Pictures of Sweden
Hans Christian Andersen
Part 2 out of 3
stockings, with green heels, and singularly thick-soled shoes, with
the upper-leather right up the shin-bone, stands the Dalkull; she has
ornamented the boat, that now shoots away, with green branches. Houses
and streets rise and unfold themselves; churches and gardens start
forth; they stand on Soedermalm high above the tops of the ships'
masts. The scenery reminds one of the Bhosphorus and Pera; the motley
dress of the Dalkulls is quite Oriental--and listen! the wind bears
melancholy Skalmeie tones out to us. Two poor Dalecarlians are playing
music on the quay; they are the same drawn-out, melancholy tones that
are played by the Bulgarian musicians in the streets of Pera. We stept
out, and are in the Diurgarden.
What a crowd of equipages pass in rows through the broad avenue! and
what a throng of well-dressed pedestrians of all classes! One thinks
of the garden of the Villa Borghese, when, at the time of the wine
feast, the Roman people and strangers take the air there. We are in
the Borghese garden; we are by the Bosphorus, and yet far in the
North. The pine-tree rises large and free; the birch droops its
branches, as the weeping willow alone has power to do--and what
magnificently grand oaks! The pine-trees themselves are mighty trees,
beautiful to the painter's eye; splendid green grass plains lie
stretched before us, and the fiord rolls its green, deep waters close
past, as if it were a river. Large ships with swelling sails, the one
high above the other, steamers and boats, come and go in varied
Come! let us up to Bystroem's villa; it lies on the stony cliff up
there, where the large oak-trees stand in their stubborn grandeur: we
see from here the whole tripartite city, Soedermalm, Nordmalm and the
island with that huge palace. It is delightful, the building here on
this rock, and the building stands, and that almost entirely of
marble, a "Casa santa d'Italia," as if borne through the air here in
the North. The walls within are painted in the Pompeian style, but
heavy: there is nothing genial. Round about stand large marble figures
by Bystroem, which have not, however, the soul of antiquity. Madonna is
encumbered by her heavy marble drapery, the girl with the
flower-garland is an ugly young thing, and on seeing Hero with the
weeping Cupid, one thinks of a _pose_ arranged by a ballet-master.
Let us, however, see what is pretty. The little Cupid-seller is
pretty, and the stone is made as flexible as life in the waists of the
bathing-women. One of them, as she steps out, feels the water with her
feet, and we feel, with her, a sensation that the water is cold. The
coolness of the marble-hall realizes this feeling. Let us go out into
the sunshine, and up to the neighbouring cliff, which rises above the
mansions and houses. Here the wild roses shoot forth from the crevices
in the rock; the sunbeams fall prettily between the splendid pines and
the graceful birches, upon the high grass before the colossal bronze
bust of Bellmann. This place was the favourite one of that
Scandinavian improvisatore. Here he lay in the grass, composed and
sang his anacreontic songs, and here, in the summer-time, his annual
festival is held. We will raise his altar here in the red evening
sunlight. It is a flaming bowl, raised high on the jolly tun, and it
is wreathed with roses. Morits tries his hunting-horn, that which was
Oberon's horn in the inn-parlour, and everything danced, from Ulla to
"Mutter paa Toppen:"[M] they stamped with their feet and clapped their
hands, and clinked the pewter lid of the ale-tankard; "hej kara Sjael!
fukta din aske!" (Hey! dear soul! moisten your clay).
[Footnote M: The landlady of an alehouse.]
A Teniers' picture became animated, and still lives in song. Morits
blows the horn on Bellmann's place around the flowing bowl, and whole
crowds dance in a circle, young and old; the carriages too, horses and
waggons, filled bottles and clattering tankards: the Bellmann
dithyrambic clangs melodiously; humour and low life, sadness--and
amongst others, about
"----hur oegat gret
Ved de Cypresser, som stroeddes."[N]
[Footnote N: How the eyes wept by the cypresses that were strewn
Painter, seize thy brush and palette and paint the Maenade--but not
her who treads the winebag, whilst her hair flutters in the wind, and
she sings ecstatic songs. No, but the Maenade that ascends from
Bellmann's steaming bowl is the Punch's Anadyomene--she, with the high
heels to the red shoes, with rosettes on her gown and with fluttering
veil and mantilla--fluttering, far too fluttering! She plucks the rose
of poetry from her breast and sets it in the ale-can's spout; clinks
with the lid, sings about the clang of the hunting horn, about
breeches and old shoes and all manner of stuff. Yet we are sensible
that he is a true poet; we see two human eyes shining, that announce
to us the human heart's sadness and hope.
* * * * *
All the apple-trees in the garden had sprung out. They had made haste
to get blossoms before they got green leaves; and all the ducklings
were out in the yard--and the cat too! He was, so to speak, permeated
by the sunshine; he licked it from his own paws; and if one looked
towards the fields, one saw the corn standing so charmingly green! And
there was such a twittering and chirping amongst all the small birds,
just as if it were a great feast. And that one might indeed say it
was, for it was Sunday. The bells rang, and people in their best
clothes went to church, and looked so pleased. Yes, there was
something so pleasant in everything: it was indeed so fine and warm a
day, that one might well say: "Our Lord is certainly unspeakably good
towards us poor mortals!"
But the clergyman stood in the pulpit in the church, and spoke so loud
and so angrily! He said that mankind was so wicked, and that God would
punish them for it, and that when they died, the wicked went down into
hell, where they would burn for ever; and he said that their worm
would never die, and their fire never be extinguished, nor would they
ever get rest and peace!
It was terrible to hear, and he said it so determinedly. He described
hell to them as a pestilential hole, where all the filthiness of the
world flowed together. There was no air except the hot, sulphurous
flames; there was no bottom; they sank and sank into everlasting
silence! It was terrible, only to hear about it; but the clergyman
said it right honestly out of his heart, and all the people in the
church were quite terrified. But all the little birds outside the
church sang so pleasantly, and so pleased, and the sun shone so
warm:--it was as if every little flower said: "God is so wondrous good
to us altogether!" Yes, outside it was not at all as the clergyman
In the evening, when it was bed-time, the clergyman saw his wife sit
so still and thoughtful.
"What ails you?" said he to her.
"What ails me?" she replied; "what ails me is, that I cannot collect
my thoughts rightly--that I cannot rightly understand what you said;
that there were so many wicked, and that they should burn
eternally!--eternally, alas, how long! I am but a sinful being; but I
could not bear the thought in my heart to allow even the worst sinner
to burn for ever. And how then should our Lord permit it? he who is so
wondrously good, and who knows how evil comes both from without and
within. No, I cannot believe it, though you say it."
* * * * *
It was autumn. The leaves fell from the trees; the grave, severe
clergyman sat by the bedside of a dying person; a pious believer
closed her eyes--it was the clergyman's own wife.
"If any one find peace in the grave, and grace from God, then it is
thou," said the clergyman, and he folded her hands, and read a psalm
over the dead body.
And she was borne to the grave: two heavy tears trickled down that
stern man's cheeks; and it was still and vacant in the parsonage; the
sunshine within was extinguished:--she was gone.
It was night. A cold wind blew over the clergyman's head; he opened
his eyes, and it was just as if the moon shone into his room. But the
moon did not shine. It was a figure which stood before his bed--he saw
the spirit of his deceased wife. She looked on him so singularly
afflicted; it seemed as though she would say something.
The man raised himself half erect in bed, and stretched his arms out
"Not even to thee is granted everlasting peace. Thou dost suffer;
thou, the best, the most pious!"
And the dead bent her head in confirmation of his words, and laid her
hand on her breast.
"And can I procure you peace in the grave?"
"Yes!" it sounded in his ear.
"Give me a hair, but a single hair of the head of that sinner, whose
fire will never be quenched; that sinner whom God will cast down into
hell, to everlasting torment."
"Yes; so easily thou canst be liberated, thou pure, thou pious one!"
"Then follow me," said the dead; "it is so granted us. Thou canst be
by my side, wheresoever thy thoughts will. Invisible to mankind, we
stand in their most secret places; but thou must point with a sure
hand to the one destined to eternal punishment, and ere the cock crow
he must be found."
And swift, as if borne on the wings of thought, they were in the great
city, and the names of the dying sinners shone from the walls of the
houses in letters of fire: "Arrogance, Avarice, Drunkenness,
Voluptuousness;" in short, sin's whole seven-coloured arch.
"Yes, in there, as I thought it, as I knew it," said the clergyman,
"are housed those condemned to eternal fire."
And they stood before the splendidly-illumined portico, where the
broad stairs were covered with carpets and flowers, and the music of
the dance sounded through the festal saloons. The porter stood there
in silk and velvet, with a large silver-headed stick.
"_Our_ ball can match with the King's," said he, and turned towards
the crowd in the street--his magnificent thoughts were visible in his
whole person. "Poor devils! who stare in at the portico, you are
altogether ragamuffins, compared to me!"
"Arrogance," said the dead; "dost thou see him?"
"Him!" repeated the clergyman; "he is a simpleton--a fool only, and
will not be condemned to eternal fire and torment."
"A fool only," sounded through the whole house of Arrogance.
And they flew into the four bare walls of Avarice, where skinny,
meagre, shivering with cold, hungry and thirsty, the old man clung
fast with all his thoughts to his gold. They saw how he, as in a
fever, sprang from his wretched pallet, and took a loose stone out of
the wall. There lay gold coins in a stocking-foot; he fumbled at his
ragged tunic, in which gold coins were sewed fast, and his moist
"He is ill: it is insanity; encircled by fear and evil dreams."
And they flew away in haste, and stood by the criminals' wooden couch,
where they slept side by side in long rows. One of them started up
from his sleep like a wild animal, and uttered a hideous scream: he
struck his companion with his sharp elbow, and the latter turned
"Hold your tongue, you beast, and sleep! this is your way every night!
Every night!" he repeated; "yes, you come every night, howling and
choking me! I have done one thing or another in a passion; I was born
with a passionate temper, and it has brought me in here a second time;
but if I have done wrong, so have I also got my punishment. But one
thing I have not confessed. When I last went out from here, and passed
by my master's farm, one thing and another boiled up in me, and I
directly stroked a lucifer against the wall: it came a little too near
the thatch, and everything was burnt--hot-headedness came over it,
just as it comes over me, I helped to save the cattle and furniture.
Nothing living was burnt, except a flock of pigeons: they flew into
the flames, and the yard dog. I had not thought of the dog. I could
hear it howl, and that howl I always hear yet, when I would sleep; and
if I do get to sleep, the dog comes also--so large and hairy! He lies
down on me, howls, and strangles me! Do but hear what I am telling
you. Snore--yes, that you can--snore the whole night through, and I
not even a quarter of an hour!"
And the blood shone from the eyes of the fiery one; he fell on his
companion, and struck him in the face with his clenched fist.
"Angry Mads has become mad again!" resounded on all sides, and the
other rascals seized hold of him, wrestled with him, and bent him
double, so that his head was forced between his legs, where they bound
it fast, so that the blood was nearly springing out of his eyes, and
all the pores.
"You will kill him!" said the clergyman,--"poor unfortunate!" and as
he stretched his hands out over him, who had already suffered too
severely, in order to prevent further mischief, the scene changed.
They flew through rich halls, and through poor chambers;
voluptuousness and envy, all mortal sins strode past them. A recording
angel read their sin and their defence; this was assuredly little for
God, for God reads the heart; He knows perfectly the evil that comes
within it and from without, He, grace, all-loving kindness. The hand
of the clergyman trembled: he did not venture to stretch it out, to
pluck a hair from the sinner's head. And the tears streamed down from
his eyes, like the waters of _grace_ and love, which quenched the
eternal fire of hell.
The cock then crowed.
"Merciful God! Thou wilt grant her that peace in the grave which I
have not been able to redeem."
"That I now have!" said the dead; "it was thy hard words, thy dark,
human belief of God and his creatures, which drove me to thee! Learn
to know mankind; even in the bad there is a part of God--a part that
will conquer and quench the fire of hell."
And a kiss was pressed on the clergyman's lips:--it shone around him.
God's clear, bright sun shone into the chamber, where his wife,
living, mild, and affectionate, awoke him from a dream, sent from God!
* * * * *
It is commonly said, that Memory is a young girl with light blue eyes.
Most poets say so; but we cannot always agree with most poets. To us
memory comes in quite different forms, all according to that land, or
that town to which she belongs. Italy sends her as a charming Mignon,
with black eyes and a melancholy smile, singing Bellini's soft,
touching songs. From Scotland Memory's sprite appears as a powerful
lad with bare knees; the plaid hangs over his shoulder, the
thistle-flower is fixed on his cap; Burns's songs then fill the air
like the heath-lark's song, and Scotland's wild thistle flowers
beautifully fragrant as the fresh rose. But now for Memory's sprite
from Sweden, from Upsala. He comes thence in the form of a student--at
least, he wears the Upsala student's white cap with the black rim. To
us it points out its home, as the Phrygian cap denotes Ganymede.
It was in the year 1843, that the Danish students travelled to Upsala.
Young hearts met together; eyes sparkled: they laughed, they sang.
Young hearts are the future--the conquering future--in the beautiful,
true and good; it is so good that brothers should know and love each
other. Friendship's meeting is still annually remembered in the
palace-yard of Upsala, before the monument of Gustavus Vasa--by the
hurra! for Denmark, in warm-hearted compliment to me.
Two summers afterwards, the visit was returned. The Swedish students
came to Copenhagen, and that they might there be known amongst the
multitude, the Upsala students wore a white cap with a black rim: this
cap is accordingly a memorial,--the sign of friendship's bridge over
that river of blood which once flowed between kindred nations. When
one meets in heart and spirit, a blissful seed is then sown. Memory's
sprite, come to us! we know thee by the cap from Upsala: be thou our
guide, and from our more southern home, after years and days, we will
make the voyage over again, quicker than if we flew in Doctor Faustus'
magic cloak. We are in Stockholm: we stand on the Ridderholm where the
steamers lie alongside the bulwarks: one of them sends forth clouds of
thick smoke from its chimney; the deck is crowded with passengers, and
the white cap with the black rim is not wanting.
We are off to Upsala; the paddles strike the waters of the Maelar, and
we shoot away from the picturesque city of Stockholm. The whole
voyage, direct to Upsala, is a kaleidescope on a large scale. It is
true, there is nothing of the magical in the scenery, but landscape
gives place to landscape, and clouds and sunshine refresh their
variegated beauty. The Maelar lake curves, is compressed, and widens
again: it is as if one passed from lake to lake through narrow canals
and broad rivers. Sometimes it appears as if the lake ended in small
rivulets between dark pines and rocks, when suddenly another large
lake, surrounded by corn fields and meadows, opens itself to view: the
light-green linden trees, which have just unfolded their leaves, shine
forth before the dark grey rocks. Again a new lake opens before us,
with islets, trees and red painted houses, and during the whole voyage
there is a lively arrival and departure of passengers, in flat
bottomed boats, which are nearly upset in the billowy wake of the
It appears most dangerous opposite to Sigtuna, Sweden's old royal
city: the lake is broad here; the waves rise as if they were the
waters of the ocean; the boats rock--it is fearful to look at! But
here there must be a calm; and Sigtuna, that little interesting town
where the old towers stand in ruins, like outposts along the rocks,
reflects itself in the water.
We fly past! and now we are in Tyris rivulet! Part of a meadow is
flooded; a herd of horses become shy from the snorting of the
steamer's engine; they dash through the water in the meadow, and it
spurts up all over them. It glitters there between the trees on the
declivity: the Upsala students lie encamped there, and exercise
themselves in the use of arms.
The rivulet forms a bay, and the high plain extends itself. We see old
Upsala's hills; we see Upsala's city with its church, which, like
Notre Dame, raises its stony arms towards heaven. The university rises
to the view, in appearance half palace and half barracks, and there
aloft, on the greensward-clothed bank, stands the old red-painted huge
palace with its towers.
We stop at the bulwark near the arched bridge, and so go on shore.
Whither wilt thou conduct us first, thou our guide with the
white-and-black student's cap? Shall we go up to the palace, or to
Linnaeus's garden! or shall we go to the church-yard where the nettles
grow over Geier's and Toernro's graves? No, but to the young and the
living Upsala's life--the students. Thou tellest us about them; we
hear the heart's pulsations, and our hearts beat in sympathy!
In the first year of the war between Denmark and the insurgents, many
a brave Upsala student left his quiet, comfortable home, and entered
the ranks with his Danish brothers. The Upsala students gave up their
most joyous festival--the May-day festival--and the money they at
other times used to contribute annually towards the celebration
thereof, they sent to the Danes, after the sum had been increased by
concerts which were given in Stockholm and Vesteraas. That
circumstance will not be forgotten in Denmark.
Upsala student, thou art dear to us by thy disposition! thou art dear
to us from thy lively jests! We will mention a trait thereof. In
Upsala, it had become the fashion to be Hegelianers--that is to say,
always to interweave Hegel's philosophical terms in conversation. In
order to put down this practice, a few clever fellows took upon
themselves the task of hammering some of the most difficult technical
words into the memory of a humorous and commonly drunken country
innkeeper, at whose house many a _Sexa_ was often held; and the man
spoke Hegelianic in his mellow hours, and the effect was so absurd,
that the employment of philosophical scraps in his speech was
ridiculed, understood, and the nuisance abandoned.
Beautiful songs resound as we approach: we hear Swedish, Norwegian and
Danish. The melody's varied beacon makes known to us where Upsala's
students are assembled. The song proceeds from the assembly-room--from
the tavern saloon, and like serenades in the silent evening, when a
young friend departs, or a dear guest is honoured. Glorious melodies!
ye enthral, so that we forget that the sun goes down, and the moon
"Herre min Gud hvad din Manen lyser
Se, hvilken Glands ut ofver Land och Stad!"
is now sung, and we see:
"Hoegt opp i Slottet hvarenda ruta
Blixtrar some vore den en aedelsten."[O]
[Footnote O: Lord, my God, how Thy moon shines! See what lustre over
land and city! High up in the palace every pane glistens as if it
were a gem.]
Up thither then is our way! lead us, memory's sprite, into the palace,
the courteous governor of Upland's dwelling; mild glances greet us; we
see dear beings in a happy circle, and all the leading characters of
Upsala. We again see him whose cunning quickened our perceptions as to
the mysteries of vegetable life, so that even the toad-stool is
unveiled to us as a building more artfully constructed than the
labyrinths of the olden time. We see "The Flowers'" singer, he who led
us to "The Island of Bliss;" we meet with him whose popular lays are
borne on melodies into the world; his wife by his side. That quiet,
gentle woman with those faithful eyes is the daughter of Frithiof's
bard; we see noble men and women, ladies of the high nobility, with
sounding and significant family names with _silver_ and
_lilies_,--_stars_ and _swords_.
Hark! listen to that lively song. Gunnar Wennerberg, Gluntarra's poet
and composer, sings his songs with Boronees,[P] and they acquire a
dramatic life and reality.
[Footnote P: Gluntarra duets, by Gunnar Wennerberg.]
How spiritual and enjoyable! one becomes happy here, one feels proud
of the age one lives in, happy in being distant from the horrible
tragedies that history speaks of within these walls.
We can hear about them when the song is silent, when those friendly
forms disappear, and the festal lights are extinguished: from the
pages of history that tale resounds with a clang of horror. It was in
those times, which the many still call poetic--the romantic middle
ages--that bards sang of its most brilliant periods, and covered with
the radiance of their genius the sanguinary gulf of brutality and
superstition. Terror seizes us in Upsala's palace: we stand in the
vaulted hall, the wax tapers burn from the walls, and King Erik the
Fourteenth sits with Saul's dark despondency, with Cain's wild looks.
Niels Sture occupies his thoughts, the recollection of injustice
exercised against him lashes his conscience with scourges and
scorpions, as deadly terrible as they are revealed to us in the page
King Erik the Fourteenth, whose gloomy distrust often amounted to
insanity, thought that the nobility aimed at his life. His favourite,
Goran Persson, found it to his advantage to strengthen him in this
belief. He hated most the popularly favoured race of the Stures, and
of them, the light-haired Niels Sture in particular; for Erik thought
that he had read in the stars that a man with light hair should hurl
him from the throne; and as the Swedish General after the lost battle
of Svarteaa, laid the blame on Niels Sture, Erik directly believed it,
yet dared not to act as he desired, but even gave Niels Sture royal
presents. Yet because he was again accused by one single person of
having checked the advance of the Swedish army at Baehues, Erik invited
him to his palace at Svartsjoe, gave him an honourable place at his
royal table, and let him depart in apparent good faith for Stockholm,
where, on his arrival, the heralds were ordered to proclaim in the
streets: "Niels Sture is a traitor to his country!"
There Goran Persson and the German retainers seized him, and sat him
by force on the executioner's most miserable hack; struck him in the
face so that the blood streamed down, placed a tarred straw crown on
his head, and fastened a paper with derisive words, on the saddle
before him. They then let a row of hired beggar-boys and old
fish-wives go in couples before, and to the tail of the horse they
bound two fir-trees, the roots of which dragged on the ground and
swept the street after the traitor. Niels Sture exclaimed that he had
not deserved this treatment from his King and he begged the groom, who
went by his side, and had served him in the field of battle, to attest
the truth like an honest man; when they all shouted aloud, that he
suffered innocently, and had acted like a true Swede. But the
procession was driven forward through the streets without stopping,
and at night Niels Sture was conducted to prison.
King Erik sits in his royal palace: he orders the torches and candles
to be lighted, but they are of no avail--his thoughts' scorpions sting
"I have again liberated Niels Sture," he mutters; "I have had placards
put up at every street-corner, and let the heralds proclaim that no
one shall dare to speak otherwise than well of Niels Sture! I have
sent him on an honourable mission to a foreign court, in order to sue
for me in marriage! He has had reparation enough made to him; but
never will he, nor his mighty race, forget the derision and shame I
have made him suffer. They will all betray me--kill me!"
And King Erik commands that all Sture's kindred shall be made
King Erik sits in his royal palace: the sun shines, but not into the
King's heart. Niels Sture enters the chamber with an answer of consent
from the royal bride, and the King shakes him by the hand, making fair
promises--and the following evening Niels Sture is a prisoner in
King Erik's gloomy mind is disturbed; he has no rest; he has no peace,
between fear and distrust. He hurries away to Upsala Palace; he will
make all straight and just again by marrying Niels Sture's sister.
Kneeling, he begs her imprisoned father's consent, and obtains it; but
in the very moment, the spirit of distrust is again upon him, and he
cries in his insanity:
"But you will not forgive me the shame I brought on Niels!"
At the same time, Goran Persson announced that King Erik's brother,
John, had escaped from his prison, and that a revolt was breaking out.
And Erik ran, with a sharp dagger into Niels Sture's prison.
"Art thou there, traitor to thy country!" he shouted, and thrust the
dagger into Shire's arm; and Sture drew it out again, wiped off the
blood, kissed the hilt, and returned the weapon to the King, saying:
"Be lenient with me, Sire; I have not deserved your disfavour."
Erik laughed aloud.
"Ho! ho! do but hear the villain! how he can pray for himself!"
And the King's halberdier stuck his lance through Niels Sture's eye,
and thus gave him his death. Sture's blood cleaves to Upsala
Palace--to King Erik always and everlastingly. No church masses can
absolve his soul from that base crime.
Let us now go to the church.
A little flight of stairs in the side aisle leads us up to a vaulted
chamber, where kings' crowns and sceptres, taken from the coffins of
the dead, are deposited in wooden closets. Here, in the corner, hangs
Niels Sture's blood-covered clothes and knight's hat, on the outside
of which a small silk glove is fastened. It was his betrothed one's
dainty glove--that which he, knight-like, always bore.
O, barbarous era! highly vaunted as you are in song, retreat, like the
storm-cloud, and be poetically beautiful to all who do not see thee in
thy true light.
We descend from the little chamber, from the gold and silver of the
dead, and wander in the church's aisles. The cold marble tombs, with
shields of arms and names, awaken other, milder thoughts.
The walls shine brightly, and with varied hues, in the great chapel
behind the high altar. The fresco paintings present to us the most
eventful circumstances of Gustavus Vasa's life. Here his clay
moulders, with that of his three consorts. Yonder, a work in marble,
by Sargel, solicits our attention: it adorns the burial-chapel of the
De Geers; and here, in the centre aisle, under that flat stone, rests
Linnaeus. In the side chapel, is his monument, erected by _amici_ and
_discipuli_: a sufficient sum was quickly raised for its erection, and
the King, Gustavus the Third, himself brought his royal gift. The
projector of the subscription then explained to him, that the purposed
inscription was, that the monument was erected only by friends and
disciples, and King Gustavus answered: "And am not I also one of
The monument was raised, and a hall built in the botanical garden,
under splendid trees. There stands his bust; but the remembrance of
himself, his home, his own little garden--where is it most vivid? Lead
On yonder side of Fyri's rivulet, where the street forms a declivity,
where red-painted, wooden houses boast their living grass roofs, as
fresh as if they were planted terraces, lies Linnaeus's garden. We
stand within it. How solitary! how overgrown! Tall nettles shoot up
between the old, untrimmed, rank hedges. No water-plants appear more
in that little, dried-up basin; the hedges that were formerly clipped,
put forth fresh leaves without being checked by the gardener's shears.
It was between these hedges that Linnaeus at times saw his own
double--that optical illusion which presents the express image of a
second self--from the hat to the boots.
Where a great man has lived and worked, the place itself becomes, as
it were, a part and parcel of him: the whole, as well as a part, has
mirrored itself in his eye; it has entered into his soul, and become
linked with it and the whole world.
We enter the orangeries: they are now transformed into assembly-rooms;
the blooming winter-garden has disappeared; but the walls yet show a
sort of herbarium. They are hung round with the portraits of learned
Swedes--herbarium from the garden of science and knowledge. Unknown
faces--and, to the stranger, the greatest part are unknown names--meet
One portrait amongst the many attracts our attention: it looks
singular; it is the half-length figure of an old man in a shirt, lying
in his bed. It is that of the learned theologian, Oedmann, who after
he had been compelled to keep his bed by a fever, found himself so
comfortable in it, that he continued to lie there during the remainder
of his long life, and was not to be induced to get up. Even when the
next house was burning, they were obliged to carry him out in his bed
into the street. Death and cold were his two bugbears. The cold would
kill him, was his opinion; and so, when the students came with their
essays and treatises, the manuscripts were warmed at the stove before
he read them. The windows of his room were never opened, so that there
was a suffocating and impure air in his dwelling. He had a
writing-desk on the bed; books and manuscripts lay in confusion round
about; dishes, plates, and pots stood here or there, as the
convenience of the moment dictated, and his only companion was a deaf
and dumb laughter.
She sat still in a corner by the window, wrapped up in herself, and
staring before her, as if she were a figure that had flown out of the
frame around the dark, mouldy canvas, which had once shown a picture
on the wall.
Here, in the room, in this impure atmosphere, the old man lived
happily, and reached his seventieth year, occupied with the
translation of travels in Africa. This tainted atmosphere, in which he
lay, became, to his conceit, the dromedary's high back, which lifted
him aloft in the burning sun; the long, hanging-down cobwebs were the
palm-trees' waving banners, and the caravan went over rivers to the
wild bushmen. Old Oedmann was with the hunters, chasing the elephants
in the midst of the thick reeds; the agile tiger-cat sprang past, and
the serpents shone like garlands around the boughs of the trees: there
was excitement, there was danger--and yet he lay so comfortably in his
good and beloved bed in Upsala.
One winter's day, it happened that a Dalecarlian peasant mistook the
house, and came into Oedmann's chamber in his snow-covered skin cloak,
and with his beard full of ice. Oedmann shouted to him to go his way,
but the peasant was deaf, and therefore stepped quite close up to the
bed. He was the personification of Winter himself, and Oedmann fell
ill from this visit: it was his only sickness during the many years he
lay here as a polypus, grown fast, and where he was painted, as we see
his portrait in the assembly-room.
From the hall of learning we will go to its burial-place--that is to
say, its open burial-place--the great library. We wander from hall to
hall, up stairs and down stairs. Along the shelves, behind them and
round about, stand books, those petrifactions of the mind, which might
again be vivified by spirit. Here lives a kind-hearted and mild old
man, the librarian, Professor Schroeder. He smiles and nods as he hears
how memory's sprite takes his place here as guide, and tells of and
shows, as we see, Tegner's copy and translation of Ochlenschloeger's
"Hakon Jarl and Palnatoke." We see Vadstene cloister's library, in
thick hog's leather bindings, and think of the fair hands of the nuns
that have borne them, the pious, mild eyes that conjured the spirit
out of the dead letters. Here is the celebrated Codex Argentius, the
translation of the "Four Evangelists."[Q] Gold and silver letters
glisten from the red parchment leaves. We see ancient Icelandic
manuscripts, from de la Gardie's refined French saloon, and Thauberg's
Japanese manuscripts. By merely looking at these books, their bindings
and names, one at last becomes, as it were, quite worm-eaten in
spirit, and longs to be out in the free air--and we are there; by
Upsala's ancient hills. Thither do thou lead us, remembrance's elf,
out of the city, out on the far extended plain, where Denmark's church
stands--the church that was erected from the booty which the Swedes
gained in the war against the Danes. We follow the broad high road: it
leads us close past Upsala's old hills--Odin's, Thor's and Freia's
graves, as they are called.
[Footnote Q: A Gothic translation of the Four Evangelists, and
ascribed to the Moesogothic Archbishop Ulphilas.]
There once stood ancient Upsala, here now are but a few peasants'
farms. The low church, built of granite blocks, dates from a very
remote age; it stands on the remains of the heathen temple. Each of
the hills is a little mountain, yet each was raised by human hands.
Letters an ell long, and whole names, are cut deep in the thin
greensward, which the new sprouting grass gradually fills up. The old
housewife, from the peasant's cot close by the hill, brings the
silver-bound horn, a gift of Charles John XIV., filled with mead. The
wanderer empties the horn to the memory of the olden time, for Sweden,
and for the heart's constant thoughts--young love!
Yes, thy toast is drunk here, and many a beauteous rose has been
remembered here with a heartfelt hurra! and years after, when the same
wanderer again stood here, she, the blooming rose, had been laid in
the earth; the spring roses had strown their leaves over her coffined
clay; the sweet music of her lips sounded but in memory; the smile in
her eyes and around her mouth, was gone like the sunbeams, which then
shone on Upsala's hills. Her name in the greensward is grown over; she
herself is in the earth, and it is closed above her; but the hill
here, closed for a thousand years, is open.
Through the passage which is dug deep into the hills, we come to the
funereal urns which contain the bones of youthful kindred; the dust of
kings, the gods of the earth.
The old housewife, from the peasant's cot, has lighted half a hundred
wax candles and placed them in rows in the otherwise pitchy-dark,
stone-paved passage. It shines so festally in here over the bones of
the olden time's mighty ones, bones that are now charred and burnt to
ashes. And whose were they? Thou world's power and glory, thou world's
posthumous fame--dust, dust like beauty's rose, laid in the dark
earth, where no light shines; thy memorials are but a name, the name
but a sound. Away hence, and up on the hill where the wind blows, the
sun shines, and the eye looks over the green plain, to the sunlit,
dear Upsala, the student's city.
* * * * *
Sweden's great King, Germany's preserver, Gustavus Adolphus, founded
Sala. The little wood, close by, still preserves legends of the heroic
King's youthful love--of his meeting here with Ebba Brahe.
Sala's silver mines are the largest, the deepest, and oldest in
Sweden: they reach to the depth of one hundred and seventy fathoms,
consequently they are almost as deep as the Baltic. This of itself is
enough to awaken an interest for a little town; but what is its
appearance? "Sala," says the guide-book, "lies in a valley, in a flat,
and not very pleasant district." And so truly it is: it was not very
attractive approaching it our way, and the high road led directly into
the town, which is without any distinctive character. It consists of a
long street with what we may term a nucleus and a few fibres. The
nucleus is the market-place, and the fibres are the few lanes
diverging from it. The long street--that is to say, long in a little
town--is quite without passengers; no one comes out from the doors, no
one is to be seen at the windows.
It was therefore with pleased surprise that I at length descried a
human being: it was at an ironmonger's, where there hung a paper of
pins, a handkerchief and two tea-pots in the window. There I saw a
solitary shop-boy, standing quite still, but leaning over the counter
and looking out of the open door. He certainly wrote in his journal,
if he had one, in the evening: "To-day a traveller drove through the
town; who he was, God knows, for I don't!"--yes, that was what the
shop-boy's face said, and an honest face it was.
In the inn at which I arrived, there was the same grave-like stillness
as in the street. The gate was certainly closed, but all the inner
doors were wide open; the farm-yard cock stood uplifted in the middle
of the traveller's room and crowed, in order to show that there was
somebody at home. The house, however, was quite picturesque: it had an
open balcony, from which one might look out upon the yard, for it
would have been far too lively had it been facing the street. There
hung the old sign and creaked in the wind, as if to show that it at
least was alive. I saw it from my window; I saw also how the grass in
the street had got the mastery over the pavement. The sun shone
brightly, but shone as into the bachelor's solitary room, and on the
old maid's balsams in the flower-pots. It was as still as a Scotch
Sunday--and yet it was a Tuesday. One was disposed for Young's "Night
I looked out from the balcony into the neighbouring yard: there was
not a soul to be seen, but children had been playing there. There was
a little garden made of dry sticks: they were stuck down in the soft
soil and had been watered; a broken pan, which had certainly served by
way of watering-pot, lay there still. The sticks signified roses and
It had been a delightful garden--alas, yes! We great, grown-up men--we
play just so: we make ourselves a garden with what we call love's
roses and friendship's geraniums; we water them with our tears and
with our heart's blood; and yet they are, and remain, dry sticks
without root. It was a gloomy thought; I felt it, and in order to get
the dry sticks in my thoughts to blossom, I went out. I wandered in
the fibres and in the long threads--that is to say, in the small
lanes--and in the great street; and here was more life than I dared to
expect. I met a herd of cattle returning or going--which I know
not--for they were without a herdsman. The shop-boy still stood behind
the counter, leaned over it and greeted me; the stranger took his hat
off again--that was my day's employment in Sala.
Pardon me, thou silent town, which Gustavus Adolphus built, where his
young heart felt the first emotions of love, and where the silver lies
in the deep shafts--that is to say, outside the town, "in a flat, and
not very pleasant district."
I knew no one in the town; I had no one to be my guide, so I
accompanied the cows, and came to the churchyard. The cows went past,
but I stepped over the stile, and stood amongst the graves, where the
grass grew high, and almost all the tombstones lay with worn-out
inscriptions. On a few only the date of the year was legible.
"Anno"--yes, what then? And who rested here? Everything on the stone
was erased--blotted out like the earthly life of those mortals that
here were earth in earth. What life's dream have ye dead played here
in silent Sala?
The setting sun shone over the graves; not a leaf moved on the trees;
all was still--still as death--in the city of the silver-mines, of
which this traveller's reminiscence is but a frame around the shop-boy
who leaned over the counter.
THE MUTE BOOK.
* * * * *
By the high road into the forest there stood a solitary farm-house.
Our way lay right through the farm-yard; the sun shone; all the
windows were open; there was life and bustle within, but in the yard,
in an arbour of flowering lilacs, there stood an open coffin. The
corpse had been placed out here, and it was to be buried that
forenoon. No one stood by and wept over that dead man; no one hung
sorrowfully over him; his face was covered with a white cloth, and
under his head there lay a large, thick book, every leaf of which was
a whole sheet of grey paper, and between each lay withered flowers,
deposited and forgotten--a whole herbarium, gathered in different
places. He himself had requested that it should be laid in the grave
with him. A chapter of his life was blended with every flower.
"Who is that dead man?" we asked, and the answer was: "The old student
from Upsala. They say he was once very clever; he knew the learned
languages, could sing and write verses too; but then there was
something that went wrong, and so he gave both his thoughts and
himself up to drinking spirits, and as his health suffered by it, he
came out here into the country, where they paid for his board and
"He was as gentle as a child, when the dark humour did not come over
him, for then he was strong, and ran about in the forest like a hunted
deer; but when we got him home, we persuaded him to look into the book
with the dry plants. Then he would sit the whole day and look at one
plant, and then at another, and many a time the tears ran down his
cheeks. God knows what he then thought! But he begged that he might
have the book with him in his coffin; and now it lies there, and the
lid will soon be fastened down, and then he will take his peaceful
rest in the grave!"
They raised the winding-sheet. There was peace in the face of the
dead: a sunbeam fell on it; a swallow in its arrowy flight, darted
into the new-made arbour, and in its flight circled twittering over
the dead man's head.
How strange it is!--we all assuredly know it--to take out old letters
from the days of our youth and read them: a whole life, as it were,
then rises up with all its hopes, and all its troubles. How many of
those with whom we, in their time, lived so devotedly, are now even as
the dead to us, and yet they still live! But we have not thought of
them for many years--them whom we once thought we should always cling
to, and share our mutual joys and sorrows with.
The withered oak-leaf in the book here, is a memorial of the
friend--the friend of his school-days--the friend for life. He fixed
this leaf on the student's cap in the green wood, when the vow of
friendship was concluded for the whole of life. Where does he now
live? The leaf is preserved; friendship forgotten. Here is a foreign
conservatory-plant, too fine for the gardens of the North--it looks as
if there still were fragrance in these leaves!--_she_ gave it to
him--she, the young lady of that noble garden.
Here is the marsh-lotus which he himself has plucked and watered with
salt tears--the marsh-lotus from the fresh waters. And here is a
nettle: what does its leaf say? What did he think on plucking it--on
preserving it? Here are lilies of the valley from the woodland
solitudes; here are honeysuckle leaves from the village ale-house
flower-pot; and here the bare, sharp blade of grass.
The flowering lilac bends its fresh, fragrant clusters over the dead
man's head; the swallow again flies past; "quivit! quivit!" Now the
men come with nails and hammer; the lid is placed over the corpse,
whose head rests on the Mute-Book--preserved--forgotten!
THE ZAeTHER DALE.
* * * * *
Everything was in order, the carriage examined, even a whip with a
good lash was not forgotten. "Two whips would be best," said the
ironmonger, who sold it, and the ironmonger was a man of experience,
which travellers often are not. A whole bag full of "slanter"--that
is, copper coins of small value--stood before us for bridge-money, for
beggars, for shepherd's boys, or whoever might open the many
field-gates for us that obstructed our progress. But we had to do this
ourselves, for the rain pattered down and lashed the ground; no one
had any desire to come out in such weather. The rushes in the marsh
bent and waved; it was a real rain feast for them, and it whistled
from the tops of the rushes: "We drink with our feet, we drink with
our heads, we drink with the whole body, and yet we stand on one leg,
hurra! We drink with the bending willow, with the dripping flowers on
the bank; their cups run over--the marsh marigold, that fine lady, can
bear it better! Hurra! it is a feast! it pours, it pours; we whistle
and we sing; it is our own song. Tomorrow the frogs will croak the
same after us and say, 'it is quite new!'"
And the rushes waved, and the rain pattered down with a splashing
noise--it was fine weather to travel in to Zaether Dale, and to see its
far-famed beauties. The whip-lash now came off the whip; it was
fastened on again, and again, and every time it was shorter, so that
at last there was not a lash, nor was there any handle, for the handle
went after the lash--or sailed after it--as the road was quite
navigable, and gave one a vivid idea of the beginning of the deluge.
One poor jade now drew too much, the other drew too little, and one of
the splinter bars broke; well, by all that is vexatious, that was a
fine drive! The leather apron in front had a deep pond in its folds
with an outlet into one's lap. Now one of the linch-pins came out; now
the twisting of the rope harness became loose, and the cross-strap was
tired of holding any longer. Glorious inn in Zaether, how I now long
more for thee than thy far-famed dale. And the horses went slower, and
the rain fell faster, and so--yes, so we were not yet in Zaether.
Patience, thou lank spider, that in the ante-chamber quietly dost spin
thy web over the expectant's foot, spin my eyelids close in a sleep as
still as the horse's pace! Patience? no, she was not with us in the
carriage to Zaether. But to the inn, by the road side, close to the
far-famed valley, I got at length, towards evening.
And everything was flowing in the yard, chaotically mingled; manure
and farming implements, staves and straw. The poultry sat there washed
to shadows, or at least like stuck-up hens' skins with feathers on,
and even the ducks crept close up to the wet wall, sated with the wet.
The stable-man was cross, the girl still more so; it was difficult to
get them to bestir themselves: the steps were crooked, the floor
sloping and but just washed, sand strewn thickly on it, and the air
was damp and cold. But without, scarcely twenty paces from the inn, on
the other side of the road, lay the celebrated valley, a garden made
by nature herself, and whose charm consists of trees and bushes, wells
and purling brooks.
It was a long hollow; I saw the tops of the trees looming up, and the
rain drew its thick veil over it. The whole of that long evening did I
sit and look upon it during that shower of showers. It was as if the
Venern, the Vettern and a few more lakes ran through an immense sieve
from the clouds. I had ordered something to eat and drink, but I got
nothing. They ran up and they ran down; there was a hissing sound of
roasting by the hearth; the girls chattered, the men drank "sup,"[R]
strangers came, were shown into their rooms, and got both roast and
boiled. Several hours had passed, when I made a forcible appeal to the
girl, and she answered phlegmatically: "Why, Sir, you sit there and
write without stopping, so you cannot have time to eat."
[Footnote R: Swedish, _sup_. Danish, _snaps_. German, _schnaps_.
It was a long evening, "but the evening passed!" It had become quite
still in the inn; all the travellers, except myself, had again
departed, certainly in order to find better quarters for the night at
Hedemore or Brunbeck. I had seen, through the half-open door into the
dirty tap-room, a couple of fellows playing with greasy cards; a huge
dog lay under the table and glared with its large red eyes; the
kitchen was deserted; the rooms too; the floor was wet, the storm
rattled, the rain beat against the windows--"and now to bed! said I."
I slept an hour, perhaps two, and was awakened by a loud bawling from
the high road. I started up: it was twilight, the night at that period
is not darker--it was about one o'clock. I heard the door shaken
roughly; a deep manly voice shouted aloud, and there was a hammering
with a cudgel against the planks of the yard-gate. Was it an
intoxicated or a mad man that was to be let in? The gate was now
opened, but many words were not exchanged. I heard a woman scream at
the top of her voice from terror. There was now a great bustling
about; they ran across the yard in wooden shoes; the bellowing of
cattle and the rough voices of men were mingled together. I sat on the
edge of the bed. Out or in! what was to be done? I looked from the
window; in the road there was nothing to be seen, and it still rained.
All at once some one came up stairs with heavy footsteps: he opened
the door of the room adjoining mine--now he stood still! I listened--a
large iron bolt fastened my door. The stranger now walked across the
floor, now he shook my door, and then kicked against it with a heavy
foot, and whilst all this was passing, the rain beat against the
windows, and the blast made them rattle.
"Are there any travellers here?" shouted a voice; "the house is on
I now dressed myself and hastened out of the room and down the stairs.
There was no smoke to be seen, but when I reached the yard, I saw that
the whole building--a long and extensive one of wood--was enveloped in
flames and clouds of smoke. The fire had originated in the baking
oven, which no one had looked to; a traveller, who accidently came
past, saw it, called out and hammered at the door: and the women
screamed, and the cattle bellowed, when the fire stuck its red tongue
Now came the fire-engine and the flames were extinguished. By this
time it was morning. I stood in the road, scarcely a hundred steps
from the far-famed dale. "One may as well spring into it as walk into
it!" and I sprang into it; and the rain poured down, and the water
flowed--the whole dale was a well.
The trees turned their leaves the wrong side out, purely because of
the pouring rain, and they said, as the rushes did the day before: "We
drink with our heads, we drink with our feet, and we drink with the
whole body, and yet stand on our legs, hurra! it rains, and it pours;
we whistle and we sing; it is our own song--and it is quite new!"
Yes, that the rushes also sang yesterday--but it was the same, ever
the same. I looked and looked, and all I know of the beauty of Zaether
Dale is, that she had washed herself!
THE MIDSUMMER FESTIVAL IN LACKSAND.
* * * * *
Lacksand lay on the other side of the dal-elv which the road now led
us over for the third or fourth time. The picturesque bell-tower of
red painted beams, erected at a distance from the church, rose above
the tall trees on the clayey declivity: old willows hung gracefully
over the rapid stream. The floating bridge rocked under us--nay, it
even sank a little, so that the water splashed under the horse's
hoofs; but these bridges have such qualities! The iron chains that
held it rattled, the planks creaked, the boards splashed, the water
rose, and murmured and roared, and so we got over where the road
slants upwards towards the town. Close opposite here the last year's
May-pole still stood with withered flowers. How many hands that bound
these flowers are now withered in the grave?
It is far prettier to go up on the sloping bank along the elv, than to
follow the straight high-road into the town. The path conducts us,
between pasture fields and leaf trees, up to the parsonage, where we
passed the evening with the friendly family. The clergyman himself was
but lately dead, and his relatives were all in mourning. There was
something about the young daughter--I knew not myself what it was--but
I was led to think of the delicate flax flower, too delicate for the
short northern summer.
They spoke about the Midsummer festival the next day, and of the
winter season here, when the swans, often more than thirty at a time,
sit (motionless themselves) on the elv, and utter strange, mournful
tones. They always come in pairs, they said, two and two, and thus
they also fly away again. If one of them dies, its partner always
remains a long time after all the others are gone; lingers, laments,
and then flies away alone and solitary.
When I left the parsonage in the evening, the moon, in its first
quarter, was up. The May-pole was raised; the little steamer, 'Prince
Augustus,' with several small vessels in tow, came over the Siljan
lake and into the elv; a musician sprang on shore, and began to play
dances under the tall wreathed May-pole. And there was soon a merry
circle around it--all so happy, as if the whole of life were but a
delightful summer night.
Next morning was the Midsummer Festival. It was Sunday, the 24th of
June, and a beautiful sunshiny day it was. The most picturesque sight
at the festival is to see the people from the different parishes
coming in crowds, in large boats over Siljan's lake, and landing on
its shores. We drove out to the landing-place, Barkedale, and before
we got out of the town, we met whole troops coming from there, as well
as from the mountains.
Close by the town of Lacksand, there is a row of low wooden shops on
both sides of the way, which only get their interior light through the
doorway. They form a whole street, and serve as stables for the
parishioners, but also--and it was particularly the case that
morning--to go into and arrange their finery. Almost all the shops or
sheds were filled with peasant women, who were anxiously busy about
their dresses, careful to get them into the right folds, and in the
mean time peeped continually out of the door to see who came past. The
number of arriving church-goers increased; men, women, and children,
old and young, even infants; for at the Midsummer festival no one
stays at home to take care of them, and so of course they must come
too--all must go to church.
What a dazzling army of colours! Fiery red and grass green aprons meet
our gaze. The dress of the women is a black skirt, red bodice, and
white sleeves: all of them had a psalm-book wrapped in the folded silk
pocket-handkerchief. The little girls were entirely in yellow, and
with red aprons; the very least were in Turkish-yellow clothes. The
men were dressed in black coats, like our paletots, embroidered with
red woollen cord; a red band with a tassel hung down from the large
black hat; with dark knee breeches, and blue stockings, with red
leather gaiters--in short, there was a dazzling richness of colour,
and that, too, on a bright sunny morning in the forest road.
This road led down a steep to the lake, which was smooth and blue.
Twelve or fourteen long boats, in form like gondolas, were already
drawn up on the flat strand, which here is covered with large stones.
These stones served the persons who landed, as bridges; the boats were
laid alongside them, and the people clambered up, and went and bore
each other on land. There certainly were at least a thousand persons
on the strand; and far out on the lake, one could see ten or twelve
boats more coming, some with sixteen oars, others with twenty, nay,
even with four-and-twenty, rowed by men and women, and every boat
decked out with green branches. These, and the varied clothes, gave to
the whole an appearance of something so festal, so fantastically rich,
as one would hardly think the north possessed. The boats came nearer,
all crammed full of living freight; but they came silently, without
noise or talking, and rowed up to the declivity of the forest.
The boats were drawn up on the sand: it was a fine subject for a
painter, particularly one point--the way up the slope, where the whole
mass moved on between the trees and bushes. The most prominent figures
there, were two ragged urchins, clothed entirely in bright yellow,
each with a skin bundle on his shoulders. They were from Gagne, the
poorest parish in Dalecarlia. There was also a lame man with his blind
wife: I thought of the fable of my childhood, of the lame and the
blind man: the lame man lent his eyes, and the blind his legs, and so
they reached the town.
And we also reached the town and the church, and thither they all
thronged: they said there were above five thousand persons assembled
there. The church-service began at five o'clock. The pulpit and organ
were ornamented with flowering lilacs; children sat with lilac-flowers
and branches of birch; the little ones had each a piece of oat-cake,
which they enjoyed. There was the sacrament for the young persons who
had been confirmed; there was organ-playing and psalm-singing; but
there was a terrible screaming of children, and the sound of heavy
footsteps; the clumsy, iron-shod Dal shoes tramped loudly upon the
stone floor. All the church pews, the gallery pews, and the centre
aisle were quite filled with people. In the side aisle one saw various
groups--playing children, and pious old folks: by the sacristy there
sat a young mother giving suck to her child--she was a living image of
the Madonna herself.
The first impression of the whole was striking, but only the
first--there was too much that disturbed. The screaming of children,
and the noise of persons walking were heard above the singing, and
besides that, there was an insupportable smell of garlic: almost all
the congregation had small bunches of garlic with them, of which they
ate as they sat. I could not bear it, and went out into the
churchyard: here--as it always is in nature--it was affecting, it was
holy. The church door stood open; the tones of the organ, and the
voices of the psalm-singers were wafted out here in the bright
sunlight, by the open lake: the many who could not find a place in the
church, stood outside, and sang with the congregation from the
psalm-book: round about on the monuments, which are almost all of
cast-iron, there sat mothers suckling their infants--the fountain of
life flowed over death and the grave. A young peasant stood and read
the inscription on a grave:
"Ach hur soedt al hafve lefvet,
Ach hur skjoeut al kunne doee!"[S]
[Footnote S: "How sweet to live--how beautiful to die!"]
Beautiful Christian, scriptural language, verses certainly taken from
the psalm-book, were read on the graves; they were all read, for the
service lasted several hours. This, however, can never be good for
The crowd at length streamed from the church; the fiery-red and
grass-green aprons glittered; but the mass of human beings became
thicker, and closer, and pressed forward. The white head-dresses, the
white band over the forehead, and the white sleeves, were the
prevailing colours--it looked like a long procession in Catholic
countries. There was again life and motion on the road; the
over-filled boats again rowed away; one waggon drove off after the
other; but yet there were people left behind. Married and unmarried
men stood in groups in the broad street of Lacksand, from the church
up to the inn. I was staying there, and I must acknowledge that my
Danish tongue sounded quite foreign to them all. I then tried the
Swedish, and the girl at the inn assured me that she understood me
better than she had understood the Frenchman, who the year before had
spoken French to her.
As I sit in my room, my hostess's grand-daughter, a nice little child,
comes in, and is pleased to see my parti-coloured carpet-bag, my
Scotch plaid, and the red leather lining of the portmanteau. I
directly cut out for her, from a sheet of white paper, a Turkish
mosque, with minarets and open windows, and away she runs with it--so
happy, so happy!
Shortly after, I heard much loud talking in the yard, and I had a
presentiment that it was concerning what I had cut out; I therefore
stepped softly out into the balcony, and saw the grandmother standing
below, and with beaming face, holding my clipped-out paper at arm's
length. A whole crowd of Dalecarlians, men and women, stood around,
all in artistic ecstacy over my work; but the little girl--the sweet
little child--screamed, and stretched out her hands after her lawful
property, which she was not permitted to keep, as it was too fine.
I sneaked in again, yet, of course, highly flattered and cheered; but
a moment after there was a knocking at my door: it was the
grandmother, my hostess, who came with a whole plate full of
"I bake the best in all Dalecarlia," said she; "but they are of the
old fashion, from my grandmother's time. You cut out so well, Sir,
should you not be able to cut me out some new fashions?"
And I sat the whole of Midsummer night, and clipped fashions for
spice-nuts. Nutcrackers with knights' boots, windmills which were both
mill and miller--but in slippers, and with the door in the
stomach--and ballet-dancers that pointed with one leg towards the
seven stars. Grandmother got them, but she turned the ballet-dancers
up and down; the legs went too high for her; she thought that they had
one leg and three arms.
"They will be new fashions," said she; "but they are difficult."
FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE.
* * * * *
Truth can never be at variance with truth, science can never militate
against faith: we naturally speak of them both in their purity: they
respond to and they strengthen man's most glorious thought:
_immortality_. And yet you may say, "I was more peaceful, I was safer
when, as a child, I closed my eyes on my mother's breast and slept
without thought or care, wrapping myself up simply in faith." This
prescience, this compound of understanding in everything, this
entering of the one link into the other from eternity to eternity,
tears away from me a support--my confidence in prayer; that which is,
as it were, the wings wherewith to fly to my God! If it be loosened,
then I fall powerless in the dust, without consolation or hope.
I bend my energies, it is true, towards attaining the great and
glorious light of knowledge, but it appears to me that therein is
human arrogance: it is, as one should say, "I will be as wise as God."
"That you shall be!" said the serpent to our first parents when it
would seduce them to eat of the tree of knowledge. Through my
understanding I must acknowledge the truth of what the astronomer
teaches and proves. I see the wonderful, eternal omniscience of God in
the whole creation of the world--in the great and in the small, where
the one attaches itself to the other, is joined with the other, in an
endless harmonious entireness; and I tremble in my greatest need and
sorrow. What can my prayer change, where everything is law, from
eternity to eternity?
You tremble as you see the Almighty, who reveals Himself in all
loving-kindness--that Creator, according to man's expression, whose
understanding and heart are one--you tremble when you know that he has
elected you to immortality.
I know it in the faith, in the holy, eternal words of the Bible.
Knowledge lays itself like a stone over my grave, but my faith is that
which breaks it.
Now, thus it is! The smallest flower preaches from its green stalk, in
the name of knowledge--_immortality_. Hear it! the beautiful also
bears proofs of immortality, and with the conviction of faith and
knowledge, the immortal will not tremble in his greatest need; the
wings of prayer will not droop: you will believe in the eternal laws
of love, as you believe in the laws of sense.
When the child gathers flowers in the fields and brings us the whole
handful, where one is erect and the other hangs the head, thrown as it
were among one another, then it is that we see the beauty in every one
by itself--that harmony in colour and in form, which pleases our eye
so well. We arrange them instinctively, and every single beauty is
blended together in one entire beauteous group. We do not look at the
flower, but on the whole bouquet. The beauty of harmony is an instinct
in us; it lies in our eyes and in our ears, those bridges between our
soul and the creation around us--in all our senses there is such a
divine, such an entire and perfect stream in our whole being, a
striving after the harmonious, as it shows itself in all created
things, even in the pulsations of the air, made visible in Chladni's
In the Bible we find the expression: "God in spirit and in
truth,"--and hence we most significantly find an expression for the
admission of what we call a feeling of the beautiful; for what else is
this revelation of God but spirit and truth? And just as our own soul
shines out of the eye and the fine movement around the mouth, so does
the created image shine forth from God in spirit and truth. There is
harmonious beauty from the smallest leaf and flower to the large,
swelling bouquet, from our earth itself to the numberless globes in
the firmamental space--as far as the eye sees, as far as science
ventures, all, small and great, is beauty and harmony.
But if we turn to mankind, for whom we have the highest, the holiest
expression; "created in God's image," man, who is able to comprehend
and admit in himself all God's creation, the harmony in the harmony
then seems to be defective, for at our birth we are all equal! as
creatures we have equally "no right to demand;" yet how differently
God has granted us abilities! some few so immensely great, others so
mean! At our birth God places us in our homes and positions; and to
how many of us are allotted the hardest struggles! We are placed
_there_, introduced _there_--how many may not say justly: "It were
better for me that I had never been born!"
Human life, consequently--the highest here on the earth--does not come
under the laws of harmonious beauty: it is inconceivable, it is an
injustice, and thus cannot take place.
The defect of harmony in life lies in this:--that we only see a small
part thereof, namely, existence here on the earth: there must be a
life to come--an immortality.
That, the smallest flower preaches to us, as does all that is created
in beauty and harmony.
If our existence ceased with death here, then the most perfect work of
God was not perfect; God was not justice and love, as everything in
nature and revelation affirms; and if we be referred to the whole of
mankind, as that wherein harmony will reveal itself, then our whole
actions and endeavours are but as the labours of the coral-insect:
mankind becomes but a monument of greatness to the Creator: he would
then only have raised His _glory_, not shown His greatest _love_.
Loving-kindness is not self-love.
We are immortal! In this rich consciousness we are raised towards God,
fundamentally sure, that whatever happens to us, is for our good. Our
earthly eye is only able to reach to a certain boundary in space; our
soul's eye also has but a limited scope; but beyond _that,_ the same
laws of loving-kindness must reign, as here. The prescience of eternal
omniscience cannot alarm us; we human beings can apprehend the notion
thereof in ourselves. We know perfectly what development must take
place in the different seasons of the year; the time for flowers and
for fruits; what kinds will come forth and thrive; the time of
maturity, when the storms must prevail, and when it is the rainy
season. Thus must God, in an infinitely greater degree, have the same
knowledge of the whole created globes of His universe, as of our earth
and the human race here. He must know when that development, that
flowering in the human race ordained by Himself, shall come to pass;
when the powers of intellect, of full development, are to reign; and
under these characters, come to a maturity of development, men will
become mighty, driving wheels--every one be the eternal God's likeness
History shows us these things: joint enters into joint, in the world
of spirits, as well as in the materially created world; the eye of
wisdom--the all-seeing eye--encompasses the whole! And should we then
not be able, in our heart's distress, to pray to this Father with
confidence--to pray as the Saviour prayed: "If it be possible, let
this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt."
These last words we do not forget! and our prayer will be granted, if
it be for our good; or if it be not, then let us, as the child here,
that in its trouble comes to its earthly Father, and does not get its
wish fulfilled, but is refreshed by mild words, and the affectionate
language of reason, so that the eye weeps, which thereby mitigates
sorrow, and the child's pain is soothed. This, will prayer also grant
us: the eye will be filled with tears, but the heart will be full of
consolation! And who has penetrated so deeply into the ways of the
soul, that he dare deny that prayer is the wings that bear thee to
that sphere of inspiration whence God will extend to thee the
olive-branch of help and grace?
By walking with open eyes in the path of knowledge, we see the glory
of the Annunciation. The wisdom of generations is but a span on the
high pillar of revelation, above which sits the Almighty; but this
short span will grow through eternity, in faith and with faith.
Knowledge is like a chemical test that pronounces the gold pure!
IN THE FOREST
* * * * *
We are a long way over the elv. We have left the corn-fields behind,
and have just come into the forest, where we halt at that small inn,
which is ornamented over the doors and windows with green branches for
the Midsummer festival. The whole kitchen is hung round with branches
of birch and the berries of the mountain-ash: the oat-cakes hang on
long poles under the ceiling; the berries are suspended above the head
of the old woman who is just scouring her brass kettle bright.
The tap-room, where the peasant sits and carouse, is just as finely
hung round with green. Midsummer raises its leafy arbour everywhere,
yet it is most flush in the forest--it extends for miles around. Our
road goes for miles through that forest, without seeing a house, or
the possibility of meeting travellers, driving, riding or walking.
Come! The ostler puts fresh horses to the carriage; come with us into
the large woody desert: we have a regular trodden way to travel, the
air is clear, here is summer's warmth and the fragrance of birch and
lime. It is an up and down hill road, always bending, and so, ever
changing, but yet always forest scenery--the close, thick forest. We
pass small lakes, which lie so still and deep, as if they concealed
night and sleep under their dark, glassy surfaces.
We are now on a forest plain, where only charred stumps of trees are
to be seen: this long tract is black, burnt, and deserted--not a bird
flies over it. Tall, hanging birches now greet us again; a squirrel
springs playfully across the road, and up into the tree; we cast our
eye searchingly over the wood-grown mountain-side, which slopes so
far, far forward; but not a trace of a house is to be seen: nowhere
does that blueish smoke-cloud rise, that shows us, here are
The sun shines warm; the flies dance around the horses, settle on
them, fly off again, and dance, as though it were to qualify
themselves for resting and being still. They perhaps think: "Nothing
is going on without us: there is no life while we are doing nothing."
They think, as many persons think, and do not remember that Time's
horses always fly onward with us!
How solitary it is here!--so delightfully solitary! one is so entirely
alone with God and one's self. As the sunlight streams forth over the
earth, and over the extensive solitary forests, so does God's spirit
stream over and into mankind; ideas and thoughts unfold
themselves--endless, inexhaustible, as he is--as the magnet which
apportions its powers to the steel, and itself loses nothing thereby.
As our journey through the forest-scenery here along the extended
solitary road, so, travelling on the great high-road of thought, ideas
pass through our head. Strange, rich caravans pass by from the works
of poets, from the home of memory, strange and novel--for capricious
fancy gives birth to them at the moment. There comes a procession of
pious children with waving flags and joyous songs; there come dancing
Moenades, the blood's wild Bacchantes. The sun pours down hot in the
open forest: it is as if the Southern summer had laid itself up here
to rest in Scandinavian forest-solitude, and sought itself out a glade
where it might lie in the sun's hot beams and sleep: hence this
stillness, as if it were night. Not a bird is heard to twitter, not a
pine-tree moves: of what does the Southern summer dream here in the
North, amongst pines and fragrant birches?
In the writings of the olden time, from the classic soil of the South,
are _sagas_ of mighty fairies who, in the skins of swans, flew towards
the North, to the Hyperborean's land, to the east of the north wind;
up there, in the deep, still lakes, they bathed themselves, and
acquired a renewed form. We are in the forest by these deep lakes; we
see swans in flocks fly over us, and swim upon the rapid elv and on
the still waters. The forests, we perceive, continue to extend further
towards the west and the north, and are more dense as we proceed: the
carriage-roads cease, and one can only pursue one's way along the
outskirts by the solitary path, and on horseback.
The saga, from the time of the plague (A.D., 1350), here impresses
itself on the mind, when the pestilence passed through the land, and
transformed cultivated fields and towns--nay, whole parishes, into
barren fields and wild forests. Deserted and forgotten, overgrown with
moss, grass, and bushes, churches stood for years far in the forest;
no one knew of their existence, until, in a later century, a huntsman
lost himself here: his arrow rebounded from the green wall, the moss
of which he loosened, and the church was found. The wood-cutter felled
the trees for fuel; his axe struck against the overgrown wall, and it
gave way to the blow; the fir-planks fell, and the church, from the
time of the pestilence, was discovered; the sun again shone bright
through the openings of the doors and windows, on the brass candelabra
and the altar, where the communion-cup still stood. The cuckoo came,
sat there, and sang: "Many, many years shalt thou live!"
Woodland solitude! what images dost thou not present to our thoughts!
Woodland solitude! through thy vaulted halls people now pass in the
summer-time with cattle and domestic utensils; children and old men go
to the solitary pasture where echo dwells, where the national song
springs forth with the wild mountain flower! Dost thou see the
procession?--paint it if thou canst! The broad wooden cart laden high
with chests and barrels, with jars and with crockery. The bright
copper kettle and the tin dish shine in the sun. The old grandmother
sits at the top of the load and holds her spinning-wheel, which
completes the pyramid. The father drives the horse, the mother carries
the youngest child on her back, sewed up in a skin, and the procession
moves on step by step. The cattle are driven by the half-grown
children: they have stuck a birch branch between one of the cows'
horns, but she does not appear to be proud of her finery, she goes the
same quiet pace as the others and lashes the saucy flies with her
tail. If the night becomes cold on this solitary pasture, there is
fuel enough here--the tree falls of itself from old age and lies and
But take especial care of the fire fear the fire-spirit in the forest
desert! He comes from the unextinguishable pile--he comes from the
thunder-cloud, riding on the blue lightning's flame, which kindles the
thick, dry moss of the earth: trees and bushes are kindled, the flames
run from tree to tree--it is like a snow-storm of fire! the flame
leaps to the tops of the trees--what a crackling and roaring, as if it
were the ocean in its course! The birds fly upward in flocks, and fall
down suffocated by the smoke; the animals flee, or, encircled by the
fire, are consumed in it! Hear their cries and roars of agony! The
howling of the wolf and the bear, dos't thou know it? A calm,
rainy-day, and the forest-plains themselves, alone are able to confine
the fiery sea, and the burnt forest stands charred, with black trunks
and black stumps of trees, as we saw them here in the forest by the
broad high-road. On this road we continue to travel, but it becomes
worse and worse; it is, properly speaking, no road at all, but it is
about to become one. Large stones lie half dug up, and we drive past
them; large trees are cast down, and obstruct our way, and therefore
we must descend from the carriage. The horses are taken out, and the
peasants help to lift and push the carriage forward over ditches and
The sun now ceases to shine; some few rain-drops fall, and now it is a
steady rain. But how it causes the birch to shed its fragrance! At a
distance there are huts erected, of loose trunks of trees and fresh
green boughs, and in each there is a large fire burning. See where the
blue smoke curls through the green leafy roof; peasants are within at
work, hammering and forging; here they have their meals. They are now
laying a mine in order to blast a rock, and the rain falls faster and
faster, and the pine and birch emit a finer fragrance. It is
delightful in the forest.
* * * * *
We made our way at length out of the forest, and saw a town before us
enveloped in thick smoke, having a similar appearance to most of the
English manufacturing towns, save that the smoke was greenish--it was
the town Fahlun.
The road now went downwards between large banks, formed by the dross
deposited here from the smelting furnaces, and which looks like
burnt-out hardened lava. No sprout or shrub was to be seen, not a
blade of grass peeped forth by the way-side, not a bird flew past, but
a strong sulphurous smell, as from among the craters in Solfatara,
filled the air. The copper roof of the church shone with corrosive
Long straight streets now appeared in view. It was as deathly still
here as if sickness and disease had lain within these dark wooden
houses, and frightened the inhabitants from coming abroad; yet
sickness and disease come but to few here, for when the plague raged
in Sweden, the rich and powerful of the land hastened to Fahlun, whose
sulphureous air was the most healthy. An ochre-yellow water runs
through the brook, between the houses; the smoke from the mines and
smelting furnaces has imparted its tinge to them; it has even
penetrated into the church, whose slender pillars are dark from the
fumes of the copper. There chanced to come on a thunder-storm when we
arrived, but its roaring and the lightning's flashes harmonized well
with this town, which appears as if it were built on the edge of a
We went to see the copper mine which gives the whole district the name
of "Stora Kopparberget," (the great copper mountain). According to the
legend, its riches were discovered by two goats which were
fighting--they struck the ground with their horns and some copper ore
adhered to them.
From the solitary red-ochre street we wandered over the great heaps of
burnt-out dross and fragments of stone, accumulated to whole ramparts
and hills. The fire shone from the smelting furnaces with green,
yellow and red tongues of flame under a blue-green smoke; half-naked,
black-smeared fellows threw out large glowing masses of fire, so that
the sparks flew around and about:--one was reminded of Schiller's
The thick sulphureous smoke poured forth from the heaps of cleansed
ore, under which the fire was in full activity, and the wind drove it
across the road which we must pass. In smoke, and impregnated with
smoke, stood building after building: three buildings had been
strangely thrown, as it were, by one another: earth and stone-heaps,
as if they were unfinished works of defence, extended around.
Scaffolding, and long wooden bridges, had been erected there; large
wheels turned round; long and heavy iron chains were in continual
We stood before an immense gulf, called "Stora Stoeten," (the great
mine). It had formerly three entrances, but they fell in and now there
is but one. This immense sunken gulf now appears like a vast valley:
the many openings below, to the shafts of the mine, look, from above,
like the sand-martin's dark nest-holes in the declivities of the
shore: there were a few wooden huts down there. Some strangers in
miners' dresses, with their guide, each carrying a lighted fir-torch,
appeared at the bottom, and disappeared again in one of the dark
holes. From within the dark wooden houses, in which great water-wheels
turned, issued some of the workmen. They came from the dizzying
gulf--from narrow, deep wells: they stood in their wooden shoes two
and two, on the edge of the tun which, attached to heavy chains, is
hoisted up, singing and swinging the tun on all sides: they came up
merry enough. Habit makes one daring.
They told us that, during the passage upwards, it often happened that
one or another, from pure wantonness, stepped quite out of the tun,
and sat himself between the loose stones on the projecting piece of
rock, whilst they fired and blasted the rock below so that it shook
again, and the stones about him thundered down. Should one expostulate
with him on his fool-hardiness, he would answer with the usual
witticism here: "I have never before killed myself."
One descends into some of the shafts by a sort of machinery, which
looks as if they had placed two iron ladders against each other, each
having a rocking movement, so that by treading on the ascending-step
on the one side and then on the other, which goes upwards, one
gradually ascends, and by going on the downward sinking-step one gets
by degrees to the bottom. They said it was very easy, only one must
step boldly, so that the foot should not come between and get crushed;
and then one must remember that there is no railing or balustrade
here, and directly outside these stairs there is the deep abyss into
which one may fall headlong. The deepest shaft has a perpendicular
depth of more than a hundred and ninety fathoms, but for this there is
no danger, they say, only one must not be dizzy, nor get alarmed. One
of the workmen, who had come up, descended with a lighted pine-branch
as a torch: the flame illumined the dark rocky wall, and by degrees
became only a faint streak of light which soon vanished.
We were told that a few days before, five or six schoolboys had
unobserved stolen in here, and amused themselves by going from step to
step on these machine-like rocking stairs, in pitchy darkness, but at
last they knew not rightly which way to go, up or down, and had then
begun to shout and scream lustily. They escaped luckily that bout.
By one of the large openings, called "Fat Mads," there are rich copper
mines, but which have not yet been worked. A building stands above it:
it was at the bottom of this that they found, in the year 1719, the
corpse of a young miner. It appeared as if he had fallen down that
very day, so unchanged did the body seem--but no one knew him. An old
woman then stepped forward and burst into tears: the deceased was her
bridegroom, who had disappeared forty nine years ago. She stood there
old and wrinkled; he was young as when they had met for the last time
nearly half a century before.[T]
[Footnote T: In another mine they found, in the year 1635, a corpse
perfectly fresh, and almost with the appearance of one asleep; but
his clothes, and the ancient copper coins found on him, bore witness
that it was two hundred years since he had perished there.]
We went to "The Plant House," as it is called, where the vitriolated
liquid is crystallized to sulphate of copper. It grew up long sticks
placed upright in the boiling water, resembling long pieces of
grass-green sugar. The steam was pungent, and the air in here
penetrated our tongues--it was just as if one had a corroded spoon in
one's mouth. It was really a luxury to come out again, even into the
rarefied copper smoke, under the open sky.
Steaming, burnt-out, and herbless as the district is on this side of
the town, it is just as refreshing, green, and fertile on the opposite
side of Fahlun. Tall leafy trees grow close to the farthest houses.
One is directly in the fresh pine and birch forests, thence to the
lake and to the distant blueish mountain sides near Zaether.
The people here can tell you and show you memorials of Engelbrekt and
his Dalecarlians' deeds, and of Gustavus Vasa's adventurous
wanderings. But we will remain here in this smoke-enveloped town, with
the silent street's dark houses. It was almost midnight when we went
out and came to the market-place. There was a wedding in one of the
houses, and a great crowd of persons stood outside, the women nearest
the house, the men a little further back. According to an old Swedish
custom, they called for the bride and bridegroom to come forward, and
they did so--they durst not do otherwise. Peasant girls, with candles
in their hands, stood on each side; it was a perfect tableau: the
bride with downcast eyes, the bridegroom smiling, and the young
bridesmaids each with a laughing face. And the people shouted: "Now
turn yourselves a little! now the back! now the face! the bridegroom
quite round, the bride a little nearer!" And the bridal pair turned
and turned--nor was criticism wanting. In this instance, however, it
was to their praise and honour, but that is not always the case. It
may be a painful and terrible hour for a newly-wedded pair: if they do
not please the public, or if they have something to say against the
match, or the persons themselves, they are then soon made to know what
is thought of them. There is perhaps also heard some rude jest or
another, accompanied by the laughter of the crowd. We were told, that
even in Stockholm the same custom was observed among the lower classes
until a few years ago, so that a bridal pair, who, in order to avoid
this exposure, wanted to drive off, were stopped by the crowd, the
carriage-door was opened on each side, and the whole public marched
through the carriage. They would see the bride and bridegroom--that
was their right.
Here, in Fahlun, the exhibition was friendly; the bridal pair smiled,
the bridesmaids also, and the assembled crowd laughed and shouted,
hurra! In the rest of the market-place and the streets around, there
was dead silence and solitude.
The roseate hue of eve still shone: it passed, changed into that of
morn--it was the Midsummer time.
WHAT THE STRAWS SAID.
* * * * *
On the lake there glided a boat, and the party within it sang Swedish
and Danish songs; but by the shore, under that tall, hanging birch,
sat four young girls--so pretty--so sylph-like! and they each plucked
up from the grass four long straws, and bound these straws two and two
together, at the top and the bottom.
"We shall now see if they will come together in a square," said the
girls: "if it be so, then that which I think of will be fulfilled,"
and they bound them, and they thought.
No one got to know the secret thought, the heart's silent wish of the
others. But yet a little bird sings about it.
The thoughts of one flew over sea and land, over the high mountains,
where the mule finds its way in the mists, down to Mignon's beautiful
land, where the old gods live in marble and painting. "Thither,
thither! shall I ever get there?" That was the wish, that was the
thought, and she opened her hand, looked at the bound straws, and they
appeared only two and two bound together.
And where were the second one's thoughts? also in foreign lands, in
the gunpowder's smoke, amongst the glitter of arms and cannons, with
him, the friend of her childhood, fighting for imperial power, against
the Hungarian people. Will he return joyful and unharmed--return to
Sweden's peaceful, well-constituted, happy land? The straws showed no
square: a tear dwelt in the girl's eye.
The third smiled: there was a sort of mischief in the smile. Will our
aged bachelor and that old maiden-lady yonder, who now wander along so
young, smile so young, and speak so youthfully to each other, not be a
married couple before the cuckoo sings again next year? See--that is
what I should like to know! and the smile played around the thinker's
mouth, but she did not speak her thoughts. The straws were
separated--consequently the bachelor and the old maid also. "It may,
however, happen nevertheless," she certainly thought: it was apparent
in the smile; it was obvious in the manner in which she threw the
"There is nothing I would know--nothing that I am curious to know!"
said the fourth; but yet she bound the straws together; for within her
also there was a wish alive; but no bird has sung about it; no one
Rock thyself securely in the heart's lotus flower, thou shining
humming-bird, thy' name shall not be pronounced: and besides the
straws said as before--"without hope!"
"Now you! now you!" cried the young girls to a stranger, far from the
neighbouring land, from the green isle, that Gylfe ploughed from
Sweden. "What dear thing do you wish shall happen, or not
happen!--tell us the wish!"--"If the oracle speaks well for me," said
he, "then I will tell you the silent wish and prayer, with which I
bind these knots on the grass straw; but if I have no better success
than you have had, I will then be silent!" and he bound straw to
straw, and as he bound, he repeated: "it signifies nothing!" He now
opened his hand, his eyes shone brighter, his heart beat faster. The
straws formed a square! "It will happen, it will happen!" cried the
young girls. "What did you wish for?" "That Denmark may soon gain an
"It will happen! it will happen!" said the young girls; "and when it
happens, we will remember that the straws have told it before-hand."
"I will keep these four straws, bound in a prophetic wreath for
victory and peace!" said the stranger; "and if the oracle speaks
truth, then I will draw the whole picture for you, as we sit here
under the hanging birch by the lake, and look on Zaether's blue
mountains, each of us binding straw to straw."
A red mark was made in the almanack; it was the 6th of July, 1849. The
same day a red page was written in Denmark's history. The Danish
soldier made a red, victorious mark with his blood, at the battle of
THE POET'S SYMBOL.
* * * * *
If a man would seek for the symbol of the poet, he need not look
farther than "The Arabian Nights' Tales." Scherezade who interprets
the stories for the Sultan--Scherezade is the poet, and the Sultan is
the public who is to be agreeably entertained, or else he will
Powerful Sultan! Poor Scherezade!
The Sultan-public sits in more than a thousand and one forms, and
listens. Let us regard a few of these forms.
There sits a sallow, peevish, scholar; the tree of his life bears
leaves impressed with long and learned words: diligence and
perseverance crawl like snails on the hog's leather bark: the moths
have got into the inside--and that is bad, very bad! Pardon the rich
fulness of the song, the inconsiderate enthusiasm, the fresh young,
intellect. Do not behead Scherezade! But he beheads her out of hand,
There sits a dress-maker, a sempstress who has had some experience of
the world. She comes from strange families, from a solitary chamber
where she sat and gained a knowledge of mankind--she knows and loves
the romantic. Pardon, Miss, if the story has not excitement enough for
you, who have sat over the needle and the muslin, and having had so
much of life's prose, gasp after romance.
"Behead her!" says the dress-maker.
There sits a figure in a dressing gown--this oriental dress of the
North, for the lordly minion, the petty prince, the rich brewer's son,
&c., &c., &c. It is not to be learned from the dressing gown, nor from
that lordly look and the fine smile around the mouth, to what stem he
belongs: his demands on Scherezade are just the same as the
dress-maker's: he must be excited, he must be brought to shudder all
down the vertebrae, through the very spine: he must be crammed with
mysteries, such as those which Spriez knew how to connect and thicken.
Scherezade is beheaded!
Wise, enlightened Sultan! Thou comest in the form of a schoolboy; thou
bearest the Romans and Greeks together in a satchel on thy back, as
Atlas sustained the world. Do not cast an evil eye upon poor
Scherezade; do not judge her before thou hast learned thy lesson, and
art a child again,--do not behead Scherezade!
Young, full-dressed diplomatist, on whose breast we can count, by the
badges of honour, how many courts thou hast visited with thy princely
master, speak mildly of Scherezade's name! speak of her in French,
that she may be ennobled above her mother tongue! translate but one
strophe of her song, as badly as thou canst, but carry it into the
brilliant saloon, and her sentence of death is annulled in the sweet,
Mighty annihilator and elevator!--the newspapers' Zeus--thou weekly,
monthly, and daily journals' Jupiter, shake not thy locks in anger!
Cast not thy lightnings forth, if Scherezade sing otherwise than thou
art accustomed to in thy family, or if she go without a _suite_ of
thine own clique. Do not behead her!
We will see one figure more--the most dangerous of them all; he with
the praise on his lips, like that of the stormy river's swell--the
blind enthusiast. The water in which Scherezade dipped her fingers, is
for him a fountain of Castalia; the throne he erects to her apotheosis
becomes her scaffold.
This is the poet's symbol--paint it:
"THE SULTAN AND SCHEREZADE."
But why none of the worthier figures--the candid, the honest, and the
beautiful? They come also, and on them Scherezade fixes her eye.
Encouraged by them, she boldly raises her proud head aloft towards the
stars, and sings of the harmony there above, and here beneath, in
_That_ will not clearly show the symbol:
"THE SULTAN AND SCHEREZADE."
The sword of death hangs over her head whilst she relates--and the
Sultan-figure bids us expect that it will fall. Scherezade is the
victor: the poet is, like her, also a victor. He is rich,
victorious--even in his poor chamber, in his most solitary hours.
There, in that chamber, rose after rose shoots forth; bubble after
bubble sparkles on the magic stream. The heavens shine with shooting
stars, as if a new firmament were created, and the old rolled away.
The world does not know it, for it is the poet's own creation, richer
than the king's costly illuminations. He is happy, as Scherezade is;
he is victorious, he is mighty. _Imagination_ adorns his walls with
tapestry, such as no land's ruler owns; _feeling_ makes the beauteous
chords sound to him from the human breast; _understanding_ raises him,
through the magnificence of creation, up to God, without his
forgetting that he stands fast on the firm earth. He is mighty, he is
happy, as few are. We will not place him in the stocks of
misconstruction, for pity and lamentation; we merely paint his symbol,
dip into the colours on the world's least attractive side, and obtain
it most comprehensibly from
"THE SULTAN AND SCHEREZADE."
See--that is it! Do not behead Scherezade!
* * * * *
Before Homer sang there were heroes; but they are not known; no poet
celebrated their fame. It is just so with the beauties of nature, they
must be brought into notice by words and delineations, be brought
before the eyes of the multitude; get a sort of world's patent for
what they are, and then they may be said first to exist. The elvs of
the north have rushed and whirled along for thousands of years in
unknown beauty. The world's great highroad does take this direction;
no steam-packet conveys the traveller comfortably along the streams of
the Dal-elvs; fall on fall makes sluices indispensable and invaluable.
Schubert is as yet the only stranger who has written about the wild
magnificence and southern beauty of Dalecarlia, and spoken of its
Clear as the waves of the sea does the mighty elv stream in endless
windings through forest deserts and varying plains, sometimes
extending its deep bed, sometimes confining it, reflecting the bending
trees and the red painted block houses of solitary towns, and
sometimes rushing like a cataract over immense blocks of rock.
Miles apart from one another, out of the ridge of mountains between
Sweden and Norway, come the east and west Dal-elvs, which first become
confluent and have one bed above Balstad. They have taken up rivers
and lakes in their waters. Do but visit this place! here are pictorial
riches to be found; the most picturesque landscapes, dizzyingly grand,
smilingly pastoral--idyllic: one is drawn onward up to the very source
of the elv, the bubbling well above Finman's hut: one feels a desire
to follow every branch of the stream that the river takes in.
The first mighty fall, Njupeskoers cataract, is seen by the Norwegian
frontier in Sernasog. The mountain stream rushes perpendicularly from
the rock to a depth of seventy fathoms.
We pause in the dark forest, where the elv seems to collect within
itself nature's whole deep gravity. The stream rolls its clear waters
over a porphyry soil where the mill-wheel is driven, and the gigantic
porphyry bowls and sarcophagi are polished.
We follow the stream through Siljan's lake, where superstition sees
the water-sprite swim, like the sea-horse with a mane of green
sea-weed, and where the aerial images present visions of witchcraft in
the warm summer days.
We sail on the stream from Siljan's lake, under the weeping willows of
the parsonage, where the swans assemble in flocks; we glide along
slowly with horses and carriages on the great ferry-boat, away over
the rapid current under Balstad's picturesque shore. Here the elv
widens and rolls its billows majestically in a woodland landscape, as
large and extended as if it were in North America.
We see the rushing, rapid stream under Avista's yellow clay
declivities: the yellow water falls like fluid amber in picturesque
cataracts before the copper-works, where rainbow-coloured tongues of
fire shoot themselves upwards, and the hammer's blows on the copper
plates resound to the monotonous, roaring rumble of the elv-fall.
And now, as a concluding passage of splendour in the life of the
Dal-elvs, before they lose themselves in the waters of the Baltic, is
the view of Elvkarleby Fall. Schubert compares it with the fall of
Schafhausen; but we must remember, that the Rhine there has not such a
mass of water as that which rushes down Elvkarleby.
Two and a half Swedish miles from Gefle, where the high road to Upsala
goes over the Dal-elv, we see from the walled bridge, which we pass
over, the whole of that immense fall. Close up to the bridge, there is
a house where the bridge toll is paid. There the stranger can pass the
night, and from his little window look over the falling waters, see
them in the clear moonlight, when darkness has laid itself to rest
within the thicket of oaks and firs, and all the effect of light is in
those foaming, flowing waters, and see them when the morning sun
stretches his rainbow in the trembling spray, like an airy bridge of
colours, from the shore to the wood-grown rock in the centre of the
We came hither from Gefle, and saw at a great distance on the way, the
blue clouds from the broken, rising spray, ascend above the dark-green
tops of the trees. The carriage stopped near the bridge; we stepped
out, and close before us fell the whole redundant elv.
The painter cannot give us the true, living image of a waterfall on
canvas--the movement is wanting; how can one describe it in words,
delineate this majestic grandeur, brilliancy of colour, and arrowy
flight? One cannot do it; one may however attempt it; get together, by
little and little, with words, an outline of that mirrored image which
our eye gave us, and which even the strongest remembrance can only
retain--if not vaguely, dubiously.
The Dal-elv divides itself into three branches above the fall: the two
enclose a wood-grown rocky island, and rush down round its smooth-worn
stony wall. The one to the right of these two falls is the finer; the
third branch makes a circuit, and comes again to the main stream,
close outside the united fall; here it dashes out as if to meet or
stop the others, and is now hurried along in boiling eddies with the
arrowy stream, which rushes on foaming against the walled pillars that
bear the bridge, as if it would tear them away along with it.
The landscape to the left was enlivened by a herd of goats, that were
browsing amongst the hazel bushes. They ventured quite out to the very
edge of the declivity, as they were bred here and accustomed to the
hollow, thundering rumble of the water. To the right, a flock of
screaming birds flew over the magnificent oaks. Cars, each with one
horse, and with the driver standing upright in it, the reins in his
hand, came on the broad forest road from Oens Brueck.
Thither we will go in order to take leave of the Dal-elv at one of the
most delightful of places, which vividly removes the stranger, as it
were, into a far more southern land, into a far richer nature, than he
supposed was to be found here. The road is so pretty--the oak grows
here so strong and vigorously with mighty crowns of rich foliage.
Oens Brueck lies in a delightfully pastoral situation. We came thither;
here was life and bustle indeed! The mill-wheels went round; large
beams were sawn through; the iron forged on the anvil, and all by
water-power. The houses of the workmen form a whole town: it is a long
street with red-painted wooden houses, under picturesque oaks, and
birch trees. The greensward was as soft as velvet to look at, and up
at the manor-house, which rises in front of the garden like a little
palace, there was, in the rooms and saloon, everything that the
English call comfort.
We did not find the host at home; but hospitality is always the
house-fairy here. We had everything good and homely. Fish and wild
fowl were placed before us, steaming and fragrant, and almost as
quickly as in beautiful enchanted palaces. The garden itself was a
piece of enchantment. Here stood three transplanted beech-trees, and
they throve well. The sharp north wind had rounded off the tops of the
wild chesnut-trees of the avenue in a singular manner: they looked as
if they had been under the gardener's shears. Golden-yellow oranges
hung in the conservatory; the splendid southern exotics had to-day got
the windows half open, so that the artificial warmth met the fresh,
warm, sunny air of the northern summer.
That branch of the Dal-elv which goes round the garden is strewn with
small islands, where beautiful hanging birches and fir-trees grow in
Scandinavian splendour. There are small islands with green, silent
groves; there are small islands with rich grass, tall brackens,
variegated bell-flowers, and cowslips--no Turkey carpet has fresher
colours. The stream between these islands and holms is sometimes
rapid, deep, and clear; sometimes like a broad rivulet with
silky-green rushes, water-lilies, and brown-feathered reeds; sometimes
it is a brook with a stony ground, and now it spreads itself out in a
large, still mill-dam.
Here is a landscape in Midsummer for the games of the river-sprites,
and the dancers of the elves and fairies! Here, in the lustre of the
full moon, the dryads can tell their tales, the water-sprite seize the
golden harp, and believe that one can be blessed, at least for one
single night like this.
On the other side of Oens Brueck is the main stream--the full Dal-elv.
Do you hear the monotonous rumble? it is not from Elvkarleby Fall that
it reaches hither; it is close by; it is from Laa-Foss, in which lies
Ash Island: the elv streams and rushes over the leaping salmon.
Let us sit here, between the fragments of rock by the shore, in the
red evening sunlight, which sheds a golden lustre on the waters of the
Glorious river! But a few seconds' work hast thou to do in the mills
yonder, and thou rushest foaming on over Elvkarleby's rocks, down into
the deep bed of the river, which leads thee to the Baltic--thy
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