1. Introduction. The Ancient Scandinavians; their Influence on the English Race.—2. The Mythology.—3. The Scandinavian Languages.—4. Icelandic, or Old Norse Literature: the Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda, the Scalds, the Sagas, the “Heimskringla,” The Folks-Sagas and Ballads of the Middle Ages.—5. Danish Literature: Saxo Grammaticus and Theodoric; Arreboe, Kingo, Tycho Brahe, Holberg, Evald, Baggesen, Oehlenschlaeger, Grundtvig, Blicher, Ingemann, Heiberg, Gyllenbourg, Winther, Hertz, Mueller, Hans Andersen, Plong, Goldschmidt, Hastrup, and others; Malte Brun, Rask, Rafn, Magnusen, the brothers Oersted.—6. Swedish Literature: Messenius, Stjernhjelm, Lucidor, and others. The Gallic period: Dalin, Nordenflycht, Crutz and Gyllenborg, Gustavus III., Kellgren, Leopold, Oxenstjerna. The New Era: Bellman, Hallman, Kexel, Wallenberg, Lidnor, Thorild, Lengren, Franzen, Wallin. The Phosphorists: Atterborn, Hammarskoeld, and Palmblad. The Gothic School: Geijer, Tegner, Stagnelius, Almquist, Vitalis, Runeberg, and others. The Romance Writers: Cederborg, Bremer, Carlen, Knorring. Science: Swedenborg, Linnaeus, and others.
1. INTRODUCTION.—It is a singular fact that the progressive and expanding spirit which characterizes the English race should be so universally referred to their Anglo-Saxon blood, while the transcendent influence of the Scandinavian element is entirely overlooked. The so-called Anglo- Saxons were a handful of people in Holstein, where they may still be found in inglorious obscurity, the reluctant subjects of Denmark. The early emigrants who bore that name, were, it is true, from various portions of Germany; but even if the glory of our English ancestry be transferred from Anglen, and spread over the whole country, we find a race bearing no resemblance to the English in their more active and powerful qualities, but an intellectual people, possessed of a patient and conceding nature, which, without other more aspiring attributes, doubtless would have left the English people in the same condition of political slavery that the Germans continue in to this day. Of all those institutions so commonly and gratuitously ascribed to them, of representative government, trial by jury, and such machinery of political and social independence, there is not a vestige to be found in any age in Germany, from the Christian era to the present time. During the period of their dominion in England, the Anglo-Saxons, so far from showing themselves an enterprising people were notoriously weak, slothful, and degenerate, overrun by the Danes, and soon permanently subjected by the Normans. It is evident, from the trifling resistance they made, that they had neither energy to fight, nor property, laws, nor institutions to defend, and that they were merely serfs on the lands of the nobles or of the church, who had nothing to lose by a change of masters. It is to the renewal of the original spirit of the Anglo- Saxons, by the fresh infusion of the Danish conquerors into a very large proportion of the whole population, in the eleventh century, that we must look for the actual origin of the national character and institutions of the English people, and for that check of popular opinion and will upon arbitrary rule which grew up by degrees, and which slowly but necessarily produced the English law, character, and institutions. These belong not to the German or Anglo-Saxon race settled in England previous to the tenth or eleventh century, but to that small, cognate branch of Northmen or Danes, who, between the ninth and twelfth centuries, brought their paganism, energy, and social institutions to conquer, mingle with, and invigorate the inert descendants of the old race. That this northern branch of the common race has been the more influential in the society of modern Europe, we need only compare England and the United States with Saxony, Prussia, Hanover, or any country of strictly ancient Teutonic descent, to be satisfied. From whatever quarter civil, religious, and political liberty and independence of mind may have come, it was not from the banks of the Rhine or the forests of Germany.
The difference in the spirit of the two branches of the same original race was immense, even at the earliest period. When the Danes and Norwegians overran England, the Germans had, for six centuries, been growing more and more pliant to despotic government, and the Scandinavians more and more bold and independent. At home they elected their kings, and decided everything by the general voice of theAlthing, or open Parliament. Abroad they became the most daring of adventurers; their Vikings spread themselves along the shores of Europe, plundering and planting colonies; they subdued England, seized Normandy, besieged Paris, conquered a large portion of Belgium, and made extensive inroads into Spain. They made themselves masters of lower Italy and Sicily under Robert Guiscard, in the eleventh century; during the Crusades they ruled Antioch and Tiberias, under Tancred; and in the same century they marched across Germany, and established themselves in Switzerland, where the traditions of their arrival, and traces of their language still remain. In 861 they discovered Iceland, and soon after peopled it; thence they stretched still farther west, discovered Greenland, and proceeding southward, towards the close of the tenth century they struck upon the shores of North America, it would appear, near the coast of Massachusetts. They seized on Novogorod, and became the founders of the Russian Empire, and of a line of Czars which became extinct only in 1598, when the Slavonic dynasty succeeded. From Russia they made their way to the Black Sea, and in 866 appeared before Constantinople, where their attacks were bought off only on the payment of large sums by the degenerate emperors. From. 902 to the fall of the empire, the emperors retained a large body-guard of Scandinavians, who, armed with double-edged battle-axes, were renowned through the world, under the name of Varengar, or the Vaeringjar of the old Icelandic Sagas.
Such were the ancient Scandinavians. To this extraordinary people the English and their descendants alone bear any resemblance. In them the old Norse fire still burns, and manifests itself in the same love of martial daring and fame, the same indomitable seafaring spirit, the same passion for the discovery of new seas and new lands, and the same insatiable longing, when discovered, to seize and colonize them.
2. THE MYTHOLOGY.—The mythology of the northern nations, as represented in the Edda, was founded on Polytheism; but through it, as through the religion of all nations, there is dimly visible, like the sun shining through a dense cloud, the idea of one Supreme Being, of infinite power, boundless knowledge, and incorruptible justice, who could not be represented by any corporeal form. Such, according to Tacitus, was the supreme God of the Germans, and such was the primitive belief of mankind. Doubtless, the poet priests, who elaborated the imaginative, yet philosophical mythology of the north, were aware of the true and only God, infinitely elevated above the attributes of that Nature, which they shaped into deities for the multitude whom they believed incapable of more than the worship of the material powers which they saw working in everything around them.
The dark, hostile powers of nature, such as frost and fire, are represented as giants, “jotuns,” huge, chaotic demons; while the friendly powers, the sun, the summer heat, all vivifying principles, were gods. From the opposition of light and darkness, water and fire, cold and heat, sprung the first life, the giant Ymer and his evil progeny the frost giants, the cow Adhumla, and Bor, the father of the god Odin. Odin, with his brothers, slew the giant Ymer, and from his body formed the heavens and earth. From two stems of wood they also shaped the first man and woman, whom they endowed with life and spirit, and from whom descended all the human race.
There were twelve principal deities among the Scandinavians, of whom Odin was the chief. There is a tradition in the north of a celebrated warrior of that name, who, near the period of the Christian era, fled from his country, between the Caspian and the Black Sea, to escape the vengeance of the Romans, and marched toward the north and west of Europe, subduing all who opposed him, and finally established himself in Sweden, where he received divine honors. According to the Eddas, however, Odin was the son of Bor, and the most powerful of the gods; the father of Thor, Balder, and others; the god of war, eloquence, and poetry. He was made acquainted with everything that happened on earth, through two ravens, Hugin and Munin (mind and memory); they flew daily round the world, and returned every night to whisper in his ear all that they had seen and heard. Thor, the god of thunder, was the implacable and dreaded enemy of the giants, and the avenger and defender of the gods. His stature was so lofty that no horse could bear him, and lightning flashed from his eyes and from his chariot wheels as they rolled along. His mallet or hammer, his belt of strength and his gauntlets of iron, were of wonderful power, and with them he could overthrow the giants and monsters who were at war with the gods. Balder, the second son of Odin, was the noblest and fairest of the gods, beloved by everything in nature. He exceeded all beings in gentleness, prudence, and eloquence, and he was so fair and graceful that light emanated from him as he moved. In his palace nothing impure could exist. The death of Balder is the principal event in the mythological drama of the Scandinavians. It was foredoomed, and a prognostic of the approaching dissolution of the universe and of the gods themselves. Heimdall was the warder of the gods; his post was on the summit of Bifrost, called by mortals the rainbow—the bridge which connects heaven and earth, and down which the gods daily traveled to hold their councils under the shade of the tree Yggdrasil. The red color was the flaming fire, which served as a defense against the giants. Heimdall slept more lightly than a bird, and his ear was so exquisite that he could hear the grass grow in the meadows and the wool upon the backs of the sheep. He carried a trumpet, the sound of which echoed through all worlds. Loke was essentially of an evil nature, and descended from the giants, the enemies of the gods; but he was mysteriously associated with Odin from the infancy of creation. He instilled a spark of his fire into a man at his creation, and he was the father of three monsters, Hela or Death, the Midgard Serpent, and the wolf Fenris, the constant terror of the gods, and destined to be the means of their destruction.
Besides these deities, there were twelve goddesses, the chief of whom was Frigga, the wife of Odin, and the queen and mother of the gods. She knew the future, but never revealed it; and she understood the language of animals and plants. Freya was the goddess of love, unrivaled in grace and beauty—the Scandinavian Venus. Iduna was possessed of certain apples, of such virtue that, by eating of them, the gods became exempted from the consequences of old age, and retained, unimpaired, all the freshness of youth. The gods dwelt above, in Asgard, the garden of the Asen or the Divinities; the home of the giants, with whom they were in perpetual war, was Jotunheim, a distant, dark, chaotic land, of which Utgard was the chief seat. Midgard, or the earth, the abode of man, was represented as a disk in the midst of a vast ocean; its caverns and recesses were peopled with elves and dwarfs, and around it lay coiled the huge Midgard Serpent. Muspelheim, or Flameland, and Nifelheim or Mistland, lay without the organized universe, and were the material regions of light and darkness, the antagonism of which had produced the universe with its gods and men. Nifelheim was a dark and dreary realm, where Hela, or Death, ruled with despotic sway over those who had died ingloriously of disease or old age. Helheim, her cold and gloomy palace, was thronged with their shivering and shadowy spectres. She was livid and ghastly pale, and her very looks inspired horror.
The chief residence of Odin, in Asgard, was Valhalla, or the Hall of the Slain; it was hung round with golden spears, and shields, and coats of mail; and here he received the souls of warriors killed in battle, who were to assist him in the final conflict with the giants; and here, every day, they armed themselves for battle, and rode forth by thousands to their mimic combat on the plains of Asgard, and at night they returned to Valhalla to feast on the flesh of the boar, and to drink the intoxicating mead. Here dwelt, also, the numerous virgins called the Valkyriur, or Choosers of the Slain, whom Odin sent forth to every battle-field to sway the victory, to make choice of those who should fall in the combat, and to direct them on their way to Valhalla. They were called, also, the Sisters of War; they watched with intense interest over their favorite warriors and sometimes lent an ear to their love. In the field they were always in complete armor; led on by Skulda, the youngest of the Fates, they were foremost in battle, with helmets on their heads, armed with flaming swords, and surrounded by lightning and meteors. Sometimes they were seen riding through the air and over the sea on shadowy horses, from whose manes fell hail on the mountains and dew on the valleys; and at other times their fiery lances gleamed in the spectral lights of the aurora borealis; and again, they were represented clothed in white, with flowing hair, as cupbearers to the heroes at the feasts of Valhalla.
In the centre of the world stood the great ash tree Yggdrasil, the Tree of Life, of which the Christmas tree and the Maypole of northern nations are doubtless emblems. It spread its life-giving arms through the heavens, and struck its three roots down through the three worlds. It nourished all life, even that of Nedhog, the most venomous of serpents, which continually gnawed at the root that penetrated Nifelheim. A second root entered the region of the frost giants, where was the well in which wisdom and understanding were concealed. A third root entered the region of the gods; and there, beside it, dwelt the three Nornor or Fates, over whom even the gods had no power, and who, every day, watered it from the primeval fountain, so that its boughs remained green.
The gods were benevolent spirits—the friends of mankind, but they were not immortal. A destiny more powerful than they or their enemies, the giants, was one day to overwhelm them. At the Ragnaroek, or twilight of the gods, foretold in the Edda, the monsters shall be unloosed, the heavens be rent asunder, and the sun and moon disappear; the great Midgard Serpent shall lash the waters of the ocean till they overflow the earth; the wolf Fenris, whose enormous mouth reaches from heaven to earth, shall rush upon and devour all within his reach; the genii of fire shall ride forth, clothed in flame, and lead on the giants to the storming of Asgard. Heimdall sounds his trumpet, which echoes through all worlds; the gods fly to arms; Odin appears in his golden casque, his resplendent cuirass, with his vast scimitar in his hand, and marshals his heroes in battle array. The great ash tree is shaken to its roots, heaven and earth are full of horror and affright, and gods, giants, and heroes are at length buried in one common ruin. Then comes forth the mighty one, who is above all gods, who may not be named. He pronounces his decrees, and establishes the doctrines which shall endure forever. A new earth, fairer and more verdant, springs forth from the bosom of the waves, the fields bring forth without culture, calamities are unknown, and in Heaven, the abode of the good, a palace is reared, more shining than the sun, where the just shall dwell forevermore.
Traces of the worship of these deities by our pagan ancestors still remain in the names given to four days of the week. Tuesday was consecrated to Tyr, a son of Odin; Wednesday, Odin's or Wooden's day, to Odin; Thursday, or Thor's day, to Thor; and Friday, or Freya's day, was sacred to the goddess Freya.
3. THE LANGUAGE.—The Scandinavian or Norse languages include the Icelandic, Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian dialects.
The Icelandic or Old Norse, which was the common language of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, in the ninth century, was carried into Iceland, where, to the present time, it has wonderfully retained its early characteristics. The written alphabet was called Runic, and the letters, Runes, of which the most ancient specimens are the inscriptions on Rune stones, rings, and wooden tablets.
The Danish and Swedish, may be called the New Norse languages; they began to assume a character distinct from the Old Norse about the beginning of the twelfth century. The Danish language is not confined to Denmark, but is used in the literature, and by the cultivated society of Norway.
The Swedish is the most musical of the Scandinavian dialects, its pronunciation being remarkably soft and agreeable. Its character is more purely Norse than the Danish, which has been greatly affected by its contact with the German.
The Norwegian exists only in the form of dialects spoken by the peasantry. It is distinguished from the other two by a rich vocabulary of words peculiar to itself, and by its own pronunciation and peculiar construction; only literary cultivation is wanted to make it an independent language like the others.
4. ICELANDIC OR OLD NORSE LITERATURE.—In 868 one of the Norwegian vikings or sea rovers, being driven on the coast of Iceland, first made known the existence of the island. Harold, the fair-haired, having soon after subdued or slain the petty kings of Norway, and introduced the feudal system, many of the inhabitants, disdaining to sacrifice their independence, set forth to colonize this dreary and inhospitable region, whose wild and desolate aspect seemed to attract their imaginations. Huge mountains of ice here rose against the northern sky, from which the smoke of volcanoes rolled balefully up; and the large tracts of lava, which had descended from them to the sea, were cleft into fearful abysses, where no bottom could be found. Here were strange, desolate valleys, with beds of pure sulphur, torn and overhanging precipices, gigantic caverns, and fountains of boiling water, which, mingled with flashing fires, soared up into the air, amid the undergroans of earthquakes, and howlings and hissings as of demons in torture. Subterranean fires, in terrific contest with the wintry ocean, seemed to have made sport of rocks, mountains, and rivers, tossing them into the most fantastic and appalling shapes. Yet such was the fondness of the Scandinavian imagination for the wild and desolate, and such their hatred of oppression, that they soon peopled this chaotic island to an extent it has never since reached. In spite of the rigor of the climate, where corn refused to ripen, and where the labors of fishing and agriculture could only be pursued for four months of the year, the people became attached to this wild country. They established a republic which lasted four hundred years, and for ages it was destined to be the sanctuary and preserver of the grand old literature of the North. The people took with them their Scalds and their traditions, and for a century after the peopling of the island, they retained their Pagan belief. Ages rolled away; the religion of Odin had perished from the mainland, and the very hymns and poems in which its doctrines were recorded had perished with it, when, in the middle of the seventeenth century, the Rhythmical Edda of Samund was discovered, followed by the Prose Edda of Snorre Sturleson. These discoveries roused the zeal of the Scandinavian literati, and led to further investigations, which resulted in the discovery of a vast number of chronicles and sagas, and much has since been done by the learned men of Iceland and Denmark to bring to light the remote annals of northern Europe.
These remains fall into the three divisions of Eddaic, Scaldic, and Saga literature. Samund the Wise (1056-1131), a Christian priest of Iceland, was the first to collect and commit to writing the oral traditions of the mythology and poetry of the Scandinavians. His collection has been termed the “Edda,” a word by some supposed to signify grandmother, and by others derived, with more probability, from the obsolete word oeda, to teach. The elder or poetic Edda consists of thirty-eight poems, and is divided into two parts. The first, or mythological cycle, contains everything relating to the Scandinavian ideas of the creation of the world, the origin of man, the morals taught by the priests, and stories of the gods; the second, or heroic cycle, contains the original materials of the “Nibelungen Lied" of Germany. The poems consist of strophes of six or eight lines each, with little of the alliteration by which the Scalds were afterwards distinguished. One of the oldest and most interesting is the “Voluspa,” or Song of the Prophetess, a kind of sibylline lay, which contains an account of the creation, the origin of man and of evil, and concludes with a prediction of the destruction and renovation of the universe, and a description of the future abodes of happiness and misery. “Vafthrudnir's Song” is in the form of a dialogue between Odin, disguised as a mortal, and the giant Vafthrudnir, in which the same subjects are discussed. “Grimner's Song” contains a description of twelve habitations of the celestial deities, considered as symbolical of the signs of the zodiac. “Rig's Song” explains, allegorically, the origin of the three castes: the thrall, the churl, and the noble, which, at a very early period, appear to have formed the framework of Scandinavian society. “The Havamal,” or the High Song of Odin, is the complete code of Scandinavian ethics. The maxims here brought together more resemble the Proverbs of Solomon than anything in human literature, but without the high religious views of the Scripture maxims. It shows a worldly wisdom, experience, and sagacity, to which modern life can add nothing. In the Havamal is included the Rune Song.
Runes, the primitive rudely-shaped letters of the Gothic race, appear never to have been used to record their literature, which was committed to the Scalds and Sagamen, but they were reserved for inscriptions on rocks or memorial stones, or they were cut in staves of wood, as a rude calendar to assist the memory. Odin was the great master of runes, but all the gods, many of the giants, kings, queens, prophetesses, and poets possessed the secret of their power. In the ballads of the Middle Ages, long after the introduction of Christianity, we find everywhere the boast of Runic knowledge and of its power. Queens and princesses cast the runic spell over their enemies; ladies, by the use of runes, inspire warriors with love; and weird women by their means perform witchcraft and sorcery. Some of their rune songs taught the art of healing; others had power to stop flying spears in battle, and to excite or extinguish hatred and love. There were runes of victory inscribed on swords; storm runes, which gave power over sails, inscribed on rudders of ships, drink runes, which gave power over others, inscribed on drinking horns; and herb runes, cut in the bark of trees which cured sickness and wounds. These awful characters, which struck terror into the hearts of our heathen ancestors, and which appalled and subdued alike kings, warriors, and peasants, were simple letters of the alphabet; but they prove to what a stupenduous extent knowledge was power in the dark ages of the earth. The poet who sings the Rune Song in the Havamal does it with every combination of mystery, calculated to inspire awe and wonder in the hearer.
The two poems, “Odin's Raven Song” and the “Song of the Way-Tamer,” are among the most deeply poetical hymns of the Edda. They relate to the same great event—the death of Balder—and are full of mystery and fear. A strange trouble has fallen upon the gods, the oracles are silent, and a dark, woeful foreboding seizes on all things living. Odin mounts his steed, Sleipner, and descends to hell to consult the Vala there in her tomb, and to extort from her, by runic incantations, the fate of his son. This “Descent of Odin” is familiar to the English reader through Gray's Ode. In all mythologies we have glimpses continually of the mere humanity of the gods, we witness their limited powers and their consciousness of a coming doom. In this respect every mythology is kept in infinite subordination to the true faith, in which all is sublime, infinite, and worthy of the Deity—in which God is represented as pure spirit, whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain; and all assumption of divinity by false gods is treated as a base superstition.
The remaining songs of the first part of the Edda relate chiefly to the exploits, wanderings, and love adventures of the gods. The “Sun Song,” with which it concludes, is believed to be the production of Samund, the collector of the Edda, In this he retains some of the machinery of the old creed, but introduces the Christian Deity and doctrines.
The second part of the elder Edda contains the heroic cycle of Icelandic poems, the first part of which is the Song of Voland. the renowned northern smith. The story of Voland, or Wayland, the Vulcan of the North, is of unknown antiquity; and his fame, which spread throughout Europe, still lives in the traditions of all northern nations. The poems concerning Sigurd and the Niflunga form a grand epic of the simplest construction. The versification consists of strophes of six or eight lines, without rhyme or alliteration. The sad and absorbing story here narrated was wonderfully popular throughout the ancient Scandinavian and Teutonic world, and it is impossible to say for how many centuries these great tragic ballads had agitated the hearts of the warlike races of the north. It is clear that Sigurd and Byrnhilda, with all their beauty, noble endowment, and sorrowful history, were real personages, who had taken powerful hold on the popular affections in the most ancient times, and had come down from age to age, receiving fresh incarnations and embellishments from the popular Scalds. There is a great and powerful nature living through these poems. They are pictures of men and women of godlike beauty and endowments, and full of the vigor of simple but impetuous natures. Though fragmentary, they stand in all the essentials of poetry far beyond the German Lied, and, in the tragic force of passion which they portray, they are superior to any remains of ancient poetry except that of Greece. Their greatness lies less in their language than their spirit, which is sublime and colossal. Passion, tenderness, and sorrow are here depicted with the most vivid power; and the noblest sentiments and the most heroic actions are crossed by the foulest crimes and the most terrific tragedies. They contain materials for a score of dramas of the most absorbing character.
The Prose or Younger Edda was the work of Snorre Sturleson (1178-1241), who was born of a distinguished Icelandic family, and, after leading a turbulent and ambitious life, and being twice supreme magistrate of the republic, was at last assassinated. The younger Edda repeats in prose the sublime poetry of the elder Edda, mixed with many extravagances and absurdities; and in point of literary and philosophical value it bears no comparison with it. It marks the transition from the art of the Scalds to the prose relation of the Sagaman. This work concludes with a treatise on the poetic phraseology of the Scalds, and a system of versification by Snorre.
The Bard, or Scald (literally smoothers of language, from scaldre, to polish), formed an important feature of the courts of the princes and more powerful nobles. They often acted, at the same time, as bard, councilor, and warrior. Until the twelfth century, when the monks and the art of writing put an end to the Scaldic art, this race of poets continued to issue from Iceland, and to travel from country to country, welcomed as the honored guests of kings, and receiving in return for their songs, rings and jewels of great value, but never money. There is preserved a list of two hundred and thirty scalds, who had distinguished themselves from the time of Ragnor Lodbrok to that of Vladimir II., or from the latter end of the eighth, to the beginning of the thirteenth century. Ragnor Lodbrok was a Danish king, who, in one of his predatory excursions, was taken prisoner in England and thrown into a dungeon, to be stung to death by serpents. His celebrated death song is said to have been composed during his torments. The best of the scaldic lays, however, are greatly inferior to the Eddaic poems. Alliteration is the chief characteristic of the versification.
The word Saga means literally a tale or narrative, and is used in Iceland to denote every species of tradition, whether fabulous or true. In amount, the Saga literature of ancient Scandinavia is surprisingly extensive, consisting of more than two hundred volumes. The Sagas are, for the most part, unconnected biographies or narratives of greater or less length, principally describing events which took place from the ninth to the thirteenth century. They are historical, mythic, heroic, and romantic.
The first annalist of Iceland of whom we have any remains was Ari the Wise (b. 1067), the contemporary of Samund, and his annals, for the most part, have been lost. Snorre Sturleson, already spoken of as the collector of the Prose Edda, was the author of a great original work, the “Heimskringla,” or Home-Circle, so called from the first word of the manuscript, a most admirable history of a great portion of northern Europe from the period of the Christian Era to 1177, including every species of Saga composition. It traces Odin and his followers from the East, from Asaland and Asgard, its chief city, to their settlement in Scandinavia. It narrates the contests of the kings, the establishment of the kingdoms of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, the Viking expeditions, the discovery and settlement of Iceland and Greenland, the discovery of America, and the conquests of England and Normandy. The stories are told with a life and freshness that belong only to true genius, and a picture is given of human life in all its reality, genuine, vivid, and true. Some of the Sagas of the “Heimskringla” are grand romances, full of brilliant adventures, while at the same time they lie so completely within the range of history that they may be regarded as authentic. That of Harold Haardrada narrates his expedition to the East, his brilliant exploits in Constantinople, Syria, and Sicily, his scaldic accomplishments, and his battles in England against Harold, the son of Earl Godwin, where he fell only a few days before Godwin's son himself fell at the battle of Hastings. This Saga is a splendid epic in prose, and is particularly interesting to the English race. The first part of the “Heimskringla” is necessarily derived from tradition; as it advances fable and fact all curiously intermingle, and it terminates in authentic history.
Among the most celebrated Sagas of the remaining divisions are the “Sagas of Erik the Wanderer,” who went in search of the Island of Immortality; “Frithiof's Saga,” made the subject of Tegner's great poem; the Saga of Ragnor Lodbrok, of Dietrich of Bern, and the Volsunga Saga, relating to the ancestors of Sigurd or Siegfried, the hero of the Nibelungen Lied. There are, besides, Sagas of all imaginable fictions of heroes, saints, magicians, conquerors, and fair women. Almost every leading family of Iceland had its written saga. The Sagamen, like the Scalds, traveled over all Scandinavia, visited the courts and treasured up and transmitted to posterity the whole history of the North. This wonderful activity of the Scandinavian mind from the ninth to the thirteenth century, both in amount and originality, throws completely into the shade the literary achievements of the Anglo-Saxons during the same period.
When Christianity superseded the ancient religion, the spirit and traditions of the old mythology remained in the minds of the people, and became their fireside literature under the name of “Folk Sagas.” Their legends and nursery tales are diffused over modern Scandinavia, and appear, with many variations, through all the literature of Europe. Among them are found the originals of “Jack the Giant Killer,” “Cinderella,” “Blue Beard,” the “Little Old Woman Cut Shorter,” “The Giant who smelt the Blood of an Englishman,” and many others.
The Folk Sagas have only recently been collected, but they are the true productions of ancient Scandinavians.
The art of the Scald and Sagaman, which was extinguished with the introduction of Christianity, revived after a time in the Romances of Chivalry and the popular ballads. These ballads are classified as heroic, supernatural, historic, and ballads of love and romance; they successively describe all the changes in the life and opinions of society, and closely resemble those of England, Scotland, and Germany. They are the common expression of the life and feelings of a common race, under the prevailing influences of the same period, and the same stories often inspired the nameless bards of both countries. They are composed in the same form and possess the same curious characteristic of the refrain or chorus which distinguishes this poetry in its transition from the epic to the lyric form. They express a peculiar poetic feeling which is sought for in vain in the epic age—a sentiment which, without art and without name, wanders on until it is caught up by fresh lips, and becomes the regular interpreter of the same feelings. Thus this simple voice of song travels onward from mouth to month, from heart to heart, the language of the general sorrows, hopes, and memories; strange, and yet near to every one, centuries old, yet never growing older, since the human heart, whose history it relates in so many changing images and notes, remains forever the same.
Though the great majority of the popular ballads of Scandinavia are attributed to the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, the composition of them by no means ceased then. This voice of the people continued more or less to find expression down to the close of the last century, when it became the means of leading back its admirers to truth and genuine feeling, and, more than anything else, contributed to the revival of a new era in literature.
5. DANISH LITERATURE—In taking leave of the splendid ancient literature of Scandinavia, we find before us a waste of nearly four centuries from the thirteenth, which presents scarcely a trace of intellectual cultivation. The ballads and tales, indeed, lingered in the popular memory and heart; fresh notes of genuine music were from time to time added to them, and they form the connecting link between the ancient and modern literature. Saxo Grammaticus and Theodoric the monk, in the thirteenth century, adopted the Latin language in their chronicles of Denmark and Norway, and from that time it usurped the place of the native tongue among the educated. In the sixteenth century the spirit of the Reformation began to exert an influence, and the Bible was translated into the popular tongue. New fields of thought were opened, a passion for literature was excited, and translations, chiefly from the German, were multiplied; a knowledge of the classics was cultivated, and, in time, a noble harvest of literature followed.
The first author who marks the new era is Arreboe (1587-1637), who has been called the Chaucer of Denmark. His chief work was the “Hexameron,” or “The World's First Week.” It abounds with learning, and displays great poetic beauty. The religious psalms and hymns of Kingo (1634-1703) are characterized by a simple yet powerfully expressed spirit of piety, and are still held in high esteem. His Morning and Evening Prayers, or, as he beautifully terms them, “Sighs,” are admirable.
Many other names of note are found in the literature of this period, but the only one who achieved a world-wide celebrity, was Tycho Brahe (1546- 1601), who, for a time, was the centre of a brilliant world of science and literature. The learned and celebrated, from all countries, visited him, and he was loaded with gifts and honors, in return for the honor which he conferred upon his native land. But at length, through the machinations of his enemies, he lost the favor of the king, and was forced to exile himself forever from his country. The services rendered to astronomy by Tycho Brahe were great, although his theory of the universe, in which our own planet constituted the centre, has given way before the more profound one of Copernicus.
Holberg (1684-1754), a native of Norway, is commonly styled the creator of the modern literature of Denmark, and would take a high place in that of any country. In the field of satire and comedy he was a great and unquestionable master. All his actors are types, and are as real and existent at the present hour as they were actual when he sketched them. Besides satires and numerous comedies, Holberg was the author of various histories, several volumes of letters, and a book of fables.
The principal names which appear in Danish literature, from Holberg to Evald, are those of Stub, Sneedorf, Tullin, and Sheersen. Evald (1743- 1780) was the first who perceived the superb treasury of poetic wealth which lay in the far antiquity of Scandinavia, among the gods of the Odinic mythology, and who showed to his nation the grandeur and beauty which the national history had reserved for the true poetic souls who should dare to appropriate them. But the sound which he drew from the old heroic harp startled his contemporaries, while it did not fascinate them. The august figures which he brought before them seemed monstrous and uncouth. Neglected in life, and doomed to an early death, the history of this poet was painfully interesting; a strangely brilliant web of mingled gold and ordinary thread—a strangely blended fabric of glory and of grief. Solitary, poor, bowed down with physical and mental suffering, from his heart's wound, as out of a dark cleft in a rock, swelled the clear stream of song. The poem of “Adam and Eve,” “Rolf Krage,” the first original Danish tragedy, “Balder's Death,” and “The Fishermen,” are his principal productions. “Rolf Krage” is the outpouring of a noble heart, in which the most generous and exalted sentiments revel in all the inexperience of youth. “Balder's Death” is a masterpiece of beauty, sentiment, and eloquence of diction. It is full of the passion of an unhappy love, and thus expresses the burning emotions of the poet's own heart. The old northern gods and mythic personages are introduced, and the lyric element is blended with the dramatic. The lyrical drama of “The Fishermen” is perhaps the most perfect and powerful of all Evald's works. The intense interest it excites testifies to the power of the writer, while the music of the versification delights the ear. His lyric of “King Christian,” now the national song of Denmark, is a masterly production of its kind.
During the forty years which succeeded the death of Evald, Denmark produced a great number of poets and authors of various kinds, who advanced the fame of their country; but the chief of those who closed the eighteenth century are Baggesen (1764-1826) and Rahbek (1760-1830). Though they still wrote in the nineteenth century, they belonged in spirit essentially to the eighteenth. The life of Baggesen was a genuine romance, with all its sunshine and shade. He was born in poverty and obscurity, and when a child of seven years old, on one occasion, attracted the momentary attention of the young and lovely Queen Caroline, who took him in her arms and kissed him. “Still, after half a century,” he writes, “glows the memory of that kiss; to all eternity I shall never forget it. From that kiss sprang the germ of my entire succeeding fate.” After a long and severe struggle with poverty, he suddenly found himself the most popular poet of the country, and for a quarter of a century he was the petted favorite of the nation. Supplanted in public favor by the rising glory of Oehlenschlaeger, he had the misfortune to see the poetic crown of Denmark placed on the head of his rival; and the last years of his life were embittered by disappointment and care. The works of Baggesen fill twelve volumes, and consist of comic stories, numerous letters, satires and impassioned lyrics, songs and ballads, besides dramas and operas. His “Poems to Nanna,” who, in the northern mythology, is the bride of Balder, are among the most beautiful in the Danish language, and no poet could have written them until he had gone through the deep and ennobling baptism of suffering. In these, Nanna is the symbol of the pure and eternal principle of love, and Balder is the type of the human heart, perpetually yearning after it in sorrow, yet in hope. Nanna appears lost—departed into a higher and invisible world; and Balder, while forever seeking after her, bears with him an internal consciousness that there he shall overtake her, and possess her eternally. One of Baggesen's characteristics was the projection of great schemes, which were never accomplished. He was too fond of living in the present—in the charmed circle of admiring friends— to achieve works otherwise within the limit of his powers. Bat with all his faults, his works will always remain brilliant and beautiful amid the literary wealth of his country.
In the early part of the nineteenth century the new light which radiated from Germany found its way into Denmark, and in no country was the result so rapid or so brilliant. There soon arose a school of poets who created for themselves a reputation in all parts of Europe that would have done honor to any age or country. A new epoch in the language began with Oehlenschlaeger (1779-1856), the greatest poet of Denmark, and the representative, not only of the North, but, like Scott, Byron, Goethe, and Schiller, the outgrowth of a great era as well, and the incarnation of the broader and more natural spirit of his time. In 1819 he published the “Gods of the North,” in which he combines all the legends of the Edda into one connected whole. He entered fully into the spirit of these grand old poems, and condensed and elaborated them into one. In the various regions of gods, giants, dwarfs, and men, in the striking variety of characters, the great and wise Odin, the mighty Thor, the good Balder, the malicious Loke, the queenly Frigga, the genial Freya, the lovely Iduna, the gentle Nanna—in all the magnificent scenery of Midgard, Asgard, and Nifelheim, with the glorious tree Yggdrasil and the rainbow bridge, the poet found inexhaustible scope for poetical embellishment, and he availed himself of it all with a genuine poet's power. The dramas of Oehlenschlaeger are his masterpieces, but they form only a small portion of his works. His prose stories and romances fill several volumes, and his smaller poems would of themselves have established almost a greater reputation than that of any Danish poet who went before him.
Grundtvig (b. 1783) is one of the most original and independent minds of the North. As a preacher he was fervid and eloquent; as a writer on the Scandinavian mythology and hero-life, he gave, perhaps, the truest idea of the spirit of the northern myths.
Blicher (1782-1868) was a stern realist, who made his native province of Jutland the scene of his poems and stories, which in many respects resemble those of Crabbe.
Ingemann (1789-1862) is a voluminous writer in every department of literature. His historical romances are the delight of the people, who, by their winter firesides, forget their snow-barricaded woods and mountains in listening to his pages.
Heiberg (1791-1860) as a critic ruled the Danish world of taste for many years, and by his writings did much to elevate dramatic art and public sentiment. The greatest authoress that Denmark has produced is the Countess Gyllenbourg (1773-1856). Her knowledge of life, sparkling wit, and faultless style, make her stories, the authorship of which was unknown before her death, masterpieces of their kind.
The greatest pastoral lyrist of this country is Winther (1796-1876). His descriptions of scenery and rural life have an extraordinary charm. Hertz (1796-1870) is the most cosmopolitan Danish writer of his time. Mueller (1809-1876) is celebrated for his comedies, tragedies, lyrics, and satires, all of which prove the immense breadth of his compass and the inexhaustible riches of his imagination.
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) is known to the English reader by his stories and legends for the young, his romances, and autobiography. He was born of humble peasants, and early attracted the attention of persons in power, who, with that liberality to youthful genius so characteristic of Denmark, enabled him to enter the university, and afterwards to travel over Europe. The “Improvisatore" is considered the best of his romances.
Three writers connect the age of romanticism with the present day,—Plong (b. 1812), a vigorous politician and poet; Goldschmidt (b. 1818), author of novels and poems in the purest Danish; Hastrup (b. 1818), the author of a series of comedies unrivaled in delicacy and wit.
Among the names distinguished in science are those of Malte Brun in geography; Rask, Grundtvig, Molbech, Warsaae, Rafn, Finn Magnusen and others in philology and literary antiquities. Of the two brothers Oersted, one, a lawyer and statesman, has done much to establish the principles of state economy, while the discoveries of the other entitle him to the highest rank in physical science.
6. SWEDISH LITERATURE.—The first independent literature of modern Scandinavia was, as we have seen, the popular songs and ballads which, during the Middle Ages, kept alive the germ of intellectual life. The effect of the Reformation was soon seen in the literature of Sweden, as of other countries. The first intellectual development displayed itself in the dramatic attempt of Messenius and his son, who changed and substituted actual history for legendary and scriptural subjects. The genius of Sweden, however, is essentially lyrical, rather than dramatic or epic. Stjernhjelm (1598-1672) was a writer of great merit,—the author of many dramas, lyrics, and epic and didactic poems. He so far surpassed his contemporaries that he decided the character of his country's literature for a century; but his influence was finally lost in the growing Italian and German taste. The principal names of this period are those of Lucidor, a wild, erratic genius; Mrs. Brenner, the first female writer of Sweden, whose numerous poems are distinguished for their neat and easy style; and Spegel (d. 1711), whose Psalms, full of the simplest beauty, give him a lasting place in the literature of the country. The literary taste of Sweden, in the seventeenth century, made great progress; native genius awoke to conscious power, and the finest productions of Europe were quoted and commented on.
During the eighteenth century, French taste prevailed all over Europe; not only the manners, etiquette, and toilets of France were imitated, the fashion of its literature was also adopted. Corneille, Racine, Moliere, and Boileau stamped their peculiar philosophy of literature on the greater portion of the civilized world. Imagination was frozen by these cold, glittering models; life and originality became extinct, imitator followed upon imitator, until there was a universal dearth of soul; and men gravely asserted that everything had been said and done in poetry and literature that could be said and done. What a glorious reply has since been given to this utterance of inanity and formalism, in a countless host of great and original names, all the world knows. But in no country was this Gallomania more strongly and enduringly prevalent than in Sweden. The principal writers of the early part of the Gallic period are Dalin, Nordenflycht, Creutz, and Gyllenborg. As a prose writer, rather than a poet, Dalin deserves remembrance. He established a periodical in imitation of the “Spectator,” and through this conferred the same benefits on Swedish literature that Addison conferred on that of England,—a great improvement in style, and the origination of a national periodical literature. Charlotte Nordenflycht (b. 1718) is called the Swedish Sappho. Her poetry is all love and sorrow, as her life was; in a better age she would have been a better poetess, for she possessed great feeling, passion, and imagination. She exerted a wide influence on the literary life of her time, in the capital, where the coteries which sprung up about her embraced all the poets of the day. Gyllenborg and Creutz were deficient in lyric depth, and were neither of them poets of the first order.
Of the midday of the Gallic era, the king, Gustavus III. (1771-1792), Kellgren, Leopold, and Oxenstjerna are the chiefs. Gustavus was a master of rhetoric, and in all his poetical tendencies fast bound to the French system. He was, however, the true friend of literature, and did whatever lay in his power to promote it, and to honor and reward literary men. In 1786 he established the Swedish Academy, which for a long time continued to direct the public taste. As an orator, Gustavus has rarely found a rival in the annals of Sweden, and his dramas in prose possess much merit, and are still read with interest.
Kellgren (1751-1795) was the principal lyric poet of this period. His works betray a tendency to escape from the bondage of his age, and open a new spring-time in Swedish poetry. For his own fame, and that of his age, his early death was a serious loss. Leopold (1756-1829) continued to sway the literary sceptre, after the death of Kellgren, for the remainder of the century. He is best known by his dramas and miscellaneous poems. His plays have the faults that belong to his school, but many of his poems abound with striking thoughts, and are elastic and graceful in style. The great writer of this period, however, was Oxenstjerna (1750-1818), a descriptive poet, who, with all the faults of his age and school, displays a deep feeling for nature. His pictures of simple life, amid the fields and woods of Sweden, are full of idyllic beauty and attractive grace.
As the French taste overspread Europe at very nearly the same time, so its influence decayed and died out almost simultaneously. In France itself, long before the close of the eighteenth century, elements were at work destined to produce the most extraordinary changes in the political, social, and literary condition of the world. Even those authors who were most French were most concerned in preparing this astounding revolution. In many countries it was not the French doctrines, but the French events, that startled, dazzled, and excited the human heart and imagination, and produced the greatest effects on literature. Those who sympathized least with French views were often most influenced by the magnificence of the scenes which swept over the face of the civilized world, and antagonism was not less potent than sympathy to arouse the energies of mind. But even before these movements had produced any marked effect, Gallic influence began to give way, and genius began freely to range the earth and choose its materials wherever God and man were to be found.
The heralds of the new era in Sweden were Bellman, Hallman, Kexel, Wallenberg, Lidner, Thorild, and Lengren. Bellman (1740-1795) is regarded by the Swedes with great enthusiasm. There is something so perfectly national in his spirit that he finds an echo of infinite delight in all Swedish hearts. Everything patriotic, connected with home life and feelings, home memories, the loves and pleasures of the past, all seem to be associated with the songs of Bellman. Hallman, his friend, wrote comedies and farces. His characters are drawn from the bacchanalian class described in Bellman's lyrics, but they are not sufficiently varied in their scope and sphere to create an actual Swedish drama. Kexel, the friend of the two last named, lived a gay and vagabond life, and is celebrated for his comedies. Wallenberg was a clergyman, full of the enjoyment of life, and disposed to see the most amusing side of everything. Lidner and Thorild, unlike the writers just named, were grave, passionate, and sorrowful. Lidner was a nerve-sick, over-excited genius; but many of his inspired thoughts struck deep into the heart of the time, and Swedish literature is highly indebted to Thorild for the spirit of manly freedom and the principles of sound reasoning and taste which he introduced into it.
One of the most interesting names of the transition period is that of Anna Maria Lengren (1754-1811). She has depicted the scenes of domestic and social life with a skill and firmness, yet a delicacy of touch that is perhaps more difficult of attainment than the broad lines of a much more ambitious style. Her scenes and personages are all types, and her heroes and heroines continually present themselves in Swedish life in perpetual and amusing reproduction. These poems will secure her a place among the classical writers of her country.
The political revolution of 1809 secured the freedom of the press, new men arose for the new times, and a deadly war was waged between the old school and the new, until the latter triumphed. The first distinguished names of the new school are those of Franzen and Wallin. Franzen (1772-1847), a bishop, was celebrated for his lyrics of social life, and in many points resembles Wordsworth. The qualities of heart, the home affections, and the gladsome and felicitous appreciation of the beauty of life and nature found in his poems, give him his great charm. Archbishop Wallin (1779- 1839) is the great religious poet of Sweden. In his hymns there is a strength and majesty, a solemn splendor and harmony of intonation, that have no parallel in the Swedish language.
Among other writers of the time are Atterbom, Hammarskoeld, and Palmblad. The works of Atterbom (b. 1790) indicate great lyrical talent, but they have an airy unreality, which disappoints the healthy appetite of modern readers. Hammarskoeld (1785-1827) was an able critic and literary historian, though his poems are of little value. Palmblad, besides being a critic, is the author of several novels and translations from the Greek. These three writers belonged to the Phosphoric School, so called from a periodical called “The Phosphorus,” which advocated their opinions.
The most distinguished school in Swedish literature is the Gothic, which took its rise in 1811, and which, aiming at a national spirit and character, embraced in that nationality all the Gothic race as one original family, possessing the same ancestry, original religion, traditions, and even still the same spirit, predilections, and language, although broken into several dialects. This new school had truth, nature, and the spirit of the nation and the times with it, and it speedily triumphed. First in the rank of its originators may be placed Geijer (1783-1847), who was at once a poet, musician, and historian; his poems are among the most precious treasures of Swedish literature. In his “Chronicles of Sweden” he penetrates far into the mists and darkness of antiquity, and brings thence magnificent traces of men and ages that point still onward to the times and haunts of the world's youth. The work presents all that belongs to the North, its gods, its mythic doctrines, its grand traditions, its heroes, vikings, runes, and poets, carrying whole ages of history in their trains. In his hands the dry bones of history and chronology live like the actual flesh and blood of the present time. As Geijer is the first historian of Sweden, so is Tegner (1782-1848) the first poet; and in his “Frithiof's Saga” he has made the nearest approach to a successful epic writer. Although this poem has rather the character of a series of lyrical poems woven into an epic cycle, it is still a complete and great poem. It is characterized by tender, sensitive, and delicate feeling rather than by deep and overwhelming passion. In the story he has, for the most part, adhered to the ancient Saga. Tegner is as yet only the most popular poet of Sweden; but the bold advance which he has made beyond the established models of the country shows what Swedish poets may yet accomplish by following on in the track of a higher and freer enterprise. The other most prominent poets of the new school are Stagnelius (1793-1828), who bears a strong resemblance to Shelley in his tendency to the mythic and speculative, and in his wonderful power of language and affluence of inspired phrase; Almquist (d. 1866), an able and varied writer, who has written with great wit, brilliancy, and power in almost every department; Vitalis (d. 1828), the author of some religious poetry; Dahlgren, an amusing author, and Fahlcrantz, who wrote “Noah's Ark,” a celebrated humorous poem. Runeberg, one of the truest and greatest poets of the North, is a Finn by birth, though he writes in Swedish; with all the wild melancholy character of his country he mingles a deep feeling of its sufferings and its wrongs. His verse is solemn and strong, like the spirit of its subject. He brings before you the wild wastes and the dark woods of his native land, and its brave, simple, enduring people. You feel the wind blow fresh from the vast, dark woodlands; you follow the elk- hunters through the pine forests or along the shores of remote lakes; you lie in desert huts and hear the narratives of the struggles of the inhabitants with the ungenial elements, or their contentions with more ungenial men. Runeberg seizes on life wherever it presents itself in strong and touching forms,—in the beggar, the gypsy, or the malefactor,— it is enough for him that it is human nature, doing and suffering, and in these respects he stands preeminently above all the poets of Sweden.
Besides the poets already spoken of, there are many others who cannot here be even named.
If the literature of Sweden is almost wholly modern, its romance literature is especially so. Cederborg was not unlike Dickens in his peculiar walk and character, and in all his burlesque there is something kind, amiable, and excellent. He was followed by many others, who displayed much talent, correct sketching of costumes and manners, and touches of true descriptive nature.
But an authoress now appeared who was to create a new era in Swedish novel-writing, and to connect the literary name and interests of Sweden more intimately with the whole civilized world. In 1828, Fredrika Bremer (1802-1865) published her first works, which were soon followed by others, all of which attracted immediate attention. Later they were made known to the English and American public through the admirable translations of Mrs. Howitt, and now they are as familiar as “Robinson Crusoe,” or the “Vicar of Wakefield,” wherever the English language is spoken. Wherever these works have been known they have awakened a more genial judgment of life, a better view of the world and its destinies, a deeper trust in Providence, and a persuasion that to enjoy existence truly ourselves is to spread that enjoyment around us to our fellow-men, and especially by the daily evidences of good-will, affection, cheerfulness, and graceful attention to the feelings of others, which, in the social and domestic circle, are so small in their appearance, but immense in their consequences. As a teacher of this quiet, smiling, but deeply penetrating philosophy of life, no writer has yet arisen superior to Fredrika Bremer, while she has all the time not even professed to teach, but only to entertain.
The success of Miss Bremer's writings produced two contemporaneous female novelists of no ordinary merit—the Baroness Knorring (d. 1833) and Emily Carlon (b. 1833). The works of the former are distinguished by a brilliant wit and an extraordinary power of painting life and passion, while a kind and amiable feeling pervades those of the latter. Among the later novelists of Sweden are many names distinguished in other departments of literature.
In conclusion, there are in Sweden hosts of able authors in whose hands all sciences, history, philology, antiquities, theology, every branch of natural and moral philosophy and miscellaneous literature have been elaborated with a talent and industry of which any nation might be proud. Among the names of a world-wide fame are those, of Swedenborg (1688-1772), not more remarkable for his peculiar religious ideas than for his profound and varied acquirements in science; Linnaeus (1707-1778), the founder of the established system of botany; and Scheele (1742-1786), eminent in chemistry.
If the literature of Scandinavia continues to develop during the present century with the strength and rapidity it has manifested during the last, it will present to the mind of the English race rich sources of enjoyment of a more congenial spirit than that of any other part of the European continent; and the more this literature Is cultivated the more it will be perceived that we are less an Anglo-Saxon than a Scandinavian race.
The last few years in Sweden have been a period of political rather than literary activity, yielding comparatively few works of high aesthetic value, Rydborg, a statesman and metaphysician, has produced a powerful work of fiction, “The Last Athenian,” and other works of minor importance have been produced in various departments of literature.
LITERATURE OF NORWAY.—Norway cannot be said to have had a literature distinct from the Danish until after its union with Sweden in 1814. The period from that time to the present has been one of great literary activity in all departments, and many distinguished names might be mentioned, among them that of Bjoernson (b. 1832), whose tales have been extensively translated. Jonas Lie who enjoys a wide popularity, Camilla Collett, and Magdalene Thoresen are also favorite writers. Wergeland and Welhaven were two distinguished poets of the first half of the century. Kielland is an able novelist of the realistic school, and Professor Boyesen is well known in the United States for his tales and poems in English. Henrick Ibsen is the most distinguished dramatic writer of Norway and belongs to the realistic school. Among other writers of the present time are Boerjesson whose “Eric XIV.” is a masterpiece of Swedish drama; Tekla Knoes, a poetess whose claims have been sanctioned by the Academy; and Claude Gerard ( nom de plume), very popular as a novelist. Charles XV. and Oscar II. are poets of merit.