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Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

Norway and its glaciers

by James David Forbes


I Left England in the Courier steamship, bound from Hull to Christiania, in the night of the 21st June 1851. After a stormy passage across the North Sea, the coast of Norway was in view early on the morning of the 24th. Notwithstanding a heavy sea from the north-west, we made the headland of Lindesnaes with precision, and were soon in comparatively smooth water. It was with great interest and curiosity that I surveyed the southern coast of Norway, about Christiansand and Arendal. The first impression was rather one of disappointment. The character of the scenery here is remarkably monotonous. Hills of a thousand feet high, or less, devoid of boldness, and with but few and narrow intervening valleys, form the mainland—whilst a multitude of small islands, which range along the coast, are undistinguishable from it when viewed from the sea, owing to the want of any decided relief or variety of character.

The gloomy weather added, no doubt, to the monotony of the scene; and our distance from the shore being greater than I at first sight believed, led me to underrate the elevation of the land. It was only by observing how slowly objects seemed displaced by the motion of the ship, that I became aware of the real scale of the country which I now saw for the first time; and on closer observation, I perceived that the low, rounded, and rocky hills, which I at first had believed to be bare, were almost everywhere covered, or at least dotted over, with woods of pine, which, descending almost to the shore, gave a peculiarity of character to the scenery, at the sametime that it afforded a scale by which to estimate its magnitude. These forests distinguish this part of Norway from those of the Hebrides, which it in other respects resembles. The gneiss islands of Tiree and Coll occurred to my mind the moment that I saw the Norwegian coast, which is less than a degree and a-half of latitude farther north, and doubtless the same causes have produced the similarity of character, acting in like circumstances. Both belong to that great gneiss formation so prevalent in Norway, and also in Scotland, with which few rocks can compare in their resistance to atmospheric action and mechanical force. In both cases they have been subjected for ages to the action of the most tremendous seas which wash any part of Europe, and they have probably been abraded by mechanical forces of another kind, which have given the rounded outlines to even the higher hills, but the exact nature of which is yet subject to great doubt.

The same wooded and undulating character prevails


all the way to Christiania. The entrance of the Christianiafiord is marked by a lighthouse on the island of Fserder, which singularly resembles Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth; but the short night had set in long before we reached the capital. On my return southwards I saw the fiord more perfectly. My impression, however, was the same, that its beauty has been overrated. The monotony of the forms, the continuity of the woods, the absence of almost the smallest sea-cliff or sandy bay, weary the eye, even though the scene is continually changing, and the shores ever verdant. An exception must be made, however, in favour of the immediate environs of Christiania, where the fiord expands into an exceedingly irregular basin, the coasts are steeper, and, at the sametime, varied by the aspect of cultivation and of deciduous trees; where numerous detached houses enliven the low grounds, and the more distant hills have a bolder character.

Christiania itself is seen to advantage from the fiord, as well as from many places in its environs. It is built on an agreeable slope, facing the south. Its suburbs are intermingled with wood. The old castle of Aggershuus, picturesque in form, adorned with fine trees, and standing on a bold promontory, commanding at once the fiord and the greater part of the town, has a striking effect. The city graduates into the country by means of innumerable villas, built usually in commanding situations, which remind one of the environs of Geneva. Indeed, there is something in the entire aspect of the town and surrounding scenery, which is exceedingly pleasing and peculiar. The traveller who is acquainted with the aspects of middle and southern Europe finds himself at a loss to draw a comparison. The clearness of the air, the warmth of the sun, and a certain intensity of colour which clothes the landscape, involuntarily recall southern latitudes, and even the shores of the Mediterranean. But the impression is counteracted by the background of pine forest, which reminds him of some of the higher and well-wooded cantons of Switzerland, to which the varied outline of the fiord—which may compare, in irregularity with the lake of the four cantons—lends an additional resemblance; yet again we miss the background of alpine peaks and perpetual snows.

Wherever the traveller may choose to fancy himself, his last idea would probably be (what is really the fact) that he is here in the latitude of the Shetland Islands, nearly in the parallel of Lerwick, and a degree north of Kirkwall. Some tourist, in a moment of spleen, has chosen to draw a comparison between the county town of Orkney and the capital of Norway, in favour of the former; but the comparison is too absurd to be regarded as more than a jest—the only point of superiority of Kirkwall, its noble cathedral (which it owes besides to a Norwegian architect and Norwegian builders), being quite incapable of concealing the manifest inferiority in every other quality of beauty, greatness, or convenience, granted by nature, or attained by art. Every one naturally refers what he sees in other countries to the standard of home, and the contrast of southern Norway to the extreme northern parts of Great Britain, came upon me perpetually, with a force which added great zest to the scenery of a country already in all respects new to me. Shetland, treeless and bare, covered for the most part with morasses, and abounding in inaccessible cliffs, is enveloped, even in summer, by frequent fogs, and rarely enjoys an entire day of sunshine; in winter, on the other hand, it boasts of a climate as mild as

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