Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

with a great deal of good-natured weakness, which led him rather to praise the mediocre, than to blame the bad ; rather to suppress his conviction, than to speak the reality, lessened materially the weight of his influence on the literature of his time. Nevertheless, though he might have done more, he possessed so thoroughly accomplished a mind, and such liberality of principle, particularly as regarded art and matters of taste; such kindliness and integrity, that even where men's opinions were most decidedly opposed to his own convictions, he was ever ready to call forth and foster talent, and thus achieved immense good. This power of friendly and intellectual beneficence was greatly extended by his indefatigable and extraordinary extent of literary activity, and by his universal acquaintance and association with the literary and scientific men of the day.”

Rahbek was born in Christenbernikov Street, in Copenhagen, on the 18th of December, 1760, where his father, the son of a farmer from Alergaard, in the village of Rahbek, in the diocese of Ribe, and the parish of Borris, in Jutland, was Inspector of Customs, with the title of Counsellor of Justice. His mother died when he was a year old, and he was called after his father's maternal uncle, Knud Lyne, who was also the son of a peasant from the same district, who had come to Copenhagen, and as a tradesman, had made a fortune, of what is called in Sweden and Denmark a ton of gold, that is, twenty thousand rix-dollars, or about two thousand four hundred pounds. Rahbek's grandmother, an honourable peasant woman of Jutland, being a widow, came to her son in Copenhagen, and was the young poet's earliest attendant and cherisher. His father had him taught to read when he was three years old, and set him to his Latin when he was only five.

VOL. II.

D

His father now married again, but this only increased Knud's comfort, for the step-mother was a good and kind woman, who from the first, and through life, was always much attached to him, though she came to have several children of her own. Knud was now put under the care of a private tutor of the name of L. Jensen Adzer, the son of a smith in Copenhagen, and whose brother was an engraver of medals. This Adzer seems to have been a curious kind of character-eccentric, and fond of solitude and independence. He used to chastise little Knud vigorously during the hours of tuition ; perhaps he would have thought, with Solomon, that he should spoil the child if he spared the rod; but out of school-time, he was especially kind, and treated his pupil on terms of perfect equality and companionable ease. Knud's father seems to have surrendered him most thoroughly into Adzer's hands, for the tutor used regularly to go out every evening to the house of his brother the medalist, where there was every comfort, and during all this time kept Knud locked up in his room, having his supper carried up before he went. The cause of this was supposed to be that a young midshipman was at a neighbouring house, and as Knud had a passion for everything belonging to the sea, it was feared that such company was dangerous for him.

Adzer was a jack-of-all-trades, and had a great box of tools in the bed-room, where at leisure hours he made tobacco-boxes, and bound his own books. For Knud, he could, during the long solitary evenings, only read, eat his supper, and go to bed. In vain did his mother inter

, cede for him—there he staid. Adzer was not only a sound classic, but a proficient in French and German, and laid the foundation of the knowledge of languages and the readiness of speech which distinguished Rahbek.

In his twelfth year, Knud was sent to Herlufsholm School, at some distance from Copenhagen, where he remained three years. Here he seemed to enjoy himself vastly during holiday hours or days, in roaming through the old beech woods and fields, and in fishing. During his vacations, he used to spend his time chiefly with his old tutor and favourite Adzer, who had now succeeded to the post of Cashier of Highways, and lived at Jägersborg, near Copenhagen. Adzer had been teacher in the family of Evald's brother, and was the friend and attached companion of Evald while he lived. He used to buy up every work of Evald's the moment it appeared, and bring it home in triumph. Here Knud Rahbek got them; and this, and listening to Adzer's talk of Evald, very probably excited Knud to his own determination to live amongst books and literature.

In his fifteenth year, he was removed from Herlufsholm and the excellent Rector Brendth, for whom he always retained a deep regard, to the University, and was at once placed on examination amongst the number of the most distinguished students who entered at the same time. In the next year, 1776, he passed his philosophical examination, and in 1777, along with P. A. Heiberg, the philological one. After that he proceeded to the study of theology, and finally of law.

During the severe labour of these exertions, he sought constantly for refreshment at Jägersborg with Adzer. Adzer had now set up housekeeping for himself: for himself it was, literally. He had hired a side-wing of the old Schäffer's Court, looking out on the fields, and there kept house in an original fashion. He paid a man near to look after his horse, and had no servant, man nor maid, in the house : “So that,” says Rahbek, in his “Erindringer,” “ when I visited him, especially in winter,

" ,

we were generally quite alone. He cooked his own meat, swept his own floor, and made his own bed ; and when I was out there with him, I was co-opérateur en sous-ordre, and according to my small abilities, rendered all the assistance I could. But alas ! my capacity for such little duties of life never was extraordinary, and therefore, on these occasions, confined itself principally to shelling peas, or at most to gathering them or beans in a little garden ; to gathering sorrel from the sorrel-bed ; giving the fowls their corn (when I was intrusted with that important office); and on Sundays to turning the roast. This last post I occupied willingly enough with a book in my hand, which at this particular time was a German translation of Rousseau's 'Nouvelle Heloise,' which I had made acquaintance with in Copenhagen, and was so enchanted with, that, being a pocket edition, I carried it everywhere with me. Whether it were the identical one that the Abbot in the 'Literary Letters' makes such a stir about, I cannot say; but it was a duodecimo, in three volumes, with engravings. Later in the year, • Werther,' which I found here, and which then was new, pushed · Heloise' from her seat in my favour, and kept the preference for many seasons, without a single rival except Ossian,' which I also found here, in Harald's German translation.

“That was altogether a strange, solitary life that we led there together. Often we passed whole hours, nay, whole days, without exchanging a word; he engaged in the affairs of his office, which did not give him much to do, or in the duties of his housekeeping, or, but now more seldom, and while he was with me, in his mechanical labours: I with my favourite books, or attentive to every rural sound, every rural sight, which offered themselves so pleasantly to me here, and to which I so gladly gave

[ocr errors]

myself up-a hen with her chickens, an ant-nest, a bird's nest under the roof, was enough to occupy me for whole hours. Often we went out and rambled in the charming Ermelund's Wood, or in the still to me more impressive avenue down in Charlottenlund, and it was during these wanderings that we conversed most together. Generally we went no farther than down to the so-called Hound's lake, behind the hunting stables, where he would sit for hours, silent, fishing for pike, and I by his side, engaged also with my angle. But it did not last long before I grew tired of this unprofitable employment, and took out a book, in which I was surer of sport; and thus we lay till the clock of Jägersborg Castle warned Adzer that it was time to go home and prepare our meal.

“That our table boasted no service of green and gold like a foreign ambassador’s, that forthe most part–Sundays and holidays excepted, when we indulged ourselves in a little outward excellence, and had soup and a roast-we confined ourselves to milk, eggs and vegetables (which truly are not the food I prefer), fish when we could catch it, and barley-porridge, will be easily imagined when the management of our kitchen is considered, and was especially so when Adzer went to the offices of the highways to pay the wages; then milk and hard eggs, well boiled, for sufficient reason, were the settled order of the day. But luckily this did not trouble me very much ; for it has always been of more weight with me whom I dined with than on what, and I only turn my attention to the viands when I am desirous to turn it from the

company. Our time over dinner was naturally somewhat short, and in the afternoon we again betook ourselves to our old occupation of fishing till tea-time, and then Adzer’s flute or his harp were brought out for the rest of the evening, and generally without light, except at supper-time; and

« AnteriorContinuar »