Page images

are the disgrace of many English village churches. I never saw an Icelandic place of worship in a neglected condition ; its appropriate Christian symbols always give it a look of dignity, notwithstanding its poverty.

The altars are furnished with crucifix or painting, and with two or more candlesticks of brass or copper.

The churches are lighted by two windows at the east end, and two at the west; these are closed with shutters during the week.

My lodging at the farm was none of the best. The guest-room was miserable indeed. Three yellow smeared panes, and a gap for the fourth, stuffed with an old peaked cap, hardly lighted a chamber with a damp earthen floor, deep in fish skins and bones, with nodes of rock sticking up about two feet above the surface. A table under the window, numerous trunks painted green with staring pink flowers on them, or not painted at all, piles of clothes fit for rag-fair, a locker in the wall, fashioned to hold a bed, but with the floor overhead broken through, so that the eye looked up into a garret full of refuse; a host very old, and ingrained with filth, his white hair luminous against his dingy skin; one, whose sedentary habits had utterly obliterated that screen which society draws between man and the outer world,—and you have a picture of my lodging and host.

The old gentleman brought me a MS. account of the Holy Land, translated from the German by a bishop, in 1615, and probably in his handwriting. I did not purchase it, as the book was borrowed, and of no particular interest. Till late at night I amused myself with filling in some watercolour sketches, as the bed looked most uninviting, and it required a struggle before one could resolve on plunging into its densely populated recesses.

As I drew, the old man watched me, and assured me that it afforded him " mikit gaman," or great pleasure. "Gaman," fun, is cognate with our slang expression, "gammon!" Other of our vulgar terms are closely allied to the Icelandic; thus, "gaby," a fool, is related to the verb "Uh gaba," to make a fool of; and the New Testament speaks of Herod, as seeing that, "Hann var gabbathur af Vitringunum," he was made a gaby of by the wise men.'

Next morning I found that a horse which had strained its foot in the bogs on the preceding day, was too lame to move, and I was obliged to leave him with a farmer from whom I purchased another horse. This worthy man, a connection of Grimr, took charge of my horse for a month, and, on my return, would take nothing for its keep.

My breakfast consisted of stock-fish, and cold mutton boiled a twelvemonth before, the fat of which was well nigh putrid. It was cut into junks and covered with hair and dirt. I was fain to eat what was given me; indeed, I became less and less particular every day whilst travelling. Some kaager or rye-cake, about the thickness and taste of the wood of which bandboxes are made, and dirt flavoured with butter, rather than butter itself, completed a meal which was washed down with glasses of corn-brandy, the taste of which very much resembles spirits of wine out of a castor-oil bottle.

* I add a few more examples to show what light is thrown on their derivation by this language.

Brag (to boast), Icel. brags, rumour, renown.

Chap, Icel. kappi, a fighting man, a hero.

Dandy, Icel. Ddindi, anything good; ddndis man, a worthy fellow. The word has certainly changed its signification considerably.

Duffer (a stupid fellow), Icel. dofi, laziness, from the verb dofna, to be dull and stupid.

Finite (a chance), Icel../for, of a sudden, used similarly, derived from the verbfljuga, to fly.

Fellow, Icel. Jelag, a comrade, literally one who goes shares in money.

To go the whole hog. This I believe to be, to do all in one stroke—hog to be the Icel. Mpg, The Icelanders similarly speak of doing something " »» hdggi," all at once.

Lagged (outlawed), a contraction for Mag, outlaw.

Land-lubber. In the early part of last century the word was spelt loper; land-loper was a vagabond who begged in the attire of a sailor, and the sea phrase, land-lubber, was synonymous. Icel., land-hlaupr, one who runs on land.

Ninny-hammer (a silly fellow). The old Norse used einn-hammar to signify a man in his right senses; with the negative particle net before it, it would have a contrary meaning, and may have originated our word. One who was not einn-hammar was possessed, and capable of becoming a weirwolf, or going into fits of madness on the smallest provocation.

Ransack, Icel. ransacka, has the same meaning.

Skulk, Icel. skelk, fear, from the verb skillet, to frighten, related to skjdlfa, to tremble.

Skittles is derived from a verb tikjota, to shoot, whence the adjective skjott, speedy; similarly, the word brittle is formed from a verb brjota, to break ; fog from a verb fjtika, to drive with the wind.

The district about Svinavatn teems with wild-fowl. Kittiwakes and sand-pipers, teal, phalaropes, and snow-buntings abound. Ptarmigan poults, hardly fledged, started up under our horses' hoofs, and the mothers with a sad cry ran among the willow-tops for shelter. A dozen red-throated divers (Colymbus septentrionalis), in a batch, sailed away from the lakehead, but a magnificent harlequin garrot (Anas histrionica), as though conscious that we were unarmed, floated unmoved within stone's throw of where we were halting. This goodly bird is not uncommon in the Icelandic lakes and rivers, frequenting the latter during the day, and retiring for the night to still water, where it may rest from incessant swimming against stream. In its summer plumage it is a beautiful object. Patched with white and black, the latter of purplish metallic lustre, its colours are blended into the most beautiful harmony by cool greys and rich chestnut reds.

The farmer from whom I had bought my horse guided us across a ford in the Blanda. Grimr was glad to avail himself of his knowledge, as the ford was continually altering, and on a previous summer he had himself nearly lost his life in venturing across without a guide, reckoning on his remembrance of the spot where he had crossed the year before. The farmer's dog, when we reached the river, gave a jump and seated itself comfortably en croupe, a position which it retained during the passage.

We had a pleasant scamper to Blondudalshlith, a new church gaudily painted, the doors and shutters vermilion, with diamonds of blue and yellow in the centres. The walls inside were red striped with blue, and the screen was one mass of yellow and blue bulls'-eyes on a scarlet ground. The only object of interest in the church is a brass chandelier in the nave, which has been ignominiously ejected from the chancel to make room for a frightful glass chandelier of ball-room type.

The Vatns-skarth, our next pass, began with a sharp scramble. The wind cut us to the bone, and blew a storm of snow in our faces. My stockings had been soaked in crossing the Blanda, and they nearly froze on my feet. We skirted a lake with a farm beside it, near the top of the pass: a most wintry spot for any poor souls to inhabit! and then in the teeth of the snow-storm descended along a wild mountain



torrent to the farm and church of Vithimyri, or "the extensive swamps." My feet and hands were so effectually numbed that I was obliged to beg permission to warm them at the miserable offal embers in the kitchen. As I thawed, the desire came upon me to sketch; and I drew the interior of the apartment, to the amusement and surprise of some unkempt and unwashen urchins who crawled by dozens in and out of the cavities in the house, like so many maggots. The lopsided door represented in the woodcut, is so low that one has to bend double to pass through it; this opens out of the dark tunnel leading from the main entrance to the house. The rafters are not sufficiently elevated to allow of one's traversing the kitchen without ducking at every second step, and, as light is only admitted through the1 hole which serves as chimney, the kitchen is so gloomy that one stumbles repeatedly over pots and pans, or even over babies, wriggling and sprawling on the earthen floor.

The farmer was absent, but his man showed me a volume of MS. Rimur, founded on the Fostbrcethra Saga, and composed by the great-grandfather of the present farmer.

Grimr and the young man were soon in an animated conversation on the subject of the absent farmer's merits.

"There is one thing for which I don't like him, and only one," quoth the man; "and that is, the way in which he uses my horse. I have a very nice chestnut, and master comes to me day after day, and says: 'Lend me your horse, will you?' He is short of horses himself, and I can't refuse; so I have to pay for the keep of the horse, whilst my master has the use of it."

"I'd spite him, if I were you," said Grimr; "I'd sell the horse."

"Ay! but horses are plentiful about here, and no one will buy it."

"What do you want for it? The gentleman whom I am guiding is not exactly in want of a horse" (I was so very much, though), "but I might persuade him to buy it, if it were cheap."

"Oh! I don't want much for it," answered the young man. "I shall only sell it, just for the sake of aggravating my master. Faith! I shall like to see his face when he returns and finds the horse gone."

"Come!" said Grimr; "suppose you say eleven speciedollars (2/. 10s.)"

« PreviousContinue »