Rays of beauty shoot forth into the world from Versailles' painted divinity; they reach the Maelar's strand into Tessin's[J] palace, where art and science are invited as guests with the King, Gustavus the Third, whose effigy cast in bronze is raised on the strand before the splendid palace—it is in our times. The acacia shades the palace's high terrace on whose broad balustrades flowers send forth their perfume from Saxon porcelain; variegated silk curtains hang half-way down before the large glass windows; the floors are polished smooth as a mirror, and under the arch yonder, where the roses grow by the wall, the Endymion of Greece lives eternally in marble. As a guard of honour here, stand Fogelberg's Odin, and Sergei's Amor and Psyche.
[Footnote J: The architect Tessin.]
We now descend the broad, royal staircase, and before it, where, in by-gone times, Oluf Skoetkonge stretched the iron chains across the mouth of the Maelar Lake, there is now a splendid bridge with shops above and the Streamparterre below: there we see the little steamer 'Nocken,'[K] steering its way, filled with passengers from Diurgarden to the Streamparterre. And what is the Streamparterre? The Neapolitans would tell us: It is in miniature—quite in miniature—the Stockholmers' "Villa Reale." The Hamburgers would say: It is in miniature—quite in miniature—the Stockholmers' "Jungfernstieg."
[Footnote K: The water-sprite.]
It is a very little semi-circular island, on which the arches of the bridge rest; a garden full of flowers and trees, which we overlook from the high parapet of the bridge. Ladies and gentlemen promenade there; musicians play, families sit there in groups, and take refreshments in the vaulted halls under the bridge, and look out between the green trees over the open water, to the houses and mansions, and also to the woods and rocks: we forget that we are in the midst of the city.
It is the bridge here that unites Stockholm with Nordmalen, where the greatest part of the fashionable world live, in two long Berlin-like streets; yet amongst all the great houses we will only visit one, and that is the theatre.
We will go on the stage itself—it has an historical signification. Here, by the third side-scene from the stage-lights, to the right, as we look down towards the audience, Gustavus the Third was assassinated at a masquerade; and he was borne into that little chamber there, close by the scene, whilst all the outlets were closed, and the motley group of harlequins, polichinellos, wild men, gods and goddesses with unmasked faces, pale and terrified crept together; the dancing ballet-farce had become a real tragedy.
This theatre is Jenny Lind's childhood's home. Here she has sung in the choruses when a little girl; here she first made her appearance in public, and was cheeringly encouraged when a child; here, poor and sorrowful, she has shed tears, when her voice left her, and sent up pious prayers to her Maker. From hence the world's nightingale flew out over distant lands, and proclaimed the purity and holiness of art.
How beautiful it is to look out from the window up here, to look over the water and the Streamparterre to that great, magnificent palace, to Ladegaards land, with the large barracks, to Skipholmen and the rocks that rise straight up from the water, with Soedermalm's gardens, villas, streets, and church cupolas between the green trees: the ships lie there together, so many and so close, with their waving flags. The beautiful, that a poet's eye sees, the world may also see! Roll, ye runes!
There sketches the whole varied prospect; a rainbow extends its arch like a frame around it. Only see! it is sunset, the sky becomes cloudy over Soedermalm, the grey sky becomes darker and darker—a pitch-dark ground—and on it rests a double rainbow. The houses are illumined by so strong a sunlight that the walls seem transparent; the linden-trees in the gardens, which have lately put forth their leaves, appear like fresh, young woods; the long, narrow windows in the Gothic buildings on the island shine as if it were a festal illumination, and between the dark firs there falls a lustre from the panes behind them as of a thousand flames, as if the trees were covered with flickering—Christmas lights; the colours of the rainbow become stronger and stronger, the background darker and darker, and the white sun-lit sea-gulls fly past.
The rainbow has placed one foot high up on Soedermalm's churchyard. Where the rainbow touches the earth, there lie treasures buried, is a popular belief here. The rainbow rests on a grave up there: Stagnalius rests here, Sweden's most gifted singer, so young and so unhappy; and in the same grave lies Nicander, he who sang about King Enzio, and of "Lejonet i Oken;"[L] who sang with a bleeding heart: the fresh vine-leaf cooled the wound and killed the singer. Peace be with his dust—may his songs live for ever! We go to your grave where the rainbow points. The view from here is splendid. The houses rise terrace-like in the steep, paved streets; the foot-passengers can, however, shorten the way by going through narrow lanes, and up steps made of thick beams, and always with a prospect downwards of the water, of the rocks and green trees! It is delightful to dwell here, it is healthy to dwell here, but it is not genteel, as it is by Brunkaberg's sand-ridge, yet it will become so: Stockholm's "Strada Balbi" will one day arise on Soedermalm's rocky ground.
[Footnote L: "The Lion in the desert;" i.e. Napoleon.]
We stand up here. What other city in the world has a better prospect over the salt fjord, over the fresh lake, over towers, cupolas, heaped-up houses, and a palace, which King Enzio himself might have built, and round about the dark, gloomy forests with oaks, pines and firs, so Scandinavian, dreaming in the declining sun? It is twilight; the night comes on, the lamps are lighted in the city below, the stars are kindled in the firmament above, and the tower of Redderholm's church rises aloft towards the starry space. The stars shine through there; it is as if cut in lace, but every thread is of cast-iron and of the thickness of beams.
We go down there, and in there, in the stilly eve.—A world of spirits reigns within. See, in the vaulted isles, on carved wooden horses, sits armour, that was once borne by Magnus Ladelaas, Christian the Second, and Charles the Ninth. A thousand flags that once waved to the peal of music and the clang of arms, to the darted javelin and the cannon's roar, moulder away here: they hang in long rags from the staff, and the staves lie cast aside, where the flag has long since become dust. Almost all the Kings of Sweden slumber in silver and copper coffins within these walls. From the altar aisle we look through the open-grated door, in between piled-up drums and hanging flags: here is preserved a bloody tunic, and in the coffin are the remains of Gustavus Adolphus. Who is that dead opposite neighbour in the chapel, across there in the other side-aisle of the church? There, below a glass lid, lies a dress shot through, and on the floor stands a pair of long, thick boots—they belonged to the hero-King, the wanderer, Charles XII., whose realm is now this narrow coffin.
How sacred it is here under this vaulted roof! The mightiest men of centuries are gathered together here, perishable as these moth-eaten flags—mute and yet so eloquent. And without there is life and activity: the world goes on in its old course; generations change in the old houses; the houses change—yet Stockholm is always the heart of Sweden, Birger's city, whose features are continually renewed, continually beautified.
* * * * *
Diurgaerden is a large piece of land made into a garden by our Lord himself. Come with us over there. We are still in the city, but before the palace lie the broad hewn stone stairs, leading down to the water, where the Dalkulls—i.e., the Dalecarlian women—stand and ring with metal bells. On board! here are boats enough to choose amongst, all with wheels, which the Dalkulls turn. In coarse white linen, red stockings, with green heels, and singularly thick-soled shoes, with the upper-leather right up the shin-bone, stands the Dalkull; she has ornamented the boat, that now shoots away, with green branches. Houses and streets rise and unfold themselves; churches and gardens start forth; they stand on Soedermalm high above the tops of the ships' masts. The scenery reminds one of the Bhosphorus and Pera; the motley dress of the Dalkulls is quite Oriental—and listen! the wind bears melancholy Skalmeie tones out to us. Two poor Dalecarlians are playing music on the quay; they are the same drawn-out, melancholy tones that are played by the Bulgarian musicians in the streets of Pera. We stept out, and are in the Diurgarden.
What a crowd of equipages pass in rows through the broad avenue! and what a throng of well-dressed pedestrians of all classes! One thinks of the garden of the Villa Borghese, when, at the time of the wine feast, the Roman people and strangers take the air there. We are in the Borghese garden; we are by the Bosphorus, and yet far in the North. The pine-tree rises large and free; the birch droops its branches, as the weeping willow alone has power to do—and what magnificently grand oaks! The pine-trees themselves are mighty trees, beautiful to the painter's eye; splendid green grass plains lie stretched before us, and the fiord rolls its green, deep waters close past, as if it were a river. Large ships with swelling sails, the one high above the other, steamers and boats, come and go in varied numbers.
Come! let us up to Bystroem's villa; it lies on the stony cliff up there, where the large oak-trees stand in their stubborn grandeur: we see from here the whole tripartite city, Soedermalm, Nordmalm and the island with that huge palace. It is delightful, the building here on this rock, and the building stands, and that almost entirely of marble, a "Casa santa d'Italia," as if borne through the air here in the North. The walls within are painted in the Pompeian style, but heavy: there is nothing genial. Round about stand large marble figures by Bystroem, which have not, however, the soul of antiquity. Madonna is encumbered by her heavy marble drapery, the girl with the flower-garland is an ugly young thing, and on seeing Hero with the weeping Cupid, one thinks of a pose arranged by a ballet-master.
Let us, however, see what is pretty. The little Cupid-seller is pretty, and the stone is made as flexible as life in the waists of the bathing-women. One of them, as she steps out, feels the water with her feet, and we feel, with her, a sensation that the water is cold. The coolness of the marble-hall realizes this feeling. Let us go out into the sunshine, and up to the neighbouring cliff, which rises above the mansions and houses. Here the wild roses shoot forth from the crevices in the rock; the sunbeams fall prettily between the splendid pines and the graceful birches, upon the high grass before the colossal bronze bust of Bellmann. This place was the favourite one of that Scandinavian improvisatore. Here he lay in the grass, composed and sang his anacreontic songs, and here, in the summer-time, his annual festival is held. We will raise his altar here in the red evening sunlight. It is a flaming bowl, raised high on the jolly tun, and it is wreathed with roses. Morits tries his hunting-horn, that which was Oberon's horn in the inn-parlour, and everything danced, from Ulla to "Mutter paa Toppen:"[M] they stamped with their feet and clapped their hands, and clinked the pewter lid of the ale-tankard; "hej kara Sjael! fukta din aske!" (Hey! dear soul! moisten your clay).
[Footnote M: The landlady of an alehouse.]
A Teniers' picture became animated, and still lives in song. Morits blows the horn on Bellmann's place around the flowing bowl, and whole crowds dance in a circle, young and old; the carriages too, horses and waggons, filled bottles and clattering tankards: the Bellmann dithyrambic clangs melodiously; humour and low life, sadness—and amongst others, about
"——hur oegat gret Ved de Cypresser, som stroeddes."[N]
[Footnote N: How the eyes wept by the cypresses that were strewn around.]
Painter, seize thy brush and palette and paint the Maenade—but not her who treads the winebag, whilst her hair flutters in the wind, and she sings ecstatic songs. No, but the Maenade that ascends from Bellmann's steaming bowl is the Punch's Anadyomene—she, with the high heels to the red shoes, with rosettes on her gown and with fluttering veil and mantilla—fluttering, far too fluttering! She plucks the rose of poetry from her breast and sets it in the ale-can's spout; clinks with the lid, sings about the clang of the hunting horn, about breeches and old shoes and all manner of stuff. Yet we are sensible that he is a true poet; we see two human eyes shining, that announce to us the human heart's sadness and hope.
* * * * *
All the apple-trees in the garden had sprung out. They had made haste to get blossoms before they got green leaves; and all the ducklings were out in the yard—and the cat too! He was, so to speak, permeated by the sunshine; he licked it from his own paws; and if one looked towards the fields, one saw the corn standing so charmingly green! And there was such a twittering and chirping amongst all the small birds, just as if it were a great feast. And that one might indeed say it was, for it was Sunday. The bells rang, and people in their best clothes went to church, and looked so pleased. Yes, there was something so pleasant in everything: it was indeed so fine and warm a day, that one might well say: "Our Lord is certainly unspeakably good towards us poor mortals!"
But the clergyman stood in the pulpit in the church, and spoke so loud and so angrily! He said that mankind was so wicked, and that God would punish them for it, and that when they died, the wicked went down into hell, where they would burn for ever; and he said that their worm would never die, and their fire never be extinguished, nor would they ever get rest and peace!
It was terrible to hear, and he said it so determinedly. He described hell to them as a pestilential hole, where all the filthiness of the world flowed together. There was no air except the hot, sulphurous flames; there was no bottom; they sank and sank into everlasting silence! It was terrible, only to hear about it; but the clergyman said it right honestly out of his heart, and all the people in the church were quite terrified. But all the little birds outside the church sang so pleasantly, and so pleased, and the sun shone so warm:—it was as if every little flower said: "God is so wondrous good to us altogether!" Yes, outside it was not at all as the clergyman preached.
In the evening, when it was bed-time, the clergyman saw his wife sit so still and thoughtful.
"What ails you?" said he to her.
"What ails me?" she replied; "what ails me is, that I cannot collect my thoughts rightly—that I cannot rightly understand what you said; that there were so many wicked, and that they should burn eternally!—eternally, alas, how long! I am but a sinful being; but I could not bear the thought in my heart to allow even the worst sinner to burn for ever. And how then should our Lord permit it? he who is so wondrously good, and who knows how evil comes both from without and within. No, I cannot believe it, though you say it."
* * * * *
It was autumn. The leaves fell from the trees; the grave, severe clergyman sat by the bedside of a dying person; a pious believer closed her eyes—it was the clergyman's own wife.
"If any one find peace in the grave, and grace from God, then it is thou," said the clergyman, and he folded her hands, and read a psalm over the dead body.
And she was borne to the grave: two heavy tears trickled down that stern man's cheeks; and it was still and vacant in the parsonage; the sunshine within was extinguished:—she was gone.
It was night. A cold wind blew over the clergyman's head; he opened his eyes, and it was just as if the moon shone into his room. But the moon did not shine. It was a figure which stood before his bed—he saw the spirit of his deceased wife. She looked on him so singularly afflicted; it seemed as though she would say something.
The man raised himself half erect in bed, and stretched his arms out towards her.
"Not even to thee is granted everlasting peace. Thou dost suffer; thou, the best, the most pious!"
And the dead bent her head in confirmation of his words, and laid her hand on her breast.
"And can I procure you peace in the grave?"
"Yes!" it sounded in his ear.
"Give me a hair, but a single hair of the head of that sinner, whose fire will never be quenched; that sinner whom God will cast down into hell, to everlasting torment."
"Yes; so easily thou canst be liberated, thou pure, thou pious one!" said he.
"Then follow me," said the dead; "it is so granted us. Thou canst be by my side, wheresoever thy thoughts will. Invisible to mankind, we stand in their most secret places; but thou must point with a sure hand to the one destined to eternal punishment, and ere the cock crow he must be found."
And swift, as if borne on the wings of thought, they were in the great city, and the names of the dying sinners shone from the walls of the houses in letters of fire: "Arrogance, Avarice, Drunkenness, Voluptuousness;" in short, sin's whole seven-coloured arch.
"Yes, in there, as I thought it, as I knew it," said the clergyman, "are housed those condemned to eternal fire."
And they stood before the splendidly-illumined portico, where the broad stairs were covered with carpets and flowers, and the music of the dance sounded through the festal saloons. The porter stood there in silk and velvet, with a large silver-headed stick.
"Our ball can match with the King's," said he, and turned towards the crowd in the street—his magnificent thoughts were visible in his whole person. "Poor devils! who stare in at the portico, you are altogether ragamuffins, compared to me!"
"Arrogance," said the dead; "dost thou see him?"
"Him!" repeated the clergyman; "he is a simpleton—a fool only, and will not be condemned to eternal fire and torment."
"A fool only," sounded through the whole house of Arrogance.
And they flew into the four bare walls of Avarice, where skinny, meagre, shivering with cold, hungry and thirsty, the old man clung fast with all his thoughts to his gold. They saw how he, as in a fever, sprang from his wretched pallet, and took a loose stone out of the wall. There lay gold coins in a stocking-foot; he fumbled at his ragged tunic, in which gold coins were sewed fast, and his moist fingers trembled.
"He is ill: it is insanity; encircled by fear and evil dreams."
And they flew away in haste, and stood by the criminals' wooden couch, where they slept side by side in long rows. One of them started up from his sleep like a wild animal, and uttered a hideous scream: he struck his companion with his sharp elbow, and the latter turned sleepily round.
"Hold your tongue, you beast, and sleep! this is your way every night! Every night!" he repeated; "yes, you come every night, howling and choking me! I have done one thing or another in a passion; I was born with a passionate temper, and it has brought me in here a second time; but if I have done wrong, so have I also got my punishment. But one thing I have not confessed. When I last went out from here, and passed by my master's farm, one thing and another boiled up in me, and I directly stroked a lucifer against the wall: it came a little too near the thatch, and everything was burnt—hot-headedness came over it, just as it comes over me, I helped to save the cattle and furniture. Nothing living was burnt, except a flock of pigeons: they flew into the flames, and the yard dog. I had not thought of the dog. I could hear it howl, and that howl I always hear yet, when I would sleep; and if I do get to sleep, the dog comes also—so large and hairy! He lies down on me, howls, and strangles me! Do but hear what I am telling you. Snore—yes, that you can—snore the whole night through, and I not even a quarter of an hour!"
And the blood shone from the eyes of the fiery one; he fell on his companion, and struck him in the face with his clenched fist.
"Angry Mads has become mad again!" resounded on all sides, and the other rascals seized hold of him, wrestled with him, and bent him double, so that his head was forced between his legs, where they bound it fast, so that the blood was nearly springing out of his eyes, and all the pores.
"You will kill him!" said the clergyman,—"poor unfortunate!" and as he stretched his hands out over him, who had already suffered too severely, in order to prevent further mischief, the scene changed.
They flew through rich halls, and through poor chambers; voluptuousness and envy, all mortal sins strode past them. A recording angel read their sin and their defence; this was assuredly little for God, for God reads the heart; He knows perfectly the evil that comes within it and from without, He, grace, all-loving kindness. The hand of the clergyman trembled: he did not venture to stretch it out, to pluck a hair from the sinner's head. And the tears streamed down from his eyes, like the waters of grace and love, which quenched the eternal fire of hell.
The cock then crowed.
"Merciful God! Thou wilt grant her that peace in the grave which I have not been able to redeem."
"That I now have!" said the dead; "it was thy hard words, thy dark, human belief of God and his creatures, which drove me to thee! Learn to know mankind; even in the bad there is a part of God—a part that will conquer and quench the fire of hell."
And a kiss was pressed on the clergyman's lips:—it shone around him. God's clear, bright sun shone into the chamber, where his wife, living, mild, and affectionate, awoke him from a dream, sent from God!
* * * * *
It is commonly said, that Memory is a young girl with light blue eyes. Most poets say so; but we cannot always agree with most poets. To us memory comes in quite different forms, all according to that land, or that town to which she belongs. Italy sends her as a charming Mignon, with black eyes and a melancholy smile, singing Bellini's soft, touching songs. From Scotland Memory's sprite appears as a powerful lad with bare knees; the plaid hangs over his shoulder, the thistle-flower is fixed on his cap; Burns's songs then fill the air like the heath-lark's song, and Scotland's wild thistle flowers beautifully fragrant as the fresh rose. But now for Memory's sprite from Sweden, from Upsala. He comes thence in the form of a student—at least, he wears the Upsala student's white cap with the black rim. To us it points out its home, as the Phrygian cap denotes Ganymede.
It was in the year 1843, that the Danish students travelled to Upsala. Young hearts met together; eyes sparkled: they laughed, they sang. Young hearts are the future—the conquering future—in the beautiful, true and good; it is so good that brothers should know and love each other. Friendship's meeting is still annually remembered in the palace-yard of Upsala, before the monument of Gustavus Vasa—by the hurra! for Denmark, in warm-hearted compliment to me.
Two summers afterwards, the visit was returned. The Swedish students came to Copenhagen, and that they might there be known amongst the multitude, the Upsala students wore a white cap with a black rim: this cap is accordingly a memorial,—the sign of friendship's bridge over that river of blood which once flowed between kindred nations. When one meets in heart and spirit, a blissful seed is then sown. Memory's sprite, come to us! we know thee by the cap from Upsala: be thou our guide, and from our more southern home, after years and days, we will make the voyage over again, quicker than if we flew in Doctor Faustus' magic cloak. We are in Stockholm: we stand on the Ridderholm where the steamers lie alongside the bulwarks: one of them sends forth clouds of thick smoke from its chimney; the deck is crowded with passengers, and the white cap with the black rim is not wanting.
We are off to Upsala; the paddles strike the waters of the Maelar, and we shoot away from the picturesque city of Stockholm. The whole voyage, direct to Upsala, is a kaleidescope on a large scale. It is true, there is nothing of the magical in the scenery, but landscape gives place to landscape, and clouds and sunshine refresh their variegated beauty. The Maelar lake curves, is compressed, and widens again: it is as if one passed from lake to lake through narrow canals and broad rivers. Sometimes it appears as if the lake ended in small rivulets between dark pines and rocks, when suddenly another large lake, surrounded by corn fields and meadows, opens itself to view: the light-green linden trees, which have just unfolded their leaves, shine forth before the dark grey rocks. Again a new lake opens before us, with islets, trees and red painted houses, and during the whole voyage there is a lively arrival and departure of passengers, in flat bottomed boats, which are nearly upset in the billowy wake of the vessel.
It appears most dangerous opposite to Sigtuna, Sweden's old royal city: the lake is broad here; the waves rise as if they were the waters of the ocean; the boats rock—it is fearful to look at! But here there must be a calm; and Sigtuna, that little interesting town where the old towers stand in ruins, like outposts along the rocks, reflects itself in the water.
We fly past! and now we are in Tyris rivulet! Part of a meadow is flooded; a herd of horses become shy from the snorting of the steamer's engine; they dash through the water in the meadow, and it spurts up all over them. It glitters there between the trees on the declivity: the Upsala students lie encamped there, and exercise themselves in the use of arms.
The rivulet forms a bay, and the high plain extends itself. We see old Upsala's hills; we see Upsala's city with its church, which, like Notre Dame, raises its stony arms towards heaven. The university rises to the view, in appearance half palace and half barracks, and there aloft, on the greensward-clothed bank, stands the old red-painted huge palace with its towers.
We stop at the bulwark near the arched bridge, and so go on shore. Whither wilt thou conduct us first, thou our guide with the white-and-black student's cap? Shall we go up to the palace, or to Linnaeus's garden! or shall we go to the church-yard where the nettles grow over Geier's and Toernro's graves? No, but to the young and the living Upsala's life—the students. Thou tellest us about them; we hear the heart's pulsations, and our hearts beat in sympathy!
In the first year of the war between Denmark and the insurgents, many a brave Upsala student left his quiet, comfortable home, and entered the ranks with his Danish brothers. The Upsala students gave up their most joyous festival—the May-day festival—and the money they at other times used to contribute annually towards the celebration thereof, they sent to the Danes, after the sum had been increased by concerts which were given in Stockholm and Vesteraas. That circumstance will not be forgotten in Denmark.
Upsala student, thou art dear to us by thy disposition! thou art dear to us from thy lively jests! We will mention a trait thereof. In Upsala, it had become the fashion to be Hegelianers—that is to say, always to interweave Hegel's philosophical terms in conversation. In order to put down this practice, a few clever fellows took upon themselves the task of hammering some of the most difficult technical words into the memory of a humorous and commonly drunken country innkeeper, at whose house many a Sexa was often held; and the man spoke Hegelianic in his mellow hours, and the effect was so absurd, that the employment of philosophical scraps in his speech was ridiculed, understood, and the nuisance abandoned.
Beautiful songs resound as we approach: we hear Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. The melody's varied beacon makes known to us where Upsala's students are assembled. The song proceeds from the assembly-room—from the tavern saloon, and like serenades in the silent evening, when a young friend departs, or a dear guest is honoured. Glorious melodies! ye enthral, so that we forget that the sun goes down, and the moon rises.
"Herre min Gud hvad din Manen lyser Se, hvilken Glands ut ofver Land och Stad!"
is now sung, and we see:
"Hoegt opp i Slottet hvarenda ruta Blixtrar some vore den en aedelsten."[O]
[Footnote O: Lord, my God, how Thy moon shines! See what lustre over land and city! High up in the palace every pane glistens as if it were a gem.]
Up thither then is our way! lead us, memory's sprite, into the palace, the courteous governor of Upland's dwelling; mild glances greet us; we see dear beings in a happy circle, and all the leading characters of Upsala. We again see him whose cunning quickened our perceptions as to the mysteries of vegetable life, so that even the toad-stool is unveiled to us as a building more artfully constructed than the labyrinths of the olden time. We see "The Flowers'" singer, he who led us to "The Island of Bliss;" we meet with him whose popular lays are borne on melodies into the world; his wife by his side. That quiet, gentle woman with those faithful eyes is the daughter of Frithiof's bard; we see noble men and women, ladies of the high nobility, with sounding and significant family names with silver and lilies,—stars and swords.
Hark! listen to that lively song. Gunnar Wennerberg, Gluntarra's poet and composer, sings his songs with Boronees,[P] and they acquire a dramatic life and reality.
[Footnote P: Gluntarra duets, by Gunnar Wennerberg.]
How spiritual and enjoyable! one becomes happy here, one feels proud of the age one lives in, happy in being distant from the horrible tragedies that history speaks of within these walls.
We can hear about them when the song is silent, when those friendly forms disappear, and the festal lights are extinguished: from the pages of history that tale resounds with a clang of horror. It was in those times, which the many still call poetic—the romantic middle ages—that bards sang of its most brilliant periods, and covered with the radiance of their genius the sanguinary gulf of brutality and superstition. Terror seizes us in Upsala's palace: we stand in the vaulted hall, the wax tapers burn from the walls, and King Erik the Fourteenth sits with Saul's dark despondency, with Cain's wild looks. Niels Sture occupies his thoughts, the recollection of injustice exercised against him lashes his conscience with scourges and scorpions, as deadly terrible as they are revealed to us in the page of history.
King Erik the Fourteenth, whose gloomy distrust often amounted to insanity, thought that the nobility aimed at his life. His favourite, Goran Persson, found it to his advantage to strengthen him in this belief. He hated most the popularly favoured race of the Stures, and of them, the light-haired Niels Sture in particular; for Erik thought that he had read in the stars that a man with light hair should hurl him from the throne; and as the Swedish General after the lost battle of Svarteaa, laid the blame on Niels Sture, Erik directly believed it, yet dared not to act as he desired, but even gave Niels Sture royal presents. Yet because he was again accused by one single person of having checked the advance of the Swedish army at Baehues, Erik invited him to his palace at Svartsjoe, gave him an honourable place at his royal table, and let him depart in apparent good faith for Stockholm, where, on his arrival, the heralds were ordered to proclaim in the streets: "Niels Sture is a traitor to his country!"
There Goran Persson and the German retainers seized him, and sat him by force on the executioner's most miserable hack; struck him in the face so that the blood streamed down, placed a tarred straw crown on his head, and fastened a paper with derisive words, on the saddle before him. They then let a row of hired beggar-boys and old fish-wives go in couples before, and to the tail of the horse they bound two fir-trees, the roots of which dragged on the ground and swept the street after the traitor. Niels Sture exclaimed that he had not deserved this treatment from his King and he begged the groom, who went by his side, and had served him in the field of battle, to attest the truth like an honest man; when they all shouted aloud, that he suffered innocently, and had acted like a true Swede. But the procession was driven forward through the streets without stopping, and at night Niels Sture was conducted to prison.
King Erik sits in his royal palace: he orders the torches and candles to be lighted, but they are of no avail—his thoughts' scorpions sting his soul.
"I have again liberated Niels Sture," he mutters; "I have had placards put up at every street-corner, and let the heralds proclaim that no one shall dare to speak otherwise than well of Niels Sture! I have sent him on an honourable mission to a foreign court, in order to sue for me in marriage! He has had reparation enough made to him; but never will he, nor his mighty race, forget the derision and shame I have made him suffer. They will all betray me—kill me!"
And King Erik commands that all Sture's kindred shall be made prisoners.
King Erik sits in his royal palace: the sun shines, but not into the King's heart. Niels Sture enters the chamber with an answer of consent from the royal bride, and the King shakes him by the hand, making fair promises—and the following evening Niels Sture is a prisoner in Upsala Palace.
King Erik's gloomy mind is disturbed; he has no rest; he has no peace, between fear and distrust. He hurries away to Upsala Palace; he will make all straight and just again by marrying Niels Sture's sister. Kneeling, he begs her imprisoned father's consent, and obtains it; but in the very moment, the spirit of distrust is again upon him, and he cries in his insanity:
"But you will not forgive me the shame I brought on Niels!"
At the same time, Goran Persson announced that King Erik's brother, John, had escaped from his prison, and that a revolt was breaking out. And Erik ran, with a sharp dagger into Niels Sture's prison.
"Art thou there, traitor to thy country!" he shouted, and thrust the dagger into Shire's arm; and Sture drew it out again, wiped off the blood, kissed the hilt, and returned the weapon to the King, saying:
"Be lenient with me, Sire; I have not deserved your disfavour."
Erik laughed aloud.
"Ho! ho! do but hear the villain! how he can pray for himself!"
And the King's halberdier stuck his lance through Niels Sture's eye, and thus gave him his death. Sture's blood cleaves to Upsala Palace—to King Erik always and everlastingly. No church masses can absolve his soul from that base crime.
Let us now go to the church.
A little flight of stairs in the side aisle leads us up to a vaulted chamber, where kings' crowns and sceptres, taken from the coffins of the dead, are deposited in wooden closets. Here, in the corner, hangs Niels Sture's blood-covered clothes and knight's hat, on the outside of which a small silk glove is fastened. It was his betrothed one's dainty glove—that which he, knight-like, always bore.
O, barbarous era! highly vaunted as you are in song, retreat, like the storm-cloud, and be poetically beautiful to all who do not see thee in thy true light.
We descend from the little chamber, from the gold and silver of the dead, and wander in the church's aisles. The cold marble tombs, with shields of arms and names, awaken other, milder thoughts.
The walls shine brightly, and with varied hues, in the great chapel behind the high altar. The fresco paintings present to us the most eventful circumstances of Gustavus Vasa's life. Here his clay moulders, with that of his three consorts. Yonder, a work in marble, by Sargel, solicits our attention: it adorns the burial-chapel of the De Geers; and here, in the centre aisle, under that flat stone, rests Linnaeus. In the side chapel, is his monument, erected by amici and discipuli: a sufficient sum was quickly raised for its erection, and the King, Gustavus the Third, himself brought his royal gift. The projector of the subscription then explained to him, that the purposed inscription was, that the monument was erected only by friends and disciples, and King Gustavus answered: "And am not I also one of Linnaeus's disciples?"
The monument was raised, and a hall built in the botanical garden, under splendid trees. There stands his bust; but the remembrance of himself, his home, his own little garden—where is it most vivid? Lead us thither.
On yonder side of Fyri's rivulet, where the street forms a declivity, where red-painted, wooden houses boast their living grass roofs, as fresh as if they were planted terraces, lies Linnaeus's garden. We stand within it. How solitary! how overgrown! Tall nettles shoot up between the old, untrimmed, rank hedges. No water-plants appear more in that little, dried-up basin; the hedges that were formerly clipped, put forth fresh leaves without being checked by the gardener's shears.
It was between these hedges that Linnaeus at times saw his own double—that optical illusion which presents the express image of a second self—from the hat to the boots.
Where a great man has lived and worked, the place itself becomes, as it were, a part and parcel of him: the whole, as well as a part, has mirrored itself in his eye; it has entered into his soul, and become linked with it and the whole world.
We enter the orangeries: they are now transformed into assembly-rooms; the blooming winter-garden has disappeared; but the walls yet show a sort of herbarium. They are hung round with the portraits of learned Swedes—herbarium from the garden of science and knowledge. Unknown faces—and, to the stranger, the greatest part are unknown names—meet us here.
One portrait amongst the many attracts our attention: it looks singular; it is the half-length figure of an old man in a shirt, lying in his bed. It is that of the learned theologian, Oedmann, who after he had been compelled to keep his bed by a fever, found himself so comfortable in it, that he continued to lie there during the remainder of his long life, and was not to be induced to get up. Even when the next house was burning, they were obliged to carry him out in his bed into the street. Death and cold were his two bugbears. The cold would kill him, was his opinion; and so, when the students came with their essays and treatises, the manuscripts were warmed at the stove before he read them. The windows of his room were never opened, so that there was a suffocating and impure air in his dwelling. He had a writing-desk on the bed; books and manuscripts lay in confusion round about; dishes, plates, and pots stood here or there, as the convenience of the moment dictated, and his only companion was a deaf and dumb laughter.
She sat still in a corner by the window, wrapped up in herself, and staring before her, as if she were a figure that had flown out of the frame around the dark, mouldy canvas, which had once shown a picture on the wall.
Here, in the room, in this impure atmosphere, the old man lived happily, and reached his seventieth year, occupied with the translation of travels in Africa. This tainted atmosphere, in which he lay, became, to his conceit, the dromedary's high back, which lifted him aloft in the burning sun; the long, hanging-down cobwebs were the palm-trees' waving banners, and the caravan went over rivers to the wild bushmen. Old Oedmann was with the hunters, chasing the elephants in the midst of the thick reeds; the agile tiger-cat sprang past, and the serpents shone like garlands around the boughs of the trees: there was excitement, there was danger—and yet he lay so comfortably in his good and beloved bed in Upsala.
One winter's day, it happened that a Dalecarlian peasant mistook the house, and came into Oedmann's chamber in his snow-covered skin cloak, and with his beard full of ice. Oedmann shouted to him to go his way, but the peasant was deaf, and therefore stepped quite close up to the bed. He was the personification of Winter himself, and Oedmann fell ill from this visit: it was his only sickness during the many years he lay here as a polypus, grown fast, and where he was painted, as we see his portrait in the assembly-room.
From the hall of learning we will go to its burial-place—that is to say, its open burial-place—the great library. We wander from hall to hall, up stairs and down stairs. Along the shelves, behind them and round about, stand books, those petrifactions of the mind, which might again be vivified by spirit. Here lives a kind-hearted and mild old man, the librarian, Professor Schroeder. He smiles and nods as he hears how memory's sprite takes his place here as guide, and tells of and shows, as we see, Tegner's copy and translation of Ochlenschloeger's "Hakon Jarl and Palnatoke." We see Vadstene cloister's library, in thick hog's leather bindings, and think of the fair hands of the nuns that have borne them, the pious, mild eyes that conjured the spirit out of the dead letters. Here is the celebrated Codex Argentius, the translation of the "Four Evangelists."[Q] Gold and silver letters glisten from the red parchment leaves. We see ancient Icelandic manuscripts, from de la Gardie's refined French saloon, and Thauberg's Japanese manuscripts. By merely looking at these books, their bindings and names, one at last becomes, as it were, quite worm-eaten in spirit, and longs to be out in the free air—and we are there; by Upsala's ancient hills. Thither do thou lead us, remembrance's elf, out of the city, out on the far extended plain, where Denmark's church stands—the church that was erected from the booty which the Swedes gained in the war against the Danes. We follow the broad high road: it leads us close past Upsala's old hills—Odin's, Thor's and Freia's graves, as they are called.
[Footnote Q: A Gothic translation of the Four Evangelists, and ascribed to the Moesogothic Archbishop Ulphilas.]
There once stood ancient Upsala, here now are but a few peasants' farms. The low church, built of granite blocks, dates from a very remote age; it stands on the remains of the heathen temple. Each of the hills is a little mountain, yet each was raised by human hands. Letters an ell long, and whole names, are cut deep in the thin greensward, which the new sprouting grass gradually fills up. The old housewife, from the peasant's cot close by the hill, brings the silver-bound horn, a gift of Charles John XIV., filled with mead. The wanderer empties the horn to the memory of the olden time, for Sweden, and for the heart's constant thoughts—young love!
Yes, thy toast is drunk here, and many a beauteous rose has been remembered here with a heartfelt hurra! and years after, when the same wanderer again stood here, she, the blooming rose, had been laid in the earth; the spring roses had strown their leaves over her coffined clay; the sweet music of her lips sounded but in memory; the smile in her eyes and around her mouth, was gone like the sunbeams, which then shone on Upsala's hills. Her name in the greensward is grown over; she herself is in the earth, and it is closed above her; but the hill here, closed for a thousand years, is open.
Through the passage which is dug deep into the hills, we come to the funereal urns which contain the bones of youthful kindred; the dust of kings, the gods of the earth.
The old housewife, from the peasant's cot, has lighted half a hundred wax candles and placed them in rows in the otherwise pitchy-dark, stone-paved passage. It shines so festally in here over the bones of the olden time's mighty ones, bones that are now charred and burnt to ashes. And whose were they? Thou world's power and glory, thou world's posthumous fame—dust, dust like beauty's rose, laid in the dark earth, where no light shines; thy memorials are but a name, the name but a sound. Away hence, and up on the hill where the wind blows, the sun shines, and the eye looks over the green plain, to the sunlit, dear Upsala, the student's city.
* * * * *
Sweden's great King, Germany's preserver, Gustavus Adolphus, founded Sala. The little wood, close by, still preserves legends of the heroic King's youthful love—of his meeting here with Ebba Brahe.
Sala's silver mines are the largest, the deepest, and oldest in Sweden: they reach to the depth of one hundred and seventy fathoms, consequently they are almost as deep as the Baltic. This of itself is enough to awaken an interest for a little town; but what is its appearance? "Sala," says the guide-book, "lies in a valley, in a flat, and not very pleasant district." And so truly it is: it was not very attractive approaching it our way, and the high road led directly into the town, which is without any distinctive character. It consists of a long street with what we may term a nucleus and a few fibres. The nucleus is the market-place, and the fibres are the few lanes diverging from it. The long street—that is to say, long in a little town—is quite without passengers; no one comes out from the doors, no one is to be seen at the windows.
It was therefore with pleased surprise that I at length descried a human being: it was at an ironmonger's, where there hung a paper of pins, a handkerchief and two tea-pots in the window. There I saw a solitary shop-boy, standing quite still, but leaning over the counter and looking out of the open door. He certainly wrote in his journal, if he had one, in the evening: "To-day a traveller drove through the town; who he was, God knows, for I don't!"—yes, that was what the shop-boy's face said, and an honest face it was.
In the inn at which I arrived, there was the same grave-like stillness as in the street. The gate was certainly closed, but all the inner doors were wide open; the farm-yard cock stood uplifted in the middle of the traveller's room and crowed, in order to show that there was somebody at home. The house, however, was quite picturesque: it had an open balcony, from which one might look out upon the yard, for it would have been far too lively had it been facing the street. There hung the old sign and creaked in the wind, as if to show that it at least was alive. I saw it from my window; I saw also how the grass in the street had got the mastery over the pavement. The sun shone brightly, but shone as into the bachelor's solitary room, and on the old maid's balsams in the flower-pots. It was as still as a Scotch Sunday—and yet it was a Tuesday. One was disposed for Young's "Night Thoughts."
I looked out from the balcony into the neighbouring yard: there was not a soul to be seen, but children had been playing there. There was a little garden made of dry sticks: they were stuck down in the soft soil and had been watered; a broken pan, which had certainly served by way of watering-pot, lay there still. The sticks signified roses and geraniums.
It had been a delightful garden—alas, yes! We great, grown-up men—we play just so: we make ourselves a garden with what we call love's roses and friendship's geraniums; we water them with our tears and with our heart's blood; and yet they are, and remain, dry sticks without root. It was a gloomy thought; I felt it, and in order to get the dry sticks in my thoughts to blossom, I went out. I wandered in the fibres and in the long threads—that is to say, in the small lanes—and in the great street; and here was more life than I dared to expect. I met a herd of cattle returning or going—which I know not—for they were without a herdsman. The shop-boy still stood behind the counter, leaned over it and greeted me; the stranger took his hat off again—that was my day's employment in Sala.
Pardon me, thou silent town, which Gustavus Adolphus built, where his young heart felt the first emotions of love, and where the silver lies in the deep shafts—that is to say, outside the town, "in a flat, and not very pleasant district."
I knew no one in the town; I had no one to be my guide, so I accompanied the cows, and came to the churchyard. The cows went past, but I stepped over the stile, and stood amongst the graves, where the grass grew high, and almost all the tombstones lay with worn-out inscriptions. On a few only the date of the year was legible. "Anno"—yes, what then? And who rested here? Everything on the stone was erased—blotted out like the earthly life of those mortals that here were earth in earth. What life's dream have ye dead played here in silent Sala?
The setting sun shone over the graves; not a leaf moved on the trees; all was still—still as death—in the city of the silver-mines, of which this traveller's reminiscence is but a frame around the shop-boy who leaned over the counter.
THE MUTE BOOK.
* * * * *
By the high road into the forest there stood a solitary farm-house. Our way lay right through the farm-yard; the sun shone; all the windows were open; there was life and bustle within, but in the yard, in an arbour of flowering lilacs, there stood an open coffin. The corpse had been placed out here, and it was to be buried that forenoon. No one stood by and wept over that dead man; no one hung sorrowfully over him; his face was covered with a white cloth, and under his head there lay a large, thick book, every leaf of which was a whole sheet of grey paper, and between each lay withered flowers, deposited and forgotten—a whole herbarium, gathered in different places. He himself had requested that it should be laid in the grave with him. A chapter of his life was blended with every flower.
"Who is that dead man?" we asked, and the answer was: "The old student from Upsala. They say he was once very clever; he knew the learned languages, could sing and write verses too; but then there was something that went wrong, and so he gave both his thoughts and himself up to drinking spirits, and as his health suffered by it, he came out here into the country, where they paid for his board and lodging.
"He was as gentle as a child, when the dark humour did not come over him, for then he was strong, and ran about in the forest like a hunted deer; but when we got him home, we persuaded him to look into the book with the dry plants. Then he would sit the whole day and look at one plant, and then at another, and many a time the tears ran down his cheeks. God knows what he then thought! But he begged that he might have the book with him in his coffin; and now it lies there, and the lid will soon be fastened down, and then he will take his peaceful rest in the grave!"
They raised the winding-sheet. There was peace in the face of the dead: a sunbeam fell on it; a swallow in its arrowy flight, darted into the new-made arbour, and in its flight circled twittering over the dead man's head.
How strange it is!—we all assuredly know it—to take out old letters from the days of our youth and read them: a whole life, as it were, then rises up with all its hopes, and all its troubles. How many of those with whom we, in their time, lived so devotedly, are now even as the dead to us, and yet they still live! But we have not thought of them for many years—them whom we once thought we should always cling to, and share our mutual joys and sorrows with.
The withered oak-leaf in the book here, is a memorial of the friend—the friend of his school-days—the friend for life. He fixed this leaf on the student's cap in the green wood, when the vow of friendship was concluded for the whole of life. Where does he now live? The leaf is preserved; friendship forgotten. Here is a foreign conservatory-plant, too fine for the gardens of the North—it looks as if there still were fragrance in these leaves!—she gave it to him—she, the young lady of that noble garden.
Here is the marsh-lotus which he himself has plucked and watered with salt tears—the marsh-lotus from the fresh waters. And here is a nettle: what does its leaf say? What did he think on plucking it—on preserving it? Here are lilies of the valley from the woodland solitudes; here are honeysuckle leaves from the village ale-house flower-pot; and here the bare, sharp blade of grass.
The flowering lilac bends its fresh, fragrant clusters over the dead man's head; the swallow again flies past; "quivit! quivit!" Now the men come with nails and hammer; the lid is placed over the corpse, whose head rests on the Mute-Book—preserved—forgotten!
THE ZAeTHER DALE.
* * * * *
Everything was in order, the carriage examined, even a whip with a good lash was not forgotten. "Two whips would be best," said the ironmonger, who sold it, and the ironmonger was a man of experience, which travellers often are not. A whole bag full of "slanter"—that is, copper coins of small value—stood before us for bridge-money, for beggars, for shepherd's boys, or whoever might open the many field-gates for us that obstructed our progress. But we had to do this ourselves, for the rain pattered down and lashed the ground; no one had any desire to come out in such weather. The rushes in the marsh bent and waved; it was a real rain feast for them, and it whistled from the tops of the rushes: "We drink with our feet, we drink with our heads, we drink with the whole body, and yet we stand on one leg, hurra! We drink with the bending willow, with the dripping flowers on the bank; their cups run over—the marsh marigold, that fine lady, can bear it better! Hurra! it is a feast! it pours, it pours; we whistle and we sing; it is our own song. Tomorrow the frogs will croak the same after us and say, 'it is quite new!'"
And the rushes waved, and the rain pattered down with a splashing noise—it was fine weather to travel in to Zaether Dale, and to see its far-famed beauties. The whip-lash now came off the whip; it was fastened on again, and again, and every time it was shorter, so that at last there was not a lash, nor was there any handle, for the handle went after the lash—or sailed after it—as the road was quite navigable, and gave one a vivid idea of the beginning of the deluge.
One poor jade now drew too much, the other drew too little, and one of the splinter bars broke; well, by all that is vexatious, that was a fine drive! The leather apron in front had a deep pond in its folds with an outlet into one's lap. Now one of the linch-pins came out; now the twisting of the rope harness became loose, and the cross-strap was tired of holding any longer. Glorious inn in Zaether, how I now long more for thee than thy far-famed dale. And the horses went slower, and the rain fell faster, and so—yes, so we were not yet in Zaether.
Patience, thou lank spider, that in the ante-chamber quietly dost spin thy web over the expectant's foot, spin my eyelids close in a sleep as still as the horse's pace! Patience? no, she was not with us in the carriage to Zaether. But to the inn, by the road side, close to the far-famed valley, I got at length, towards evening.
And everything was flowing in the yard, chaotically mingled; manure and farming implements, staves and straw. The poultry sat there washed to shadows, or at least like stuck-up hens' skins with feathers on, and even the ducks crept close up to the wet wall, sated with the wet. The stable-man was cross, the girl still more so; it was difficult to get them to bestir themselves: the steps were crooked, the floor sloping and but just washed, sand strewn thickly on it, and the air was damp and cold. But without, scarcely twenty paces from the inn, on the other side of the road, lay the celebrated valley, a garden made by nature herself, and whose charm consists of trees and bushes, wells and purling brooks.
It was a long hollow; I saw the tops of the trees looming up, and the rain drew its thick veil over it. The whole of that long evening did I sit and look upon it during that shower of showers. It was as if the Venern, the Vettern and a few more lakes ran through an immense sieve from the clouds. I had ordered something to eat and drink, but I got nothing. They ran up and they ran down; there was a hissing sound of roasting by the hearth; the girls chattered, the men drank "sup,"[R] strangers came, were shown into their rooms, and got both roast and boiled. Several hours had passed, when I made a forcible appeal to the girl, and she answered phlegmatically: "Why, Sir, you sit there and write without stopping, so you cannot have time to eat."
[Footnote R: Swedish, sup. Danish, snaps. German, schnaps. English, drams.]
It was a long evening, "but the evening passed!" It had become quite still in the inn; all the travellers, except myself, had again departed, certainly in order to find better quarters for the night at Hedemore or Brunbeck. I had seen, through the half-open door into the dirty tap-room, a couple of fellows playing with greasy cards; a huge dog lay under the table and glared with its large red eyes; the kitchen was deserted; the rooms too; the floor was wet, the storm rattled, the rain beat against the windows—"and now to bed! said I."
I slept an hour, perhaps two, and was awakened by a loud bawling from the high road. I started up: it was twilight, the night at that period is not darker—it was about one o'clock. I heard the door shaken roughly; a deep manly voice shouted aloud, and there was a hammering with a cudgel against the planks of the yard-gate. Was it an intoxicated or a mad man that was to be let in? The gate was now opened, but many words were not exchanged. I heard a woman scream at the top of her voice from terror. There was now a great bustling about; they ran across the yard in wooden shoes; the bellowing of cattle and the rough voices of men were mingled together. I sat on the edge of the bed. Out or in! what was to be done? I looked from the window; in the road there was nothing to be seen, and it still rained. All at once some one came up stairs with heavy footsteps: he opened the door of the room adjoining mine—now he stood still! I listened—a large iron bolt fastened my door. The stranger now walked across the floor, now he shook my door, and then kicked against it with a heavy foot, and whilst all this was passing, the rain beat against the windows, and the blast made them rattle.
"Are there any travellers here?" shouted a voice; "the house is on fire!"
I now dressed myself and hastened out of the room and down the stairs. There was no smoke to be seen, but when I reached the yard, I saw that the whole building—a long and extensive one of wood—was enveloped in flames and clouds of smoke. The fire had originated in the baking oven, which no one had looked to; a traveller, who accidently came past, saw it, called out and hammered at the door: and the women screamed, and the cattle bellowed, when the fire stuck its red tongue into them.
Now came the fire-engine and the flames were extinguished. By this time it was morning. I stood in the road, scarcely a hundred steps from the far-famed dale. "One may as well spring into it as walk into it!" and I sprang into it; and the rain poured down, and the water flowed—the whole dale was a well.
The trees turned their leaves the wrong side out, purely because of the pouring rain, and they said, as the rushes did the day before: "We drink with our heads, we drink with our feet, and we drink with the whole body, and yet stand on our legs, hurra! it rains, and it pours; we whistle and we sing; it is our own song—and it is quite new!"
Yes, that the rushes also sang yesterday—but it was the same, ever the same. I looked and looked, and all I know of the beauty of Zaether Dale is, that she had washed herself!
THE MIDSUMMER FESTIVAL IN LACKSAND.
* * * * *
Lacksand lay on the other side of the dal-elv which the road now led us over for the third or fourth time. The picturesque bell-tower of red painted beams, erected at a distance from the church, rose above the tall trees on the clayey declivity: old willows hung gracefully over the rapid stream. The floating bridge rocked under us—nay, it even sank a little, so that the water splashed under the horse's hoofs; but these bridges have such qualities! The iron chains that held it rattled, the planks creaked, the boards splashed, the water rose, and murmured and roared, and so we got over where the road slants upwards towards the town. Close opposite here the last year's May-pole still stood with withered flowers. How many hands that bound these flowers are now withered in the grave?
It is far prettier to go up on the sloping bank along the elv, than to follow the straight high-road into the town. The path conducts us, between pasture fields and leaf trees, up to the parsonage, where we passed the evening with the friendly family. The clergyman himself was but lately dead, and his relatives were all in mourning. There was something about the young daughter—I knew not myself what it was—but I was led to think of the delicate flax flower, too delicate for the short northern summer.
They spoke about the Midsummer festival the next day, and of the winter season here, when the swans, often more than thirty at a time, sit (motionless themselves) on the elv, and utter strange, mournful tones. They always come in pairs, they said, two and two, and thus they also fly away again. If one of them dies, its partner always remains a long time after all the others are gone; lingers, laments, and then flies away alone and solitary.
When I left the parsonage in the evening, the moon, in its first quarter, was up. The May-pole was raised; the little steamer, 'Prince Augustus,' with several small vessels in tow, came over the Siljan lake and into the elv; a musician sprang on shore, and began to play dances under the tall wreathed May-pole. And there was soon a merry circle around it—all so happy, as if the whole of life were but a delightful summer night.
Next morning was the Midsummer Festival. It was Sunday, the 24th of June, and a beautiful sunshiny day it was. The most picturesque sight at the festival is to see the people from the different parishes coming in crowds, in large boats over Siljan's lake, and landing on its shores. We drove out to the landing-place, Barkedale, and before we got out of the town, we met whole troops coming from there, as well as from the mountains.
Close by the town of Lacksand, there is a row of low wooden shops on both sides of the way, which only get their interior light through the doorway. They form a whole street, and serve as stables for the parishioners, but also—and it was particularly the case that morning—to go into and arrange their finery. Almost all the shops or sheds were filled with peasant women, who were anxiously busy about their dresses, careful to get them into the right folds, and in the mean time peeped continually out of the door to see who came past. The number of arriving church-goers increased; men, women, and children, old and young, even infants; for at the Midsummer festival no one stays at home to take care of them, and so of course they must come too—all must go to church.
What a dazzling army of colours! Fiery red and grass green aprons meet our gaze. The dress of the women is a black skirt, red bodice, and white sleeves: all of them had a psalm-book wrapped in the folded silk pocket-handkerchief. The little girls were entirely in yellow, and with red aprons; the very least were in Turkish-yellow clothes. The men were dressed in black coats, like our paletots, embroidered with red woollen cord; a red band with a tassel hung down from the large black hat; with dark knee breeches, and blue stockings, with red leather gaiters—in short, there was a dazzling richness of colour, and that, too, on a bright sunny morning in the forest road.
This road led down a steep to the lake, which was smooth and blue. Twelve or fourteen long boats, in form like gondolas, were already drawn up on the flat strand, which here is covered with large stones. These stones served the persons who landed, as bridges; the boats were laid alongside them, and the people clambered up, and went and bore each other on land. There certainly were at least a thousand persons on the strand; and far out on the lake, one could see ten or twelve boats more coming, some with sixteen oars, others with twenty, nay, even with four-and-twenty, rowed by men and women, and every boat decked out with green branches. These, and the varied clothes, gave to the whole an appearance of something so festal, so fantastically rich, as one would hardly think the north possessed. The boats came nearer, all crammed full of living freight; but they came silently, without noise or talking, and rowed up to the declivity of the forest.
The boats were drawn up on the sand: it was a fine subject for a painter, particularly one point—the way up the slope, where the whole mass moved on between the trees and bushes. The most prominent figures there, were two ragged urchins, clothed entirely in bright yellow, each with a skin bundle on his shoulders. They were from Gagne, the poorest parish in Dalecarlia. There was also a lame man with his blind wife: I thought of the fable of my childhood, of the lame and the blind man: the lame man lent his eyes, and the blind his legs, and so they reached the town.
And we also reached the town and the church, and thither they all thronged: they said there were above five thousand persons assembled there. The church-service began at five o'clock. The pulpit and organ were ornamented with flowering lilacs; children sat with lilac-flowers and branches of birch; the little ones had each a piece of oat-cake, which they enjoyed. There was the sacrament for the young persons who had been confirmed; there was organ-playing and psalm-singing; but there was a terrible screaming of children, and the sound of heavy footsteps; the clumsy, iron-shod Dal shoes tramped loudly upon the stone floor. All the church pews, the gallery pews, and the centre aisle were quite filled with people. In the side aisle one saw various groups—playing children, and pious old folks: by the sacristy there sat a young mother giving suck to her child—she was a living image of the Madonna herself.
The first impression of the whole was striking, but only the first—there was too much that disturbed. The screaming of children, and the noise of persons walking were heard above the singing, and besides that, there was an insupportable smell of garlic: almost all the congregation had small bunches of garlic with them, of which they ate as they sat. I could not bear it, and went out into the churchyard: here—as it always is in nature—it was affecting, it was holy. The church door stood open; the tones of the organ, and the voices of the psalm-singers were wafted out here in the bright sunlight, by the open lake: the many who could not find a place in the church, stood outside, and sang with the congregation from the psalm-book: round about on the monuments, which are almost all of cast-iron, there sat mothers suckling their infants—the fountain of life flowed over death and the grave. A young peasant stood and read the inscription on a grave:
"Ach hur soedt al hafve lefvet, Ach hur skjoeut al kunne doee!"[S]
[Footnote S: "How sweet to live—how beautiful to die!"]
Beautiful Christian, scriptural language, verses certainly taken from the psalm-book, were read on the graves; they were all read, for the service lasted several hours. This, however, can never be good for devotion.
The crowd at length streamed from the church; the fiery-red and grass-green aprons glittered; but the mass of human beings became thicker, and closer, and pressed forward. The white head-dresses, the white band over the forehead, and the white sleeves, were the prevailing colours—it looked like a long procession in Catholic countries. There was again life and motion on the road; the over-filled boats again rowed away; one waggon drove off after the other; but yet there were people left behind. Married and unmarried men stood in groups in the broad street of Lacksand, from the church up to the inn. I was staying there, and I must acknowledge that my Danish tongue sounded quite foreign to them all. I then tried the Swedish, and the girl at the inn assured me that she understood me better than she had understood the Frenchman, who the year before had spoken French to her.
As I sit in my room, my hostess's grand-daughter, a nice little child, comes in, and is pleased to see my parti-coloured carpet-bag, my Scotch plaid, and the red leather lining of the portmanteau. I directly cut out for her, from a sheet of white paper, a Turkish mosque, with minarets and open windows, and away she runs with it—so happy, so happy!
Shortly after, I heard much loud talking in the yard, and I had a presentiment that it was concerning what I had cut out; I therefore stepped softly out into the balcony, and saw the grandmother standing below, and with beaming face, holding my clipped-out paper at arm's length. A whole crowd of Dalecarlians, men and women, stood around, all in artistic ecstacy over my work; but the little girl—the sweet little child—screamed, and stretched out her hands after her lawful property, which she was not permitted to keep, as it was too fine.
I sneaked in again, yet, of course, highly flattered and cheered; but a moment after there was a knocking at my door: it was the grandmother, my hostess, who came with a whole plate full of spice-nuts.
"I bake the best in all Dalecarlia," said she; "but they are of the old fashion, from my grandmother's time. You cut out so well, Sir, should you not be able to cut me out some new fashions?"
And I sat the whole of Midsummer night, and clipped fashions for spice-nuts. Nutcrackers with knights' boots, windmills which were both mill and miller—but in slippers, and with the door in the stomach—and ballet-dancers that pointed with one leg towards the seven stars. Grandmother got them, but she turned the ballet-dancers up and down; the legs went too high for her; she thought that they had one leg and three arms.
"They will be new fashions," said she; "but they are difficult."
FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE.
* * * * *
Truth can never be at variance with truth, science can never militate against faith: we naturally speak of them both in their purity: they respond to and they strengthen man's most glorious thought: immortality. And yet you may say, "I was more peaceful, I was safer when, as a child, I closed my eyes on my mother's breast and slept without thought or care, wrapping myself up simply in faith." This prescience, this compound of understanding in everything, this entering of the one link into the other from eternity to eternity, tears away from me a support—my confidence in prayer; that which is, as it were, the wings wherewith to fly to my God! If it be loosened, then I fall powerless in the dust, without consolation or hope.
I bend my energies, it is true, towards attaining the great and glorious light of knowledge, but it appears to me that therein is human arrogance: it is, as one should say, "I will be as wise as God." "That you shall be!" said the serpent to our first parents when it would seduce them to eat of the tree of knowledge. Through my understanding I must acknowledge the truth of what the astronomer teaches and proves. I see the wonderful, eternal omniscience of God in the whole creation of the world—in the great and in the small, where the one attaches itself to the other, is joined with the other, in an endless harmonious entireness; and I tremble in my greatest need and sorrow. What can my prayer change, where everything is law, from eternity to eternity?
You tremble as you see the Almighty, who reveals Himself in all loving-kindness—that Creator, according to man's expression, whose understanding and heart are one—you tremble when you know that he has elected you to immortality.
I know it in the faith, in the holy, eternal words of the Bible. Knowledge lays itself like a stone over my grave, but my faith is that which breaks it.
Now, thus it is! The smallest flower preaches from its green stalk, in the name of knowledge—immortality. Hear it! the beautiful also bears proofs of immortality, and with the conviction of faith and knowledge, the immortal will not tremble in his greatest need; the wings of prayer will not droop: you will believe in the eternal laws of love, as you believe in the laws of sense.
When the child gathers flowers in the fields and brings us the whole handful, where one is erect and the other hangs the head, thrown as it were among one another, then it is that we see the beauty in every one by itself—that harmony in colour and in form, which pleases our eye so well. We arrange them instinctively, and every single beauty is blended together in one entire beauteous group. We do not look at the flower, but on the whole bouquet. The beauty of harmony is an instinct in us; it lies in our eyes and in our ears, those bridges between our soul and the creation around us—in all our senses there is such a divine, such an entire and perfect stream in our whole being, a striving after the harmonious, as it shows itself in all created things, even in the pulsations of the air, made visible in Chladni's figures.
In the Bible we find the expression: "God in spirit and in truth,"—and hence we most significantly find an expression for the admission of what we call a feeling of the beautiful; for what else is this revelation of God but spirit and truth? And just as our own soul shines out of the eye and the fine movement around the mouth, so does the created image shine forth from God in spirit and truth. There is harmonious beauty from the smallest leaf and flower to the large, swelling bouquet, from our earth itself to the numberless globes in the firmamental space—as far as the eye sees, as far as science ventures, all, small and great, is beauty and harmony.
But if we turn to mankind, for whom we have the highest, the holiest expression; "created in God's image," man, who is able to comprehend and admit in himself all God's creation, the harmony in the harmony then seems to be defective, for at our birth we are all equal! as creatures we have equally "no right to demand;" yet how differently God has granted us abilities! some few so immensely great, others so mean! At our birth God places us in our homes and positions; and to how many of us are allotted the hardest struggles! We are placed there, introduced there—how many may not say justly: "It were better for me that I had never been born!"
Human life, consequently—the highest here on the earth—does not come under the laws of harmonious beauty: it is inconceivable, it is an injustice, and thus cannot take place.
The defect of harmony in life lies in this:—that we only see a small part thereof, namely, existence here on the earth: there must be a life to come—an immortality.
That, the smallest flower preaches to us, as does all that is created in beauty and harmony.
If our existence ceased with death here, then the most perfect work of God was not perfect; God was not justice and love, as everything in nature and revelation affirms; and if we be referred to the whole of mankind, as that wherein harmony will reveal itself, then our whole actions and endeavours are but as the labours of the coral-insect: mankind becomes but a monument of greatness to the Creator: he would then only have raised His glory, not shown His greatest love. Loving-kindness is not self-love.
We are immortal! In this rich consciousness we are raised towards God, fundamentally sure, that whatever happens to us, is for our good. Our earthly eye is only able to reach to a certain boundary in space; our soul's eye also has but a limited scope; but beyond that, the same laws of loving-kindness must reign, as here. The prescience of eternal omniscience cannot alarm us; we human beings can apprehend the notion thereof in ourselves. We know perfectly what development must take place in the different seasons of the year; the time for flowers and for fruits; what kinds will come forth and thrive; the time of maturity, when the storms must prevail, and when it is the rainy season. Thus must God, in an infinitely greater degree, have the same knowledge of the whole created globes of His universe, as of our earth and the human race here. He must know when that development, that flowering in the human race ordained by Himself, shall come to pass; when the powers of intellect, of full development, are to reign; and under these characters, come to a maturity of development, men will become mighty, driving wheels—every one be the eternal God's likeness indeed.
History shows us these things: joint enters into joint, in the world of spirits, as well as in the materially created world; the eye of wisdom—the all-seeing eye—encompasses the whole! And should we then not be able, in our heart's distress, to pray to this Father with confidence—to pray as the Saviour prayed: "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt."
These last words we do not forget! and our prayer will be granted, if it be for our good; or if it be not, then let us, as the child here, that in its trouble comes to its earthly Father, and does not get its wish fulfilled, but is refreshed by mild words, and the affectionate language of reason, so that the eye weeps, which thereby mitigates sorrow, and the child's pain is soothed. This, will prayer also grant us: the eye will be filled with tears, but the heart will be full of consolation! And who has penetrated so deeply into the ways of the soul, that he dare deny that prayer is the wings that bear thee to that sphere of inspiration whence God will extend to thee the olive-branch of help and grace?
By walking with open eyes in the path of knowledge, we see the glory of the Annunciation. The wisdom of generations is but a span on the high pillar of revelation, above which sits the Almighty; but this short span will grow through eternity, in faith and with faith. Knowledge is like a chemical test that pronounces the gold pure!
IN THE FOREST
* * * * *
We are a long way over the elv. We have left the corn-fields behind, and have just come into the forest, where we halt at that small inn, which is ornamented over the doors and windows with green branches for the Midsummer festival. The whole kitchen is hung round with branches of birch and the berries of the mountain-ash: the oat-cakes hang on long poles under the ceiling; the berries are suspended above the head of the old woman who is just scouring her brass kettle bright.
The tap-room, where the peasant sits and carouse, is just as finely hung round with green. Midsummer raises its leafy arbour everywhere, yet it is most flush in the forest—it extends for miles around. Our road goes for miles through that forest, without seeing a house, or the possibility of meeting travellers, driving, riding or walking. Come! The ostler puts fresh horses to the carriage; come with us into the large woody desert: we have a regular trodden way to travel, the air is clear, here is summer's warmth and the fragrance of birch and lime. It is an up and down hill road, always bending, and so, ever changing, but yet always forest scenery—the close, thick forest. We pass small lakes, which lie so still and deep, as if they concealed night and sleep under their dark, glassy surfaces.
We are now on a forest plain, where only charred stumps of trees are to be seen: this long tract is black, burnt, and deserted—not a bird flies over it. Tall, hanging birches now greet us again; a squirrel springs playfully across the road, and up into the tree; we cast our eye searchingly over the wood-grown mountain-side, which slopes so far, far forward; but not a trace of a house is to be seen: nowhere does that blueish smoke-cloud rise, that shows us, here are fellow-men.
The sun shines warm; the flies dance around the horses, settle on them, fly off again, and dance, as though it were to qualify themselves for resting and being still. They perhaps think: "Nothing is going on without us: there is no life while we are doing nothing." They think, as many persons think, and do not remember that Time's horses always fly onward with us!
How solitary it is here!—so delightfully solitary! one is so entirely alone with God and one's self. As the sunlight streams forth over the earth, and over the extensive solitary forests, so does God's spirit stream over and into mankind; ideas and thoughts unfold themselves—endless, inexhaustible, as he is—as the magnet which apportions its powers to the steel, and itself loses nothing thereby. As our journey through the forest-scenery here along the extended solitary road, so, travelling on the great high-road of thought, ideas pass through our head. Strange, rich caravans pass by from the works of poets, from the home of memory, strange and novel—for capricious fancy gives birth to them at the moment. There comes a procession of pious children with waving flags and joyous songs; there come dancing Moenades, the blood's wild Bacchantes. The sun pours down hot in the open forest: it is as if the Southern summer had laid itself up here to rest in Scandinavian forest-solitude, and sought itself out a glade where it might lie in the sun's hot beams and sleep: hence this stillness, as if it were night. Not a bird is heard to twitter, not a pine-tree moves: of what does the Southern summer dream here in the North, amongst pines and fragrant birches?
In the writings of the olden time, from the classic soil of the South, are sagas of mighty fairies who, in the skins of swans, flew towards the North, to the Hyperborean's land, to the east of the north wind; up there, in the deep, still lakes, they bathed themselves, and acquired a renewed form. We are in the forest by these deep lakes; we see swans in flocks fly over us, and swim upon the rapid elv and on the still waters. The forests, we perceive, continue to extend further towards the west and the north, and are more dense as we proceed: the carriage-roads cease, and one can only pursue one's way along the outskirts by the solitary path, and on horseback.
The saga, from the time of the plague (A.D., 1350), here impresses itself on the mind, when the pestilence passed through the land, and transformed cultivated fields and towns—nay, whole parishes, into barren fields and wild forests. Deserted and forgotten, overgrown with moss, grass, and bushes, churches stood for years far in the forest; no one knew of their existence, until, in a later century, a huntsman lost himself here: his arrow rebounded from the green wall, the moss of which he loosened, and the church was found. The wood-cutter felled the trees for fuel; his axe struck against the overgrown wall, and it gave way to the blow; the fir-planks fell, and the church, from the time of the pestilence, was discovered; the sun again shone bright through the openings of the doors and windows, on the brass candelabra and the altar, where the communion-cup still stood. The cuckoo came, sat there, and sang: "Many, many years shalt thou live!"
Woodland solitude! what images dost thou not present to our thoughts! Woodland solitude! through thy vaulted halls people now pass in the summer-time with cattle and domestic utensils; children and old men go to the solitary pasture where echo dwells, where the national song springs forth with the wild mountain flower! Dost thou see the procession?—paint it if thou canst! The broad wooden cart laden high with chests and barrels, with jars and with crockery. The bright copper kettle and the tin dish shine in the sun. The old grandmother sits at the top of the load and holds her spinning-wheel, which completes the pyramid. The father drives the horse, the mother carries the youngest child on her back, sewed up in a skin, and the procession moves on step by step. The cattle are driven by the half-grown children: they have stuck a birch branch between one of the cows' horns, but she does not appear to be proud of her finery, she goes the same quiet pace as the others and lashes the saucy flies with her tail. If the night becomes cold on this solitary pasture, there is fuel enough here—the tree falls of itself from old age and lies and rots.
But take especial care of the fire fear the fire-spirit in the forest desert! He comes from the unextinguishable pile—he comes from the thunder-cloud, riding on the blue lightning's flame, which kindles the thick, dry moss of the earth: trees and bushes are kindled, the flames run from tree to tree—it is like a snow-storm of fire! the flame leaps to the tops of the trees—what a crackling and roaring, as if it were the ocean in its course! The birds fly upward in flocks, and fall down suffocated by the smoke; the animals flee, or, encircled by the fire, are consumed in it! Hear their cries and roars of agony! The howling of the wolf and the bear, dos't thou know it? A calm, rainy-day, and the forest-plains themselves, alone are able to confine the fiery sea, and the burnt forest stands charred, with black trunks and black stumps of trees, as we saw them here in the forest by the broad high-road. On this road we continue to travel, but it becomes worse and worse; it is, properly speaking, no road at all, but it is about to become one. Large stones lie half dug up, and we drive past them; large trees are cast down, and obstruct our way, and therefore we must descend from the carriage. The horses are taken out, and the peasants help to lift and push the carriage forward over ditches and opened paths.
The sun now ceases to shine; some few rain-drops fall, and now it is a steady rain. But how it causes the birch to shed its fragrance! At a distance there are huts erected, of loose trunks of trees and fresh green boughs, and in each there is a large fire burning. See where the blue smoke curls through the green leafy roof; peasants are within at work, hammering and forging; here they have their meals. They are now laying a mine in order to blast a rock, and the rain falls faster and faster, and the pine and birch emit a finer fragrance. It is delightful in the forest.
* * * * *
We made our way at length out of the forest, and saw a town before us enveloped in thick smoke, having a similar appearance to most of the English manufacturing towns, save that the smoke was greenish—it was the town Fahlun.
The road now went downwards between large banks, formed by the dross deposited here from the smelting furnaces, and which looks like burnt-out hardened lava. No sprout or shrub was to be seen, not a blade of grass peeped forth by the way-side, not a bird flew past, but a strong sulphurous smell, as from among the craters in Solfatara, filled the air. The copper roof of the church shone with corrosive green.
Long straight streets now appeared in view. It was as deathly still here as if sickness and disease had lain within these dark wooden houses, and frightened the inhabitants from coming abroad; yet sickness and disease come but to few here, for when the plague raged in Sweden, the rich and powerful of the land hastened to Fahlun, whose sulphureous air was the most healthy. An ochre-yellow water runs through the brook, between the houses; the smoke from the mines and smelting furnaces has imparted its tinge to them; it has even penetrated into the church, whose slender pillars are dark from the fumes of the copper. There chanced to come on a thunder-storm when we arrived, but its roaring and the lightning's flashes harmonized well with this town, which appears as if it were built on the edge of a crater.
We went to see the copper mine which gives the whole district the name of "Stora Kopparberget," (the great copper mountain). According to the legend, its riches were discovered by two goats which were fighting—they struck the ground with their horns and some copper ore adhered to them.
From the solitary red-ochre street we wandered over the great heaps of burnt-out dross and fragments of stone, accumulated to whole ramparts and hills. The fire shone from the smelting furnaces with green, yellow and red tongues of flame under a blue-green smoke; half-naked, black-smeared fellows threw out large glowing masses of fire, so that the sparks flew around and about:—one was reminded of Schiller's "Fridolin."