Mementos from Iceland

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Few weeks ago my friend A., an archeologist, has asked me whether I wanted anything from Iceland (she was going there for eight days to travel around the northern part of the island). “Bring me whatever you stumble over, whatever you dig out by the road along you way.”  I told her.

Her offer came at the perfect moment. Iceland has been on my mind ever since my visit there in 2009, and I am just mid-way through reading Lavinia Greenlaw’s  Questions of Travel, a book of reflections on William Morris’s journey there in 1871.

A. came back with a small heap of the most delightful mementos.

I counted 23 separate specimens. Here are some of them, interspersed with snippets of Morris’s diary of his own journey.

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Most strange and awful the country  looked to me we passed through, in spite of all my anticipations: a doleful land at first with its great rubbish heaps of sand, stripped scantily with grass sometimes…17th July 1871 (Morris)

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…so we ride up into a grassy valley, down into which comes the wood of low birches which clothes both slopes of the hill: this is the first Icelandic wood I have been in.  Jon says that an old man told him the trees used to be much bigger than they are now…22nd July 1871 (Morris)

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…it was a beautiful night, about half past ten now, I suppose, the twilight deeper than we had yet seen it, but all colours quite clear: something about the atmosphere of the place touched me very much as we rode down into the bright smooth river…24th July 1871 (Morris)

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So on we stumble; great lumps of lava sticking up here and there above the loose stones and sand, Skjalbreidur never changing, and the hills we are making for looking as if they were going back on us.” 29th July, 1871 (Morris)

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