Features Of The Peninsula Of Scandinavia
( Originally Published 1881 )
THERE is a beautiful country far away towards the icy North. It is a glorious land ; with snowy, bold, and magnificent mountains; deep, narrow, and well-wooded valleys; bleak plateaux and slopes; wild ravines ; clear and picturesque lakes ; immense forests of birch, pine, and fir trees, the solitude of which seems to soothe the restless spirit of man ; large and superb glaciers, unrivalled elsewhere in Enrope for size; arms of the sea, called fjords, of extreme beauty, reaching far in-land in the midst of grand scenery ; numberless rivulets, whose crystal waters vary in shade and color as the rays of the sun strike upon them on their jonrney towards the ocean, tumbling in countless cascades and rapids, filling the air with the music of their fall ; rivers and streams which, in their hurried course from the heights above to the chasm below, plunge in grand waterfalls, so beautiful, white, and chaste, that the beholder never tires of looking at them ; they appear like an enchanting vision before him, in the reality of which he can hardly believe. Contrasted with these are immense areas of desolate , and barren land and rocks, often covered with boulders which in many places are piled here and there in thick masses, and swamps and moorlands, all so dreary that they impress the stranger with a feeling of loneliness from which he tries in vain to escape. There are also many exquisite sylvan landscapes, so quiet, so picturesque, by the sea and lakes, by the hills and the mountain-sides, by the rivers and in the glades, that one delights to linger among them. Large and small tracts of cultivated land or fruitful glens, and valleys bounded by woods or rocks, with farm-houses and cottages, around which fair-haired children play, present a striking picture of content-ment. Such are the characteristic features of the peninsula of Scandinavia, surrounded almost everywhere by a wild and austere coast.- Nature in Norway is far bolder and more majestic than in Sweden ; but certain parts of the coast along the Baltic present charming views of rural landscape.
From the last days of May to the end of July, in the north-ern part of this land, the sun shines day and night upon its mountains, fjords, rivers, lakes, forests, valleys, towns, villages, hamlets, fields, and farms; and thus Sweden and Norway may be called " The Land of the Midnight Sun." During this period of continuous daylight the stars are never seen, the moon appears pale, and sheds no light upon the earth. Summer is short, giving just time enough for the wild-flowers to grow, to bloom, and to fade away, and barely time for the husbandman to collect his harvest, which, however, is sometimes nipped by a summer frost. A few weeks after the midnight suri has passed, the hours of sunshine shorten rapidly, and by the middle of August the air becomes chilly and the nights colder, although during the day the sun is warm. Then the grass turns yellow, the leaves change their color, and wither, and fall; the swallows and other migrating birds fly towards the south twilight conies once more ; the stars, one by one, make their appearance, shining brightly in the pale-blue sky the moon shows itself again as the queen of night, and lights and cheers the long and dark days of the Scandinavian winter. The time comes at last when the sun disappears entirely from sight; the heavens appear in a blaze of light and glory, and the stars and the moon pale before the aurora borealis.
Scandinavia, often have I wandered over thy snow-clad mountains, hills, and valleys, over thy frozen lakes and rivers, seeming to hear, as the reindeer, swift carriers of the North, flew onward, a voice whispering to me, "Thou hast been in many countries where there is no winter, and where flowers bloom all the year; but hast thou ever -seen such glorious nights as these ?" And I silently answered, "Never! never!"
This country, embracing nearly sixteen degrees in Latitude,, .is inhabited chiefly by a flaxen-haired and blue-eyed race of men--brave, simple, honest, and good. They are the descend-ants of the Norsemen and of the Vikings, who in the days of old, when Europe was degraded by the chains of slavery, were the only people that were free, and were governed by the laws they themselves made; and, when emerging from their rock-bound and stormy coast for distant lands, for war or conquest, were the embodiment of courage and daring by land and sea. They have left to this day an indelible impression of their character on the countries they overran, and in which they settled; and England is indebted for the freedom she possesses, and the manly qualities of her people—their roving disposition, their love of the sea, and of conquest in distant lands to this admixture of Scandinavian blood, which, through hereditary transmission, makes her prominent as descended chiefly from Anglo-Scandinavians and not Anglo-Saxons. We will now travel from one end of this land to the other, crossing it many times from sea to sea, over well-made roads and wild tracts, in summer and in winter, and linger among its people.