Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

genuine feeling. His best pieces are to be found amongst his Miscellaneous Poems, such as “The Voice of History,“ Providence,” “The Closing Century,” “Eglé and Annett,” “Ode on the Desire of an Undying Name,” etc. Many of these abound with just and striking thoughts, and are written in a style clear, elastic and graceful.

The great writer of this period was Johan Gabriel Oxenstjerna. He was born in 1750, was educated by Bergklint, became a Marshal of the Kingdom, and died in 1818. He was a descriptive poet; a wonderful admirer of our countryman, Thomson, whose“ Seasons" produced a great sensation in both Germany and the North; and his chief works are “The Harvest" and “ The Hours of the Day," written in imitation of him. With all the faults of the age and the academical school, he displays a deep feeling of nature; and the pictures of simple life amid the fields and woods of Sweden are full of an idyllic beauty, and a homely attractive grace. The manner in which these poems are written

may

be best conceived from the feeling with which Tegnér speaks of the “ Dagens Stunder"-the Hours of the Day.

“Oxenstjerna,” he says, “ loves in Nature not merely her outward beauty, but her innermost heart; the profound calm, the unconscious innocence, all the great life, revealed only to the eye of the poet. He regards her not so much with a lover's glance as that of a long-absent son, who gazes again on a beloved mother, whom he grieved to have left behind; and hence arises in all his compositions that mild but half-elegiac tone which finds an echo in every feeling heart. Hence arises the

peculiar and touching pleasure of his scene-painting, which not only delights the eye with its splendour, but awakes in the spectator a quiet longing, and a conviction that he sees

a

a

[ocr errors]

some secluded side-path which he had formerly trodden, but had forgotten. How fresh and youthful is the whole of the first book! How joyously comes up the morning sun! How lightly plays the blood in the new-awakened veins of life! The dew seems to lie glittering upon the sunny picture; the morning wind blows through the whole noble book. On the contrary, what an indescribable charm, what a soft melancholy is diffused over the whole third book! This note of regret the poet has learned from the nightingale; this dying and yet living colour is that which the sinking sun casts over retiring Nature, or rather it is a serenade to the slumbering earth, it is a long-drawn sigh over extinguishing life. And in night! What a picture do heaven and earth constitute ! How dark, and yet how magnificent ! how soft and transparent are all its forms! In the beginning, the gracious sleep which rocks earth to rest; amid hovering dreams; in the middle, the glorious moonlight; and at its close, the graves whence arise voices of lament. This gloomy, solemn song belongs only to the hour of spirits. It is as if we heard at a distance the rushing of subterraneous floods, or the stroke of the passing pinions of the angel of death !"

Oxenstjerna also translated Milton and Tasso : the first remarkably well; the latter, indifferently.

The remaining writers of this period are Johan Stenhammar and Isaac Reinhold Blom; besides Axel Gabriel Silverstolpe, who cultivated, however, the English taste; Nils Lorens Sjöberg, also a cultivator of English literature, and who translated Pope's “Universal Prayer;" and, finally, A. N. Edelcrantz, who translated “God Save the King,” and was the first to employ the Northern Mythology in an “Ode to the Swedish people."

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XV.

TERMINATION OF THE FRENCH SCHOOL IN SWEDEN.

As the French taste had overspread Europe at very nearly the same time, so its influence decayed and died out almost simultaneously. A system that, in securing the regularity of outward forms, and what may be called the etiquette of literature, restrained its free exercise and extinguished its spirit, must sooner or later come to an end. It was incompatible with progress, and progress is the law of mind. In France itself, long before the termination of the eighteenth century, elements were at work destined to produce the most extraordinary changes in the political, social and literary circumstances of the world. Even those authors who were most French were most concerned in the preparation of this astounding revolution. Voltaire, the author of the “Henriade," that pitiful example of what the epos must naturally become under the French poetical régime, was one of the most potent actors in the preliminary labours of Frenchmen for a world-change, which assumed shapes so inconceivably different from what the most sagacious of the prophets of emancipation could conceive.

many countries they were not the French doctrines, but the French events, startling, dazzling and exciting the human heart and imagination to the widest extent, which produced the greatest effects on literature. Those who sympathized least with French views, were often the most influenced in their psychological system by the magnificence of the scenes which swept over the face of the civilized world. Antagonism was not less potent in arousing the energies of mind than sympathy. In this country no man sympathized less with the spirit of the French Revolution than Sir Walter Scott, and yet no man was more influenced by its consequences in the breadth, strength and novelty of the creations which he originated, and conferred on the world in his romances-themselves constituting a new epoch in that department of literature.

But even before the French philosophy and the French movements had produced any marked effect in this country, the influence of Gallic taste on our literature was dying rapidly out. The publication of Bishop Percy's “Reliques of Ancient English Poetry,” in 1765, had produced a profound impression on the young men of genius of that time. Scott, Wordsworth, Southey, and others, attributed their return to the truth of nature, to the perusal in it of the bold, simple and living ballads of our older bards. Burns soon after broke forth from the tail of his plough with strains which, like lightning flashes, struck everywhere through the clouds of mere school dulness, and spread a new electric pulse of life through society. Poetry in the voice of real life and passion, was heard from the cottage and the field. It was like the thunder rolling in awful grandeur through skies which had been so long unvisited by the voice of heaven; it was like the lark carolling in the blue air when the thunder was past, and the sun shone, through the fresh atmosphere,

[ocr errors]

on the earth glittering with rain-drops and alive with rushing streams. Men came forth from schools and systems, to nature and to man, and from that time liberty was abroad, and genius ranged the earth to choose its materials wherever God and man were to be found.

In Germany, the innovations introduced by Klopstock, were carried forward into essentially different, and more healthful forms by Lessing, Jean Paul, Schiller and Goethe. In Denmark, we have seen the same change produced by the fervent teaching of Hendrik Steffens, and the bold adoption of it by Oehlenschläger. In Sweden, the same spirit was stirring at the same time, and Bellman, Hallman, Kexél, Wallenberg, Lidner, Thorild and Lenngren, in songs, lyrics, dramas and other compositions, drew their spiritual life from the life of the people, and appeared in shapes and with language, which startled and often irritated to bitter exasperation the orderly and orthodoxly dull members of the Academy.

CARL MICHAEL BELLMAN

Was born in 1740, and studied in Upsala, was appointed by Gustavus III., Secretary of the Lottery office with a salary of three thousand dollars, of which Bellman

appropriated one half to the person who managed the business of the office, received the title of Court Secretary, and lived a joyous poet's life, till his death in 1795.

Bellman is at once the poet whom the Swedes regard as national and unrivalled, and whom it is impossible for foreigners to estimate according to the standard of his own countrymen. We must confess, that, amid the whole number of Scandinavian poets, we have found none in whom our expectations have fallen so short as Bellman, of the glowing portraiture given of him by his landsmen.

« AnteriorContinuar »