The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Denmark, Language and Literature of

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The American Cyclopædia
Denmark, Language and Literature of

Edition of 1879. See also Danish language and Danish literature on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

DENMARK, Language and Literature of. The Danish language (danske Sprog) belongs to the Gothic family of languages, which early separated into two branches: the Norsk, or Scandinavian, and the Germanic. The former, which was called by the ancient Danes the norræna mál, northern tongue, or dönsk tunga, Danish tongue, was spoken with little dialectic variation over the whole of Scandinavia, and was carried to Iceland by Norwegians in the latter part of the 9th century. The norræna mál developed into three distinct languages, Icelandic, Swedish, and Danish. While Icelandic retains the mother tongue almost unaltered, Danish has lost nearly all its distinctive features. Foreign elements were introduced into it principally in two ways: Anglo-Saxon, by the Danish invasions of England in the 11th century; German, in consequence of the warlike expeditions of the Waldemars (first, 1157-'82; second, 1202-'41; third, 1340-'75, &c.) and other Danish kings, of the wars and commerce with the Hansa, and in consequence of the rule of German dynasties (Eric VII. of Pomerania, Christopher of Bavaria, Christian I. of Oldenburg, 1448, and his successors). Its development was retarded by the use of German as the court language and of Latin as the language of literature, and in the 17th century by the inroads of French taste and phrases. In the 18th century it was again affected by the predominance of German culture, but the subsequent revival of ancient Norse studies and of a national literature developed the Danish into one of the richest and most refined European tongues. It is now not only the language of Denmark proper, but also of Norway, and of the northern part of Schleswig. It is also used in the churches among the Esquimaux in Greenland, and as a business language in the islands of Santa Cruz, St. Thomas, and St. John, in the former Danish factories in Guinea, and by well educated Icelanders. The Norwegians pronounce it a little harder than the Danes, dropping principally the soft d, but their literary language is entirely the same. The main difference between Danish and Swedish is that the latter has retained more of the ancient Scandinavian elements and embodied more French. Danish is also related to English and Dutch. Considering the smallness of the land in which it is spoken, it has given birth to a large number of dialects. The principal ones are: 1, the dialect of Seeland (sjællandske), which comprises the dialects of North Seeland (nordsjællandske), Copenhagen (kjøbenhavnske), which is the normal dialect and basis of the literary language, and the dialect of South Seeland, which includes again those of Laaland and Falster; 2, that of Fünen (fyenske), which is spoken in Fünen, Langeland, and several small islands; 3, that of Jutland (jydske), which is verbally and grammatically the most peculiar of all, and comprises the dialects of West Jutland (vesterjydske) and of East Jutland (østerjydske); 4, that of South Jutland (sønderjydske), also called the dialect of Schleswig (slesvigske), which makes use of many Anglo-Saxon and Low German words; 5, that of Bornholm (bornholmske), which has many affinities with Swedish; and 6, that of Schonen (skaanske), which is a mixture of Swedish and the dialect of Seeland.—The alphabet numbers 28 letters, which are represented either in German or Latin characters. There are 9 vowels: a, aa, e, i, o, u, y, æ, and ø. A, e, i, o, u are pronounced as in German and Italian; y is sounded like the French u, and ø like the French eu in peu; aa, which is also a simple vowel, though written with two letters, has the sound of ou in brought; and æ corresponds to the German ä. They are generally long at the end of syllables and before liquids and labials, and otherwise short; e is, however, nearly always short at the end of a word, and becomes mute at the end of a syllable when preceded by a vowel; ee has the sound of a in late. De, the pronoun used in addressing a person, and corresponding to our you, is pronounced as if it were written di, in order to distinguish it from de, they. The consonants are the same as in English, with the exception of w, and are as a rule pronounced with a peculiar softness which a foreigner finds it difficult to imitate. When d is preceded by a vowel and stands in the middle of a word, it receives a pronunciation somewhat similar to th in bathe; it becomes mute when preceded in the same syllable by l or n, or by r after a long vowel, or when followed by sk, st, t, or s (if it is not the sign of the genitive); and it assimilates with the consonant that precedes it when it is placed between l and e or n and e, and frequently also when preceded by ds. When g stands between two vowels it is generally almost mute, and at the end of words it is sometimes as soft as an aspirate, and sometimes as hard as a k; eg is sometimes pronounced like the English i in lie, and øg like oy in toy. In the middle of a word, before j and v, and after t, the letter h is not sounded; it serves to lengthen the vowel that precedes. In the combinations gj, kj, and skj, when followed by e, æ, or ø, the j is frequently silent. N is nasal before g and k; in ps the p is mute in words derived from Greek, and the sound of v is lost at the end of a word when preceded by l or r. Diphthongs are: ai, ei, oi, ui, øi, au, eu, and ou. The first two are pronounced like i in lie; oi like the English oy; ui like the English e; øi very nearly like oy; au like ou in house; eu like the French eu, with a final sound of a v; ou as in brought. The accent rests mostly on the root syllable, except when the word begins with gjen, mis, sam, u, und, or ran, or ends in eri, inde, agtig, or ere.—Two genders are distinguished: fælleskjøn, common, and intetkjøn, neuter; only the personal pronoun of the third person and a few suffixes have separate forms for the masculine and feminine genders; four fifths of the nouns in the language are common, and only the names of countries, cities, metals, letters, languages, clothing material, and a few others, are intetkjøn. The definite article of a noun preceded by an adjective is den in fælleskjøn, det in intetkjøn, and de in the plural of both genders; thus: det skjønne Land, the fine country; den gamle Stol, the old chair; plural, de gamle Stole. When there is no adjective it is suffixed to the noun, after dropping the d; thus: Land-et, Stol-en, the country, the chair; but it is ne or ene in the plural, as Lande-ne. The indefinite article, derived from eet, een, a, one, is et, n, en; e.g.: et Land, a country, en Stol, a chair. The nominative, dative, and accusative cases cause no change in the noun; there is only the suffix s, es, for the genitive of both numbers. The plural is formed in three ways, viz.: by suffixing e, as Land-e; or by er, as Sag, thing, Sag-er, things; or by leaving it unchanged with the exception of the radical a and o, which assume the forms of æ and ø in many nouns of the three declensions, as Barn, child, Børn, children; Bog, book, Bög-er, books. Adjectives not preceded by the article or preceded by the indefinite article remain unchanged in fælleskjøn, and receive t in intetkjøn, singular, and e in the plural of both genders; but when they are preceded by the definite article they receive e in both genders and numbers; thus: god Dreng, good boy, en god Dreng, a good boy, gode Drenge, good boys, den gode Dreng, the good boy, de gode Drenge, the good boys; stor, large, stort Bord, a large table, store Borde, large tables. The comparative degree is formed by adding re or ere; the superlative by ste or este; e.g.: et lærdere Fruentimmer, a more learned woman; den hvideste Farve, the whitest color. Some of the irregulars are: ung, yngre, yngst, young, younger, youngest; lille, mindre, mindst, little, lesser, least; megen, mere, meest, much, more, most; mange, flere, fleest, many, more, most; god, bedre, bedst, good, &c.; ond or slem, varre, varst, evil or bad, worse, worst; gammel, ældre, ældst, old, &c.; nær, nærmere, nærmest, near, nearer, next; ydre, yderst, utter, utmost, &c. The numerals are: eet, een, 1; to, 2; tre, 3; fire, 4; fem, 5; sex, 6; syv, 7; otte, 8; ni, 9; ti, 10; elleve, tolv, tretten, fjorten, &c.; tyve, 20; en og tyve, 21; to og tyve, 22; tredive, 30; fyrgetyve, 40; but the following four decades are peculiar: halvtreds or halvtredsindstyve (half 60 and 20) for 50; treds or tredsindstyve (3 times 20), 60; halvfjerds or halvfjerdsindstyve (half 80 and 20, only equal to 60), used for 70; fiirs or fiirsindstyve (4 times 20), 80; halvfems or halvfemsindstyve, 90; hundrede, 100; tusende, 1,000. Treds, fiirs, and fems being taken for 60, 80, 100, supposing them to be doubled, the halvtreds, halvfjerds, and halvfems are taken for 50, 70, and 90, as the decades half way toward 60, 80, 100. The ordinals are: det, den første, the first; det andet, den anden, the other, or second; den tredie, the third; den fjerde, the fourth; den sjette, the sixth; the rest are formed by suffixing ende, or nde when the number ends in e, or de when it ends in en. Time (French fois) is Gang, as anden Gang, the second time, ni Gange, nine times, &c. The personal pronouns are: jeg, I; mig, me; du, thou; dig, thee; han, he; hun, she; hans, his; hendes, (of) her; ham, him; kende, her; vi, we; vores, ours; os, us; I, you; eders (jer), yours; eder (jer), you; Dem, yourself; sig, himself, herself, themselves. The demonstratives de, deres, dem, are used for they, their, them. Selv, self, selves; but hanself, himself, means also master of the house, hunselv, herself, the house-lady, &c. The possessives are: mit, min, plural mine, my, mine; dit, din, dine, thy, thine; sit, sin, sine, its, his, her, their; vort, vor, vore, our, ours; jert, jer, jere, your, yours. The demonstratives are: det, den, genit. dets, dens; plural de, dem, genit. deres (also used in conversation with one or more persons, like the German Sie, Ihnen, Ihr, you, your); dette, denne, disse, this, these; hiint, hiin, hine, that, those; saadant, saadan, saadanne, and sligt, slig, slige, such. The relatives are: der, who; som, who, whom, that; and the interrogatives: hvo, who? hvad, what? hvilket, &c., which? Indefinite pronouns: der, it, there, also with passive verbs; man (also German, the French on), one, some one; noget, nogen, plural nogle, some, any; somme, some people; intet, ingen, nobody; alt, al, plural alle, all; hvert, hver, enhver, ethvert, every; hinanden, each other; hverandre, one another. The theme of the verb is the imperative; the conjugation comprehends two orders subdivided into three classes each, according to the form of the past tense.

I.—Simple Order (present and past indicative, and participle past).
1st conj. 1. Klager, complain, klagede, klaget.
2. Brænder, burn, brændte, brændt.
3. Følger, follow, fulgte, fult.
II.—Complex Order.
2d conj. 1. Beder, beg, pray, bad, bedet or bedt.
2. Faar, receive, fik, faaet.
3. Lader, load, lod, ladet.
3d conj. 1. Slipper, escape, slip, slap (plur. sluppe), sluppet or sluppen.
2. River, tear, rip, rev (plur. reve), revet or reven.
3. Byder, offer, bød (plur. bude), budet or budt.

Person and number are distinguished by pronouns or other words; the numbers of verbs are often alike, and are confounded in common speech, though distinguished in writing. The passive voice admits of no distinction of numbers or persons in the form of the verb, but merely of tenses and modes. The present and past tenses are formed by means of the suffix s or es; thus: Jeg elskes, I am loved; jeg elskedes, I was loved (from jeg elsker, I love; jeg elskede, I loved or have loved). The infinitive is sometimes denoted by at, to; thus: at elske, to love; the participle present by nde final. There are also deponent verbs, analogous to those of the Latin. The auxiliary or periphrastic verbs are: skal, plural skulle, shall; skulde, should, &c.; vil, plural ville, will; vilde, participle villet, would; har (from haver), have; passive haves, be possessed by; er, am; var, was; vær, be; faaer, get; maa, may, must; kan, can, may; tør, dare, need; lader, let, cause to, &c. Bliver, become, forms the passive sense; e.g.: bliver fundet, is found. Har and faaer with an infinitive also express duty: Jeg har at sige Dem, I have to say (to) you. The Danish has more varieties of circumlocution than the English, and its auxiliaries are less irregular. The syntax resembles that of the English. The definite article may be omitted, but it is sometimes used where the English omits it; thus: Natur-en, nature; Liv-et, life, &c. The noun which governs a genitive precedes the nominative, and usually without the article; e.g.: Verdens Alder, the age of the world; et Legemes (body) Tyngde, the gravity of a body; mange Vandes Lyd, of the sound of many waters. The preposition af is omitted with quantities, as en Mængde Mennesker, a crowd of people; unless the thing measured be definite, as en Skieppe af den ny Hvede, a bushel of the new wheat. Adjectives follow only surnames, as Knud den Store, Canute the Great. De, they, when used to address a single person, takes the singular of the verb, as Gaaer De paa Komedie? Do you go to the theatre? The active participle in nde final is never used as a gerund, but mostly as an adjective, and the English participle in ing must often be rendered by the infinitive; thus: det er neppe værd at see, it is scarcely worth (to see) seeing. Prepositions sometimes must be translated by other words; thus: i, in; i Gaar Aftes (in yester eve's), last evening; i Morges, this morning; i Aar, this year; i Morgen, to-morrow, &c. They are also written as adverbs: igaar, yesterday, igaaraftes, last night, &c. Paa, on, upon: paa Søndag, next Sunday. Ad, to, up, of: ad Aare, next year. Om, for, about: 5 Rigsbankdaler om Maaneden, $5 a month, &c. We subjoin a specimen of Danish construction:

 En   Ulv,   den   dummeste   af   sin   Slægt,   traf 
A  wolf,  the silliest of his kind, met
 engang   en   Hund   udenfor   Skoven.   Ulven 
 one time  a dog outside wood. Wolf
 vilde  til  at   slæbe   denne   bort,  da  Hunden 
 would   about  to carry  this one  away,  when  dog
 forestillede  ham  at   den   var   altfor   mager. 
presented  to him  to he be too lean.

For a thorough study of the Danish language the following works may be consulted: Peder Syv, Simbriske Sprog (1663), the Cimbric being the basis of the Danish orthography; E. Pontoppidan, Grammatica Danica (1668); Otho Sperling, De Danicæ Linguæ Antiqua Gloria (1694); J. Baden, Roma Danica, sive Harmonia Linguæ Danicæ cum Latina (1699); J. H. Schlegel on the advantages and defects of the Danish language (in Danish, 1763); Rask's grammar for Englishmen (1830 and 1846); Fradersdorff's “Practical Introduction to Danish” (London, 1860). Dictionaries: H. van Alphelen, “Royal Dictionary” (in Danish, 1764-'72), and Dictionnaire français-danois et danois-français (3 vols., 1772-'6); Dansk Ordbog (“Danish Wordbook”), under the direction of the society of sciences, by Möller, Viborg, Thorlachus, Müller, &c. (5 vols., 1793-1825); Björn Halderson's lexicon, Icelandic, Latin, and Danish, edited by Rask in 1814, and Danish-English, by Ferral, in 1845-'54; Hornbeck's “Danish-English and English-Danish Dictionary” (2 vols., Copenhagen, 1863).—The literature of Denmark is for the most part of recent growth. Mediæval Danish writings belong to the general literature of Scandinavia. The most important of them are the codes of the ancient kings, which belong to the 12th century, and the songs and ballads, partly derived from the Scandinavian sagas, which have been preserved by being sung by the people. The Faroe islanders still sing them, and dance to their accompaniment. The historian Saxo Grammaticus (died about 1204) wrote in Latin. He was one of the first scholars of his time, and his Historia Danica has been thought worthy of a modern translation into Danish and of much scholarly comment. During the union of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway under one government, from 1397 to 1523, there was not much literary progress. Learning was confined to the clergy, who wrote mostly in Latin and on scholastic themes. Even the poems and dramas of the time were scholastic or mystical allegories. The general revival of letters, however, at the time of the reformation was felt in Denmark. Pedersen's translation of the New Testament and the Psalms was incorporated into the official translation of the whole Bible made in 1550, and its influence upon the national language and literature can hardly be overestimated. Pedersen also wrote some popular histories which were widely read. Unhappily the majority of writers in the 16th and 17th centuries were confined to dogmatic and ecclesiastical discussions, and the government, having adopted the Lutheran faith, persecuted any deviation from it; yet the eminent names of Tycho Brahe, the great astronomer, and Thomas Bartholin, the first anatomist of his day, with a number of others, including Christian Longomontanus and Ole Römer, placed Denmark in the first rank of scientific progress. In this period there were also several students of earlier Scandinavian history, Arent Berndtsen (died in 1680) being the most eminent of them, whose writings are of great value to the modern student; while the collection of the early popular songs, especially the work of A. S. Vedel (1591), gave a strong impulse to national poetry. It is said that Sophia, queen of Frederick II., when on a visit to Tycho Brahe, was detained several days by stormy weather; the astronomer beguiled the time by reading to her from Vedel's collection, and the queen was so delighted with the work that she provided for its publication. Vedel was followed a century later, and his collection enlarged, by Peder Syv. The 17th century also produced some original poets, three of whom should be named: Anders Arreboe (1587-1637), whose Hexameron describes the six days of creation; Anders Bording (1619-1677), who by royal privilege edited the “Danish Mercury,” a political sheet published monthly, and written throughout in verse; and Thomas Kingo (1634-1723), the author of many excellent hymns. Arreboe is called father of Danish poetry. The poets and prose writers of the 16th and 17th centuries are enumerated by Thura in his Idea Historiæ Literariæ Danorum (1732). The classic mythology never pervaded the literature of Denmark, as it did that of other European countries; and hence the modern development of Danish poetry has a strongly Scandinavian character, the poets drawing their inspirations less from Greece and Rome than from the Scandanavian sagas, brought out by the labors of Vedel and his successors. The chief Danish writer of the 18th century is Ludvig Holberg (1684-1754), dramatic poet, writer of fiction, and popular philosopher, whose fertile imagination and genial humor manifest themselves with a strong bracing realism. He was most at home in comedy. He founded the theatre at Copenhagen, and wrote for it within three years 20 plays, several of which still continue to be favorites. The most popular are: “The Pewter Statesman,” a political satire; “The Arabian Powder,” a satire upon the alchemists; “Ulysses,” a parody of the heroic German drama; and “The Brothers Antipodes,” representing two brothers, one superstitious and the other skeptical, both undergoing a spiritual cure. Holberg has been called the Molière of the North. His most heroic epic, “Peder Paars,” in which the hero is a country grocer, shipwrecked while crossing to Jutland to meet his lady love, is full of humor and genial philosophy. He wrote a prose satirical romance entitled “Niels Klim's Subterranean Journey,” of supposed skeptical tendencies, which from fear of the orthodoxy of King Christian VI. was first published in Latin (1741), but was subsequently translated into almost every European tongue. His “History of Denmark to the year 1670,” also written in Latin, is a standard work. Christian Falster was a contemporary of Holberg, and wrote some satirical poems of reputation, but of unequal merit. The next poet of the first order is Johannes Evald (died 1781). His tragedies of “Baldur's Death” and “Rolf Krage” have long been favorites, as well as his comedy “The Harlequin Patriot,” while he is the author of the Danish national song “King Christian at the high mast stands.” Evald holds toward Holberg somewhat the same relation as Schiller to Goethe, and both their the early, enthusiastic, and successful effort to establish a national literature free from foreign corruption. They were followed by Christian Pram, a poet of considerable merit, whose romantic epic Störkodder appeared in 1785; and Ole Johan Samsöe (died 1796), and Levin Christian Sander (died 1819), writers of excellent tragedies, who coöperated in the development of a purely national literature; while the Danish histories of Peder F. Suhm and Erik Pontoppidan stand prominent toward the close of the century. Jens Baggesen (1764-1826) was the favorite lyrist of the nation. His tales, lyrics, and comic epics are full of grace and humor. He was an admirer of the German poets, and wrote and published a number of pieces in German. He may perhaps be considered as marking that inclination toward German associations which comes out more conspicuously in Adam Oehlenschläger (1779-1850), the greatest Danish poet of the present century. Oehlenschläger found his favorite subjects in the mythology of Scandinavia, and his “Baldur the Good” and “Gods of the North” bring the gods of the Edda and the old Norse heroes upon the modern stage. His “Correggio” is an exquisite picture of the representatives of different schools of painting, and became a favorite of the European stage. The “Death of Socrates” and “Queen Margaret” show rich fancy, tender pathos, and noble diction. His “Hamlet” gives not the Shakespearian but the historic character as handed down by Saxo Grammaticus; its first representation in Copenhagen (1846) excited the greatest enthusiasm. Oehlenschläger translated his own works into German, and is as well known in Germany as in Denmark. Peder Andreas Heiberg (1758-1841) was a dramatic writer of great originality. His son Johan Ludvig Heiberg (1791-1860) confined himself to comedy and vaudeville, but ranks among the first of recent dramatists. He was also a philosophical and archæological writer of great merit, and his novels, published anonymously, are little if at all inferior to those of Hans Christian Andersen. Bernhard Severin Ingemann (1789-1862) was a poet and dramatist known outside of Denmark. His epics Waldemar de Store and Holger Danske deserve great praise. He is the author also of the national song Danebrog. Hendrik Hertz (1798-1870) is also known outside of his native land, and some of his lyrics and dramatic poems have been translated into English. Fr. Paludan-Müller (born 1809) is also eminent; his Adam Homo, which may be classed with epic, didactic, or satiric poetry, is perhaps the most remarkable production of modern Danish literature. Nicolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig (1783-1872) is in many respects one of the first Danish authors of recent times. As a popular writer of hymns he is unequalled; in lyrical and historical poetry he equals Oehlenschläger, his Kong Harald og Ansgar and Optrin af Kämpelivets Undergang i Nord being beautiful delineations of the old Danish life and character; while his archæological writings and his translations of the works of Snorro and Saxo are of great value. His son Svend Grundtvig (born 1824) has published investigations of the literary monuments of Iceland. Christian Molbech (1783-1857) gained great distinction in Danish literary history. In 1826 he edited Harpestreng's “Book of Medicine,” supposed to have been written in the 13th century. His son Chr. Karl Frederik Molbech (born 1821), besides being well known as a student of Norse and Danish literary history, is a distinguished lyric poet. Rasmus Christian Rask (1787-1832) is one of the greatest philologists of the present century. He also wrote on the antiquities of Iceland and on the age and antiquity of the Zendavesta, besides publishing an edition of the Edda. Among scientific writers who have contributed to the world's progress, mention should be made of Heinrich Christian Schumacher, the astronomer (1780-1850), and J. F. Schouw, the physicist and geographer (died 1852). Hans Christian Oersted (1777-1851) has a world-wide reputation as the discoverer of electro-magnetism. His best known work, Aanden i Naturen (“The Soul in Nature”), has been translated into all European languages. His brother, Anders Sandoe Oersted (1778-1830), is known as a writer on jurisprudence and diplomacy. In Denmark, as in other lands, the novel takes a foremost place in the literature of the present day. The most celebrated Danish novelist of our time is Hans Christian Andersen (born 1805). His best works, however, are his short fairy tales. His imagination and humor place these among the most charming of writings, and they are translated into all European tongues. His novels are less successful, though not without merit. He has also written lyrical pieces and dramas. Other modern novelists are Steen Steensen Blicher (died 1848), who describes the customs and characteristics of the Jutland people with much beauty; Waldemar Adolf Thisted, better known under the pseudonyme of Emanuel St. Hermidad (born 1815); and Wilhelm Bergsoe (born 1835), whose Fra Piazza del Popolo, published in 1866, has given him a high reputation, and whose works are promptly reproduced in other languages.—The principal works not already mentioned on the history of Danish literature are Kraft and Nyerup's Almindeligt Literatur-Lexicon (3 vols., 1774-'84); Erslew's Almindeligt Forfatter Lexicon (5 vols., 1841-'60); Overskou's Den danske Skueplads i dens Historie (4 vols., 1859-'62); and Bibliotheca Danica, a systematic catalogue of Danish literature from 1482, the date of the first printed book, to 1830, including Icelandic and Norwegian books (Copenhagen, 1870).