Page images

We talked of female dress. I asked the Envoy what effect the visit of an European woman dressed in her own way would produce in Persia. He replied, that “if the King were to see her, he would probably order all his Harem to adopt the costume, and that every other man would follow his example, and enforce a fashion, which is not only so much more beautiful, but so much less expensive than their own. Their women are clothed in brocade and gold cloth, which is soon spoiled; or at least which is always cast off, whenever they hear that a new cargo arrives from Russia.”

I asked him if he had seen any handsome women in Constantinople: he replied, that he had seen none as beautiful as those of Persia. “They were fair indeed, but they wanted that carnation on their cheeks, which is called the numuck or salt of beauty : and which is the second requisite of female perfection. The first is large black eyes with brows very much arched.” A tame antelope was then playing about the cabin close to me, when the Mirza said, “Do your poets ever use the simile so constantly applied by ours, ‘eyes like the stag?” The frequency of that image will prove the value which we attach to the object.”

I desired him to tell me the principal occupations of the women in the Harem. He complied: “They sew, embroider, and spin : they make their own clothes; and my wife even used to make mine: besides that, they superintend all the domestic concerns of the house : they keep an account of the daily expenses; distribute provisions to the servants; pay their wages; settle all disputes between them; manage the concerns of the stable; see that the horses have their corn; and, in short, have the care of all the disbursements of the house. The King's mother had more business than can be described. She had the controul of all her son's Harem, which might consist altogether of more than a thousand women ; and you may well conceive the trouble which they could give.” When I suggested the difficulty of a woman transacting so many occupations, without seeing any other man than her husband, and asked how she could settle any business but that of the Harem itself 2 and how she could succeed even in that without seeing the men servants? He replied, that “in the households of Persia there is always an officer called a Nazir, with whom the wife daily arranges all that relates to the male part of the establishment, to whom she pays the wages of the others; and who is accountable to her.” As a necessary preparation for the duties which thus devolve upon them, the women of Persia learn to read and write: as children they are sent to school with the boys, and when too old to be permitted to go unveiled, their education is finished at home by female Mollahs, who attend them for the purpose. They do not, however, like the European women, learn music and dancing: these arts are taught to slaves only, who practise them for the amusement of their owners: and the wives never sing or dance, except perhaps at the wedding of a brother or Slster. The King has this right over all the women of his realm, that they must appear unveiled before him.

[ocr errors][merged small]

IN a general outline of the zoological productions of Iceland, it is by no means necessary to be minute; nor, indeed, would the few observations we were enabled to make, authorize such an undertaking. Iceland does not present many of those species of animals which are strictly confined to the land; but of those which require land only as a resting place, while the sea supplies their other wants, many have found in this country every requisite for support. We will proceed, however, to take a cursory survey of all the tribes of animated nature which exist there under any circumstances. The catalogue of mammiferous animals inhabiting Iceland, is nearly confined to the following:—The dog, the fox, the cat, the rat, the mouse, the rein-deer, the goat, the sheep, the ox, and the horse ; together with seals and whales, and a few Polar bears, which annually make their appearance.—Bears cannot be considered as inhabitants; they are merely visitors, brought on detached masses of ice. They are chiefly landed on the north coast: and twelve or thirteen appears to be the greatest number ever seen in one year. They are not suffered long to enjoy themselves on land; for, hungry and voracious after their voyage, they commit great devastations among the flocks. The people take the alarm ; and, with whatever weapons they can command, generally with musquets, they attack, and soon destroy them. The dogs which are generally seen in Iceland, bear a strong resemblance to those of Greenland. Like them, they are covered with long hair, forming about their necks a kind of ruff. Their noses are sharp, their ears pointed, and their tails bushy, and curled over their backs. Their predominant colour is white; yet they vary considerably; and some are entirely brown or black. Very few of them can be induced to go into the water; and though some are of service in guarding the cottages and flocks, and preventing the horses from eating the grass intended for hay,

yet the greater number appear very useless. Scarcely any family, however, is without one or two of them. Two distinct varieties of the fox present themselves in Iceland : the arctic, or white fox (Canis Lagopus), and one which is termed the blue fox (Canis Fuliginosus), and varies considerably in the shades of its fur, from a light brownish or blueish gray, to a colour nearly approaching to black. It is a more gracefully-formed animal than the white fox, has longer legs and a more pointed nose. Horrebow mentions a dark red-coloured fox, in the existence of which we had no reason to believe. He likewise says, that the black fox is sometimes brought over on the ice.—Frequently at night, in travelling through the country, you hear the discordant cries of the two former varieties. But if we may Judge from the quantity of skins exported, the number of foxes in Iceland, though considerable, cannot be great. . The inhabitants do their utmost to destroy them; being induced not only to prevent the great devastation which they commit among the young lambs, but to obtain the reward given by Government, and to profit by the furs, which is an advantageous article of traffic. There is no particular ingenuity, however, #. played in the methods by which they are taken; they are shot, caught in gins, or forced from their holes by smoke. Rats in considerable numbers, and mice, are met with, particularly at the Danish factories; but as far as our observation went, there was nothing to render them particularly worthy of attention. The hog, which has from time to time been imported from, Denmark, has, from the scarcity of proper food, been found so expensive to keep, that it has never been much propagated; and it is doubtful whether, independently of two or three sows and pigs which were taken from England during the last summer, a single animal of the species exists in the country. The rein-deer has been introduced into the island, and has increased rapidly. Out of thirteen which were exported from Norway in 1770, three only reached Iceland. They were sent into the mountains of the Guldbringe Syssel; and they have since multiplied so considerably, that it is now no uncommon thing for those who pass often through the mountains in various parts of the island, to meet with herds, consisting of from forty to sixty, or a hundred. They are very little molested, the Icelanders satisfying themselves with complaining that the deer eat their lichen; and though, sometimes, for the sake of amusement, the Danes go out in pursuit of them, very few are destroyed. They live almost entirely among the mountains, and are very shy; but, sometimes, in the depth of winter, come down into the plains, particularly about Thingvalla, to feed on the moss which abounds in that quarter.

Goats were at one time more numerous in Iceland than they now are. At present they seem to have been completely expelled from the southern part, because vegetation being very scanty, they were constantly injuring the roofs of the houses by climbing on them in search of food. There are still a few in the north, where farmers keep flocks of thirty or forty. The cow, the horse, and the sheep, afford the principal source of wealth, comfort, and subsistence to the Icelanders. Milk is almost their only summer beverage. Whey becomes a wholesome, and to them a pleasant drink in winter. Even fish itself, their primary article of food, is scarcely palatable to an Icelander without butter; and curds, eaten fresh in summer, and kept through the winter, yield the most precious change of diet, both for health and pleasure, which he enjoys. A cow on the farm of the Amt* Stephenson, we were assured, gave regularly every day twenty-one quarts of milk. Their value is well known and appreciated by the Icelanders, who take the greatest care of them through the winter, and seem to shake off their habitual listlessness, while employed in gathering in the hay that is to support them through the inclemencies of that season. If the horse be less useful in Iceland than the cow, the care which is devoted to him is proportionally less ; still, however, the assistance which he affords is by no means to be overlooked. But it will be unnecessary, after what has been stated respecting the frequent intercourse between different parts of the island, and the extreme roughness of the country, to say any thing farther of the utility of this animal. The Iceland horse is about thirteen hands in height, stoutly made, and frequently evincing much spirit. These animals are in very considerable numbers throughout all the inhabited parts of the island; no farmer being able to carry on the necessary affairs of life without their assistance; and many of the Icelanders, particularly those who, from their avocations as judges or magistrates, are obliged to take long journies, are at great pains in the breeding and rearing of them. But by the inhabitants in general, they are let loose to provide themselves with food and shelter; in consequence of which, a great number are annually carried off by the severity of the winter. The sheep furnish much milk and butter; and besides affording, when smoked or salted, a part of the winter food of the inhabitants, form a considerable article of export. Almost every part of the Icelandic dress is manufactured from wool: and of the sheep-skins, without much preparation, they make their fishing dresses, which they smear repeatedly with oil, for the purpose of rendering them impervious to the water. Of the seal, three or four species (Phoca vitulina, Leporrina, Barbata, and Groenlandica) frequent the shores. Their aumber

is considerable. A few are taken for the oil which they afford; and their skins are applied to various useful purposes, being formed into shoes and thongs, and particularly into a kind of travelling bag, in which the Icelanders carry their sour butter, fish, and other little supplies, when passing from place to place. Very few of the great northern whales. (Balaena Mysticetus) approach Iceland. The fin-fish (Balaena Physalus) is more com. mon. A species of dolphin, the bottle-nose, (Delphinus Bidens,) is sometimes driven on shore in very considerable shoals. During the winter 1809-10, eleven hundred came towards the shor in the Hvalfiord, and were captured. ** Of the Linnaean order Accipitres, we only saw one, the Great Erne, or Cinereous Eagle (Falco Albicilla). According to Pennant, the following other species exist in Iceland:—the whiteheaded eagle (Falco Leucocephalus); the Iceland falcon (Falco Gryfalco); Falco fulvus ; and the Lanner. Of all these, the Erne is, at present, certainly the most frequent, the others being very seldom seen. It is constantly observed hovering over the shores, and is a determined enemy to the Eider-duck; and, as such, of course draws upon itself the hatred of the Icelanders. The Iceland falcon, once so much valued in Denmark for its excellence in falconry, is now suffered to remain unmolested; yet it does not seem to multiply as might be expected; and during our residence in the island, we had not a single opportunity of seeing it, even at a distance. The raven is very common in Iceland. A pair or more, sit near every habitation on the sea-shore, ready to feed on the offal of the fish; and they frequently do great mischief to the fish itself, when split and left on the beach to dry. They build their nests in the cliffs, and sometimes resort for this purpose to rocks a considerable way inland. The snow-flake, or snow-bunting, (Emberiza nivalis), resides here during the whole year, occurring in pairs, or solitary, during the summer, when it loses much of its snowy plumage ; and collecting into flocks in the winter. This is the only bird in Iceland which can truly be said to attempt singing. The song is pleasing, but short, and much resembles the first two or three notes of the robin-redbreast. The wheat-ear, (Motacilla Oenanthe), was not uncommon; and we sometimes saw another small bird, of a brownish colour, in the marshy places, which we had no opportunity of examinInor. #he white wagtail, (Motacilla Alba) frequents the margins of the pools and rivulets. Very few of the swallow tribe ever arrive in Iceland. Some of our party saw one or two flying about the church of Reikiavik early in the month of July ; but to what species they belonged, was not ascertained.

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »