Gustavus Vasa - and other poems
by W. S. Walker
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479, 480.

—— and protecting Peace, Thro' a long age, bid battle's trumpet cease.

Gustavus was disturbed during the first years of his reign, by the restless machinations of Christiern and Trolle: but from 1532 to 1560, when he died (Sept. 29), the kingdom enjoyed a profound peace. The same may be said of the earlier part of his son Eric's reign.


The mighty seraph ceas'd ——

This speech, and the whole intervention of the Guardian Genius of Sweden, is introduced in order to elevate the subject, by ascribing the calamities of Sweden to a supernatural arm, and by giving, as it were, a divine direction to the sword of Gustavus. Its more immediate use is to bring about the main design of the poem, by persuading Gustavus to relinquish his design of self-banishment, and renew his patriotic efforts.

544, 545.

Th' angelic Power his sacred arm applied To push the vessel o'er the yielding tide—

Virg. AEn. 10.



Soren Norbi (Gallice Severin), one of the most renowned adherents of Christiern, was employed by him on many occasions, during the war with Steen Sture. It was by his intercession that Christina, the widow of that Governor, was saved from death. According to Vertot, he wished to marry her, and, by the means of her influence and his master's unpopularity, procure himself elected Administrator. He also concealed many Swedish gentlemen from the rage of Christiern. He defeated the generals of Gustavus in their first attempt upon Stockholm, and afterwards routed one of that hero's armies in Finland. But his fleet was at last burnt by the Lubeckers, under the command of Gustavus, and he was compelled to retire to Gothland, where he purposed to erect an independent kingdom of his own. This design being defeated, he continued to harass Gustavus and the Lubeckers in various ways, 'till they at length expelled him from Sweden. He now collected his remaining forces, and retreated to Narva, where he was seized and imprisoned by the Russians. After remaining some time in confinement, he was at length released at the instance of Charles the Fifth of Germany, in whose service he died, at the siege of Florence. According to Puffendorff, his death happened in 1539.


Line 7.

—— sulphurous showers Bursting on Calicut's perfidious towers.

Lusiad, Book 8.


My first bold task ——

See Preface.


Before him wide the dark-browed forests frown'd—

According to Pinkerton, forests are frequent in Dalecarlia. This remark seemed necessary, to obviate the objection against placing woods in a mineral soil.



Gustaf Wase, or Gustavus Vasa, was the son of Eric Vasa, governor of Halland, and was cousin-german to Steen Sture. Being the grand nephew of King Canutson, he was descended from the ancient kings of Sweden. Before his confinement by Christiern, he was one of the moving springs of the state; he assisted Sture with his counsels, which were bold and judicious, and gained a signal victory over the Danes. Christiern, receiving him as a hostage, caused him to be arrested and carried him to Denmark, where, by the request of Eric Banner, he was entrusted to the care of that nobleman. From his custody, however, he soon escaped, and traversed the various provinces of Sweden, in hopes of exciting at least some of them to assert their independence. His efforts, however, surprising and unwearied as they were, did not avail, 'till he arrived in the remote province of Dalecarlia. His unexpected appearance there among the peasants excited the whole province to revolt, and an army, assembled in haste, stormed the Governor's castle, and destroyed the greater part of the garrison. After this beginning, his successes gradually increased, and Angermanland, Helsingland, Gestricia, and other governments almost immediately came over to his party. He sustained a war against the whole powers of Christiern for some years in a most skilful and indefatigable manner, and succeeded at last in expelling Christiern, Trolle, and Norbi, from the land of which he was now elected monarch. A task, scarcely less difficult, remained—to extirpate the Catholic religion from Sweden. This he effected, and established Lutheranism on so firm a basis, that it has resisted all attempts to shake it. After a long and really glorious reign, he was succeeded by his son Eric the Fourteenth, in 1560. In him were combined all the qualities necessary to constitute a hero; he was enterprising, vigilant, proof against pleasures, brave, prudent, and generous. He erected Sweden to a degree of power and respectability unknown before, and laid the foundation for the victories of Gustavus Adolphus and Charles the Twelfth. For the particular events of his life and reign, see Vertot, Puffendorff, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, and most modern histories.


How Haquin triumph'd, or how Birger fell—

Haquin and Birger were common names among the earlier kings of Sweden.


—— the Mistress of the Northern Zone.

Margaret, who united the three northern kingdoms, and whose empire, like Alexander's, did not long survive after the death of its founder.


—— the thirteenth Eric.

The successor of Margaret. He is called the thirteenth by Vertot, though according to other accounts he was but the tenth or eleventh.


'Twas then, when, &c.

The Massacre of Stockholm, as it is commonly called, happened on the 8th of November, 1520. Of this almost unparalleled act of baseness and cruelty, Vertot (p. 113, 114, 115, Amst. ed.) gives the following account, from Zigler, who was an eye-witness, and many other authors of credit. The pretext for this execution was the demolishing of Stecka, a castle belonging to the traitor Trolle, which the Swedish States had ordered to be rased, contrary to the bull of Leo the Tenth.

"Le nouveau Roi fit ensuite inviter tout ces Seigneurs a une fete magnifique qu'il fit dans le chateau, pour marquer la joie de son avenement a la couronne. Le Senat en corps, et ce qu'il y avoit de Seigneurs de la premiere noblesse, a Stocolme, ne manquerent pas de s'y rendre: ce ne fut pendant les deux premiers jours que festins, que jeux, que plaisirs; Christierne affectoit des manieres pleines de bonte et de familiarite; il sembloit qu'on eut enseveli dans la bonne chere la haine et l'aversion que les deux parties avoient fait paroitre si long-tems l'une contre l'autre; tout le monde s'abandonnoit tranquillement a la joie, lors que, le troisieme jour, les Suedois furent tires de cet exces de securite, d'une maniere bien funeste."

He then proceeds to relate the proceedings of the Danish Monarch against the Nobility, in the way of accusation, by means of his ministers the Danish Bishops, and the Pope's Bull; and having described their pleas, &c. thus continues:

"Ce Prince sortit ensuite de l'Assemblee, comme s'il cut voulu laisser la liberte aux commissaires de deliberer: mais en meme tems on vit entrer une troupe de soldats de ses gardes, qui arretoient la veuve de l'Administrateur (Christina), les Senateurs, les Eveques meme, et tout ce qui se trouva de Seigneurs et de Gentilshommes Suedois dans le chateau.

"Les Eveques Danois, commissaires du Pape, commencerent a instruire leur proces comme a des heretiques, et comme s'ils eussent ete en pays d'inquisition; mais la procedure etant trop longue pour des gens qui etoient deja condamnes, Christierne, dans la crainte qu'il ne se fit quelque revolte en leur faveur, leur envoya des bourreaux sans autre formalite, pour leur annoncer qu'il falloit mourir.

"Le huitieme de Novembre fut destine pour leur supplice; on entendit des le matin des trompettes et des herauts de la part du Prince, qui defendoient a qui que ce fut de sortir de la ville, sous peine de la vie: toute la garrison etoit sous les armes: il y avoit des corps de garde aux portes, et dans toutes les places. Le canon pret a tirer etoit dans la grande place, la bouche tournee contre les principals rues; tout le monde etoit dans une profonde consternation; ou ne savoit a quoi aboutiroient ces mouvemens extraordinaires, lorsque sur le midi ou vit ouvrir les portes du chateau, et, au travers de deux files de soldats, des illustres prisonniers, la plupart encore avec les marques de leur dignite, conduits a la mort par des bourreaux.

"Si-tot qu'ils furent arrives au lieu de leur supplice, un officier Danois lut tout haut la bulle du pape, comme l'arret de leur condemnation, et il ajouta que dans le chatiment des coupables, le Roi ne faisoit rien que par l'ordonnance des commissaires apostoliques, et que suivant le conseil de l'Archeveque d'Upsal. Les Eveques condamnes, et les autres prisonniers, demanderent avec instance des confesseurs; mais Christierne leur refusa cette consolation avec beaucoup d'inhumanite, soit que ce Prince trouvat un rafinement de vengeance a etendre son ressentiment sur les choses de l'autre vie, ou qu'il ne voulut pas qu'on traitat en Catholiques des gens qu'on venoit de condamner comme heretiques: il sacrifia par la meme politique ses amis et ses partisans, pour n'etre pas soupconne d'avoir fait perir ses ennemis: toute l'ardeur et tout le zele que les Eveques de Stregnez et de Scara avoient fait paroitre pour ses interets, ne purent les exempter de la mort, la qualite de Senateurs leur couta la vie, et la signature qu'ils avoient mise a la condamnation de l'Archeveque avec les autres Senateurs, fut la pretexte de leur supplice."

(He mentions here the stratagem of Bishop Brask, related in a former note.)

"On executa ensuite" (i.e. after the execution of the Bishops) "tous les Senateurs seculiers: on commenca par Eric Vasa, pere de Gustave; les Consules et les Magistrats de Stocolme, et quatre-vingt quatorze Senateurs, qui avoient ete arretes dans le Chateau, eurent la meme destinee.

"Le Roi n'apprit qu'avec un violent chagrin qu'on n'avoit pu faire perir quelques Seigneurs qu'il avoit proscrits particulierement, et qu'on croyoit qu'ils etoient caches dans la ville. La crainte qu'ils n'echappassent, et l'esperance de decourrir la retraite de Gustave, qu'il soupconnoit d'etre cache dans Stocolme, lui fit confondre les innocens avec les coupables. Il abandonna la ville a la fureur de ses troupes: les soldats se jetterent d'abord sur le peuple qui etoit accoura a ce triste spectacle: ils frappoient et ils tuoient indifferemment tous ceux qui etoient assez malheureux pour se rencoutrer a leur chemin: ils passerent ensuite dans les meilleurs maisons de la ville, sous pretexte de chercher Gustave et les autres proscrits; ils poignardoient les bourgeois jusque dans les bras de leur femmes; les maisons furent mises au pillage, et la pudicite des femmes et des filles exposee a la brutalite des soldats. Rien ne fut epargue que la laideur et la pauvrete: tout le reste devint la proie du soldat furieux, qui, sous les ordres et a l'exemple de son souverain, se faisoit un merite de sa fureur et de son emportement."


And strive which first shall see the morn arise—

All the transactions recorded in the Third Book are supposed to have taken place on the evening and night preceding the annual festival of Dalecarlia, a day so memorable in Swedish history.


And icy Meler blush'd with civil gore.

A most bloody engagement took place in 1464, on the lake Meler, when frozen over, between Bishop Catil and the partizans of the twice deposed Canutson. The Bishop was victorious.



See the account of Steen Sture, in the note on line 15 of the First Book.


His patriot spirit entered in my breast.

My precedent for this is Lucan, who says of the soul of Pompey,

—— in sancto pectore Bruti Sedit, et invicti posuit se mente Catonis.

Lib. ix. l. 17.


—— we are still forgot, And harmless poverty is still our lot.

Gustavus appeared in a public assembly of the Sudermanian Peasants, and exhorting them to revolt, was repulsed with the following answer: "We want neither salt nor herrings under the reign of the King of Denmark, and another King could not give us more: besides, if we take arms against so great a Prince, we shall unavoidably perish." The Swedish peasantry, however, soon felt that the cruelty and tyranny of Christiern were something more than a mere report.


Imperial Charles, &c.

"Charles-Quint entroit dans les interets du Roi de Danemarck avec une chaleur que la seule alliance ne produit guere entre les potentats. On pretend que ce prince, le plus ambitieux de son siecle, n'avoit accorde la princesse sa soeur a Christierne, qu'a condition qu'il le reconnoitroit pour son successeur aux couronnes du Nord, en cas qu'il mourat sans enfans. Cette succession etoit une piece importante au dessein de la monarchiae universelle: on sait assez que ce fut l'idole et la vision de ce Prince." P. 110, Amst. ed.


Ere Freedom light again her once extinguished ray.

I beg leave to quote the animated lines of Lord Byron:

A thousand years scarce serve to form a state: An hour may lay it in the dust: and when Shall man its shatter'd vigour renovate, Recal its glories back, and vanquish Time and Fate?


My spirit breath'd a purer prayer to thee—

Alluding to his profession of Lutheranism, which he probably embraced while in Steen Sture's army.


Scarce had he finish'd ——

The foregoing soliloquy is introduced for many reasons: first, to illustrate the character of the hero: secondly, to shew the difficulties which opposed, and were still destined to oppose, his memorable enterprize: thirdly, to account for his determination (Book ii. l. 509.) to leave his country: and, fourthly, to give the reader some idea of the prior calamities of Sweden, which are to be developed in a future book. These, and other motives, induced me to insert this soliloquy, which may appear rather long, but the prolixity of which the good-natured reader will excuse.


Rush'd instantaneous ——

For the use of this word, I have many authorities in cattie:

Flowers instantaneous spring— With instantaneous gleam, illumed the vault of night— An instantaneous change of thought—&c.



The Supreme Being commands the Genius of Sweden to lull the Danish garrison of Dalecarlia into false security, to invigorate the drooping spirits of the Dalecarlians, and to assist and increase the army of Prince Frederic of Denmark by means of various rumours, &c.—The Genius dispatches a fiend to execute the first commission, while he hastens to perform the second.—Transition to Gustavus.—He finds his sword, but misses Ernestus, by means of a storm which the whirlwind had excited.—His reflections.—Taking shelter under the roof of a cottage; he there overhears a party of young men, with Adolphus at their head, exclaiming against the dilatory measures of the seniors, and resolving on more vigorous plans.—He joins them, without disclosing himself, and bids them report to the council, that a stranger will appear in the public assembly of Dalecarlia, the following day, and notify things which may influence their counsels.—He retires: Adolphus follows him unseen.—The youths, returning to the assembly, find their elders watching the event of an augury, mentioned in the Third Book.—Its process described—the result.—The young men announce their message.—Reflections of the Dalecarlians on it.—Gustavus meets Ernestus, and prepares to attack him, but is prevented by a miraculous sign.—The Genius of Sweden, after having revived the spirits of the Dalecarlians, passes to Denmark, where he influences the Danes to join the standards of Prince Frederic of Oldenburg.—Description of that Prince's court, and of the state of Denmark.—The Genius returns through Sweden.—Account of what was passing there.


The Genius arrives at Mora.—Gustavus is convinced of the truth.—His reflections on the occasion.—He concludes a friendship with Ernestus.—He meets Adolphus, whom he recognizes as one of his former soldiers, and whom he dispatches to the Danish fortress, to observe the motions of the enemy.—They return to the house of the Priest of Mora, under whose protection Gustavus then remained, and relate the recent events.—The Curate's reply.—They retire to rest.

The Dalecarlian convention described.—Their proceedings prior to the arrival of Gustavus among them.—He announces himself in the morning.—Their joy.—The augury miraculously fulfilled.—Gustavus takes measures to prevent the treacherous designs of some of the Dalecarlian tribes.—He is saluted king and general by the whole assembly.—They request him to relate his adventures.


Gustavus recounts the causes of the war, and its progress, prior to the capitulation of Stockholm; which will afford much room for detail. This narration is necessary, to acquaint the reader with what happened before the commencement of the action, and is therefore similar in design to the second and third AEneid, and the four narrative books of the Odyssey. Christiern, Steen Sture, Archbishop Trolle, Otho, Norbi, and other distinguished characters, will make a figure in this relation. The hero describes the massacre of Stockholm, from the account of an eye-witness of that catastrophe.—He enlarges on the death of his father Eric. Some reflections on this event may be introduced, in imitation of Lucan.—Fate of Gustavus's wife and sister; whose death, and the intercession made by Christiern with Gustavus for their preservation, will afterwards form one of the principal episodes.—He then relates part of his numerous adventures in the different provinces of Sweden.


He continues his recital, and concludes with his arrival in Dalecarlia, and adventures there. He then exhorts them to assist in his patriotic design. (See his speech in Vertot.) The Dalecarlians applaud his harangue, which is also attended by favourable omens. A body-guard of 400 men is appointed him; Adolphus is chosen captain, having now returned, and disclosed the supineness and neglect of the Danish garrison. Gustavus declares his intentions of storming the castle; arranges the troops, and bids all be ready by midnight. They retire.


The proceedings of Christiern, Trolle, and Norbi, from the conclusion of Book 4, severally described.—Gustavus secretly dismisses the unfaithful tribes.—The Genius of Sweden appears to him in a dream; foretels his future exaltation, and the disgraceful end of Christiern and his party. He then shews him the reward of patriots in heaven.—Ancient Swedish kings and heroes.


He now shews him, "in a sort of Pisgah-sight," as Pope expresses it, but on a new plan, the future history of Sweden: its wars, arts, manners, &c.—Gustavus Adolphus.—Christina.—Charles the Twelfth.—Puffendorff, Oxenstiern, Linnaeus, &c.—Part of the Danish history may be mentioned, as connected with that of Sweden.—Gustavas the Fourth.—Siege of Copenhagen by the English.—Bernadotte.—The Genius concludes with an exhortation, and directions for prosecuting the war.—Gustavus's prayer.—The army described.—Their leaders.


Parting of the Dalecarlians with their kindred: briefly delineated, like the scene in the 5th Lusiad. Some episode may naturally be here introduced.—The Genius blows his angelic trumpet, as a prelude to the war: its effects.—The army of Gustavus, increased on its way by new multitudes, reaches the castle at midnight.—Negligence of the guard.—Gustavus, Ernestus, and Adolphus, signalize themselves. Valour of the Governor.—The fort is stormed.—General slaughter of the Danes by the incensed Dalecarlians.—Clemency of Gustavus to the Governor, and all he could save from the fury of his soldiers.—The tribes who had adhered to Christiern, send intelligence to Stockholm of the revolt.—Trolle, in the absence of Christiern, calls a council.

The action, from the council in Book 1, to the taking of the castle, in Book 10, occupies four days.

The remaining books, ten or fourteen in number, will be occupied with a detail of the long and various war waged by Gustavus against Christiern, and the poem will conclude with his coronation. Many events afford great scope for poetry; such as the hero's constancy under his defeat by Trolle, his subsequent victory over that prelate, the adventures of Steen Sture's widow, the death of Gustavus's mother and sister, the burning of Norbi's fleet, the coronation of Gustavus, &c.


1. Where, in the midst of vast infinitude, &c.

This is the conclusion of the 9th hook of the Messiah, where Obaddon, or Sevenfold Revenge, one of the angels of death, carries the Soul of Judas Iscariot to hell.

—— Where, in the midst, &c.

Orig. "Where God has set bounds to infinitude:" an expression authorized by Milton: "stood vast Infinitude confined."

2. From Ida's peak high Jove beheld, &c.

An intelligent person suggested to the author, that to compose a new version of Homer, in the style and measure of Scott's Marmion, would be a feasible idea. He observed, that Scott's style, and his circumstantial descriptions, bore much resemblance to those of Homer and that the rapid flow of Scott's verse was happily accommodated to the swift succession of events, and fiery impetuosity of the Iliad; corresponding with the dactylic hexameter of the old poet. These hints induced the author to attempt the above translation.

3. Through these fair scenes, &c.

This description has been preferred to that of the fountain of Narcissus in Ovid. Crucius, Lives of the Roman Poets.

4. Quid nos Immerita, &c.

An ironical defence of piracy.

5. D. Pauli Conversio, 94. Quin etiam, ut perbibent, &c.

Alluding to his transportation into the third heaven.

—— 142. AEterni vulnera leti.

The scripture phrase "eternal death."

—— 178. Britannia.

He is said by some to have passed into Britain.

—— 184. Pacatusque.

Alluding to the miracle on the coast of Melita.



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