Page images

loosened from the rocky coast, and they can expect the arrival of the vessel, which alone reaches them in their solitude. Often deceived by the floating ice-berg forming itself, in mockery, into the shape of the friendly visitant, at length they see the white sails and the masts, and now she is riding safe at anchor in the bay. By this vessel their wants are supplied. The active and pious housewife, of whom our missionary always speaks with tranquil affection, busies herself in arranging the stores of the ensuing twelvemonth. There are letters, too, from friends and from relations, and books, and newspapers; and banished as they are, they live again in Denmark, in their · father land? These hours of innocent happiness soon glide away; the ship sails; and the missionary and the partner of his toils remain behind, solitary and forsaken. To this season of bitterness succeeds the gloom of the polar night. A few days before the 26th of November, Saabye used to climb the high rocks, from whence, at noon, he could just see the sun dimly shining, with a soft and pallid light, and then the sun sunk, and he bade farewell to the eye of creation with heaviness and grief. A dubious twilight continued till the beginning of December, then darkness ruled. The stream, near which Saabye's house was situated, roared beneath the ice; the sea dashed and foamed over the rocks, bursting in foam against his windows; and the dogs filled the air with long continued moans. His journeys at Christmas time were performed by moon-light, or whilst the merry north light danced and streamed in the sky. About the 12th of January the rays of the rising sun glittered on the rocks. He rose, bright in radiance,

Breaking the lubber bands of sleep that bound him

With all his fires and travelling glories round him, and the world started from its torpor. They also felt a new life within them, they looked forward to spring and summer, and the ship from Denmark. We even seemed to breathe more freely.'

Here,' adds Saabye, (i. e. at Udbye,) we know not how to prize the daily presence of the sun, because we never know his absence. When others complain of the short December days, I think on Greenland, and thank God for the light which he gives us here in December. At Saabye's settlement the polar day begins on the 24th of May, but it was not till the beginning of July that the soil of his little garden was sufficiently thawed to enable him to sow it. Great labour had been bestowed in making the ground. The thin ayer of earth which covered the rock adjoining his house was not deep enough for the spade, therefore our pastor and his wife brought good mould every now and then, which they carried in a tub, till they found it was sufficient to allow of vegetation. The details of their horticulture are curious. Cabbages flourished remarkably well, turnips grew to the size of a tea-cup and lost their bitter taste, and acquired an agreeable sweetness; but Saabye's carrots were never larger than the stalk of a tobacco pipe. Celery and broad beans would not grow at all; peas ran into bloom, but it did not set; the barley was killed by the frost. Vegetation was uncommonly rapid. So much for exotics. · Disco island abounds with angelica, whose roots afford a pleasant and salubrious food; this plant is not found at all on the shores of the bay, though it is common in the more southern latitudes of Greenland. The Greenlanders believe that a certain Angekok or conjuror came to settle at Disco, and not finding a supply of his favourite comfit, he towed the island from the south into its present situation. At the summer solstice, the sun at midnight seemed to be of the same altitude as he is at noon in Denmark in the month of December. And it is a glorious spectacle to follow him in his unwearied course, circling again and again around the heavens. The night sun sheds a mild warmth, and yet he shines with a broad unnatural glare: the sky is clear and the air calm. On the contrary when he is at his greatest altitude, fogs envelop the land, the air is sultry, swarming with tormentors of the insect tribes. On the 20th of July the sun begins to dip below the horizon; at first his setting is scarcely perceptible, but the night frosts soon increase, and remind the missionary of the approach of the evening of the year.


Little is known respecting the mineralogy of Greenland. Collin states that in 1806 an experienced mineralogist, the Berg-raad Giseke, undertook a voyage thither for the purpose of supplying this hiatus. He drew up a report of his discoveries in south Greenland, which he intended to transmit to Denmark, but the vessel by which it was -sent was captured, and, as M. Collin is pleased to think, by an English cruiser. Greenland has been supposed to contain precious ores. The early navigators listened greedily to tales of gold and silver. There is not a greater proof of the increase of sound knowledge than our comparative inattention to these metals. Lund says that the widow of Captain David Danells told him that her husband shewed a specimen of gold ore to the Greenlanders whom he brought to Denmark, and they affirmed that the same was to be found in the fissures of the mountains. This is just such a story as we should have expected to receive from a captain's widow. Rich specimens of copper ore, however, have been sent from Greenland to Denmark; and it has been ascertained that beds of pit-coal are found there. The author of the Speculam Regale praises the costly marble of Greenland. It was of various colours, red and blue and green. These variegated rocks are probably situated on the eastern coast. We believe that only white marble or alabaster has been found on the west coast.

HH 2


Saabye suggests a plan for exploring East Greenland, which it appears could be carried into effect without much difficulty. It is simple enough. He proposes that settlements or "loges' should be established one by one along the west coast till the line reaches Statenhuok; and that then the settlers should turn the corner, and ascend the eastern coast in the same mavner. When Saabye wrote, Julianshaab had not been settled; now the Danes have an outlying post even at Statenhook--half the line has therefore been formed. No danger is to be apprehended from the Greenlanders who inhabit the eastern coast, some of whom occasionally visit Julianshaab. The Jetters, whom we shall soon mention, may be more terrific.

Thorhallersen's description of the ruins of the ancient Norwegian buildings at Julianshaab, and at other spots on the west coast, is now before us. The

present colonists are able to breed cattle at Julianshaab, though not at the more northern settlements. The Norwegian houses, or the ruins supposed to have been Norwegian houses, are generally situated near a salmon stream. The walls are very thick and massy, more so than their height would seem to require. We suspect that the courses were laid without mortar. Over one of the streams at' Bals revier' is an ancient bridge, consisting of large fat stones,' which, besides forming a road over the stream, must have been of great use in assisting them to catch the fish.' Eggers assumed that the numerous vestiges of buildings at Julianshaab indicated a corresponding population, and this was one of the chief arguments by which he attempted to sustain his paradoxical opinion that East Greenland was situated on the west coast. Wormskiold, however, has shewn that such an inference is unwarranted. Many of the ruins were probably only inhabited in the hunting or fishing season. Others seem to have been farm-houses or cottages equally used as temporary residences: this he elucidates by explaining the custom of Norway. The Norwegian peasants are used to shift their cattle from pasture to pasture as the season advances and the grass is consumed; and at each of the spring and summer grazing farms, which are sometimes at a considerable distance from one another, they have a dwelling house with suitable byres and yards. The scanty herbage of Greenland would render it still more necessary to adhere to this course of farming; and thus buildings would be multiplied, although occupied for a short period only in each year.

Marks of husbandry can be traced in the soil, and the grass grows rank round the unroofed walls, which are standing in silence and solitude. The Greenlanders yet retain some remembrance of the former indwellers of the ruins. They boast that their ancestors overcame the · Kablunæt,' or Europeans; and · Pisiksarbik,' the place of bow-shooting,' received its name from that war of desola

tion. Near the ruins which are supposed to have constituted the Norwegian settlement Annarvig, there is an ancient burial-place. Dead men's bones start through the grassy turf; and the Greenlanders know that they are the bones of the Northmen, and they yet fear to disturb them.

Let us now recal the romantic days of the hardy adventurers who sleep beneath the soil of Greenland, by turning to the life of Thorgill, the step-son of Thergrim Orrabeen, distinguished amongst them for his misfortunes and his



of the heroes of Iceland bis adventures were transmitted to posterity in the shape of a Saga of great but uncertain antiquity. All is not very sooth in these narratives of the olden time; much was believed which reason would reject, and Thorgill's Saga is told in a tone of fond credulity : yet the outline of the story may be considered as correct, and even its exaggerations are no less illustrative of the character and habits of the warlike compeers of the Sea-kings of the north, than the truth itself could be.

Thorgill was of a noble family, rich and powerful. From his youth upwards he had distinguished himself by his prowess against earthly as well as ghostly foes; and when Christianity was announced in Iceland, Thorgill was one of those who first became converts to its doctrines. Thorgill's constancy was destined to experience many trials, and soon after he had abandoned the errors of his ancestors, he dreamt a dream.-Thor came unto him in the night, and his looks were awful. Ill hast thou demeaned thyself to me, said Thor:- Thou hast cast the silver which was mine into a stinking pool; but my wrath shall yet reach thee for thy misdeeds.'_ God will help me,' answered Thorgill ;-'I am right glad that all consorting between me and thee is now at an end.' Thorgill awoke, and found that the threats of Thor were not idle, the anger of the god had fallen amongst his swine; in a second vision, which troubled his sleep on the following night, Thor repeated his menaces, and was again defied. That same night an ox belonging to Thorgill experienced the ire of the tempting spirit. But on the third night Thorgill slept not, he watched with his cattle, and when he returned home in the morning his body was all livid and bruised. Thorgill told nought of what had befallen him; but the men of Iceland knew well that Thor and Thorgill had wrestled in the gloom. And his cattle died no more.

And now there came tidings from Erick the Red, who sent greetings to Thorgill, and prayed him to come unto him in Greenland. Thorgill was happily married, and living in ease and honour, but the message of Erick was welcome to the restless warrior. He immediately determined to accept Erick's bidding, which he comnaunicated to Thorey, his faithful consort. Thorey did not listen to HH 3


it without anxiety; she was not inclined to quit her home, and she attempted to dissuade her husband from the enterprize. My heart nisgives me,' said she,' and good hap will not attend us : but betide what may, wherever you go I will follow.'

Thorgill placed his property in Iceland under the management of trusty friends, and embarked with his family and followers. Jostein, the foster-father of Thorey, with his wife Thorgard, consented to share the dangers of the expedition, and the twelve slaves of Thorgill were destined, as he thought, to assist in the cultivation of the colony which he intended to found, little anticipating the misfortune of which they were to be the authors.

Now it chanced that Thorgill's vessel was forced to lie-to in the firth of Leirvog, waiting for a fair wind; and in the night Thorgill dreamt a dream. There came unto him a mighty man, who spake with anger,— Ill wilt thou speed on thy voyage unless thou returnest to my faith; but if thou wilt again believe in me, I will yet guard thee from evil.'—' I reck not of thy, care,' exclaimed Thorgill: 'my way is in the hand of Almighty God.'—- And Thorgill awoke.

A fair wind rose, and the ship sailed out of the firth; but when they had lost sight of land the wind dropped, and they drifted day after day till meat and drink began to fail them; and then Thor appeared again to Thorgill and taunted him, but Thorgill answered with defiance. Thorgill's companions, though they knew nothing of his visions, murmured, and said it would be well to make offerings to the deity of Valhalla. This their leader forbade. But Thor appeared to him for the last time, and promised to bring the vessel into a safe haven within seven days if he would believe in him. That will I never do,—was the answer of Thorgill.

After drifting some days longer there came a tempest, and the vessel stranded on the coast of Greenland: Thorgill now felt the deep malignity of the demon. The shipwreck took place at the close of autumn, and the ice-covered mountains rose on each side of the bay into which the vessel had been driven. They succeeded in saving some of their provisions from the wreck, but these were soon exhausted, with the exception of a small portion of meal; and the seals, or sea-dogs, which were caught by Thorgill and his companions in misfortune, constituted their chief food. In this miserable spot, and destitute of all help, Thorey was delivered of a boy, to whom they gave the name of Thorfind.

Yule came on,—the weather was fine on the morning of the cheerless festival:-as the sun rose on Yule-day, it seems they were not within the polar circle.—When Thorgill and his men went out a loud scream was heard from the north-west. The short day closed, and Thorgill and Thorey retired to sleep. Be still and quiet at

« PreviousContinue »