PICTURES OF SWEDEN
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN
"The Improvisatore," &c.
RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET.
THE BIRD PHOENIX
THE MUTE BOOK
THE ZÄTHER DALE
THE MIDSUMMER FESTIVAL IN LACKSAND
FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE
IN THE FOREST
WHAT THE STRAWS SAID
THE POET'S SYMBOL
* * * * *
* * * * *
It is a delightful spring: the birds warble, but you do not understand
their song? Well, hear it in a free translation.
"Get on my back," says the stork, our green island's sacred bird, "and
I will carry thee over the Sound. Sweden also has fresh and fragrant
beech woods, green meadows and corn-fields. In Scania, with the
flowering apple-trees behind the peasant's house, you will think that
you are still in Denmark."
"Fly with me," says the swallow; "I fly over Holland's mountain ridge,
where the beech-trees cease to grow; I fly further towards the north
than the stork. You shall see the vegetable mould pass over into rocky
ground; see snug, neat towns, old churches and mansions, where all is
good and comfortable, where the family stand in a circle around the
table and say grace at meals, where the least of the children says a
prayer, and, morning and evening, sings a psalm. I have heard it, I
have seen it, when little, from my nest under the eaves."
"Come with me! come with me!" screams the restless sea-gull, and flies
in an expecting circle. "Come with me to the Skjärgaards, where rocky
isles by thousands, with fir and pine, lie like flower-beds along the
coast; where the fishermen draw the well-filled nets!"
"Rest thee between our extended wings," sing the wild swans. "Let us
bear thee up to the great lakes, the perpetually roaring elvs
(rivers), that rush on with arrowy swiftness; where the oak forest has
long ceased, and the birch-tree becomes stunted. Rest thee between our
extended wings: we fly up to Sulitelma, the island's eye, as the
mountain is called; we fly from the vernal green valley, up over the
snow-drifts, to the mountain's top, whence thou canst see the North
Sea, on yonder side of Norway.
"We fly to Jemteland, where the rocky mountains are high and blue;
where the Foss roars and rushes; where the torches are lighted as
_budstikke_[A] to announce that the ferryman is expected. Up to the
deep, cold-running waters, where the midsummer sun does not set; where
the rosy hue of eve is that of morn."
[Footnote A: A chip of wood in the form of a halberd, circulated for
the purpose of convening the inhabitants of a district in Sweden and
That is the birds' song. Shall we lay it to heart? Shall we accompany
them?--at least a part of the way. We will not sit upon the stork's
back, or between the swans' wings. We will go forward with steam, and
with horses--yes, also on our own legs, and glance now and then from
reality, over the fence into the region of thought, which is always
our near neighbour-land; pluck a flower or a leaf, to be placed in the
note-book--for it sprung out during our journey's flight: we fly and
we sing. Sweden, thou glorious land! Sweden, where, in ancient times,
the sacred gods came from Asia's mountains! land that still retains
rays of their lustre, which streams from the flowers in the name of
"Linnaeus;" which beams for thy chivalrous men from Charles the
Twelfth's banner; which sounds from the obelisk on the field of
Lutzen! Sweden, thou land of deep feeling, of heart-felt songs! home
of the limpid elvs, where the wild swans sing in the gleam of the
Northern Lights! Thou land, on whose deep, still lakes Scandinavia's
fairy builds her colonnades, and leads her battling, shadowy host over
the icy mirror! Glorious Sweden! with thy fragrant Linnaeus, with
Jenny's soul-enlivening songs! To thee will we fly with the stork and
the swallow, with the restless sea-gull and the wild swans. Thy
birch-woods exhale refreshing fragrance under their sober, bending
branches; on the tree's white stem the harp shall hang: the North's
summer wind shall whistle therein!
* * * * *
Who did we meet at Trollhätta? It is a strange story, and we will
We landed at the first sluice, and stood as it were in a garden laid
out in the English style. The broad walks are covered with gravel, and
rise in short terraces between the sunlit greensward: it is charming,
delightful here, but by no means imposing. If one desires to be
excited in this manner, one must go a little higher up to the older
sluices, which deep and narrow have burst through the hard rock. It
looks magnificent, and the water in its dark bed far below is lashed
into foam. Up here one overlooks both elv and valley; the bank of the
river on the other side, rises in green undulating hills, grouped with
leafy trees and red-painted wooden houses, which are bounded by rocks
and pine forests. Steam-boats and sailing vessels ascend through the
sluices; the water itself is the attendant spirit that must bear them
up above the rock, and from the forest itself it buzzes, roars and
rattles. The din of Trollhätta Falls mingles with the noise from the
saw-mills and smithies.
"In three hours we shall be through the sluices," said the Captain:
"in that time you will see the Falls. We shall meet again at the inn
We went from the path through the forest: a whole flock of bare-headed
boys surrounded us. They would all be our guides; the one screamed
longer than the other, and every one gave his contradictory
explanation, how high the water stood, and how high it did not stand,
or could stand. There was also a great difference of opinion amongst
We soon stopped on a ling-covered rock, a dizzying terrace. Before us,
but far below, was the roaring water, the Hell Fall, and over this
again, fall after fall, the rich, rapid, rushing elv--the outlet of
the largest lake in Sweden. What a sight! what a foaming and roaring,
above--below! It is like the waves of the sea, but of effervescing
champagne--of boiling milk. The water rushes round two rocky islands
at the top so that the spray rises like meadow dew. Below, the water
is more compressed, then hurries down again, shoots forward and
returns in circles like smooth water, and then rolls darting its long
sea-like fall into the Hell Fall. What a tempest rages in the
deep--what a sight! Words cannot express it!
Nor could our screaming little guides. They stood mute; and when they
again began with their explanations and stories, they did not come
far, for an old gentleman whom none of us had noticed (but he was now
amongst us), made himself heard above the noise, with his singularly
sounding voice. He knew all the particulars about the place, and about
former days, as if they had been of yesterday.
"Here, on the rocky holms," said he, "it was that the warriors in the
heathen times, as they are called, decided their disputes. The warrior
Stärkodder dwelt in this district, and liked the pretty girl Ogn right
well; but she was fonder of Hergrimmer, and therefore he was
challenged by Stärkodder to combat here by the falls, and met his
death; but Ogn sprung towards them, took her bridegroom's bloody
sword, and thrust it into her own heart. Thus Stärkodder did not gain
her. Then there passed a hundred years, and again a hundred years: the
forests were then thick and closely grown; wolves and bears prowled
here summer and winter; the place was infested with malignant robbers,
whose hiding-place no one could find. It was yonder, by the fall
before Top Island, on the Norwegian side--there was their cave: now it
has fallen in! The cliff there overhangs it!"
"Yes, the Tailor's Cliff!" shouted all the boys. "It fell in the year
"Fell!" said the old man, as if in astonishment that any one but
himself could know it. "Everything will fall once, and the tailor
directly." The robbers had placed him upon the cliff and demanded that
if he would be liberated from them, his ransom should be that he
should sew a suit of clothes up there; and he tried it; but at the
first stitch, as he drew the thread out, he became giddy and fell down
into the gushing water, and thus the rock got the name of 'The
Tailor's Cliff.' One day the robbers caught a young girl, and she
betrayed them, for she kindled a fire in the cavern. The smoke was
seen, the caverns discovered, and the robbers imprisoned and executed.
That outside there is called 'The Thieves' Fall,' and down there under
the water is another cave, the elv rushes in there and returns
boiling; one can see it well up here, one hears it too, but it can be
heard better under the bergman's loft.
And we went on and on, along the Fall, towards Top Island,
continuously on smooth paths covered with saw-dust, to Polham's
Sluice. A cleft had been made in the rock for the first intended
sluice-work, which was not finished, but whereby art has created the
most imposing of all Trollhätta's Falls; the hurrying water falling
here perpendicularly into the black deep. The side of the rock is here
placed in connection with Top Island by means of a light iron bridge,
which appears as if thrown over the abyss. We venture on to the
rocking bridge over the streaming, whirling water, and then stand on
the little cliff island, between firs and pines, that shoot forth from
the crevices. Before us darts a sea of waves, which are broken by the
rebound against the stone block where we stand, bathing us with the
fine spray. The torrent flows on each side, as if shot out from a
gigantic cannon, fall after fall: we look out over them all, and are
filled with the harmonic sound, which since time began, has ever been
"No one can ever get to the island there," said one of our party,
pointing to the large island above the topmost fall.
"I however know one!" said the old man, and nodded with a peculiar
"Yes, my grandfather could!" said one of the boys, "scarcely any one
besides has crossed during a hundred years. The cross that is set up
over there was placed there by my grandfather. It had been a severe
winter, the whole of Lake Venern was frozen; the ice dammed up the
outlet, and for many hours there was a dry bottom. Grandfather has
told about it: he went over with two others, placed the cross up, and
returned. But then there was such a thundering and cracking noise,
just as if it were cannons. The ice broke up and the elv came over the
fields and forest. It is true, every word I say!"
One of the travellers cited Tegner:
"Vildt Göta stortade från Fjallen,
Hemsk Trollet från sat Toppfall röt!
Men Snillet kom och sprängt stod Hallen,
Med Skeppen i sitt sköt!"
"Poor mountain sprite," he continued, "thy power and glory recede! Man
flies over thee--thou mayst go and learn of him."
The garrulous old man made a grimace, and muttered something to
himself--but we were just by the bridge before the inn. The steam-boat
glided through the opened way, every one hastened to get on board, and
it directly shot away above the Fall, just as if no Fall existed.
"And that can be done!" said the old man. He knew nothing at all about
steam-boats, had never before that day seen such a thing, and
accordingly he was sometimes up and sometimes down, and stood by the
machinery and stared at the whole construction, as if he were counting
all the pins and screws. The course of the canal appeared to him to be
something quite new; the plan of it and the guide-books were quite
foreign objects to him: he turned them and turned them--for read I do
not think he could. But he knew all the particulars about the
country--that is to say, from olden times.
I heard that he did not sleep at all the whole night. He studied the
passage of the steam-boat; and when we in the morning ascended the
sluice terraces from Lake Venern, higher and higher from lake to lake,
away over the high-plain--higher, continually higher--he was in such
activity that it appeared as if it could not be greater--and then we
The Swedish author Tjörnerös relates of himself, that when a child he
once asked what it was that ticked in the clock, and they answered him
that it was one named "_Bloodless_." What brought the child's pulse to
beat with feverish throbs and the hair on his head to rise, also
exercised its power in Motala, over the old man from Trollhätta.
We now went through the great manufactory in Motala. What ticks in the
clock, beats here with strong strokes of the hammer. It is
_Bloodless_, who drank life from human thought and thereby got limbs
of metals, stone and wood; it is _Bloodless_, who by human thought
gained strength, which man himself does not physically possess.
_Bloodless_ reigns in Motala, and through the large foundries and
factories he extends his hard limbs, whose joints and parts consist of
wheel within wheel, chains, bars, and thick iron wires. Enter, and see
how the glowing iron masses are formed into long bars. _Bloodless_
spins the glowing bar! see how the shears cut into the heavy metal
plates; they cut as quietly and as softly as if the plates were paper.
Here where he hammers, the sparks fly from the anvil. See how he
breaks the thick iron bars; he breaks them into lengths; it is as if
it were a stick of sealing-wax that is broken. The long iron bars
rattle before your feet; iron plates are planed into shavings; before
you rolls the large wheel, and above your head runs living wire--long
heavy wire! There is a hammering and buzzing, and if you look around
in the large open yard, amongst great up-turned copper boilers, for
steam-boats and locomotives, _Bloodless_ also here stretches out one
of his fathom-long fingers, and hauls away. Everything is living; man
alone stands and is silenced by--_stop!_
The perspiration oozes out of one's fingers'-ends: one turns and
turns, bows, and knows not one's self, from pure respect for the human
thought which here has iron limbs. And yet the large iron hammer goes
on continually with its heavy strokes: it is as if it said: "Banco,
Banco! many thousand dollars; Banco, pure gain! Banco! Banco!"--Hear
it, as I heard it; see, as I saw!
The old gentleman from Trollhätta walked up and down in full
contemplation; bent and swung himself about; crept on his knees, and
stuck his head into corners and between the machines, for he would
know everything so exactly; he would see the screw in the propelling
vessels, understand their mechanism and effect under water--and the
water itself poured like hail-drops down his forehead. He fell
unconscious, backwards into my arms, or else he would have been drawn
into the machinery, and been crushed: he looked at me, and pressed my
"And all this goes on naturally," said he; "simply and comprehensibly.
Ships go against the wind, and against the stream, sail higher than
forests and mountains. The water must raise, steam must drive them!"
"Yes," said I.
"Yes," said he, and again _yes_, with a sigh which I did not then
understand; but, months after, I understood it, and I will at once
make a spring to that time, and we are again at Trollhätta.
I came here in the autumn, on my return home; stayed some days in this
mighty piece of nature, where busy human life forces its way more and
more in, and, by degrees, transforms the picturesque to the useful
manufactory. Trollhätta must do her work; saw beams, drive mills,
hammer and break to pieces: one building grows up by the side of the
other, and in half a century hence here will be a city. But that was
not the story.
I came, as I have said, here again in the autumn. I found the same
rushing and roaring, the same din, the same rising and sinking in the
sluices, the same chattering boys who conducted fresh travellers to
the Hell Fall, to the iron-bridge island, and to the inn. I sat here,
and turned over the leaves of books, collected here through a series
of years, in which travellers have inscribed their names, feelings and
thoughts at Trollhätta--almost always the same astonishment, expressed
in different languages, though generally in Latin: _veni, vidi,
One has written: "I have seen nature's master-piece pervade that of
art;" another cannot say what he saw, and what he saw he cannot say. A
mine owner and manufacturer, full of the doctrine of utility, has
written: "Seen with the greatest pleasure this useful work for us in
Värmeland, Trollhätta." The wife of a dean from Scania expresses
herself thus. She has kept to the family, and only signed in the
remembrance book, as to the effect of her feelings at Trollhätta. "God
grant my brother-in-law fortune, for he has understanding!" Some few
have added witticisms to the others' feelings; yet as a pearl on this
heap of writing shines Tegner's poem, written by himself in the book
on the 28th of June, 1804:
"Gotha kom i dans från Seves fjallar, &c."
I looked up from the book and who should stand before me, just about
to depart again, but the old man from Trollhätta! Whilst I had
wandered about, right up to the shores of Siljan, he had continually
made voyages on the canal; seen the sluices and manufactories, studied
steam in all its possible powers of service, and spoke about a
projected railway in Sweden, between the Hjalmar and Venern. He had,
however, never yet seen a railway, and I described to him these
extended roads, which sometimes rise like ramparts, sometimes like
towering bridges, and at times like halls of miles in length, cut
through rocks. I also spoke of America and England.
"One takes breakfast in London, and the same day one drinks tea in
"That I can do!" said the man, and in as cool a tone as if no one but
himself could do it, "I can also," said I; "and I have done it."
"And who are you, then?" he asked.
"A common traveller," I replied; "a traveller who pays for his
conveyance. And who are you?"
The man sighed.
"You do not know me: my time is past; my power is nothing! _Bloodless_
is stronger than I!" and he was gone.
I then understood who he was. Well, in what humour must a poor
mountain sprite be, who only comes up every hundred years to see how
things go forward here on the earth!
It was the mountain sprite and no other, for in our time every
intelligent person is considerably wiser; and I looked with a sort of
proud feeling on the present generation, on the gushing, rushing,
whirling wheel, the heavy blows of the hammer, the shears that cut so
softly through the metal plates, the thick iron bars that were broken
like sticks of sealing-wax, and the music to which the heart's
pulsations vibrate: "Banco, Banco, a hundred thousand Banco!" and all
by steam--by mind and spirit.
It was evening. I stood on the heights of Trollhätta's old sluices,
and saw the ships with outspread sails glide away through the meadows
like spectres, large and white. The sluice gates were opened with a
ponderous and crashing sound, like that related of the copper gates of
the secret council in Germany. The evening was so still that
Trollhätta's Fall was as audible in the deep stillness, as if it were
a chorus from a hundred water-mills--ever one and the same tone. In
one, however, there sounded a mightier crash that seemed to pass sheer
through the earth; and yet with all this the endless silence of nature
was felt. Suddenly a large bird flew out from the trees, far in the
forest, down towards the Falls. Was it the mountain sprite?--We will
imagine so, for it is the most interesting fancy.
THE BIRD PHOENIX.
* * * * *
In the garden of Paradise, under the tree of knowledge, stood a hedge
of roses. In the first rose a bird was hatched; its flight was like
that of light, its colours beautiful, its song magnificent.
But when Eve plucked the fruit of knowledge, when she and Adam were
driven from the garden of Paradise, a spark from the avenging angel's
flaming sword fell into the bird's nest and kindled it. The bird died
in the flames, but from the red egg there flew a new one--the only
one--the ever only bird Phoenix. The legend states that it takes up
its abode in Arabia; that every hundred years it burns itself up in
its nest, and that a new Phoenix, the only one in the world, flies out
from the red egg.
The bird hovers around us, rapid as the light, beautiful in colour,
glorious in song. When the mother sits by the child's cradle, it is by
the pillow, and with its wings flutters a glory around the child's
head. It flies through the chamber of contentment, and there is the
sun's radiance within:--the poor chest of drawers is odoriferous with
But the bird Phoenix is not alone Arabia's bird: it flutters in the
rays of the Northern Lights on Lapland's icy plains; it hops amongst
the yellow flowers in Greenland's short summer. Under Fahlun's copper
rocks, in England's coal mines, it flies like a powdered moth over the
hymn-book in the pious workman's hands. It sails on the lotus-leaf
down the sacred waters of the Ganges, and the eyes of the Hindoo girl
glisten on seeing it.
The bird Phoenix! Dost thou not know it? The bird of Paradise, song's
sacred swan! It sat on the car of Thespis, like a croaking raven, and
flapped its black, dregs-besmeared wings; over Iceland's minstrel-harp
glided the swan's red, sounding bill. It sat on Shakspeare's shoulder
like Odin's raven, and whispered in his ear: "Immortality!" It flew at
the minstrel competition, through Wartzburg's knightly halls.
The bird Phoenix! Dost thou not know it? It sang the Marseillaise for
thee, and thou didst kiss the plume that fell from its wing: it came
in the lustre of Paradise, and thou perhaps didst turn thyself away to
some poor sparrow that sat with merest tinsel on its wings.
The bird of Paradise! regenerated every century, bred in flames, dead
in flames; thy image set in gold hangs in the saloons of the rich,
even though thou fliest often astray and alone. "The bird Phoenix in
Arabia"--is but a legend.
In the garden of Paradise, when thou wast bred under the tree of
knowledge, in the first rose, our Lord kissed thee and gave thee thy
* * * * *
Kinnakulla, Sweden's hanging gardens! Thee will we visit. We stand by
the lowest terrace in a plenitude of flowers and verdure; the ancient
village church leans its grey pointed wooden tower, as if it would
fall; it produces an effect in the landscape: we would not even be
without that large flock of birds, which just now chance to fly away
over the mountain forest.
The high road leads up the mountain with short palings on either side,
between which we see extensive plains with hops, wild roses,
corn-fields, and delightful beech woods, such as are not to be found
in any other place in Sweden. The ivy winds itself around old trees
and stones--even to the withered trunk green leaves are lent. We look
out over the flat, extended woody plain, to the sunlit church-tower of
Maristad, which shines like a white sail on the dark green sea: we
look out over the Venern Lake, but cannot see its further shore.
Skjärgaardens' wood-crowned rocks lie like a wreath down in the lake;
the steam-boat comes--see! down by the cliff under the red-roofed
mansions, where the beech and walnut trees grow in the garden.
The travellers land; they wander under shady trees away over that
pretty light green meadow, which is enwreathed by gardens and woods:
no English park has a finer verdure than the meadows near Hellekis.
They go up to "the grottos," as they call the projecting masses of red
stone higher up, which, being thoroughly kneaded with petrifactions,
project from the declivity of the earth, and remind one of the
mouldering colossal tombs in the Campagna of Rome. Some are smooth and
rounded off by the streaming of the water, others bear the moss of
ages, grass and flowers, nay, even tall trees.
The travellers go from the forest road up to the top of Kinnakulla,
where a stone is raised as the goal of their wanderings. The traveller
reads in his guide-book about the rocky strata of Kinnakulla: "At the
bottom is found sandstone, then alum-stone, then limestone, and above
this red-stone, higher still slate, and lastly, trap." And, now that
he has seen this, he descends again, and goes on board. He has seen
Kinnakulla:--yes, the stony rock here, amidst the swelling verdure,
showed him one heavy, thick stone finger, and most of the travellers
think that they are like the devil, if they lay hold upon one finger,
they have the body--but it is not always so. The least visited side of
Kinnakulla is just the most characteristic, and thither will we go.
The road still leads us a long way on this side of the mountain, step
by step downwards, in long terraces of rich fields: further down, the
slate-stone peers forth in flat layers, a green moss upon it, and it
looks like threadbare patches in the green velvet carpet. The high
road leads over an extent of ground where the slate-stone lies like a
firm floor. In the Campagna of Rome, one would say it is a piece of
_via appia_, or antique road; but it is Kinnakulla's naked skin and
bones that we pass over. The peasant's house is composed of large
slate-stones, and the roof is covered with them; one sees nothing of
wood except that of the door, and above it, of the large painted
shield, which states to what regiment the soldier belongs who got this
house and plot of ground in lieu of pay.
We cast another glance over Venern, to Lockö's old palace, to the town
of Lendkjobing, and are again near verdant fields and noble trees,
that cast their shadows over Blomberg, where, in the garden, the poet
Geier's spirit seeks the flower of Kinnakulla in his grand-daughter,
The plain expands here behind Kinnakulla; it extends for miles around,
towards the horizon. A shower stands in the heavens; the wind has
increased: see how the rain falls to the ground like a darkening veil.
The branches of the trees lash one another like penitential dryades.
Old Husaby church lies near us, yonder; though the shower lashes the
high walls, which alone stand, of the old Catholic Bishop's palace.
Crows and ravens fly through the long glass-less windows, which time
has made larger; the rain pours down the crevices in the old grey
walls, as if they were now to be loosened stone from stone: but the
church stands--old Husaby church--so grey and venerable, with its
thick walls, its small windows, and its three spires stuck against
each other, and standing, like nuts, in a cluster.
The old trees in the churchyard cast their shade over ancient graves.
Where is the district's "Old Mortality," who weeds the grass, and
explains the ancient memorials? Large granite stones are laid here in
the form of coffins, ornamented with rude carvings from the times of
Catholicism. The old church-door creaks in the hinges. We stand within
its walls, where the vaulted roof was filled for centuries with the
fragrance of incense, with monks, and with the song of the choristers.
Now it is still and mute here: the old men in their monastic dresses
have passed into their graves; the blooming boys that swung the censer
are in their graves; the congregation--many generations--all in their
graves; but the church still stands the same. The moth-eaten, dusty
cowls, and the bishops' mantle, from the days of the cloister, hang in
the old oak presses; and old manuscripts, half eaten up by the rats,
lie strewed about on the shelves in the sacristy.
In the left aisle of the church there still stands, and has stood time
out of mind, a carved image of wood, painted in various colours which
are still strong: it is the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus. Fresh
flower wreaths are hung around hers and the child's head; fragrant
garlands are twined around the pedestal, as festive as on Madonna's
birthday feast in the times of Popery. The young folks who have been
confirmed, have this day, on receiving the sacrament for the first
time, ornamented this old image--nay, even set the priest's name in
flowers upon the altar; and he has, to our astonishment, let it remain
The image of Madonna seems to have become young by the fresh wreaths:
the fragrant flowers here have a power like that of poetry--they bring
back the days of past centuries to our own times. It is as if the
extinguished glory around the head shone again; the flowers exhale
perfume: it is as if incense again streamed through the aisles of the
church--it shines around the altar as if the consecrated tapers were
lighted--it is a sunbeam through the window.
The sky without has become clear: we drive again in under Cleven, the
barren side of Kinnakulla: it is a rocky wall, different from almost
all the others. The red stone blocks lie, strata on strata, forming
fortifications with embrasures, projecting wings and round towers; but
shaken, split and fallen in ruins--it is an architectural fantastic
freak of nature. A brook falls gushing down from one of the highest
points of the Cleven, and drives a little mill. It looks like a
plaything which the mountain sprite had placed there and forgotten.
Large masses of fallen stone blocks lie dispersed round about; nature
has spread them in the forms of carved cornices. The most significant
way of describing Kinnakulla's rocky wall is to call it the ruins of a
mile-long Hindostanee temple: these rocks might be easily transformed
by the hammer into sacred places like the Ghaut mountains at Ellara.
If a Brahmin were to come to Kinnakulla's rocky wall, he would
recognise the temple of Cailasa, and find in the clefts and crevices
whole representations from Ramagena and Mahabharata. If one should
then speak to him in a sort of gibberish--no matter what, only that,
by the help of Brockhaus's "Conversation-Lexicon" one might mingle
therein the names of some of the Indian spectacles:--Sakantala,
Vikramerivati, Uttaram Ramatscheritram, &c.--the Brahmin would be
completely mystified, and write in his note-book: "Kinnakulla is the
remains of a temple, like those we have in Ellara; and the inhabitants
themselves know the most considerable works in our oldest Sanscrit
literature, and speak in an extremely spiritual manner about them."
But no Brahmin comes to the high rocky walls--not to speak of the
company from the steam-boat, who are already far over the lake Venern.
They have seen wood-crowned Kinnakulla, Sweden's hanging gardens--and
we also have now seen them.
* * * * *
Grandmother is so old, she has so many wrinkles, and her hair is quite
white; but her eyes! they shine like two stars, nay, they are much
finer--they are so mild, so blissful to look into. And then she knows
the most amusing stories, and she has a gown with large, large flowers
on it, and it is of such thick silk that it actually rustles.
Grandmother knows so much, for she has lived long before father and
mother--that is quite sure.
Grandmother has a psalm-book with thick silver clasps, and in that
book she often reads. In the middle of it lies a rose, which is quite
flat and dry; but it is not so pretty as the roses she has in the
glass, yet she smiles the kindliest to it, nay, even tears come into
Why does Grandmother look thus on the withered flower in the old book?
Do you know why?
Every time that Grandmother's tears fall on the withered flower the
colours become fresher; the rose then swells and the whole room is
filled with fragrance; the walls sink as if they were but mists; and
round about, it is the green, the delightful grove, where the sun
shines between the leaves. And Grandmother--yes, she is quite young;
she is a beautiful girl, with yellow hair, with round red cheeks,
pretty and charming--no rose is fresher. Yet the eyes, the mild,
blissful eyes,--yes, they are still Grandmother's! By her side sits a
man, young and strong: he presents the rose to her and she smiles. Yet
grandmother does not smile so,--yes; the smile comes,--he is
gone.--Many thoughts and many forms go past! That handsome man is
gone; the rose lies in the psalm-book, and grandmother,--yes, she
again sits like an old woman, and looks on the withered rose that lies
in the book.
Now grandmother is dead!
She sat in the arm-chair, and told a long, long, sweet story. "And now
it is ended!" said she, "and I am quite tired: let me now sleep a
little!" And so she laid her head back to rest. She drew her breath,
she slept, but it became more and more still; and her face was so full
of peace and happiness--it was as if the sun's rays passed over it.
She smiled, and then they said that she was dead.
She was laid in the black coffin; she lay swathed in the white linen:
she was so pretty, and yet the eyes were closed--but all the wrinkles
were gone. She lay with a smile around her mouth: her hair was so
silvery white, so venerable, one was not at all afraid to look on the
dead, for it was the sweet, benign grandmother. And the psalm-book was
laid in the coffin under her head (she herself had requested it), and
the rose lay in the old book--and then they buried grandmother.
On the grave, close under the church-wall, they planted a rose-tree,
and it became full of roses, and the nightingale sang over it, and the
organ in the church played the finest psalms that were in the book
under the dead one's head. And the moon shone straight down on the
grave--but the dead was not there: every child could go quietly in the
night-time and pluck a rose there by the churchyard-wall. The dead
know more than all we living know--the dead know the awe we should
feel at something so strange as their coming to us. The dead are
better than us all, and therefore they do not come.
There is earth over the coffin, there is earth within it; the
psalm-book with its leaves is dust the rose with all its recollections
has gone to dust. But above it bloom new roses, above is sings the
nightingale, and the organ plays:--we think of the old grandmother
with the mild, eternally young eyes. Eyes can never die! Ours shall
once again see her young, and beautiful, as when she for the first
time kissed the fresh red rose which is now dust in the grave.
* * * * *
By separation from other men, by solitary confinement, in continual
silence, the criminal is to be punished and amended; therefore were
prison-cells contrived. In Sweden there were several, and new ones
have been built. I visited one for the first time in Mariestad. This
building lies close outside the town, by a running water, and in a
beautiful landscape. It resembles a large white-washed summer
residence, window above window.
But we soon discover that the stillness of the grave rests over it. It
is as if no one dwelt here, or like a deserted mansion in the time of
the plague. The gates in the walls are locked: one of them is opened
for us: the gaoler stands with his bunch of keys: the yard is empty,
but clean--even the grass weeded away between the stone paving. We
enter the waiting-room, where the prisoner is received: we are shown
the bathing-room, into which he is first led. We now ascend a flight
of stairs, and are in a large hall, extending the whole length and
breadth of the building. Galleries run along the floors, and between
these the priest has his pulpit, where he preaches on Sundays to an
invisible congregation. All the doors facing the gallery are half
opened: the prisoners hear the priest, but cannot see him, nor he
them. The whole is a well-built machine--a nightmare for the spirit.
In the door of every cell there is fixed a glass, about the size of
the eye: a slide covers it, and the gaoler can, unobserved by the
prisoner, see everything he does; but he must come gently,
noiselessly, for the prisoner's ear is wonderfully quickened by
solitude. I turned the slide quite softly, and looked into the closed
space, when the prisoner's eye immediately met mine. It is airy,
clean, and light within the cell, but the window is placed so high
that it is impossible to look out of it. A high stool, made fast to a
sort of table, and a hammock, which can be hung upon hooks under the
ceiling, and covered with a quilt, compose the whole furniture.
Several cells were opened for us. In one of these was a young, and
extremely pretty girl. She had lain down in her hammock, but sprang
out directly the door was opened, and her first employment was to lift
her hammock down, and roll it together. On the little table stood a
pitcher with water, and by it lay the remains of some oatmeal cakes,
besides the Bible and some psalms.
In the cell close by sat a child's murderess. I saw her only through
the little glass in the door. She had had heard our footsteps; heard
us speak; but she sat still, squeezed up into the corner by the door,
as if she would hide herself as much as possible: her back was bent,
her head almost on a level with her lap, and her hands folded over it.
They said this unfortunate creature was very young. Two brothers sat
here in two different cells: they were punished for horse stealing;
the one was still quite a boy.
In one cell was a poor servant girl. They said: "She has no place of
resort, and without a situation, and therefore she is placed here." I
thought I had not heard rightly, and repeated my question, "why she
was here," but got the same answer. Still I would rather believe that
I had misunderstood what was said--it would otherwise be abominable.
Outside, in the free sunshine, it is the busy day; in here it is
always midnight's stillness. The spider that weaves its web down the
wall, the swallow which perhaps flies a single time close under the
panes there high up in the wall--even the stranger's footstep in the
gallery, as he passes the cell-doors, is an event in that mute,
solitary life, where the prisoners' thoughts are wrapped up in
themselves. One must read of the martyr-filled prisons of the
Inquisition, of the crowds chained together in the Bagnes, of the hot,
lead chambers of Venice, and the black, wet gulf of the wells--be
thoroughly shaken by these pictures of misery, that we may with a
quieter pulsation of the heart wander through the gallery of the
prison-cells. Here is light, here is air;--here it is more humane.
Where the sunbeam shines mildly in on the prisoner, there also will
the radiance of God shine into the heart.
* * * * *
The painter Callot--who does not know the name, at least from
Hoffmann's "in Callot's manner?"--has given a few excellent pictures
of Italian beggars. One of these is a fellow, on whom the one rag
lashes the other: he carries his huge bundle and a large flag with the
inscription, "Capitano de Baroni." One does not think that there can
in reality be found such a wandering rag-shop, and we confess that in
Italy itself we have not seen any such; for the beggar-boy there,
whose whole clothing often consists only of a waistcoat, has in it not
sufficient costume for such rags.
But we see it in the North. By the canal road between the Venern and
Vigen, on the bare, dry rocky plain there stood, like beauty's
thistles in that poor landscape, a couple of beggar-boys, so ragged,
so tattered, so picturesquely dirty, that we thought we had Callot's
originals before us, or that it was an arrangement of some industrious
parents, who would awaken the traveller's attention and benevolence.
Nature does not form such things: there was something so bold in the
hanging on of the rags, that each boy instantly became a Capitano de
The younger of the two had something round him that had certainly once
been the jacket of a very corpulent man, for it reached almost to the
boy's ancles; the whole hung fast by a piece of the sleeve and a
single brace, made from the seam of what was now the rest of the
lining. It was very difficult to see the transition from jacket to
trowsers, the rags glided so into one another. The whole clothing was
arranged so as to give him an air-bath: there were draught holes on
all sides and ends; a yellow linen clout fastened to the nethermost
regions seemed as if it were to signify a shirt. A very large straw
hat, that had certainly been driven over several times, was stuck
sideways on his head, and allowed the boy's wiry, flaxen hair to grow
freely through the opening where the crown should have been: the naked
brown shoulder and upper part of the arm, which was just as brown,
were the prettiest of the whole.
The other boy had only a pair of trowsers on. They were also ragged,
but the rags were bound fast into the pockets with packthread; one
string round the ancles, one under the knee, and another round about
the waist. He, however, kept together what he had, and that is always
"Be off!" shouted the Captain, from the vessel; and the boy with the
tied-up rags turned round, and we--yes, we saw nothing but packthread,
in bows, genteel bows. The front part of the boy only was covered: he
had only the foreparts of trowsers--the rest was packthread, the bare,
* * * * *
In Sweden, it is not only in the country, but even in several of the
provincial towns, that one sees whole houses of grass turf or with
roofs of grass turf; and some are so low that one might easily spring
up to the roof, and sit on the fresh greensward. In the early spring,
whilst the fields are still covered with snow, but which is melted on
the roof, the latter affords the first announcement of spring, with
the young sprouting grass where the sparrow twitters: "Spring comes!"
Between Motala and Vadstene, close by the high road, stands a
grass-turf house--one of the most picturesque. It has but one window,
broader than it is high, and a wild rose branch forms the curtain
We see it in the spring. The roof is so delightfully fresh with grass,
it has quite the tint of velvet; and close to it is the chimney, nay,
even a cherry-tree grows out of its side, now full of flowers: the
wind shakes the leaves down on a little lamb that is tethered to the
chimney. It is the only lamb of the family. The old dame who lives
here, lifts it up to its place herself in the morning and lifts it
down again in the evening, to give it a place in the room. The roof
can just bear the little lamb, but not more--this is an experience and
a certainty. Last autumn--and at that time the grass turf roofs are
covered with flowers, mostly blue and yellow, the Swedish
colours--there grew here a flower of a rare kind. It shone in the eyes
of the old Professor, who on his botanical tour came past here. The
Professor was quickly up on the roof, and just as quick was one of his
booted legs through it, and so was the other leg, and then half of the
Professor himself--that part where the head does not sit; and as the
house had no ceiling, his legs hovered right over the old dame's head,
and that in very close contact. But now the roof is again whole; the
fresh grass grows where learning sank; the little lamb bleats up
there, and the old dame stands beneath, in the low doorway, with
folded hands, with a smile on her mouth, rich in remembrances, legends
and songs, rich in her only lamb on which the cherry-tree strews its
flower-blossoms in the warm spring sun.
As a background to this picture lies the Vettern--the bottomless lake
as the commonalty believe--with its transparent water, its sea-like
waves, and in calm, with "Hegring," or fata morgana on its steel-like
surface. We see Vadstene palace and town, "the city of the dead," as a
Swedish author has called it--Sweden's Herculaneum, reminiscence's
city. The grass-turf house must be our box, whence we see the rich
mementos pass before us--memorials from the chronicle of saints, the
chronicle of kings and the love songs that still live with the old
dame, who stands in her low house there, where the lamb crops the
grass on the roof. We hear her, and we see with her eyes; we go from
the grass-turf house up to the town, to the other grass-turf houses,
where poor women sit and make lace, once the celebrated work of the
rich nuns here in the cloister's wealthy time.
How still, solitary and grass-grown are these streets! We stop by an
old wall, mouldy-green for centuries already. Within it stood the
cloister; now there is but one of its wings remaining. There, within
that now poor garden still bloom Saint Bridget's leek, and once ran
flowers. King John and the Abbess, Ana Gylte, wandered one evening
there, and the King cunningly asked: "If the maidens in the cloister
were never tempted by love?" and the Abbess answered, as she pointed
to a bird that just then flew over them: "It may happen! One cannot
prevent the bird from flying over the garden; but one may surely
prevent it from building its nest there!"
Thus thought the pious Abbess, and there have been sisters who thought
and acted like her. But it is quite as sure that in the same garden
there stood a pear-tree, called the tree of death; and the legend says
of it, that whoever approached and plucked its fruit would soon die.
Red and yellow pears weighed down its branches to the ground. The
trunk was unusually large; the grass grew high around it, and many a
morning hour was it seen trodden down. Who had been here during the
A storm arose one evening from the lake, and the next morning the
large tree was found thrown down; the trunk was broken, and out from
it there rolled infants' bones--the white bones of murdered children
lay shining in the grass.
The pious but love-sick sister Ingrid, this Vadstene's Heloise, writes
to her heart's beloved, Axel Nilsun--for the chronicles have preserved
it for us:--
"Broderne og Systarne leka paa Spil, drikke Vin och dansa med
hvarandra i Tradgården!"
(The brothers and sisters amuse themselves in play, drink wine and
dance with one another in the garden).
These words may explain to us the history of the pear-tree: one is led
to think of the orgies of the nun-phantoms in "Robert le Diable," the
daughters of sin on consecrated ground. But "judge not, lest ye be
judged," said the purest and best of men that was born of woman. We
will read Sister Ingrid's letter, sent secretly to him she truly
loved. In it lies the history of many, clear and human to us:--
"Jag djerfues for ingen utan for dig allena bekänna, att jag formår
ilia ånda mit Ave Maria eller läsa mit Paternoster, utan du kommer mig
ichågen. Ja i sjelfa messen kommer mig fore dit täckleliga Ansigte och
vart kårliga omgange. Jag tycker jag kan icke skifta mig for n genann
an Menniska, jungfru Maria, St. Birgitta och himmelens Härskaror
skalla kanske straffe mig hårfar? Men du vet det val, hjertans käraste
att jag med fri vilja och uppsät aldrig dissa reglar samtykt. Mine
foräldrer hafva väl min kropp i dette fangelset insatt, men hjertät
kan intet så snart från verlden ater kalles!"
(I dare not confess to any other than to thee, that I am not able to
repeat my Ave Maria or read my Paternoster, without calling thee to
mind. Nay, even in the mass itself thy comely face appears, and our
affectionate intercourse recurs to me. It seems to me that I cannot
confess to any other human being--the Virgin Mary, St. Bridget, and
the whole host of heaven will perhaps punish me for it. But thou
knowest well, my heart's beloved, that I have never consented with my
free-will to these rules. My parents, it is true, have placed my body
in this prison, but the heart cannot so soon be weaned from the
How touching is the distress of young hearts! It offers itself to us
from the mouldy parchment, it resounds in old songs. Beg the
grey-haired old dame in the grass turf-house to sing to thee of the
young, heavy sorrow, of the saving angel--and the angel came in many
shapes. You will hear the song of the cloister robbery; of Herr Carl
who was sick to death; when the young nun entered the corpse chamber,
sat down by his feet and whispered how sincerely she had loved him,
and the knight rose from his bier and bore her away to marriage and
pleasure in Copenhagen. And all the nuns of the cloister sang: "Christ
grant that such an angel were to come, and take both me and thee!"
The old dame will also sing for thee of the beautiful Ogda and Oluf
Tyste; and at once the cloister is revived in its splendour, the bells
ring, stone houses arise--they even rise from the waters of the
Vettern: the little town becomes churches and towers. The streets are
crowded with great, with sober, well-dressed persons. Down the stairs
of the town hall descends with a sword by his side and in fur-lined
cloak, the most wealthy citizen of Vadstene, the merchant Michael. By
his side is his young, beautiful daughter Agda, richly-dressed and
happy; youth in beauty, youth in mind. All eyes are turned on the rich
man--and yet forget him for her, the beautiful. Life's best blessings
await her; her thoughts soar upwards, her mind aspires; her future is
happiness! These were the thoughts of the many--and amongst the many
there was one who saw her as Romeo saw Juliet, as Adam saw Eve in the
garden of Paradise. That one was Oluf, the handsomest young man, but
poor as Agda was rich. And he must conceal his love; but as only he
lived in it, only he knew of it; so he became mute and still, and
after months had passed away, the town's folk called him Oluf Tyste
(Oluf the silent).
Nights and days he combated his love; nights and days he suffered
inexpressible torment; but at last--one dew-drop or one sunbeam alone
is necessary for the ripe rose to open its leaves--he must tell it to
Agda. And she listened to his words, was terrified, and sprang away;
but the thought remained with him, and the heart went after the
thought and stayed there; she returned his love strongly and truly,
but in modesty and honour; and therefore poor Oluf came to the rich
merchant and sought his daughter's hand. But Michael shut the bolts of
his door and his heart too. He would neither listen to tears nor
supplications, but only to his own will; and as little Agda also kept
firm to her will, her father placed her in Vadstene cloister. And Oluf
was obliged to submit, as it is recorded in the old song, that they
"----den svarta Muld
Alt öfver skön Agdas arm."[B]
[Footnote B: The black mould over the beautiful Agda's arm.]
She was dead to him and the world. But one night, in tempestuous
weather, whilst the rain streamed down, Oluf Tyste came to the
cloister wall, threw his rope-ladder over it, and however high the
Vettern lifted its waves, Oluf and little Agda flew away over its
fathomless depths that autumn night.
Early in the morning the nuns missed little Agda. What a screaming and
shouting--the cloister is disgraced! The Abbess and Michael the
merchant swore that vengeance and death should reach the fugitives.
Lindkjöping's severe bishop, Hans Brask, fulminated his ban over them,
but they were already across the waters of the Vettern; they had
reached the shores of the Venern, they were on Kinnakulla, with one of
Oluf's friends, who owned the delightful Hellekis.
Here their marriage was to be celebrated. The guests were invited, and
a monk from the neighbouring cloister of Husaby, was fetched to marry
them. Then came the messenger with the bishop's excommunication, and
this--but not the marriage ceremony--was read to them.
All turned away from them terrified. The owner of the house, the
friend of Oluf's youth, pointed to the open door and bade them depart
instantly. Oluf only requested a car and horse wherewith to convey
away his exhausted Agda; but they threw sticks and stones after them,
and Oluf was obliged to bear his poor bride in his arms far into the
Heavy and bitter was their wandering. At last, however, they found a
home: it was in Guldkroken, in West Gothland. An honest old couple
gave them shelter and a place by the hearth: they stayed there till
Christmas, and on that holy eve there was to be a real Christmas
festival. The guests were invited, the furmenty set forth; and now
came the clergyman of the parish to say prayers; but whilst he spoke
he recognised Oluf and Agda, and the prayer became a curse upon the
two. Anxiety and terror came over all; they drove the excommunicated
pair out of the house, out into the biting frost, where the wolves
went in flocks, and the bear was no stranger. And Oluf felled wood in
the forest, and kindled a fire to frighten away the noxious animals
and keep life in Agda--he thought that she must die. But just then she
was stronger of the two.
"Our Lord is almighty and gracious; He will not leave us!" said she.
"He has one here on the earth, one who can save us, one, who has
proved like us, what it is to wander amongst enemies and wild animals.
It is the King--Gustavus Vasa! He has languished like us!--gone astray
in Dalecarlia in the deep snow! he has suffered, tried, knows it--he
can and he will help us!"
The King was in Vadstene. He had called together the representatives
of the kingdom there. He dwelt in the cloister itself, even there
where little Agda, if the King did not grant her pardon, must suffer
what the angry Abbess dared to advise: penance and a painful death
Through forests and by untrodden paths, in storm and snow, Oluf and
Agda came to Vadstene. They were seen: some showed fear, others
insulted and threatened them. The guard of the cloister made the sign
of the cross on seeing the two sinners, who dared to ask admission to
"I will receive and hear all," was his royal message, and the two
lovers fell trembling at his feet.
And the King looked mildly on them; and as he long had had the
intention to humiliate the proud Bishop of Lindkjöping, the moment was
not unfavourable to them; the King listened to the relation of their
lives and sufferings, and gave them his word, that the excommunication
should be annulled. He then placed their hands one in the other, and
said that the priest should also do the same soon; and he promised
them his royal protection and favour.
And old Michael, the merchant, who feared the King's anger, with which
he was threatened, became so mild and gentle, that he, as the King
commanded, not only opened his house and his arms to Oluf and Agda,
but displayed all his riches on the wedding-day of the young couple.
The marriage ceremony took place in the cloister church, whither the
King himself led the bride, and where, by his command, all the nuns
were obliged to be present, in order to give still more ecclesiastical
pomp to the festival. And many a heart there silently recalled the old
song about the cloister robbery and looked at Oluf Tyste:
"Krist gif en sadan Angel
Kom, tog båd mig och dig!"[C]
[Footnote C: Christ grant that such an angel were to come, and take
both me and thee!]
The sun now shines through the open cloister-gate. Let truth shine
into our hearts; let us likewise acknowledge the cloister's share of
God's influence. Every cell was not quite a prison, where the
imprisoned bird flew in despair against the window-pane; here
sometimes was sunshine from God in the heart and mind, from hence also
went out comfort and blessings. If the dead could rise from their
graves they would bear witness thereof: if we saw them in the
moonlight lift the tombstone and step forth towards the cloister, they
would say: "Blessed be these walls!" if we saw them in the sunlight
hovering in the rainbow's gleam, they would say: "Blessed be these
How changed the rich, mighty Vadstene cloister, where the first
daughters of the land were nuns, where the young nobles of the land
wore the monk's cowl. Hither they made pilgrimages from Italy, from
Spain: from far distant lands, in snow and cold, the pilgrim came
barefooted to the cloister door. Pious men and women bore the corpse
of St. Bridget hither in their hands from Rome, and all the
church-bells in all the lands and towns they passed through, tolled
when they came.
We go towards the cloister--the remains of the old ruin. We enter St.
Bridget's cell--it still stands unchanged. It is low, small and
narrow: four diminutive frames form the whole window, but one can look
from it out over the whole garden, and far away over the Vettern. We
see the same beautiful landscape that the fair Saint saw as a frame
around her God, whilst she read her morning and evening prayers. In
the tile-stone of the floor there is engraved a rosary: before it, on
her bare knees, she said a pater-noster at every pearl there pointed
out. Here is no chimney--no hearth, no place for it. Cold and solitary
it is, and was, here where the world's most far-famed woman dwelt, she
who by her own sagacity, and by her contemporaries was raised to the
throne of female saints.
From this poor cell we enter one still meaner, one still more narrow
and cold, where the faint light of day struggles in through a long
crevice in the wall. Glass there never was here: the wind blows in
here. Who was she who once dwelt in this cell?
In our times they have arranged light, warm chambers close by: a whole
range opens into the broad passage. We hear merry songs; laughter we
hear, and weeping: strange figures nod to us from these chambers. Who
are these? The rich cloister of St. Bridget's, whence kings made
pilgrimages, is now Sweden's mad-house. And here the numerous
travellers write their names on the wall. We hasten from the hideous
scene into the splendid cloister church,--the blue church, as it is
called, from the blue stones of which the walls are built--and here,
where the large stones of the floor cover great men, abbesses and
queens, only one monument is noticeable, that of a knightly figure
carved in stone, which stands aloft before the altar. It is that of
the insane Duke Magnus. Is it not as if he stepped forth from amongst
the dead, and announced that such afflicted creatures were to be where
St. Bridget once ruled?
Pace lightly over the floor! Thy foot treads on the graves of the
pious: the flat, modest stone here in the corner covers the dust of
the noble Queen Philippa. She, that mighty England's daughter, the
great-hearted, the immortal woman, who with wisdom and courage
defended her consort's throne, that consort who rudely and barbarously
cast her off! Vadstene's cloister gave her shelter--the grave here
gave her rest.
We seek one grave. It is not known--it is forgotten, as she was in her
lifetime. Who was she? The cloistered sister Elizabeth, daughter of
the Holstein Count, and once the bride of King Hakon of Norway. Sweet
creature! she proudly--but not with unbecoming pride--advanced in her
bridal dress, and with her court ladies, up to her royal consort. Then
came King Valdemar, who by force and fraud stopped the voyage, and
induced Hakon to marry Margaret, then eleven years of age, who thereby
got the crown of Norway. Elizabeth was sent to Vadstene cloister,
where her will was not asked. Afterwards when Margaret--who justly
occupies a great place in the history of Scandinavia, but only
comparatively a small one in the hearts--sat on the throne, powerful
and respected, visited the then flourishing Vadstene, where the Abbess
of the cloister was St. Bridget's grand-daughter, her childhood's
friend, Margaret kissed every monk on the cheek. The legend is well
known about him, the handsomest, who thereupon blushed. She kissed
every nun on the hand, and also Elizabeth, her, whom she would only
see here. Whose heart throbbed loudest at that kiss? Poor Elizabeth,
thy grave is forgotten, but not the wrong thou didst suffer.
We now enter the sacristy. Here, under a double coffin lid, rests an
age's holiest saint in the North, Vadstene cloister's diadem and
On the night she was born, says the legend, there appeared a beaming
cloud in the heavens, and on it stood a majestic virgin, who said: "Of
Birger is born a daughter whose admirable voice shall be heard over
the whole world." This delicate and singular child grew up in the
castle of her father, Knight Brake. Visions and revelations appeared
to her, and these increased when she, only thirteen years of age, was
married to the rich Ulf Gudmundsen, and became the mother of many
children. "Thou shalt be my bride and my agent," she heard Christ say,
and every one of her actions was, as she averred, according to his
announcement. After this she went to Niddaros, to St. Oluf's holy
shrine: she then went to Germany, France, Spain and Rome.
Sometimes honoured and sometimes mocked, she travelled, even to Cyprus
and Palestine. Conscious of approaching death, she again reached Rome,
where her last revelation was, that she should rest in Vadstene, and
that this cloister especially should be sanctified by God's love. The
splendour of the Northern lights does not extend so far around the
earth as the glory of this fair saint, who now is but a legend. We
bend with silent, serious thoughts before the mouldering remains in
the coffin here--those of St. Bridget and her daughter St. Catherine;
but even of these the remembrance will be extinguished. There is a
tradition amongst the people, that in the time of the Reformation the
real remains were carried off to a cloister in Poland, but this is not
certainly known. Vadstene, at least, is not the repository of St.
Bridget and her daughter's dust.
Vadstene was once great and glorious. Great was the cloister's power,
as St. Bridget saw it in the prospect of death. Where is now the
cloister's might? It reposes under the tomb-stones--the graves alone
speak of it. Here, under our feet, only a few steps from the church
door, is a stone in which are carved fourteen rings: they announce
that fourteen farms were given to the cloister, in order that he who
moulders here might have this place, fourteen feet within the church
door. It was Boa Johnson Grip, a great sinner; but the cloister's
power was greater than that of all sinners: the stone on his grave
records it with no ordinary significance of language.
Gustavus, the first Vasa, was the sun--the ruling power: the
brightness of the cloister star must needs pale before him.
There yet stands a stone outline of Vadstene's rich palace which he
erected, with towers and spires, close by the cloister. At a far
distance on the Vettern, it looks as if it still stood in all its
splendour; near, in moonlight nights, it appears the same unchanged
edifice, for the fathom-thick walls yet remain; the carvings over the
windows and gates stand forth in light and shade, and the moat round
about, which is only separated from the Vettern by the narrow carriage
road, takes the reflection of the immense building as a mirrored
We now stand before it in daylight. Not a pane of glass is to be found
in it; planks and old doors are nailed fast to the window frames; the
balls alone still stand on the two towers, broad, heavy, and
resembling colossal toadstools. The iron spire of the one still towers
aloft in the air; the other spire is bent: like the hands on a
sun-dial it shows the time--the time that is gone. The other two balls
are half fallen down; lambs frisk about between the beams, and the
space below is used as a cow-stall.
The arms over the gateway have neither spot nor blemish: they seem as
if carved yesterday; the walls are firm, and the stairs look like new.
In the palace yard, far above the gateway, the great folding door was
opened, whence once the minstrels stepped out and played a welcome
greeting from the balcony, but even this is broken down: we go through
the spacious kitchen, from whose white walls, a sketch of Vadstene
palace, ships, and flowering trees, in red chalk, still attract the
Here where they cooked and roasted, is now a large empty space: even
the chimney is gone; and from the ceiling where thick, heavy beams of
timber have been placed close to one another, there hangs the
dust-covered cobweb, as if the whole were a mass of dark grey dropping
We walk from hall to hall, and the wooden shutters are opened to admit
daylight. All is vast, lofty, spacious, and adorned with antique
chimney-pieces, and from every window there is a charming prospect
over the clear, deep Vettern. In one of the chambers in the ground
floor sat the insane Duke Magnus, (whose stone image we lately saw
conspicuous in the church) horrified at having signed his own
brother's death-warrant; dreamingly in love with the portrait of
Scotland's Queen, Mary Stuart; paying court to her and expecting to
see the ship, with her, glide over the sea towards Vadstene. And she
came--he thought she came--in the form of a mermaid, raising herself
aloft on the water: she nodded and called to him, and the unfortunate
Duke sprang out of the window down to her. We gazed out of this
window, and below it we saw the deep moat in which he sank.
We enter the yeoman's hall, and the council hall, where, in the
recesses of the windows, on each side, are painted yeomen in strange
dresses, half Dalecarlians and half Roman warriors.
In this once rich saloon, Svanta Steenson Sture knelt to Sweden's
Queen, Catherine Léjonhufved: she was Svanta Sture's love, before
Gustavus Vasa's will made her his Queen. The lovers met here: the
walls are silent as to what they said, when the door was opened and
the King entered, and saw the kneeling Sture, and asked what it meant.
Margaret answered craftily and hastily: "He demands my sister Martha's
hand in marriage!" and the King gave Svanta Sture the bride the Queen
had asked for him.
We are now in the royal bridal chamber, whither King Gustavus led his
third consort. Catherine Steenbock, also another's bride, the bride of
the Knight Gustavus. It is a sad story.
Gustavus of the three roses, was in his youth honoured by the King,
who sent him on a mission to the Emperor Charles the Fifth. He
returned adorned with the Emperor's costly golden chain--young,
handsome, joyous and richly clad, he returned home, and knew well how
to relate the magnificence and charms of foreign lands: young and old
listened to him with admiration, but young Catherine most of all.
Through him the world in her eyes became twice as large, rich, and
beautiful; they became dear to each other, and their parents blessed
their love. The love-pledge was to be drunk,--when there came a
message from the King, that the young Knight must, without delay,
again bear a letter and greeting to the Emperor Charles. The betrothed
pair separated with heavy hearts, but with a promise of mutual
inviolable troth. The King then invited Catherine's parents to come to
Vadstene palace. Catherine was obliged to accompany them; here King
Gustavus saw her for the first time, and the old man fell in love with
Christmas was kept with great hilarity; there were song and harp in
these halls, and the King himself played the lute. When the time came
for departure, the King said to Catherine's mother, that he would
marry the young girl.
"But she is the bride of the Knight Gustavus!" stammered the mother.
"Young hearts soon forget their sorrows," thought the King. The mother
thought so likewise, and as there chanced to come a letter the same
day and hour from the young Knight Gustavus, Fra Steenbock committed
it to the flames. All the letters that came afterwards and all the
letters that Catherine wrote, were burnt by her mother, and doubts and
evil reports were whispered to Catherine, that she was forgotten
abroad by her young lover. But Catherine was secure and firm in her
belief of him. In the spring her parents made known to her the King's
proposal, and praised her good fortune. She answered seriously and
determinedly, "No!" and when they repeated to her that it should and
must happen, she repeatedly screamed in the greatest anguish, "No no!"
and sank exhausted at her father and mother's feet, and humbly prayed
them not to force her.
And the mother wrote to the King that all was going on well, but that
her child was bashful. The King now announced his visit to Torpe,
where her parents, the Steenbocks, dwelt. The King was received with
rejoicing and feasting, but Catherine had disappeared and the King
himself was the successful one who found her. She sat dissolved in
tears under the wild rose tree, where she had bidden farewell to her
There was merry song and joyous life in the old mansion; Catherine
alone was sorrowful and silent. Her mother had brought her all her
jewels and ornaments, but she wore none of them: she had put on her
simplest dress, but in this she only fascinated the old King the more,
and he would have that their betrothal should take place before he
departed. Fra Steenbock wrested the Knight Gustavus's ring from
Catherine's finger, and whispered in her ear: "It will cost the friend
of thy youth his life and fortune; the King can do everything!" And
the parents led her to King Gustavus, showed him that the ring was
from the maiden's hand; and the King placed his own golden ring on her
finger in the other's stead. In the month of August the flag waved
from the mast of the royal yacht which bore the young Queen over the
Vettern. Princes and knights, in costly robes, stood by the shore,
music played, and the people shouted. Catherine made her entry into
Vadstene Palace. The nuptials were celebrated the following day, and
the walls were hung with silk and velvet, with cloth of gold and
silver! It was a festival and rejoicing. Poor Catherine!
In November, the Knight Gustavus of the three roses, returned home.
His prudent, noble mother, Christina Gyldenstjerne, met him at the
frontiers of the kingdom, prepared him, consoled him, and soothed his
mind: she accompanied him by slow stages to Vadstene, where they were
both invited by the King to remain during the Christmas festival. They
accepted the invitation, but the Knight Gustavus was not to be moved
to come to the King's table or any other place where the Queen was to
be found. The Christmas approached. One Sunday evening, Gustavus was
disconsolate; the Knight was long sleepless, and at daybreak he went
into the church, to the tomb of his ancestress, St. Bridget. There he
saw, at a few paces from him, a female kneeling before Philippa's
tomb. It was the Queen he saw; their eyes met, and Gustavus hastened
away. She then mentioned his name, begged him to stay, and commanded
him to do so.
"I command it, Gustavus!" said she; "the Queen commands it."
And she spoke to him; they conversed together, and it became clear to
them both what had been done against them and with them; and she
showed him a withered rose which she kept in her bosom, and she bent
towards him and gave him a kiss, the last--their eternal
leave-taking--and then they separated. He died shortly afterwards, but
Catherine was stronger, yet not strong enough for her heart's deep
sorrow. Here, in the bed-chamber, in uneasy dreams, says the story,
she betrayed in sleep the constant thought of her heart, her youth's
love, to the King, saying: "Gustavus I love dearly; but the rose--I
shall never forget."
From a secret door we walk out on to the open rampart, where the sheep
now graze; the cattle are driven into one of the ruined towers. We see
the palace-yard, and look from it up to a window. Come, thou
birch-wood's thrush, and warble thy lays; sing, whilst we recal the
bitterness of love in the rude--the chivalrous ages.
Under that window there stood, one cold winter's night, wrapped in his
white cloak, the young Count John of East Friesland. His brother had
married Gustavus Vasa's eldest daughter, and departed with her to his
home: wherever they came on their journey, there was mirth and
feasting, but the most splendid was at Vadstene Palace. Cecilia, the
King's younger daughter, had accompanied her sister hither, and was
here, as everywhere, the first, the most beautiful in the chase as
well as at the tournament. The winter began directly on their arrival
at Vadstene; the cold was severe, and the Vettern frozen over. One
day, Cecilia rode out on the ice and it broke; her brother, Prince
Erik, came galloping to her aid. John, of East Friesland, was already
there, and begged Erik to dismount, as he would, being on horseback,
break the ice still more. Erik would not listen to him, and as John
saw that there was no time for dispute, he dragged Erik from the
horse, sprang into the water himself, and saved Cecilia. Prince Erik
was furious with wrath, and no one could appease him. Cecilia lay long
in a fever, and during its continuance, her love for him who had saved
her life increased. She recovered, and they understood each other, but
the day of separation approached. It was on the night previous that
John, in his white cloak, ascended from stone to stone, holding by his
silk ladder, until he at length entered the window; here they would
converse for hours in all modesty and honour, speak about his return
and their nuptials the following year; and whilst they sat there the
door was hewn down with axes. Prince Erik entered, and raised the
murderous weapon to slay the young Lord of East Friesland, when
Cecilia threw herself between them. But Erik commanded his menials to
seize the lover, whom they put in irons and cast into a low, dark
hole, that cold frosty night, and the next day, without even giving
him a morsel of bread or a drop of water, he was thrown on to a
peasant's sledge, and dragged before the King to receive judgment.
Erik himself cast his sister's fair name and fame into slander's
babbling pool, and high dames and citizens' wives washed unspotted
innocence in calumny's impure waters.
It is only when the large wooden shutters of the saloons are opened,
that the sunbeams stray in here; the dust accumulates in their twisted
pillars, and is only just disturbed by the draught of air. In here is
a warehouse for corn. Great fat rats make their nests in these halls.
The spider spins mourning banners under the beams. This is Vadstene
We are filled with sad thoughts. We turn our eyes from this place
towards the lowly house with the grass-turf roof, where the little
lamb crops the grass under the cherry-tree, which strews its fragrant
leaves over it. Our thoughts descend from the rich cloister, from the
proud palace, to the grassy turf, and the sun fades away over the
grassy turf, and the old dame goes to sleep under the grassy turf,
below which lie the mighty memorials of Vadstene.
* * * * *
There was an elderly man on the steam-boat, with such a contented face
that, if it did not lie, he must be the happiest man on earth. That he
indeed said he was: I heard it from his own mouth. He was a Dane,
consequently my countryman, and was a travelling theatrical manager.
He had the whole _corps dramatique_ with him; they lay in a large
chest--he was a puppet showman. His innate good-humour, said he, had
been tried by a polytechnic candidate,[D] and from this experiment on
his patience he had become completely happy. I did not understand him
at the moment, but he soon laid the whole case clearly before me; and
here it is.
[Footnote D: One who has passed his examination at a polytechnic
"It was in Slagelse," said he, "that I gave a representation at the
parsonage, and had a brilliant house and a brilliant company of
spectators, all young persons, unconfirmed, except a few old ladies.
Then there came a person dressed in black, having the appearance of a
student: he sat down amongst the others, laughed quite at the proper
time, and applauded quite correctly; that was an unusual spectator!
"I was bent on ascertaining who he was, and then I heard that he was a
candidate from the polytechnic school, who had been sent out to
instruct people in the provinces. At eight o'clock my representation
was over; the children were to go early to bed, and one must think of
the convenience of the public.
"At nine o'clock the candidate began his lectures and experiments, and
now _I_ was one of _his_ auditory.
"It was remarkable to hear and look at! The chief part of it went over
my head and into the parson's, as one says. Can it be possible,
thought I, that we human beings can find out such things? in that
case, we must also be able to hold out longer, before we are put into
the earth. It was merely small miracles that he performed, and yet all
as easy as an old stocking--quite from nature. In the time of Moses
and the prophets, such a polytechnic candidate would have been one of
the wise men of the land, and in the Middle Ages he would have been
burnt. I could not sleep the whole night, and as I gave a
representation the next evening, and the candidate was there again, I
got into a real merry humour.
"I have heard of an actor, who when playing the lovers' parts, only
thought of one of the spectators; he played for _her_ alone, and
forgot all the rest of the house; the polytechnic candidate was my
_her_, my only spectator, for whom I played. And when the performance
was over, all the puppets were called forward, and I was invited by
the polytechnic candidate to take a glass of wine with him; and he
spoke about my comedy, and I of his science; and I believe we each
derived equal pleasure from the other. But yet I had the advantage,
for there was so much in his performance that he could not account
for: as for instance, that a piece of iron which falls through a
spiral line, becomes magnetic,--well, how is that? The spirit comes
over it, but whence does it come from? it is just as with the human
beings of this world, I think; our Lord lets them fall through the
spiral line of time, and the spirit comes over them--and there stands
a Napoleon, a Luther, or a similar person.
"'All nature is a series of miracles,' said the candidate, 'but we are
so accustomed to them that we call them things of every-day life.' And
he spoke and he explained, so that it seemed at last as if he lifted
my scull, and I honestly confessed, that if I were not an old fellow,
I would go directly to the polytechnic school, and learn to examine
the world in the summer, although I was one of the happiest of men.
"'One of the happiest!' said he, and it was just as if he tasted it.
'Are you happy?' 'Yes!' said I, 'I am happy, and I am welcome in all
the towns I come to with my company! There is certainly one wish, that
comes now and then like a night-mare, which rides on my good-humour,
and that is to be a theatrical manager for a living company--a company
of real men and women.'
"'You wish to have your puppets animated; you would have them become
real actors and actresses,' said he, 'and yourself be the manager? you
then think that you would be perfectly happy?'
"Now he did not think so, but I thought so; and we talked for and
against; and we were just as near in our opinions as before. But we
clinked our glasses together, and the wine was very good; but there
was witchcraft in it, or else the short and the long of the story
would be--that I was intoxicated.
"That I was not; my eyes were quite clear; it was as if there was
sunshine in the room, and it shone out of the face of the polytechnic
candidate, so that I began to think of the old gods in my youth, and
when they went about in the world. And I told him so, and then he
smiled, and I durst have sworn that he was a disguised god, or one of
the family!--And he was so--my first wish was to be fulfilled: the
puppets become living beings and I the manager of men and women. We
drank that it should be so! he put all my puppets in the wooden chest,
fastened it on my back, and then let me fall through a spiral line. I
can still hear how I came down, slap! I lay on the floor, that is
quite sure and certain, and the whole company sprang out of the chest.
The spirit had come over us all together; all the puppets had become
excellent artists--they said so themselves--and I was the manager.
Everything was in order for the first representation; the whole
company must speak with me, and the public also. The female dancer
said, that if she did not stand on one leg, the house would be in an
uproar: she was master of the whole and would be treated as such.
"She who played the queen, would also be treated as a queen when off
the stage, or else she should get out of practice, and he who was
employed to come in with a letter made himself as important as the
first lover. 'For,' said he, 'the small are of just as much importance
as the great, in an artistic whole.' Then the hero demanded that the
whole of his part should only be retorts on making his exit, for these
the public applauded; the prima donna would only play in a red light,
for that suited her best--she would not be blue: they were all like
flies in a bottle, and I was also in the bottle--for I was the
manager. I lost my breath, my head was quite dizzy! I was as miserable
as a man can be; it was a new race of beings I had come amongst; I
wished that I had them altogether again in the chest, that I had never
been a manager: I told them that they were in fact only puppets, and
so they beat me to death. That was my feeling!
"I lay on the bed in my chamber; but how I had come there from the
polytechnic candidate, he must know best--for I do not. The moon shone
in on the floor where the puppet-chest lay upset, and all the puppets
spread about--great and small, the whole lot. But I was not floored! I
sprang out of bed, and threw them all into the chest; some on their
heads, and some on their legs; I smacked the lid down and sat myself
upon it: it was worth painting, can't you conceive it? I can! 'Now you
shall be there!' said I, 'and I will never more wish that you may
become flesh and blood!' I was so glad; I was the happiest man
alive--the polytechnic candidate had tried me! I sat in perfect bliss,
and fell asleep on the chest; and in the morning--it was, properly
speaking, at noon, for I slept so very long that morning--I sat there
still, happy and edified--I saw that my previous and only wish had
been stupid. I inquired for the polytechnic candidate, but he was
gone, like the Greek and Roman gods.
"And from that time I have been the happiest man alive. I am a
fortunate manager; my company does not argue with me, neither does the
public; they are amused to their heart's content, and I can myself put
all my pieces nicely together. I take the best parts out of all sorts
of comedies that I choose, and no one troubles himself about it.
Pieces that are now despised at the large theatres, but which thirty
years ago the public ran to see, and cried over--those pieces I now
make use of. I now present them before the young folks; and the young
folks--they cry just as their fathers and mothers used to do. I give
'Johanna Montfakon' and 'Dyveke,' but abbreviated; for the little
folks do not like long, twaddling love-stories. They must have it
unfortunate--but it must be brief. Now that I have travelled through
Denmark, both to the right and left, I know everybody and am known
again. Now I have come to Sweden, and if I am successful and gain much
money, I will be a Scandinavian, if the humour hold; and this I tell
you, as you are my countryman."
And I, as his countryman, naturally tell it again--only for the sake
of telling it.
* * * * *
The canal voyage through Sweden goes at first constantly upwards,
through elvs and lakes, forests and rocky land. From the heights we
look down on vast extents of forest-land and large waters, and by
degrees the vessel sinks again down through mountain torrents. At Mem
we are again down by the salt fiord: a solitary tower raises its head
between the remains of low, thick walls--it is the ruins of Stegeberg.
The coast is covered to a great extent with dark, melancholy forests,
which enclose small grass-grown valleys. The screaming sea-gulls fly
around our vessel; we are by the Baltic; we feel the fresh sea-breeze:
it blows as in the times of the ancient heroes, when the sea-kings,
sons of high-born fathers, exercised their deeds here. The same sea's
surface then appeared to them as now to us, with its numberless isles,
which lie strewed about here in the water by thousands along the whole
coast. The depth of water between the rocky isles and the solid land
is that we call "The Skjärgaards:" their waters flow into each other
with varying splendour. We see it in the sunshine, and it is like a
large English landscape garden; but the greensward plain is here the
deep sea, the flower-beds in it are rocks and reefs, rich in firs and
pines, oaks and bushes. Mark how, when the wind blows from the east,
and the sea breaks over sunken rocks and is dashed back again in spray
from the cliffs, your limbs feel--even through the ship on which you
stand--the power of the sea: you are lifted as if by supernatural
We rush on against wind and sea, as if it were the sea-god's snorting
horse that bore us; from Skjärgaard to Skjärgaard. The signal-gun is
fired, and the pilot comes from that solitary wooden house. Sometimes
we look upon the open sea, sometimes we glide again in between dark,
stony islands; they lie like gigantic monsters in the water: one has
the form of the tortoise's arched shell, another has the elephant's
back and rough grey colour. Mouldering, light grey rocks indicate that
the wind and weather past centuries has lashed over them.
We now approach larger rocky islands, and the huge, grey, broken rocks
of the main land, where dwarfish pine woods grow in a continual combat
with the blast; the Skjärgaards sometimes become only a narrow canal,
sometimes an extensive lake strewed with small islets, all of stone,
and often only a mere block of stone, to which a single little
fir-tree clings fast: screaming sea-gulls flutter around the
land-marks that are set up; and now we see a single farm-house, whose
red-painted sides shine forth from the dark background. A group of
cows lies basking in the sun on the stony surface, near a little
smiling pasture, which appears to have been cultivated here or cut out
of a meadow in Scania. How solitary must it not be to live on that
little island! Ask the boy who sits there by the cattle, he will be
able to tell us. "It is lively and merry here," says he. "The day is
so long and light, the seal sits out there on the stone and barks in
the early morning hour, and all the steamers from the canal must pass
here. I know them all; and when the sun goes down in the evening, it
is a whole history to look into the clouds over the land: there stand
mountains with palaces, in silver and in gold, in red and in blue;
sailing dragons with golden crowns, or an old giant with a beard down
to his waist--altogether of clouds, and they are always changing.
"The storms come on in the autumn, and then there is often much
anxiety when father is out to help ships in distress; but one becomes,
as it were, a new being.
"In winter the ice is locked fast and firm, and we drive from island
to island and to the main land; and if the bear or the wolf pays us a
visit we take his skin for a winter covering: it is warm in the room
there, and they read and tell stories about old times!"
Yes, old Time, how thou dost unfold thyself with remembrances of these
very Skjärgaards--old Time which belonged to the brave. These waters,
these rocky isles and strands, saw heroes more greatly active than
actively good: they swung the axe to give the mortal blow, or as they
called it, "the whining Jetteqvinde."[E]
[Footnote E: Giantess.]
Here came the Vikings with their ships: on the headland yonder they
levied provisions; the grazing cattle were slaughtered and borne away.
Ye mouldering cliffs, had ye but a tongue, ye might tell us about the
duels with the two-handed sword--about the deeds of the giants. Ye saw
the hero hew with the sword, and cast the javelin: his left hand was
as cunning as his right The sword moved so quickly in the air that
there seemed to be three. Ye saw him, when he in all his martial array
sprang forwards and backwards, higher than he himself was tall, and if
he sprang into the sea he swam like a whale. Ye saw the two
combatants: the one darted his javelin, the other caught it in the
air, and cast it back again, so that it pierced through shield and man
down into the earth. Ye saw warriors with sharp swords and angry
hearts; the sword was struck downwards so as to cut the knee, out the
combatant sprang into the air, and the sword whizzed under his feet.
Mighty Sagas from the olden times! Mouldering rocks, could ye but tell
us of these things!
Ye, deep waters, bore the Vikings' ships, and when the strong in
battle lifted the iron anchor and cast it against the enemy's vessel,
so that the planks were rent asunder, ye poured your dark heavy seas
into the hold, so that the bark sank. The wild _Berserk_ who with
naked breast stood against his enemy's blows, mad as a dog, howling
like a bear, tearing his shield asunder, rushing to the bottom of the
sea here, and fetching up stones, which ordinary men could not
raise--history peoples these waters, these cliffs for us! A future
poet will conjure them to this Scandinavian Archipelago, chisel the
true forms out of the old Sagas, the bold, the rude, the greatness and
imperfections of the time, in their habits as they lived.
They rise again for us on yonder island, where the wind is whistling
through the young fir wood. The house is of beams, roofed with bark;
the smoke from the fire on the broad stone in the hall, whirls through
the air-hole, near which stands the cask of mead; the cushions lie on
the bench before the closed bedsteads; deer-skins hang over the balk
walls, ornamented with shields, helmets, and armour. Effigies of gods,
carved, on wooden poles, stand before the high seat where the noble
Viking sits, a high-born father's youngest son, great in fame, but
still greater in deeds; the skjalds (bards) and foster-brothers sit
nearest to him. They defended the coasts of their countrymen, and the
pious women; they fetched wheat and honey from England, they went to
the White Sea for sables and furs--their adventures are related in
song. We see the old man ride in rich clothing, with gloves sewn with
golden thread, and with a hat brought from Garderige; we see the youth
with a golden fillet around his brow; we see him at the _Thing_; we
see him in battle and in play, where the best is he that can cut off
the other's eyebrows without scratching the skin, or causing a wink
with the eyes, on pain of losing his station. The woman sits in the
log-house at her loom, and in the late moonlight nights the spirits of
the fallen come and sit down around the fire, where they shake the
wet, dripping clothes; but the serf sleeps in the ashes, and on the
kitchen bench, and dreams that he dips his bread in the fat soup, and
licks his fingers.
Thou future poet, thou wilt call forth the vanished forms from the
Sagas, thou wilt people these islands, and let us glide past these
reminiscences of the olden time with the mind full of them; clearly
and truly wilt thou let us glide, as we now with the power of steam
fly past that firmly standing scenery, the swelling sea, rocks and
reefs, the main land, and wood-grown islands.
We are already past Braavigen, where numberless ships from the
northern kingdoms lay, when Upsala's King, Sigurd Ring, came,
challenged by Harald Hildetand, who, old and grey, feared to die on a
sick bed, and would fall in battle; and the mainland thundered like
the plains of Marathon beneath the tramp of horses' hoofs during the
battle:[F] bards and female warriors surrounded the Danish King. The
blind old man raised himself high in his chariot, gave his horse free
rein, and hewed his way. Odin himself had due reverence paid to
Hildetand's bones; and the pile was kindled, and the King laid on it,
and Sigurd conjured all to cast gold and weapons, the most valuable
they possessed, into the fire; and the bards sang to it, and the
female warriors struck the spears on the bright shields. Upsala's
Lord, Sigurd Ring, became King of Sweden and Denmark: so says the
Saga, which sounded over the land and water from these coasts.
[Footnote F: The battle of Braavalla.]
The memorials of olden times pass swiftly through our thoughts; we fly
past the scene of manly exercises and great deeds in the olden
times--the ship cleaves the mighty waters with its iron paddles, from
Skjärgaard to Skjärgaard.
* * * * *
We cast runes[G] here on the paper, and from the white ground the
picture of Birger Jarl's six hundred years old city rises before thee.
[Footnote G: "To cast runes" was, in the olden time, to exercise
witchcraft. When the apple, with ciphers cut in it, rolled into the
maiden's lap, her heart and mind were infatuated.]
The runes roll, you see! Wood-grown rocky isles appear in the light,
grey morning mist; numberless flocks of wild birds build their nests
in safety here, where the fresh waters of the Mälaren rush into the
salt sea. The Viking's ship comes; King Agna stands by the prow--he
brings as booty the King of Finland's daughter. The oak-tree spreads
its branches over their bridal chamber; at daybreak the oak-tree bears
King Agna, hanged in his long golden chain: that is the bride's work,
and the ship sails away again with her and the rescued Fins.
The clouds drive past--the years too.
Hunters and fishermen erect themselves huts;--it is again deserted
here, where the sea-birds alone have their homes. What is it that so
frightens these numberless flocks? the wild duck and sea-gull fly
screaming about, there is a hammering and driving of piles. Oluf
Skötkonge has large beams bored down into the ground, and strong iron
chains fastened across the stream: "Thou art caught, Oluf
Haraldson,[H] caught with the ships and crews, with which thou didst
devastate the royal city Sigtuna; thou canst not escape from the
closed Mälar lake!"
[Footnote H: Afterwards called Saint Oluf.]
It is but the work of one night; the same night when Oluf Hakonson,
with iron and with fire, burst his onward way through the stubborn
ground; before the day breaks the waters of the Mälar roll there; the
Norwegian prince, Oluf sailed through the royal channel he had cut in
the east. The stockades, where the iron chains hang, must bear the
defences; the citizens from the burnt-down Sigtuna erect themselves a
bulwark here, and build their new, little town on stock-holms.[I]
[Footnote I: Stock, signifies bulks, or beams; holms, i.e. islets,
or river islands; hence Stockholm.]
The clouds go, and the years go! Do you see how the gables grow? there
rise towers and forts. Birger Jarl makes the town of Stockholm a
fortress; the warders stand with bow and arrow on the walls,
reconnoitring over lake and fjord, over Brunkaberg sand-ridge. There
were the sand-ridge slopes upwards from Rörstrand's Lake they build
Clara cloister, and between it and the town a street springs up:
several more appear; they form an extensive city, which soon becomes
the place of contest for different partisans, where Ladelaas's sons
plant the banner, and where the German Albrecht's retainers burn the
Swedes alive within its walls. Stockholm is, however, the heart of the
kingdom: that the Danes know well; that the Swedes know too, and there
is strife and bloody combating. Blood flows by the executioner's hand,
Denmark's Christian the Second, Sweden's executioner, stands in the
Roll, ye runes! see over Brunkaberg sand-ridge, where the Swedish
people conquered the Danish host, there they raise the May-pole: it is
midsummer-eve--Gustavus Vasa makes his entry into Stockholm.
Around the May-pole there grow fruit and kitchen-gardens, houses and
streets; they vanish in flames, they rise again; that gloomy fortress
towards the tower is transformed into a palace, and the city stands
magnificently with towers and draw-bridges. There grows a town by
itself on the sand-ridge, a third springs up on the rock towards the
south; the old walls fall at Gustavus Adolphus's command; the three
towns are one, large and extensive, picturesquely varied with old
stone houses, wooden shops, and grass-roofed huts; the sun shines on
the brass balls of the towers, and a forest of masts stands in that
Rays of beauty shoot forth into the world from Versailles' painted
divinity; they reach the Mälar's strand into Tessin's[J] palace, where
art and science are invited as guests with the King, Gustavus the
Third, whose effigy cast in bronze is raised on the strand before the
splendid palace--it is in our times. The acacia shades the palace's
high terrace on whose broad balustrades flowers send forth their
perfume from Saxon porcelain; variegated silk curtains hang half-way
down before the large glass windows; the floors are polished smooth as
a mirror, and under the arch yonder, where the roses grow by the wall,
the Endymion of Greece lives eternally in marble. As a guard of honour
here, stand Fogelberg's Odin, and Sergei's Amor and Psyche.
[Footnote J: The architect Tessin.]
We now descend the broad, royal staircase, and before it, where, in
by-gone times, Oluf Skötkonge stretched the iron chains across the
mouth of the Mälar Lake, there is now a splendid bridge with shops
above and the Streamparterre below: there we see the little steamer
'Nocken,'[K] steering its way, filled with passengers from Diurgarden
to the Streamparterre. And what is the Streamparterre? The Neapolitans
would tell us: It is in miniature--quite in miniature--the
Stockholmers' "Villa Reale." The Hamburgers would say: It is in
miniature--quite in miniature--the Stockholmers' "Jungfernstieg."
[Footnote K: The water-sprite.]
It is a very little semi-circular island, on which the arches of the
bridge rest; a garden full of flowers and trees, which we overlook
from the high parapet of the bridge. Ladies and gentlemen promenade
there; musicians play, families sit there in groups, and take
refreshments in the vaulted halls under the bridge, and look out
between the green trees over the open water, to the houses and
mansions, and also to the woods and rocks: we forget that we are in
the midst of the city.
It is the bridge here that unites Stockholm with Nordmalen, where the
greatest part of the fashionable world live, in two long Berlin-like
streets; yet amongst all the great houses we will only visit one, and
that is the theatre.
We will go on the stage itself--it has an historical signification.
Here, by the third side-scene from the stage-lights, to the right, as
we look down towards the audience, Gustavus the Third was assassinated
at a masquerade; and he was borne into that little chamber there,
close by the scene, whilst all the outlets were closed, and the motley
group of harlequins, polichinellos, wild men, gods and goddesses with
unmasked faces, pale and terrified crept together; the dancing
ballet-farce had become a real tragedy.
This theatre is Jenny Lind's childhood's home. Here she has sung in
the choruses when a little girl; here she first made her appearance in
public, and was cheeringly encouraged when a child; here, poor and
sorrowful, she has shed tears, when her voice left her, and sent up
pious prayers to her Maker. From hence the world's nightingale flew
out over distant lands, and proclaimed the purity and holiness of art.
How beautiful it is to look out from the window up here, to look over
the water and the Streamparterre to that great, magnificent palace, to
Ladegaards land, with the large barracks, to Skipholmen and the rocks
that rise straight up from the water, with Södermalm's gardens,
villas, streets, and church cupolas between the green trees: the ships
lie there together, so many and so close, with their waving flags. The
beautiful, that a poet's eye sees, the world may also see! Roll, ye
There sketches the whole varied prospect; a rainbow extends its arch
like a frame around it. Only see! it is sunset, the sky becomes
cloudy over Södermalm, the grey sky becomes darker and darker--a
pitch-dark ground--and on it rests a double rainbow. The houses are
illumined by so strong a sunlight that the walls seem transparent;
the linden-trees in the gardens, which have lately put forth their
leaves, appear like fresh, young woods; the long, narrow windows in
the Gothic buildings on the island shine as if it were a festal
illumination, and between the dark firs there falls a lustre from the
panes behind them as of a thousand flames, as if the trees were
covered with flickering--Christmas lights; the colours of the rainbow
become stronger and stronger, the background darker and darker, and
the white sun-lit sea-gulls fly past.
The rainbow has placed one foot high up on Södermalm's churchyard.
Where the rainbow touches the earth, there lie treasures buried, is a
popular belief here. The rainbow rests on a grave up there: Stagnalius
rests here, Sweden's most gifted singer, so young and so unhappy; and
in the same grave lies Nicander, he who sang about King Enzio, and of
"Lejonet i Oken;"[L] who sang with a bleeding heart: the fresh
vine-leaf cooled the wound and killed the singer. Peace be with his
dust--may his songs live for ever! We go to your grave where the
rainbow points. The view from here is splendid. The houses rise
terrace-like in the steep, paved streets; the foot-passengers can,
however, shorten the way by going through narrow lanes, and up steps
made of thick beams, and always with a prospect downwards of the
water, of the rocks and green trees! It is delightful to dwell here,
it is healthy to dwell here, but it is not genteel, as it is by
Brunkaberg's sand-ridge, yet it will become so: Stockholm's "Strada
Balbi" will one day arise on Södermalm's rocky ground.
[Footnote L: "The Lion in the desert;" i.e. Napoleon.]
We stand up here. What other city in the world has a better prospect
over the salt fjord, over the fresh lake, over towers, cupolas,
heaped-up houses, and a palace, which King Enzio himself might have
built, and round about the dark, gloomy forests with oaks, pines and
firs, so Scandinavian, dreaming in the declining sun? It is twilight;
the night comes on, the lamps are lighted in the city below, the stars
are kindled in the firmament above, and the tower of Redderholm's
church rises aloft towards the starry space. The stars shine through
there; it is as if cut in lace, but every thread is of cast-iron and
of the thickness of beams.
We go down there, and in there, in the stilly eve.--A world of spirits
reigns within. See, in the vaulted isles, on carved wooden horses,
sits armour, that was once borne by Magnus Ladelaas, Christian the
Second, and Charles the Ninth. A thousand flags that once waved to the
peal of music and the clang of arms, to the darted javelin and the
cannon's roar, moulder away here: they hang in long rags from the
staff, and the staves lie cast aside, where the flag has long since
become dust. Almost all the Kings of Sweden slumber in silver and
copper coffins within these walls. From the altar aisle we look
through the open-grated door, in between piled-up drums and hanging
flags: here is preserved a bloody tunic, and in the coffin are the
remains of Gustavus Adolphus. Who is that dead opposite neighbour in
the chapel, across there in the other side-aisle of the church? There,
below a glass lid, lies a dress shot through, and on the floor stands
a pair of long, thick boots--they belonged to the hero-King, the
wanderer, Charles XII., whose realm is now this narrow coffin.
How sacred it is here under this vaulted roof! The mightiest men of
centuries are gathered together here, perishable as these moth-eaten
flags--mute and yet so eloquent. And without there is life and
activity: the world goes on in its old course; generations change in
the old houses; the houses change--yet Stockholm is always the heart
of Sweden, Birger's city, whose features are continually renewed,
* * * * *
Diurgaerden is a large piece of land made into a garden by our Lord
himself. Come with us over there. We are still in the city, but before
the palace lie the broad hewn stone stairs, leading down to the water,
where the Dalkulls--i.e., the Dalecarlian women--stand and ring with
metal bells. On board! here are boats enough to choose amongst, all
with wheels, which the Dalkulls turn. In coarse white linen, red
stockings, with green heels, and singularly thick-soled shoes, with
the upper-leather right up the shin-bone, stands the Dalkull; she has
ornamented the boat, that now shoots away, with green branches. Houses
and streets rise and unfold themselves; churches and gardens start
forth; they stand on Södermalm high above the tops of the ships'
masts. The scenery reminds one of the Bhosphorus and Pera; the motley
dress of the Dalkulls is quite Oriental--and listen! the wind bears
melancholy Skalmeie tones out to us. Two poor Dalecarlians are playing
music on the quay; they are the same drawn-out, melancholy tones that
are played by the Bulgarian musicians in the streets of Pera. We stept
out, and are in the Diurgarden.
What a crowd of equipages pass in rows through the broad avenue! and
what a throng of well-dressed pedestrians of all classes! One thinks
of the garden of the Villa Borghese, when, at the time of the wine
feast, the Roman people and strangers take the air there. We are in
the Borghese garden; we are by the Bosphorus, and yet far in the
North. The pine-tree rises large and free; the birch droops its
branches, as the weeping willow alone has power to do--and what
magnificently grand oaks! The pine-trees themselves are mighty trees,
beautiful to the painter's eye; splendid green grass plains lie
stretched before us, and the fiord rolls its green, deep waters close
past, as if it were a river. Large ships with swelling sails, the one
high above the other, steamers and boats, come and go in varied
Come! let us up to Byström's villa; it lies on the stony cliff up
there, where the large oak-trees stand in their stubborn grandeur: we
see from here the whole tripartite city, Södermalm, Nordmalm and the
island with that huge palace. It is delightful, the building here on
this rock, and the building stands, and that almost entirely of
marble, a "Casa santa d'Italia," as if borne through the air here in
the North. The walls within are painted in the Pompeian style, but
heavy: there is nothing genial. Round about stand large marble figures
by Byström, which have not, however, the soul of antiquity. Madonna is
encumbered by her heavy marble drapery, the girl with the
flower-garland is an ugly young thing, and on seeing Hero with the
weeping Cupid, one thinks of a _pose_ arranged by a ballet-master.
Let us, however, see what is pretty. The little Cupid-seller is
pretty, and the stone is made as flexible as life in the waists of the
bathing-women. One of them, as she steps out, feels the water with her
feet, and we feel, with her, a sensation that the water is cold. The
coolness of the marble-hall realizes this feeling. Let us go out into
the sunshine, and up to the neighbouring cliff, which rises above the
mansions and houses. Here the wild roses shoot forth from the crevices
in the rock; the sunbeams fall prettily between the splendid pines and
the graceful birches, upon the high grass before the colossal bronze
bust of Bellmann. This place was the favourite one of that
Scandinavian improvisatore. Here he lay in the grass, composed and
sang his anacreontic songs, and here, in the summer-time, his annual
festival is held. We will raise his altar here in the red evening
sunlight. It is a flaming bowl, raised high on the jolly tun, and it
is wreathed with roses. Morits tries his hunting-horn, that which was
Oberon's horn in the inn-parlour, and everything danced, from Ulla to
"Mutter paa Toppen:"[M] they stamped with their feet and clapped their
hands, and clinked the pewter lid of the ale-tankard; "hej kara Sjæl!
fukta din aske!" (Hey! dear soul! moisten your clay).
[Footnote M: The landlady of an alehouse.]
A Teniers' picture became animated, and still lives in song. Morits
blows the horn on Bellmann's place around the flowing bowl, and whole
crowds dance in a circle, young and old; the carriages too, horses and
waggons, filled bottles and clattering tankards: the Bellmann
dithyrambic clangs melodiously; humour and low life, sadness--and
amongst others, about
"----hur ögat gret
Ved de Cypresser, som ströddes."[N]
[Footnote N: How the eyes wept by the cypresses that were strewn
Painter, seize thy brush and palette and paint the Maenade--but not
her who treads the winebag, whilst her hair flutters in the wind, and
she sings ecstatic songs. No, but the Maenade that ascends from
Bellmann's steaming bowl is the Punch's Anadyomene--she, with the high
heels to the red shoes, with rosettes on her gown and with fluttering
veil and mantilla--fluttering, far too fluttering! She plucks the rose
of poetry from her breast and sets it in the ale-can's spout; clinks
with the lid, sings about the clang of the hunting horn, about
breeches and old shoes and all manner of stuff. Yet we are sensible
that he is a true poet; we see two human eyes shining, that announce
to us the human heart's sadness and hope.
* * * * *
All the apple-trees in the garden had sprung out. They had made haste
to get blossoms before they got green leaves; and all the ducklings
were out in the yard--and the cat too! He was, so to speak, permeated
by the sunshine; he licked it from his own paws; and if one looked
towards the fields, one saw the corn standing so charmingly green! And
there was such a twittering and chirping amongst all the small birds,
just as if it were a great feast. And that one might indeed say it
was, for it was Sunday. The bells rang, and people in their best
clothes went to church, and looked so pleased. Yes, there was
something so pleasant in everything: it was indeed so fine and warm a
day, that one might well say: "Our Lord is certainly unspeakably good
towards us poor mortals!"
But the clergyman stood in the pulpit in the church, and spoke so loud
and so angrily! He said that mankind was so wicked, and that God would
punish them for it, and that when they died, the wicked went down into
hell, where they would burn for ever; and he said that their worm
would never die, and their fire never be extinguished, nor would they
ever get rest and peace!
It was terrible to hear, and he said it so determinedly. He described
hell to them as a pestilential hole, where all the filthiness of the
world flowed together. There was no air except the hot, sulphurous
flames; there was no bottom; they sank and sank into everlasting
silence! It was terrible, only to hear about it; but the clergyman
said it right honestly out of his heart, and all the people in the
church were quite terrified. But all the little birds outside the
church sang so pleasantly, and so pleased, and the sun shone so
warm:--it was as if every little flower said: "God is so wondrous good
to us altogether!" Yes, outside it was not at all as the clergyman
In the evening, when it was bed-time, the clergyman saw his wife sit
so still and thoughtful.
"What ails you?" said he to her.
"What ails me?" she replied; "what ails me is, that I cannot collect
my thoughts rightly--that I cannot rightly understand what you said;
that there were so many wicked, and that they should burn
eternally!--eternally, alas, how long! I am but a sinful being; but I
could not bear the thought in my heart to allow even the worst sinner
to burn for ever. And how then should our Lord permit it? he who is so
wondrously good, and who knows how evil comes both from without and
within. No, I cannot believe it, though you say it."
* * * * *
It was autumn. The leaves fell from the trees; the grave, severe
clergyman sat by the bedside of a dying person; a pious believer
closed her eyes--it was the clergyman's own wife.
"If any one find peace in the grave, and grace from God, then it is
thou," said the clergyman, and he folded her hands, and read a psalm
over the dead body.
And she was borne to the grave: two heavy tears trickled down that
stern man's cheeks; and it was still and vacant in the parsonage; the
sunshine within was extinguished:--she was gone.
It was night. A cold wind blew over the clergyman's head; he opened
his eyes, and it was just as if the moon shone into his room. But the
moon did not shine. It was a figure which stood before his bed--he saw
the spirit of his deceased wife. She looked on him so singularly
afflicted; it seemed as though she would say something.
The man raised himself half erect in bed, and stretched his arms out
"Not even to thee is granted everlasting peace. Thou dost suffer;
thou, the best, the most pious!"
And the dead bent her head in confirmation of his words, and laid her
hand on her breast.
"And can I procure you peace in the grave?"
"Yes!" it sounded in his ear.
"Give me a hair, but a single hair of the head of that sinner, whose
fire will never be quenched; that sinner whom God will cast down into
hell, to everlasting torment."
"Yes; so easily thou canst be liberated, thou pure, thou pious one!"
"Then follow me," said the dead; "it is so granted us. Thou canst be
by my side, wheresoever thy thoughts will. Invisible to mankind, we
stand in their most secret places; but thou must point with a sure
hand to the one destined to eternal punishment, and ere the cock crow
he must be found."
And swift, as if borne on the wings of thought, they were in the great
city, and the names of the dying sinners shone from the walls of the
houses in letters of fire: "Arrogance, Avarice, Drunkenness,
Voluptuousness;" in short, sin's whole seven-coloured arch.
"Yes, in there, as I thought it, as I knew it," said the clergyman,
"are housed those condemned to eternal fire."
And they stood before the splendidly-illumined portico, where the
broad stairs were covered with carpets and flowers, and the music of
the dance sounded through the festal saloons. The porter stood there
in silk and velvet, with a large silver-headed stick.
"_Our_ ball can match with the King's," said he, and turned towards
the crowd in the street--his magnificent thoughts were visible in his
whole person. "Poor devils! who stare in at the portico, you are
altogether ragamuffins, compared to me!"
"Arrogance," said the dead; "dost thou see him?"
"Him!" repeated the clergyman; "he is a simpleton--a fool only, and
will not be condemned to eternal fire and torment."
"A fool only," sounded through the whole house of Arrogance.
And they flew into the four bare walls of Avarice, where skinny,
meagre, shivering with cold, hungry and thirsty, the old man clung
fast with all his thoughts to his gold. They saw how he, as in a
fever, sprang from his wretched pallet, and took a loose stone out of
the wall. There lay gold coins in a stocking-foot; he fumbled at his
ragged tunic, in which gold coins were sewed fast, and his moist
"He is ill: it is insanity; encircled by fear and evil dreams."
And they flew away in haste, and stood by the criminals' wooden couch,
where they slept side by side in long rows. One of them started up
from his sleep like a wild animal, and uttered a hideous scream: he
struck his companion with his sharp elbow, and the latter turned
"Hold your tongue, you beast, and sleep! this is your way every night!
Every night!" he repeated; "yes, you come every night, howling and
choking me! I have done one thing or another in a passion; I was born
with a passionate temper, and it has brought me in here a second time;
but if I have done wrong, so have I also got my punishment. But one
thing I have not confessed. When I last went out from here, and passed
by my master's farm, one thing and another boiled up in me, and I
directly stroked a lucifer against the wall: it came a little too near
the thatch, and everything was burnt--hot-headedness came over it,
just as it comes over me, I helped to save the cattle and furniture.
Nothing living was burnt, except a flock of pigeons: they flew into
the flames, and the yard dog. I had not thought of the dog. I could
hear it howl, and that howl I always hear yet, when I would sleep; and
if I do get to sleep, the dog comes also--so large and hairy! He lies
down on me, howls, and strangles me! Do but hear what I am telling
you. Snore--yes, that you can--snore the whole night through, and I
not even a quarter of an hour!"
And the blood shone from the eyes of the fiery one; he fell on his
companion, and struck him in the face with his clenched fist.
"Angry Mads has become mad again!" resounded on all sides, and the
other rascals seized hold of him, wrestled with him, and bent him
double, so that his head was forced between his legs, where they bound
it fast, so that the blood was nearly springing out of his eyes, and
all the pores.
"You will kill him!" said the clergyman,--"poor unfortunate!" and as
he stretched his hands out over him, who had already suffered too
severely, in order to prevent further mischief, the scene changed.
They flew through rich halls, and through poor chambers;
voluptuousness and envy, all mortal sins strode past them. A recording
angel read their sin and their defence; this was assuredly little for
God, for God reads the heart; He knows perfectly the evil that comes
within it and from without, He, grace, all-loving kindness. The hand
of the clergyman trembled: he did not venture to stretch it out, to
pluck a hair from the sinner's head. And the tears streamed down from
his eyes, like the waters of _grace_ and love, which quenched the
eternal fire of hell.
The cock then crowed.
"Merciful God! Thou wilt grant her that peace in the grave which I
have not been able to redeem."
"That I now have!" said the dead; "it was thy hard words, thy dark,
human belief of God and his creatures, which drove me to thee! Learn
to know mankind; even in the bad there is a part of God--a part that
will conquer and quench the fire of hell."
And a kiss was pressed on the clergyman's lips:--it shone around him.
God's clear, bright sun shone into the chamber, where his wife,
living, mild, and affectionate, awoke him from a dream, sent from God!
* * * * *
It is commonly said, that Memory is a young girl with light blue eyes.
Most poets say so; but we cannot always agree with most poets. To us
memory comes in quite different forms, all according to that land, or
that town to which she belongs. Italy sends her as a charming Mignon,
with black eyes and a melancholy smile, singing Bellini's soft,
touching songs. From Scotland Memory's sprite appears as a powerful
lad with bare knees; the plaid hangs over his shoulder, the
thistle-flower is fixed on his cap; Burns's songs then fill the air
like the heath-lark's song, and Scotland's wild thistle flowers
beautifully fragrant as the fresh rose. But now for Memory's sprite
from Sweden, from Upsala. He comes thence in the form of a student--at
least, he wears the Upsala student's white cap with the black rim. To
us it points out its home, as the Phrygian cap denotes Ganymede.
It was in the year 1843, that the Danish students travelled to Upsala.
Young hearts met together; eyes sparkled: they laughed, they sang.
Young hearts are the future--the conquering future--in the beautiful,
true and good; it is so good that brothers should know and love each
other. Friendship's meeting is still annually remembered in the
palace-yard of Upsala, before the monument of Gustavus Vasa--by the
hurra! for Denmark, in warm-hearted compliment to me.
Two summers afterwards, the visit was returned. The Swedish students
came to Copenhagen, and that they might there be known amongst the
multitude, the Upsala students wore a white cap with a black rim: this
cap is accordingly a memorial,--the sign of friendship's bridge over
that river of blood which once flowed between kindred nations. When
one meets in heart and spirit, a blissful seed is then sown. Memory's
sprite, come to us! we know thee by the cap from Upsala: be thou our
guide, and from our more southern home, after years and days, we will
make the voyage over again, quicker than if we flew in Doctor Faustus'
magic cloak. We are in Stockholm: we stand on the Ridderholm where the
steamers lie alongside the bulwarks: one of them sends forth clouds of
thick smoke from its chimney; the deck is crowded with passengers, and
the white cap with the black rim is not wanting.
We are off to Upsala; the paddles strike the waters of the Mälar, and
we shoot away from the picturesque city of Stockholm. The whole
voyage, direct to Upsala, is a kaleidescope on a large scale. It is
true, there is nothing of the magical in the scenery, but landscape
gives place to landscape, and clouds and sunshine refresh their
variegated beauty. The Mälar lake curves, is compressed, and widens
again: it is as if one passed from lake to lake through narrow canals
and broad rivers. Sometimes it appears as if the lake ended in small
rivulets between dark pines and rocks, when suddenly another large
lake, surrounded by corn fields and meadows, opens itself to view: the
light-green linden trees, which have just unfolded their leaves, shine
forth before the dark grey rocks. Again a new lake opens before us,
with islets, trees and red painted houses, and during the whole voyage
there is a lively arrival and departure of passengers, in flat
bottomed boats, which are nearly upset in the billowy wake of the
It appears most dangerous opposite to Sigtuna, Sweden's old royal
city: the lake is broad here; the waves rise as if they were the
waters of the ocean; the boats rock--it is fearful to look at! But
here there must be a calm; and Sigtuna, that little interesting town
where the old towers stand in ruins, like outposts along the rocks,
reflects itself in the water.
We fly past! and now we are in Tyris rivulet! Part of a meadow is
flooded; a herd of horses become shy from the snorting of the
steamer's engine; they dash through the water in the meadow, and it
spurts up all over them. It glitters there between the trees on the
declivity: the Upsala students lie encamped there, and exercise
themselves in the use of arms.
The rivulet forms a bay, and the high plain extends itself. We see old
Upsala's hills; we see Upsala's city with its church, which, like
Notre Dame, raises its stony arms towards heaven. The university rises
to the view, in appearance half palace and half barracks, and there
aloft, on the greensward-clothed bank, stands the old red-painted huge
palace with its towers.
We stop at the bulwark near the arched bridge, and so go on shore.
Whither wilt thou conduct us first, thou our guide with the
white-and-black student's cap? Shall we go up to the palace, or to
Linnaeus's garden! or shall we go to the church-yard where the nettles
grow over Geier's and Törnro's graves? No, but to the young and the
living Upsala's life--the students. Thou tellest us about them; we
hear the heart's pulsations, and our hearts beat in sympathy!
In the first year of the war between Denmark and the insurgents, many
a brave Upsala student left his quiet, comfortable home, and entered
the ranks with his Danish brothers. The Upsala students gave up their
most joyous festival--the May-day festival--and the money they at
other times used to contribute annually towards the celebration
thereof, they sent to the Danes, after the sum had been increased by
concerts which were given in Stockholm and Vesteraas. That
circumstance will not be forgotten in Denmark.
Upsala student, thou art dear to us by thy disposition! thou art dear
to us from thy lively jests! We will mention a trait thereof. In
Upsala, it had become the fashion to be Hegelianers--that is to say,
always to interweave Hegel's philosophical terms in conversation. In
order to put down this practice, a few clever fellows took upon
themselves the task of hammering some of the most difficult technical
words into the memory of a humorous and commonly drunken country
innkeeper, at whose house many a _Sexa_ was often held; and the man
spoke Hegelianic in his mellow hours, and the effect was so absurd,
that the employment of philosophical scraps in his speech was
ridiculed, understood, and the nuisance abandoned.
Beautiful songs resound as we approach: we hear Swedish, Norwegian and
Danish. The melody's varied beacon makes known to us where Upsala's
students are assembled. The song proceeds from the assembly-room--from
the tavern saloon, and like serenades in the silent evening, when a
young friend departs, or a dear guest is honoured. Glorious melodies!
ye enthral, so that we forget that the sun goes down, and the moon
"Herre min Gud hvad din Månen lyser
Se, hvilken Glands ut ofver Land och Stad!"
is now sung, and we see:
"Högt opp i Slottet hvarenda ruta
Blixtrar some vore den en ädelsten."[O]
[Footnote O: Lord, my God, how Thy moon shines! See what lustre over
land and city! High up in the palace every pane glistens as if it
were a gem.]
Up thither then is our way! lead us, memory's sprite, into the palace,
the courteous governor of Upland's dwelling; mild glances greet us; we
see dear beings in a happy circle, and all the leading characters of
Upsala. We again see him whose cunning quickened our perceptions as to
the mysteries of vegetable life, so that even the toad-stool is
unveiled to us as a building more artfully constructed than the
labyrinths of the olden time. We see "The Flowers'" singer, he who led
us to "The Island of Bliss;" we meet with him whose popular lays are
borne on melodies into the world; his wife by his side. That quiet,
gentle woman with those faithful eyes is the daughter of Frithiof's
bard; we see noble men and women, ladies of the high nobility, with
sounding and significant family names with _silver_ and
_lilies_,--_stars_ and _swords_.
Hark! listen to that lively song. Gunnar Wennerberg, Gluntarra's poet
and composer, sings his songs with Boronees,[P] and they acquire a
dramatic life and reality.
[Footnote P: Gluntarra duets, by Gunnar Wennerberg.]
How spiritual and enjoyable! one becomes happy here, one feels proud
of the age one lives in, happy in being distant from the horrible
tragedies that history speaks of within these walls.
We can hear about them when the song is silent, when those friendly
forms disappear, and the festal lights are extinguished: from the
pages of history that tale resounds with a clang of horror. It was in
those times, which the many still call poetic--the romantic middle
ages--that bards sang of its most brilliant periods, and covered with
the radiance of their genius the sanguinary gulf of brutality and
superstition. Terror seizes us in Upsala's palace: we stand in the
vaulted hall, the wax tapers burn from the walls, and King Erik the
Fourteenth sits with Saul's dark despondency, with Cain's wild looks.
Niels Sture occupies his thoughts, the recollection of injustice
exercised against him lashes his conscience with scourges and
scorpions, as deadly terrible as they are revealed to us in the page
King Erik the Fourteenth, whose gloomy distrust often amounted to
insanity, thought that the nobility aimed at his life. His favourite,
Goran Persson, found it to his advantage to strengthen him in this
belief. He hated most the popularly favoured race of the Stures, and
of them, the light-haired Niels Sture in particular; for Erik thought
that he had read in the stars that a man with light hair should hurl
him from the throne; and as the Swedish General after the lost battle
of Svarteaa, laid the blame on Niels Sture, Erik directly believed it,
yet dared not to act as he desired, but even gave Niels Sture royal
presents. Yet because he was again accused by one single person of
having checked the advance of the Swedish army at Bähüs, Erik invited
him to his palace at Svartsjö, gave him an honourable place at his
royal table, and let him depart in apparent good faith for Stockholm,
where, on his arrival, the heralds were ordered to proclaim in the
streets: "Niels Sture is a traitor to his country!"
There Goran Persson and the German retainers seized him, and sat him
by force on the executioner's most miserable hack; struck him in the
face so that the blood streamed down, placed a tarred straw crown on
his head, and fastened a paper with derisive words, on the saddle
before him. They then let a row of hired beggar-boys and old
fish-wives go in couples before, and to the tail of the horse they
bound two fir-trees, the roots of which dragged on the ground and
swept the street after the traitor. Niels Sture exclaimed that he had
not deserved this treatment from his King and he begged the groom, who
went by his side, and had served him in the field of battle, to attest
the truth like an honest man; when they all shouted aloud, that he
suffered innocently, and had acted like a true Swede. But the
procession was driven forward through the streets without stopping,
and at night Niels Sture was conducted to prison.
King Erik sits in his royal palace: he orders the torches and candles
to be lighted, but they are of no avail--his thoughts' scorpions sting
"I have again liberated Niels Sture," he mutters; "I have had placards
put up at every street-corner, and let the heralds proclaim that no
one shall dare to speak otherwise than well of Niels Sture! I have
sent him on an honourable mission to a foreign court, in order to sue
for me in marriage! He has had reparation enough made to him; but
never will he, nor his mighty race, forget the derision and shame I
have made him suffer. They will all betray me--kill me!"
And King Erik commands that all Sture's kindred shall be made
King Erik sits in his royal palace: the sun shines, but not into the
King's heart. Niels Sture enters the chamber with an answer of consent
from the royal bride, and the King shakes him by the hand, making fair
promises--and the following evening Niels Sture is a prisoner in
King Erik's gloomy mind is disturbed; he has no rest; he has no peace,
between fear and distrust. He hurries away to Upsala Palace; he will
make all straight and just again by marrying Niels Sture's sister.
Kneeling, he begs her imprisoned father's consent, and obtains it; but
in the very moment, the spirit of distrust is again upon him, and he
cries in his insanity:
"But you will not forgive me the shame I brought on Niels!"
At the same time, Goran Persson announced that King Erik's brother,
John, had escaped from his prison, and that a revolt was breaking out.
And Erik ran, with a sharp dagger into Niels Sture's prison.
"Art thou there, traitor to thy country!" he shouted, and thrust the
dagger into Shire's arm; and Sture drew it out again, wiped off the
blood, kissed the hilt, and returned the weapon to the King, saying:
"Be lenient with me, Sire; I have not deserved your disfavour."
Erik laughed aloud.
"Ho! ho! do but hear the villain! how he can pray for himself!"
And the King's halberdier stuck his lance through Niels Sture's eye,
and thus gave him his death. Sture's blood cleaves to Upsala
Palace--to King Erik always and everlastingly. No church masses can
absolve his soul from that base crime.
Let us now go to the church.
A little flight of stairs in the side aisle leads us up to a vaulted
chamber, where kings' crowns and sceptres, taken from the coffins of
the dead, are deposited in wooden closets. Here, in the corner, hangs
Niels Sture's blood-covered clothes and knight's hat, on the outside
of which a small silk glove is fastened. It was his betrothed one's
dainty glove--that which he, knight-like, always bore.
O, barbarous era! highly vaunted as you are in song, retreat, like the
storm-cloud, and be poetically beautiful to all who do not see thee in
thy true light.
We descend from the little chamber, from the gold and silver of the
dead, and wander in the church's aisles. The cold marble tombs, with
shields of arms and names, awaken other, milder thoughts.
The walls shine brightly, and with varied hues, in the great chapel
behind the high altar. The fresco paintings present to us the most
eventful circumstances of Gustavus Vasa's life. Here his clay
moulders, with that of his three consorts. Yonder, a work in marble,
by Sargel, solicits our attention: it adorns the burial-chapel of the
De Geers; and here, in the centre aisle, under that flat stone, rests
Linnaeus. In the side chapel, is his monument, erected by _amici_ and
_discipuli_: a sufficient sum was quickly raised for its erection, and
the King, Gustavus the Third, himself brought his royal gift. The
projector of the subscription then explained to him, that the purposed
inscription was, that the monument was erected only by friends and
disciples, and King Gustavus answered: "And am not I also one of
The monument was raised, and a hall built in the botanical garden,
under splendid trees. There stands his bust; but the remembrance of
himself, his home, his own little garden--where is it most vivid? Lead
On yonder side of Fyri's rivulet, where the street forms a declivity,
where red-painted, wooden houses boast their living grass roofs, as
fresh as if they were planted terraces, lies Linnaeus's garden. We
stand within it. How solitary! how overgrown! Tall nettles shoot up
between the old, untrimmed, rank hedges. No water-plants appear more
in that little, dried-up basin; the hedges that were formerly clipped,
put forth fresh leaves without being checked by the gardener's shears.
It was between these hedges that Linnaeus at times saw his own
double--that optical illusion which presents the express image of a
second self--from the hat to the boots.
Where a great man has lived and worked, the place itself becomes, as
it were, a part and parcel of him: the whole, as well as a part, has
mirrored itself in his eye; it has entered into his soul, and become
linked with it and the whole world.
We enter the orangeries: they are now transformed into assembly-rooms;
the blooming winter-garden has disappeared; but the walls yet show a
sort of herbarium. They are hung round with the portraits of learned
Swedes--herbarium from the garden of science and knowledge. Unknown
faces--and, to the stranger, the greatest part are unknown names--meet
One portrait amongst the many attracts our attention: it looks
singular; it is the half-length figure of an old man in a shirt, lying
in his bed. It is that of the learned theologian, Oedmann, who after
he had been compelled to keep his bed by a fever, found himself so
comfortable in it, that he continued to lie there during the remainder
of his long life, and was not to be induced to get up. Even when the
next house was burning, they were obliged to carry him out in his bed
into the street. Death and cold were his two bugbears. The cold would
kill him, was his opinion; and so, when the students came with their
essays and treatises, the manuscripts were warmed at the stove before
he read them. The windows of his room were never opened, so that there
was a suffocating and impure air in his dwelling. He had a
writing-desk on the bed; books and manuscripts lay in confusion round
about; dishes, plates, and pots stood here or there, as the
convenience of the moment dictated, and his only companion was a deaf
and dumb laughter.
She sat still in a corner by the window, wrapped up in herself, and
staring before her, as if she were a figure that had flown out of the
frame around the dark, mouldy canvas, which had once shown a picture
on the wall.
Here, in the room, in this impure atmosphere, the old man lived
happily, and reached his seventieth year, occupied with the
translation of travels in Africa. This tainted atmosphere, in which he
lay, became, to his conceit, the dromedary's high back, which lifted
him aloft in the burning sun; the long, hanging-down cobwebs were the
palm-trees' waving banners, and the caravan went over rivers to the
wild bushmen. Old Oedmann was with the hunters, chasing the elephants
in the midst of the thick reeds; the agile tiger-cat sprang past, and
the serpents shone like garlands around the boughs of the trees: there
was excitement, there was danger--and yet he lay so comfortably in his
good and beloved bed in Upsala.
One winter's day, it happened that a Dalecarlian peasant mistook the
house, and came into Oedmann's chamber in his snow-covered skin cloak,
and with his beard full of ice. Oedmann shouted to him to go his way,
but the peasant was deaf, and therefore stepped quite close up to the
bed. He was the personification of Winter himself, and Oedmann fell
ill from this visit: it was his only sickness during the many years he
lay here as a polypus, grown fast, and where he was painted, as we see
his portrait in the assembly-room.
From the hall of learning we will go to its burial-place--that is to
say, its open burial-place--the great library. We wander from hall to
hall, up stairs and down stairs. Along the shelves, behind them and
round about, stand books, those petrifactions of the mind, which might
again be vivified by spirit. Here lives a kind-hearted and mild old
man, the librarian, Professor Schröder. He smiles and nods as he hears
how memory's sprite takes his place here as guide, and tells of and
shows, as we see, Tegner's copy and translation of Ochlenschloeger's
"Hakon Jarl and Palnatoke." We see Vadstene cloister's library, in
thick hog's leather bindings, and think of the fair hands of the nuns
that have borne them, the pious, mild eyes that conjured the spirit
out of the dead letters. Here is the celebrated Codex Argentius, the
translation of the "Four Evangelists."[Q] Gold and silver letters
glisten from the red parchment leaves. We see ancient Icelandic
manuscripts, from de la Gardie's refined French saloon, and Thauberg's
Japanese manuscripts. By merely looking at these books, their bindings
and names, one at last becomes, as it were, quite worm-eaten in
spirit, and longs to be out in the free air--and we are there; by
Upsala's ancient hills. Thither do thou lead us, remembrance's elf,
out of the city, out on the far extended plain, where Denmark's church
stands--the church that was erected from the booty which the Swedes
gained in the war against the Danes. We follow the broad high road: it
leads us close past Upsala's old hills--Odin's, Thor's and Freia's
graves, as they are called.
[Footnote Q: A Gothic translation of the Four Evangelists, and
ascribed to the Moesogothic Archbishop Ulphilas.]
There once stood ancient Upsala, here now are but a few peasants'
farms. The low church, built of granite blocks, dates from a very
remote age; it stands on the remains of the heathen temple. Each of
the hills is a little mountain, yet each was raised by human hands.
Letters an ell long, and whole names, are cut deep in the thin
greensward, which the new sprouting grass gradually fills up. The old
housewife, from the peasant's cot close by the hill, brings the
silver-bound horn, a gift of Charles John XIV., filled with mead. The
wanderer empties the horn to the memory of the olden time, for Sweden,
and for the heart's constant thoughts--young love!
Yes, thy toast is drunk here, and many a beauteous rose has been
remembered here with a heartfelt hurra! and years after, when the same
wanderer again stood here, she, the blooming rose, had been laid in
the earth; the spring roses had strown their leaves over her coffined
clay; the sweet music of her lips sounded but in memory; the smile in
her eyes and around her mouth, was gone like the sunbeams, which then
shone on Upsala's hills. Her name in the greensward is grown over; she
herself is in the earth, and it is closed above her; but the hill
here, closed for a thousand years, is open.
Through the passage which is dug deep into the hills, we come to the
funereal urns which contain the bones of youthful kindred; the dust of
kings, the gods of the earth.
The old housewife, from the peasant's cot, has lighted half a hundred
wax candles and placed them in rows in the otherwise pitchy-dark,
stone-paved passage. It shines so festally in here over the bones of
the olden time's mighty ones, bones that are now charred and burnt to
ashes. And whose were they? Thou world's power and glory, thou world's
posthumous fame--dust, dust like beauty's rose, laid in the dark
earth, where no light shines; thy memorials are but a name, the name
but a sound. Away hence, and up on the hill where the wind blows, the
sun shines, and the eye looks over the green plain, to the sunlit,
dear Upsala, the student's city.
* * * * *
Sweden's great King, Germany's preserver, Gustavus Adolphus, founded
Sala. The little wood, close by, still preserves legends of the heroic
King's youthful love--of his meeting here with Ebba Brahe.
Sala's silver mines are the largest, the deepest, and oldest in
Sweden: they reach to the depth of one hundred and seventy fathoms,
consequently they are almost as deep as the Baltic. This of itself is
enough to awaken an interest for a little town; but what is its
appearance? "Sala," says the guide-book, "lies in a valley, in a flat,
and not very pleasant district." And so truly it is: it was not very
attractive approaching it our way, and the high road led directly into
the town, which is without any distinctive character. It consists of a
long street with what we may term a nucleus and a few fibres. The
nucleus is the market-place, and the fibres are the few lanes
diverging from it. The long street--that is to say, long in a little
town--is quite without passengers; no one comes out from the doors, no
one is to be seen at the windows.
It was therefore with pleased surprise that I at length descried a
human being: it was at an ironmonger's, where there hung a paper of
pins, a handkerchief and two tea-pots in the window. There I saw a
solitary shop-boy, standing quite still, but leaning over the counter
and looking out of the open door. He certainly wrote in his journal,
if he had one, in the evening: "To-day a traveller drove through the
town; who he was, God knows, for I don't!"--yes, that was what the
shop-boy's face said, and an honest face it was.
In the inn at which I arrived, there was the same grave-like stillness
as in the street. The gate was certainly closed, but all the inner
doors were wide open; the farm-yard cock stood uplifted in the middle
of the traveller's room and crowed, in order to show that there was
somebody at home. The house, however, was quite picturesque: it had an
open balcony, from which one might look out upon the yard, for it
would have been far too lively had it been facing the street. There
hung the old sign and creaked in the wind, as if to show that it at
least was alive. I saw it from my window; I saw also how the grass in
the street had got the mastery over the pavement. The sun shone
brightly, but shone as into the bachelor's solitary room, and on the
old maid's balsams in the flower-pots. It was as still as a Scotch
Sunday--and yet it was a Tuesday. One was disposed for Young's "Night
I looked out from the balcony into the neighbouring yard: there was
not a soul to be seen, but children had been playing there. There was
a little garden made of dry sticks: they were stuck down in the soft
soil and had been watered; a broken pan, which had certainly served by
way of watering-pot, lay there still. The sticks signified roses and
It had been a delightful garden--alas, yes! We great, grown-up men--we
play just so: we make ourselves a garden with what we call love's
roses and friendship's geraniums; we water them with our tears and
with our heart's blood; and yet they are, and remain, dry sticks
without root. It was a gloomy thought; I felt it, and in order to get
the dry sticks in my thoughts to blossom, I went out. I wandered in
the fibres and in the long threads--that is to say, in the small
lanes--and in the great street; and here was more life than I dared to
expect. I met a herd of cattle returning or going--which I know
not--for they were without a herdsman. The shop-boy still stood behind
the counter, leaned over it and greeted me; the stranger took his hat
off again--that was my day's employment in Sala.
Pardon me, thou silent town, which Gustavus Adolphus built, where his
young heart felt the first emotions of love, and where the silver lies
in the deep shafts--that is to say, outside the town, "in a flat, and
not very pleasant district."
I knew no one in the town; I had no one to be my guide, so I
accompanied the cows, and came to the churchyard. The cows went past,
but I stepped over the stile, and stood amongst the graves, where the
grass grew high, and almost all the tombstones lay with worn-out
inscriptions. On a few only the date of the year was legible.
"Anno"--yes, what then? And who rested here? Everything on the stone
was erased--blotted out like the earthly life of those mortals that
here were earth in earth. What life's dream have ye dead played here
in silent Sala?
The setting sun shone over the graves; not a leaf moved on the trees;
all was still--still as death--in the city of the silver-mines, of
which this traveller's reminiscence is but a frame around the shop-boy
who leaned over the counter.
THE MUTE BOOK.
* * * * *
By the high road into the forest there stood a solitary farm-house.
Our way lay right through the farm-yard; the sun shone; all the
windows were open; there was life and bustle within, but in the yard,
in an arbour of flowering lilacs, there stood an open coffin. The
corpse had been placed out here, and it was to be buried that
forenoon. No one stood by and wept over that dead man; no one hung
sorrowfully over him; his face was covered with a white cloth, and
under his head there lay a large, thick book, every leaf of which was
a whole sheet of grey paper, and between each lay withered flowers,
deposited and forgotten--a whole herbarium, gathered in different
places. He himself had requested that it should be laid in the grave
with him. A chapter of his life was blended with every flower.
"Who is that dead man?" we asked, and the answer was: "The old student
from Upsala. They say he was once very clever; he knew the learned
languages, could sing and write verses too; but then there was
something that went wrong, and so he gave both his thoughts and
himself up to drinking spirits, and as his health suffered by it, he
came out here into the country, where they paid for his board and
"He was as gentle as a child, when the dark humour did not come over
him, for then he was strong, and ran about in the forest like a hunted
deer; but when we got him home, we persuaded him to look into the book
with the dry plants. Then he would sit the whole day and look at one
plant, and then at another, and many a time the tears ran down his
cheeks. God knows what he then thought! But he begged that he might
have the book with him in his coffin; and now it lies there, and the
lid will soon be fastened down, and then he will take his peaceful
rest in the grave!"
They raised the winding-sheet. There was peace in the face of the
dead: a sunbeam fell on it; a swallow in its arrowy flight, darted
into the new-made arbour, and in its flight circled twittering over
the dead man's head.
How strange it is!--we all assuredly know it--to take out old letters
from the days of our youth and read them: a whole life, as it were,
then rises up with all its hopes, and all its troubles. How many of
those with whom we, in their time, lived so devotedly, are now even as
the dead to us, and yet they still live! But we have not thought of
them for many years--them whom we once thought we should always cling
to, and share our mutual joys and sorrows with.
The withered oak-leaf in the book here, is a memorial of the
friend--the friend of his school-days--the friend for life. He fixed
this leaf on the student's cap in the green wood, when the vow of
friendship was concluded for the whole of life. Where does he now
live? The leaf is preserved; friendship forgotten. Here is a foreign
conservatory-plant, too fine for the gardens of the North--it looks as
if there still were fragrance in these leaves!--_she_ gave it to
him--she, the young lady of that noble garden.
Here is the marsh-lotus which he himself has plucked and watered with
salt tears--the marsh-lotus from the fresh waters. And here is a
nettle: what does its leaf say? What did he think on plucking it--on
preserving it? Here are lilies of the valley from the woodland
solitudes; here are honeysuckle leaves from the village ale-house
flower-pot; and here the bare, sharp blade of grass.
The flowering lilac bends its fresh, fragrant clusters over the dead
man's head; the swallow again flies past; "quivit! quivit!" Now the
men come with nails and hammer; the lid is placed over the corpse,
whose head rests on the Mute-Book--preserved--forgotten!
THE ZÄTHER DALE.
* * * * *
Everything was in order, the carriage examined, even a whip with a
good lash was not forgotten. "Two whips would be best," said the
ironmonger, who sold it, and the ironmonger was a man of experience,
which travellers often are not. A whole bag full of "slanter"--that
is, copper coins of small value--stood before us for bridge-money, for
beggars, for shepherd's boys, or whoever might open the many
field-gates for us that obstructed our progress. But we had to do this
ourselves, for the rain pattered down and lashed the ground; no one
had any desire to come out in such weather. The rushes in the marsh
bent and waved; it was a real rain feast for them, and it whistled
from the tops of the rushes: "We drink with our feet, we drink with
our heads, we drink with the whole body, and yet we stand on one leg,
hurra! We drink with the bending willow, with the dripping flowers on
the bank; their cups run over--the marsh marigold, that fine lady, can
bear it better! Hurra! it is a feast! it pours, it pours; we whistle
and we sing; it is our own song. Tomorrow the frogs will croak the
same after us and say, 'it is quite new!'"
And the rushes waved, and the rain pattered down with a splashing
noise--it was fine weather to travel in to Zäther Dale, and to see its
far-famed beauties. The whip-lash now came off the whip; it was
fastened on again, and again, and every time it was shorter, so that
at last there was not a lash, nor was there any handle, for the handle
went after the lash--or sailed after it--as the road was quite
navigable, and gave one a vivid idea of the beginning of the deluge.
One poor jade now drew too much, the other drew too little, and one of
the splinter bars broke; well, by all that is vexatious, that was a
fine drive! The leather apron in front had a deep pond in its folds
with an outlet into one's lap. Now one of the linch-pins came out; now
the twisting of the rope harness became loose, and the cross-strap was
tired of holding any longer. Glorious inn in Zäther, how I now long
more for thee than thy far-famed dale. And the horses went slower, and
the rain fell faster, and so--yes, so we were not yet in Zäther.
Patience, thou lank spider, that in the ante-chamber quietly dost spin
thy web over the expectant's foot, spin my eyelids close in a sleep as
still as the horse's pace! Patience? no, she was not with us in the
carriage to Zäther. But to the inn, by the road side, close to the
far-famed valley, I got at length, towards evening.
And everything was flowing in the yard, chaotically mingled; manure
and farming implements, staves and straw. The poultry sat there washed
to shadows, or at least like stuck-up hens' skins with feathers on,
and even the ducks crept close up to the wet wall, sated with the wet.
The stable-man was cross, the girl still more so; it was difficult to
get them to bestir themselves: the steps were crooked, the floor
sloping and but just washed, sand strewn thickly on it, and the air
was damp and cold. But without, scarcely twenty paces from the inn, on
the other side of the road, lay the celebrated valley, a garden made
by nature herself, and whose charm consists of trees and bushes, wells
and purling brooks.
It was a long hollow; I saw the tops of the trees looming up, and the
rain drew its thick veil over it. The whole of that long evening did I
sit and look upon it during that shower of showers. It was as if the
Venern, the Vettern and a few more lakes ran through an immense sieve
from the clouds. I had ordered something to eat and drink, but I got
nothing. They ran up and they ran down; there was a hissing sound of
roasting by the hearth; the girls chattered, the men drank "sup,"[R]
strangers came, were shown into their rooms, and got both roast and
boiled. Several hours had passed, when I made a forcible appeal to the
girl, and she answered phlegmatically: "Why, Sir, you sit there and
write without stopping, so you cannot have time to eat."
[Footnote R: Swedish, _sup_. Danish, _snaps_. German, _schnaps_.
It was a long evening, "but the evening passed!" It had become quite
still in the inn; all the travellers, except myself, had again
departed, certainly in order to find better quarters for the night at
Hedemore or Brunbeck. I had seen, through the half-open door into the
dirty tap-room, a couple of fellows playing with greasy cards; a huge
dog lay under the table and glared with its large red eyes; the
kitchen was deserted; the rooms too; the floor was wet, the storm
rattled, the rain beat against the windows--"and now to bed! said I."
I slept an hour, perhaps two, and was awakened by a loud bawling from
the high road. I started up: it was twilight, the night at that period
is not darker--it was about one o'clock. I heard the door shaken
roughly; a deep manly voice shouted aloud, and there was a hammering
with a cudgel against the planks of the yard-gate. Was it an
intoxicated or a mad man that was to be let in? The gate was now
opened, but many words were not exchanged. I heard a woman scream at
the top of her voice from terror. There was now a great bustling
about; they ran across the yard in wooden shoes; the bellowing of
cattle and the rough voices of men were mingled together. I sat on the
edge of the bed. Out or in! what was to be done? I looked from the
window; in the road there was nothing to be seen, and it still rained.
All at once some one came up stairs with heavy footsteps: he opened
the door of the room adjoining mine--now he stood still! I listened--a
large iron bolt fastened my door. The stranger now walked across the
floor, now he shook my door, and then kicked against it with a heavy
foot, and whilst all this was passing, the rain beat against the
windows, and the blast made them rattle.
"Are there any travellers here?" shouted a voice; "the house is on
I now dressed myself and hastened out of the room and down the stairs.
There was no smoke to be seen, but when I reached the yard, I saw that
the whole building--a long and extensive one of wood--was enveloped in
flames and clouds of smoke. The fire had originated in the baking
oven, which no one had looked to; a traveller, who accidently came
past, saw it, called out and hammered at the door: and the women
screamed, and the cattle bellowed, when the fire stuck its red tongue
Now came the fire-engine and the flames were extinguished. By this
time it was morning. I stood in the road, scarcely a hundred steps
from the far-famed dale. "One may as well spring into it as walk into
it!" and I sprang into it; and the rain poured down, and the water
flowed--the whole dale was a well.
The trees turned their leaves the wrong side out, purely because of
the pouring rain, and they said, as the rushes did the day before: "We
drink with our heads, we drink with our feet, and we drink with the
whole body, and yet stand on our legs, hurra! it rains, and it pours;
we whistle and we sing; it is our own song--and it is quite new!"
Yes, that the rushes also sang yesterday--but it was the same, ever
the same. I looked and looked, and all I know of the beauty of Zäther
Dale is, that she had washed herself!
THE MIDSUMMER FESTIVAL IN LACKSAND.
* * * * *
Lacksand lay on the other side of the dal-elv which the road now led
us over for the third or fourth time. The picturesque bell-tower of
red painted beams, erected at a distance from the church, rose above
the tall trees on the clayey declivity: old willows hung gracefully
over the rapid stream. The floating bridge rocked under us--nay, it
even sank a little, so that the water splashed under the horse's
hoofs; but these bridges have such qualities! The iron chains that
held it rattled, the planks creaked, the boards splashed, the water
rose, and murmured and roared, and so we got over where the road
slants upwards towards the town. Close opposite here the last year's
May-pole still stood with withered flowers. How many hands that bound
these flowers are now withered in the grave?
It is far prettier to go up on the sloping bank along the elv, than to
follow the straight high-road into the town. The path conducts us,
between pasture fields and leaf trees, up to the parsonage, where we
passed the evening with the friendly family. The clergyman himself was
but lately dead, and his relatives were all in mourning. There was
something about the young daughter--I knew not myself what it was--but
I was led to think of the delicate flax flower, too delicate for the
short northern summer.
They spoke about the Midsummer festival the next day, and of the
winter season here, when the swans, often more than thirty at a time,
sit (motionless themselves) on the elv, and utter strange, mournful
tones. They always come in pairs, they said, two and two, and thus
they also fly away again. If one of them dies, its partner always
remains a long time after all the others are gone; lingers, laments,
and then flies away alone and solitary.
When I left the parsonage in the evening, the moon, in its first
quarter, was up. The May-pole was raised; the little steamer, 'Prince
Augustus,' with several small vessels in tow, came over the Siljan
lake and into the elv; a musician sprang on shore, and began to play
dances under the tall wreathed May-pole. And there was soon a merry
circle around it--all so happy, as if the whole of life were but a
delightful summer night.
Next morning was the Midsummer Festival. It was Sunday, the 24th of
June, and a beautiful sunshiny day it was. The most picturesque sight
at the festival is to see the people from the different parishes
coming in crowds, in large boats over Siljan's lake, and landing on
its shores. We drove out to the landing-place, Barkedale, and before
we got out of the town, we met whole troops coming from there, as well
as from the mountains.
Close by the town of Lacksand, there is a row of low wooden shops on
both sides of the way, which only get their interior light through the
doorway. They form a whole street, and serve as stables for the
parishioners, but also--and it was particularly the case that
morning--to go into and arrange their finery. Almost all the shops or
sheds were filled with peasant women, who were anxiously busy about
their dresses, careful to get them into the right folds, and in the
mean time peeped continually out of the door to see who came past. The
number of arriving church-goers increased; men, women, and children,
old and young, even infants; for at the Midsummer festival no one
stays at home to take care of them, and so of course they must come
too--all must go to church.
What a dazzling army of colours! Fiery red and grass green aprons meet
our gaze. The dress of the women is a black skirt, red bodice, and
white sleeves: all of them had a psalm-book wrapped in the folded silk
pocket-handkerchief. The little girls were entirely in yellow, and
with red aprons; the very least were in Turkish-yellow clothes. The
men were dressed in black coats, like our paletôts, embroidered with
red woollen cord; a red band with a tassel hung down from the large
black hat; with dark knee breeches, and blue stockings, with red
leather gaiters--in short, there was a dazzling richness of colour,
and that, too, on a bright sunny morning in the forest road.
This road led down a steep to the lake, which was smooth and blue.
Twelve or fourteen long boats, in form like gondolas, were already
drawn up on the flat strand, which here is covered with large stones.
These stones served the persons who landed, as bridges; the boats were
laid alongside them, and the people clambered up, and went and bore
each other on land. There certainly were at least a thousand persons
on the strand; and far out on the lake, one could see ten or twelve
boats more coming, some with sixteen oars, others with twenty, nay,
even with four-and-twenty, rowed by men and women, and every boat
decked out with green branches. These, and the varied clothes, gave to
the whole an appearance of something so festal, so fantastically rich,
as one would hardly think the north possessed. The boats came nearer,
all crammed full of living freight; but they came silently, without
noise or talking, and rowed up to the declivity of the forest.
The boats were drawn up on the sand: it was a fine subject for a
painter, particularly one point--the way up the slope, where the whole
mass moved on between the trees and bushes. The most prominent figures
there, were two ragged urchins, clothed entirely in bright yellow,
each with a skin bundle on his shoulders. They were from Gagne, the
poorest parish in Dalecarlia. There was also a lame man with his blind
wife: I thought of the fable of my childhood, of the lame and the
blind man: the lame man lent his eyes, and the blind his legs, and so
they reached the town.
And we also reached the town and the church, and thither they all
thronged: they said there were above five thousand persons assembled
there. The church-service began at five o'clock. The pulpit and organ
were ornamented with flowering lilacs; children sat with lilac-flowers
and branches of birch; the little ones had each a piece of oat-cake,
which they enjoyed. There was the sacrament for the young persons who
had been confirmed; there was organ-playing and psalm-singing; but
there was a terrible screaming of children, and the sound of heavy
footsteps; the clumsy, iron-shod Dal shoes tramped loudly upon the
stone floor. All the church pews, the gallery pews, and the centre
aisle were quite filled with people. In the side aisle one saw various
groups--playing children, and pious old folks: by the sacristy there
sat a young mother giving suck to her child--she was a living image of
the Madonna herself.
The first impression of the whole was striking, but only the
first--there was too much that disturbed. The screaming of children,
and the noise of persons walking were heard above the singing, and
besides that, there was an insupportable smell of garlic: almost all
the congregation had small bunches of garlic with them, of which they
ate as they sat. I could not bear it, and went out into the
churchyard: here--as it always is in nature--it was affecting, it was
holy. The church door stood open; the tones of the organ, and the
voices of the psalm-singers were wafted out here in the bright
sunlight, by the open lake: the many who could not find a place in the
church, stood outside, and sang with the congregation from the
psalm-book: round about on the monuments, which are almost all of
cast-iron, there sat mothers suckling their infants--the fountain of
life flowed over death and the grave. A young peasant stood and read
the inscription on a grave:
"Ach hur södt al hafve lefvet,
Ach hur skjöut al kunne döe!"[S]
[Footnote S: "How sweet to live--how beautiful to die!"]
Beautiful Christian, scriptural language, verses certainly taken from
the psalm-book, were read on the graves; they were all read, for the
service lasted several hours. This, however, can never be good for
The crowd at length streamed from the church; the fiery-red and
grass-green aprons glittered; but the mass of human beings became
thicker, and closer, and pressed forward. The white head-dresses, the
white band over the forehead, and the white sleeves, were the
prevailing colours--it looked like a long procession in Catholic
countries. There was again life and motion on the road; the
over-filled boats again rowed away; one waggon drove off after the
other; but yet there were people left behind. Married and unmarried
men stood in groups in the broad street of Lacksand, from the church
up to the inn. I was staying there, and I must acknowledge that my
Danish tongue sounded quite foreign to them all. I then tried the
Swedish, and the girl at the inn assured me that she understood me
better than she had understood the Frenchman, who the year before had
spoken French to her.
As I sit in my room, my hostess's grand-daughter, a nice little child,
comes in, and is pleased to see my parti-coloured carpet-bag, my
Scotch plaid, and the red leather lining of the portmanteau. I
directly cut out for her, from a sheet of white paper, a Turkish
mosque, with minarets and open windows, and away she runs with it--so
happy, so happy!
Shortly after, I heard much loud talking in the yard, and I had a
presentiment that it was concerning what I had cut out; I therefore
stepped softly out into the balcony, and saw the grandmother standing
below, and with beaming face, holding my clipped-out paper at arm's
length. A whole crowd of Dalecarlians, men and women, stood around,
all in artistic ecstacy over my work; but the little girl--the sweet
little child--screamed, and stretched out her hands after her lawful
property, which she was not permitted to keep, as it was too fine.
I sneaked in again, yet, of course, highly flattered and cheered; but
a moment after there was a knocking at my door: it was the
grandmother, my hostess, who came with a whole plate full of
"I bake the best in all Dalecarlia," said she; "but they are of the
old fashion, from my grandmother's time. You cut out so well, Sir,
should you not be able to cut me out some new fashions?"
And I sat the whole of Midsummer night, and clipped fashions for
spice-nuts. Nutcrackers with knights' boots, windmills which were both
mill and miller--but in slippers, and with the door in the
stomach--and ballet-dancers that pointed with one leg towards the
seven stars. Grandmother got them, but she turned the ballet-dancers
up and down; the legs went too high for her; she thought that they had
one leg and three arms.
"They will be new fashions," said she; "but they are difficult."
FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE.
* * * * *
Truth can never be at variance with truth, science can never militate
against faith: we naturally speak of them both in their purity: they
respond to and they strengthen man's most glorious thought:
_immortality_. And yet you may say, "I was more peaceful, I was safer
when, as a child, I closed my eyes on my mother's breast and slept
without thought or care, wrapping myself up simply in faith." This
prescience, this compound of understanding in everything, this
entering of the one link into the other from eternity to eternity,
tears away from me a support--my confidence in prayer; that which is,
as it were, the wings wherewith to fly to my God! If it be loosened,
then I fall powerless in the dust, without consolation or hope.
I bend my energies, it is true, towards attaining the great and
glorious light of knowledge, but it appears to me that therein is
human arrogance: it is, as one should say, "I will be as wise as God."
"That you shall be!" said the serpent to our first parents when it
would seduce them to eat of the tree of knowledge. Through my
understanding I must acknowledge the truth of what the astronomer
teaches and proves. I see the wonderful, eternal omniscience of God in
the whole creation of the world--in the great and in the small, where
the one attaches itself to the other, is joined with the other, in an
endless harmonious entireness; and I tremble in my greatest need and
sorrow. What can my prayer change, where everything is law, from
eternity to eternity?
You tremble as you see the Almighty, who reveals Himself in all
loving-kindness--that Creator, according to man's expression, whose
understanding and heart are one--you tremble when you know that he has
elected you to immortality.
I know it in the faith, in the holy, eternal words of the Bible.
Knowledge lays itself like a stone over my grave, but my faith is that
which breaks it.
Now, thus it is! The smallest flower preaches from its green stalk, in
the name of knowledge--_immortality_. Hear it! the beautiful also
bears proofs of immortality, and with the conviction of faith and
knowledge, the immortal will not tremble in his greatest need; the
wings of prayer will not droop: you will believe in the eternal laws
of love, as you believe in the laws of sense.
When the child gathers flowers in the fields and brings us the whole
handful, where one is erect and the other hangs the head, thrown as it
were among one another, then it is that we see the beauty in every one
by itself--that harmony in colour and in form, which pleases our eye
so well. We arrange them instinctively, and every single beauty is
blended together in one entire beauteous group. We do not look at the
flower, but on the whole bouquet. The beauty of harmony is an instinct
in us; it lies in our eyes and in our ears, those bridges between our
soul and the creation around us--in all our senses there is such a
divine, such an entire and perfect stream in our whole being, a
striving after the harmonious, as it shows itself in all created
things, even in the pulsations of the air, made visible in Chladni's
In the Bible we find the expression: "God in spirit and in
truth,"--and hence we most significantly find an expression for the
admission of what we call a feeling of the beautiful; for what else is
this revelation of God but spirit and truth? And just as our own soul
shines out of the eye and the fine movement around the mouth, so does
the created image shine forth from God in spirit and truth. There is
harmonious beauty from the smallest leaf and flower to the large,
swelling bouquet, from our earth itself to the numberless globes in
the firmamental space--as far as the eye sees, as far as science
ventures, all, small and great, is beauty and harmony.
But if we turn to mankind, for whom we have the highest, the holiest
expression; "created in God's image," man, who is able to comprehend
and admit in himself all God's creation, the harmony in the harmony
then seems to be defective, for at our birth we are all equal! as
creatures we have equally "no right to demand;" yet how differently
God has granted us abilities! some few so immensely great, others so
mean! At our birth God places us in our homes and positions; and to
how many of us are allotted the hardest struggles! We are placed
_there_, introduced _there_--how many may not say justly: "It were
better for me that I had never been born!"
Human life, consequently--the highest here on the earth--does not come
under the laws of harmonious beauty: it is inconceivable, it is an
injustice, and thus cannot take place.
The defect of harmony in life lies in this:--that we only see a small
part thereof, namely, existence here on the earth: there must be a
life to come--an immortality.
That, the smallest flower preaches to us, as does all that is created
in beauty and harmony.
If our existence ceased with death here, then the most perfect work of
God was not perfect; God was not justice and love, as everything in
nature and revelation affirms; and if we be referred to the whole of
mankind, as that wherein harmony will reveal itself, then our whole
actions and endeavours are but as the labours of the coral-insect:
mankind becomes but a monument of greatness to the Creator: he would
then only have raised His _glory_, not shown His greatest _love_.
Loving-kindness is not self-love.
We are immortal! In this rich consciousness we are raised towards God,
fundamentally sure, that whatever happens to us, is for our good. Our
earthly eye is only able to reach to a certain boundary in space; our
soul's eye also has but a limited scope; but beyond _that,_ the same
laws of loving-kindness must reign, as here. The prescience of eternal
omniscience cannot alarm us; we human beings can apprehend the notion
thereof in ourselves. We know perfectly what development must take
place in the different seasons of the year; the time for flowers and
for fruits; what kinds will come forth and thrive; the time of
maturity, when the storms must prevail, and when it is the rainy
season. Thus must God, in an infinitely greater degree, have the same
knowledge of the whole created globes of His universe, as of our earth
and the human race here. He must know when that development, that
flowering in the human race ordained by Himself, shall come to pass;
when the powers of intellect, of full development, are to reign; and
under these characters, come to a maturity of development, men will
become mighty, driving wheels--every one be the eternal God's likeness
History shows us these things: joint enters into joint, in the world
of spirits, as well as in the materially created world; the eye of
wisdom--the all-seeing eye--encompasses the whole! And should we then
not be able, in our heart's distress, to pray to this Father with
confidence--to pray as the Saviour prayed: "If it be possible, let
this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt."
These last words we do not forget! and our prayer will be granted, if
it be for our good; or if it be not, then let us, as the child here,
that in its trouble comes to its earthly Father, and does not get its
wish fulfilled, but is refreshed by mild words, and the affectionate
language of reason, so that the eye weeps, which thereby mitigates
sorrow, and the child's pain is soothed. This, will prayer also grant
us: the eye will be filled with tears, but the heart will be full of
consolation! And who has penetrated so deeply into the ways of the
soul, that he dare deny that prayer is the wings that bear thee to
that sphere of inspiration whence God will extend to thee the
olive-branch of help and grace?
By walking with open eyes in the path of knowledge, we see the glory
of the Annunciation. The wisdom of generations is but a span on the
high pillar of revelation, above which sits the Almighty; but this
short span will grow through eternity, in faith and with faith.
Knowledge is like a chemical test that pronounces the gold pure!
IN THE FOREST
* * * * *
We are a long way over the elv. We have left the corn-fields behind,
and have just come into the forest, where we halt at that small inn,
which is ornamented over the doors and windows with green branches for
the Midsummer festival. The whole kitchen is hung round with branches
of birch and the berries of the mountain-ash: the oat-cakes hang on
long poles under the ceiling; the berries are suspended above the head
of the old woman who is just scouring her brass kettle bright.
The tap-room, where the peasant sits and carouse, is just as finely
hung round with green. Midsummer raises its leafy arbour everywhere,
yet it is most flush in the forest--it extends for miles around. Our
road goes for miles through that forest, without seeing a house, or
the possibility of meeting travellers, driving, riding or walking.
Come! The ostler puts fresh horses to the carriage; come with us into
the large woody desert: we have a regular trodden way to travel, the
air is clear, here is summer's warmth and the fragrance of birch and
lime. It is an up and down hill road, always bending, and so, ever
changing, but yet always forest scenery--the close, thick forest. We
pass small lakes, which lie so still and deep, as if they concealed
night and sleep under their dark, glassy surfaces.
We are now on a forest plain, where only charred stumps of trees are
to be seen: this long tract is black, burnt, and deserted--not a bird
flies over it. Tall, hanging birches now greet us again; a squirrel
springs playfully across the road, and up into the tree; we cast our
eye searchingly over the wood-grown mountain-side, which slopes so
far, far forward; but not a trace of a house is to be seen: nowhere
does that blueish smoke-cloud rise, that shows us, here are
The sun shines warm; the flies dance around the horses, settle on
them, fly off again, and dance, as though it were to qualify
themselves for resting and being still. They perhaps think: "Nothing
is going on without us: there is no life while we are doing nothing."
They think, as many persons think, and do not remember that Time's
horses always fly onward with us!
How solitary it is here!--so delightfully solitary! one is so entirely
alone with God and one's self. As the sunlight streams forth over the
earth, and over the extensive solitary forests, so does God's spirit
stream over and into mankind; ideas and thoughts unfold
themselves--endless, inexhaustible, as he is--as the magnet which
apportions its powers to the steel, and itself loses nothing thereby.
As our journey through the forest-scenery here along the extended
solitary road, so, travelling on the great high-road of thought, ideas
pass through our head. Strange, rich caravans pass by from the works
of poets, from the home of memory, strange and novel--for capricious
fancy gives birth to them at the moment. There comes a procession of
pious children with waving flags and joyous songs; there come dancing
Moenades, the blood's wild Bacchantes. The sun pours down hot in the
open forest: it is as if the Southern summer had laid itself up here
to rest in Scandinavian forest-solitude, and sought itself out a glade
where it might lie in the sun's hot beams and sleep: hence this
stillness, as if it were night. Not a bird is heard to twitter, not a
pine-tree moves: of what does the Southern summer dream here in the
North, amongst pines and fragrant birches?
In the writings of the olden time, from the classic soil of the South,
are _sagas_ of mighty fairies who, in the skins of swans, flew towards
the North, to the Hyperborean's land, to the east of the north wind;
up there, in the deep, still lakes, they bathed themselves, and
acquired a renewed form. We are in the forest by these deep lakes; we
see swans in flocks fly over us, and swim upon the rapid elv and on
the still waters. The forests, we perceive, continue to extend further
towards the west and the north, and are more dense as we proceed: the
carriage-roads cease, and one can only pursue one's way along the
outskirts by the solitary path, and on horseback.
The saga, from the time of the plague (A.D., 1350), here impresses
itself on the mind, when the pestilence passed through the land, and
transformed cultivated fields and towns--nay, whole parishes, into
barren fields and wild forests. Deserted and forgotten, overgrown with
moss, grass, and bushes, churches stood for years far in the forest;
no one knew of their existence, until, in a later century, a huntsman
lost himself here: his arrow rebounded from the green wall, the moss
of which he loosened, and the church was found. The wood-cutter felled
the trees for fuel; his axe struck against the overgrown wall, and it
gave way to the blow; the fir-planks fell, and the church, from the
time of the pestilence, was discovered; the sun again shone bright
through the openings of the doors and windows, on the brass candelabra
and the altar, where the communion-cup still stood. The cuckoo came,
sat there, and sang: "Many, many years shalt thou live!"
Woodland solitude! what images dost thou not present to our thoughts!
Woodland solitude! through thy vaulted halls people now pass in the
summer-time with cattle and domestic utensils; children and old men go
to the solitary pasture where echo dwells, where the national song
springs forth with the wild mountain flower! Dost thou see the
procession?--paint it if thou canst! The broad wooden cart laden high
with chests and barrels, with jars and with crockery. The bright
copper kettle and the tin dish shine in the sun. The old grandmother
sits at the top of the load and holds her spinning-wheel, which
completes the pyramid. The father drives the horse, the mother carries
the youngest child on her back, sewed up in a skin, and the procession
moves on step by step. The cattle are driven by the half-grown
children: they have stuck a birch branch between one of the cows'
horns, but she does not appear to be proud of her finery, she goes the
same quiet pace as the others and lashes the saucy flies with her
tail. If the night becomes cold on this solitary pasture, there is
fuel enough here--the tree falls of itself from old age and lies and
But take especial care of the fire fear the fire-spirit in the forest
desert! He comes from the unextinguishable pile--he comes from the
thunder-cloud, riding on the blue lightning's flame, which kindles the
thick, dry moss of the earth: trees and bushes are kindled, the flames
run from tree to tree--it is like a snow-storm of fire! the flame
leaps to the tops of the trees--what a crackling and roaring, as if it
were the ocean in its course! The birds fly upward in flocks, and fall
down suffocated by the smoke; the animals flee, or, encircled by the
fire, are consumed in it! Hear their cries and roars of agony! The
howling of the wolf and the bear, dos't thou know it? A calm,
rainy-day, and the forest-plains themselves, alone are able to confine
the fiery sea, and the burnt forest stands charred, with black trunks
and black stumps of trees, as we saw them here in the forest by the
broad high-road. On this road we continue to travel, but it becomes
worse and worse; it is, properly speaking, no road at all, but it is
about to become one. Large stones lie half dug up, and we drive past
them; large trees are cast down, and obstruct our way, and therefore
we must descend from the carriage. The horses are taken out, and the
peasants help to lift and push the carriage forward over ditches and
The sun now ceases to shine; some few rain-drops fall, and now it is a
steady rain. But how it causes the birch to shed its fragrance! At a
distance there are huts erected, of loose trunks of trees and fresh
green boughs, and in each there is a large fire burning. See where the
blue smoke curls through the green leafy roof; peasants are within at
work, hammering and forging; here they have their meals. They are now
laying a mine in order to blast a rock, and the rain falls faster and
faster, and the pine and birch emit a finer fragrance. It is
delightful in the forest.
* * * * *
We made our way at length out of the forest, and saw a town before us
enveloped in thick smoke, having a similar appearance to most of the
English manufacturing towns, save that the smoke was greenish--it was
the town Fahlun.
The road now went downwards between large banks, formed by the dross
deposited here from the smelting furnaces, and which looks like
burnt-out hardened lava. No sprout or shrub was to be seen, not a
blade of grass peeped forth by the way-side, not a bird flew past, but
a strong sulphurous smell, as from among the craters in Solfatara,
filled the air. The copper roof of the church shone with corrosive
Long straight streets now appeared in view. It was as deathly still
here as if sickness and disease had lain within these dark wooden
houses, and frightened the inhabitants from coming abroad; yet
sickness and disease come but to few here, for when the plague raged
in Sweden, the rich and powerful of the land hastened to Fahlun, whose
sulphureous air was the most healthy. An ochre-yellow water runs
through the brook, between the houses; the smoke from the mines and
smelting furnaces has imparted its tinge to them; it has even
penetrated into the church, whose slender pillars are dark from the
fumes of the copper. There chanced to come on a thunder-storm when we
arrived, but its roaring and the lightning's flashes harmonized well
with this town, which appears as if it were built on the edge of a
We went to see the copper mine which gives the whole district the name
of "Stora Kopparberget," (the great copper mountain). According to the
legend, its riches were discovered by two goats which were
fighting--they struck the ground with their horns and some copper ore
adhered to them.
From the solitary red-ochre street we wandered over the great heaps of
burnt-out dross and fragments of stone, accumulated to whole ramparts
and hills. The fire shone from the smelting furnaces with green,
yellow and red tongues of flame under a blue-green smoke; half-naked,
black-smeared fellows threw out large glowing masses of fire, so that
the sparks flew around and about:--one was reminded of Schiller's
The thick sulphureous smoke poured forth from the heaps of cleansed
ore, under which the fire was in full activity, and the wind drove it
across the road which we must pass. In smoke, and impregnated with
smoke, stood building after building: three buildings had been
strangely thrown, as it were, by one another: earth and stone-heaps,
as if they were unfinished works of defence, extended around.
Scaffolding, and long wooden bridges, had been erected there; large
wheels turned round; long and heavy iron chains were in continual
We stood before an immense gulf, called "Stora Stöten," (the great
mine). It had formerly three entrances, but they fell in and now there
is but one. This immense sunken gulf now appears like a vast valley:
the many openings below, to the shafts of the mine, look, from above,
like the sand-martin's dark nest-holes in the declivities of the
shore: there were a few wooden huts down there. Some strangers in
miners' dresses, with their guide, each carrying a lighted fir-torch,
appeared at the bottom, and disappeared again in one of the dark
holes. From within the dark wooden houses, in which great water-wheels
turned, issued some of the workmen. They came from the dizzying
gulf--from narrow, deep wells: they stood in their wooden shoes two
and two, on the edge of the tun which, attached to heavy chains, is
hoisted up, singing and swinging the tun on all sides: they came up
merry enough. Habit makes one daring.
They told us that, during the passage upwards, it often happened that
one or another, from pure wantonness, stepped quite out of the tun,
and sat himself between the loose stones on the projecting piece of
rock, whilst they fired and blasted the rock below so that it shook
again, and the stones about him thundered down. Should one expostulate
with him on his fool-hardiness, he would answer with the usual
witticism here: "I have never before killed myself."
One descends into some of the shafts by a sort of machinery, which
looks as if they had placed two iron ladders against each other, each
having a rocking movement, so that by treading on the ascending-step
on the one side and then on the other, which goes upwards, one
gradually ascends, and by going on the downward sinking-step one gets
by degrees to the bottom. They said it was very easy, only one must
step boldly, so that the foot should not come between and get crushed;
and then one must remember that there is no railing or balustrade
here, and directly outside these stairs there is the deep abyss into
which one may fall headlong. The deepest shaft has a perpendicular
depth of more than a hundred and ninety fathoms, but for this there is
no danger, they say, only one must not be dizzy, nor get alarmed. One
of the workmen, who had come up, descended with a lighted pine-branch
as a torch: the flame illumined the dark rocky wall, and by degrees
became only a faint streak of light which soon vanished.
We were told that a few days before, five or six schoolboys had
unobserved stolen in here, and amused themselves by going from step to
step on these machine-like rocking stairs, in pitchy darkness, but at
last they knew not rightly which way to go, up or down, and had then
begun to shout and scream lustily. They escaped luckily that bout.
By one of the large openings, called "Fat Mads," there are rich copper
mines, but which have not yet been worked. A building stands above it:
it was at the bottom of this that they found, in the year 1719, the
corpse of a young miner. It appeared as if he had fallen down that
very day, so unchanged did the body seem--but no one knew him. An old
woman then stepped forward and burst into tears: the deceased was her
bridegroom, who had disappeared forty nine years ago. She stood there
old and wrinkled; he was young as when they had met for the last time
nearly half a century before.[T]
[Footnote T: In another mine they found, in the year 1635, a corpse
perfectly fresh, and almost with the appearance of one asleep; but
his clothes, and the ancient copper coins found on him, bore witness
that it was two hundred years since he had perished there.]
We went to "The Plant House," as it is called, where the vitriolated
liquid is crystallized to sulphate of copper. It grew up long sticks
placed upright in the boiling water, resembling long pieces of
grass-green sugar. The steam was pungent, and the air in here
penetrated our tongues--it was just as if one had a corroded spoon in
one's mouth. It was really a luxury to come out again, even into the
rarefied copper smoke, under the open sky.
Steaming, burnt-out, and herbless as the district is on this side of
the town, it is just as refreshing, green, and fertile on the opposite
side of Fahlun. Tall leafy trees grow close to the farthest houses.
One is directly in the fresh pine and birch forests, thence to the
lake and to the distant blueish mountain sides near Zäther.
The people here can tell you and show you memorials of Engelbrekt and
his Dalecarlians' deeds, and of Gustavus Vasa's adventurous
wanderings. But we will remain here in this smoke-enveloped town, with
the silent street's dark houses. It was almost midnight when we went
out and came to the market-place. There was a wedding in one of the
houses, and a great crowd of persons stood outside, the women nearest
the house, the men a little further back. According to an old Swedish
custom, they called for the bride and bridegroom to come forward, and
they did so--they durst not do otherwise. Peasant girls, with candles
in their hands, stood on each side; it was a perfect tableau: the
bride with downcast eyes, the bridegroom smiling, and the young
bridesmaids each with a laughing face. And the people shouted: "Now
turn yourselves a little! now the back! now the face! the bridegroom
quite round, the bride a little nearer!" And the bridal pair turned
and turned--nor was criticism wanting. In this instance, however, it
was to their praise and honour, but that is not always the case. It
may be a painful and terrible hour for a newly-wedded pair: if they do
not please the public, or if they have something to say against the
match, or the persons themselves, they are then soon made to know what
is thought of them. There is perhaps also heard some rude jest or
another, accompanied by the laughter of the crowd. We were told, that
even in Stockholm the same custom was observed among the lower classes
until a few years ago, so that a bridal pair, who, in order to avoid
this exposure, wanted to drive off, were stopped by the crowd, the
carriage-door was opened on each side, and the whole public marched
through the carriage. They would see the bride and bridegroom--that
was their right.
Here, in Fahlun, the exhibition was friendly; the bridal pair smiled,
the bridesmaids also, and the assembled crowd laughed and shouted,
hurra! In the rest of the market-place and the streets around, there
was dead silence and solitude.
The roseate hue of eve still shone: it passed, changed into that of
morn--it was the Midsummer time.
WHAT THE STRAWS SAID.
* * * * *
On the lake there glided a boat, and the party within it sang Swedish
and Danish songs; but by the shore, under that tall, hanging birch,
sat four young girls--so pretty--so sylph-like! and they each plucked
up from the grass four long straws, and bound these straws two and two
together, at the top and the bottom.
"We shall now see if they will come together in a square," said the
girls: "if it be so, then that which I think of will be fulfilled,"
and they bound them, and they thought.
No one got to know the secret thought, the heart's silent wish of the
others. But yet a little bird sings about it.
The thoughts of one flew over sea and land, over the high mountains,
where the mule finds its way in the mists, down to Mignon's beautiful
land, where the old gods live in marble and painting. "Thither,
thither! shall I ever get there?" That was the wish, that was the
thought, and she opened her hand, looked at the bound straws, and they
appeared only two and two bound together.
And where were the second one's thoughts? also in foreign lands, in
the gunpowder's smoke, amongst the glitter of arms and cannons, with
him, the friend of her childhood, fighting for imperial power, against
the Hungarian people. Will he return joyful and unharmed--return to
Sweden's peaceful, well-constituted, happy land? The straws showed no
square: a tear dwelt in the girl's eye.
The third smiled: there was a sort of mischief in the smile. Will our
aged bachelor and that old maiden-lady yonder, who now wander along so
young, smile so young, and speak so youthfully to each other, not be a
married couple before the cuckoo sings again next year? See--that is
what I should like to know! and the smile played around the thinker's
mouth, but she did not speak her thoughts. The straws were
separated--consequently the bachelor and the old maid also. "It may,
however, happen nevertheless," she certainly thought: it was apparent
in the smile; it was obvious in the manner in which she threw the
"There is nothing I would know--nothing that I am curious to know!"
said the fourth; but yet she bound the straws together; for within her
also there was a wish alive; but no bird has sung about it; no one
Rock thyself securely in the heart's lotus flower, thou shining
humming-bird, thy' name shall not be pronounced: and besides the
straws said as before--"without hope!"
"Now you! now you!" cried the young girls to a stranger, far from the
neighbouring land, from the green isle, that Gylfe ploughed from
Sweden. "What dear thing do you wish shall happen, or not
happen!--tell us the wish!"--"If the oracle speaks well for me," said
he, "then I will tell you the silent wish and prayer, with which I
bind these knots on the grass straw; but if I have no better success
than you have had, I will then be silent!" and he bound straw to
straw, and as he bound, he repeated: "it signifies nothing!" He now
opened his hand, his eyes shone brighter, his heart beat faster. The
straws formed a square! "It will happen, it will happen!" cried the
young girls. "What did you wish for?" "That Denmark may soon gain an
"It will happen! it will happen!" said the young girls; "and when it
happens, we will remember that the straws have told it before-hand."
"I will keep these four straws, bound in a prophetic wreath for
victory and peace!" said the stranger; "and if the oracle speaks
truth, then I will draw the whole picture for you, as we sit here
under the hanging birch by the lake, and look on Zäther's blue
mountains, each of us binding straw to straw."
A red mark was made in the almanack; it was the 6th of July, 1849. The
same day a red page was written in Denmark's history. The Danish
soldier made a red, victorious mark with his blood, at the battle of
THE POET'S SYMBOL.
* * * * *
If a man would seek for the symbol of the poet, he need not look
farther than "The Arabian Nights' Tales." Scherezade who interprets
the stories for the Sultan--Scherezade is the poet, and the Sultan is
the public who is to be agreeably entertained, or else he will
Powerful Sultan! Poor Scherezade!
The Sultan-public sits in more than a thousand and one forms, and
listens. Let us regard a few of these forms.
There sits a sallow, peevish, scholar; the tree of his life bears
leaves impressed with long and learned words: diligence and
perseverance crawl like snails on the hog's leather bark: the moths
have got into the inside--and that is bad, very bad! Pardon the rich
fulness of the song, the inconsiderate enthusiasm, the fresh young,
intellect. Do not behead Scherezade! But he beheads her out of hand,
There sits a dress-maker, a sempstress who has had some experience of
the world. She comes from strange families, from a solitary chamber
where she sat and gained a knowledge of mankind--she knows and loves
the romantic. Pardon, Miss, if the story has not excitement enough for
you, who have sat over the needle and the muslin, and having had so
much of life's prose, gasp after romance.
"Behead her!" says the dress-maker.
There sits a figure in a dressing gown--this oriental dress of the
North, for the lordly minion, the petty prince, the rich brewer's son,
&c., &c., &c. It is not to be learned from the dressing gown, nor from
that lordly look and the fine smile around the mouth, to what stem he
belongs: his demands on Scherezade are just the same as the
dress-maker's: he must be excited, he must be brought to shudder all
down the vertebrae, through the very spine: he must be crammed with
mysteries, such as those which Spriez knew how to connect and thicken.
Scherezade is beheaded!
Wise, enlightened Sultan! Thou comest in the form of a schoolboy; thou
bearest the Romans and Greeks together in a satchel on thy back, as
Atlas sustained the world. Do not cast an evil eye upon poor
Scherezade; do not judge her before thou hast learned thy lesson, and
art a child again,--do not behead Scherezade!
Young, full-dressed diplomatist, on whose breast we can count, by the
badges of honour, how many courts thou hast visited with thy princely
master, speak mildly of Scherezade's name! speak of her in French,
that she may be ennobled above her mother tongue! translate but one
strophe of her song, as badly as thou canst, but carry it into the
brilliant saloon, and her sentence of death is annulled in the sweet,
Mighty annihilator and elevator!--the newspapers' Zeus--thou weekly,
monthly, and daily journals' Jupiter, shake not thy locks in anger!
Cast not thy lightnings forth, if Scherezade sing otherwise than thou
art accustomed to in thy family, or if she go without a _suite_ of
thine own clique. Do not behead her!
We will see one figure more--the most dangerous of them all; he with
the praise on his lips, like that of the stormy river's swell--the
blind enthusiast. The water in which Scherezade dipped her fingers, is
for him a fountain of Castalia; the throne he erects to her apotheosis
becomes her scaffold.
This is the poet's symbol--paint it:
"THE SULTAN AND SCHEREZADE."
But why none of the worthier figures--the candid, the honest, and the
beautiful? They come also, and on them Scherezade fixes her eye.
Encouraged by them, she boldly raises her proud head aloft towards the
stars, and sings of the harmony there above, and here beneath, in
_That_ will not clearly show the symbol:
"THE SULTAN AND SCHEREZADE."
The sword of death hangs over her head whilst she relates--and the
Sultan-figure bids us expect that it will fall. Scherezade is the
victor: the poet is, like her, also a victor. He is rich,
victorious--even in his poor chamber, in his most solitary hours.
There, in that chamber, rose after rose shoots forth; bubble after
bubble sparkles on the magic stream. The heavens shine with shooting
stars, as if a new firmament were created, and the old rolled away.
The world does not know it, for it is the poet's own creation, richer
than the king's costly illuminations. He is happy, as Scherezade is;
he is victorious, he is mighty. _Imagination_ adorns his walls with
tapestry, such as no land's ruler owns; _feeling_ makes the beauteous
chords sound to him from the human breast; _understanding_ raises him,
through the magnificence of creation, up to God, without his
forgetting that he stands fast on the firm earth. He is mighty, he is
happy, as few are. We will not place him in the stocks of
misconstruction, for pity and lamentation; we merely paint his symbol,
dip into the colours on the world's least attractive side, and obtain
it most comprehensibly from
"THE SULTAN AND SCHEREZADE."
See--that is it! Do not behead Scherezade!
* * * * *
Before Homer sang there were heroes; but they are not known; no poet
celebrated their fame. It is just so with the beauties of nature, they
must be brought into notice by words and delineations, be brought
before the eyes of the multitude; get a sort of world's patent for
what they are, and then they may be said first to exist. The elvs of
the north have rushed and whirled along for thousands of years in
unknown beauty. The world's great highroad does take this direction;
no steam-packet conveys the traveller comfortably along the streams of
the Dal-elvs; fall on fall makes sluices indispensable and invaluable.
Schubert is as yet the only stranger who has written about the wild
magnificence and southern beauty of Dalecarlia, and spoken of its
Clear as the waves of the sea does the mighty elv stream in endless
windings through forest deserts and varying plains, sometimes
extending its deep bed, sometimes confining it, reflecting the bending
trees and the red painted block houses of solitary towns, and
sometimes rushing like a cataract over immense blocks of rock.
Miles apart from one another, out of the ridge of mountains between
Sweden and Norway, come the east and west Dal-elvs, which first become
confluent and have one bed above Bålstad. They have taken up rivers
and lakes in their waters. Do but visit this place! here are pictorial
riches to be found; the most picturesque landscapes, dizzyingly grand,
smilingly pastoral--idyllic: one is drawn onward up to the very source
of the elv, the bubbling well above Finman's hut: one feels a desire
to follow every branch of the stream that the river takes in.
The first mighty fall, Njupeskoers cataract, is seen by the Norwegian
frontier in Sernasog. The mountain stream rushes perpendicularly from
the rock to a depth of seventy fathoms.
We pause in the dark forest, where the elv seems to collect within
itself nature's whole deep gravity. The stream rolls its clear waters
over a porphyry soil where the mill-wheel is driven, and the gigantic
porphyry bowls and sarcophagi are polished.
We follow the stream through Siljan's lake, where superstition sees
the water-sprite swim, like the sea-horse with a mane of green
sea-weed, and where the aërial images present visions of witchcraft in
the warm summer days.
We sail on the stream from Siljan's lake, under the weeping willows of
the parsonage, where the swans assemble in flocks; we glide along
slowly with horses and carriages on the great ferry-boat, away over
the rapid current under Bålstad's picturesque shore. Here the elv
widens and rolls its billows majestically in a woodland landscape, as
large and extended as if it were in North America.
We see the rushing, rapid stream under Avista's yellow clay
declivities: the yellow water falls like fluid amber in picturesque
cataracts before the copper-works, where rainbow-coloured tongues of
fire shoot themselves upwards, and the hammer's blows on the copper
plates resound to the monotonous, roaring rumble of the elv-fall.
And now, as a concluding passage of splendour in the life of the
Dal-elvs, before they lose themselves in the waters of the Baltic, is
the view of Elvkarleby Fall. Schubert compares it with the fall of
Schafhausen; but we must remember, that the Rhine there has not such a
mass of water as that which rushes down Elvkarleby.
Two and a half Swedish miles from Gefle, where the high road to Upsala
goes over the Dal-elv, we see from the walled bridge, which we pass
over, the whole of that immense fall. Close up to the bridge, there is
a house where the bridge toll is paid. There the stranger can pass the
night, and from his little window look over the falling waters, see
them in the clear moonlight, when darkness has laid itself to rest
within the thicket of oaks and firs, and all the effect of light is in
those foaming, flowing waters, and see them when the morning sun
stretches his rainbow in the trembling spray, like an airy bridge of
colours, from the shore to the wood-grown rock in the centre of the
We came hither from Gefle, and saw at a great distance on the way, the
blue clouds from the broken, rising spray, ascend above the dark-green
tops of the trees. The carriage stopped near the bridge; we stepped
out, and close before us fell the whole redundant elv.
The painter cannot give us the true, living image of a waterfall on
canvas--the movement is wanting; how can one describe it in words,
delineate this majestic grandeur, brilliancy of colour, and arrowy
flight? One cannot do it; one may however attempt it; get together, by
little and little, with words, an outline of that mirrored image which
our eye gave us, and which even the strongest remembrance can only
retain--if not vaguely, dubiously.
The Dal-elv divides itself into three branches above the fall: the two
enclose a wood-grown rocky island, and rush down round its smooth-worn
stony wall. The one to the right of these two falls is the finer; the
third branch makes a circuit, and comes again to the main stream,
close outside the united fall; here it dashes out as if to meet or
stop the others, and is now hurried along in boiling eddies with the
arrowy stream, which rushes on foaming against the walled pillars that
bear the bridge, as if it would tear them away along with it.
The landscape to the left was enlivened by a herd of goats, that were
browsing amongst the hazel bushes. They ventured quite out to the very
edge of the declivity, as they were bred here and accustomed to the
hollow, thundering rumble of the water. To the right, a flock of
screaming birds flew over the magnificent oaks. Cars, each with one
horse, and with the driver standing upright in it, the reins in his
hand, came on the broad forest road from Oens Brück.
Thither we will go in order to take leave of the Dal-elv at one of the
most delightful of places, which vividly removes the stranger, as it
were, into a far more southern land, into a far richer nature, than he
supposed was to be found here. The road is so pretty--the oak grows
here so strong and vigorously with mighty crowns of rich foliage.
Oens Brück lies in a delightfully pastoral situation. We came thither;
here was life and bustle indeed! The mill-wheels went round; large
beams were sawn through; the iron forged on the anvil, and all by
water-power. The houses of the workmen form a whole town: it is a long
street with red-painted wooden houses, under picturesque oaks, and
birch trees. The greensward was as soft as velvet to look at, and up
at the manor-house, which rises in front of the garden like a little
palace, there was, in the rooms and saloon, everything that the
English call comfort.
We did not find the host at home; but hospitality is always the
house-fairy here. We had everything good and homely. Fish and wild
fowl were placed before us, steaming and fragrant, and almost as
quickly as in beautiful enchanted palaces. The garden itself was a
piece of enchantment. Here stood three transplanted beech-trees, and
they throve well. The sharp north wind had rounded off the tops of the
wild chesnut-trees of the avenue in a singular manner: they looked as
if they had been under the gardener's shears. Golden-yellow oranges
hung in the conservatory; the splendid southern exotics had to-day got
the windows half open, so that the artificial warmth met the fresh,
warm, sunny air of the northern summer.
That branch of the Dal-elv which goes round the garden is strewn with
small islands, where beautiful hanging birches and fir-trees grow in
Scandinavian splendour. There are small islands with green, silent
groves; there are small islands with rich grass, tall brackens,
variegated bell-flowers, and cowslips--no Turkey carpet has fresher
colours. The stream between these islands and holms is sometimes
rapid, deep, and clear; sometimes like a broad rivulet with
silky-green rushes, water-lilies, and brown-feathered reeds; sometimes
it is a brook with a stony ground, and now it spreads itself out in a
large, still mill-dam.
Here is a landscape in Midsummer for the games of the river-sprites,
and the dancers of the elves and fairies! Here, in the lustre of the
full moon, the dryads can tell their tales, the water-sprite seize the
golden harp, and believe that one can be blessed, at least for one
single night like this.
On the other side of Oens Brück is the main stream--the full Dal-elv.
Do you hear the monotonous rumble? it is not from Elvkarleby Fall that
it reaches hither; it is close by; it is from Laa-Foss, in which lies
Ash Island: the elv streams and rushes over the leaping salmon.
Let us sit here, between the fragments of rock by the shore, in the
red evening sunlight, which sheds a golden lustre on the waters of the
Glorious river! But a few seconds' work hast thou to do in the mills
yonder, and thou rushest foaming on over Elvkarleby's rocks, down into
the deep bed of the river, which leads thee to the Baltic--thy
* * * * *
Reader, do you know what giddiness is? Pray that she may not seize
you, this mighty "Loreley" of the heights, this evil-genius from the
land of the sylphides; she whizzes around her prey, and whirls it into
the abyss. She sits on the narrow rocky path, close by the steep
declivity, where no tree, no branch is found, where the wanderer must
creep close to the side of the rock, and look steadily forward. She
sits on the church spire and nods to the plumber who works on his
swaying scaffold; she glides into the illumined saloon, and up to the
nervous, solitary one, in the middle of the bright polished floor, and
it sways under him--the walls vanish from him.
Her fingers touch one of the hairs of our head, and we feel as if the
air had left us, and we were in a vacuum.
We met with her at Danemora's immense gulf, whither we came on broad,
smooth, excellent high-roads, through the fresh forest. She sat on the
extreme edge of the rocky wall, above the abyss, and kicked at the tun
with her thin, awl-like legs, as it hung in iron chains on large
beams, from the tower-high corner of the bridge by the precipice.
The traveller raised his foot over the abyss, and set it on the tun,
into which one of the workmen received him, and held him; and the
chains rattled; the pulleys turned; the tun sank slowly, hovering
through the air. But he felt the descent; he felt it through his bones
and marrow; through all the nerves. Her icy breath blew in his neck,
and down the spine, and the air itself became colder and colder. It
seemed to him as if the rocks grew over his head, always higher and
higher: the tun made a slight swinging, but he felt it, like a fall--a
fall in sleep, that shock in the blood. Did it go quicker downwards,
or was it going up again? He could not distinguish by the sensation.
The tun touched the ground, or rather the snow--the dirty trodden,
eternal snow, down to which no sunbeam reaches, which no summer warmth
from above ever melts. A hollow sound was heard from within the dark,
yawning cavern, and a thick vapour rolled out into the cold air. The
stranger entered the dark halls; there seemed to be a crashing above
him: the fire burned; the furnaces roared; the beating of hammers
sounded; the watery damps dripped down--and he again entered the tun,
which was hoven up in the air. He sat with closed eyes, but giddiness
breathed on his head, and on his breast; his inwardly-turned eye
measured the giddy depth through the tun: "It is appalling," said he.
"Appalling!" echoed the brave and estimable stranger, whom we met at
Danemora's great gulf. He was a man from Scania, consequently from the
same street as the Sealander--if the Sound be called a street
(strait). "But, however, one can say one has been down there," said
he, and he pointed to the gulf; "right down, and up again; but it is
no pleasure at all."
"But why descend at all?" said I. "Why will men do these things?"
"One must, you know, when one comes here," said he. "The plague of
travelling is, that one must see everything: one would not have it
supposed otherwise. It is a shame to a man, when he gets home again,
not to have seen everything, that others ask him about."
"If you have no desire, then let it alone. See what pleases you on
your travels. Go two paces nearer than where you stand, and become
quite giddy: you will then have formed some conception of the passage
downward. I will hold you fast, and describe the rest of it for you."
And I did so, and the perspiration sprang from his forehead.
"Yes, so it is: I apprehend it all," said he: "I am clearly sensible
I described the dirty grey snow covering, which the sun's warmth never
thaws; the cold down there, and the caverns, and the fire, and the
"Yes; one should be able to tell all about it," said he. "That _you_
can, for you have seen it."
"No more than you," said I. "I came to the gulf; I saw the depth, the
snow below, the smoke that rolled out of the caverns; but when it was
time I should get into the tun--no, thank you. Giddiness tickled me
with her long, awl-like legs, and so I stayed where I was I have felt
the descent, through the spine and the soles of the feet, and that as
well as any one: the descent is the pinch. I have been in the Hartz,
under Rammelsberg; glided, as on Russian mountains, at Hallein,
through the mountain, from the top down to the salt-works; wandered
about in the catacombs of Rome and Malta: and what does one see in the
deep passages? Gloom--darkness! What does one feel? Cold, and a sense
of oppression--a longing for air and light, which is by far the best;
and that we have now."
"But nevertheless, it is so very remarkable!" said the man; and he
drew forth his "Hand-book for Travellers in Sweden," from which he
read: "Danemora's iron-works are the oldest, largest, and richest in
Sweden; the best in Europe. They have seventy-nine openings, of which
seventeen only are being worked. The machine mine is ninety-three
Just then the bells sounded from below: it was the signal that the
time of labour for that day was ended. The hue of eve still shone on
the tops of the trees above; but down in that deep, far-extended gulf,
it was a perfect twilight. Thence, and out of the dark caverns, the
workmen swarmed forth. They looked like flies, quite small in the
space below: they scrambled up the long ladders, which hung from the
steep sides of the rocks, in separate landing-places: they climbed
higher and higher--upwards, upwards--and at every step they became
larger. The iron chains creaked in the scaffolding of beams, and three
or four young fellows stood in their wooden shoes on the edge of the
tun; chatted away right merrily, and kicked with their feet against
the side of the rock, so that they swung from it: and it became darker
and darker below; it was as if the deep abyss became still deeper!
"It is appalling!" said the man from Scania. "One ought, however, to
have gone down there, if it were only to swear that one _had_ been.
You, however, have certainly been down there," said he again to me.
"Believe what you will," I replied; and I say the same to the reader.
* * * * *
That capital fellow, Charles Dickens, has told us about the swine, and
since then it puts us into a good humour whenever we hear even the
grunt of one. Saint Anthony has taken them under his patronage, and if
we think of the "prodigal son," we are at once in the midst of the
sty, and it was just before such a one that our carriage stopped in
Sweden. By the high road, closely adjoining his house, the peasant had
his sty, and that such a one as there is probably scarcely its like in
the world. It was an old state-carriage, the seats were taken out of
it, the wheels taken off, and thus it stood, without further ceremony,
on its own bottom, and four swine were shut in there. If these were
the first that had been in it one could not determine; but that it was
once a state-carriage everything about it bore witness, even to the
strip of morocco that hung from the roof inside, all bore witness of
better days. It is true, every word of it.
"Uff," said the occupiers within, and the carriage creaked and
complained--it was a sorrowful end it had come to.
"The beautiful is past!" so it sighed; so it said, or it might have
We returned here in the autumn. The carriage, or rather the body of
the carriage, stood in its old place, but the swine were gone: they
were lords in the forests; rain and drizzle reigned there; the wind
tore the leaves off all the trees, and allowed them neither rest nor
quiet: the birds of passage were gone.
"The beautiful is past!" said the carriage, and the same sigh passed
through the whole of nature, and from the human heart it sounded: "The
beautiful is past! with the delightful green forest, with the warm
sunshine, and the song of birds--past! past!" So it said, and so it
creaked in the trunks of the tall trees, and there was heard a sigh,
so inwardly deep, a sigh direct from the heart of the wild rose-bush,
and he who sat there was the rose-king. Do you know him! he is of a
pure breed, the finest red-green breed: he is easily known. Go to the
wild rose hedges, and in autumn, when all the flowers are gone, and
the red hips alone remain, one often sees amongst these a large
red-green moss-flower: that is the rose-king. A little green leaf
grows out of his head--that is his feather: he is the only male person
of his kind on the rose-bush, and he it was who sighed.
"Past! past! the beautiful is past! The roses are gone; the leaves of
the trees fall off!--it is wet here, and it is cold and raw!--The
birds that sang here are now silent; the swine live on acorns; the
swine are lords in the forest!"
They were cold nights, they were gloomy days; but the raven sat on the
bough and croaked nevertheless: "brah, brah!" The raven and the crow
sat on the topmost bough: they have a large family, and they all said:
"brah, brah! caw, caw!" and the majority is always right.
There was a great miry pool under the tall trees in the hollow, and
here lay the whole herd of swine, great and small--they found the
place so excellent. "Oui! oui!" said they, for they knew no more
French, but that, however, was something. They were so wise, and so
fat, and altogether lords in the forest.
The old ones lay still, for they thought; the young ones, on the
contrary, were so brisk--busy, but apparently uneasy. One little pig
had a curly tail--that curl was the mother's delight. She thought that
they all looked at the curl, and thought only of the curl; but that
they did not. They thought of themselves, and of what was useful, and
of what the forest was for. They had always heard that the acorns they
ate grew on the roots of the trees, and therefore they had always
rooted there; but now there came a little one--for it is always the
young ones that come with news--and he asserted that the acorns fell
down from the branches: he himself had felt one fall right on his
head, and that had given him the idea, so he had made observations,
and now he was quite sure of what he asserted. The old ones laid their
heads together. "Uff," said the swine, "uff! the finery is past! the
twittering of the birds is past! we will have fruit! whatever can be
eaten is good, and we eat everything!"
"Oui! oui!" said they altogether.
But the mother sow looked at her little pig with the curly tail.
"One must not, however, forget the beautiful!" said she.
"Caw! caw!" screamed the crow, and flew down, in order to be appointed
nightingale: one there should be--and so the crow was directly
"Past! past!" sighed the Rose King, "all the beautiful is past!"
It was wet; it was gloomy; there was cold and wind, and the rain
pelted down over the fields, and through the forest, like long water
jets. Where are the birds that sang? where are the flowers in the
meadows, and the sweet berries in the wood?--past! past!
A light shone from the forester's house: it twinkled like a star, and
shed its long rays out between the trees. A song was heard from
within; pretty children played around their old grandfather, who sat
with the Bible on his lap and read about God, and eternal life, and
spoke of the spring that would come again: he spoke of the forest that
would renew its green leaves, of the roses that would flower, of the
nightingales that would sing, and of the beautiful that would again be
But the Rose King did not hear it; he sat in the raw, cold weather,
And the swine were lords in the forest, and the mother sow looked at
her little pig, and his curly tail.
"There will always be some, who have a sense for the beautiful!" said
the mother sow.
* * * * *
Nature's treasures are most often unveiled to us by accident. A dog's
nose was dyed by the bruised purple fish, and the genuine purple dye
was discovered; a pair of wild buffalos were fighting on America's
auriferous soil, and their horns tore up the green sward that covered
the rich gold vein.
"In former days," as it is said by most, "everything came
spontaneously. Our age has not such revelations; now one must slave
and drudge if one would get anything; one must dig down into the deep
shafts after the metals, which decrease more and more;--when the earth
suddenly stretches forth her golden finger from California's
peninsula, and we there see Monte Christo's foolishly invented riches
realized; we see Aladdin's cave with its inestimable treasures. The
world's treasury is so endlessly rich that we have, to speak plain and
straightforward, scraped a little off the up-heaped measure; but the
bushel is still full, the whole of the real measure is now refilled.
In science also, such a world lies open for the discoveries of the
"But in poetry, the greatest and most glorious is already found, and
gained!" says the poet. "Happy he who was born in former times; there
was then many a land still undiscovered, on which poetry's rich gold
lay like the ore that shines forth from the earth's surface."
Do not speak so! happy poet thou, who art born in our time! thou dost
inherit all the glorious treasures which thy predecessors gave to the
world; thou dost learn from them, that truth only is eternal,--the
true in nature and mankind.
Our time is the time of discoveries--poetry also has its new
"Where does it exist?" you ask.
The coast is so near, that you do not think that _there_ is the new
world. Like a bold Leander, swim with me across the stream: the black
words on the white paper will waft you--every period is a heave of the
* * * * *
It was in the library's saloon. Book-shelves with many books, old and
new, were ranged around for every one; manuscripts lay there in heaps;
there were also maps and globes. There sat industrious men at little
tables, and wrote out and wrote in, and that was no easy work. But
suddenly, a great transformation took place; the shelves became
terraces for the noblest trees, with flowers and fruit; heavy clusters
of grapes hung amongst leafy vines, and there was life and movement
The old folios and dusty manuscripts rose into flower-covered tumuli,
and there sprang forth knights in mail, and kings with golden crowns
on, and there was the clang of harp and shield; history acquired the
life and fullness of poetry--for a poet had entered there. He saw the
living visions; breathed the flowers' fragrance; crushed the grapes,
and drank the sacred juice. But he himself knew not yet that he was a
poet--the bearer of-light for times and generations yet to come.
It was in the fresh, fragrant forest, in the last hour of
leave-taking. Love's kiss, as the farewell, was the initiatory baptism
for the future poetic life; and the fresh fragrance of the forest
became sweeter, the chirping of the birds more melodious: there came
sunlight and cooling breezes. Nature becomes doubly delightful where a
And as there were two roads before Hercules, so there were before him
two roads, shown by two figures, in order to serve him; the one an old
crone, the other a youth, beautiful as the angel that led the young
The old crone had on a mantle, on which were wrought flowers, animals,
and human beings, entwined in an arabesque manner. She had large
spectacles on, and beside her lantern she held a bag filled with old
gilt cards--apparatus for witchcraft, and all the amulets of
superstition: leaning on her crutch, wrinkled and shivering, she was,
however, soaring, like the mist over the meadow.
"Come with me, and you shall see the world, so that a poet can have
benefit from it," said she. "I will light my lantern; it is better
than that which Diogenes bore; I shall lighten your path."
And the light shone; the old crone lifted her head, and stood there
strong and tall, a powerful female figure. She was Superstition.
"I am the strongest in the region of romance," said she,--and she
herself believed it.
And the lantern's light gave the lustre of the full moon over the
whole earth; yes, the earth itself became transparent, as the still
waters of the deep sea, or the glass mountains, in the fairy tale.
"My kingdom is thine! sing what thou see'st; sing as if no bard before
thee had sung thereof."
And it was as if the scene continually changed. Splendid Gothic
churches, with painted images in the panes, glided past, and the
midnight-bell struck, and the dead arose from the graves. There, under
the bending elder tree, sat the mother, and swathed her newly-born
child; old, sunken knights' castles rose again from the marshy ground;
the drawbridge fell, and they saw into the empty halls, adorned with
images, where, under the gloomy stairs of the gallery, the
death-proclaiming white woman came with a rattling bunch of keys. The
basilisk brooded in the deep cellar; the monster bred from a cock's
egg, invulnerable by every weapon, but not from the sight of its own
horrible form: at the sight of its own image, it bursts like the steel
that one breaks with the blow of a stout staff. And to everything that
appeared, from the golden chalice of the altar-table, once the
drinking-cup of evil spirits, to the nodding head on the gallows-hill,
the old crone hummed her songs; and the crickets chirped, and the
raven croaked from the opposite neighbour's house, and the
winding-sheet rolled from the candle. Through the whole spectral world
sounded, "death! death!"
"Go with me to life and truth," cried the second form, the youth who
was beautiful as a cherub. A flame shone from his brow--a cherub's
sword glittered in his hand. "I am _Knowledge_," said he: "my world is
greater--its aim is truth."
And there was a brightness all around; the spectral images paled; it
did not extend over the world they had seen. Superstition's lantern
had only exhibited _magic-lantern_ images on the old ruined wall, and
the wind had driven wet misty vapours past in figures.
"I will give thee a rich recompense. Truth in the created--truth in
And through the stagnant lake, where before the misty spectral figures
rose, whilst the bells sounded from the sunken castle, the light fell
down on a swaying vegetable world. One drop of the marsh water, raised
against the rays of light, became a living world, with creatures in
strange forms, fighting and revelling--a world in a drop of water. And
the sharp sword of Knowledge cleft the deep vault, and shone therein,
where the basilisk killed, and the animal's body was dissolved in a
death-bringing vapour: its claw extended from the fermenting
wine-cask; its eyes were air, that burnt when the fresh wind touched
And there resided a powerful force in the sword; _so_ powerful, that
the grain of gold was beaten to a flat surface, thin as the covering
of mist that we breathe on the glass-pane; and it shone at the sword's
point, so that the thin threads of the cobweb seemed to swell to
cables, for one saw the strong twistings of numberless small threads.
And the voice of Knowledge seemed over the whole world, so that the
age of miracles appeared to have returned. Thin iron ties were laid
over the earth, and along these the heavily-laden waggons flew on the
wings of steam, with the swallow's flight; mountains were compelled to
open themselves to the inquiring spirit of the age; the plains were
obliged to raise themselves; and then thought was borne in words,
through metal wires, with the lightning's speed, to distant towns.
"Life! life!" it sounded through the whole of nature. "It is our time!
Poet, thou dost possess it! Sing of it in spirit and in truth!"
And the genius of Knowledge raised the shining sword; he raised it far
out into space, and then--what a sight! It was as when the sunbeams
shine through a crevice in the wall in a dark space, and appear to us
a revolving column of myriads of grains of dust; but every grain of
dust here was a world! The sight he saw was our starry firmament!
Thy earth is a grain of dust here, but a speck whose wonders astonish
thee; only a grain of dust, and yet a star under stars. That long
column of worlds thou callest thy starry firmament, revolves like the
myriads of grains of dust, visibly hovering in the sunbeam's revolving
column, from the crevice in the wall into that dark space. But still
more distant stands the milky way's whitish mist, a new starry heaven,
each column but a radius in the wheel! But how great is this itself!
how many radii thus go out from the central point--God!
So far does thine eye reach, so clear is thine age's horizon! Son of
time, choose, who shall be thy companion? Here is thy new career! with
the greatest of thy time, fly thou before thy time's generation! Like
twinkling Lucifer, shine thou in time's roseate morn.
* * * * *
Yes, in knowledge lies Poetry's California! Every one who only looks
backward, and not clearly forward, will, however high and honourably
he stands, say, that if such riches lie in knowledge, they would long
since have been made available by great and immortal bards, who had a
clear and sagacious eye for the discovery of truth. But let us
remember that when Thespis spoke from his car, the world had also wise
men. Homer had sung his immortal songs, and yet a new form of genius
appeared, to which a Sophocles and Aristophanes gave birth; the Sagas
and mythology of the North were as an unknown treasure to the stage,
until Oehlenschläger showed what mighty forms from thence might be
made to glide past us.
It is not our intention that the poet shall versify scientific
discoveries. The didactic poem is and will be, in its best form,
always but a piece of mechanism, or wooden figure, which has not the
true life. The sunlight of science must penetrate the poet; he must
perceive truth and harmony in the minute and in the immensely great
with a clear eye: it must purify and enrich the understanding and
imagination, and show him new forms which will supply to him more
animated words. Even single discoveries will furnish a new flight.
What fairy tales cannot the world unfold under the microscope, if we
transfer our human world thereto? Electro-magnetism can present or
suggest new plots in new comedies and romances; and how many humorous
compositions will not spring forth, as we from our grain of dust, our
little earth, with its little haughty beings look out into that
endless world's universe, from milky way to milky way? An instance of
what we here mean is discoverable in that old noble lady's words: "If
every star be a globe like our earth, and have its kingdoms and
courts--what an endless number of courts--the contemplation is enough
to make mankind giddy!"
We will not say, like that French authoress: "Now, then, let me die:
the world has no more discoveries to make!" O, there is so endlessly
much in the sea, in the air, and on the earth--wonders, which science
will bring forth!--wonders, greater than the poet's philosophy can
create! A bard will come, who, with a child's mind, like a new
Aladdin, will enter into the cavern of science,--with a child's mind,
we say, or else the puissant spirits of natural strength would seize
him, and make him their servant; whilst he, with the lamp of poetry,
which is, and always will be, the human heart, stands as a ruler, and
brings forth wonderful fruits from the gloomy passages, and has
strength to build poetry's new palace, created in one night by
In the world itself events repeat themselves; the human character was
and will be the same during long ages and all ages; and as they were
in the old writings, they must be in the new. But science always
unfolds something new; light and truth are everything that is
created--beam out from hence with eternally divine clearness. Mighty
image of God, do thou illumine and enlighten mankind; and when its
intellectual eye is accustomed to the lustre, the new Aladdin will
come, and thou, man, shalt with him, who concisely dear, and richly
sings the beauty of truth, wander through Poetry's California.