PICTURES OF SWEDEN
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN
Author of "The Improvisatore," &c.
RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BURLINGTON STREET.
THE BIRD PHOENIX
THE MUTE BOOK
THE ZAeTHER DALE
THE MIDSUMMER FESTIVAL IN LACKSAND
FAITH AND KNOWLEDGE
IN THE FOREST
WHAT THE STRAWS SAID
THE POET'S SYMBOL
* * * * *
* * * * *
It is a delightful spring: the birds warble, but you do not understand their song? Well, hear it in a free translation.
"Get on my back," says the stork, our green island's sacred bird, "and I will carry thee over the Sound. Sweden also has fresh and fragrant beech woods, green meadows and corn-fields. In Scania, with the flowering apple-trees behind the peasant's house, you will think that you are still in Denmark."
"Fly with me," says the swallow; "I fly over Holland's mountain ridge, where the beech-trees cease to grow; I fly further towards the north than the stork. You shall see the vegetable mould pass over into rocky ground; see snug, neat towns, old churches and mansions, where all is good and comfortable, where the family stand in a circle around the table and say grace at meals, where the least of the children says a prayer, and, morning and evening, sings a psalm. I have heard it, I have seen it, when little, from my nest under the eaves."
"Come with me! come with me!" screams the restless sea-gull, and flies in an expecting circle. "Come with me to the Skjaergaards, where rocky isles by thousands, with fir and pine, lie like flower-beds along the coast; where the fishermen draw the well-filled nets!"
"Rest thee between our extended wings," sing the wild swans. "Let us bear thee up to the great lakes, the perpetually roaring elvs (rivers), that rush on with arrowy swiftness; where the oak forest has long ceased, and the birch-tree becomes stunted. Rest thee between our extended wings: we fly up to Sulitelma, the island's eye, as the mountain is called; we fly from the vernal green valley, up over the snow-drifts, to the mountain's top, whence thou canst see the North Sea, on yonder side of Norway.
"We fly to Jemteland, where the rocky mountains are high and blue; where the Foss roars and rushes; where the torches are lighted as budstikke[A] to announce that the ferryman is expected. Up to the deep, cold-running waters, where the midsummer sun does not set; where the rosy hue of eve is that of morn."
[Footnote A: A chip of wood in the form of a halberd, circulated for the purpose of convening the inhabitants of a district in Sweden and Norway.]
That is the birds' song. Shall we lay it to heart? Shall we accompany them?—at least a part of the way. We will not sit upon the stork's back, or between the swans' wings. We will go forward with steam, and with horses—yes, also on our own legs, and glance now and then from reality, over the fence into the region of thought, which is always our near neighbour-land; pluck a flower or a leaf, to be placed in the note-book—for it sprung out during our journey's flight: we fly and we sing. Sweden, thou glorious land! Sweden, where, in ancient times, the sacred gods came from Asia's mountains! land that still retains rays of their lustre, which streams from the flowers in the name of "Linnaeus;" which beams for thy chivalrous men from Charles the Twelfth's banner; which sounds from the obelisk on the field of Lutzen! Sweden, thou land of deep feeling, of heart-felt songs! home of the limpid elvs, where the wild swans sing in the gleam of the Northern Lights! Thou land, on whose deep, still lakes Scandinavia's fairy builds her colonnades, and leads her battling, shadowy host over the icy mirror! Glorious Sweden! with thy fragrant Linnaeus, with Jenny's soul-enlivening songs! To thee will we fly with the stork and the swallow, with the restless sea-gull and the wild swans. Thy birch-woods exhale refreshing fragrance under their sober, bending branches; on the tree's white stem the harp shall hang: the North's summer wind shall whistle therein!
* * * * *
Who did we meet at Trollhaetta? It is a strange story, and we will relate it.
We landed at the first sluice, and stood as it were in a garden laid out in the English style. The broad walks are covered with gravel, and rise in short terraces between the sunlit greensward: it is charming, delightful here, but by no means imposing. If one desires to be excited in this manner, one must go a little higher up to the older sluices, which deep and narrow have burst through the hard rock. It looks magnificent, and the water in its dark bed far below is lashed into foam. Up here one overlooks both elv and valley; the bank of the river on the other side, rises in green undulating hills, grouped with leafy trees and red-painted wooden houses, which are bounded by rocks and pine forests. Steam-boats and sailing vessels ascend through the sluices; the water itself is the attendant spirit that must bear them up above the rock, and from the forest itself it buzzes, roars and rattles. The din of Trollhaetta Falls mingles with the noise from the saw-mills and smithies.
"In three hours we shall be through the sluices," said the Captain: "in that time you will see the Falls. We shall meet again at the inn up here."
We went from the path through the forest: a whole flock of bare-headed boys surrounded us. They would all be our guides; the one screamed longer than the other, and every one gave his contradictory explanation, how high the water stood, and how high it did not stand, or could stand. There was also a great difference of opinion amongst the learned.
We soon stopped on a ling-covered rock, a dizzying terrace. Before us, but far below, was the roaring water, the Hell Fall, and over this again, fall after fall, the rich, rapid, rushing elv—the outlet of the largest lake in Sweden. What a sight! what a foaming and roaring, above—below! It is like the waves of the sea, but of effervescing champagne—of boiling milk. The water rushes round two rocky islands at the top so that the spray rises like meadow dew. Below, the water is more compressed, then hurries down again, shoots forward and returns in circles like smooth water, and then rolls darting its long sea-like fall into the Hell Fall. What a tempest rages in the deep—what a sight! Words cannot express it!
Nor could our screaming little guides. They stood mute; and when they again began with their explanations and stories, they did not come far, for an old gentleman whom none of us had noticed (but he was now amongst us), made himself heard above the noise, with his singularly sounding voice. He knew all the particulars about the place, and about former days, as if they had been of yesterday.
"Here, on the rocky holms," said he, "it was that the warriors in the heathen times, as they are called, decided their disputes. The warrior Staerkodder dwelt in this district, and liked the pretty girl Ogn right well; but she was fonder of Hergrimmer, and therefore he was challenged by Staerkodder to combat here by the falls, and met his death; but Ogn sprung towards them, took her bridegroom's bloody sword, and thrust it into her own heart. Thus Staerkodder did not gain her. Then there passed a hundred years, and again a hundred years: the forests were then thick and closely grown; wolves and bears prowled here summer and winter; the place was infested with malignant robbers, whose hiding-place no one could find. It was yonder, by the fall before Top Island, on the Norwegian side—there was their cave: now it has fallen in! The cliff there overhangs it!"
"Yes, the Tailor's Cliff!" shouted all the boys. "It fell in the year 1755!"
"Fell!" said the old man, as if in astonishment that any one but himself could know it. "Everything will fall once, and the tailor directly." The robbers had placed him upon the cliff and demanded that if he would be liberated from them, his ransom should be that he should sew a suit of clothes up there; and he tried it; but at the first stitch, as he drew the thread out, he became giddy and fell down into the gushing water, and thus the rock got the name of 'The Tailor's Cliff.' One day the robbers caught a young girl, and she betrayed them, for she kindled a fire in the cavern. The smoke was seen, the caverns discovered, and the robbers imprisoned and executed. That outside there is called 'The Thieves' Fall,' and down there under the water is another cave, the elv rushes in there and returns boiling; one can see it well up here, one hears it too, but it can be heard better under the bergman's loft.
And we went on and on, along the Fall, towards Top Island, continuously on smooth paths covered with saw-dust, to Polham's Sluice. A cleft had been made in the rock for the first intended sluice-work, which was not finished, but whereby art has created the most imposing of all Trollhaetta's Falls; the hurrying water falling here perpendicularly into the black deep. The side of the rock is here placed in connection with Top Island by means of a light iron bridge, which appears as if thrown over the abyss. We venture on to the rocking bridge over the streaming, whirling water, and then stand on the little cliff island, between firs and pines, that shoot forth from the crevices. Before us darts a sea of waves, which are broken by the rebound against the stone block where we stand, bathing us with the fine spray. The torrent flows on each side, as if shot out from a gigantic cannon, fall after fall: we look out over them all, and are filled with the harmonic sound, which since time began, has ever been the same.
"No one can ever get to the island there," said one of our party, pointing to the large island above the topmost fall.
"I however know one!" said the old man, and nodded with a peculiar smile.
"Yes, my grandfather could!" said one of the boys, "scarcely any one besides has crossed during a hundred years. The cross that is set up over there was placed there by my grandfather. It had been a severe winter, the whole of Lake Venern was frozen; the ice dammed up the outlet, and for many hours there was a dry bottom. Grandfather has told about it: he went over with two others, placed the cross up, and returned. But then there was such a thundering and cracking noise, just as if it were cannons. The ice broke up and the elv came over the fields and forest. It is true, every word I say!"
One of the travellers cited Tegner:
"Vildt Goeta stortade fran Fjallen, Hemsk Trollet fran sat Toppfall roet! Men Snillet kom och spraengt stod Hallen, Med Skeppen i sitt skoet!"
"Poor mountain sprite," he continued, "thy power and glory recede! Man flies over thee—thou mayst go and learn of him."
The garrulous old man made a grimace, and muttered something to himself—but we were just by the bridge before the inn. The steam-boat glided through the opened way, every one hastened to get on board, and it directly shot away above the Fall, just as if no Fall existed.
"And that can be done!" said the old man. He knew nothing at all about steam-boats, had never before that day seen such a thing, and accordingly he was sometimes up and sometimes down, and stood by the machinery and stared at the whole construction, as if he were counting all the pins and screws. The course of the canal appeared to him to be something quite new; the plan of it and the guide-books were quite foreign objects to him: he turned them and turned them—for read I do not think he could. But he knew all the particulars about the country—that is to say, from olden times.
I heard that he did not sleep at all the whole night. He studied the passage of the steam-boat; and when we in the morning ascended the sluice terraces from Lake Venern, higher and higher from lake to lake, away over the high-plain—higher, continually higher—he was in such activity that it appeared as if it could not be greater—and then we reached Motala.
The Swedish author Tjoerneroes relates of himself, that when a child he once asked what it was that ticked in the clock, and they answered him that it was one named "Bloodless." What brought the child's pulse to beat with feverish throbs and the hair on his head to rise, also exercised its power in Motala, over the old man from Trollhaetta.
We now went through the great manufactory in Motala. What ticks in the clock, beats here with strong strokes of the hammer. It is Bloodless, who drank life from human thought and thereby got limbs of metals, stone and wood; it is Bloodless, who by human thought gained strength, which man himself does not physically possess. Bloodless reigns in Motala, and through the large foundries and factories he extends his hard limbs, whose joints and parts consist of wheel within wheel, chains, bars, and thick iron wires. Enter, and see how the glowing iron masses are formed into long bars. Bloodless spins the glowing bar! see how the shears cut into the heavy metal plates; they cut as quietly and as softly as if the plates were paper. Here where he hammers, the sparks fly from the anvil. See how he breaks the thick iron bars; he breaks them into lengths; it is as if it were a stick of sealing-wax that is broken. The long iron bars rattle before your feet; iron plates are planed into shavings; before you rolls the large wheel, and above your head runs living wire—long heavy wire! There is a hammering and buzzing, and if you look around in the large open yard, amongst great up-turned copper boilers, for steam-boats and locomotives, Bloodless also here stretches out one of his fathom-long fingers, and hauls away. Everything is living; man alone stands and is silenced by—stop!
The perspiration oozes out of one's fingers'-ends: one turns and turns, bows, and knows not one's self, from pure respect for the human thought which here has iron limbs. And yet the large iron hammer goes on continually with its heavy strokes: it is as if it said: "Banco, Banco! many thousand dollars; Banco, pure gain! Banco! Banco!"—Hear it, as I heard it; see, as I saw!
The old gentleman from Trollhaetta walked up and down in full contemplation; bent and swung himself about; crept on his knees, and stuck his head into corners and between the machines, for he would know everything so exactly; he would see the screw in the propelling vessels, understand their mechanism and effect under water—and the water itself poured like hail-drops down his forehead. He fell unconscious, backwards into my arms, or else he would have been drawn into the machinery, and been crushed: he looked at me, and pressed my hand.
"And all this goes on naturally," said he; "simply and comprehensibly. Ships go against the wind, and against the stream, sail higher than forests and mountains. The water must raise, steam must drive them!"
"Yes," said I.
"Yes," said he, and again yes, with a sigh which I did not then understand; but, months after, I understood it, and I will at once make a spring to that time, and we are again at Trollhaetta.
I came here in the autumn, on my return home; stayed some days in this mighty piece of nature, where busy human life forces its way more and more in, and, by degrees, transforms the picturesque to the useful manufactory. Trollhaetta must do her work; saw beams, drive mills, hammer and break to pieces: one building grows up by the side of the other, and in half a century hence here will be a city. But that was not the story.
I came, as I have said, here again in the autumn. I found the same rushing and roaring, the same din, the same rising and sinking in the sluices, the same chattering boys who conducted fresh travellers to the Hell Fall, to the iron-bridge island, and to the inn. I sat here, and turned over the leaves of books, collected here through a series of years, in which travellers have inscribed their names, feelings and thoughts at Trollhaetta—almost always the same astonishment, expressed in different languages, though generally in Latin: veni, vidi, obstupui.
One has written: "I have seen nature's master-piece pervade that of art;" another cannot say what he saw, and what he saw he cannot say. A mine owner and manufacturer, full of the doctrine of utility, has written: "Seen with the greatest pleasure this useful work for us in Vaermeland, Trollhaetta." The wife of a dean from Scania expresses herself thus. She has kept to the family, and only signed in the remembrance book, as to the effect of her feelings at Trollhaetta. "God grant my brother-in-law fortune, for he has understanding!" Some few have added witticisms to the others' feelings; yet as a pearl on this heap of writing shines Tegner's poem, written by himself in the book on the 28th of June, 1804:
"Gotha kom i dans fran Seves fjallar, &c."
I looked up from the book and who should stand before me, just about to depart again, but the old man from Trollhaetta! Whilst I had wandered about, right up to the shores of Siljan, he had continually made voyages on the canal; seen the sluices and manufactories, studied steam in all its possible powers of service, and spoke about a projected railway in Sweden, between the Hjalmar and Venern. He had, however, never yet seen a railway, and I described to him these extended roads, which sometimes rise like ramparts, sometimes like towering bridges, and at times like halls of miles in length, cut through rocks. I also spoke of America and England.
"One takes breakfast in London, and the same day one drinks tea in Edinburgh."
"That I can do!" said the man, and in as cool a tone as if no one but himself could do it, "I can also," said I; "and I have done it."
"And who are you, then?" he asked.
"A common traveller," I replied; "a traveller who pays for his conveyance. And who are you?"
The man sighed.
"You do not know me: my time is past; my power is nothing! Bloodless is stronger than I!" and he was gone.
I then understood who he was. Well, in what humour must a poor mountain sprite be, who only comes up every hundred years to see how things go forward here on the earth!
It was the mountain sprite and no other, for in our time every intelligent person is considerably wiser; and I looked with a sort of proud feeling on the present generation, on the gushing, rushing, whirling wheel, the heavy blows of the hammer, the shears that cut so softly through the metal plates, the thick iron bars that were broken like sticks of sealing-wax, and the music to which the heart's pulsations vibrate: "Banco, Banco, a hundred thousand Banco!" and all by steam—by mind and spirit.
It was evening. I stood on the heights of Trollhaetta's old sluices, and saw the ships with outspread sails glide away through the meadows like spectres, large and white. The sluice gates were opened with a ponderous and crashing sound, like that related of the copper gates of the secret council in Germany. The evening was so still that Trollhaetta's Fall was as audible in the deep stillness, as if it were a chorus from a hundred water-mills—ever one and the same tone. In one, however, there sounded a mightier crash that seemed to pass sheer through the earth; and yet with all this the endless silence of nature was felt. Suddenly a large bird flew out from the trees, far in the forest, down towards the Falls. Was it the mountain sprite?—We will imagine so, for it is the most interesting fancy.
THE BIRD PHOENIX.
* * * * *
In the garden of Paradise, under the tree of knowledge, stood a hedge of roses. In the first rose a bird was hatched; its flight was like that of light, its colours beautiful, its song magnificent.
But when Eve plucked the fruit of knowledge, when she and Adam were driven from the garden of Paradise, a spark from the avenging angel's flaming sword fell into the bird's nest and kindled it. The bird died in the flames, but from the red egg there flew a new one—the only one—the ever only bird Phoenix. The legend states that it takes up its abode in Arabia; that every hundred years it burns itself up in its nest, and that a new Phoenix, the only one in the world, flies out from the red egg.
The bird hovers around us, rapid as the light, beautiful in colour, glorious in song. When the mother sits by the child's cradle, it is by the pillow, and with its wings flutters a glory around the child's head. It flies through the chamber of contentment, and there is the sun's radiance within:—the poor chest of drawers is odoriferous with violets.
But the bird Phoenix is not alone Arabia's bird: it flutters in the rays of the Northern Lights on Lapland's icy plains; it hops amongst the yellow flowers in Greenland's short summer. Under Fahlun's copper rocks, in England's coal mines, it flies like a powdered moth over the hymn-book in the pious workman's hands. It sails on the lotus-leaf down the sacred waters of the Ganges, and the eyes of the Hindoo girl glisten on seeing it.
The bird Phoenix! Dost thou not know it? The bird of Paradise, song's sacred swan! It sat on the car of Thespis, like a croaking raven, and flapped its black, dregs-besmeared wings; over Iceland's minstrel-harp glided the swan's red, sounding bill. It sat on Shakspeare's shoulder like Odin's raven, and whispered in his ear: "Immortality!" It flew at the minstrel competition, through Wartzburg's knightly halls.
The bird Phoenix! Dost thou not know it? It sang the Marseillaise for thee, and thou didst kiss the plume that fell from its wing: it came in the lustre of Paradise, and thou perhaps didst turn thyself away to some poor sparrow that sat with merest tinsel on its wings.
The bird of Paradise! regenerated every century, bred in flames, dead in flames; thy image set in gold hangs in the saloons of the rich, even though thou fliest often astray and alone. "The bird Phoenix in Arabia"—is but a legend.
In the garden of Paradise, when thou wast bred under the tree of knowledge, in the first rose, our Lord kissed thee and gave thee thy proper name—Poetry.
* * * * *
Kinnakulla, Sweden's hanging gardens! Thee will we visit. We stand by the lowest terrace in a plenitude of flowers and verdure; the ancient village church leans its grey pointed wooden tower, as if it would fall; it produces an effect in the landscape: we would not even be without that large flock of birds, which just now chance to fly away over the mountain forest.
The high road leads up the mountain with short palings on either side, between which we see extensive plains with hops, wild roses, corn-fields, and delightful beech woods, such as are not to be found in any other place in Sweden. The ivy winds itself around old trees and stones—even to the withered trunk green leaves are lent. We look out over the flat, extended woody plain, to the sunlit church-tower of Maristad, which shines like a white sail on the dark green sea: we look out over the Venern Lake, but cannot see its further shore. Skjaergaardens' wood-crowned rocks lie like a wreath down in the lake; the steam-boat comes—see! down by the cliff under the red-roofed mansions, where the beech and walnut trees grow in the garden.
The travellers land; they wander under shady trees away over that pretty light green meadow, which is enwreathed by gardens and woods: no English park has a finer verdure than the meadows near Hellekis. They go up to "the grottos," as they call the projecting masses of red stone higher up, which, being thoroughly kneaded with petrifactions, project from the declivity of the earth, and remind one of the mouldering colossal tombs in the Campagna of Rome. Some are smooth and rounded off by the streaming of the water, others bear the moss of ages, grass and flowers, nay, even tall trees.
The travellers go from the forest road up to the top of Kinnakulla, where a stone is raised as the goal of their wanderings. The traveller reads in his guide-book about the rocky strata of Kinnakulla: "At the bottom is found sandstone, then alum-stone, then limestone, and above this red-stone, higher still slate, and lastly, trap." And, now that he has seen this, he descends again, and goes on board. He has seen Kinnakulla:—yes, the stony rock here, amidst the swelling verdure, showed him one heavy, thick stone finger, and most of the travellers think that they are like the devil, if they lay hold upon one finger, they have the body—but it is not always so. The least visited side of Kinnakulla is just the most characteristic, and thither will we go.
The road still leads us a long way on this side of the mountain, step by step downwards, in long terraces of rich fields: further down, the slate-stone peers forth in flat layers, a green moss upon it, and it looks like threadbare patches in the green velvet carpet. The high road leads over an extent of ground where the slate-stone lies like a firm floor. In the Campagna of Rome, one would say it is a piece of via appia, or antique road; but it is Kinnakulla's naked skin and bones that we pass over. The peasant's house is composed of large slate-stones, and the roof is covered with them; one sees nothing of wood except that of the door, and above it, of the large painted shield, which states to what regiment the soldier belongs who got this house and plot of ground in lieu of pay.
We cast another glance over Venern, to Lockoe's old palace, to the town of Lendkjobing, and are again near verdant fields and noble trees, that cast their shadows over Blomberg, where, in the garden, the poet Geier's spirit seeks the flower of Kinnakulla in his grand-daughter, little Anna.
The plain expands here behind Kinnakulla; it extends for miles around, towards the horizon. A shower stands in the heavens; the wind has increased: see how the rain falls to the ground like a darkening veil. The branches of the trees lash one another like penitential dryades. Old Husaby church lies near us, yonder; though the shower lashes the high walls, which alone stand, of the old Catholic Bishop's palace. Crows and ravens fly through the long glass-less windows, which time has made larger; the rain pours down the crevices in the old grey walls, as if they were now to be loosened stone from stone: but the church stands—old Husaby church—so grey and venerable, with its thick walls, its small windows, and its three spires stuck against each other, and standing, like nuts, in a cluster.
The old trees in the churchyard cast their shade over ancient graves. Where is the district's "Old Mortality," who weeds the grass, and explains the ancient memorials? Large granite stones are laid here in the form of coffins, ornamented with rude carvings from the times of Catholicism. The old church-door creaks in the hinges. We stand within its walls, where the vaulted roof was filled for centuries with the fragrance of incense, with monks, and with the song of the choristers. Now it is still and mute here: the old men in their monastic dresses have passed into their graves; the blooming boys that swung the censer are in their graves; the congregation—many generations—all in their graves; but the church still stands the same. The moth-eaten, dusty cowls, and the bishops' mantle, from the days of the cloister, hang in the old oak presses; and old manuscripts, half eaten up by the rats, lie strewed about on the shelves in the sacristy.
In the left aisle of the church there still stands, and has stood time out of mind, a carved image of wood, painted in various colours which are still strong: it is the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus. Fresh flower wreaths are hung around hers and the child's head; fragrant garlands are twined around the pedestal, as festive as on Madonna's birthday feast in the times of Popery. The young folks who have been confirmed, have this day, on receiving the sacrament for the first time, ornamented this old image—nay, even set the priest's name in flowers upon the altar; and he has, to our astonishment, let it remain there.
The image of Madonna seems to have become young by the fresh wreaths: the fragrant flowers here have a power like that of poetry—they bring back the days of past centuries to our own times. It is as if the extinguished glory around the head shone again; the flowers exhale perfume: it is as if incense again streamed through the aisles of the church—it shines around the altar as if the consecrated tapers were lighted—it is a sunbeam through the window.
The sky without has become clear: we drive again in under Cleven, the barren side of Kinnakulla: it is a rocky wall, different from almost all the others. The red stone blocks lie, strata on strata, forming fortifications with embrasures, projecting wings and round towers; but shaken, split and fallen in ruins—it is an architectural fantastic freak of nature. A brook falls gushing down from one of the highest points of the Cleven, and drives a little mill. It looks like a plaything which the mountain sprite had placed there and forgotten.
Large masses of fallen stone blocks lie dispersed round about; nature has spread them in the forms of carved cornices. The most significant way of describing Kinnakulla's rocky wall is to call it the ruins of a mile-long Hindostanee temple: these rocks might be easily transformed by the hammer into sacred places like the Ghaut mountains at Ellara. If a Brahmin were to come to Kinnakulla's rocky wall, he would recognise the temple of Cailasa, and find in the clefts and crevices whole representations from Ramagena and Mahabharata. If one should then speak to him in a sort of gibberish—no matter what, only that, by the help of Brockhaus's "Conversation-Lexicon" one might mingle therein the names of some of the Indian spectacles:—Sakantala, Vikramerivati, Uttaram Ramatscheritram, &c.—the Brahmin would be completely mystified, and write in his note-book: "Kinnakulla is the remains of a temple, like those we have in Ellara; and the inhabitants themselves know the most considerable works in our oldest Sanscrit literature, and speak in an extremely spiritual manner about them." But no Brahmin comes to the high rocky walls—not to speak of the company from the steam-boat, who are already far over the lake Venern. They have seen wood-crowned Kinnakulla, Sweden's hanging gardens—and we also have now seen them.
* * * * *
Grandmother is so old, she has so many wrinkles, and her hair is quite white; but her eyes! they shine like two stars, nay, they are much finer—they are so mild, so blissful to look into. And then she knows the most amusing stories, and she has a gown with large, large flowers on it, and it is of such thick silk that it actually rustles. Grandmother knows so much, for she has lived long before father and mother—that is quite sure.
Grandmother has a psalm-book with thick silver clasps, and in that book she often reads. In the middle of it lies a rose, which is quite flat and dry; but it is not so pretty as the roses she has in the glass, yet she smiles the kindliest to it, nay, even tears come into her eyes!
Why does Grandmother look thus on the withered flower in the old book? Do you know why?
Every time that Grandmother's tears fall on the withered flower the colours become fresher; the rose then swells and the whole room is filled with fragrance; the walls sink as if they were but mists; and round about, it is the green, the delightful grove, where the sun shines between the leaves. And Grandmother—yes, she is quite young; she is a beautiful girl, with yellow hair, with round red cheeks, pretty and charming—no rose is fresher. Yet the eyes, the mild, blissful eyes,—yes, they are still Grandmother's! By her side sits a man, young and strong: he presents the rose to her and she smiles. Yet grandmother does not smile so,—yes; the smile comes,—he is gone.—Many thoughts and many forms go past! That handsome man is gone; the rose lies in the psalm-book, and grandmother,—yes, she again sits like an old woman, and looks on the withered rose that lies in the book.
Now grandmother is dead!
She sat in the arm-chair, and told a long, long, sweet story. "And now it is ended!" said she, "and I am quite tired: let me now sleep a little!" And so she laid her head back to rest. She drew her breath, she slept, but it became more and more still; and her face was so full of peace and happiness—it was as if the sun's rays passed over it. She smiled, and then they said that she was dead.
She was laid in the black coffin; she lay swathed in the white linen: she was so pretty, and yet the eyes were closed—but all the wrinkles were gone. She lay with a smile around her mouth: her hair was so silvery white, so venerable, one was not at all afraid to look on the dead, for it was the sweet, benign grandmother. And the psalm-book was laid in the coffin under her head (she herself had requested it), and the rose lay in the old book—and then they buried grandmother.
On the grave, close under the church-wall, they planted a rose-tree, and it became full of roses, and the nightingale sang over it, and the organ in the church played the finest psalms that were in the book under the dead one's head. And the moon shone straight down on the grave—but the dead was not there: every child could go quietly in the night-time and pluck a rose there by the churchyard-wall. The dead know more than all we living know—the dead know the awe we should feel at something so strange as their coming to us. The dead are better than us all, and therefore they do not come.
There is earth over the coffin, there is earth within it; the psalm-book with its leaves is dust the rose with all its recollections has gone to dust. But above it bloom new roses, above is sings the nightingale, and the organ plays:—we think of the old grandmother with the mild, eternally young eyes. Eyes can never die! Ours shall once again see her young, and beautiful, as when she for the first time kissed the fresh red rose which is now dust in the grave.
* * * * *
By separation from other men, by solitary confinement, in continual silence, the criminal is to be punished and amended; therefore were prison-cells contrived. In Sweden there were several, and new ones have been built. I visited one for the first time in Mariestad. This building lies close outside the town, by a running water, and in a beautiful landscape. It resembles a large white-washed summer residence, window above window.
But we soon discover that the stillness of the grave rests over it. It is as if no one dwelt here, or like a deserted mansion in the time of the plague. The gates in the walls are locked: one of them is opened for us: the gaoler stands with his bunch of keys: the yard is empty, but clean—even the grass weeded away between the stone paving. We enter the waiting-room, where the prisoner is received: we are shown the bathing-room, into which he is first led. We now ascend a flight of stairs, and are in a large hall, extending the whole length and breadth of the building. Galleries run along the floors, and between these the priest has his pulpit, where he preaches on Sundays to an invisible congregation. All the doors facing the gallery are half opened: the prisoners hear the priest, but cannot see him, nor he them. The whole is a well-built machine—a nightmare for the spirit. In the door of every cell there is fixed a glass, about the size of the eye: a slide covers it, and the gaoler can, unobserved by the prisoner, see everything he does; but he must come gently, noiselessly, for the prisoner's ear is wonderfully quickened by solitude. I turned the slide quite softly, and looked into the closed space, when the prisoner's eye immediately met mine. It is airy, clean, and light within the cell, but the window is placed so high that it is impossible to look out of it. A high stool, made fast to a sort of table, and a hammock, which can be hung upon hooks under the ceiling, and covered with a quilt, compose the whole furniture.
Several cells were opened for us. In one of these was a young, and extremely pretty girl. She had lain down in her hammock, but sprang out directly the door was opened, and her first employment was to lift her hammock down, and roll it together. On the little table stood a pitcher with water, and by it lay the remains of some oatmeal cakes, besides the Bible and some psalms.
In the cell close by sat a child's murderess. I saw her only through the little glass in the door. She had had heard our footsteps; heard us speak; but she sat still, squeezed up into the corner by the door, as if she would hide herself as much as possible: her back was bent, her head almost on a level with her lap, and her hands folded over it. They said this unfortunate creature was very young. Two brothers sat here in two different cells: they were punished for horse stealing; the one was still quite a boy.
In one cell was a poor servant girl. They said: "She has no place of resort, and without a situation, and therefore she is placed here." I thought I had not heard rightly, and repeated my question, "why she was here," but got the same answer. Still I would rather believe that I had misunderstood what was said—it would otherwise be abominable.
Outside, in the free sunshine, it is the busy day; in here it is always midnight's stillness. The spider that weaves its web down the wall, the swallow which perhaps flies a single time close under the panes there high up in the wall—even the stranger's footstep in the gallery, as he passes the cell-doors, is an event in that mute, solitary life, where the prisoners' thoughts are wrapped up in themselves. One must read of the martyr-filled prisons of the Inquisition, of the crowds chained together in the Bagnes, of the hot, lead chambers of Venice, and the black, wet gulf of the wells—be thoroughly shaken by these pictures of misery, that we may with a quieter pulsation of the heart wander through the gallery of the prison-cells. Here is light, here is air;—here it is more humane. Where the sunbeam shines mildly in on the prisoner, there also will the radiance of God shine into the heart.
* * * * *
The painter Callot—who does not know the name, at least from Hoffmann's "in Callot's manner?"—has given a few excellent pictures of Italian beggars. One of these is a fellow, on whom the one rag lashes the other: he carries his huge bundle and a large flag with the inscription, "Capitano de Baroni." One does not think that there can in reality be found such a wandering rag-shop, and we confess that in Italy itself we have not seen any such; for the beggar-boy there, whose whole clothing often consists only of a waistcoat, has in it not sufficient costume for such rags.
But we see it in the North. By the canal road between the Venern and Vigen, on the bare, dry rocky plain there stood, like beauty's thistles in that poor landscape, a couple of beggar-boys, so ragged, so tattered, so picturesquely dirty, that we thought we had Callot's originals before us, or that it was an arrangement of some industrious parents, who would awaken the traveller's attention and benevolence. Nature does not form such things: there was something so bold in the hanging on of the rags, that each boy instantly became a Capitano de Baroni.
The younger of the two had something round him that had certainly once been the jacket of a very corpulent man, for it reached almost to the boy's ancles; the whole hung fast by a piece of the sleeve and a single brace, made from the seam of what was now the rest of the lining. It was very difficult to see the transition from jacket to trowsers, the rags glided so into one another. The whole clothing was arranged so as to give him an air-bath: there were draught holes on all sides and ends; a yellow linen clout fastened to the nethermost regions seemed as if it were to signify a shirt. A very large straw hat, that had certainly been driven over several times, was stuck sideways on his head, and allowed the boy's wiry, flaxen hair to grow freely through the opening where the crown should have been: the naked brown shoulder and upper part of the arm, which was just as brown, were the prettiest of the whole.
The other boy had only a pair of trowsers on. They were also ragged, but the rags were bound fast into the pockets with packthread; one string round the ancles, one under the knee, and another round about the waist. He, however, kept together what he had, and that is always respectable.
"Be off!" shouted the Captain, from the vessel; and the boy with the tied-up rags turned round, and we—yes, we saw nothing but packthread, in bows, genteel bows. The front part of the boy only was covered: he had only the foreparts of trowsers—the rest was packthread, the bare, naked packthread.
* * * * *
In Sweden, it is not only in the country, but even in several of the provincial towns, that one sees whole houses of grass turf or with roofs of grass turf; and some are so low that one might easily spring up to the roof, and sit on the fresh greensward. In the early spring, whilst the fields are still covered with snow, but which is melted on the roof, the latter affords the first announcement of spring, with the young sprouting grass where the sparrow twitters: "Spring comes!"
Between Motala and Vadstene, close by the high road, stands a grass-turf house—one of the most picturesque. It has but one window, broader than it is high, and a wild rose branch forms the curtain outside.
We see it in the spring. The roof is so delightfully fresh with grass, it has quite the tint of velvet; and close to it is the chimney, nay, even a cherry-tree grows out of its side, now full of flowers: the wind shakes the leaves down on a little lamb that is tethered to the chimney. It is the only lamb of the family. The old dame who lives here, lifts it up to its place herself in the morning and lifts it down again in the evening, to give it a place in the room. The roof can just bear the little lamb, but not more—this is an experience and a certainty. Last autumn—and at that time the grass turf roofs are covered with flowers, mostly blue and yellow, the Swedish colours—there grew here a flower of a rare kind. It shone in the eyes of the old Professor, who on his botanical tour came past here. The Professor was quickly up on the roof, and just as quick was one of his booted legs through it, and so was the other leg, and then half of the Professor himself—that part where the head does not sit; and as the house had no ceiling, his legs hovered right over the old dame's head, and that in very close contact. But now the roof is again whole; the fresh grass grows where learning sank; the little lamb bleats up there, and the old dame stands beneath, in the low doorway, with folded hands, with a smile on her mouth, rich in remembrances, legends and songs, rich in her only lamb on which the cherry-tree strews its flower-blossoms in the warm spring sun.
As a background to this picture lies the Vettern—the bottomless lake as the commonalty believe—with its transparent water, its sea-like waves, and in calm, with "Hegring," or fata morgana on its steel-like surface. We see Vadstene palace and town, "the city of the dead," as a Swedish author has called it—Sweden's Herculaneum, reminiscence's city. The grass-turf house must be our box, whence we see the rich mementos pass before us—memorials from the chronicle of saints, the chronicle of kings and the love songs that still live with the old dame, who stands in her low house there, where the lamb crops the grass on the roof. We hear her, and we see with her eyes; we go from the grass-turf house up to the town, to the other grass-turf houses, where poor women sit and make lace, once the celebrated work of the rich nuns here in the cloister's wealthy time.
How still, solitary and grass-grown are these streets! We stop by an old wall, mouldy-green for centuries already. Within it stood the cloister; now there is but one of its wings remaining. There, within that now poor garden still bloom Saint Bridget's leek, and once ran flowers. King John and the Abbess, Ana Gylte, wandered one evening there, and the King cunningly asked: "If the maidens in the cloister were never tempted by love?" and the Abbess answered, as she pointed to a bird that just then flew over them: "It may happen! One cannot prevent the bird from flying over the garden; but one may surely prevent it from building its nest there!"
Thus thought the pious Abbess, and there have been sisters who thought and acted like her. But it is quite as sure that in the same garden there stood a pear-tree, called the tree of death; and the legend says of it, that whoever approached and plucked its fruit would soon die. Red and yellow pears weighed down its branches to the ground. The trunk was unusually large; the grass grew high around it, and many a morning hour was it seen trodden down. Who had been here during the night?
A storm arose one evening from the lake, and the next morning the large tree was found thrown down; the trunk was broken, and out from it there rolled infants' bones—the white bones of murdered children lay shining in the grass.
The pious but love-sick sister Ingrid, this Vadstene's Heloise, writes to her heart's beloved, Axel Nilsun—for the chronicles have preserved it for us:—
"Broderne og Systarne leka paa Spil, drikke Vin och dansa med hvarandra i Tradgarden!"
(The brothers and sisters amuse themselves in play, drink wine and dance with one another in the garden).
These words may explain to us the history of the pear-tree: one is led to think of the orgies of the nun-phantoms in "Robert le Diable," the daughters of sin on consecrated ground. But "judge not, lest ye be judged," said the purest and best of men that was born of woman. We will read Sister Ingrid's letter, sent secretly to him she truly loved. In it lies the history of many, clear and human to us:—
"Jag djerfues for ingen utan for dig allena bekaenna, att jag formar ilia anda mit Ave Maria eller laesa mit Paternoster, utan du kommer mig ichagen. Ja i sjelfa messen kommer mig fore dit taeckleliga Ansigte och vart karliga omgange. Jag tycker jag kan icke skifta mig for n genann an Menniska, jungfru Maria, St. Birgitta och himmelens Haerskaror skalla kanske straffe mig harfar? Men du vet det val, hjertans kaeraste att jag med fri vilja och uppsaet aldrig dissa reglar samtykt. Mine foraeldrer hafva vael min kropp i dette fangelset insatt, men hjertaet kan intet sa snart fran verlden ater kalles!"
(I dare not confess to any other than to thee, that I am not able to repeat my Ave Maria or read my Paternoster, without calling thee to mind. Nay, even in the mass itself thy comely face appears, and our affectionate intercourse recurs to me. It seems to me that I cannot confess to any other human being—the Virgin Mary, St. Bridget, and the whole host of heaven will perhaps punish me for it. But thou knowest well, my heart's beloved, that I have never consented with my free-will to these rules. My parents, it is true, have placed my body in this prison, but the heart cannot so soon be weaned from the world).
How touching is the distress of young hearts! It offers itself to us from the mouldy parchment, it resounds in old songs. Beg the grey-haired old dame in the grass turf-house to sing to thee of the young, heavy sorrow, of the saving angel—and the angel came in many shapes. You will hear the song of the cloister robbery; of Herr Carl who was sick to death; when the young nun entered the corpse chamber, sat down by his feet and whispered how sincerely she had loved him, and the knight rose from his bier and bore her away to marriage and pleasure in Copenhagen. And all the nuns of the cloister sang: "Christ grant that such an angel were to come, and take both me and thee!"
The old dame will also sing for thee of the beautiful Ogda and Oluf Tyste; and at once the cloister is revived in its splendour, the bells ring, stone houses arise—they even rise from the waters of the Vettern: the little town becomes churches and towers. The streets are crowded with great, with sober, well-dressed persons. Down the stairs of the town hall descends with a sword by his side and in fur-lined cloak, the most wealthy citizen of Vadstene, the merchant Michael. By his side is his young, beautiful daughter Agda, richly-dressed and happy; youth in beauty, youth in mind. All eyes are turned on the rich man—and yet forget him for her, the beautiful. Life's best blessings await her; her thoughts soar upwards, her mind aspires; her future is happiness! These were the thoughts of the many—and amongst the many there was one who saw her as Romeo saw Juliet, as Adam saw Eve in the garden of Paradise. That one was Oluf, the handsomest young man, but poor as Agda was rich. And he must conceal his love; but as only he lived in it, only he knew of it; so he became mute and still, and after months had passed away, the town's folk called him Oluf Tyste (Oluf the silent).
Nights and days he combated his love; nights and days he suffered inexpressible torment; but at last—one dew-drop or one sunbeam alone is necessary for the ripe rose to open its leaves—he must tell it to Agda. And she listened to his words, was terrified, and sprang away; but the thought remained with him, and the heart went after the thought and stayed there; she returned his love strongly and truly, but in modesty and honour; and therefore poor Oluf came to the rich merchant and sought his daughter's hand. But Michael shut the bolts of his door and his heart too. He would neither listen to tears nor supplications, but only to his own will; and as little Agda also kept firm to her will, her father placed her in Vadstene cloister. And Oluf was obliged to submit, as it is recorded in the old song, that they cast
"——den svarta Muld Alt oefver skoen Agdas arm."[B]
[Footnote B: The black mould over the beautiful Agda's arm.]
She was dead to him and the world. But one night, in tempestuous weather, whilst the rain streamed down, Oluf Tyste came to the cloister wall, threw his rope-ladder over it, and however high the Vettern lifted its waves, Oluf and little Agda flew away over its fathomless depths that autumn night.
Early in the morning the nuns missed little Agda. What a screaming and shouting—the cloister is disgraced! The Abbess and Michael the merchant swore that vengeance and death should reach the fugitives. Lindkjoeping's severe bishop, Hans Brask, fulminated his ban over them, but they were already across the waters of the Vettern; they had reached the shores of the Venern, they were on Kinnakulla, with one of Oluf's friends, who owned the delightful Hellekis.
Here their marriage was to be celebrated. The guests were invited, and a monk from the neighbouring cloister of Husaby, was fetched to marry them. Then came the messenger with the bishop's excommunication, and this—but not the marriage ceremony—was read to them.
All turned away from them terrified. The owner of the house, the friend of Oluf's youth, pointed to the open door and bade them depart instantly. Oluf only requested a car and horse wherewith to convey away his exhausted Agda; but they threw sticks and stones after them, and Oluf was obliged to bear his poor bride in his arms far into the forest.
Heavy and bitter was their wandering. At last, however, they found a home: it was in Guldkroken, in West Gothland. An honest old couple gave them shelter and a place by the hearth: they stayed there till Christmas, and on that holy eve there was to be a real Christmas festival. The guests were invited, the furmenty set forth; and now came the clergyman of the parish to say prayers; but whilst he spoke he recognised Oluf and Agda, and the prayer became a curse upon the two. Anxiety and terror came over all; they drove the excommunicated pair out of the house, out into the biting frost, where the wolves went in flocks, and the bear was no stranger. And Oluf felled wood in the forest, and kindled a fire to frighten away the noxious animals and keep life in Agda—he thought that she must die. But just then she was stronger of the two.
"Our Lord is almighty and gracious; He will not leave us!" said she. "He has one here on the earth, one who can save us, one, who has proved like us, what it is to wander amongst enemies and wild animals. It is the King—Gustavus Vasa! He has languished like us!—gone astray in Dalecarlia in the deep snow! he has suffered, tried, knows it—he can and he will help us!"
The King was in Vadstene. He had called together the representatives of the kingdom there. He dwelt in the cloister itself, even there where little Agda, if the King did not grant her pardon, must suffer what the angry Abbess dared to advise: penance and a painful death awaited her.
Through forests and by untrodden paths, in storm and snow, Oluf and Agda came to Vadstene. They were seen: some showed fear, others insulted and threatened them. The guard of the cloister made the sign of the cross on seeing the two sinners, who dared to ask admission to the King.
"I will receive and hear all," was his royal message, and the two lovers fell trembling at his feet.
And the King looked mildly on them; and as he long had had the intention to humiliate the proud Bishop of Lindkjoeping, the moment was not unfavourable to them; the King listened to the relation of their lives and sufferings, and gave them his word, that the excommunication should be annulled. He then placed their hands one in the other, and said that the priest should also do the same soon; and he promised them his royal protection and favour.
And old Michael, the merchant, who feared the King's anger, with which he was threatened, became so mild and gentle, that he, as the King commanded, not only opened his house and his arms to Oluf and Agda, but displayed all his riches on the wedding-day of the young couple. The marriage ceremony took place in the cloister church, whither the King himself led the bride, and where, by his command, all the nuns were obliged to be present, in order to give still more ecclesiastical pomp to the festival. And many a heart there silently recalled the old song about the cloister robbery and looked at Oluf Tyste:
"Krist gif en sadan Angel Kom, tog bad mig och dig!"[C]
[Footnote C: Christ grant that such an angel were to come, and take both me and thee!]
The sun now shines through the open cloister-gate. Let truth shine into our hearts; let us likewise acknowledge the cloister's share of God's influence. Every cell was not quite a prison, where the imprisoned bird flew in despair against the window-pane; here sometimes was sunshine from God in the heart and mind, from hence also went out comfort and blessings. If the dead could rise from their graves they would bear witness thereof: if we saw them in the moonlight lift the tombstone and step forth towards the cloister, they would say: "Blessed be these walls!" if we saw them in the sunlight hovering in the rainbow's gleam, they would say: "Blessed be these walls!"
How changed the rich, mighty Vadstene cloister, where the first daughters of the land were nuns, where the young nobles of the land wore the monk's cowl. Hither they made pilgrimages from Italy, from Spain: from far distant lands, in snow and cold, the pilgrim came barefooted to the cloister door. Pious men and women bore the corpse of St. Bridget hither in their hands from Rome, and all the church-bells in all the lands and towns they passed through, tolled when they came.
We go towards the cloister—the remains of the old ruin. We enter St. Bridget's cell—it still stands unchanged. It is low, small and narrow: four diminutive frames form the whole window, but one can look from it out over the whole garden, and far away over the Vettern. We see the same beautiful landscape that the fair Saint saw as a frame around her God, whilst she read her morning and evening prayers. In the tile-stone of the floor there is engraved a rosary: before it, on her bare knees, she said a pater-noster at every pearl there pointed out. Here is no chimney—no hearth, no place for it. Cold and solitary it is, and was, here where the world's most far-famed woman dwelt, she who by her own sagacity, and by her contemporaries was raised to the throne of female saints.
From this poor cell we enter one still meaner, one still more narrow and cold, where the faint light of day struggles in through a long crevice in the wall. Glass there never was here: the wind blows in here. Who was she who once dwelt in this cell?
In our times they have arranged light, warm chambers close by: a whole range opens into the broad passage. We hear merry songs; laughter we hear, and weeping: strange figures nod to us from these chambers. Who are these? The rich cloister of St. Bridget's, whence kings made pilgrimages, is now Sweden's mad-house. And here the numerous travellers write their names on the wall. We hasten from the hideous scene into the splendid cloister church,—the blue church, as it is called, from the blue stones of which the walls are built—and here, where the large stones of the floor cover great men, abbesses and queens, only one monument is noticeable, that of a knightly figure carved in stone, which stands aloft before the altar. It is that of the insane Duke Magnus. Is it not as if he stepped forth from amongst the dead, and announced that such afflicted creatures were to be where St. Bridget once ruled?
Pace lightly over the floor! Thy foot treads on the graves of the pious: the flat, modest stone here in the corner covers the dust of the noble Queen Philippa. She, that mighty England's daughter, the great-hearted, the immortal woman, who with wisdom and courage defended her consort's throne, that consort who rudely and barbarously cast her off! Vadstene's cloister gave her shelter—the grave here gave her rest.
We seek one grave. It is not known—it is forgotten, as she was in her lifetime. Who was she? The cloistered sister Elizabeth, daughter of the Holstein Count, and once the bride of King Hakon of Norway. Sweet creature! she proudly—but not with unbecoming pride—advanced in her bridal dress, and with her court ladies, up to her royal consort. Then came King Valdemar, who by force and fraud stopped the voyage, and induced Hakon to marry Margaret, then eleven years of age, who thereby got the crown of Norway. Elizabeth was sent to Vadstene cloister, where her will was not asked. Afterwards when Margaret—who justly occupies a great place in the history of Scandinavia, but only comparatively a small one in the hearts—sat on the throne, powerful and respected, visited the then flourishing Vadstene, where the Abbess of the cloister was St. Bridget's grand-daughter, her childhood's friend, Margaret kissed every monk on the cheek. The legend is well known about him, the handsomest, who thereupon blushed. She kissed every nun on the hand, and also Elizabeth, her, whom she would only see here. Whose heart throbbed loudest at that kiss? Poor Elizabeth, thy grave is forgotten, but not the wrong thou didst suffer.
We now enter the sacristy. Here, under a double coffin lid, rests an age's holiest saint in the North, Vadstene cloister's diadem and lustre—St. Bridget.
On the night she was born, says the legend, there appeared a beaming cloud in the heavens, and on it stood a majestic virgin, who said: "Of Birger is born a daughter whose admirable voice shall be heard over the whole world." This delicate and singular child grew up in the castle of her father, Knight Brake. Visions and revelations appeared to her, and these increased when she, only thirteen years of age, was married to the rich Ulf Gudmundsen, and became the mother of many children. "Thou shalt be my bride and my agent," she heard Christ say, and every one of her actions was, as she averred, according to his announcement. After this she went to Niddaros, to St. Oluf's holy shrine: she then went to Germany, France, Spain and Rome.
Sometimes honoured and sometimes mocked, she travelled, even to Cyprus and Palestine. Conscious of approaching death, she again reached Rome, where her last revelation was, that she should rest in Vadstene, and that this cloister especially should be sanctified by God's love. The splendour of the Northern lights does not extend so far around the earth as the glory of this fair saint, who now is but a legend. We bend with silent, serious thoughts before the mouldering remains in the coffin here—those of St. Bridget and her daughter St. Catherine; but even of these the remembrance will be extinguished. There is a tradition amongst the people, that in the time of the Reformation the real remains were carried off to a cloister in Poland, but this is not certainly known. Vadstene, at least, is not the repository of St. Bridget and her daughter's dust.
Vadstene was once great and glorious. Great was the cloister's power, as St. Bridget saw it in the prospect of death. Where is now the cloister's might? It reposes under the tomb-stones—the graves alone speak of it. Here, under our feet, only a few steps from the church door, is a stone in which are carved fourteen rings: they announce that fourteen farms were given to the cloister, in order that he who moulders here might have this place, fourteen feet within the church door. It was Boa Johnson Grip, a great sinner; but the cloister's power was greater than that of all sinners: the stone on his grave records it with no ordinary significance of language.
Gustavus, the first Vasa, was the sun—the ruling power: the brightness of the cloister star must needs pale before him.
There yet stands a stone outline of Vadstene's rich palace which he erected, with towers and spires, close by the cloister. At a far distance on the Vettern, it looks as if it still stood in all its splendour; near, in moonlight nights, it appears the same unchanged edifice, for the fathom-thick walls yet remain; the carvings over the windows and gates stand forth in light and shade, and the moat round about, which is only separated from the Vettern by the narrow carriage road, takes the reflection of the immense building as a mirrored image.
We now stand before it in daylight. Not a pane of glass is to be found in it; planks and old doors are nailed fast to the window frames; the balls alone still stand on the two towers, broad, heavy, and resembling colossal toadstools. The iron spire of the one still towers aloft in the air; the other spire is bent: like the hands on a sun-dial it shows the time—the time that is gone. The other two balls are half fallen down; lambs frisk about between the beams, and the space below is used as a cow-stall.
The arms over the gateway have neither spot nor blemish: they seem as if carved yesterday; the walls are firm, and the stairs look like new. In the palace yard, far above the gateway, the great folding door was opened, whence once the minstrels stepped out and played a welcome greeting from the balcony, but even this is broken down: we go through the spacious kitchen, from whose white walls, a sketch of Vadstene palace, ships, and flowering trees, in red chalk, still attract the eye.
Here where they cooked and roasted, is now a large empty space: even the chimney is gone; and from the ceiling where thick, heavy beams of timber have been placed close to one another, there hangs the dust-covered cobweb, as if the whole were a mass of dark grey dropping stones.
We walk from hall to hall, and the wooden shutters are opened to admit daylight. All is vast, lofty, spacious, and adorned with antique chimney-pieces, and from every window there is a charming prospect over the clear, deep Vettern. In one of the chambers in the ground floor sat the insane Duke Magnus, (whose stone image we lately saw conspicuous in the church) horrified at having signed his own brother's death-warrant; dreamingly in love with the portrait of Scotland's Queen, Mary Stuart; paying court to her and expecting to see the ship, with her, glide over the sea towards Vadstene. And she came—he thought she came—in the form of a mermaid, raising herself aloft on the water: she nodded and called to him, and the unfortunate Duke sprang out of the window down to her. We gazed out of this window, and below it we saw the deep moat in which he sank.
We enter the yeoman's hall, and the council hall, where, in the recesses of the windows, on each side, are painted yeomen in strange dresses, half Dalecarlians and half Roman warriors.
In this once rich saloon, Svanta Steenson Sture knelt to Sweden's Queen, Catherine Lejonhufved: she was Svanta Sture's love, before Gustavus Vasa's will made her his Queen. The lovers met here: the walls are silent as to what they said, when the door was opened and the King entered, and saw the kneeling Sture, and asked what it meant. Margaret answered craftily and hastily: "He demands my sister Martha's hand in marriage!" and the King gave Svanta Sture the bride the Queen had asked for him.
We are now in the royal bridal chamber, whither King Gustavus led his third consort. Catherine Steenbock, also another's bride, the bride of the Knight Gustavus. It is a sad story.
Gustavus of the three roses, was in his youth honoured by the King, who sent him on a mission to the Emperor Charles the Fifth. He returned adorned with the Emperor's costly golden chain—young, handsome, joyous and richly clad, he returned home, and knew well how to relate the magnificence and charms of foreign lands: young and old listened to him with admiration, but young Catherine most of all. Through him the world in her eyes became twice as large, rich, and beautiful; they became dear to each other, and their parents blessed their love. The love-pledge was to be drunk,—when there came a message from the King, that the young Knight must, without delay, again bear a letter and greeting to the Emperor Charles. The betrothed pair separated with heavy hearts, but with a promise of mutual inviolable troth. The King then invited Catherine's parents to come to Vadstene palace. Catherine was obliged to accompany them; here King Gustavus saw her for the first time, and the old man fell in love with her.
Christmas was kept with great hilarity; there were song and harp in these halls, and the King himself played the lute. When the time came for departure, the King said to Catherine's mother, that he would marry the young girl.
"But she is the bride of the Knight Gustavus!" stammered the mother.
"Young hearts soon forget their sorrows," thought the King. The mother thought so likewise, and as there chanced to come a letter the same day and hour from the young Knight Gustavus, Fra Steenbock committed it to the flames. All the letters that came afterwards and all the letters that Catherine wrote, were burnt by her mother, and doubts and evil reports were whispered to Catherine, that she was forgotten abroad by her young lover. But Catherine was secure and firm in her belief of him. In the spring her parents made known to her the King's proposal, and praised her good fortune. She answered seriously and determinedly, "No!" and when they repeated to her that it should and must happen, she repeatedly screamed in the greatest anguish, "No no!" and sank exhausted at her father and mother's feet, and humbly prayed them not to force her.
And the mother wrote to the King that all was going on well, but that her child was bashful. The King now announced his visit to Torpe, where her parents, the Steenbocks, dwelt. The King was received with rejoicing and feasting, but Catherine had disappeared and the King himself was the successful one who found her. She sat dissolved in tears under the wild rose tree, where she had bidden farewell to her heart's beloved.
There was merry song and joyous life in the old mansion; Catherine alone was sorrowful and silent. Her mother had brought her all her jewels and ornaments, but she wore none of them: she had put on her simplest dress, but in this she only fascinated the old King the more, and he would have that their betrothal should take place before he departed. Fra Steenbock wrested the Knight Gustavus's ring from Catherine's finger, and whispered in her ear: "It will cost the friend of thy youth his life and fortune; the King can do everything!" And the parents led her to King Gustavus, showed him that the ring was from the maiden's hand; and the King placed his own golden ring on her finger in the other's stead. In the month of August the flag waved from the mast of the royal yacht which bore the young Queen over the Vettern. Princes and knights, in costly robes, stood by the shore, music played, and the people shouted. Catherine made her entry into Vadstene Palace. The nuptials were celebrated the following day, and the walls were hung with silk and velvet, with cloth of gold and silver! It was a festival and rejoicing. Poor Catherine!
In November, the Knight Gustavus of the three roses, returned home. His prudent, noble mother, Christina Gyldenstjerne, met him at the frontiers of the kingdom, prepared him, consoled him, and soothed his mind: she accompanied him by slow stages to Vadstene, where they were both invited by the King to remain during the Christmas festival. They accepted the invitation, but the Knight Gustavus was not to be moved to come to the King's table or any other place where the Queen was to be found. The Christmas approached. One Sunday evening, Gustavus was disconsolate; the Knight was long sleepless, and at daybreak he went into the church, to the tomb of his ancestress, St. Bridget. There he saw, at a few paces from him, a female kneeling before Philippa's tomb. It was the Queen he saw; their eyes met, and Gustavus hastened away. She then mentioned his name, begged him to stay, and commanded him to do so.
"I command it, Gustavus!" said she; "the Queen commands it."
And she spoke to him; they conversed together, and it became clear to them both what had been done against them and with them; and she showed him a withered rose which she kept in her bosom, and she bent towards him and gave him a kiss, the last—their eternal leave-taking—and then they separated. He died shortly afterwards, but Catherine was stronger, yet not strong enough for her heart's deep sorrow. Here, in the bed-chamber, in uneasy dreams, says the story, she betrayed in sleep the constant thought of her heart, her youth's love, to the King, saying: "Gustavus I love dearly; but the rose—I shall never forget."
From a secret door we walk out on to the open rampart, where the sheep now graze; the cattle are driven into one of the ruined towers. We see the palace-yard, and look from it up to a window. Come, thou birch-wood's thrush, and warble thy lays; sing, whilst we recal the bitterness of love in the rude—the chivalrous ages.
Under that window there stood, one cold winter's night, wrapped in his white cloak, the young Count John of East Friesland. His brother had married Gustavus Vasa's eldest daughter, and departed with her to his home: wherever they came on their journey, there was mirth and feasting, but the most splendid was at Vadstene Palace. Cecilia, the King's younger daughter, had accompanied her sister hither, and was here, as everywhere, the first, the most beautiful in the chase as well as at the tournament. The winter began directly on their arrival at Vadstene; the cold was severe, and the Vettern frozen over. One day, Cecilia rode out on the ice and it broke; her brother, Prince Erik, came galloping to her aid. John, of East Friesland, was already there, and begged Erik to dismount, as he would, being on horseback, break the ice still more. Erik would not listen to him, and as John saw that there was no time for dispute, he dragged Erik from the horse, sprang into the water himself, and saved Cecilia. Prince Erik was furious with wrath, and no one could appease him. Cecilia lay long in a fever, and during its continuance, her love for him who had saved her life increased. She recovered, and they understood each other, but the day of separation approached. It was on the night previous that John, in his white cloak, ascended from stone to stone, holding by his silk ladder, until he at length entered the window; here they would converse for hours in all modesty and honour, speak about his return and their nuptials the following year; and whilst they sat there the door was hewn down with axes. Prince Erik entered, and raised the murderous weapon to slay the young Lord of East Friesland, when Cecilia threw herself between them. But Erik commanded his menials to seize the lover, whom they put in irons and cast into a low, dark hole, that cold frosty night, and the next day, without even giving him a morsel of bread or a drop of water, he was thrown on to a peasant's sledge, and dragged before the King to receive judgment. Erik himself cast his sister's fair name and fame into slander's babbling pool, and high dames and citizens' wives washed unspotted innocence in calumny's impure waters.
It is only when the large wooden shutters of the saloons are opened, that the sunbeams stray in here; the dust accumulates in their twisted pillars, and is only just disturbed by the draught of air. In here is a warehouse for corn. Great fat rats make their nests in these halls. The spider spins mourning banners under the beams. This is Vadstene Palace!
We are filled with sad thoughts. We turn our eyes from this place towards the lowly house with the grass-turf roof, where the little lamb crops the grass under the cherry-tree, which strews its fragrant leaves over it. Our thoughts descend from the rich cloister, from the proud palace, to the grassy turf, and the sun fades away over the grassy turf, and the old dame goes to sleep under the grassy turf, below which lie the mighty memorials of Vadstene.
* * * * *
There was an elderly man on the steam-boat, with such a contented face that, if it did not lie, he must be the happiest man on earth. That he indeed said he was: I heard it from his own mouth. He was a Dane, consequently my countryman, and was a travelling theatrical manager. He had the whole corps dramatique with him; they lay in a large chest—he was a puppet showman. His innate good-humour, said he, had been tried by a polytechnic candidate,[D] and from this experiment on his patience he had become completely happy. I did not understand him at the moment, but he soon laid the whole case clearly before me; and here it is.
[Footnote D: One who has passed his examination at a polytechnic school.]
"It was in Slagelse," said he, "that I gave a representation at the parsonage, and had a brilliant house and a brilliant company of spectators, all young persons, unconfirmed, except a few old ladies. Then there came a person dressed in black, having the appearance of a student: he sat down amongst the others, laughed quite at the proper time, and applauded quite correctly; that was an unusual spectator!
"I was bent on ascertaining who he was, and then I heard that he was a candidate from the polytechnic school, who had been sent out to instruct people in the provinces. At eight o'clock my representation was over; the children were to go early to bed, and one must think of the convenience of the public.
"At nine o'clock the candidate began his lectures and experiments, and now I was one of his auditory.
"It was remarkable to hear and look at! The chief part of it went over my head and into the parson's, as one says. Can it be possible, thought I, that we human beings can find out such things? in that case, we must also be able to hold out longer, before we are put into the earth. It was merely small miracles that he performed, and yet all as easy as an old stocking—quite from nature. In the time of Moses and the prophets, such a polytechnic candidate would have been one of the wise men of the land, and in the Middle Ages he would have been burnt. I could not sleep the whole night, and as I gave a representation the next evening, and the candidate was there again, I got into a real merry humour.
"I have heard of an actor, who when playing the lovers' parts, only thought of one of the spectators; he played for her alone, and forgot all the rest of the house; the polytechnic candidate was my her, my only spectator, for whom I played. And when the performance was over, all the puppets were called forward, and I was invited by the polytechnic candidate to take a glass of wine with him; and he spoke about my comedy, and I of his science; and I believe we each derived equal pleasure from the other. But yet I had the advantage, for there was so much in his performance that he could not account for: as for instance, that a piece of iron which falls through a spiral line, becomes magnetic,—well, how is that? The spirit comes over it, but whence does it come from? it is just as with the human beings of this world, I think; our Lord lets them fall through the spiral line of time, and the spirit comes over them—and there stands a Napoleon, a Luther, or a similar person.
"'All nature is a series of miracles,' said the candidate, 'but we are so accustomed to them that we call them things of every-day life.' And he spoke and he explained, so that it seemed at last as if he lifted my scull, and I honestly confessed, that if I were not an old fellow, I would go directly to the polytechnic school, and learn to examine the world in the summer, although I was one of the happiest of men.
"'One of the happiest!' said he, and it was just as if he tasted it. 'Are you happy?' 'Yes!' said I, 'I am happy, and I am welcome in all the towns I come to with my company! There is certainly one wish, that comes now and then like a night-mare, which rides on my good-humour, and that is to be a theatrical manager for a living company—a company of real men and women.'
"'You wish to have your puppets animated; you would have them become real actors and actresses,' said he, 'and yourself be the manager? you then think that you would be perfectly happy?'
"Now he did not think so, but I thought so; and we talked for and against; and we were just as near in our opinions as before. But we clinked our glasses together, and the wine was very good; but there was witchcraft in it, or else the short and the long of the story would be—that I was intoxicated.
"That I was not; my eyes were quite clear; it was as if there was sunshine in the room, and it shone out of the face of the polytechnic candidate, so that I began to think of the old gods in my youth, and when they went about in the world. And I told him so, and then he smiled, and I durst have sworn that he was a disguised god, or one of the family!—And he was so—my first wish was to be fulfilled: the puppets become living beings and I the manager of men and women. We drank that it should be so! he put all my puppets in the wooden chest, fastened it on my back, and then let me fall through a spiral line. I can still hear how I came down, slap! I lay on the floor, that is quite sure and certain, and the whole company sprang out of the chest. The spirit had come over us all together; all the puppets had become excellent artists—they said so themselves—and I was the manager. Everything was in order for the first representation; the whole company must speak with me, and the public also. The female dancer said, that if she did not stand on one leg, the house would be in an uproar: she was master of the whole and would be treated as such.
"She who played the queen, would also be treated as a queen when off the stage, or else she should get out of practice, and he who was employed to come in with a letter made himself as important as the first lover. 'For,' said he, 'the small are of just as much importance as the great, in an artistic whole.' Then the hero demanded that the whole of his part should only be retorts on making his exit, for these the public applauded; the prima donna would only play in a red light, for that suited her best—she would not be blue: they were all like flies in a bottle, and I was also in the bottle—for I was the manager. I lost my breath, my head was quite dizzy! I was as miserable as a man can be; it was a new race of beings I had come amongst; I wished that I had them altogether again in the chest, that I had never been a manager: I told them that they were in fact only puppets, and so they beat me to death. That was my feeling!
"I lay on the bed in my chamber; but how I had come there from the polytechnic candidate, he must know best—for I do not. The moon shone in on the floor where the puppet-chest lay upset, and all the puppets spread about—great and small, the whole lot. But I was not floored! I sprang out of bed, and threw them all into the chest; some on their heads, and some on their legs; I smacked the lid down and sat myself upon it: it was worth painting, can't you conceive it? I can! 'Now you shall be there!' said I, 'and I will never more wish that you may become flesh and blood!' I was so glad; I was the happiest man alive—the polytechnic candidate had tried me! I sat in perfect bliss, and fell asleep on the chest; and in the morning—it was, properly speaking, at noon, for I slept so very long that morning—I sat there still, happy and edified—I saw that my previous and only wish had been stupid. I inquired for the polytechnic candidate, but he was gone, like the Greek and Roman gods.
"And from that time I have been the happiest man alive. I am a fortunate manager; my company does not argue with me, neither does the public; they are amused to their heart's content, and I can myself put all my pieces nicely together. I take the best parts out of all sorts of comedies that I choose, and no one troubles himself about it. Pieces that are now despised at the large theatres, but which thirty years ago the public ran to see, and cried over—those pieces I now make use of. I now present them before the young folks; and the young folks—they cry just as their fathers and mothers used to do. I give 'Johanna Montfakon' and 'Dyveke,' but abbreviated; for the little folks do not like long, twaddling love-stories. They must have it unfortunate—but it must be brief. Now that I have travelled through Denmark, both to the right and left, I know everybody and am known again. Now I have come to Sweden, and if I am successful and gain much money, I will be a Scandinavian, if the humour hold; and this I tell you, as you are my countryman."
And I, as his countryman, naturally tell it again—only for the sake of telling it.
* * * * *
The canal voyage through Sweden goes at first constantly upwards, through elvs and lakes, forests and rocky land. From the heights we look down on vast extents of forest-land and large waters, and by degrees the vessel sinks again down through mountain torrents. At Mem we are again down by the salt fiord: a solitary tower raises its head between the remains of low, thick walls—it is the ruins of Stegeberg. The coast is covered to a great extent with dark, melancholy forests, which enclose small grass-grown valleys. The screaming sea-gulls fly around our vessel; we are by the Baltic; we feel the fresh sea-breeze: it blows as in the times of the ancient heroes, when the sea-kings, sons of high-born fathers, exercised their deeds here. The same sea's surface then appeared to them as now to us, with its numberless isles, which lie strewed about here in the water by thousands along the whole coast. The depth of water between the rocky isles and the solid land is that we call "The Skjaergaards:" their waters flow into each other with varying splendour. We see it in the sunshine, and it is like a large English landscape garden; but the greensward plain is here the deep sea, the flower-beds in it are rocks and reefs, rich in firs and pines, oaks and bushes. Mark how, when the wind blows from the east, and the sea breaks over sunken rocks and is dashed back again in spray from the cliffs, your limbs feel—even through the ship on which you stand—the power of the sea: you are lifted as if by supernatural hands.
We rush on against wind and sea, as if it were the sea-god's snorting horse that bore us; from Skjaergaard to Skjaergaard. The signal-gun is fired, and the pilot comes from that solitary wooden house. Sometimes we look upon the open sea, sometimes we glide again in between dark, stony islands; they lie like gigantic monsters in the water: one has the form of the tortoise's arched shell, another has the elephant's back and rough grey colour. Mouldering, light grey rocks indicate that the wind and weather past centuries has lashed over them.
We now approach larger rocky islands, and the huge, grey, broken rocks of the main land, where dwarfish pine woods grow in a continual combat with the blast; the Skjaergaards sometimes become only a narrow canal, sometimes an extensive lake strewed with small islets, all of stone, and often only a mere block of stone, to which a single little fir-tree clings fast: screaming sea-gulls flutter around the land-marks that are set up; and now we see a single farm-house, whose red-painted sides shine forth from the dark background. A group of cows lies basking in the sun on the stony surface, near a little smiling pasture, which appears to have been cultivated here or cut out of a meadow in Scania. How solitary must it not be to live on that little island! Ask the boy who sits there by the cattle, he will be able to tell us. "It is lively and merry here," says he. "The day is so long and light, the seal sits out there on the stone and barks in the early morning hour, and all the steamers from the canal must pass here. I know them all; and when the sun goes down in the evening, it is a whole history to look into the clouds over the land: there stand mountains with palaces, in silver and in gold, in red and in blue; sailing dragons with golden crowns, or an old giant with a beard down to his waist—altogether of clouds, and they are always changing.
"The storms come on in the autumn, and then there is often much anxiety when father is out to help ships in distress; but one becomes, as it were, a new being.
"In winter the ice is locked fast and firm, and we drive from island to island and to the main land; and if the bear or the wolf pays us a visit we take his skin for a winter covering: it is warm in the room there, and they read and tell stories about old times!"
Yes, old Time, how thou dost unfold thyself with remembrances of these very Skjaergaards—old Time which belonged to the brave. These waters, these rocky isles and strands, saw heroes more greatly active than actively good: they swung the axe to give the mortal blow, or as they called it, "the whining Jetteqvinde."[E]
[Footnote E: Giantess.]
Here came the Vikings with their ships: on the headland yonder they levied provisions; the grazing cattle were slaughtered and borne away. Ye mouldering cliffs, had ye but a tongue, ye might tell us about the duels with the two-handed sword—about the deeds of the giants. Ye saw the hero hew with the sword, and cast the javelin: his left hand was as cunning as his right The sword moved so quickly in the air that there seemed to be three. Ye saw him, when he in all his martial array sprang forwards and backwards, higher than he himself was tall, and if he sprang into the sea he swam like a whale. Ye saw the two combatants: the one darted his javelin, the other caught it in the air, and cast it back again, so that it pierced through shield and man down into the earth. Ye saw warriors with sharp swords and angry hearts; the sword was struck downwards so as to cut the knee, out the combatant sprang into the air, and the sword whizzed under his feet. Mighty Sagas from the olden times! Mouldering rocks, could ye but tell us of these things!
Ye, deep waters, bore the Vikings' ships, and when the strong in battle lifted the iron anchor and cast it against the enemy's vessel, so that the planks were rent asunder, ye poured your dark heavy seas into the hold, so that the bark sank. The wild Berserk who with naked breast stood against his enemy's blows, mad as a dog, howling like a bear, tearing his shield asunder, rushing to the bottom of the sea here, and fetching up stones, which ordinary men could not raise—history peoples these waters, these cliffs for us! A future poet will conjure them to this Scandinavian Archipelago, chisel the true forms out of the old Sagas, the bold, the rude, the greatness and imperfections of the time, in their habits as they lived.
They rise again for us on yonder island, where the wind is whistling through the young fir wood. The house is of beams, roofed with bark; the smoke from the fire on the broad stone in the hall, whirls through the air-hole, near which stands the cask of mead; the cushions lie on the bench before the closed bedsteads; deer-skins hang over the balk walls, ornamented with shields, helmets, and armour. Effigies of gods, carved, on wooden poles, stand before the high seat where the noble Viking sits, a high-born father's youngest son, great in fame, but still greater in deeds; the skjalds (bards) and foster-brothers sit nearest to him. They defended the coasts of their countrymen, and the pious women; they fetched wheat and honey from England, they went to the White Sea for sables and furs—their adventures are related in song. We see the old man ride in rich clothing, with gloves sewn with golden thread, and with a hat brought from Garderige; we see the youth with a golden fillet around his brow; we see him at the Thing; we see him in battle and in play, where the best is he that can cut off the other's eyebrows without scratching the skin, or causing a wink with the eyes, on pain of losing his station. The woman sits in the log-house at her loom, and in the late moonlight nights the spirits of the fallen come and sit down around the fire, where they shake the wet, dripping clothes; but the serf sleeps in the ashes, and on the kitchen bench, and dreams that he dips his bread in the fat soup, and licks his fingers.
Thou future poet, thou wilt call forth the vanished forms from the Sagas, thou wilt people these islands, and let us glide past these reminiscences of the olden time with the mind full of them; clearly and truly wilt thou let us glide, as we now with the power of steam fly past that firmly standing scenery, the swelling sea, rocks and reefs, the main land, and wood-grown islands.
We are already past Braavigen, where numberless ships from the northern kingdoms lay, when Upsala's King, Sigurd Ring, came, challenged by Harald Hildetand, who, old and grey, feared to die on a sick bed, and would fall in battle; and the mainland thundered like the plains of Marathon beneath the tramp of horses' hoofs during the battle:[F] bards and female warriors surrounded the Danish King. The blind old man raised himself high in his chariot, gave his horse free rein, and hewed his way. Odin himself had due reverence paid to Hildetand's bones; and the pile was kindled, and the King laid on it, and Sigurd conjured all to cast gold and weapons, the most valuable they possessed, into the fire; and the bards sang to it, and the female warriors struck the spears on the bright shields. Upsala's Lord, Sigurd Ring, became King of Sweden and Denmark: so says the Saga, which sounded over the land and water from these coasts.
[Footnote F: The battle of Braavalla.]
The memorials of olden times pass swiftly through our thoughts; we fly past the scene of manly exercises and great deeds in the olden times—the ship cleaves the mighty waters with its iron paddles, from Skjaergaard to Skjaergaard.
* * * * *
We cast runes[G] here on the paper, and from the white ground the picture of Birger Jarl's six hundred years old city rises before thee.
[Footnote G: "To cast runes" was, in the olden time, to exercise witchcraft. When the apple, with ciphers cut in it, rolled into the maiden's lap, her heart and mind were infatuated.]
The runes roll, you see! Wood-grown rocky isles appear in the light, grey morning mist; numberless flocks of wild birds build their nests in safety here, where the fresh waters of the Maelaren rush into the salt sea. The Viking's ship comes; King Agna stands by the prow—he brings as booty the King of Finland's daughter. The oak-tree spreads its branches over their bridal chamber; at daybreak the oak-tree bears King Agna, hanged in his long golden chain: that is the bride's work, and the ship sails away again with her and the rescued Fins.
The clouds drive past—the years too.
Hunters and fishermen erect themselves huts;—it is again deserted here, where the sea-birds alone have their homes. What is it that so frightens these numberless flocks? the wild duck and sea-gull fly screaming about, there is a hammering and driving of piles. Oluf Skoetkonge has large beams bored down into the ground, and strong iron chains fastened across the stream: "Thou art caught, Oluf Haraldson,[H] caught with the ships and crews, with which thou didst devastate the royal city Sigtuna; thou canst not escape from the closed Maelar lake!"
[Footnote H: Afterwards called Saint Oluf.]
It is but the work of one night; the same night when Oluf Hakonson, with iron and with fire, burst his onward way through the stubborn ground; before the day breaks the waters of the Maelar roll there; the Norwegian prince, Oluf sailed through the royal channel he had cut in the east. The stockades, where the iron chains hang, must bear the defences; the citizens from the burnt-down Sigtuna erect themselves a bulwark here, and build their new, little town on stock-holms.[I]
[Footnote I: Stock, signifies bulks, or beams; holms, i.e. islets, or river islands; hence Stockholm.]
The clouds go, and the years go! Do you see how the gables grow? there rise towers and forts. Birger Jarl makes the town of Stockholm a fortress; the warders stand with bow and arrow on the walls, reconnoitring over lake and fjord, over Brunkaberg sand-ridge. There were the sand-ridge slopes upwards from Roerstrand's Lake they build Clara cloister, and between it and the town a street springs up: several more appear; they form an extensive city, which soon becomes the place of contest for different partisans, where Ladelaas's sons plant the banner, and where the German Albrecht's retainers burn the Swedes alive within its walls. Stockholm is, however, the heart of the kingdom: that the Danes know well; that the Swedes know too, and there is strife and bloody combating. Blood flows by the executioner's hand, Denmark's Christian the Second, Sweden's executioner, stands in the market-place.
Roll, ye runes! see over Brunkaberg sand-ridge, where the Swedish people conquered the Danish host, there they raise the May-pole: it is midsummer-eve—Gustavus Vasa makes his entry into Stockholm.
Around the May-pole there grow fruit and kitchen-gardens, houses and streets; they vanish in flames, they rise again; that gloomy fortress towards the tower is transformed into a palace, and the city stands magnificently with towers and draw-bridges. There grows a town by itself on the sand-ridge, a third springs up on the rock towards the south; the old walls fall at Gustavus Adolphus's command; the three towns are one, large and extensive, picturesquely varied with old stone houses, wooden shops, and grass-roofed huts; the sun shines on the brass balls of the towers, and a forest of masts stands in that secure harbour.