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born; the white writhing vortex below, with now and then an ice-green wave tearing through the foam, to lash against the walls; the thunder and bellowing of the water, which make the rock shudder underfoot, are all stamped on my mind with a vividness which it will take years to efface.
The Almanna-gja is nothing to this chasm, and Schaffhausen, after all Turner's efforts to give it dignity, is dwarfed by Dettifoss.
My sketch gives but a poor idea of the falls, the majesty of which is beyond human skill to portray. One man only could have given a true version of its magnificence, and he is dead—that man was Turner. I have no hesitation in saying that Dettifoss is not only the finest sight in Iceland, but is quite unequalled in Europe: it amply repays the toil of a journey to it in its fastnesses; and I am sure that any future visitor will be of opinion that I have underrated its wonders.
Our ride back was very monotonous; we traced the Jokulsa up, till we came in a line with the Sulphur range, and then rode straight for it, passing low craters in the desert, the bowls, more or less complete, composed of sand and cinder; and cracks in the ground formed by earthquakes, over which the horses stepped cautiously.
We were delayed a short while by my guide catching a sheep and ripping off its wool—in Iceland, shears are never used; this he tied into a bundle, and inserted between himself and his saddle.
The country brightens up a little on nearing the lava flood from Krafla and Leirlmukr, and we passed a sel, or cot for summer pasture, belonging to the Reykjahlith farmer.
Some juniper bushes, a little whortle, and some scanty grass, grew about it, and plenty of moss coated the steep sides of a stream, which had furrowed itself a way through the sandy soil.
A thin fog came on as we sighted the lava torrent, and it was curious to notice what shapes the blocks assumed through the film of mist: it seemed to me as I rode along the brow of a low hill above the flood, thoroughly exhausted with my day's toil, that I was looking down on a Devonshire landscape, from the top of a Dartmoor Tor. I seemed to distinguish rolling wooded hills, towns and churches; but, as I approached, hills and buildings became contorted, and appeared to rear themselves up in new forms, monstrous and fearful, such as perchance Schiller's diver might have seen at the bottom of Charybdis, when he says,—
"The purple darkness of the deep
After a ride of fourteen hours and a half, we drew rein at the door of Reykjahlith, cold, hungry, and tired.
A SNOW PASS.
I hold a Levee—My Plans upset—The Church of Thvera—-Taking French Leave—Swimming across a River—MSS. Sagas—J6n's bills—Runaway Ponies—Rocky Spires—Perverseness of Grimr—A Mountain Sel—A fearful Pass—Snowbridge—A desperate Scramble—Stone Bog—Midnight on the Snow—A crumbling Snowbridge—Arrival at Holar—An alarming Proposal.
I Was awakened on the following morning by the entrance of
a young man with some goose-eggs for sale. He was not long
solitary, for his father pushed in after him, to see that his
son was fairly remunerated, and his younger brothers followed,
that they might have a look at the Enskrmathr (Englishman)
who was going to buy goose-eggs. Grimr crawled out of bed
to inspect the articles, my host came in to argue about them,
followed by his better half and the red-haired servant-girl,
both filled with feminine inquisitiveness, the latter pursued by
her admirer, and the admirer in turn followed by his brothers.
Then my host's little snub-nosed daughters, who were carrying
on a flirtation with the brothers of the maid's admirer, poked
their snub-noses in at the door, and presently, becoming
emboldened, entered the room, with four dogs which they had
been feeding. Finally, some folk from Mothrudalr, who had
arrived on the preceding day with a train of horses, finding
that my room was the general rendezvous, edged themselves
in as well. As every one had something of his own to say on
the subject of the eggs, and was perfectly indifferent to the
opinion of the others, the room became a perfect Babel. My comb and brush were in the window, and, as I knew that these would be tried upon the different heads in rotation, if once any of the throng caught sight of them, I had to stifle all my sense of propriety, jump out of bed, dash through the crowd, and capture my goods. I went through my dressing operations without drawing attention from the eggs, which were still the engrossing topic of conversation.
Later in the morning, the men from Mothrudalr gave me information which completely upset my plans. That these plans may be understood, I must enter into some geographical details, which I hope will not exhaust the patience of the reader.
The south-east of Iceland is occupied by a vast heap of mountains, shrouded in eternal snows, which discharge themselves by glaciers into the sea, on the south. The extreme length of the mass is 115 miles, the width 60 miles. This huge district of volcano and snow is named Vatna, or Klofa Jokull, but the points in its fringe, some of which are of considerable height, go by separate names; of these the most important are, Hofs, Heinabergs, Breithamerks, Orcefa, Skeithar and Skaptar-Jokulls. Some of these have been the foci of most appalling eruptions.
The northern fringe is hardly known, as it meets the Odatha Hrauu, or "lava of evil deed," extending, as may be seen on reference to the map, from the Jokulsa in the east to the Skjalfanda-fljot in the west, and northwards as far as Myvatn. Out of this fearful tract rise mountains, standing up almost like islands above a wild black sea; they can be seen, though not reached, and these have caused the devastation of this enormous district. Their names are Herthubreith, and the two Trolladyngjas.
To the west of this lava district lie the sand-deserts of Sprengi and Stori-sandur, quite destitute of vegetation. To the east, again, beyond the Jokulsa river, are dreary wastes, relieved only at long intervals by grass patches.
The northern scarp of Vatna Jokull has once been skirted by some Danes, but in the attempt they lost a number of their horses, through cold and starvation.