A survey of Danish literature part 2
A SURVEY OF DANISH LITERATURE, FROM THE EARLIEST PERIOD TO THE PRESENT TIME.
BY Mrs. Bushby. Published in the New Monthly Magazine. Volume XC. May 1852. Part II.
The literary regeneration of Denmark may be said to have commenced under Christian IV. That accomplished monarch was fond of study, was extremely well informed, and was a good mathematician and good linguist as well as being skilled in painting- and music, All the well-educated gentlemen of his day not only understood but spoke Latin; and it is probable that Denmark would from that time have taken a high stand in the world of letters, had Christian, been allowed to have devoted his talents and energies entirely to the improvement of has subjects, and the internal welfare of his dominions. But he became involved in harassing wars; and though he won some laurels, and was created chief of the Protestant League in Lower Saxony, which fought against the celebrated generals Tilly and Walstein, yet these honours were obtained by the sacrifice at home of what would have been more beneficial to his people. Still he had struck the spark, which,, though smothered for a time, was never entirely extinguished^ and which began to revive under the fostering care of Frederick V. and his successors.
Frederick was very liberal in patronising learned foreigners* in inviting them to Denmark, and in employing them on scientific mission
- . Among those so employed by him was Karsten Niebuhr, a German, the father of the celebrated historian, Niebuhr, who was born in Copenhagen, in 1776. Karsten Niebuhr was sent on an expedition to the East—to Constantinople and Arabia—along with four other naturalists, geographers, and historians. Their expenses were paid by the treasury, as were also those of all the other scientific and literary envoys. About this time, too, the booksellers of Denmark began to cater more for the public -r and the increase of publishers gave a spur to the exertions of authors.
Not even the restraints on the liberty of the press, which had caused the banishment of Malte-Brun and the elder Heiberg, had the power to annihilate the literature of. Denmark, at the end of the last and beginning of the present century. Nor, indeed, was this intended by the excellent prince, afterwards Frederick VI., who then governed the country on behalf of his father, Christian VII, the husband of the unfortunate English princess, Caroline Matilda, who, as well as the prime minister, Struensee, had been the victim of the ambition and jealousy of the malignant queen-dowager, Juliana Maria. Frederick may be thought to have erred in his judgment in regard to this decree; but these restraints on the freedom of publication were imposed principally with a view of preventing the wild tenets of the French revolutionists from spreading their disastrous influence among a people who were tranquil and contented, and whose position, neither in a political or social point of view, would have been improved by the importation of Gallican turbulence, disaffection, and vice.
A Danish author of the present day — Johan Ludwig Heiberg, son of the banished dramatist—has said that the first French revolution was "a thunderstorm, which cleared away the thick mists which for centuries had accumulated on the horizon of human life — a frightful tempest while it raged, but useful in its effects — a flash of lightning, that had sundered any galling chains—an overthrow that was necessary—an instrument in the hands of Providence." But though the French nation might have required that violent process of clearing, sundering, and overthrowing, it was in no way needed among the quiet Danes, who though capable of being roused by strong excitement, are yet constitutionally calm* and were, as they are still, well inclined towards their king and his government.
There is a great deal of nationality and patriotism among the Danes as may be seen by all their popular poetry, from the days of Johannes Ewald to those of Hans Christian Andersen. " Scarcely any writer,'9 says a Danish critic, " was ever more largely endowed with poetical talents than Ewald. The power of his imagination, and warmth of his feelings, did not evince themselves first in his writings, but in his life ; and they impelled him, both as a boy and as a young man* into strange wild adventures, while seeking the realisation of his "visionary schemes* and to- gain the object on which he lavished the love that was gushing, as it were, from some hidden fountain in his heart. But when, at length, wearied of his vain battling with adverse circumstances, he had given up in despair the struggle to obtain that amount of earthly good fortune and virtuous happiness which could alone have satisfied his ardent soul, to escape from the pangs of disappointment and blasted hope he imprudently plunged into a course of dissipation. It was only for a moment, however, now and then, that such pleasures could divert his thoughts from their habitual melancholy; nor could they change the bias of his mind; for his better nature turned to the cultivation of poetry* and in this more legitimate resource he found eventually some consolation amidst broken health and ruined prospects."
Ewald was born in 1743, in Copenhagen, where his father was a clergyman. At eleven years of age he had the misfortune to lose that parent, and was sent to a school in Sehleswig, where he remained for four years. Here he read with eager interest "Robinson Crusoe," that work which has really tended to unsettle so many boyish minds, and to inspire that desire for roving and adventures, which has led number* of youths to select the army or the navy as their profession, or to heeonaa emigrants to distant countries; the perusal of this, to schoolboys, so attractive work of De Foe, fired the young Ewald's romantic imagination? and was the primary cause of the follies which he committed. He had been about a year entered as a student at the university of Copenhagen, when he formed a passionate attachment to a young lady, and with the Quixotic idea of winning such fame and fortune by the career of arms as might entitle him to become her suitor, he absconded from his home and his studies, to seek military employment among the troops of Frederick II., who was then engaged in the Seven Years* War. Though the new recruit was very young, and also very small of his age, his services were accepted, and he was placed in the ranks of a regiment of infantry. But he was not satisfied with his situation in the Prussian army, and therefore took the liberty of deserting to that of the Austrians, in which he became first a drummer, and afterwards a noncommissioned officer.
In 1760, his discharge was purchased by his family, and on his return to Copenhagen and the university, he studied so hard, that when only nineteen years of age, he became a candidate for theological honours, and had passed a first-rate examination. His affection for the damsel of his almost childish admiration remained unchanged; but she chose to marry another, and this disappointment preyed deeply upon his mind. The rest of his life was little else than a series of chagrins, faults, and sufferings, soothed only by the kindness of a few friends, and the occasional flashes of a genius which no adverse fate could utterly extinguish. He died in great poverty, in the year 1781. Ewald was a good lyric poet, and also the author of some dramatic works, both tragic and comic. Of the latter may be mentioned his " Harlequin Patriot," which, as the name implies, was of a satirical character. It was Ewald who wrote the words of the Danish " God save the king" — "Kong Christian," a magnificent national air. The word's celebrate the deeds of King Christian V., and the distinguished naval heroes Tordenskiold (Thundershield), originally lieutenant Peter Wessel, but who raised himself by his gallantry, and was created an admiral at the age of twenty-eight; and Niels Yule, another popular commander, of whom his countrymen are also proud. But these verses have been so often translated — though far from well translated— that it would be useless to repeat them here.
A contemporary of Ewald's was Johan Hermann Wessel, also a clergyman's son, who was born one year before him, and died four years after him. He, too, was unfortunate in his life, and had to struggle against poverty, and the depression of mind consequent upon that dire evil. He earned a precarious pittance for a long time by teaching modern languages, but resigned that occupation when he was made stage-manager at the royal theatre of Copenhagen. The salary attached to this office, however, was so small, that poor Wessel found it scarcely possible to maintain himself and his family on it. Yet, in the midst of troubles and privations, he wrote his comedies; one of which, "Kierlighed uden Stromper" — "Love without Stockings," takes a leading place in the Danish drama. He called this a tragedy, in five acts, but it was, in feet, a parody—a burlesque—written with a view of turning into ridicule the pompous translations from the French dramatic authors, which, with their formality and bombast, threatened to supersede the more natural representations of the Danish stage. The characters are — a tailor's apprentice, his betrothed, her unsuccessful lover, and a male and female confidant. The play opens with the fair betrothed Grete being discovered asleep on a chair. She suddenly awakes from her nap, and exclaims,
Thou ne'er shall married be, if not upon this day I Oh! all too hideous dream! Methought I heard one say, In tones like thunder loud, these words of threatening dire; He looked as black as if—he'd just come from a fire! What I Shall I never see my dearest hope fulfilled ? That hope on which I had undoubted right to build, • Since yonder happy day, when on my tailor's breast I leaned, and caught the words his trembling lips confess'd—
That I, and I alone, of maidens was adored,
And that my killing glance into his soul had bored.
Oh, faithless! Didst not vow without me thou couldst not
A single moment live ? Some demon must have got
His clutches on thee, sure ; for the eight days are past
Which thou didst swear to me thine absence would butlast.
Thou ne'er shall married be, if not upon this day !
I can't—I won't hear this—dark spirit, hence—away!
Enter Mette. What new misfortune now betokens yonder screech ? Speak! Oh, my beating heart!
Grete. "Let not my words impeach
Him I still love! Listen, and tremble, friend! While I Sat here and slept, a dark and horrid face drew nigh— A demon's, without doubt—black locks waved o'er its nose, And breaking suddenly upon my calm repose, It roared into my ear—oh, words fraught with dismay !— Thou neer shall married be, if not upon this day !
Mette. But dreams may sometimes err, and tell a lying tale.
Grete. Dreams that give dreadful warning ne'er are known to fail.
Mette. Yet, even granting that, a dream to be all right Must take place in one's bed, and midst the hours of night; But in the day—and only on a chair-----
Grete. In vain
Wouldst thou my spirits flatter into peace again.
Notwithstanding this doleful assertion, the dreamer closes with her friend's proposal to fetch Mr. Mads, the tailor's hitherto unlucky rival, and put him up to marrying her at once, so as to avert the fate denounced by the dark vision. She agrees, in these words :
Do what thou thinkest best—to thee I leave it all; Alack! my soul is wrapt in a funereal pall!
Mads makes his appearance forthwith, and harangues for some time on his late despair, and how he had entertained the idea of stabbing himself, and had got a knife all ready; hut, upon second thoughts, had put off the catastrophe. She at length interrupts him, and brings him to the point, without much circumlocution, by telling him :
There is no time to lose; if I'm to wed with thee, It must be—now or never.
Of course he accepts, in a short rhapsody, and then tells her,
I'll gallop off in haste, to put on better clothes—
But I shall soon be back to take the bridegroom's oaths.
While the obliging swain has gone to make his wedding-toilet, and Grete has been indulging in a short soliloquy, the missing tailor, Johan, arrives, is well received notwithstanding her recent arrangement with Mads, and delights her by the assurance that
Moments are like days, and hours like years of life, Until the happy time when I may call thee wife.
She has now two strings to her bow; the threats of her supernatural visitant will, indeed, be as null and void as any other " baseless fabric of a dream/' so she forthwith invites her admirer to the altar on that very day. Notwithstanding his estimate of his moments and hoars, he is not prepared for such precipitate doings, and seems inclined to hack out. The lady catechises him, and at last draws from him the confession, that the great impediment to his being married that day is—the want <of his stockings, which he had left by mistake behind. But the unseemly figure which he must cut without them, though it elicits a burst of eloquent anguish from htm, is not admitted by the determined bride, who sticks to her point—"Now or never."
A variety of grandiloquent scene* occur; but towards the last the tailor makes his appearance in a respectable pair of white stockings, and all promises to go on to Grete's satisfaction, when Mads and his friend, Jesper, rush in, and charge Johan with theft—the theft, from Mads, of the very stockings which he was sporting so proudly. His betrothed calls upon him to clear himself, but, conscience-stricken, the tailor turns pale, and Grete shrieks:
Thou turnest white! Oh, strength and heart, and hope and life, Together fail !
After a fainting fit, she exclaims :
Oh, shame! Oh, agony of grief J Thou, my sweetheart! Barbarian—such thou wert—but such no longer art!
Johan, sobbing, replies :
Barbarian! yes, alas! That name befits me well; " Yet think not without grief from virtue that I fell. Madam—I am a thief—the accusation's true— I have disgraced thee—but—thou art revenged—adieu!
As he utters this last flourish, he stabs himself. CTete, shocked at his untimely fate, scolds the innocent Mads, and then stabs herself. Mads apostrophises the Furies, and follows Grate's example. Meute catches the infection, and plunges a knife into her heart; and finally Jesper also eommits suicide, but first recites the following winding-up speech:
Wherefore should Mette die ? Of that I see no need ;
But since they all are dead, I too must do the deed.
Oil, ye, in future years, who these sad scenes shall hear,
If ye our corpses view, yet never shed a tear,
As flints will be your hearts. But all hearts are not stone;
Our deaths may generations yet unborn bemoan.
To those who sympathise in our distress, I will
Bequeath a parting wish, before myself I kill:
Oh ! may your wardrobes be extremely well supplied;
And never may your love be by your stockings tried!
There is a sort of epilogue to this burlesque, in which Mercury, the god of thieves, is very appropriately made to appear.
Poor Weasel's many wants and cares drove him into habits of intemperance, which closed his career in what otherwise might have been the prime of his life. In so limited a survey of Danish literature and Danish authors as this must necessarily he, it is impossible to give specimens of the style of each writer, ot, indeed, to give much more, in many eases, than a catalogue of names—a sort of tombstone record,—and even in that, a selection most be made.
Of authors who lived and wrote about the same time with Ewald and Wessel may be mentioned Johan Clemens Tode, who, though German by birth, removed at an early age to Denmark, where he completed his studies. He became a physician, and was one of the few of the medical profession there, who devoted himself also to geaeral literature. Besides his medical works, one of which was a medical review, he was the author of some pretty poems, &c. &c. He was born in 1736, and died in 1806. Johan Nordahl Bran was a poet and dramatist; and Thomas Christopher Bruun was a writer of songs, some of winch are set to music. A number of his verses are given in Seidell's " Collection of National Songs and Ballads," published in Copenhagen, in 1821. They are very pretty, and one, an invocation to Memory, recalling past happy days, is particularly pleasing and graceful. Bat as a specimen of the verses of this popular songster, we shall raiiher choose some lines to his " Faedreland," which may be translated as follows:
There is a name winch each reveres,
Which from our earliest childish years
Is stamped on every heart;
'Tis liailed with warmth in youth's gay spring,
And not the chill of age can bring
Indifference—for our love will cling
To it tiH life depart.
That name so loved is—Fatherland ! What Dane its magic can withstand? What sound to him so sweet ? For it, his blood, his life, he offers; For it, his strength and valour proffers; For it, would freely yield bis coffers, Or Fate's worst evils meet
Ye stars, that from yon skies above Watch o'er the country that we love, Protect it from all ill! From every selfish feeling free, Oh, may our patriot-hearts agree In ever loving, serving thee— Sweet duty to fuml!
In Honour's path, oh! may we tread,
Still by our country's glory led,
Devoted to her fame!
And may our words and deeds still show
The noble source from whence they flow;
And may our bosoms ever glow
At sound of Denmark's name!
Dear Fatherland! In peace or strife,
To thee we dedicate our life!
Come, every loyal Dane,
Here let us join with heart and hand,
And, as befits a patriot-band,
To our loved northern Fatherland
A goblet let us drain!
It may be imagined that these are rather spmt-stirring fines in a social party; at any rate, they are not worse than the generality of songs which end in a libation. The first-named of these Bruuns, or Browns, died in 1816; the writer of songs in 1834. He was also professor of the English language, at the university of Copenhagen. Both were born in the middle of the last century. Professor Oluf Olufsen was a writer of comedies, and his " Gulddaasen," " Golden box," is still a favourite with the public; it is rich in national peculiarities. Of the two Trojels, who were brothers, one was a writer of satirical poems, " which," says a Danish critic, " were not merely playfully witty, but bitter and biting." One of the best among these is " An Ode to Durness."
Edward Storm, who was born in Norway in 1749, and who was at one time a director of the Theatre Royal at Copenhagen, was a writer both of prose and verse, and a contributor to the Minerva, the monthly magazine before mentioned. His fables were much approved of, also his ballads; one of these — "Herr Zinclar" — may be taken as a fair specimen of the old Danish ballad. It relates to an occurrence which took place during the reign of Christian IV. of Denmark. "To the honour of the Norwegian peasants of Guldbrandsdal," says Frederick Sneedorff, in his history of Denmark, "I must relate an event which happened in those days. Gustavus Adolphus had recruited his army by raising 2000 men in Scotland, and a Colonel Sinclair landed with 1000 of these men in Norway. They were met in a rocky defile, or mountain-pass, called c The Kringell,' by Lars Gram, the magistrate of Guldbrandsdal, who had hastily gathered together a number of peasants to repel the Scotch invaders. These stout fellows, armed with axes, and any kind of weapons they could get hold of, waylaid the Scotch soldiers in the narrow gorge, where it was impossible either to advance or to retreat; and where, taken by surprise, they fought to great disadvantage. Colonel Sinclair was killed, and so were all his troops, except two men, of whom one was sent back to Scotland to tell his countrymen that there were people in Norway, and the other settled in Norway, where he established a glasswork. To commemorate this event, a column was erected on the spot, with the following simple inscription: ' Here Colonel Sinclair was shot, the 26th of August, 1612"
Peace was concluded between Christian and Gustavus Adolphus the year after this unfortunate adventure. The first condition of this peace was rather absurd; at least it was making a heraldic device a matter of great importance. It ran thus: " Both kingdoms shall be at liberty to bear three crowns in their coat of arms." " And," adds the Danish historian, " thus ended the war, and would that it had been the last in which Christian IV. had been engaged!"
But to return to the ballad, here it is :
Herr Sinclair o'er the briny wave
His course to Norway bent; Midst Guldbrand's rocks he found his grave,
There his last breath was spent.
Sinclair passed o'er the billows blue,
For Swedish gold to fight; He came, alas! he little knew
Norwegian dust to bite.
Bright beams that night the pale moon flung,
The vessel gently roll'd—-A mermaid from the ocean sprung,
And Sinclair's fate foretold.
" Turn back, turn back, thou Scottish chief!
Holdst thou thy life so cheap ? Turn back, or, give my words belief,
Thou'lt ne'er repass this deep."
" Light is thy song, malicious elf!
Thy theme is always ill; Could I but reach thy hated self,
That voice should soon be still."
He sailed one day, he sailed for three, .
With all his vassal train ; On the fourth morn—see, Norway, see !
Breaks on the azure main.
By Romsdal's coast he steered to land,
On hostile views intent; The fourteen hundred of his band
Were all on evil bent.
With lawless might, where'er they go, They slaughter and they burn ;
They laugh to scorn the widow's woe, The old man's prayer they spurn,
The infant in its mother's arms, While smiling there, they kill;
But rumours strange, and wild alarms, Soon all the country fill.
The bonfires blazed, the tidings flew, And far and wide they spread ;
The valley's sons that signal knew, From foes they never fled.
" We must ourselves the country save,
Our soldiers fight elsewhere, And cursed be the dastard knave
Who now his blood would spare
From Vaage, Lessoe, and from Lom,
With axes sharp and strong, In one great mass the peasants come,
To meet the Scots they throng.
There runs a path by Lide's side, Which some the Kringell call;
And near it Lauge's waters glide-In them the foe shall fall.
Now weapons, long disused, are spread
Again that bloody day; The merman lifts his shaggy head,
And waits his destined prey.
Brave Sinclair, pierced with many a ball,
Sinks groaning on the field ; The Scots behold their leader fall,
And rank on rank they yield.
" On, peasants! on, ye Normand men!
Strike down beneath your feet I" For home and peace the Scots wished then,
But there was no retreat.
With corpses was the KringeU filled,
The ravens were regaled; The youthful blood which there was spilled
The Scottish girls bewailed.
No living soul went home again,
Their countrymen to tell The hope to conauer those how vain
'Midst Norway s hills who dwell.
They raised a column on that spot,
To bid their foes beware; And evil be that Normand's lot
Who coldly passes there!
The poet departs a little, however, from the truth, in asserting that "no living soul went home again;" for, as we have seen, history tells us that, of the two who escaped, one was permitted to return to his native Scotland.
Thomas Thaarup, born in 1749, was a long time a teacher in an academy. In 1800 he became a director of the theatre, which appears to have been an office generally held by literary men; and in advancing age he retired into the country, where he lived on a pension until his death in 1821. A truthful and manly spirit, a delicacy of taste, and correctness of language, were the predominating features of his poetry. The following short extract from one of his patriotic poems will show how strongly the love of country is cherished in Denmark and Norway; for though Norway now belongs to Sweden, it must be borne in mind that for centuries it was attached to the Danish crown, and that it was not until the overthrow of Napoleon Bonaparte, and the subsequent adjustment of the territories of Europe, that Norway was severed from Denmark to be united to Sweden:
DU PLET AF JORD, HVOR LIVETS STEMME.
Thou spot of earth, where first my voice
Its lisping infant-tones essayed, Where I lived only to rejoice
In all the beauty Heaven had made; Where my kind mother often sought
To guide my steps with gentle hand; And to my dawning reason taught
The quenchless love of—Fatherland.
Oh! when in boyhood's happy days,
Or youth's, to distant scenes we roam, How oft our longing spirit strays
Back to that much-loved early home! Fond memory greets each hill, each glade
Each grassy nook, each haunt of old-Spots where his joyous childhood played,
The care-worn man smiles to behold.
From east, from west, from icy zones
Where'er the human race is found, The name of home comes breathed in tones
That tell it is a welcome sound. Not the poor Greenlander would range
From his bare rocks to verdant fields, Nor his rude clay-built hut would change
For all the richest palace yields.
And Norway's hills, and Denmark's plains,
Have they not claims upon our hearts ? Claims—that to him who o'er them reigns
Our king—a loyal love imparts. Dear are our parents, brethren, friends;
And dear is she, whose heart and hand We seek, as the best gift Heav'n sends;
Yet dearer still—our native land!
With such feelings, it is not surprising that the Danes, collectively and individually, made so many sacrifices for their king and country during the late war with Holstein, or rather with the Prussian and other German troops who were sent to assist the revolted subjects of the King of Denmark. It is not surprising that gay and fashionable ladies offered their costly jewels, and poor old women, the impoverished descendants of ancient families gone to decay, sent the small remnants of their treasured valuables to be turned into money to assist in the expenses of the war. Nay, that many gave up their limited stock of plate in constant use, and ate with wooden forks and spoons, in order to have the satisfaction of contributing their mite to their country.
But this is a digression from the literature to the feelings of the Danes — a momentary digression, pardonable, however, it is hoped, as poetry, which gave rise to it, wadfeeliny, are inseparably connected.
There is scarcely any subject which has not been treated of by Danish authors during the latter part of the eighteenth century; but some of the "weightiest" of these, to borrow a Danish expression, are not of a nature to add much to the stores of popular literature, being on matters too abstruse or too scientific for general readers.
"Some of these books," says a Danish writer, "contribute little or nothing to the enriching of the national literature, not being adapted to influence general taste, or to assist in the general culture of mind. Their subjects are too profound, their language too technical for those who have not studied the sciences."Theology," says the same writer (Dr. Thomsen), showed itself both in learned and popular writings in a form which changed much with the times. The expounders of Scripture of former days, as well as ancient systems, ancient sermons, and other old religious books, were superseded one after the other, and gave place to works more suitable to the progress of intelligence and the diffusion of good taste. But these changes were not such as to please all classes of Christians, and their opponents, who expressed themselves more and more indiscreetly, introduced, at last, a similar religious war into Denmark, as was carried on in Germany. Two authors, who had come before the public in the time of GuHberg,* and still lived during the first part of the present century, were the principal religious orators and writers of the day."
These were Nicolai Balle and Christian Bastholm. The former, who had studied at Leipsic and Gottingen, who was for a time professor at the university of Copenhagen, and afterwards a bishop in Zealand, was held in high estimation. The latter, originally minister of the German Lutheran Church at Smyrna, and afterwards chaplain to the King of Den-
- Guldberg was the tyrannical minister and favourite of the Dowager-Queen Juliana Maria, stepmother to Christian VII, whom she virtually deposed.
mark, was still more admired. His works were numerous, and among them may be mentioned, "A Philosophical Disquisition on the State of the Soul after Death," "Lessons of Wisdom and Happiness," "A Translation of the New Testament," "A History of the Jews," &c, &c. A very different spirit pervaded the works of two other contemporary writers —Malthe Moller and Otto Horrebow; they were both remarkable for their attacks on Christianity. Tyge Rothe, an author of the same period, was rather a philosophical than a theological writer; but a sincerely Christian spirit pervaded all his works, among which was "The Effect produced by Christianity on the Condition of the People of Europe," in two volumes ; " The Hierarchy and Papal Power," two volumes; "The Political State of the North before and during the Feudal Times;" "A Survey of the French Monarchy," &c. Professor Gamborg published, about the same time, a work of great merit, entitled, "The Difference between Virtue and Good Actions."
Laurid Smith, an eloquent and popular preacher, contributed some philosophical and moral essays to the literature of his country. Malling and Wandall were also authors of some standing; and the historical works of the former were much used in academies, and other institutions for the education of youth. Niels Ditlev Riegels was a voluminous, though rather heavy and tedious writer; he produced "A Complete History of the Church," "A History of Christian V.," and many other works. Esaias Fleischer, who died in 1804, was also a very diligent writer. His career had been rather an uncommon one, for he commenced life as the usher of a Latin school, then became quartermaster of a regiment, inspector of forests, and, lastly, a provincial judge. He wrote on geology, astronomy, and many other subjects; but his principal work was an "Essay on Natural History" — an essay of gigantic dimensions, certainly, since it extended over ten volumes! Three learned Icelanders elucidated the history and antiquities of the north, towards the end of the last century. These were John Ericksen, Skule Thorlacius, and Grim Johnsen Thorkelin, all of whom resided in Denmark, where the first and last named held official situations, and Thorlacius was head master of a public school in Copenhagen.
Among the principal writers of the last half of the eighteenth century on medical subjects, were Professors Matthias Saxtorph, Henrich Callisen, and Frederik Ludvig Bang; the last-named of whom died in 1820. On mineralogy, botany, zoology, &c, there were also several clever writers; namely, Bishop Gunnerus, H. Strom, a Norwegian clergyman; Briinnich, Rottboll, Holmskiold, O. F. Miiller, Vahl, professor of botany; Fabri-cius^ originally a missionary to Greenland, afterwards a bishop, and who was born in 1744, and died in 1822; Abilgaard, and the astronomer Bugge. Jacob Baden, who having been a rector at Elsinore, became afterwards " Professor Eloquentiae" at the university of Copenhagen, published works both in prose and poetry; among the former was a translation of Xenophon's " Cyropaedia"—the history of the education, and achievements of the elder Cyrus. He was also the editor of a "Critical Journal." Luxdorph, who was a privy-counsellor, was remarkable for. his elegant Latin poems. He gained a prize, offered by Sweden, for the. best poem on the expedition of Charles Gustavus across the Great Belt, when it was frozen.
Frederik Sneedorff, whose father and elder brother were also authors, was a professor at the Copenhagen university, where he obtained much distinction as a lecturer on history. He was born in 1761. An unfortunate casualty occasioned his death in his thirty-second year. He was travelling in England, and the coach in which he was going from Liverpool towards the north having met with some accident near Penrith, the Danish professor either jumped or was thrown out; he fell on his head, and was so severely hurt that he died within a few hours at an inn at Penrith. Mr. Sneedorff was well received by the literati of England and Scotland; and the celebrated Mr. Roscoe, of Liverpool, was particularly attentive to him. Sneedorff was equally admired for his literary attainments, and heloved for the excellence of his private character. After his death, which was universally regretted in Denmark, his lectures and other works were published: these comprised a History of Denmark, and a General History of Europe; and letters descriptive of Germany, France, Switzerland and England — all of which are much esteemed.
Jonas Rein, Jens Zetlitz, Christian Lund, Frankenau, Smidth, and Schmidt, may all be classed among the minor poets—the poets of the clubs and of society; their productions being principally songs, romances, elegies, and short poems of different descriptions—pretty, lively, sentimental, or pleasing, hut nothing beyond that. Christian Brauman Tullin, who was born in Christiana, was a popular poet in his day. Although he had received a university education, he did not follow any of the learned professions, but became the proprietor and manager of a manufactory in his native town. He also enjoyed some civic honours. A poem of his, entitled " Maidagen" (May-day), was much admired for its melodious versification and its livfulde, as the Danes say—literally, " life-full" (an adjective which lively does not exactly express)—descriptions of natural objects.
Novels, whether historical or otherwise, were scarcely in vogue in Denmark before the commencement of this present century. Fables there were, indeed—mythological allegories, tales of fairy-land, and stories of mermaids, dwarfs, magicians, and ghosts; but, except these, the only works of light literature or of imagination were poems and there is, perhaps, no language more abounding in dramatic compositions than the Danish. The Danes have a very large theatrical repertoire, consisting of tragedies, comedies, operas, farces, melodramas, Taudevilles, &c. We have lying before us at this moment a catalogue of between seven and eight hundred original skuespil (plays), and there are others not included in this list. In addition to these dramas by Danish writers, there are translations from the dramatic authors of England, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, as well as from the authors of antiquity; so that there is no lack of this branch of literature in Denmark.
This short survey of the literature of the eighteenth century would be very incomplete without some notice of Samsoe, who, having died in 1796, cannot be included among the authors of the nineteenth century.
Ole Johan Samsoe was born at Nestved, a place which is remarkable as being also the birthplace of a genius of more modern times, M. Goldschmidt, the clever author of a work descriptive of the manners, habits, and feelings of the Jews. Rahbek, a popular writer, both in prose and verse, and the editor of the political and literary periodical called the Minerva was a schoolfellow of Samsoe, and travelled with htm afterwards over a portion of Europe. He was also the editor of Samsoe's works after his death. Tragedies had almost disappeared from the Danish Stage since the days of Ewald, having given place to comic dramas and musical entertainments; hut they were revived by Samsbe, whose charming tragedy of " Dyveke" became extremely popular, and re-awakened the taste for the serious drama. He wrote besides this some poems, and "Frithiof," and other "Northern Tales." The tragedy of "Dyveke" carries the reader hack to the days of Christian II. of Denmark, early in the sixteenth century, and is founded on what may be called a romance hi history.
While King Hans reigned in Denmark, his son Christian, then crown-prince, to whom much power was assigned by his father, evinced an extremely stern and harsh disposition. Like Pedro of Spain, he was by some called the cruel, by others the just. His ideas, being in some respects anti-feudal, and inclining towards extending the liberty of the common people, and restraining that of the nobility and higher class clergy, did not suit the latter; therefore an attempt was made to divert his thoughts from politics, and soften the fierceness of his temper, bjr sap-plying him with some domestic attraction. On the occasion of some riots at Bergen, Bishop Erik Walkendorff was sent there to inquire into, and pot a stop to them. On his return, according to Sneedorff, he not only reported that the insurrection was quelled, but also that there resided in that commercial town a most beautiful Dutch girl, whose name was Dyveke. Christian's curiosity to see this beauty was excited; he went to Bergen, and gave a grand ball, to which all the inhabitants of the town, above the very lowest ranks, were invited. Among the guests came the beautiful Dyveke, and her mother Sigbrit, who had been a shopkeeper in Amsterdam, and at that time kept a tavern at Bergen. The prince saw Dyveke, danced with her, and became completely fascinated. "That dance," says the old historian Hvitfah, u danced Christian IL ost of three kingdoms." Dyveke, who was extremely young, became his ohere amne9 and her mother, an artful, ambitious woman, his confidential adviser. Dyveke exercised her influence over her royal admirer both for his own good and that of his country. She was the friend of the poor and the oppressed, the advocate of aH who fell into disgrace, and the supplicant, in every case, for mercy. Her good offices extended to all classes, and her constant aim was to soften the asperities of Christian's disposition, and to win him the love of his future subjects. She was consequently a general favourite; but her mother, the designing Sigbrit, was more inclined to foment discord, and was especially inveterate against the highest orders of the nobility.
About six years after the ball at Bergen, King Hans died; Christian II. ascended the throne, and, in accordance with the urgent wish of the nation, he married a sister of the Emperor Charles V. For some time the king managed to conceal from her his connexion with Dyveke; at length, however, it came to her ears; but Elizabeth was a very mild, easy-tempered person, and she was more taken up with establishing a colony of Dutch gardeners in the little island of Amager, than in giving way to jealousy or resentment. She took no part against Dyveke; hut the Bishop Walkendorff, who, for his own purposes, had been the means of placing Dyveke in the situation she was so unfortunate at so hoU, was now as eager for her removal, on account of his hatred to Sigbrit. A nobleman of the court, named Torben Oxe, was anxious to many Dyveke, to whom he had formed a strong attachment; but his aristocratic family were much opposed to his wish; and, fearful that Dyveke, whose mother was supposed to favour his suit, would be induced to Accept his offer, they joined WalkendorfF's cabal against her, and she was poisoned. The poison was administered in some cherries, sent to her by her noble admirer, who, though innocent of the murder, was made the victim of Christian's revenge, and hanged, after a mock trial.
History tells, that after Dyveke's death Christian became more ferocious than ever; and he was encouraged to every evil deed by the unprincipled Sigbrit, who maintained her influence over him, and, in fact, was, until he was deposed, the actual prime minister of the Nero of the Nobth, as Christian has been named. Sigbrit surrounded Christian with her own creatures, and among these, one Didrik Slagbek was the adviser and promoter of every act of tyranny and atrocity. This infamous person, according to Hvitfelt, had been originally a barber; and Holberg says of him, that " he was not the first barber who had made so high a jump in the world." But he ended his ill-spent life on the place of public execution.
In Samsoe's tragedy, there is a monk, Father Johan, the agent of Bishop Walkendorff, who had been created Archbishop of Drontheim, who plays a prominent part. One of the earliest scenes introduces this monk, engaged in endeavouring to persuade or frighten Dyveke into leaving the king. She and her confidential attendant, Elaudia, are together when he. enters:
Monk, Peace be with you, noble lady !
Dyveke. Thanks be to God! I have peace. My conscience reproaches me not.
Monk, No I—not that you disturb the happy union between our illustrious monarch and his virtuous queen?
Klaudia. Sjpare her, holy father! Spare her that reproach—she deserves it not.
Monk. I speak in the cause of God and the king. In the name of my superior, the pious Archbishop Walkendorff, do I speak. He sends me again this day to you. Long have I sought to move you by mild councils; if these fail, then duty and conscience compel me to employ the sternest language of truth.
Klaudia. You forget yourself, holy father . . . that tone . . .
Dyveke, Let him speak as he will, Klaudia; yet once more will I condescend to justify myself.
Monk. You are becoming obdurate . . .
Dyveke. Oh no, good father, no. Would to God you knew how miserable I am! My young, inexperienced heart was open to ever}' impression when the brave and handsome Christian sued for my love, He placed his happiness in the possession of this heart; 1 gave it to him, guiltless and undivided. I vowed eternal love to him, and 1 hold fast my oath. I knew nothing of what the public interest might demand of the prince. To soften Christian's perhaps too severe temper, to subdue his heart to milder feelings—in a word, to make him win the affection of all his subjects—these were the hopes that lulled tne, the dreams in which I gloried. But woe, woe to him who knew the abyss into which I was about to plunge, yet held me not back! It was your Wal-kendorff—your now so pious, so strict Walkendorff—who precipitated me into that abyss. It was he who smilingly enticed Christian to me, in order to make me the tool of his own designs. If there was good in these designs—-if wished by my means to soften his prince's heart—may God pardon him ! Although he would now tear me from him. . . But, thou, my mother . . . my mother! ...
Monk. Walkendorff does not tear you from him; he only wishes you to leave the king.
Dyvehe. I cannot.
Monk. I had hoped that religion would have taught you the respect due to your queen, and fit consideration for the king's honour and peace. It would have been better to have sought the path of virtue willingly ... it is not yet too late. Trust not to the king's affection for you. Remember who you are, and yield to her who has holier claims. For the last time I ask you. . . • Will you renounce the king?
Dyvehe. Never. The king must forsake me first.
Monk. Reflect once more. Walkendorff promises you his protection.
Dyvehe. I need not the archbishop's protection ; I have the king's.
Monk. Since the claims of religion are disregarded, I must employ other means. Dyveke, if your mother's safety be dear to you, leave the king.
Dyveke. My mother's safety! What mean you ? Speak.
Monk. You know full well, that, trusting to 'the king's favour, she bids defiance to the nobles and the clergy ; that she withdraws the king's confidence from them, and stirs up the lower classes, the burghers—even the peasantry— against their rightful lords. Nay, more, our holy religion is not in safety; the council of state itself is abased before your proud mother and her insolent adherents. It is suspected—and I fear too truly—that your mother favours the heresy of Luther, and intends to introduce it into these realms. Dyveke. Have I fallen so low that I must listen to language so insulting to my mother ? I am not accustomed to this tone.
Monk. The importance of the subject—your own and your mother's danger —hurry me on. She is hated for her ambitious designs—there is a powerful party formed against her—tiiey will demand her banishment.
Dyveke. Her banishment ? My mother!
Monk. And if the king refuse the demand, they will threaten to withhold their assistance in the approaching war with revolted Sweden.
Dyveke. What shall I do ? unhappy that I am! I know nothing of my mother's designs. How shall I act ?
Monk. I have already told you. While the king loves you, so long will your mother preserve her influence over him. To deprive her of that influence, you must fly—you or she must be the victim.
Dyveke. Oh, let me die for her, and for my Christian's peace! then all my misery will be ended. Good monk, I am ready; what do you require of me ?
Monk. Lady, you misunderstand my words. Why speak of death? You must only go hence, far from the king and his dominions—perhaps to a cloister.
Dyveke (sighing). And not to die ?
Monk. Fly, or dread what may happen! Let not my warning be in vain.
Dyveke. Yes! I will save my mother.
Monk. Heaven has heard my prayer, and moved your heart; you shall soon hear from me again. Peace be with you, Dyveke.
Dyveke. Peace! yes—rest in the grave; there only is rest for me! There is a very good scene between King Christian and Dyveke; and one still better, in which the fiendish monk poisons the cherries that are to be sent to Sigbrit and her daughter. His cool villany and satanic laugh are well described; in short, the whole play is interesting and well written. But it is time to take leave for the present of the Danes and their literature. Among the authors of the nineteenth century, some names may occur, better known to the generality of English readers than those which have hitherto been enumerated.