Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

world which he professed. As he went along the streets he sung

aloud; and when Columbus once was with him, and bade him be quiet, he asked whether the air and space were not free to all. His tongue he said, was his own; and the song he sung too, for he had composed it. When Columbus asked him why he did not lift his cap to the Lord Chancellor, Peter Brahe, as he drove past; he answered : 'Count Peter goes his way and I go mine. If

. I have cash in my pocket, I go to an inn, order the best entertainment I can, and Count Peter goes where he likes: but if I had anything to ask of him, of course, I must go and bow and bend before him. I will not, however, pay court to the great—that is, to sell my freedom for a hundred rix-dollars a-year. And, as to the honour, that is all nonsense. If you sate at a great man's table, and I

. sate at the cook's; or if you sate at the upper end of the table, and I at the lower, what better would you be than I ? Have I ever starved ? Columbus replied : That may come in time.' His great resort was the taverns and similar places. His genius, like his life, was cynical, abandoned and dissipated. He composed his songs with great rapidity, and many of them at weddings and funeral entertainments. He sung a bridal song at the marriage of Baron Gyllenstjerna ; but it was so immoral, that he was put in prison for it. His poetic faculty displayed itself in a rapid inspiration and recitation in all the languages of Europe; and wild and reckless as were his songs, he composed some hymns, as his ‘Lord God! I mourn before thee,' and his ‘Sinful Man,' in which the most lacerating remorse breathes, and which are sublime in their very fearfulness of the outcry of a tortured spirit. It was while singing the first of these in a wine-cellar, that he was murdered by a lieutenant, who ran him through with his sword. He was then only twenty-four years of age, truly

[ocr errors]

a

6 She

styled by his biographer-a student worn out with excesses."

There is another phenomenon which arrests us at this point, and that is the first lady author of Sweden-Fru Brenner. It is true that the name of Queen Euphemia of Norway has come before us, but as a patron of translations. We have no reason to think that Euphemia soiled her royal hands with authorly ink; but Mrs. Brenner was a bonâ fide, and hard-working authoress. produced,” says Lénström, “ fifteen children, and still more poems ;” and though she better understood the art of housekeeping than the art of poetry, yet she was regarded as an actual miracle in her day, and there remain no less than thirty tributary and most laudatory addresses to her, or upon her : some of congratulation, some of lament over her grave.

These came from no less distances than Copenhagen, Germany, Mantua and Mexico. Adlerstedt, one of her eulogists, thus closes his long lament at

“Ah! is there no poet remaining who can write of thee so ably as thou didst write of others ? No! Art, like thee, has abandoned us ! Our Swedish poetry is gone with thee into the grave, and the children of the Muses stand terrified and struck dumb. Farewell ! farewell our poetry: Good night, thou famous old lady!"

Her verses relate chiefly to weddings and funeral feasts, and are furnished with the strangest and most elaborate titles. They abound with dry, learned, verbose and trivial reflections, but are distinguished for their very easy and neat style. Nobody, however, could speak more humbly of their performances, or assign a more commendable motive for them. “I have,” she says, “pursued my meditations by the spit and the cradle, though particularly lofty thoughts or profound invention are scarcely to be expected amid such homely occupations,

her grave:

VOL. II.

N

But of what consequence, it will be asked, are a woman's reflections ? The world may best decide on that; if I have now and then composed a verse, it has been especially done because it has given pleasure to my excellent and affectionate husband ; and but for his earnest desire, not one of them would probably have seen the light. Never have I been so ignorant or so vain, as to dream of placing myself in the rank of the poets.”

One more name of the Stjernhjelm period deserves especial mention, that of Archbishop Haqvin Spegel, the Arreboe of Sweden, who died in 1711. He translated Arreboe's “ Hexamæron,” founded on Du Barta’s “ Creation," styling it “God's Work and Rest," and his countrymen do not hesitate to place it above Arreboe's version. But Spegel's Psalms are the compositions which give him a lasting place in Sweden's literature.

Wieselgren says: “They are incomparable, and rarely have been equalled. There is not a word which appears used for mere effect ; they are full of the simplest beauty. We seem ourselves scarcely to hear the tones which float round the heavenly ideas, but are certain that they are heard in heaven. The spirit of the seventeenth century, pious as was that even of its heroes, is caught by Spegel, and the school which rose and flourished around him, in a manner which for ever cast a glory over the character of Sweden-over that serious gladness, that hopeful yet solemn temperament, which is, like the 'Song of Vala,' in our most ancient myth, a spirit heralding Christianity, a natural religiousness, which constitutes the key-note both of our literature and of our history."

This is high praise, but deserved, as the Psalm-Book of Sweden testifies. Spegel wrote also “ Paradise Lost and Refound.” He had read, no doubt, Milton. He was the author also of a keen satire, “Sir Highmind Down

fall.” His disciples and successors in the same sacred department of poetry were Olof Kolmodin, author of the immensely popular “ Voice of the Dove;" Professor Arrhenius, Bishop Svedberg and Jacob Frese.

The other most marked names of this era in different walks of literature are Runius, Dalius, Lindsköld, Björk, Triewald and Lars Fornelius.

During this century, the literary taste in Sweden made a great progress; for not only were its own sons beginning to show a deeper and more original consciousness of the intellectual world within them, but the finest productions of all Europe were pouring in upon them. We find them quoting and commenting on Ronsard, Corneille, Spenser, Milton, Cowley, Flemming, Cats, Vondel, Arreboe, Kingo, Hoffmanswaldau, Lohenstein, Opitz, Gryphius, Guarini, Boileau, etc.

CHAPTER XIV.

THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY- THE FRENCH SCHOOL.

FRENCH taste prevailed all over Europe during the eighteenth century. The splendour and éclat of Louis XIV.'s Court, and the familiarity with French affairs and opinions which the long warfare between Popery and Protestantism, which ended with the Peace of Utrecht, had spread everywhere, laid the foundation of it. By that Peace, Louis, at his last shifts, was, to his own astonishment, at once relieved from humiliation and disgrace, and the projected invasion of his kingdom and capital by Marlborough and Eugene. All the struggles of the Thirty Years' War, of the War of the Spanish Succession, and all the victories of Marlborough and the Prince of Savoy, were rendered abortive, and Catholicism and French prestige remained in the ascendant. Not only the social manners, the etiquette, and the fashions of France, were imitated over nearly the whole continent, but the fashion of its literature was adopted too. Some of the greatest writers of France had adorned that reign -Corneille, Racine, Molière, Boileau :—these were the men who stamped their peculiar philosophy of literature on the greater portion of the civilized world ; scarcely

« AnteriorContinuar »