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Foxes' are very numerous and very troublesome. The inhabitants use all imaginable means for destroying these enemies. They smoke them in their dens, and, if this fails, besiege them there; they shoot them, poison them, catch them with hooks and lines, and lay traps for them, from which, when caught by the leg, the animal has been known to escape by gnawing off the limb: this instance of desperate resolution is frequently exercised by the rat, a creature which, if it were less mischievous, would be admired for its almost matchless courage and ingenuity. If half the tales which the Icelanders tell of their foxes are true, it would seem that the breed has not degenerated since Esop's days, nor disgraced the reputation which Reynard obtained for the whole race. But without repeating the fireside tales of a nation of story-tellers, certain it is that the foxes fish, fowl, climb rocks to rob the birds nests, and em: bark upon pieces of floating ice to get from the main land to the islands. The people have a tradition that one of the Kings of Norway in old times sent over some foxes to Iceland, to plague the inhabitants, as a punishment for their disaffection to the mother country; an opinion, which Mr. Hooker observes has probably no better foundation than another of their tales, that the magpies which now infest them in such numbers were originally imported by the English in pure mischief.
A thousand writers have observed with what wonderful powers of pliability man accommodates himself to all circumstances of society and situation ; but it has seldom been remarked in how great a degree animals possess the same power. When the sheep in Africa perceive a wild beast near them, they form themselves in a circle with their heads outward, the rams advance in the front, ready for defence, and their strength and resolution are such, that they are said to intimidate the tiger, and sometimes even to beat him off if he ventures to make an attack. In Iceland and in the Scotch isles, during a heavy fall of snow, if they can find no shelter, they place themselves in a circle with their heads inclining toward the center. Thus, if they are covered with snow, their breath forms an arch above them. In this situation they have been known to remain for many days. Every Iceland flock has one sheep trained as a leader, and in winter, and bad weather, his services are found exceedingly useful; for, however dark or stormy the night, he guides his company to the fold. Whole flocks, it is said, would often be lost, but for the sagacity of these guides : a trained sheep of course bears a much higher price than any other, and is always preserved till it becomes completely superannuated. They pull their sheep instead of shearing them; this custom also prevails in the Zetlands, where it is called rooing : the Zetlanders say that the wool continues much finer when removed in this manner than
by the sheers, which is by no means improbable. It might be expected that the animal would be liable to take cold by being thus literally stript naked; no mention, however, is made of any such consequence arising from the practice. The worst evil to which the sheep are exposed in this mournful country, seems to be the violent wiuds, which sometimes drive them into the sea. Horrebow says he has seen even in summer a flock carried away by a storm sixty or seventy English miles,-sheep in full sail before the wind with a vengeance!
In severe weather a little hay is given to the sheep, but this is a luxury which can seldom be afforded. Hay is by far the most important article to an Iceland farmer. The ground immediately round the house is laid out for it, and a field has the appearance of a churchyard, the soil being usually thrown up in little hillocks like so many graves ; for the people,' says Sir G. Mackenzie, ' believe that a greater quantity of grass can grow upon an extended surface of this sort, and this erroneous notion is entertained even by the higher classes. That a greater surface is procured is true; but as every plant grows perpendicularly, or as nearly so as circumstances will admit, a greater produce cannot be obtained.' 'The error is in Sir George, not in the Icelanders. It is very certain that the extent of sky above a mountain can be no greater than the area of its base; but it is equally certain that its base does not contain so many acres as its surface, and it is upon
the surface that trees and grass grow. The sophism is an old one; it is not the only one into which those persons have fallen who rely too much upon what is called the pure reason: but a better exemplification could never be found of that inisapplied science which digs deep for error, when truth lies upon the surface.
Sir George objects to the Iceland practice upon another ground, the speedy evaporation of moisture, occasioned by the smallness of the hillocks, and the air circulating between them, must render,' he says,' the grass that does grow, less luxuriant than it would be otherwise.' We should have thought there could be no want of moisture in such a climate, and that the chief objection to the practice would be the difficulty in the way of mowing ; but the Icelander rather shaves than mows these little knolls with a short narrow scythe, with which he is said to work expeditiously as well as neatly. The grass, such as it is, is neither close nor long, and is full of weeds. It is possible that it might be improved by means exactly the reverse of those by which they attempt to increase the produce, by sinking instead of raising the surface; for, in the Zetlands, Dr. Edmonson says, when the turf, or feal as it is called, which is pared off before the peat is cut, is carefully laid down in the bottom of the ditch with its green side uppermost, it is observed to
yield uniformly a better kind of grass than it did before its removal : "the people,' he adds, although well aware of this fact seldom pay any attention to it; and not only cut the moss in every direction, but huddle the feals together in heaps, and thus prevent the regular regeneration of turf, and the iinprovement of the pasture.' That improvement is probably owing to the shelter which is thus obtained. Draining would improve not only the soil but the climate, so great is the extent of bogs and swamps. Sir G. Mackenzie mentions certain tracts of country where draining might be practised with as much facility as advantage; but, he says, there seems to be some prejudices against it, which a little intercourse with Britain would probably remove. A brisker commerce would, no doubt, supply that want of motive and want of capital, which in the present distressed state of the island sufficiently account for its rude and unimproved agriculture.
Goats have been banished from the southern part of Iceland, because they were continually injuring the roofs of the houses by climbing them in search of food; some, however, are still kept in the north. It has been observed, as a curious instance of the extension of commerce, that a man may now sail round the world, and eat pork and spend Spanish dollars wherever the ship touches. The poor Icelanders live so hardy themselves that they have nothing to spare for the pigs; and this animal, who robs the dunghills in England, is found too expensive to be kept. For such a country the rein deer is obviously as well adapted as the camel for the desert. Thirteen were exported from Norway in 1773, only three of which reached Iceland; they were sent into the mountains of the Guldbringe Syssel, and have multiplied so greatly that it is not uncommon to meet with herds, consisting of from forty to an bundred, in the mountainous districts. The Danes sometimes go out in pursuit of them; but the Icelanders, instead of profiting by these invaluable animals, the most important boon which could possibly have been bestowed upon them, complain that they eat their lichen. The rein deer in Lapland is almost as much a loser by his connection with man as the dog in Kamtchatka : he gives up his liberty and is not provided for in return; though the Laplander might easily lay in a winter stock of the lichen, and of the great water horse-tail, on which, in a dry state, Linnæus says, it will feed with avidity, though not upon common hay. Iceland will be this creature's paradise. There is in the interior a tract which Sir G. Mackenzie computes at not less than 40,000 square miles, without a single human habitation, and almost entirely unknown to the natives themselves. There are no wolves in the island; the Icelanders will keep out the bears; and the rein deer, being almost
unmolested by man, will have no enemy whatever, unless it has brought with it its own tormenting gad fly.
Those persons who, in passing from one side of the island to the other, cross any part of this desolate tract, usually travel day and night without stopping. Horrebow speaks of the goodness of the roads, affirming, that he has known those who, in a summer's day, from the rising of the sun to the setting, have rid 120 English miles--a length of mountain road which it would not be very practicable to traverse even in the longest arctic day. Of the perils of travelling, he gives a strange account. Paths, he says, are sometimes found leading to a frozen pond or lake, which was not there on the preceding day; the traveller, after going round, finds the path again immediately opposite the spot where he was obliged to turn aside; in a few days the ice and water are free, and the interrupted path appears. Bold men have sometimes ventured to cross the ice rather than take a wide circuit; horses have, in these cases, fallen in and been lost, and, after some days, been found lying on the surface; the ice having in the mean time melted and the water frozen again.
Some truth may be contained in this account; but the danger which Horrebow mentions was not encountered by our late travellers, and it is almost the only danger which they did not encounter in a country more resembling Milton's hell, in its combination of fire and frost, than any part of the habitable globe.
One of the first things which Sir George Mackenzie and his companions discovered upon their travels was, the remains of a wo . man who had been lost about a year, and had fallen, as was supposed, down a precipice in some snow-storm. Her clothes and bones were lying scattered about where the eagles and foxes had strewed them. If some of our travellers did not in like manner leave their bones for the birds and the beasts, it was more owing to their good fortune than their prudence, as the reader will perceive in perusing Mr. Bright's account of the ascent of Snæfell Jokul. No guide could be found who had ever gone above the line of perpetual snow, beyond which the sheep never wander.
"After walking at a steady pace for two hours, in which time we had gone about six miles, we came to the first snow, and prepared ourselves for the more arduous part of our enterprize. The road being now alike new to all, we were as competent as our guides to the direction of our further course. The summits of all the surrounding moun. tains were covered with mist; but the Jokul was perfectly clear; and as the sun did not shine so bright as to dazzle our eyes with the reflection from the snow, we entertained good hopes of accomplishing our purpose. During the first hour the ascent was not very difficult, and snow sufliciently soft to yield to the pressure of our feet. After that
time the acclivity was steeper, the snow became harder, and deep fissures appeared in it, which we were obliged to cross, or to avoid by going a considerable way round. These fissures presented a very beautiful spectacle: they were at least thirty or forty feet in depth, and though not in general above two or three feet wide, they admitted light enough to display the brilliancy of their white and rugged sides. As we ascended, the inferior mountains gradually diminished to the sight, and we beheld a complete zone of clouds encircling us, while the Jokul still remained clear and distinct. From time to time the clouds, partially separating, formed most picturesque arches, through which we descried the distant sea, and still farther off, the mountains on the opposite side of the Breide-Fiori, stretching northwards towards the most remote extremity of the island.
' In the progress of our ascent, we were obliged frequently to allow ourselves a temporary respite, by sitting down for a few minutes on the snow. About three o'clock, we arrived at a chasm, which threatened to put a complete stop to our progress. It was at least forty feet in depth, and nearly six feet wide; and the opposite side presented a face like a wall, being elevated several feet above the level of the surface on which we stood; besides which, from the falling in of the snow in the interior of the chasm, all the part on which we were standing was undermined, so that we were afraid to approach too near the brink lest it should give way. Determined, however, not to renounce the hope of passing this barrier, we followed its course till we found a place that encouraged the attempt. The opposite bank was here not above four feet high, and a mass of snow forined a bridge, a very insecure one indeed, across the chasm. Standing upon the brink, we cut with our poles three or four steps in the bank on the other side, and then, stepping as lightly as possible over the bridge, we passed one by one to the steps, which we ascended by the help of our poles. The snow on the oppo. site side became immediately so excessively steep, that it required our utmost efforts to prevent our sliding back to the edge of the precipice, in which case we should inevitably have been plunged into the chasm. This dangerous part of our ascent did not continue long; and we soon found ourselves on a tolerably level bank of snow, with a precipice on our right about 60 feet perpendicular, presenting an appearance as if the snow on the side of the mountain had slipped away, leaving behind it the part on which we stood. We were now on the summit of one of the three peaks of the mountain; that which is situated farthest to the cast. We beheld immediately before us a fissure greatly more formidable in width and depth than any we had passed, and which, indeed, offered an insuperable obstacle to our further progress. The bighest peak of the Jokul was still a hundred feet above us; and after looking at it some time with the mortification of disappointment, and making some fruitless attempts to reach, at least, a bare exposed rock which stood in the middle of the fissure, we were obliged to give up all hope of advancing further.
“The clouds now began rapidly to accumulate, and were visibly rolling up the side of the mountain; we were therefore anxious to quit