« PreviousContinue »
make the fate of their mortal foes an object of particular solicitude. Some of the inhabitants,' it appears, tried, though alas! without effect,' to cure them by tying a rope round their bodies and plunging them several times into the sea; but we are most interested in the successful humanity of a tender hearted female at Thorshavn, who cured two of hers by giving them emetics.' But why do we talk of the poets of Feroe? We have domestic and familiar poets of our own, in whose hands this pathetic incident would soften rocks and bend the knotted oak'.
The third chapter is intitled an economical description of the islands of Feroe.' Of this, the first topic is agricul
• The causes which prevent agriculture from being brought to a greater state of improvement in Feroe, are partly the climate, and shortness of the summer, which permit barley alone to come to maturity; and partly the steep and uneven situation of the land, which render the conveyance of manure to the fields difficult, and make it impossible in most places to use a plough or a harrow. The spring fishery also takes place exactly at the time most proper for cultivating the earth. The whole agricultural process, in regard to weeding, reaping, threshing, drying, and cleaning the corn, is, in consequence of the want of the necessary implements, proper instruction, and sufficient house-room, connected with so many difficulties, and the people in general are so indolent, that the quantity of grain they obtain is hardly worth the labour and expense; so that in most places the land is cultivated, not so much for the sake of corn, as to procure straw for thatching their houses, and to increase their crop of grass the year following.' pp. 274, 275.
The proportion between cultivated and uncultivated land is estimated by captain Born to be as I to 60. Ploughs are not used in Feroe, partly from the steepness of the ground, and partly from the prejudice of the natives against innova tion. The islands are at present destitute of wood, although there is reason to suppose that at some former period they were less barren for not only are veins and fibres plainly perceptible in the coals of Suderoe, but the inhabitants, while digging for peat, frequently discover trunks of the juniper tree which are neither black nor rotten, but still pliable, and of an ash grey colour.' The climate, therefore, Mr. Landt concludes, must have undergone some alteration, especially as all his attempts at planting proved, either from cold or snow, unsuccessful.
The cows and horses are both small. The former, it seems, ares ometimes subject to loss of appetite,' and 'sometimes tro bled with dysentery.' 'When a cow is to be slaughtered, the person who performs the part of a butcher, pricks it cautiously,
but speedily, in that part of the spine which corresponds to the neck. The horses are much neglected, for the natives seldom think of them but when they want to use them.' As a curiosity we are informed, that they sometimes become broken winded: while at other times, it appears, they are indisposed' from dieting on rank grass. The principal riches of the islanders consist in sheep, their temporal happiness or misery depending on the success which attends their flocks." A single peasant will sometimes have two or three hundred. They are sheared only once a year, in June; and to obtain as much of the fleece as possible, the owners are accustomed to cut off such of the wool as has not become loose with a knife, or to pluck it up violently by the roots. Our author attempted to put a stop to this barbarous practice, by introducing the wool shears; but so great is the force of prejudice and habit, that although the natives are in other respects tenderhearted and compassionate,' he could not procure the new implement to be employed. From the constant exposure of the sheep, during winter, to the inclemency of the weather, the wool is coarse and strong.
The coast abounds with sea-fowl, and in pursuit of these birds, which are an important source of their subsistence, the islanders encounter great dangers.
It is really astonishing to see to what heights the fowlers will proceed, and to what dangers they expose themselves in this occupation. On these occasions two men go out in company, and both of them make themselves fast to a rope, but in such a manner that there is the distance of eight or ten fathoms between them. The first man is assisted by the second to ascend the rock, and for this purpose the latter employs a pole twenty-four feet in length, having at its extremity an iron hook, which is made fast in a piece of board fixed to the end of the pole on which the climber sits, and when he has got a firm footing, he assists his companion to get up by means of the rope fastened round both their bodies; but they both carry their fowling-poles along with them. In this manner the second assists the first to clamber up by the help of his pole, and the first helps the other by means of the rope from one projection to another; but when they have a dangerous place to ascend, before they get to parts frequented by the fowls, the first must have a secure place of rest, that he may be able to support the other in case he should be so unfortunate as to fall. It frequently happens, however, that the one in his fall pulls down the other, so that they both become a sacrifice to their temerity.'
When the rocks are so high and steep that it is impossible to climb up them, it then becomes necessary that the fowlers should descend from the top.'
Suspended by a rope, the fowler directs his course with his fowlingpole until he reaches the projection where the fowls construct their nests; here he looses the rope from his body, and makes it fast to
a stone, to prevent it from escaping him, and then he goes round catching the fowls with his hands, or casts the net over them in the manner already described: or he places himself on some projecting shelf which the fowls fly past, and it is here that he displays his dexterity in the use of his fowling-pole in what is called fleining. When the fowls come so near the fowler that he can reach them with his pole, he raises it toward them, and is pretty certain of catching one in his net, and sometimes two or three; and in one afternoon a man in this manner will catch two, three, and even four hundred.'
Some rocks are called shakkur, that is, lesser rocks, which rise towards the high rocks, and are either half or entirely separated from them. When the fowler in the beginning of summer has been assisted to climb to the top of one of these rocks, he makes fast the noose of a small rope, which he carries with him, to some sharp projection, and can then, without any assistance, descend by suffering himself to glide down the rope. If it be necessary that the rock should be often visited in the course of the season, the rope is left suspended, so that by means of it a man can ascend and descend at any time; but the fowler, before he descends for the last time, places the noose so near the extremity of the projection, that when he has got to the bottom he can by a sudden jerk disengage the rope and carry it with him; but if he is not able to accomplish this, he is bold enough, though he does not know but another jerk might have cast the rope loose, to ascend fifty, sixty, or more feet, in order to place the noose on the very extremity of the projection, and then to slip down by it in that dangerous situation.' pp. 335-340.
Another occupation of the Feroese is that of seal catching. The seals are of two sorts. One kind (phoca vitulina) are either shot or knocked on the head with clubs as they lie asleep on the shore: the other (phoca hispida) take more care of themselves, and prudently retire to holes or caverns in the rocks communicating with the sea, where they pair and produce their young. The curious mode of taking them here, we must pass over.
From seal catching the transition is easy to the whale fishery.
The word whale is an agreeable sound to the inhabitants of Feroe: when a few of them are met on particular occasions, if any subject of discourse is introduced, which, however, is seldom the case among them, the word whale is no sooner mentioned, than every face brightens up with joy, and they all seem to be animated with a desire of talking on so favourite a subject; but if a messenger suddenly arrives with intelligence that a shoal of whales has been seen approaching the islands, it operates like an electric shock, and the whole village old and young are instantly in motion.
These shoals are generally discovered by some of the fishing-boats, and as soon as they are observed, a signal is suspended from the boat's mast, in order that the other boats may assemble to assist in driving the whales towards the land. When the boats are assembled, they form themselves into a semi-circle around the whales, and the
fishermen drive them before them by throwing out the stones which are fixed to their fishing-lines.
When the shoal has advanced within about two hundred fathoms of the shore, and the whales have turned their heads towards the land, which is the position in which the fishermen wish them to be, a part of the boats, the men in which are provided with the proper weapons, begin the slaughter by rowing into the middle of the shoal, and darting their lances into the whales behind the tail. They, however, avoid wounding those whales which lie close to the boats, because, if wounded, they might dash the boats to pieces, and hurt the men in them. The shoal, when many of them are thus wounded, move forward with prodigious force, carrying with them an im mense body of water, and a great many of them run on shore, so that in consequence of the reflux of the water they are left on dry land; but the people collected on the shore rush on them in a furious manner, and with their sharp knives cut every whale they meet with’ across the neck. pp. 357. 359, 360.
The remainder of this chapter may be despatched in small compass. The trade of Feroe is inconsiderable. The staple commodity is wool. The exports are hose and pantajoons, tallow, fish, train oil, feathers, skins and butter.' The natives are obliged to import not merely articles of luxury, but of necessity, such as corn and bread, which is of barley and made daily. In dress they are primitive and unostentatious. Their houses are small and not very convenient.
The fourth and last chapter, which is devoted to a 'political description of Feroe,' is concise and rather meagre. The islanders, we are told, are in general handsome and well made', and the women in particular exceedingly pretty and wellproportioned-though why this should be detailed as an article of political' intelligence, we really have not the pleasure to comprehend. In manners the Feroes are friendly and affable: their common form of address is thou blessed, and they salute each other with a kiss; they are also hospitable to strangers, insomuch that there is not a single inn in the whole country. They are orderly in deportment and temperate as to their mode of living: fond, indeed, of strong liquors, but seldom proceeding to intoxication. With these virtues, however, we are not to suppose them free from some defects. They are, for instance, absurdly and obstinately attached to old habits,' though this failing, Mr. Landt thinks, they share in common with all islanders. They are also, notwithstanding the ' blessing of a 'contented disposition,' rather inclined to " envy;' and are moreover afflicted with a propensity to scandal.
The Feroese words are mostly old Danish or rather Norwegian, corrupted in the pronunciation. Many of the natives
speak Danish with great propriety, and almost all understand it; for in this language the Christian religion is taught and divine service performed.' In the whole country there is not a single village school or school master. Yet the natives are far from being ignorant; parents instruct their children themselves, or if unable to do this, request some neighbouring friend to undertake the task for them.' The following sentence may give some idea of Mr. Landt's talent at antithesis. Many of them are good chess players; but [what?] with instrumental music they are entirely unacquainted, and their dances are always accompanied with singing;' to which we may add, for the sake of completing the connection, that "witches sometimes think proper to ride on the backs of the cows', and that a young man of Feroe issues his proposal of marriage with a high hat on his head and a wooing staff in his hand.' The wedding ceremony is not less curious.
The population of the Feroe islands Mr. Landt is disposed to fix on a rough calculation at 5000; the total of the king's revenue, he states, amounted in the year 1790 to about 3172 rix dollars. The greater part of the revenue is received in the produce of the country.
Religious establishments. On this subject, Mr. Landt is not quite so diffuse as we should have expected. The people, he observes, are in general religiously disposed, well instructed' in the principles of Christianity, and many of them thoroughly acquainted with the bible,' The taste for reading, too, which many of them possess, gives the clergyman an excellent opportunity of diffusing general knowledge among his parishioners.' The number of clergymen appears to be very disproportionate to that of the congregations, and the performance of divine service is frequently suspended for a long time in particular places, by the difficulty of passing from one island to another.
In the absence of the clergyman the congregation assemble in the church, and hear the service read by some one of themselves, selected for that purpose. The clergyman also makes choice of one of the most intelligent and respectable of the parishioners, to instruct the children in the principles of religion during the time he is obliged to attend his duty in other places.' p. 417.
With this extract we shut the book, just observing that the 'military establishinent' of these islands is composed of a commandant, four artillery-men, and thirty-three soldiers, who are employed to garrison a small fort at Thorshavn.
We have already found fault with the arrangement of Mr. Landt's performance; and we must here add, that in consequence of its violations in point of order, it is burdened