Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/219

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THE SOCIAL LIFE OF ARCTIC BIRDS.

THE SOCIAL LIFE OF ARCTIC BIRDS.
By Dr. ALFRED E. BREHM.

"WHEN the great architect of the universe had finished his favorite star, the earth, Satan aspired to destroy it. From the seventh heaven he slung down a great stone toward the blooming earth; but an archangel, witnessing the wicked act, flew down faster than the falling rock, and turned it aside. The stone fell away up in the Northern Sea, and was broken up. The fragments scattered on every side and formed cliffs, some of which sunk in the deeps, while others rose black out of the waters. God in his infinite mercy pitied the bare devil's rock and made it fruitful." Thus runs an ancient Lap legend. The rock is Scandinavia; the fragments are the innumerable islands that surround it; and the fiords are the clefts between the larger stone and the fragments. One should have seen the country, rowed through the fiords, and gone down the icy mountains to the lakes and bays, to appreciate the appropriateness of the Saga.

Scandinavia is an Alpine country, and has, like Switzerland and the Tyrol, majestic glaciers, musical, dancing mountain-brooks, and strong rivers rushing over the blue slopes which are reflected in the transparent dark lakes. High up among these lie the prettily poised dwellings of the men, like eagles' nests stuck to the rocks. To make the similarity with the Swiss Alps complete, the green meadows are also not wanting in Scandinavia; and, while the northern mountains do not resound with the exultant jodel, joyous, fresh, melodious songs may be heard in the valleys and on the heights. The difference between Switzerland and Scandinavia is nevertheless great, even if we only consider how the deep sea cuts into the land and forms large bays which receive, from the shadows thrown upon them by the dark surrounding rocks, a mysterious yet not fearful aspect.

The fiords of Norway are remarkable, but they are not the most peculiar feature of the country; this is found in the innumerable islands which rise more than a thousand metres above the sea, or, planting their roots in the boundless deep, are visible only at low water. These islands are charming in the highest degree, and their peculiar beauty approves itself when the sun is resting below the horizon at midnight, and only a breath of twilight sweeps over the masses overflowed by the water. One might then well believe himself in a scene of enchantment.

The farther the traveler advances beyond the polar circle toward the north, the larger and more comfortable are the houses, while in the south, where the population is denser, they are of slighter construction. Yet no furrow is turned, no scythe is swung there; the sea is the field from which man derives his living. At the parting of