born in the year 1178 at Hvammr, where we slept last night. He was a fierce, turbulent chieftain, and is accused of having betrayed the independence of his country, and contributed to reduce Iceland to the state of a province of Norway. In 1241 he was murdered by his sons-in-law, at Reykholt, in the sixty-third year of his age. Both the Edda and Heimskringla will make the name of Snorro famous as long as the world lasts. His style is pure and nervous; he introduces episodes with singular discretion, and as a graphic historian will never be surpassed.

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »