Page images
PDF
EPUB

or shorter time on the heated floor. As no cold water was to be found in the neighbourhood, the water from the hot springs was led to a basin somewhat distant, where it was cooled.

Coffee cooked with the water had no bad taste whatever, and cattle drinking the water thrived very well.

Zeno had without doubt heard of similar places in Iceland; certainly never in Greenland.

It is to be regretted that the original narrative of Nicolò and Antonio Zeno has not descended to posterity in its integrity as penned by themselves, as it would certainly in that case have been a more precious geographical document than it is in its present state. Zeno the younger, the editor, himself confesses that he, when a child, had torn many of the letters in pieces, and that the Carta,' when it was edited, was rotten with age.

[ocr errors]

VII.-Zeno's Frislanda is not Iceland, but the Faroes; an Answer to Admiral IRMINGER. By R. H. MAJOR, F.S.A., Secretary, R.G.S.

Ir was truly said by the learned John Pinkerton, in his History of Scotland' (vol. i. page 261, note), "that Zeno's book is one of the most puzzling in the whole circle of literature." In my edition of that book in 1873 I believed, and still believe, that I had solved all the puzzles therein contained. This belief is based upon the fact that I had demonstrated by the geography of to-day that the Frislanda of the Zeno was the Faroe Islands; and that by the happy discovery of a passage in Torfæus, to the effect that "in the year 1391 the Earl of Orkney slew Malise Sperre (his Norse rival to the earldom) in Shetland with seven others," had been able to correct the date of the map from 1380 to 1390, and, in so doing, to bring the dramatis persona and events described into perfect historical harmony, both as to time and place. Of these two main points the former is the only one to which we are now called upon to direct our attention. I also took great pains to bring into prominent light two stumbling-blocks, over one or other or both of which all my predecessors had tripped, and consequently failed. They are both of them absolutely and unavoidably necessary to be borne in mind if the Zeno book is to be duly criticised, but both one and the other are essentially obnoxious to severely matter-of-fact minds. The first is, the non-recognition of the reality that when proper names are written down

by a foreigner from the lips of natives of whose language and country he is otherwise entirely ignorant, such proper names must be recognised not by their literal rendering, but by their sound, in connection with the circumstances under which they were dictated. So difficult of recognition is this reality by many minds, that I have known persons who have acknowledged the principle in theory stumble at the very first example propounded to them in practice.

The second is the non-recognition of the real or apparent exaggeration-sometimes more apparent than real-almost universally prevailing in narratives of medieval voyages and travels. It is obvious that if the commentator of to-day endeavours to bring down such narratives to the dead level of his own present experiences, making no allowance whatever for the changes which have taken place in the lapse of time, he must either come to wrong conclusions, or else reject the whole story as worthless.

Now it must be confessed that, in finding a remedy for both these difficulties, speculation has to be resorted to, but happily, always within the wholesome check of following the track of the narrative in faithful sequence from a well-recognised beginning to a well-recognised termination. Where this can be done under the light of the historical and geographical knowledge of to-day, we can without hesitation accept the phonetic instead of the literal rendering of the proper names which fall within the track, while we can with equally good conscience, in a proper antiquarian spirit, look back to the habits and style of expression peculiar to the early period under consideration.

Where a subject is so puzzling as that of the Zeno, it is no wonder if propounders of new theories should arise; but if they will not avail themselves of the elucidations I have already given, it is no duty of mine to repeat them. When, however, an honoured veteran like Admiral Irminger propounds a new theory, and adduces primâ facie plausible arguments in its favour, I willingly make it a duty to listen respectfully to what he has to advance, and to answer him as clearly as I may.

The phonetic principle Admiral Irminger seems to accept, but he has not, I fear, made due allowance for the changes incident to the lapse of time.

In the Zeno narrative is a description of the formal taking possession, both by land and sea, of Frislanda, which I have shown to be the Faroe Islands, by the chieftain Zichmni, whom I have shown to be Henry Sinclair, Earl of the Orkneys and of Caithness; the taking possession of the coasts and islands being committed by him to Nicolò Zeno. With reference to this expedition Admiral Irminger makes a long extract from

the Zeno text, including the following passage:-"This fleet of Zichmni sailed to the westwards, and with little trouble gained possession of Ledovo and Ilofe, and other small islands in a gulf called Sudero; where in the harbour of the country, called Sanestol, they found Zichmni, who came by land with his army, conquering all the country as he went;" and the admiral's comment is, "As Zichmni came by land, Sanestol (Major's Sandoe) must have been continent with the place from which he has come directly." And some lines afterwards he says:"From whence he came is not said, but by land it is not possible to come to that little island." No one more ready than myself to acknowledge that one does not generally come to an island by land, whether that island be small or great, but it is quite possible to come by land to a bay in an island, though that island be small; and this is all that the text requires, viz. "In the harbour of the country, called Sanestol [i.e. the harbour of Sandsbugt], they found Zichmni, who came by land with his army." This explanation, however, does not neutralise Admiral Irminger's formidable statement, that by land it is not possible to come to that little island. I will venture an audacious conjecture. Suppose Earl Sinclair and his men crossed over to Sandoe in boats. Boats have been used for crossing from one island to another before now, while, as Admiral Irminger points out, there was a capital landing-place at Skaapen, on the north side of Sandoe; and, in fact, the Admiral is "perplexed that Zeno was not at the outset directed to this landing-place in order to transport the army to Stromoe for the conquest's sake." Admiral Irminger has not realised that the so-called armywhatever number of men that might mean, probably the merest handful—was with Sinclair himself, while Zeno had a special task entrusted to him, which was, that while Earl Sinclair was making his triumphant progress on land, he himself was to take formal possession of the coasts and islands, for which purpose accordingly he proceeded with the fleet to the westwards and northwards.

These and other minor difficulties, to which I shall recur hereafter, force Admiral Irminger to the conclusion that the Frislanda of the Zeno cannot be the Faroe Islands. I will therefore address myself to this principal question at once, in order that a large hole being made for the cat, there may be free passage' for the kittens, and so time may be saved. The first fact which confronts us is, that neither Nicolò nor Antonio Zeno, from whom the narrative and map are derived, is of the same opinion as Admiral Irminger; for on the map we find laid down both Frislanda and Iceland, and, roughly speaking, for a map made 500 years ago, in their proper positions (sup

[graphic]
[ocr errors]

Published for the Journal of the Royal Geographical Society by Murray, Albemarle Street, London, 1879.

« PreviousContinue »