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to rely for our evidence of its genuineness. There are many other Sagas relating to the same period, and handed down in like manner, in which the actors in our Saga are incidentally mentioned by name, and in which the deeds recorded of them are corroborated. They are mentioned also in songs and annals, the latter being the earliest written records which belong to the history of the island, while the former were more easily remembered, from the construction of the verse. Much passes for history in other lands on far slighter grounds, and many a story in Thucydides or Tacitus, or even in Clarendon or Hume, is believed on evidence not one-tenth part so trustworthy as that which supports the narratives of these Icelandic story-tellers of the eleventh century. That with occurrences of undoubted truth, and minute particularity as to time and place, as to dates and distance, are intermingled wild superstitions on several occasions, will startle no reader of the smallest judgment. All ages, our own not excepted, have their superstitions; and to suppose that a story told in the eleventh century, when phantoms, and ghosts, and wraiths, were implicitly believed in, and when dreams, and warnings, and tokens, were part of every man's creed, should be wanting in these marks of genuineness, is simply to require that one great proof of its truthfulness should be wanting, and that, in order to suit the spirit of our age, it should lack something which was part and parcel of popular belief in the age to which it belonged." *
I do not mean to say that all Sagas are of equal authority; some are mythological, others fabulous or romantic; but there is no difficulty whatever in distinguishing fact from fiction in these works of a bygone age.
I give these specimens of the Sagas to the world with great diffidence, as I am by no means a proficient in the Icelandic tongue. I have worked at it for three or four years, and have arrived at the conclusion that both language and literature require the devotion of a lifetime for their proper mastery. The language is full of obscure idioms, and to these there is no tolerable dictionary. That of Bjorn Haldorson, which is the only lexicon, is out of print and rare, so that I had considerable difficulty in procuring a copy.
I have not hesitated to make a few very trifling alterations in the stories (they consist chiefly in names) for the advantage of the reader.
I have used a few antiquated and provincial words in my versions of the Sagas, where such words closely resembled the Icelandic. The principal of these are: – Chapman, a good English word, signifying merchant; gill, a narrow glen; fell, a mountain ; byre, a farm; bonder, a farmer; to busk, with its past participle, boune, to make ready ; hight, called.
* Burnt Njal, vol. i. 6.
With regard to my fellow-travellers, I have so altered their names and the incidents related of them, as to prevent the possibility of their identification.
Finally, my thanks are due to my friend, Mr. G. G. Fowler, for much information with regard to Icelandic birds, and especially to Mr. Alfred Newton for his invaluable paper on the ornithology of the island, inserted in my Appendix; also to Mr. W. Boyd and Mr. W. Ardley for their harmonies to the
Icelandic melodies I brought home with me.
Page 7, line 4, for " shall " read " will.'' 14, after " and never shall" insert * be." 6, for " that he has" read " that he should have."
Iceland lies just south of the Arctic circle, touching it in the north. It is situated between lat. 63° 25' and 66° 80' north, and long. 18° 38' and 24° 40' west. . features.
The shape is peculiar. It is that of an irregular ellipse, with a considerable excrescence in the north-west, which is united to the mainland by a neck only 4j miles across at the narrowest part.
The island is one-fifth larger than Ireland, and contains about 87,000 square miles. Its greatest length is 308 English miles, and greatest breadth 190. It is deeply indented with fjords on all sides except the south. It owes its upheaval entirely to volcanic agency, and is composed exclusively of igneous rocks.
The interior of the island consists of an elevated band of Palagonite tuff, pierced by trachyte veins; on either side of this formation is basalt. It has been generally held that the island was traversed by a broad trachytic valley, hemmed in between chains of trap mountains; but this view is erroneous. Instead of a vale, we have the great jokulls of the centre formed of tufa, and only the fells and smaller ice-mountains on the north coast composed of basalt.
The mountain system is in the south, and takes the shape of a triangle, having for base a line drawn from Ok to Eyjafjalla, and for apex, Thrandar jokull, which towers above the Beru-fjord. A glance at the map would convey the idea that extensive plains occupied the area of the lower portion of this triangle, but such is not the case. The space intervening between Bla-fell, Hekla, Torfa jokull, and the vast ice regions of Hofs and Vatna jokulls is, in fact, occupied by ground rising gradually in rolling "heithi " sweeps, till it meets the snows of Skapta. Towards the apex of the triangle, the glacier mountains form a compact mass called Vatna, or Elofa jokull, covering an area of 3,500 square miles of unexplored snow recesses. North of this triangular mountain system is a triangular elevated plain, with the