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consisting of a chief justice, two assessors, and a secretary, substituted in its room, from which an appeal lies to the high court in Denmark. In ancient times the punishment for murder was hanging; for child-murder, drowning; and for witchcraft, burning. At present the only punishment inflicted on the island is fine, imprisonment, and whipping ; if a capital crime should occur, which is extremely rare, they are obliged to send the criminal to Denmark to suffer the sentence of the law, as no person could be found on the whole island to carry it into execution. When Sir Joseph Banks was in Iceland in 1772, the clergyman of Thingvalla, then fifty years
told him that he remembered in his youth the execution of a woman for the murder of an illegitimate child. She was drowned in a part of the river, under a cascade. “The criminal was tied
up in a sack which came over her head, and reached as far down as the middle of her legs, a rope was then fastened to her, and held by an executioner on the opposite bank; after standing an hour in that situation, she was pulled into the water, and kept under with a pole till she was dead."*
The original settlers not ouly constructed temples, and instituted the same rites to Thor which prevailed in their native country, but carried over with them the wood of their Norwegian temples, and the very earth on which their altars had stood. Little more, however, than a century had elapsed from the first colonization of the island before several attempts were made from Norway to introduce the Christian religion among its inhabitants, but with indifferent success. At last, in the year 1000, two exiles of the names of Hialti and Gissur retarned to Iceland with the full determination of advocating the cause of Christianity,' even at the risk of life. They proceeded to the general assembly then sitting, accompanied by seven men dressed in sacerdotal garments, and carrying large crosses in their bands. While engaged in pointing out the superiority of Christianity to paganism, intelligence was brought to the assembly that a neighbouring mountain was vomiting out flames, which the heathen immediately ascribed to the wrath of the deities at the attempt to subvert the ancient faith. Can it be matter of surprize,' they exclaimed, that the gods should be angry at such speeches as those we have just heard!' One of the
One of the pagans however, Snorro Goda by name, from a conviction perhaps of the truth of what he had heard, pertinently replied, " What then was the cause of the anger of the gods when the very lava on which we now stand was burning ?+ From this time it was agreed that paganism should be abolished, and the religion of Christ adopted in its stead. All
Sir J. Bankes's MS. Journal. t.Quid igitur excanduerunt dii, cum scopulus cui nunc insistimus conflagravit? Olafsen und Porelsen, from the Kristni-Saga. U4
that was stipulated for, on the part of the idolaters, was, that those who chose might worship their gods in private, eat horse-flesh, and expose infants. There was some difficulty with regard to the rite of baptism, from a reluctance of the natives to be plunged into cold water, but this was got over by immersing them in one of the hot springs. Monks and convents now began to abound, and a yearly tribute was exacted from the people by the see of Rome. The religion remained catholic till the year 1540, when the doctrines of the Reformation were introduced, and continue to the present day.
There does not probably exist a more meritorious set of men than the clergy of Iceland, nor any who are so wretchedly paid for their clerical functions. •The richest living,' says Dr. Henderson,' does not produce two hundred rix-dollars, twenty and thirty rix-dollars are the whole of the stipend annexed to many of the parishes, and there are some in which it is even as low as five.' The bishoprics of Skalholt and Holum were united in the year 1797, and an episcopal see was erected at Reykiavik for the whole island. They have one archdeacon, eighteen provosts or deans, one hundred and eighty-four parish livings, and more than three hundred churches : what these are may be collected from the brief description of the first that occurred to Dr. Henderson—that of Moss Fell. The church is built of wood, has a coat of turf around the sides, and the roof consists of the same material. It has only two small windows at the east end, and a skylight to the south ; and the whole structure does not exceed thirteen feet in length and nine in breadth:'-(p. 26). As the clergy could not possibly subsist on the scanty provision allowed them, they have, each, their sheep and cattle farms, and perform all kinds of manual labour, such as shoeing horses, mowing grass, cutting peat, &c. Their own concerns however are very rarely allowed to interfere with their clerical duties, in the discharge of which they are laudably punctual, and particularly attentive to the moral and religious education of their young parishioners. Every clergyman keeps a register of the age, condition, character, conduct, and ability of every person within his parish, for the inspection of the dean at his annual visitation.
The good effects of this pastoral care are most sensibly felt by all who have visited this interesting island. In the midst of the physical horrors with which they are surrounded, steeped,' as they are,
in poverty to the very lips,' the general state of mental cultivation, and the diffusion of knowledge among the inhabitants, have no parallel in any nation even in Europe: nor is this owing altogether to the attention of the clergy, or to the institution of public schools; for there is but one on the island; ‘yet it is exceedingly rare,' says Dr. Henderson,' to meet with a boy or girl, who has attained the
age of nine or ten years, that cannot read and write with ease. Domestic education is most rigidly attended to; and it is no uncommon thing to hear youths repeat passages from the Greek and Latin authors, who have never been farther than a few miles from the place where they were born; nor do I scarcely ever recollect entering a hut, where I did not find some individual or another capable of entering into a conversation with me, on topics which would be reckoned altogether above the understandings of people in the same rank of society in other countries of Europe. Of the state of general intelligence and information, a striking instance was afforded in a peasant, on the
very northernmost part of the island, to whom our author read the letter of the King of Persia to Sir Gore Ousely relative to the Persian New Testament. Having mentioned that it was dated in the year 1229; a little boy, who was standing behind us, observed, that " it must be a very old letter”—“ No my lad," replied peasant, turning to him, "You must recollect that letter is not written according to our computation; it is dated agreeably to the Hegirah." - vol. ii. p. 209.
The Icelanders are a very moral and religious people, and punctual in the performance of both public and private exercises of devotion; and this,' says Sir George Mackenzie,' even amidst the numerous obstacles, which are afforded by the nature of the country, and the climate under which they live. The Sabbath scene at an Icelandic church is indeed one of the most singular and interesting kind. The little edifice, constructed of wood and turf, is situated perhaps amid the rugged ruins of a stream of lava, or beneath mountains which are covered with never melting snows; in a spot where the mind almost sinks under the silence and desolation of surrounding nature. Here the Icelanders assemble to perform the duties of their religion. A group of male and female peasants may be seen gathered about the church, waiting the arrival of their pastor; all habited in their best attire, after the manner of the country; their children with them; and the horses, which brought them from their respective homes, grazing quietly around the little assembly. The arrival of a new-comer is welcomed by every one with a kiss of salutation; and the pleasures of social intercourse, so rarely enjoyed by the Icelanders, are happily connected with the occasion which summons them to the discharge of their religious duties. The priest makes his appearance among themi as a friend: he salutes individually each member of his flock, and stoops down to give his almost parental kiss to the little ones, who are to grow up under his pastoral charge. These offices of kindness performed, they all go together into the house of prayer.'
• Their predominant character,' Dr. Henderson says, “is that of unsuspecting frankness, pious contentment, and a steady liveliness of temperament, combined with a strength of intellect and acuteness of mind, seldom to be met with in other parts of the world.' He denies that they are either a sullen or melancholy people, and in this he is borne out by the testimony of Dr. Holland, who observes, that
the vivacity of their manner frequently forms a striking contrast to the wretchedness which their external condition displays. In personal appearance they are rather above the middle size, of a frank and open countenance, a tlorid complexion, and yellow flaxen hair. The women are more disposed to corpulency than the men.
In the description of their houses few traces of comfort are to be found.
• In general, the Icelandic houses are all constructed in the same manner, and, with little or no variation, exhibit the plan of those raised by the original settlers from Norway. The walls, which may be about four feet in height by six in thickness, are composed of alternate layers of earth and stone, and incline a little inwards, when they are met by a sloping roof of turf, supported by a few beams which are crossed by twigs and boughs of birch. The roof always furnishes good grass, which is cut with the scythe at the usual season. In front, three doors generally present themselves, the tops of which form triangles, and are almost always ornamented with vanes.
hes. The middle door opens into a - dark passage, about thirty feet in length, by five in breadth, from which entrances branch off on either side, and lead to different apartments, such as, the stranger's room, which is always the best in the house, the kitchen, weaving room, &c. and at the inner end of the passage lies the Badstofa, or sleeping apartment, which also forms the sitting and common working-room of the family. In many houses this room is in the garret, to which the passage commuricates by a dark and dangerous staircase. The light is admitted through small windows in the roof, which generally consists of the amnicn of sheep, though of late years glass has got more into use. Such of the houses as have windows in the walls, bear the most striking resemblance to the exterior of a base tion. The smoke makes its escape through a hole in the roof; but this, it is to be observed, is only from the kitchen, as the Icelanders never have any fire in their sitting-room, even during the severest cold in winter. Their beds are arranged on each side of the room, and consist of open bedsteads raised about three feet above the ground. They are filled with sea weed, feathers, or down, according to the circumstances of the peasant; over which is thrown a fold or two of wadmel, and a coverlei of divers colour. Though the beds are extremely narrow, the Icelanders contrive to sleep in them by couples, by lying head to fout, Sometimes the inside of the rooms are panelled with boards, but generally the walls are bare, and collect much dust, so that it is scarcely possible to keep any thing clean. It is seldom the poor is laid with boards, but consists of damp earth, which necessarily proves very unhealthy.'-- vol. i. pp. 75, 76.
The diet of the Icelanders, consisting almost solely of animal food, and chiefly of fish, either fresh or dried, and the want of cleanliness in their personal and domestic habits, which is an evil incident to their situation, produce cutaneous diseases under their worst forms, and render the itch, scurvy, or leprosy, common throughout the island. Dr. Holland informs us, ibat the latter of these exhibits, in many instances, all the essential characters of the genuine elephantiasis, or lepra Arabum, and that it is a disease of the most formidable and distressing kind. It does not seem, however, that these maladies are particularly hostile to life, or that the Icelanders, though stated to be generally of a weakly babit of body, fall short of the usual period of human existence. It appears from a table of population given by Sir George Mackenzie,* that, in 1801, when the number of inhabitants was 47,207, there were 41 between the ages of 90 and 100; 443 between 30 and 90; and 1698 between 70 and 80; and, indeed, Dr. Holland thinks it probable that the longevity of the Icelanders rather exceeds the average obtained from the continental nations of Europe.
In addition to the diet just inentioned, the inhabitants have in their short summer plenty of milk and butter ; but nine-tenths of them know not the luxury of bread or vegetables. Their butter, which 'drops from every plant,' after the whey has been pressed out, will keep, it is said, for twenty years, and we are told by Olafsen and Povelsen, that, during the prevalency of the popish religion, a large building was set apart, at each of the episcopal sees, for the purpose of laying up a store of it, which was packed in chests of thirty or forty feet in length, by four or five feet in depth, to be distributed among the poor and necessitous as occasion required. Its sourness and rancidity are not disagreeable to an Icelandic palate. When butter fails, they are glad to supply its place with tallow. • Of this,' says Mackenzie,' we have seen children eating lumps with as much pleasure as our little ones express when sucking a piece of sugar candy. The skier, a dish not unlike to what is known in Scotland by the name of Corstorphine cream or Hattitkit, is in general use. The common beverage is sour whey mixed with water: ---to wine, ardent spirits, beer, or any other intoxicating liquors they are, generally speaking, atter strangers. Yet with all these privations, with all the inclemencies of the climate, and all the alarm and danger from physical causes, such is their unconquerable attachment to their native island, that an universal belief prevails among them, that · Iceland is the best land on which the sun shines.' So truly has the poet sung
• The shudd'ring tenant of the frigid zone,
Boldly proclaims that happiest spot his own.' Our readers will now be prepared to accompany Dr. Henderson on his long, toilsome, and perilous journey round this most interestTravels in the Island of Iceland, p. 281.