« AnteriorContinua »
The Greenlanders are a clear-headed intelligent people ; they can all read and write their own language: the chief benefit of civilized society has reached them, while its vices and its wretchedness remain beyond the sea. Saabye kept a school every day, except Sundays, from nine till two. The children flocked to it with delight, and he used to see the parents carrying the little ones to and from the school-house through the deep snow. The scholars could all read the Greenland language currently before they were twelve years of age ; Saabye employed them in copying • Pontoppidan's Explanation of the Catechism,' and they amused themselves much by writing letters to each other as well as to him. At the
age of thirteen they left the school and were confirmed. Like many of the American and polar languages, that of the Greenlanders is distinguished by the complexity of its structure; it has three numbers, and the dual has three persons. The paradigm of their verb, in combination with the various personal pronouns, branches into an infinite variety of forms; and each primitive verb, by means of an affis, gives rise to a host of derivatives, extending through every variety of action; e. g. Narpok, when added 10 the verb which signifies to wash, causes it to signily, * he does nothing but wash. Tarpok, he comes for the purpose of washing. Jekpok, he is almost about to wash. Llarpok, • he continues washing. Karpok, “he is just beginning to wash.' This is continued through every mode and tense and person. It seems an instinct in man to pride himself upon his language, just as singing birds take a pleasure in their song. The merest savage mocks at the stranger who mispronounces his household words. The Greenlanders are critical observers of the purity of their language. If the preacher sins against its niceties in his sermon, they are sure to correct him when the service is over. The difficulty of learning the language is a great obstacle to the missions, as several years elapse before the missionaries can speak it with fluency enough to be able to communicate freely with their parishioners.
Before the year 1792 there were ten missionaries in Greenland, but then the number was reduced to five. During the last war all conimunication with Denmark was cut off, and at length one missionary alone remained there. The stipend of these good men is very moderate, which must be attributed to the limited resources, rather than to the parsimony of the Danish governnient; it is paid to them partly in money and partly in provisions, but their fare is coarse and scanty, and they suffer great privations, almost approaching to distress. Saabye has given an unaffected yet forcible delineation of the feelings of the missionary and his family during the long and lonely Greenland year. They have one bright epoch; for it is a blithe and happy time to them, when the ice is VOL. XVIII. NO. XXXVI.
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 moonlight, 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 bis abseuce. 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, śwarming 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 bave 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 Speculum 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.
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 Statenhook; and that theu the settlers should turn the corner, and ascend the eastern coast in the same manner. When Saabye wrote, Julianshaab had not been settled; now the Danes have an outlying post even at Statenhook--half the line has therefore been fornied. No danger is to be apprehended from the Greenlanders who inhabit the eastern coast, some of whom occasionally visit Julianshaab. The Jætters, 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 Juliansbaab, 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 atBals 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 tish.' 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 farn-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 catile 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 desolation. 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 Greenlauders 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 courage. Like
of the heroes of Iceland bis adventures were transmitted to posterity iv the shape of a Saya 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 ontline 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 bis 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 conmunicated to Thorey, his faithful consort. Thorey did not listen to нл 3