Hero Tales of the Far North
Jacob A. Riis

Part 2 out of 3

They delivered the temple treasure into the hands of the King--seven
chests filled with money and valuables, among them a silver cup
which the wretched King Svend had sent to Svantevit as a bribe to
the Wends for joining him against his own country and kin. But those
days were ended. It was the Danes' turn now, and Wendland was laid
waste until "the swallows found no eaves of any house whereunder to
build their nests and were forced to build them on the ships." A sad
preliminary to bringing the country under the rule of the Prince of
Peace; but in the scheme of those days the sword was equal partner
with the cross in leading men to the true God.

The heathen temples were destroyed and churches built on their
sites of the timber gathered for the siege of Arcona. The people,
deserted by their own, accepted the Christians' God in good faith,
and were baptized in hosts, thirteen hundred on one day and nine
hundred on the next. Three days and nights Absalon saw no sleep. He
did nothing half-way. No sooner was he back home than he sent over
priests and teachers supplied with everything, even food for their
keep, so that they "should not be a burden to the people whom they
had come to show the way to salvation."

The Wends were conquered, but the end was not yet. They had savage
neighbors, and many a crusade did Absalon lead against them in the
following years, before the new title of the Danish rulers, "King of
the Slavs and Wends," was much more than an empty boast. He
organized a regular sea patrol of one-fourth of the available ships,
of which he himself took command, and said mass on board much
oftener than in the Roskilde church. It is the sailor, the warrior,
the leader of men one sees through all the troubled years of his
royal friend's life. Now the Danish fleet is caught in the inland
sea before Stettin, unable to make its way out, and already the
heathen hosts are shouting their triumph on shore. It is Absalon,
then, who finds the way and, as one would expect, he forces it. The
captains wail over the trap and abuse him for getting them into it.
Absalon, disdaining to answer them, leads his ships in single file
straight for the gap where the Wendish fleet lies waiting, and gets
the King to attack with his horsemen on shore. Between them the
enemy is routed, and the cowards are shamed. But when they come to
make amends, he is as unmoved as ever and will have none of it.
Again, when he is leading his men to the attack on a walled town, a
bridge upon which they crowd breaks, and it is the bishop who saves
his comrades from drowning, swimming ashore with them in full armor.

Resting in his castle at Haffn, the present Copenhagen, which he
built as a defence against the sea-rovers, he hears, while in his
bath, his men talking of strange ships that are sailing into the
Sound, and, hastily throwing on his clothes, gives chase and kills
their crews, for they were pirates whose business was murder, and
they merely got their deserts. In the pursuit his archers "pinned
the hands of the rowers to the oars with their arrows" and crippled
them, so skilful had much practice made them. Turn the leaf of
Saxo's chronicle, and we find him under Ruegen with his fleet,
protecting the now peaceful Wendish fishermen in their autumn
herring-catch, on which their livelihood depended. Of such stuff was
made the bishop who

"Used his trusty Danish sword
As the Pope his staff in Rome."

Wherever danger threatens Valdemar and Absalon, Esbern is found,
too, earning the name of the Fleet (Snare), which the people had
fondly given to their favorite. Where the fighting was hardest, he
was sure to be. The King's son had ventured too far and was caught
in a tight place by an overwhelming force, when Esbern pushed his
ship in between him and the enemy and bore the brunt of a fight that
came near to making an end of him. He had at last only a single man
left, but the two made a stand against a hundred. "When the heathen
saw his face they fled in terror." At last they knocked him
senseless with a stone and would have killed him, but in the nick of
time the King's men came to the rescue.

Coming home from Norway he ran afoul of forty pirate ships under
the coast of Seeland. He tried to steal past; forty against one were
heavy odds. But it was moonlight and he was discovered. The pirates
lay across his course and cut him off. Esbern made ready for a fight
and steered straight into the middle of them. The steersman
complained that he had no armor, and he gave him his own. He beat
his pursuers off again and again, but the wind slackened and they
were closing in once more, swearing by their heathen gods that they
would have him dead or alive, for a Danish prisoner on one of their
ships had told who he was. But Esbern had more than one string to
his bow. He sent a man aloft with flint and steel to strike fire in
the top, and the pirates, believing that he was signalling to a
fleet he had in ambush, fled helter-skelter. Esbern got home safe.

The German emperors' fingers had always itched for the over-lordship
of the Danish isles, and they have not ceased to do so to this day.
When Frederick Barbarossa drove Alexander III from Rome and set up a
rival Pope in his place, Archbishop Eskild of Lund, who was the
Primate of the North, championed the exiled Pope's case, and
Valdemar, whose path the ambitious priest had crossed more than
once, let it be known that he inclined to the Emperor's cause, in
part probably from mere pique, perhaps also because he thought it
good politics. The archbishop in a rage summoned Absalon and bade
him join him in a rising against the King. Absalon's answer is
worthy the man and friend:

"My oath to you I will keep, and in this wise, that I will not
counsel you to your own undoing. Whatever your cause against the
King, war against him you cannot, and succeed. And this know, that
never will I join with you against my liege lord, to whom I have
sworn fealty and friendship with heart and soul all the days of my

He could not persuade the archbishop, who went his own way and was
beaten and exiled for a season, nor could he prevent the King from
yielding to the blandishments of Frederick and getting mixed up in
the papal troubles; but he went with him to Germany and saved him at
the last moment from committing himself by making him leave the
church council just as the anti-pope was about to pronounce sentence
of excommunication against Alexander. He commanded Absalon to
remain, as a servant of the church, but Absalon replied calmly that
he was not there in that capacity, but as an attendant on his King,
and must follow where he went. It appeared speedily that the
Emperor's real object was to get Valdemar to own him as his
over-lord, and this he did, to Absalon's great grief, on the idle
promise that Frederick would join him in his war upon all the Baltic
pagans. However, it was to be a purely personal matter, in nowise
affecting his descendants. That much was saved, and Absalon lived
long enough to fling back, as the counsellor of Valdemar's son, from
behind the stout wall he built at Denmark's southern gate, the
Emperor's demand for homage, with the reply that "the King ruled in
Denmark with the same right as the Emperor in Germany, and was no
man's subject."

However grievously Absalon had offended the aged archbishop, when
after forty years in his high office illness compelled him to lay it
down, he could find no one so worthy to step into his shoes. He sent
secretly to Rome and got the Pope's permission to name his own
successor, before he called a meeting of the church. The account of
what followed is the most singular of all Saxo's stories. Valdemar
did not know what was coming and, fearing fresh trouble, got the
archbishop to swear on the bones of the saints before them all that
he was not moved to abdication by hate of the King, or by any
coercion whatever. Then the venerable priest laid his staff, his
mitre, and his ring on the altar and announced that he had done with
it all forever. But he had made up his mind not to use the power
given him by the Pontiff. They might choose his successor
themselves. He would do nothing to influence their action.

The bishops and clergy went to the King and asked him if he had any
choice. The King said he had, but if he made it known he would get
no thanks for it and might estrange his best friend. If he did not,
he would certainly be committing a sin. He did not know what to do.

"Name him," said they, and Valdemar told them it was the bishop of

At that the old archbishop got up and insisted on the election then
and there; but Absalon would have none of it. The burden was too
heavy for his shoulders, he said. However, the clergy seized him,
"being," says Saxo, who without doubt was one of them, "the more
emboldened to do so as the archbishop himself laid hands upon him
first." Intoning the hymn sung at archiepiscopal consecrations, they
tried to lead him to the altar. He resisted with all his might and
knocked several of the brethren down. Vestments were torn and
scattered, and a mighty ruction arose, to which the laity, not to be
outdone, added by striking up a hymn of their own. Archbishop and
King tried vainly to make peace; the clamor and battle only rose the
higher. Despite his struggles, Absalon was dragged to the high seat,
but as they were about to force him into it, he asked leave to say a
single word, and instantly appealed his case to the Pope. So there
was an end; but when the aged Eskild, on the plea of weakness,
begged him to pronounce the benediction, he refused warily, because
so he would be exercising archiepiscopal functions and would be _de
facto_ incumbent of the office.[4]

[Footnote 4: That all this in no way affected the personal relations
of the two men Saxo assures us in one of the little human touches
with which his chronicle abounds. When Eskild was going away to end
his days as a monk in the monastery of Clairvaux, he rested awhile
with Absalon at his castle Haffn, where he was received as a father.
The old man suffered greatly from cold feet, and Absalon made a box
with many little holes in, and put a hot brick in it. With this at
his feet, Eskild was able to sleep, and he was very grateful to
Absalon, both because of the comfort it gave him and "because that
he perceived that filial piety rather than skill in the healer's
art" prompted the invention.]

Here, as always, Absalon thought less of himself than of his
country, so the event showed. For when the Pope heard his plea,
though he decided against him, he allowed him to hold the bishopric
of Roskilde together with the higher office, and so he was left at
Valdemar's side to help finish their work of building up Denmark
within and without. At Roskilde he spent, as a matter of fact, most
of his time while Valdemar lived. At Lund he would have been in a
distant part of the country, parted from his friend and out of touch
with the things that were the first concern of his life.

They were preparing to aim a decisive blow against the Pomeranian
pagans when Valdemar died, on the very day set for the sailing. The
parting nearly killed Absalon. Saxo draws a touching picture of him
weeping bitterly as he said the requiem mass over his friend, and
observes: "Who can doubt that his tears, rising with the incense,
gave forth a peculiar and agreeable savour in high heaven before
God?" The plowmen left their fields and carried the bier, with sobs
and lamentations, to the church in Ringsted, where the great King
rests. His sorrow laid Absalon on a long and grievous sick-bed, from
which he rose only when Valdemar's son needed and called him.

In the fifteen years that follow we see his old warlike spirit still
unbroken. Thus his defiance of the German Emperor, whose anger was
hot. Frederick, in revenge, persuaded the Pomeranian duke Bugislav
to organize a raid on Denmark with a fleet of five hundred sail.
Scant warning reached Absalon of the danger. King Knud was away, and
there was no time to send for him. Mustering such vessels as were
near, he sailed across the Baltic and met the enemy under Ruegen the
day after Whitsuntide (1184). The bishop had gone ashore to say mass
on the beach, when word was brought that the great fleet was in
sight. Hastily pulling off his robe and donning armor instead, he
made for his ship with the words: "Now let our swords sing the
praise of God." The Pomeranians were taken completely by surprise.
They did not know the Danes were there, and when they heard the
archbishop's dreaded war-cry raised, they turned and fled in such
terror and haste that eighteen of their ships were run down and sunk
with all on board. On one, a rower hanged himself for fear of
falling into the hands of the Danes. Absalon gave chase, and the
rout became complete. Of the five hundred ships only thirty-five
escaped; all the rest were either sunk or taken. Duke Bugislav soon
after became a vassal of Denmark, and of the Emperor's plots there
was an end.

It was the last blow, and the story of it went far and wide.
Absalon's work was nearly done. Denmark was safe from her enemies.
The people were happy and prosperous. Valdemar's son ruled
unchallenged, and though he was childless, by his side stood his
brother, a manly youth who, not yet full grown, had already shown
such qualities of courage and sagacious leadership that the old
archbishop could hang up the sword with heart at ease. The promise
was kept. The second Valdemar became Denmark's royal hero for all
time. Absalon's last days were devoted to strengthening the Church,
around which he had built such a stout wall. He built churches and
cloisters, and guided them with a wise and firm hand. And he made
Saxo, his clerk, set it all down as an eye-witness of these things,
and as one who came to the task by right; for, says the chronicler,
"have not my grandfather and his father before him served the King
well on land and sea, hence why should not I serve him with my
book-learning?" He bears witness that the bishop himself is his
authority for much that he has written.

Archbishop Absalon closed his eyes on St. Benedict's Day, March 21,
1201, in the cloister at Soroe which Sir Asker built and where he
lived his last days in peace. Absalon's statue of bronze, on
horseback, battle-axe in hand, stands in the market square in
Copenhagen, the city he founded and of which he is the patron saint;
but his body lies within the quiet sanctuary where, in the deep
forest glades, one listens yet for the evensong of the monks, long
silent now. When his grave was opened, in 1826, the lines of his
tall form, clad in clerical robes, were yet clearly traceable. The
strong hands, turned to dust, held a silver chalice in which lay his
episcopal ring. They are there to be seen to-day, with remnants of
his staff that had partly crumbled away. No Dane approaches his
grave without emotion. "All Denmark grieved for him," says a German
writer of that day, "and commended his soul to Jesus Christ, the
Prince of Peace, for that in his lifetime he had led many who were
enemies to peace and concord." In his old cathedral, in Roskilde
town, lies Saxo, according to tradition under an unmarked stone.
When he went to rest his friend and master had slept five years.

Esbern outlived his brother three years. The hero of so many battles
met his death at last by an accidental fall in his own house. The
last we hear of him is at a meeting in the Christmas season, 1187,
where emissaries of Pope Gregory VIII preached a general crusade.
Their hearers wept at the picture they drew of the sufferings
Christians were made to endure in the Holy Land. Then arose Esbern
and reminded them of the great deeds of the fathers at home and
abroad. The faith and the fire of Absalon were in his words:

"These things they did," he said, "for the glory of their name and
race, knowing nothing of our holy religion. Shall we, believing, do
less? Let us lay aside our petty quarrels and take up this greater
cause. Let us share the sufferings of the saints and earn their
reward. Perhaps we shall win--God keeps the issue. Let him who
cannot give himself, give of his means. So shall all we, sharing the
promise, share also the reward."

The account we have says that many took the cross, such was the
effect of his words, more likely of the man and what he was and had
been in the sight of them all throughout his long life.


To the court of King Ottocar of Bohemia there came in the year 1205
a brilliant embassy from far-off Denmark to ask the hand of his
daughter Dragomir for King Valdemar, the young ruler of that
country. Sir Strange[1] Ebbesoen and Bishop Peder Sunesoen were the
spokesmen, and many knights, whose fame had travelled far in the
long years of fighting to bring the Baltic pagans under the cross,
rode with them. The old king received them with delight. Valdemar
was not only a good son-in-law for a king to have, being himself a
great and renowned ruler, but he was a splendid knight, tall and
handsome, of most courteous bearing, ambitious, manly, and of ready
wit. So their suit prospered well. The folk-song tells how they
fared; how, according to the custom of those days, Sir Strange
wedded the fair princess by proxy for his lord, and how King
Ottocar, when he bade her good-by, took this promise of her:

In piety, virtue, and fear of God,
Let all thy days be spent;
And ever thy subjects be thy thought,
Their hopes on thy care be bent.

[Footnote 1: Pronounce as Strangle, with the l left out.]

The daughter kept her vow. Never was queen more beloved of her
people than Dagmar. That was the name they gave her in Denmark, for
the Bohemian Dragomir was strange to them. Dagmar meant daybreak in
their ancient tongue, and it really seemed as if a new and beautiful
day dawned upon the land in her coming. The dry pages of history
have little enough to tell of her beyond the simple fact of her
marriage and untimely death, though they are filled with her famous
husband's deeds; but not all of his glorious campaigns that earned
for him the name of "The Victor" have sunk so deep into the people's
memory, or have taken such hold of their hearts, as the lovely queen

Came without burden, she came with peace;
She came the good peasant to cheer.

Through all the centuries the people have sung her praise, and they
sing it yet. Of the many folk-songs that have come down from the
middle ages, those that tell of Queen Dagmar are the sweetest, as
they are the most mournful, for her happiness was as brief as her
life was beautiful.

They sailed homeward over sunny seas, until they came to the shore
where the royal lover awaited his bride, impatiently scanning the
horizon for the gilded dragon's head of the ship that bore her. The
minstrel sings of the great wedding that was held in the old city of
Ribe.[2] The gray old cathedral in which they knelt together still
stands; but of Valdemar's strong castle only a grass-grown hill is
left. It was the privilege of a bride in those days to ask a gift of
her husband on the morning after the wedding, and have it granted
without question. Two boons did Dagmar crave,

"right early in the morning, long before it was day":

one, that the plow-tax might be forgiven the peasant, and that those
who for rising against it had been laid in irons be set free; the
other, that the prison door of Bishop Valdemar be opened. Bishop
Valdemar was the arch-enemy of the King. The first request he
granted; but the other he refused for cause:

An' he comes out, Bishop Valdemar,
Widow he makes you this year.

And he did his worst; for in the end the King yielded to Dagmar's
prayers, and much mischief came of it.

[Footnote 2: Pronounced Reebe, in two syllables.]

Seven years the good queen lived. Seven centuries have not dimmed
the memory of them, or of her. The King was away in a distant part
of the country when they sent to him in haste with the message that
the queen was dying. The ballad tells of his fears as he sees
Dagmar's page coming, and they proved only too true.

The king his checker-board shut in haste,
The dice they rattled and rung.
Forbid it God, who dwells in heaven,
That Dagmar should die so young.

In the wild ride over field and moor, the King left his men far

When the king rode out of Skanderborg
Him followed a hundred men.
But when he rode o'er Ribe bridge,
Then rode the king alone.

The tears of weeping women told him as he thundered over the
drawbridge of the castle that he was too late. But Dagmar had only
swooned. As he throws himself upon her bed she opens her eyes, and
smiles upon her husband. Her last prayer, as her first, is for mercy
and peace. Her sin, she says, is not great; she has done nothing
worse than to lace her silken sleeves on a Sunday. Then she closes
her eyes with a tired sigh:

The bells of heaven are chiming for me;
No more may I stay to speak.

Thus the folk-song. Long before Dagmar went to her rest, Bishop
Valdemar had stirred up all Germany to wreak his vengeance upon the
King. He was an ambitious, unscrupulous priest, who hated his royal
master because he held himself entitled to the crown, being the
natural son of King Knud, who was murdered at Roskilde, as told in
the story of Absalon. While they were yet young men, when he saw
that the people followed his rival, he set the German princes
against Denmark, a task he never found hard. But young Valdemar made
short work of them. He took the strong cities on the Elbe and laid
the lands of his adversaries under the Danish crown. The bishop he
seized, and threw him into the dungeon of Soeborg Castle, where he
had sat thirteen years when Dagmar's prayers set him free. He could
hardly walk when he came out, but he could hate, and all the world
knew it. The Pope bound him with heavy oaths never to return to
Denmark, and made him come to Italy so that he could keep an eye on
him himself. But two years had not passed before he broke his oath,
and fled to Bremen, where the people elected him to the vacant
archbishopric and its great political power. Forthwith he began
plotting against his native land.

In the bitter feud between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines he found
his opportunity. One of the rival emperors marched an army north to
help the perjured priest. King Valdemar hastened to meet them, but
on the eve of battle the Emperor was slain by one of his own men. On
Sunday, when the archbishop was saying mass in the Bremen cathedral,
an unknown knight, the visor of whose helmet was closed so that no
one saw his face, strode up to the altar, and laying a papal bull
before him, cried out that he was accursed, and under the ban of the
church. The people fled, and forsaken by all, the wretched man
turned once more to Rome in submission. But though the Pope forgave
him on condition that he meddle no more with politics, war, or
episcopal office, another summer found him wielding sword and lance
against the man he hated, this time under the banner of the Guelphs.
The Germans had made another onset on Denmark, but again King
Valdemar defeated them. The bishop intrenched himself in Hamburg,
and made a desperate resistance, but the King carried the city by
storm. The beaten and hopeless man fled, and shut himself up in a
cloister in Hanover, where daily and nightly he scourged himself for
his sins. If it is true that "hell was fashioned by the souls that
hated," not all the penance of all the years must have availed to
save him from the torments of the lost.

Denmark now had peace on its southern border. Dagmar was dead, and
Valdemar, whose restless soul yearned for new worlds to conquer,
turned toward the east where the wild Esthland tribes were guilty of
even worse outrages than the Wends before Absalon tamed them. The
dreadful cruelties practised by these pagans upon christian captives
cried aloud to all civilized Europe, and Valdemar took the cross
"for the honor of the Virgin Mary and the absolution of his sins,"
and gathered a mighty fleet, the greatest ever assembled in Danish
waters. With more than a thousand ships he sailed across the Baltic.
The Pope sped them with his apostolic blessing, and took king and
people into his especial care, forbidding any one to attack the
country while they were away converting the heathen. Archbishop
Anders led the crusade with the king. As the fleet approached the
shore they saw it covered with an innumerable host of the enemy. So
great was their multitude that the crusaders quailed before the
peril of landing; but the archbishop put heart into them, and led
the fleet in fervent prayer to the God of battle. Then they landed
without hindrance.

There was an old stronghold there called Lyndanissa that had fallen
into decay. The crusaders busied themselves for two days with
building another and better fort. On the third day, being St. Vitus'
Day, they rested, fearing no harm. The Esthlanders had not troubled
them. Some of their chiefs had even come in with an offer of
surrender. They were willing to be converted, they said, and the
priests were baptizing them after vespers, while the camp was making
ready for the night, when suddenly the air was filled with the yells
of countless savages. On every side they broke from the woods, where
they had been gathering unsuspected, and overwhelmed the camp. The
guards were hewn down, the outposts taken, and the King's men were
falling back in confusion, their standard lost, when Prince Vitislav
of Ruegen who had been camping with his men in a hollow between the
sand-hills, out of the line of attack, threw himself between them
and the Esthlanders, and gave the Danes time to form their lines.

In the twilight of the June evening the battle raged with great
fury. With the King at their head, who had led them to victory on so
many hard-fought fields, the Danes drove back their savage foes time
after time, literally hewing their way through their ranks with
sword and battle-axe. But they were hopelessly outnumbered. Their
hearts misgave them as they saw ten heathen spring out of the ground
for every one that was felled. The struggle grew fiercer as night
came on. The Christians were fighting for life; defeat meant that
they must perish to a man, by the sword or upon pagan altars; escape
there was none. Upon the cliff overlooking the battle-field the
archbishop and his priests were praying for success to the King's
arms. Tradition that has been busy with this great battle all
through the ages tells how, while the aged bishop's hands were
raised toward heaven, victory leaned to the Danes; but when he grew
tired, and let them fall, the heathen won forward, until the priests
held up his hands and once more the tide of battle rolled back from
the shore, and the Christian war-cry rose higher.

Suddenly, in the clash of steel upon steel and the wild tumult of
the conflict, there arose a great and wondering cry "the banner! the
banner! a miracle!" and Christian and pagan paused to listen. Out of
the sky, as it seemed, over against the hill upon which the priests
knelt, a blood-red banner with a great white cross was seen falling
into the ranks of the Christian knights, and a voice resounded over
the battle-field, "Bear this high, and victory shall be yours." With
the exultant cry, "For God and the King," the crusaders seized it,
and charged the foe. Terror-stricken, the Esthlanders wavered, then
turned, and fled. The battle became a massacre. Thousands were
slain. The chronicles say that the dead lay piled fathom-high on the
field that ran red with blood. Upon it, when the pursuit was over,
Valdemar knelt with his men, and they bowed their heads in
thanksgiving, while the venerable archbishop gave praise to God for
the victory.

That is the story of the Dannebrog which has been the flag of the
Danes seven hundred years. Whether the archbishop had brought it
with him intending to present it to King Valdemar, and threw it down
among the fighting hordes in the moment of extreme peril, or
whether, as some think, the Pope himself had sent it to the
crusaders with a happy inspiration, the fact remains that it came to
the Danes in this great battle, and on the very day which, fifty
years before, had seen the fall of Arcona, and the end of
idol-worship among the western Slavs. Three hundred years the
standard flew over the Danes fighting on land and sea. Then it was
lost in a campaign against the Holstein counts and, when recovered
half a century later, was hung up in the cathedral at Slesvig,
where gradually it fell to pieces. In the first half of the
Nineteenth Century, when national feeling and national pride were at
their lowest ebb, it was taken down with other moth-eaten old
banners, one day when they were cleaning up, and somebody made a
bonfire of them in the street. Such was the fate of "the flag that
fell from heaven," the sacred standard of the Danes. But it was not
the end of it. The Dannebrog flies yet over the Denmark of the
Valdemars, no longer great as then, it is true, nor master of its
ancient foes; but the world salutes it with respect, for there was
never blot of tyranny or treason upon it, and its sons own it with
pride wherever they go.

King Valdemar knighted five and thirty of his brave men on the
battle-field, and from that day the Order of the Dannebrog is said
to date. It bears upon a white crusader's cross the slogan of the
great fight "For God and the King," and on its reverse the date when
it was won, "June 15, 1219." The back of paganism was broken that
day, and the conversion of all Esthland followed soon. King Valdemar
built the castle he had begun before he sailed home, and called it
Reval, after one of the neighboring tribes. The Russian city of that
name grew up about it and about the church which Archbishop Anders
reared. The Dannebrog became its arms, and its people call it to
this day "the city of the Danes."

Denmark was now at the height of her glory. Her flag flew over all
the once hostile lands to the south and east, clear into Russia. The
Baltic was a Danish inland sea. King Valdemar was named "Victor"
with cause. His enemies feared him; his people adored him. In a
single night foul treachery laid the whole splendid structure low.
The King and young Valdemar, Dagmar's son, with a small suite of
retainers had spent the day hunting on the little island of Lyoe.
Count Henrik of Schwerin,--the Black Count they called him,--who had
just returned from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, was his guest. The
count hated Valdemar bitterly for some real or fancied injury, but
he hid his hatred under a friendly bearing and smooth speech. He
brought the King gifts from the Holy Sepulchre, hunted with him, and
was his friend. But by night, when the King and his son slept in
their tent, unguarded, since no enemy was thought to be near, he
fell upon them with his cutthroats, bound and gagged them despite
their struggles, and gathering up all the valuables that lay around,
to put the finishing touch upon his villainy, fled with his
prisoners "in great haste and fear," while the King's men slept.
When they awoke, and tried to follow, they found their ships
scuttled. The count's boat had been lying under sail all day, hidden
in a sheltered cove, awaiting his summons.

Germany at last had the lion and its whelp in her grasp. In chains
and fetters they were dragged from one dungeon to another. The
traitors dared not trust them long in any city, however strong. The
German Emperor shook his fist at Count Henrik, but secretly he was
glad. He would have liked nothing better than to have the precious
spoil in his own power. The Pope thundered in Rome and hurled his
ban at the thugs. But the Black Count's conscience was as swarthy as
his countenance; and besides, had he not just been to the Holy Land,
and thereby washed himself clean of all his sins, past and present?

Behind prison walls, comforted only by Dagmar's son, sat the King,
growing old and gray with anger and grief. Denmark lay prostrate
under the sudden blow, while her enemies rose on every side. Day by
day word came of outbreaks in the conquered provinces. The people
did not know which way to turn; the strong hand that held the helm
was gone, and the ship drifted, the prey of every ill wind. It was
as if all that had been won by sixty years of victories and
sacrifice fell away in one brief season. The forests filled with
out-laws; neither peasant nor wayfarer, nor yet monk or nun in their
quiet retreat, was safe from outrage; and pirates swarmed again in
bay and sound, where for two generations there had been peace. The
twice-perjured Bishop Valdemar left his cloister cell once more and
girt on the sword, to take the kingdom he coveted by storm.

He was met by King Valdemar's kinsman and friend, Albert of
Orlamunde, who hastened to the frontier with all the men he could
gather. They halted him with a treaty of peace that offered to set
Valdemar free if he would take his kingdom as a fief of the German
crown. He, Albert, so it was written, was to keep all his lands and
more, would he but sign it. He did not stop to hear the rest, but
slashed the parchment into ribbons with his sword, and ordered an
instant advance. The bishop he made short work of, and he was heard
of no more. But in the battle with the German princes Albert was
defeated and taken prisoner. The door of King Valdemar's dungeon was
opened only to let his friend in.

After two years and a half in chains, Valdemar was ransomed by his
people with a great sum of gold. The Danish women gave their rings
and their jewels to bring back their king. They flocked about him
when he returned, and received him like the conqueror of old; but he
rode among them gray and stern, and his thoughts were far away.

They had made him swear on oath upon the sacrament, and all
Denmark's bishops with him, before they set him free, that he would
not seek revenge. But once he was back in his own, he sent to Pope
Gregory, asking him to loose him from an oath wrung from him while
he was helpless in the power of bandits. And the Pope responded that
to keep faith with traitors was no man's duty. Then back he rode
over the River Eider into the enemy's land--for they had stripped
Denmark of all her hard-won possessions south of the ancient border
of the kingdom, except Esthland and Ruegen--and with him went every
man who could bear arms in all the nation. He crushed the Black
Count who tried to block his way, and at Bornhoeved met the German
allies who had gathered from far and near to give him battle. Well
they knew that if Valdemar won, the reckoning would be terrible. All
day they fought, and victory seemed to lean toward the Danes, when
the base Holsteiners, the Danish rear-guard whom the enemy had
bought to betray their king, turned their spears upon his army, and
decided the day. The battle ended in utter rout of Valdemar's
forces. Four thousand Danish men were slain. The King himself fell
wounded on the field, his eye pierced by an arrow, and would have
fallen into the hands of the enemy once more but for an unknown
German knight, who took him upon his horse and bore him in the night
over unfrequented paths to Kiel, where he was safe.

"But all men said that this great hurt befell the King because that
he brake the oath he swore upon the sacred body of the Lord."

The wars of Valdemar were over, but his sorrows were not. Four years
later the crushing blow fell when Dagmar's son, who was crowned king
to succeed him, lost his life while hunting. With him, says the
folk-song, died the hope of Denmark. The King had other sons, but to
Dagmar's boy the people had given their love from the first, as they
had to his gentle mother. The old King and his people grieved

But Valdemar rose above his sorrows. Great as he had been in the
days of victory, he was greater still in adversity. The country was
torn by the wars of three-score years, and in need of rest. He gave
his last days to healing the wounds the sword had struck. Valdemar,
the Victor, became Valdemar, the Law-giver. The laws of the country
had hitherto made themselves. They were the outgrowths of the
people's ancient customs, passed down by word of mouth through the
generations, and confirmed on Thing from time to time. King
Valdemar gave Denmark her first written laws that judged between
man and man, in at least one of her provinces clear down into our
day. "With law shall land be built" begins his code. "The law," it
says, "must be honest, just, reasonable, and according to the ways
of the people. It must meet their needs, and speak plainly so that
all men may know and understand what the law is. It is not to be
made in any man's favor, but for the needs of all them who live in
the land." That is its purpose, and "no man shall judge (condemn)
the law which the King has given and the country chosen; neither
shall he (the King) take it back without the will of the people."
That tells the story of Valdemar's day, and of the people who are so
near of kin with ourselves. They were not sovereign and subjects;
they were a chosen king and a free people, working together "with
law land to build."

King Valdemar was married twice. The folk-song represents Dagmar as
urging the King with her dying breath

"that Bengerd, my lord, that base bad dame
you never to wife will take."

Bengerd, or Berengaria, was a Portuguese princess whom Valdemar
married in spite of the warning, two years later. As the people had
loved the fair Dagmar, so they hated the proud Southern beauty,
whether with reason or not. The story of her "morning gift," as it
has come down to us through the mists of time, is very different
from the other. She asks the King, so the ballad has it, to give her
Samsoe, a great and fertile island, and "a golden crown[3] for every
maid," but he tells her not to be quite so greedy:

There be full many an honest maid
with not dry bread to eat.

[Footnote 3: A coin, probably.]

Undismayed, Bengerd objects that Danish women have no business to
wear silken gowns, and that a good horse is not for a peasant lad.
The King replies patiently that what a woman can buy she may wear
for him, and that he will not take the lad's horse if he can feed
it. Bengerd is not satisfied. "Let bar the land with iron chains" is
her next proposal, that neither man nor woman enter it without
paying tax. Her husband says scornfully that Danish kings have never
had need of such measures, and never will. He is plainly getting
bored, and when she keeps it up, and begrudges the husbandman more
than "two oxen and a cow," he loses his temper, and presumably there
is a matrimonial tiff. Very likely most of this is fiction, bred of
the popular prejudice. The King loved her, that is certain. She was
a beautiful high-spirited woman, so beautiful that many hundreds of
years after, when her grave was opened, the delicate oval of her
skull excited admiration yet. But the people hated her. Twenty
generations after her death it was their custom when passing her
grave to spit on it with the exclamation "Out upon thee, Bengerd!
God bless the King of Denmark"; for in good or evil days they never
wavered in their love and admiration for the king who was a son of
the first Valdemar, and the heir of his greatness and of that of the
sainted Absalon. Tradition has it that Bengerd was killed in battle,
having gone with her husband on one of his campaigns. "It was not
heard in any place," says the folk-song wickedly, "that any one
grieved for her." But the King mourned for his beautiful queen to
the end of his days.

Bengerd bore Valdemar three sons upon whom he lavished all the
affection of his lonely old age. Erik he chose as his successor, and
to keep his brothers loyal to him he gave them great fiefs and thus,
unknowing, brought on the very trouble he sought to avoid, and set
his foot on the path that led to Denmark's dismemberment after
centuries of bloody wars. For to his second son Abel he gave
Slesvig, and Abel, when his brother became king, sought alliance
with the Holstein count Adolf,[4] the very one who had led the
Germans at the fatal battle of Bornhoeved. The result was a war
between the brothers that raged seven years, and laid waste the
land. Worse was to follow, for Abel was only "Abel in name, but Cain
in deed." But happily the old King's eyes were closed then, and he
was spared the sight of one brother murdering the other for the

[Footnote 4: That was the beginning of the Slesvig-Holstein question
that troubled Europe to our day; for the fashion set by Abel other
rulers of his dukedom followed, and by degrees Slesvig came to be
reckoned with the German duchies, whereas up till then it had always
been South-Jutland, a part of Denmark proper.]

Some foreboding of this seems to have troubled him in his last
years. It is related that once when he was mounting his horse to go
hunting he fell into a deep reverie, and remained standing with his
foot in the stirrup a long time, while his men wondered, not daring
to disturb him. At last one of them went to remind him that the sun
was low in the west. The King awoke from his dream, and bade him go
at once to a wise old hermit who lived in a distant part of the
country. "Ask him," he said, "what King Valdemar was thinking of
just now, and bring me his answer." The knight went away on his
strange errand, and found the hermit. And this was the message he
brought back: "Your lord and master pondered as he stood by his
horse, how his sons would fare when he was dead. Tell him that war
and discord they shall have, but kings they will all be." When the
King heard the prophecy he was troubled in mind, and called his sons
and all his great knights to a council at which he pleaded with them
to keep the peace. But though they promised, he was barely in his
grave when riot and bloodshed filled the land. The climax was
reached when Abel inveigled his brother to his home with fair words
and, once he had him in his power, seized him and gave him over to
his men to do with "as they pleased." They understood their master
only too well, and took King Erik out on the fjord in an open boat,
and killed him there, scarce giving him time to say his prayers.
They weighted his body with his helmet, and sank it in the deep.

Abel made oath with four and twenty of his men that he was innocent
of his brother's blood, and took the crown after him. But the foul
crime was soon avenged. Within a few years he was himself slain by a
peasant in a rising of his own people. For a while his body lay
unburied, the prey of beast and bird, and when it was interred in
the Slesvig cathedral there was no rest for it. "Such turmoil arose
in the church by night that the monks could not chant their vigils,"
and in the end they took him out, and buried him in a swamp, with a
stake driven through the heart to lay his ghost. But clear down to
our time when people ceased to believe in ghosts, the fratricide was
seen at night hunting through the woods, coal-black and on a white
horse, with three fiery dogs trailing after; and blue flames burned
over the sea where they vanished. That was how the superstition of
the people judged the man whom the nobles and the priests made
king, red-handed.

Christopher, the youngest of the three brothers, was king last. His
end was no better than that of the rest. Indeed, it was worse.
Hardly yet forty years old, he died--poisoned, it was said, by the
Abbot Arnfast, in the sacrament as he knelt at the altar-rail in the
Ribe cathedral. He was buried in the chancel where the penitents
going to the altar walk over his grave. So, of all Valdemar's four
sons, not one died a peaceful, natural death. But kings they all

Valdemar was laid in Ringsted with his great father. He sleeps
between his two queens. Dagmar's grave was disturbed in the late
middle ages by unknown vandals, and the remains of Denmark's
best-loved queen were scattered. Only a golden cross, which she had
worn in life, somehow escaped, and found its way in course of time
into the museum of antiquities at Copenhagen, where it now is, its
chief and priceless treasure. There also is a braid of Queen
Bengerd's hair that was found when her grave was opened in 1855. The
people's hate had followed her even there, and would not let her
rest. The slab that covered her tomb had been pried off, and a round
stone dropped into the place made for her head. Otherwise her grave
was undisturbed.

"Truly then fell the crown from the heads of Danish men," says the
old chronicle of King Valdemar's death, and black clouds were
gathering ominously even then over the land. But in storm and
stress, as in days that were fair, the Danish people have clung
loyally to the memory of their beloved King and of his sweet Dagmar.


On the map of Europe the mainland of Denmark looks like a beckoning
finger pointing due north and ending in a narrow sand-reef, upon
which the waves of the North Sea and of the Kattegat break with
unceasing clamor and strife. The heart of the peninsula, quite
one-fourth of its area, was fifty years ago a desert, a barren,
melancholy waste, where the only sign of life encountered by the
hunter, gunning for heath-fowl and plover, was a rare shepherd
tending a few lonesome sheep, and knitting mechanically on his
endless stocking. The two, the lean sheep and the long stocking,
together comprised the only industries which the heath afforded and
was thought capable of sustaining. A great change has taken place
within the span of a single life, and it is all due to the clear
sight and patient devotion of one strong man, the Gifford Pinchot of
Denmark. The story of that unique achievement reads like the tale
of the Sleeping Beauty who was roused from her hundred years' sleep
by the kiss of her lover prince. The prince who awoke the slumbering
heath was a captain of engineers, Enrico Dalgas by name.

Not altogether fanciful is the conceit. Barren, black, and desolate,
the great moor gripped the imagination as no smiling landscape of
field and forest could--does yet, where enough of it remains. Far as
eye reaches the dun heather covers hill and plain with its sombre
pall. Like gloomy sentinels, furry cattails nod in the bog where the
blue gentian peeps timidly into murky pools; the only human
habitation in sight some heath boer's ling-thatched hut, flanked by
rows of peat stacks in vain endeavor to stay the sweep of the
pitiless west wind. On the barrows where the vikings sleep their
long sleep, the plover pipes its melancholy lay; between steep banks
a furtive brook steals swiftly by as if anxious to escape from the
universal blight. Over it all broods the silence of the desert,
drowsy with the hum of many bees winging their swift way to the
secret feeding-places they know of, where mayflower and anemone hide
under the heather, witness that forests grew here in the long ago.
In midsummer, when the purple is on the broom, a strange pageant
moves on the dim horizon, a shifting mirage of sea and shore,
forest, lake, and islands lying high, with ships and castles and
spires of distant churches--the witchery of the heath that speaks in
the tales and superstitions of its simple people. High in the blue
soars the lark, singing its song of home and hope to its nesting
mate. This is the heath which, denying to the hardest toil all but
the barest living, has given of its poetry to the Danish tongue some
of its sweetest songs.

But in this busy world day-dreams must make way for the things that
make the day count, castles in the air to homes upon the soil. The
heath had known such in the dim past. It had not always been a
desert. The numberless cairns that lie scattered over it, sometimes
strung out for miles as if marking the highways of the ancients,
which they doubtless do, sometimes grouped where their villages
stood, bear witness to it. Great battles account for their share,
and some of them were fought in historic times. On Grathe Heath the
young King Valdemar overcame his treacherous rival Svend. Alone and
hunted, the beaten man sought refuge, Saxo tells us, behind a stump,
where he was found and slain by one of the King's axemen. A chapel
was built on the spot. More than seven centuries later (in 1892)
they dug there, and found the bones of a man with skull split in

The stump behind which the wretched Svend hid was probably the last
representative of great forests that grew where now is sterile moor.
In the bogs trunks of oak and fir are found lying as they fell
centuries ago. The local names preserve the tradition, with here and
there patches of scrub oak that hug the ground close, to escape the
blast from the North Sea. There is one such thicket near the hamlet
of Taulund--the name itself tells of long-forgotten groves--and the
story runs among the people yet that once squirrels jumped from tree
to tree without touching ground all the way from Taulund to
Gjellerup church, a stretch of more than five miles to which the
wild things of the woods have long been strangers. In the shelter of
the old forests men dwelt through ages, and made the land yield them
a living. Some cairns that have been explored span over more than a
thousand years. They were built in the stone age, and served the
people of the bronze and iron ages successively as burial-places,
doubtless the same tribes who thus occupied their homesteads from
generation to generation. That they were farmers, not nomads, is
proved by the clear impression of grains of wheat and barley in
their burial urns. The seeds strayed into the clay and were burned
away, but the impression abides, and tells the story.

Clear down to historic times there was a thrifty population in many
of the now barren spots. But a change was slowly creeping over the
landscape. The country was torn by long and bloody wars. The big men
fought for the land and the little ones paid the score, as they
always do. They were hunted from house and home. Next the wild
hordes of the Holstein counts overran Jutland. Its towns were
burned, the country laid waste. Great fires swept the forests. What
ravaging armies had left was burned in the smelteries. In the sandy
crust of the heath there is iron, and swords and spears were the
grim need of that day. The smelteries are only names now. They
went, but they took the forests with them, and where the ground was
cleared the west wind broke through, and ruin followed fast. Last of
all came the Black Death, and set its seal of desolation upon it
all. When it had passed, the country was a huge graveyard. The heath
had moved in. Rovers and smugglers found refuge there; honest folk
shunned it. Under the heather the old landmarks are sometimes found
yet, and deep ruts made by wheels that long since ceased to turn.

In the Eighteenth Century men began to think of reclamation. A
thousand German colonists were called in and settled on the heath,
but it was stronger than they, and they drifted away until scarce
half a hundred families remained. The Government tried its hand, but
there was no one who knew just how, and only discouragement
resulted. Then came the war with Germany in 1864, that lost to
Denmark a third of her territory. The country lay prostrate under
the crushing blow. But it rose above defeat and disaster, and once
more expectant eyes were turned toward the ancient domain that had
slipped from its grasp. "What was lost without must be won within"
became the national slogan. And this time the man for the task was
at hand.

Enrico Mylius Dalgas was by the accident of birth an Italian, his
father being the Danish consul in Naples; by descent a Frenchman; by
choice and training a Dane, typical of the best in that people. He
came of the Huguenot stock that left France after the repeal of the
Edict of Nantes in 1685 and scattered over Europe, to the great good
of every land in which it settled. They had been tillers of the soil
from the beginning, and at least two of the family, who found homes
in Denmark, made in their day notable contributions to the cause of
advanced, sensible husbandry. Enrico's father, though a merchant,
had an open eye for the interests which in later years claimed the
son's life-work. In the diary of a journey through Sweden he makes
indignant comment upon the reckless way in which the people of that
country dealt with their forests. That he was also a man of
resolution is shown by an incident of the time when Jew-baiting was
having its sorry day in Denmark. An innkeeper mistook the
dark-skinned little man for a Jew, and set before him a spoiled
ham, retorting contemptuously, when protest was made, that it was
"good enough for a Sheeny." Without further parley Mr. Dalgas seized
the hot ham by its shank and beat the fellow with it till he cried
for mercy. The son tells of the first school he attended, when he
was but five years old. It was kept by the widow of one of
Napoleon's generals, a militant lady who every morning marshalled
the school, a Lilliputian army with the teachers flanking the line
like beardless sergeants in stays and petticoats, and distributed
rewards and punishments as the great Emperor was wont to do after a
battle. For the dunces there was a corner strewn with dried peas on
which they were made to kneel with long-eared donkey caps adorning
their luckless heads. Very likely it was after an insult of this
kind that Enrico decided to elope to America with his baby sister.
They were found down by the harbor bargaining with some fishermen to
take them over to Capri _en route_ for the land of freedom. The
elder Dalgas died while the children were yet little, and the widow
went back to Denmark to bring up her boys there.

They were poor, and the change from the genial skies of sunny Italy
to the bleak North did not make it any easier for them. Enrico's
teacher saw it, and gave him his overcoat to be made over. But the
boys spotted it and squared accounts with their teacher by
snowballing the wearer of the big green plaid until he was glad to
leave it at home, and go without. He was in the military school when
war broke out with Germany in 1848. Both of his brothers
volunteered, and fell in battle. Enrico was ordered out as
lieutenant, and put on the shoulder-straps joyfully, to the great
scandal of his godfather in Milan, who sympathized with the German
cause. When the young soldier refused to resign he not only cut him
off in his will, but took away a pension of four hundred kroner he
had given his mother in her widowhood. If he had thoughts of
bringing them over by such means, he found out his mistake. Mother
and son were made of sterner stuff. Dalgas fought twice for his
country, the last time in 1864, as a captain of engineers.

It was no ordinary class, the one of 1851 that resumed its studies
in the military high school. Two of the students did not answer
roll-call; their names were written among the nation's heroic dead.
Some had scars and wore the cross for valor in battle. All were
first lieutenants, to be graduated as captains. Dalgas had himself
transferred from the artillery to the engineers, and was detailed as
road inspector. So the opportunity of his life came to him.

There were few railways in those days; the highways were still the
great arteries of traffic. Dalgas built roads that crossed the
heath, and he learned to know it and the strong and independent, if
narrow, people who clung to it with such a tenacious grip. He had a
natural liking for practical geology and for the chemistry of the
soil, and the deep cuts which his roads sometimes made gave him the
best of chances for following his bent. The heath lay as an open
book before him, and he studied it with delight. He found the traces
of the old forests, and noted their extent. Occasionally the pickaxe
uncovered peat deposits of unsuspected depth and value. Sometimes
the line led across the lean fields, and damages had to be discussed
and assessed. He learned the point of view of the heath farmer,
sympathized with his struggles, and gained his confidence. Best of
all, he found a man of his own mind, a lawyer by the name of
Morville, himself a descendant of the exiled Huguenots. It is not a
little curious that when the way was cleared for the Heath Society's
great work, in its formal organization with M. Mourier-Petersen, a
large landowner, as their associate in its management, the three men
who for a quarter of a century planned the work and marked out the
groove in which it was to run were all of that strong stock which is
by no means the most common in Denmark.

With his lawyer friend Captain Dalgas tramped the heath far and wide
for ten years. Then their talks had matured a plan. Dalgas wrote to
the Copenhagen newspapers that the heath could be reclaimed, and
suggested that it should be done by the State. They laughed at him.
"Nothing better could have happened," he said in after years, "for
it made us turn to the people themselves, and that was the road to
success, though we did not know it." In the spring of 1866 a hundred
men, little and big landowners most of them, met at his call, and
organized the Heath Society[1] with the object of reclaiming the
moor. Dalgas became its managing director.

[Footnote 1: Danske Hedeselskab.]

To restore to the treeless waste its forest growth was the
fundamental idea, for until that was done nothing but the heather
could grow there. The west wind would not let it. But the heath
farmer shook his head. It would cost too much, and give too little
back. What he needed was water and marl. Could the captain help them
to these?--that was another matter. The little streams that found
their way into the heath and lost it there, dire need had taught
them to turn to use in their fields; not a drop escaped. But the
river that ran between deep banks was beyond their reach. Could he
show them how to harness that? Dalgas saw their point. "We are
working, not for the dead soil, but for the living men who find
homes upon it," he told his associates, and tree planting was put
aside for the time. They turned canal diggers instead. Irrigation
became their aim and task; the engineer was in his right place. The
water was raised from the stream and led out upon the moor, and
presently grass grew in the sand which the wiry stems of the heather
had clutched so long. Green meadows lined the water-runs, and
fragrant haystacks rose. To the lean sheep was added a cow, then
two. The farmer laid by a little, and took in more land for
cultivation. That meant breaking the heath. Also, it meant marl. The
heath is lime-poor; marl is lime in the exact form in which it best
fits that sandy soil. It was known to exist in some favored spots,
but the poor heath farmer could not bring it from a distance. So the
marl borer went with the canal digger. Into every acre he drove his
auger, and mapped out his discoveries. At last accounts he had found
marl in more than seventeen hundred places, and he is not done yet.
Where there was none, Dalgas's Society built portable railways into
the moor far enough to bring it to nearly every farmer's door.

It was as if a magic wand had been waved over the heath. With water
and marl, the means were at hand for fighting it and winning out.
Heads that had drooped in discouragement were raised. The cattle
keep increased, and with it came the farmer's wealth. Marl changes
the character of the heath soil; with manure to fertilize it there
was no reason why it should not grow crops--none, except the
withering blast of the west wind. The time for Dalgas to preach tree
planting had come.

While the canal digger and marl seeker were at work, there had been
neighborhood meetings and talks at which Captain Dalgas did the
talking. When he spoke the heath boer listened, for he had learned
to look upon him as one of them. He wore no gold lace. A plain man
in every-day gray tweeds, with his trousers tucked into his boots,
he spoke to plain people of things that concerned them vitally, and
in a way they could understand. So when he told them that the heath
had once been forest-clad, at least a large part of it, and pointed
them to the proofs, and that the woods could be made to grow again
to give them timber and shelter and crops, they gave heed. It was
worth trying at any rate. The shelter was the immediate thing. They
began planting hedges about their homesteads; not always wisely, for
it is not every tree that will grow in the heath. The wind whipped
and wore them, the ahl cramped their roots, and they died. The ahl
is the rusty-red crust that forms under the heather in the course of
the ages where the desert rules. Sometimes it is a loose sandstone
formation; sometimes it carries as much as twenty per cent of iron
that is absorbed from the upper layers of the sand. In any case, it
must be broken through; no tree root can do it. The ahl, the poverty
of the sand, and the wind, together make the "evil genius" of the
heath that had won until then in the century-old fight with man. But
this time he had backing, and was not minded to give up. The Heath
Society was there to counsel, to aid. And soon the hedges took hold,
and gardens grew in their shelter. There is hardly a farm in all
west Jutland to-day that has not one, even if the moor waits just
beyond the gate.

Out in the desert the Society had made a beginning with plantations
of Norway spruce. They took root, but the heather soon overwhelmed
the young plants. Not without a fight would this enemy let go its
grip upon the land. It had smothered the hardy Scotch pine in days
past, and now the spruce was in peril. Searching high and low for
something that would grow fast and grow green, Dalgas and his
associates planted dwarf pine with the spruce. Strangely, it not
only grew itself, but proved to be a real nurse for the other. The
spruce took a fresh start, and they grew vigorously together--for a
while. Then the pine outstripped its nursling, and threatened to
smother it. The spruce was the more valuable; the other was at best
little more than a shrub. The croaker raised his voice: the black
heath had turned green, but it was still heath, of no value to any
one, then or ever.

He had not reckoned with Dalgas. The captain of engineers could use
the axe as well as the spade. He cut the dwarf pine out wherever the
spruce had got its grip, and gave it light and air. And it grew big
and beautiful. The Heath Society has now over nineteen hundred
plantations that cover nearly a hundred thousand acres, and the
State and private individuals, inspired by the example it set, have
planted almost as large an area. The ghost of the heath has been
laid for all time.

Go now across the heath and see the change forty years have wrought.
You shall seek in vain the lonely shepherd with his stocking. The
stocking has grown into an organized industry. In grandfather's day
the farmer and his household "knitted for the taxes"; if all hands
made enough in the twelvemonth to pay the tax-gatherer, they had
done well. Last year the single county of Hammerum, of which more
below, sold machine-made underwear to the value of over a million
and a half kroner. The sheep are there, but no longer lean; no more
the ling-thatched hut, but prosperous farms backed by thrifty
groves, with hollyhock and marigold in the dooryards, heaps of gray
marl in the fields, tiny rivulets of water singing the doom of the
heath in the sand; for where it comes the heather moves out. A
resolute, thrifty peasantry looks hopefully forward. Not all of the
heath is conquered yet. Roughly speaking, thirty-three hundred
square miles of heath confronted Dalgas in 1866. Just about a
thousand remain for those who come after to wrestle with; but
already voices are raised pleading that some of it be preserved
untouched for its natural beauty, while yet it is time.

Meanwhile the plow goes over fresh acres every year--once, twice,
then a deeper plowing, this time to break the stony crust, and the
heath is ready for its human mission. From the Society's nurseries
that are scattered through the country come thousands of tiny
trees, and are set out in the furrows, two of the spruce for each
dwarf pine till the nurse has done her work. Then she is turned into
charcoal, into tar, and a score of other things of use. The men who
do the planting in summer find chopping to do in winter in the older
plantations, at good wages. Money is flowing into the moor in the
wake of the water and the marl. Roads are being made, and every day
the mail-carrier comes. In the olden time a stranger straying into
the heath often brought the first news of the world without for
weeks together. Game is coming, too,--roebuck and deer,--in the
young forests. The climate itself is changing; more rain falls in
midsummer, when it is needed. The sand-blast has been checked, the
power of the west wind broken. The shrivelled soil once more takes
up and holds the rains, and the streams will deepen, fish leap in
them as of yore. Groves of beech and oak are springing up in the
shelter of their hardier evergreen kin. "Make the land furry,"
Dalgas said, with prophetic eye beholding great forests taking the
place of sand and heather, and in his lifetime the change was
wrought that is transforming the barren moor into the home-land of
a prosperous people.

To the most unlikely of places, through the very prison doors, his
gospel of hope has made its way. For the last dozen years the life
prisoners in the Horsens penitentiary have been employed in breaking
and reforesting the heath, and their keepers report that the effect
upon them of the hard work in the open has been to notably cheer and
brighten them. The discipline has been excellent. There have been
few attempts at escape, and they have come to nothing through the
vigilance of the other prisoners.

While the population in the rest of Denmark is about stationary, in
west Jutland it grows apace. The case of Skaphus farm in the parish
of Sunds shows how this happens. Prior to 1870 this farm of three
thousand acres was rated the "biggest and poorest" in Denmark. Last
year it had dwindled to three hundred and fifty acres, but upon its
old land thirty-three homesteads had risen that kept between them
sixty-two horses and two hundred and fifty-two cows, beside the
sheep, and the manor farm was worth twice as much as before. The
town of Herning, sometimes called "the Star of the Heath," is the
seat of Hammerum county, once the baldest and most miserable on the
Danish mainland. In 1841 twenty-one persons lived in Herning. To-day
there are more than six thousand in a town with handsome buildings,
gas, electric lighting, and paved streets. The heath is half a dozen
miles away. And this is not the result of any special or forced
industry, but the natural, healthy growth of a centre for an army of
industrious men and women winning back the land of their fathers by
patient toil. All through the landscape one sees from the train the
black giving way to the green. Churches rear their white gables;
bells that have been silent since the Black Death stalked through
the land once more call the people to worship on the old sites. More
churches were built in the reign of "the good King Christian," who
has just been gathered to his fathers, than in all the centuries
since the day of the Valdemars.

Bog cultivation is the Heath Society's youngest child. The heath is
full of peat-bogs that only need the sand, so plentiful on the
uplands, to make their soil as good as the best, the muck of the bog
being all plant food, and they have a surplus of water to give in
exchange. With hope the keynote of it all, the State has taken up
the herculean task of keeping down the moving sands of the North Sea
coast. All along it is a range of dunes that in the fierce storms of
that region may change shape and place in a single night. The "sand
flight" at times reached miles inland, and threatened to bury the
farmer's acres past recovery. Austrian fir and dwarf pine now grow
upon the white range, helping alike to keep down the sand and to bar
out the blast.

With this exception, the great change has been, is being, wrought by
the people themselves. It was for their good, in the apathy that
followed 1864, that it should be so, and Dalgas saw it. The State
aids the man who plants ten acres or more, and assumes the
obligation to preserve the forest intact; the Heath Society sells
him plants at half-price, and helps him with its advice. It disposes
annually of over thirteen million young trees. The people do the
rest, and back the Society with their support. The Danish peasant
has learned the value of cooeperation since he turned dairy farmer,
and associations for irrigation, for tree planting, and garden
planting are everywhere. They even reach across the ocean. This year
a call was issued to sons of the old soil, who have found a new home
in America, to join in planting a Danish-American forest in the
desert where hill and heather hide a silvery lake in their deep
shadows and returning wanderers may rest and dream of the long ago.

Soldier though he was, Enrico Dalgas's pick and spade brigade won
greater victories for Denmark than her armies in two wars. He
literally "won for his country within what she had lost without." A
natural organizer, a hard worker who found his greatest joy in his
daily tasks, a fearless and lucid writer who yet knew how to keep
his cause out of the rancorous politics that often enough seemed to
mistake partisanship for patriotism, he was the most modest of men.
Praise he always passed up to others. At the "silver wedding" of the
Society he founded they toasted him jubilantly, but he sat quiet a
long time. When at last he arose, it was to make this characteristic
little speech:

"I thank you very much. His Excellency the Minister of the Interior,
who is present here, will see from this how much you think of me,
and possibly my recommendation that the State make a larger
contribution to the Heath Society's treasury may thereby acquire
greater weight with him. I drink to an increased appropriation."

On the heath Dalgas was prophet, prince, and friend of the people.
In the crowds that flocked about his bier homespun elbowed gold lace
in the grief of a common loss. Boughs of the fragrant spruce decked
his coffin, the gift of the heath to the memory of him who set it

To Dalgas apply the words of the seer with which he himself
characterized the Society that was the child of his heart and brain:
"The good men are those who plant and water," for they add to the
happiness of mankind.


[Illustration: Musical notation with lyrics]


King Christian stood by loft-y mast In mist and
smoke; His sword was ham-mer-ing so fast, Thro'
Goth-ic helm and brain it passed; Then sank each hos-tile
hulk and mast. In mist and smoke. "Fly,"
shout-ed they, "fly, he who can! Who braves of Denmark's
Christ-i-an, Who braves of Denmark's Christian The stroke?"

Deep in the beech-woods between Copenhagen and Elsinore, upon the
shore of a limpid lake, stands Frederiksborg, one of the most
beautiful castles in Europe. In its chapel the Danish kings were
crowned for two centuries, and here was born on April 12, 1577, King
Christian of the Danish national hymn which Longfellow translated
into our tongue. No Danish ruler since the days of the great
Valdemars made such a mark upon his time; none lives as he in the
imagination of the people. He led armies to war and won and lost
battles; indeed, he lost more than he won on land when matched
against the great generals of that fighting era. On the sea he
sailed his own ship and was the captain of his own fleet, and there
he had no peer. He made laws in the days of peace and reigned over a
happy, prosperous land. In his old age misfortune in which he had no
share overwhelmed Denmark, but he was ever greatest in adversity,
and his courage saved the country from ruin. The great did not love
him overmuch; but to the plain people he was ever, with all his
failings, which were the failings of his day, a great, appealing
figure, and lives in their hearts, not merely in the dry pages of
musty books.

He was eleven years old when his father died, and until he came of
age the country was governed by a council of happily most able men
who, with his mother, gave him such a schooling as few kings have
had. He not only became proficient in the languages, living and
dead, and in mathematics which he put to such practical use that he
was among the greatest of architects and ship-builders; he was the
best all-round athlete among his fellows as well, and there was some
sense in the tradition that survives to this day that whoever was
touched by him in wrath did not live long, for he was very tall with
a big, strong body, and when he struck, he struck hard. He was a
dauntless sailor who knew as much about sailing a ship as any one of
his captains, and much more about building it. Danger appealed to
him always. When the spire on the great cathedral in Copenhagen
threatened to fall, he was the one who went up in it alone and gave
orders where and how to brace it.

As he grew, he sat in the council of state, learning kingcraft, and
showed there the hard-headed sense of fairness and justice that went
with him through life. He was hardly fourteen when the case of three
brothers of the powerful Friis family came before the council. They
had attacked another young nobleman in the street, struck off one of
his hands, and crippled the other. Because of their influence, the
council was for being lenient, atrocious as the crime was. A fine
was deemed sufficient. The young prince asked if there were not some
law covering the case with severer punishment, and was told that in
the province of Skaane there was such a law that applied to serfs.
But the assault had not been committed in Skaane, and these were
high noblemen.

"All the worse for them," said the prince. "Is then a serf in Skaane
to have more rights under the law than a nobleman in the rest of
Denmark? Let the law for the serf be theirs." And the judgment

He had barely attained his majority, when the young king was called
upon to judge between another great noble and a widow whom he sued
for 9000 daler, money he claimed to have lent to her husband. In
proof he laid before the judges two bonds bearing the signatures of
husband and wife. The widow denounced them as forgeries, but the
court decided that she must pay. She went straight to the King with
her story, assuring him that she had never heard of the debt. The
King sent for the bonds and upon close scrutiny discovered that one
of them was on paper bearing the water-mark of a mill that was not
built till two years after the date written in the bond. The noble
was arrested and the search of his house brought to light several
similar documents waiting their turn. He went to the scaffold. His
rank only aggravated his offence in the eyes of the King. No wonder
the fame of this judge spread quickly through the land.

A dozen contented years he reigned in peace, doing justice between
man and man at home. Then the curse of his house gripped him. In two
centuries, since the brief union between the three Scandinavian
kingdoms was broken by the secession of Sweden, only two of sixteen
kings in either country had gone to their rest without ripping up
the old feud. It was now Christian's turn. The pretext was of little
account: there was always cause enough. Gustav Adolf, whose father
was then on the throne of Sweden, said in after years that there was
no one he had such hearty admiration for and whose friend he would
like so well to be as Christian IV: "The mischief is that we are
neighbors." King Christian crossed over into Sweden and laid siege
to the strong fortress of Kalmar where he first saw actual war and
showed himself a doughty campaigner of intrepid courage. It came
near costing him his life when a cannoneer with whom he had often
talked on his rounds deserted to the enemy and picked the King out
as his especial target. Twice he killed an officer attending upon
him, but the King he never hit. It is almost a pleasure to record
that when he tried it again, in another fight, Christian caught him
and dealt with him as the traitor he was, though the rough justice
of those days is not pleasant to dwell on. The besieged tried to
create a diversion by sneaking into camp at night and burying wax
images of the King and his generals in the earth, where they were
afterwards found and spread consternation through the army; for such
things were believed to be wrought by witchcraft and to bring bad
luck to those whom they represented.

However, neither the real courage of the defenders, nor their
dallying with the black art, helped them any. King Christian stormed
the town at the head of his army and took it. The burgomaster hid in
the church, disguised as a priest, and pretended to be shriving some
women when the crash came, but it did not save him. When the
Swedish king came with a host twice the size of his own, there was
a battle royal, but Christian drove him off and laid siege to the
castle where dissension presently arose between the garrison and its
commander who was for surrendering. In the midst of their noisy
quarrel, King Christian was discovered standing upon the wall,
calmly looking on. He had climbed up alone on a rope ladder which
the sentinel let down at his bidding. At the sight they gave it up
and opened the gates, and the King wrote home, proudly dating his
letter from "our castle Kalmar."

Its loss so angered the Swedish king who was old and sick, that he
challenged Christian to single combat, without armor. The letters
that passed between them were hardly kingly. King Christian wrote
that he had other things to do: "Better catch a doctor, old man, and
have your head-piece looked after." Helpless anger killed Karl, and
Gustav Adolf, of whom the world was presently to hear, took the
command and the crown. After that Christian had a harder road to

A foretaste of it came to him when he tried to surprise the fortress
of Gullberg near the present Goetaborg. Its commander was wounded
early in the fight, but his wife who took his place more than filled
it. She and her women poured boiling lye upon the attacking Danes
until they lay "like scalded pigs" under the walls. Their leader
knew when he had enough and made off in haste, with the lady
commandant calling after him, "You were a little unexpected for
breakfast, but come back for dinner and we will receive you
properly." She would not even let them take their dead away. "Since
God gave us luck to kill them," she said, "we will manage to bury
them too." They were very pious days after their own fashion, and
God was much on the lips of his servants. Troubles rarely come
singly. Soon after, King Christian met the enemy unexpectedly and
was so badly beaten that for the second time he had to run for it,
though he held out till nearly all his men had fallen. His horse got
mired in a swamp with the pursuers close behind. The gay and wealthy
Sir Christen Barnekow, who had been last on the field, passed him
there, and at once got down and gave him his horse. It meant giving
up his life, and when Sir Christen could no longer follow the
fleeing King he sat down on a rock with the words, "I give the King
my horse, the enemy my life, and God my soul." The rock is there yet
and the country folk believe that the red spots in the granite are
Christen Barnekow's blood which all the years have not availed to
wash out.

They tired of fighting at last and made it up. Sweden paid Denmark a
million daler; for the rest, things stayed as they had been before.
King Christian had shown himself no mean fighter, but the senseless
sacking and burning of town and country that was an ugly part of
those days' warfare went against his grain, and he tried to persuade
the Swedes to agree to leave that out in future. Gustav Adolf had
not yet grown into the man he afterward became. "As to the burning,"
was his reply, "seeing that it is the usage of war, and we enemies,
why we will each have to do the best we can," which meant the worst.
Had the two kings, who had much in common, got together in the years
of peace that followed, much misery might have been saved Denmark,
and a black page of history might read very differently. For those
were the days of the Thirty Years' War, in which together they
might have dictated peace to harassed Europe.

Now King Christian's ambition, his piety, for he was a sincerely
religious man, as well as his jealousy of his younger rival and of
the growing power of Sweden--so mixed are human motives--made him
yield to the entreaties of the hard-pressed Protestant princes to
take up alone their cause against the German Emperor. He had tried
for half a dozen years to make peace between them. At last he drew
the sword and went down to force it. After a year of fighting Tilly
and Wallenstein, the Emperor's great generals, he met the former in
a decisive battle at Lutter-am-Baremberg. King Christian's army was
beaten and put to rout. He himself fled bareheaded through the
forests of the Hartz Mountains, pursued by the enemy's horsemen. It
was hardly necessary for the Emperor to make him promise as the
price of peace to keep out of German affairs thenceforth. His allies
had left him to fight it out alone. All their fine speeches went for
nothing when it came to the test, and King Christian rode back to
Denmark, a sadder and wiser man. It was left to Gustav Adolf, after
all, to teach the German generals the lesson they needed.

In the years of peace before that unhappy war, Danish trade and
Danish culture had blossomed exceedingly, thanks to the wisdom, the
clever management, and untiring industry of the King. He built
factories, cloth-mills, silk-mills, paper-mills, dammed the North
Sea out from the rich marshlands with great dikes, taught the
farmers profitable ways of tilling their fields; for he was a
wondrous manager for whom nothing was too little and nothing too
big. He kept minute account of his children's socks and little
shirts, and found ways of providing money for his war-ships and for
countless building schemes he had in hand both in Denmark and
Norway. For many of them he himself drew the plans. Wherever one
goes to this day, his monogram, which heads this story, stares at
him from the splendid buildings he erected. The Bourse in Copenhagen
and the Round Tower, the beautiful palace of Rosenborg, a sort of
miniature of his beloved Frederiksborg which also he rebuilt on a
more magnificent scale--these are among his works which every
traveller in the North knows. He built more cities and strongholds
than those who went before or came after him for centuries.
Christiania and Christiansand in Norway bear his name. He laid out a
whole quarter of Copenhagen for his sailors, and the quaint little
houses still serve that purpose. Regentsen, a dormitory for poor
students at the university, was built by him. He created seven new
chairs of learning and saw to it that all the professors got better
pay. He ferreted out and dismissed in disgrace all the grafting
officials in Norway, and administered justice with an even hand. At
the same time he burned witches without end, or let it be done for
their souls' sake. That was the way of his time; and when he needed
fireworks for his son's wedding (he made them himself, too), he sent
around to all the old cloisters and cathedral churches for the old
parchments they had. Heaven only knows what treasures that can never
be replaced went up in fire and smoke for that one night's fun.

King Christian founded a score of big trading companies to exploit
the East, taking care that their ships should have their bulwarks
pierced for at least six guns, so that they might serve as war-ships
in time of need. He sent one expedition after another to the waters
of Greenland in search of the Northwest Passage. It was on the
fourth of these, in 1619, that Jens Munk with two ships and
sixty-four sailors was caught in the ice of Hudson Bay and compelled
to winter there. One after another the crew died of hunger and
scurvy. When Jens Munk himself crept out from what he had thought
his death-bed, he found only two of them all alive. Together they
burrowed in the snow, digging for roots until spring came when they
managed to make their way down to Bergen in the smallest of the two
vessels. Jens Munk had deserved a better end than he got. He spun
his yarns so persistently at court that he got to be a tiresome
bore, and at last one day the King told him that he had no time to
listen to him. Whereat the veteran took great umbrage and, slapping
his sword, let the King know that he had served him well and was
entitled to better treatment. Christian snatched the weapon in anger
and struck him with the scabbard. The sailor never got over it. "He
withered away and died," says the tradition. It was the old
superstition; but whether that killed him or not, the King lost a
good man in Jens Munk.

He was not averse to hearing the truth, though, when boldly put.
When Ole Vind, a popular preacher, offended some of the nobles by
his plain speech and they complained to the King, he bade him to the
court and told him to preach the same sermon over. Master Vind was
game and the truths he told went straight home, for he knew well
where the shoe pinched. But King Christian promptly made him court
preacher. "He is the kind we need here," he said. There was never a
day that the King did not devoutly read his Bible, and he was
determined that everybody should read it the same way. The result
was a kind of Puritanism that filled the churches and compelled the
employment of men to go around with long sticks to rap the people on
the head when they fell asleep. Christian the Fourth was not the
first ruler who has tried to herd men into heaven by battalions. But
his people would have gladly gone in the fire for him. He was their
friend. When on his tramps, as likely as not he would come home
sitting beside some peasant on his load of truck, and would step off
at the palace gate with a "So long, thanks for good company!" He was
everywhere, interested in everything. In his walking-stick he
carried a foot-rule, a level, and other tools, and would stop at the
bench of a workman in the navy-yard and test his work to see how
well he was doing it. "I can lie down and sleep in any hut in the
land," was his contented boast. And he would have been safe

Gustav Adolf was a wise and generous foe. While he lived he refused
to listen to proposals for the partition of Denmark after King
Christian's defeat in Germany. He knew well that she was a barrier
against the ambition of the German princes and that, once she was
out of the way, Sweden's turn would come next. But when he had
fallen on the battle-field of Luetzen, and his generals, following in
his footsteps, had achieved fame and lands and the freedom of
worship for which he gave his life, the Swedish statesmen lost their
heads and dreamed of the erection of a great northern Protestant
state by the conquest of Denmark and Norway, to balance the power
of the German empire. Without warning or declaration of war a great
army was thrown into the Danish peninsula from the south. Another
advanced from Sweden upon the eastern provinces, and a fleet hired
in Holland for Swedish money came through the North Sea to help them
over to the Danish islands. If the two armies met, Denmark was lost.
In Swedish harbors a still bigger fleet was fitting out for the

King Christian was well up in the sixties, worn with the tireless
activities of a long reign; but once more he proved himself greater
than adversity. When the evil tidings reached him, in the midst of
profound peace, the enemy was already within the gates. The country
lay prostrate. The name of Torstenson, the Swedish general, spread
terror wherever it was heard. In the German campaigns he had been
known as the "Swedish Lightning." Beset on every side, never had
Denmark's need been greater. The one man who did not lose his head
was her king. By his personal example he put heart into the people
and shamed the cowardly nobles. He borrowed money wherever he could,
sent his own silver to the mint, crowded the work in the navy-yard
by night and by day, gathered an army, and hurried with it to the
Sounds where the enemy might cross. When the first ships were ready
he sailed around the Skaw to meet the Dutch hirelings. "I am old and
stiff," he said, "and no good any more to fight on land. But I can
manage the ships."

And he did. He met the Dutchmen in the North Sea, in under the
Danish coast, and whipped them, almost single-handed, for his own
ship _Trefoldigheden_ was for a long while the only one that wind
and tide would let come up with them. That done, he left one of his
captains to watch lest they come out from among the islands where
their ships of shallower draught had sought refuge, and sailed for
Copenhagen. Everything that could carry sail was ready for him by
that time; also the news that the Swedish fleet of forty-six
fighting ships under Klas Fleming had sailed for the coast of
Holstein to take on board Torstenson's army.

King Christian lost no time. He hoisted his flag on _Trefoldigheden_
and made after them with thirty-nine ships, vowing that he would
win this fight or die. At Kolberger Heide, the water outside the
Fjord of Kiel, he caught up with them and attacked at once. The
battle that then ensued is the one of which the poet sings and with
which the name of Christian IV is forever linked.

At the outset the Danish fleet was in great peril. The Swedes fought
gallantly as was their wont, and they were three or four against
one, for most of the King's ships came up slowly, some of them
purposely, so it seems. The King said after the battle of certain of
his captains, "They used me as a screen between them and the enemy."
His own ship and that of his chief admiral's bore the brunt of the
battle for a long time. _Trefoldigheden_ fired 315 shots during the
engagement, and at one time had four hostile, ships clustering about
her. King Christian was on the quarter-deck when a cannon-ball
shivered the bulwark and one of his guns, throwing a shower of
splintered iron and wood over him and those near him, killing and
wounding twelve of the crew. The King himself fell, stunned and
wounded in twenty-three places. His right eye was knocked out, two
of his teeth, and his left ear hung in shreds.

The cry was raised that the King was dead and panic spread on board.
The story has it that a sailor was sent aloft to strike the flag but
purposely entangled it in the rigging so that it could not fall; he
could not bear to see the King's ship strike its colors. In the
midst of the tumult the aged monarch rose to his feet, torn and
covered with blood. "I live yet," he cried, "and God has left me
strength to fight on for my country. Let every man do his duty."
Leaning on his sword, he led the fight until darkness fell and the
battle was won. Denmark was saved. The danger of an invasion was
averted. In the palace of Rosenborg the priceless treasure they show
to visitors is the linen cloth, all blood-stained, that bound the
King's face as he fought and won his last and biggest fight that

Half blind, his body black and blue and sore from many bruises, King
Christian yet refused to sail for Copenhagen to have his wounds
attended. Three weeks he lay watching the narrow inlet behind which
the beaten enemy was hiding, to destroy his ships when he came out.
Then he gave over the command to another and hastened to the
province of Skaane on the Swedish mainland, from which he expelled a
hostile army. But when his back was turned, the men he had set to
watch fell asleep and let the Swedish admiral steal out into the
open. There he found and joined the Dutch ships that had slipped
around the Skaw during the rumpus. Together they overwhelmed the
Danish fleet, being now three to one, and crushed it. The slothful
admiral paid for it with his life, but the harm was done. It was the
last and heaviest blow. The old King sheathed his sword and set his
name to a peace that took from Denmark some of her ancient
provinces, with the bitter sigh: "God knows I had no share in this,"
and he had not. Even at the last he appealed to the country to try
the fortunes of war with him once more. The people were willing, but
the nobles wanted peace, "however God send it," and he had to yield.
The treaty was made at Broemsebro, where a bridge crossed the river
dividing the two kingdoms. In the middle of the river was an island
and the negotiations were carried on in a tent erected there, the
French and the Dutch being the arbitrators. The envoys of Sweden
and Denmark sat on opposite sides of the boundary post where the
line cut through, each on the soil of his own country. So bitterly
did they hate one another that they did not speak but wrote their
messages, though they could have shaken hands where they sat. Even
that was too close quarters, and they ended up by negotiating at
second hand through the foreign ambassadors, all at the same table,
but each looking straight past the other as if he were not there.

Another touch of comedy relieves the gloom of that heavy day. It was
the conquest of the Saernadal, a mountain valley in Norway just over
the Swedish frontier, by Pastor Buschovius who, Bible in hand, at
the head of two hundred ski-men invaded and captured it one winter's
day without a blow. He came over the snow-fields into the valley
that had not seen a preacher in many a long day, had the church
bells rung to summon the people, preached to them, married and
christened them, and gave them communion. The simple mountaineers
had hardly heard of the war and had nothing against their neighbors
over the mountain. They joined Sweden then and there at the request
of the preacher, and they stayed Swedes too, for in the final muster
they were forgotten with their valley. Very likely the treaty-makers
did not know that it existed.

King Christian died four years later, in 1648, past the three score
and ten allotted to man. He was not a great leader like Gustav
Adolf, and he was very human in some of his failings. But he was a
strong man, a just king, and a father of his people who still cling
to his memory with more than filial affection.


The city of Prague, the capital of Bohemia, went wild with
excitement one spring morning in the year 1618. The Protestant
Estates of Germany had met there to protest against the aggressions
of the Catholic League and the bad faith of the Emperor, who had
guaranteed freedom of worship in the land and had now sent two
envoys to defy the meeting and declare it illegal. In the old castle
they delivered their message and bade the convention disperse; and
the delegates, when they had heard, seized them and their clerk and
threw them out of the window "in good old Bohemian fashion." They
fell seventy feet and escaped almost without a scratch, which fact
was accepted by the Catholics of that strenuous day as proof of
their miraculous preservation; by the Protestants as evidence that
the devil ever takes care of his own.

It was the tiny spark that set Europe on fire. Out of it grew the
Thirty Years' War, the most terrible that ever scourged the
civilized world. When Catholic League and Evangelical Union first
mustered their armies, Bohemia had a prosperous population of four
million souls; when the war was over there were less than eight
hundred thousand alive in that unhappy land, and the wolves that
roamed its forests were scarcely more ferocious than the human
starvelings who skulked among the smoking ruins of burned towns and
hamlets. Other states fared little better. Two centuries did not
wipe out the blight of those awful years when rapine and murder,
inspired by bigotry and hate, ran riot in the name of religion.

In the gloom and horror of it all a noble figure stands forth alone.
It were almost worth the sufferings of a Thirty Years' War for the
world to have gained a Gustav Adolf. The "snow-king" the Emperor's
generals named him when he first appeared on German soil at the head
of his army of Northmen, and they prophesied that he would speedily
melt, once the southern sun shone upon his host. They little knew
the man. He went from victory to victory, less because he was the
greatest general of his day than because he, and all his army with
him, believed himself charged by the Almighty with the defence of
his country and of his faith. The Emperor had attacked both, the
first by attempting to extend his dominion to the Baltic; but
Pommerania and the Baltic provinces were regarded by the Swedish
ruler as the outworks of his kingdom; and Sweden was Protestant.
Hence he drew the sword. "Our brethren in the faith are sighing for
deliverance from spiritual and bodily thraldom," he said to his
people. "Please God, they shall not sigh long." That was his
warrant. Axel Oxenstjerna, his friend and right hand who lived to
finish his work, said of him, "He felt himself impelled by a mighty
spirit which he was unable to resist." As warrior, king, and man, he
was head and shoulders above his time. Gustav Adolf saved religious
liberty to the world. He paid the price with his life, but he would
have asked no better fate. A soldier of God, he met a soldier's
death on the field of battle, in the hour of victory.

A man of destiny he was to his people as to himself. Long years
before his birth, upon the appearance of the comet of 1577, Tycho
Brahe, the astronomer, who was deep in the occultism of his day, had
predicted that a prince would appear in Finland who would do great
things in Germany and deliver the Protestant peoples from the
oppression of the popes, and the prophecy was applied to Gustav
Adolf by his subjects all through his life. He was born on December
9, 1594, old style, as they still reckon time in Russia. Very early
he showed the kind of stuff he was made of. When he was yet almost a
baby he was told that there were snakes in the park, and showed
fight at once: "Give me a stick and I will kill them." With the
years he grew into a handsome youth who read his books, knew his
Seneca by heart, was fond of the poets and the great orators, and
mastered eight languages, living and dead. At seventeen he buckled
on the sword and put the books away, but kept Xenophon as his
friend; for he was a military historian after his own heart. He was
then Duke of Finland.

The King, his father, was a stern but observant man who, seeing his
bent, threw him with soldiers to his heart's content, glad to have
it so, for it was a warlike age. From his tenth year he let him sit
in council with him and early delegated to him the duty of answering
ambassadors from foreign countries. The lad was the only one who
dared oppose the king when he was in a temper, and often he made
peace and healed wounds struck in anger. The people worshipped the
fair young prince, and his father, when he felt the palsy of old age
and bodily infirmities creeping upon him and thought of his
unfinished tasks, would murmur as his eyes rested upon the bonny
youth: "_Ille faciet_--He will do it." There is still in existence a
document in which he laid down to him his course as a sovereign.
"First of all," he writes, "you shall fear God and honor your father
and mother. Give your brothers and sisters brotherly affection; love
your father's faithful servants and requite them after their due. Be
gracious to your subjects; punish evil and love the good. Believe in
men, but find out first what is in them. Hold by the law without
respect of person."

It was good advice to a prince, and the king took it to heart. On
the docket of the Supreme Court at Stockholm is a letter written by
Gustav Adolf to the judges and ordered by him to be entered there,
which tells them plainly that if any of them is found perverting
justice to suit him, the King, or any one else, he will have him
flayed alive and his hide nailed to the judgment-seat, his ears
to the pillory! Not a nice way of talking to dignified judges,
perhaps, but then the prescription was intended to suit the
practice, if there was need.

The young king earned his spurs in a war with Denmark that came near
being his last as it was his first campaign. He and his horsemen
were surprised by the Danes on a winter's night as they were warming
themselves by a fire built of the pews in the Wittsjoe church, and
they cut their way through only after a desperate fight on the
frozen lake. The ice broke under the king's horse and he was going
down when two of his men caught him in the nick of time. He got away
with the loss of his sword, his pistols, and his gloves. "I will
remember you with a crust that shall do for your bairns too," he
promised one of his rescuers, a stout peasant lad, and he kept his
word. Thomas Larsson's descendants a generation ago still tilled the
farm the King gave him. When the trouble with Denmark was over for
the time being, he settled old scores with Russia and Poland in a
way that left Sweden mistress of the Baltic. In the Polish war he
was wounded twice and was repeatedly in peril of his life. Once he
was shot in the neck, and, as the bullet could not be removed, it
ever after troubled him to wear armor. His officers pleaded with him
to spare himself, but his reply was that Caesar and Alexander did not
skulk behind the lines; a general must lead if he expected his men
to follow.

In this campaign he met the League's troops, sent to chase him back
to his own so that Wallenstein, the leader of the imperial armies,
might be "General of the Baltic Sea," unmolested. "Go to Poland," he
commanded one of his lieutenants, "and drive the snow-king out; or
else tell him that I shall come and do it myself." The proud soldier
never knew how near he came to entertaining the snow-king as his
unwilling guest then. In a fight between his rear-guard and the
imperial army Gustav Adolf was disarmed and taken prisoner by two
troopers. There was another prisoner who had kept his pistol. He
handed it to the King behind his back and with it he shot one of his
captors and brained the other. For all that they nearly got him. He
saved himself only by wriggling out of his belt and leaving it in
the hands of the enemy. Eight years he campaigned in Poland and
Prussia, learning the arts of war. Then he was ready for his
life-work. He made a truce with Poland that freed his hands for a
season, and went home to Sweden.

That spring (1629) he laid before the Swedish Estates his plan of
freeing the Protestants. To defend Sweden, he declared, was to
defend her faith, and the Estates voted supplies for the war. To
gauge fully the splendid courage of the nation it must be remembered
that the whole kingdom, including Finland, had a population of only
a million and a half at the time and was preparing to attack the
mighty Roman empire. In the first year of the war the Swedish budget
was thirteen millions of dollars, of which nine and a half went for
armaments. The whole army which Gustav Adolf led into Germany
numbered only 14,000 soldiers, but it was made up of Swedish
veterans led by men whose names were to become famous for all time,
and welded together by an unshakable belief in their commander, a
rigid discipline and a religious enthusiasm that swayed master and
men with a common impulse. Such a combination has in all days proven

The King's farewell to his people--he was never to see Sweden
again--moved a nation to tears. He spoke to the nobles, the clergy
and to the people, admonishing them to stand together in the hard
years that were coming and gave them all into the keeping of God.
They stood on the beach and watched his ships sail into the sunset
until they were swallowed up in glory. Then they went back home to
take up the burden that was their share. On the Ruegen shore the King
knelt with his men and thanked God for having brought them safe
across the sea, then seized a spade, and himself turned the first
sod in the making of a camp. "Who prays well, fights well," he said.

He was not exactly hospitably received. The old Duke of Pommerania
would have none of him, begged him to go away, and only when the
King pointed to his guns and hinted that he had keys well able to
open the gates of Stettin, his capital, did he give in and promise
help. The other German princes, with one or two exceptions, were as
cravenly short-sighted. They held meetings and denounced the Emperor
and his lawless doings, but Gustav they would not help. The princes
of Brandenburg and of Saxony, the two Protestant Electors of the
empire, were rather disposed to hinder him, if they might, though
Brandenburg was his brother-in-law. Only when the King threatened to
burn the city of Berlin over his head did he listen. While he was
yet laboring with them, recruiting his army and keeping it in
practice by driving the enemy out of Pommerania, news reached him of
the fall of Magdeburg, the strongest city in northern Germany, that
had of its own free will joined his cause.

The sacking of Magdeburg is one of the black deeds of history. In a
night the populous city was reduced to a heap of smoking ruins under
which twenty thousand men, women, and children lay buried. Not since
the fall of Jerusalem, said Pappenheim, Tilly's famous cavalry
leader to whom looting and burning were things of every day, had so
awful a visitation befallen a town. Only the great cathedral and a
few houses near it were left standing. The history of warfare of the
Christian peoples of that day reads like a horrid nightmare. The
fighting armies left a trail of black desolation where they passed.
"They are not made up of birds that feed on air," sneered Tilly.
Peaceful husbandmen were murdered, the young women dragged away to
worse than slavery, and helpless children spitted upon the lances
of the wild landsknechts and tossed with a laugh into the blazing
ruins of their homes. But no such foul blot cleaves to the memory of
Gustav Adolf. While he lived his men were soldiers, not demons. In
his tent the work of Hugo Grotius on the rights of the nations in
war and peace lay beside the Bible and he knew them both by heart.
When he was gone, the fame of some of his greatest generals was
smirched by as vile orgies as Tilly's worst days had witnessed. It
is told of John Baner, one of the most brilliant of them, that he
demanded ransom of the city of Prix, past which his way led. The
city fathers permitted themselves an untimely jest: "Prix giebt
nichts--Prix gives nothing," they said. Baner was as brief: "Prix
wird zu nichts--Prix comes to nothing," and his army wiped it out.

Grief and anger almost choked the King when he heard of Magdeburg's
fate. "I will avenge that on the Old Corporal (Tilly's nickname),"
he cried, "if it costs my life." Without further ado he forced the
two Electors to terms and joined the Saxon army to his own. On
September 7, 1631, fifteen months after he had landed in Germany, he
met Tilly face to face at Breitenfeld, a village just north of
Leipzig. The Emperor's host in its brave show of silver and plumes
and gold, the plunder of many campaigns under its invincible leader,
looked with contempt upon the travel-worn Swedes in their poor,
soiled garb. The stolid Finns sat their mean but wiry little horses
very unlike Pappenheim's dreaded Walloons, descendants of the
warlike Belgae of Gaul who defied the Germans of old in the forest of
the Ardennes and joined Caesar in his victorious march. But Tilly
himself was not deceived. He knew how far this enemy had come and
with what hardships cheerfully borne; how they had routed the
Russians, written laws for the Poles in their own land, and
overthrown armies and forts that barred their way. He would wait for
reinforcements; but his generals egged him on, said age had made him
timid and slow, and carried the day.

The King slept in an empty cart the night before the battle and
dreamed that he wrestled with Tilly and threw him, but that he tore
his breast with his teeth. When all was ready in the morning he rode
along the front and told his fusiliers not to shoot till they saw
the white in the enemy's eyes, the horsemen not to dull their
swords by hacking the helmets of the Walloons: "Cut at their horses
and they will go down with them." In the pause before the onset he
prayed with head uncovered and lowered sword, and his voice carried
to the farthest lines:

"Thou, God, in whose hands are victory and defeat, look graciously
upon thy servants. From distant lands and peaceful homes have we
come to battle for freedom, truth and thy gospel. Give us victory
for thy holy name's sake, Amen!"

Tilly had expected the King to attack, but the fiery Pappenheim
upset his plans. The smoke of the guns drifted in the faces of the
Swedes and the King swung his army to the south to get the wind
right. In making the turn they had to cross a brook and this moment
Pappenheim chose for his charge. Like a thunderbolt his Walloons
fell upon them. The Swedish fire mowed them down like ripened grain
and checked their impetuous rush. They tried to turn the King's
right and so outflank him; but the army turned with them and stood
like a rock. The extreme mobility of his forces was Gustav Adolf's
great advantage in his campaigns. He revised the book of military
tactics up to date. The imperial troops were massed in solid
columns, after the old Spanish fashion, the impact of which was hard
to resist when they struck. The King's, on the contrary, moved in
smaller bodies, quickly thrown upon the point of danger, and his
artillery was so distributed among them as to make every shot tell
on the compact body of the enemy. Whichever way Pappenheim turned he
found a firm front, bristling with guns, opposing him. Seven times
he threw himself upon the living wall; each time his horsemen were
flung back, their lines thinned and broken. The field was strewn
with their dead. Tilly, anxiously watching, threw up his hands in
despair. "This man will lose me honor and fame, and the Emperor his
lands," he cried. The charge ended in wild flight, and Tilly saw
that he must himself attack, to turn the tide.

On the double-quick his columns of spearmen charged down the
heights, swept the Saxons from the field, and fell upon the Swedish
left. The shock was tremendous. General Gustav Horn gave back to let
his second line come up, and held the ground stubbornly against
fearful odds. Word was brought the King of his danger. With the
right wing that had crushed Pappenheim he hurried to the rescue. In
the heat of the fight the armies had changed position, and the
Swedes found themselves climbing the hill upon which Tilly's
artillery was posted. Seeing this, the King made one of the rapid
movements that more than once won him the day. Raising the cry,
"Remember Magdeburg!" he carried the position with his Finns by a
sudden overwhelming assault, and turned the guns upon the dense
masses of the enemy fighting below.

In vain they stormed the heights. Both wings and the centre closed
in upon them, and the day was lost. Tilly fled, wounded, and
narrowly escaped capture. A captain in the Swedish army, who was
called Long Fritz because of his great height, was at his heels
hammering him on the head with the butt of his pistol. A staff
officer shot him down in passing, and freed his chief. Twilight fell
upon a battle-field where seven thousand men lay dead, two-thirds of
them the flower of the Emperor's army. Blood-stained and
smoke-begrimed, Gustav Adolf and his men knelt on the field and
thanked God for the victory.

Had the King's friend and adviser, Axel Oxenstjerna, been with him
he might have marched upon Vienna then, leaving the Protestant
Estates to settle their own affairs, and very likely have ended the
war. Gustav Adolf thought of Tilly who would return with another
army. Oxenstjerna saw farther, weighing things upon the scales of
the diplomatist.

"How think you we would fare," asked the King once, when the
chancellor saw obstacles in their way which he would brush aside,
"if my fire did not thaw the chill in you?"

"But for my chill cooling your Majesty's fire," was his friend's
retort, "you would have long since been burned up." The King laughed
and owned that he was right.

Instead of bearding the Emperor in his capital he turned toward the
Rhine where millions of Protestants were praying for his coming and
where his army might find rest and abundance. The cathedral city of
Wuerzburg he took by storm. The bishop who ruled it fled at his
approach, but the full treasury of the Jesuits fell into his hands.
The Madonna of beaten gold and the twelve solid silver apostles,
famous throughout Europe, were sent to the mint and coined into
money to pay his army. In the cellar they found chests filled with
ducats. The bottom fell out of one as they carried it up and the
gold rolled out on the pavement. The soldiers swarmed to pick it up,
but a good many coins stuck to their pockets. The King saw it and
laughed: "Since you have them, boys, keep them." The dead were still
lying in the castle yard after the siege, a number of monks among
them. The color of some of them seemed high for corpses. "Arise from
the dead," he said waggishly, "no one will hurt you," and the
frightened monks got upon their feet and scampered away.

Frankfort opened its gates to his victorious host and Nuernberg
received him as a heaven-sent liberator. But Tilly was in the field
with a fresh army, burning to avenge Breitenfeld. He had surprised
General Horn at Bamberg and beaten him. At the approach of the King
he camped where the river Lech joins the Danube, awaiting attack.
There was but one place to cross to get at him, and right there he
stood. The king seized Donauworth and Ulm, and under cover of the
fire of seventy guns threw a bridge across the Lech. Three hundred
Finns carrying picks and spades ran across the shaky planks upon
which the fire of Tilly's whole artillery park was concentrated.
Once across, they burrowed in the ground like moles and, with
bullets raining upon them, threw up earthworks for shelter. Squad
after squad of volunteers followed. Duke Bernhard of Saxe-Weimar
swam his horsemen across the river farther up-stream and took the
Bavarian troops in the flank, beating them back far enough to let
him join the Finns at the landing. The King himself was directing
the artillery on the other shore, aiming the guns with his own hand.
The Walloons, Tilly's last hope, charged, but broke under the
withering fire. In desperation the old field-marshal seized the
standard and himself led the forlorn hope. Half-way to the bridge he
fell, one leg shattered by a cannon-ball, and panic seized his men.
The imperialists fled in the night, carrying their wounded leader.
He died on the march soon after. Men said of him that he had served
his master well.

The snow-king had not melted in the south. He was master of the
Roman empire from the Baltic to the Alps. The way to Austria and
Italy lay open before him. Protestant princes crowded to do him
homage, offering him the imperial crown. But Gustav Adolf did not
lose his head. Toward the humbled Catholics he showed only
forbearance and toleration. In Munich he visited the college of the
Jesuits, and spoke long with the rector in the Latin tongue,
assuring him of their safety as long as they kept from politics and
plotting. The armory in that city was known to be the best stocked
in all Europe and the King's surprise was great when he found
gun-carriages in plenty, but not a single cannon. Looking about him,
he saw evidence that the floor had been hastily relaid and
remembered the "dead" monks at Wuerzburg. He had it taken up and a
dark vault appeared. The King looked into it.

"Arise!" he called out, "and come to judgment," and amid shouts of
laughter willing hands brought out a hundred and forty good guns,
welcome reenforcements.

The ignorant Bavarian peasants had been told that the King was the
very anti-Christ, come to harass the world for its sins, and carried
on a cruel guerilla warfare upon his army. They waylaid the Swedes
by night on their foraging trips and maimed and murdered those they


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