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stated in this chapter, we shall take only a rapid survey of the Swedish literature till the opening of the eighteenth century, and shall more especially concentrate our notice on its writers of the present century, during which, Sweden
be said to have first established for itself what Lénström, the historian of their poetry, denies that it possesses at all —a genuine national literature.*
* “ Derföre finnes ej i ett land som Sverige någon inhemsk litteratur, att egentligen tala om.”-Svenska Poesiens Historia, s. 21.
THE FIRST PERIOD OF SWEDISH LITERATURE AND ROMANCE.
This period may be properly said to extend over the enormous space of five hundred years : that is, from soon after the introduction of Christianity, or from about the year 1000 to 1600. The old Edda period constitutes the introductory period of Swedish as of all Scandinavian literature, and the productions of this second immense period, in which the scintillations of genius amongst any but the common people, are few and far between, consist chiefly of Visor, Folks-Sagas, and later of a vast mass of monkish mysteries and moralities, and of legends and popular romances introduced by translation.
After the Kämpe-Visor, of which we have given such ample specimens, and after the half-heathen, half-Christian Visor, and afterwards of the wholly Christian Visor, of which too we have furnished numerous examples, there continued to appear from time to time, even down to the eighteenth century, Visor founded on historical facts, on the old model. Amongst the most remarkable of these are : “The Battle of Brunkeberg ;” “King Erik and the Fortune-telling Woman,” which relates to Erik XII.; “The Gothland Visa ;" "Thord Bonde's Murder;" “The
Battle of Brännkryka;” “Gustavus and the Dalecarlians;" “ Christian IV.'s Fancy;" “ The Battle of Narva," and “The Battle of Helsingborg.” “Charles XII.'s March," * attributed to Magnus Stenbock, is a vigorous and noble song, set to a fine and other ballads about Charles XII.
Amongst the first imitators of the old Folks-Visor is named Nicolaus Hermanni, Bishop of Linköping, in the thirteenth century, who wrote the ballad of “Elisif Eriksdotter, the Nun," who was carried off from the convent of Risberga. The same author wrote an account of the death of Ansgarius, the Northern apostle. In 1437, Bishop Thomas wrote poems on Engelbrecht and Erik Puke. Dahstjerna wrote “The King and Sir Peter,” on the victory at Narva. “Malcom Sinclair," by Director Odel, is celebrated. “The Old Hen-woman's Song,"
. written in the middle of the eighteenth century, by 0. Cardius, pastor in Södermanland, is a relation of Swedish history from Christina to Adolf Frederick.
Perhaps still more popular were the love-songs during this period, some of them written by nobles, and others even by kings. The gifted but unfortunate Erik XIV., so beloved by the people, expressed his deep affection for his Catharina Månsdotter in a warm, touchingly melancholy and simple ballad :
“ Blest is he whose path embraces
No dizzy cliffs, but valleys low;
Is doomed to travel to and fro.
The towering palace by the thunder
Is often struck a shattering blow;
He who climbs high may topple under,
Dashed down to ruin and to woe.
Huge billows sweep the mighty ocean,
There rocks and stormy winds prevail ;
Of streams that flow in quiet dale.
Before the rich man's door unheeded
You stand and knock, and inly pine ;
For I am hers and she is mine.
Has Phillis land nor golden treasure,
She has what more I do desire :
Than gold or jewels valued higher,
And shines she not in diamond splendour,
Her eyes than diamonds brighter glow;
Though she to others seem not so.
By him who will, be heaven invaded,
My wings were with such flight distressed ;
Sinks down by Phillis, wholly blest.
Good night! my Lily of the Valley ;
A thousand such good nights again.
What I have vowed, I aye remain.
These verses, it has been well remarked, show that Erik was born for a poet rather than for a king, as Gustavus Adolphus's two Swedish ballads show that he was born rather for a king than a poet. Erik, who the English
reader may be reminded, was one of the suitors of our Queen Elizabeth, and at the same time of the Queen of Scots, and of a Princess of Hesse ! and was, moreover, notorious for his amours at home, yet was faithful to his Catherine, or, as commonly called, Karin Månsdotter, who was the daughter of a corporal, and made her Queen.
The story of Erik and Karin Månsdotter is a strange and melancholy romance. Karin was a true and affectionate wife to Erik, and bore him several children. In all his fortunes, his madness and his imprisonment, she was his support and comfort. Her virtues even overcame her enemies; and John, her husband's murderer, allowed her, after a time, a sufficient income. Surrounded by her daughter, son-in-law, and their children, Karin lived at the remote but lovely Ljuxala to a serene old age. Two of her sons died young; another, whose claim to the crown had been admitted, was pursued by his powerful uncles into life-long exile and death. Karin, after having shown herself as noble a mother as a wife, lived on, forgiving her worst enemies. One of these, who had been particularly ferocious towards her husband and herself, being killed in her neighbourhood, and thrown ignominiously into a hole, she sent and had his remains decently interred. High forest-covered mountains, wooded hills, smiling fields, and blooming valleys, amid them clear lakes at different elevations, united by winding streams and rushing waterfalls, combined to form a paradise around the dwelling of this true woman.
The memory of her virtues and benevolence still lives amongst the peasantry in the neighbourhood, after the lapse of more than two hundred years. King Erik, her husband, and the son and successor of the great Gustavus Wasa, had been imprisoned and put to death by his brother