Imágenes de página

John. He was of an irritable disposition, and guilty of many tyrannical acts; yet his memory was long cherished with affection by the people. He wrote during his imprisonment religious hymns; and the 180th and 373rd in the Swedish Psalm-book are composed by him. The latter is one of the most simply touching and heartfelt confessions of contrition and faith in God ever penned. It tells the whole history of the royal prisoner's altered heart and fortunes; it speaks from the heart to the heart, and has been appointed in Sweden as one of the penitentiary psalms sung at the execution of criminals. Erik stands thus as one of the earliest authors of sacred poetry in the mother-tongue of Sweden. Ericus Olai had preceded King Erik in psalmody in 1515; and we may add here, as his coadjutors and immediate followers, whose productions are to be still found in the Swedish Psalm-book, Olaus Petri, P. J. Gothus, George Marci, Martin Olai, Peter Niger, and others.

Count John of Hoya also wrote love verses during this period; as did Gustavus Adolphus to his youth's favourite, Ebba Brahé. One of his warriors, too, the brave Colonel Ekebladh, wrote many poems, which seem rather a new class of lyrics than imitations of the old Visor. Amongst these are “The Five Perils of Men:” viz., from the caprice of great lords ; from April weather; rose-coloured garments; card-playing; and fair women. Several amorous pastorals: “A Wood-song about the Nightingale ;” “Pious Thoughts ;” “A Home Song;” “The Maiden in the Grove;" “The Flight of Truth ;" and others. We

We may also name Buræus, a writer of strange cabalistic verses, and the first attempter of hexameters in the language.

The rest of the reading of this period was chiefly made up of translations of chivalric songs and the Folks-Sagas

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

which existed in the country, or had been translated in the sixteenth century. As King Erik XIV. was one of the first poets, so Queen Euphemia of Norway was one of the first translators of the foreign chivalric poetical romances. She translated, or caused to be translated, from Norwegian into Swedish, some of the King Arthur cycle of such metrical romances as King Arthur," in 1308; “Iwain and Gawain ;" “ Charlemagne ;” “Flores and Blancheflor ;” and “Duke Frederik of Normandy.” These were called Queen Euphemia's Visor, but only the “Duke Frederik” was printed. Besides these, were translated others of a more didactic character; as “ The Conversion of Sinners;" “The Knight of St. Yrian;" “Dialogue between Christmas and Lent;" "How the Soul and Body Wrangle;" “Rynecké the Fox;" “The Dance of Death ;" “ Martin Goose;" and the like.

Of native Folks-Sagas written about that time were Hoberg's “Old Man," “Pelle Batsman," and a few others; but the grand intellectual food of the people, the joy of their firesides, was the mass of middle-age popular romances, which are still found in unabated esteem by the peasantry almost all over Europe, viz. : “ The Childhood of Christ ;" “Judas Iscariot;" "History of Pilate;" “Jerusalem's Shoemaker;" “Cardinal Manfred;" "The

“ Twelve Sybilles' Prophecy;" “The Patient Helen;" "Faust;" “ Owlinglass ;" "Fortunatus ;” “The Fair

“ Melusina ;" “Genoveva ;" “Octavianus ;” “Magelona;" “The Seven Wise Masters ;” “ Appolonius ;” “Carsus and Moderus; “Bidpais' Fables;" “Baarlaam and Josaphat ;" “Lunkentus;" “The Blue Bird ;” “The Knight Fink ;" “Marcolf;” “Tumme Liten ;” “The

“ Island of Blessedness ;” “ Blue Beard ;” “The Duke of Luxemburg's Pact with the Devil ;” “Master Cat ;"

" “ Hildegard;" “The Two Merchants,” the same story as


[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


one in Boccacio, and as introduced by Shakspeare into “Much Ado about Nothing ;” “Shariton ;” “The Nix in every Street ;” “Sidonia Borch,” of late worked up into a romance by Wilhelm Meinhold ; “Caloander;" “The Princess in the Sleeping Wood;" "Fortunée ;" “The Swedish Robinson;" and a host of others.

These works present the truest picture of the psychological condition of the people. It was one of great simplicity and intensity of faith, with a profound love of the poetical and the marvellous. At the same time, we quite agree with Lénström, that “the majority of these legends contain great wealth of poetry, of adventure and deep feeling; sometimes a powerful popular humour, often of delightful descriptions of love. They contain more pure originality than most of the romances of our time, and deserve to be published, not only for the reading of the people, but of the more cultivated classes.”

To this literature must be added a number of Rhymed Chronicles; and if not exactly mysteries and moralities, yet a species of sacred drama much akin to them; and others called Ballets, more resembling the English masques. Amongst the sacred dramas which were publicly enacted for the edification of the people, were histories of David, Joseph, Judith and Holofernes, of Man and his Fall. Amongst these, and one of the earliest, was the comedy of “Tobit,” by Olaus Petri, which we must for a moment notice on account of its language. This drama was written by the zealous reformer, Olaus Petri, in 1550, only eight years before our Queen Elizabeth ascended the throne. One is therefore surprised to find so extraordinary a resemblance between the Swedish and English languages at that period. The resemblance is nearly as great as that of the Scotch at the same period, as we find it in Sir David Lindsay's Dramas, some of which were written later; his “Satyre on the Three Estaites" being acted before the Court in 1554. In “Tobit,” the sound and spelling of the th in “the,"

three," and all similar words, now quite abandoned by the Swedes and Danes, though retained in the Icelandic, and so difficult of expression to all foreigners, is in full use. Nay, in Hans Olffson's drama, published as late as 1635, or in the time of our Charles I., a “Tragedia om the tree wisa män;" but in “Tobit” we find lines like these :

Thet är hans werck, som wij nu göre.
Thut is his work which we now do.
Död ligger på gatan (the street) en Israelitesk Man.
Dead lies upon the street

an Isruclitis. min.
Och låta then dödha komma i jordh.
Oh let the dead come into the earth.
0, Abrahams, Isacs och Israel's Gudh !
Oh, Abraham's, Isunc's and Israel's God!

Unge Tobias til sin Fadher.-
“ En gode Mannen haffuer jag funnet.”

Young Tobias to his father.-
A good man have I found.
Fadren.—Then gode Mannen haff här in.
Father. The good man have here in
Mit nampn är Azarias, om tu thet will weta.
My name is Azurits, if thou that wilt wot (know).

Take now a sample of Sir David Lindsay's “Satyre on the Three Estaites,” of precisely the same date, and take the first lines you open upon. Are they more like English of the present day?

“I trow this pillour be spur-gaid,
Put in thy hand into this cord,
Howbeit, I se thy scap skyre skaid ;
Thou art ane stewst I stand for’d.”—p. 39.

Or again


• But, nocht, in thir bischopis, nor their freiris
Quhilk will, for purging of their neiris,
Sard up the ta raw, and doun the uther,
The mekill devill resave the futher.”—p. 79.

But if there was a resemblance of the two languages at this period, how widely different was the state of the two literatures ! Amid all this mass of Middle-Age composition, which still held its place among the Swedish people, we discover but here and there a faint glimpse of what is native and original; while in England, Chaucer had ages before produced his great poem; Sir Thomas More had now left behind him his “Utopia;” and it was the day of Marlowe, with his vigorous dramas; of Sir Philip Sydney, and the “ Arcadia ;” of Spenser, and the “Fairy Queen ;” and, lastly, of Shakspeare. Lénström asks : “How shall we account for this lack of poetry during so long a period ?" And he answers it by attributing it to the butcheries of Christian the Tyrant, the troubles of Erik, and the splendid outbreak of the Reformation, absorbing the soul of the people, and occupying them with tragedies and great poems in real life. It may be

but we had also our troubles, our civil wars, our wars of the Roses, and our breaking out of the Reformationthere must have been other causes for this tardy development of the North. A new era was now, however, approaching, under the influence of Johannes Messenius and George Stjernhjelm.


« AnteriorContinuar »