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Runeberg

( Originally Published 1896 )



AT the opening of the present century the monarchy of Sweden lay defenceless and almost moribund, supported in European opinion solely by the memory of its vast prestige. The dynasty of Wasa, which had held the crown for nearly two centuries, and from the hands of whose successive kings Sweden had received such match-less glory and such a world of sorrows, was approaching its last degeneracy in the person of Gustavus IV., a prim and melancholy bigot, touched with madness, and retaining of the iron will and clear intelligence of his ancestors nothing but a silly obstinacy and the ingenuity of a wizard maker of prophetic almanacks. The old order was passing away throughout Europe, and the new had scarcely taken fixed form or entity. Geographically, Sweden had been dwindling throughout the eighteenth century, drying up, as it were, along the south shores of the Baltic : Courland was lost, Esthonia lost, even Pomerania was assailed. Finland, the most precious, the most extensive outland province, forming more than a fourth of the entire dominion, remained untouched, or almost untouched. There had not been wanting signs of Russian ambition working on the vast open frontier by Lake Ladoga. Already, before the century was half out, the great new power of Eastern Europe had determined that its captal would never be secure until the Russian supremacy was acknowledged everywhere east of the Gulf of Bothnia. The Empress Elizabeth, while seizing the eastern counties of the province, had dangled before Finland the tempting hope of national independence under a protectorate of Russia. In 1788 the malcontent nobles, met at Anjala, offered to another great woman, to the Empress Catharine II., the dictatorship of Finland; but their treason infuriated the middle and lower classes, and when the Russian army commenced its invasion in 1789 it was met by a resistance as determined as it was unexpected. It was in this campaign that modern Finland first expressed itself; the war culminated in the battle of Porrasalmi, a glorious victory for the Finns, in which Adlercreutz and Döbeln, afterwards so famous as generals, won their spurs. The peace of Warala., in 1790, left Finland full of the enthusiasm of military success, and loyal as a dependency of Sweden. But the murder of Gustavus III., at the Opera House of Stockholm, in 1792, brought the luckless Gustavus IV. to the throne, and reduced the nation to despair. One of the first events of the new reign was the loss of Pomerania. Finland now became the most precious, as it was the last, jewel in the Swedish Crown ; and to comfort his excellent Finnish subjects, and to strengthen their hearts in the fear of " Punaparte," as the Finns called Napoleon, the dreary monarch made a solemn tour through the province in 1802. Thus security reigned for a little while on both sides of the Gulf of Bothnia, Europe in the meantime writhing, convulsed by a conjunction of wars that threatened to conclude in chaos.

At this eventful moment the greatest poet that has ever used the Swedish tongue saw the light in a seaport of Finland. Johan Ludvig Runeberg was born February 5, 1804, at Jakobsstad, a little town half-way up the Gulf of Bothnia. He was the son of a merchant captain, and the eldest of six children. The straitened means of the parents induced them to accept the offer of the father's brother, a very well-to-do man in Uleaborg, who offered to adopt Johan Ludvig. Thither, therefore, far away north, to the extreme town of the country, the child went. In Uleaborg he must have seen the birthplace of the greatest then-living poet of Finland, Franzčn, in whose steps he was afterwards to tread. We know little of his boyhood, except that at due age he was sent to the college at Wasa, and that he was so poor that he could only continue his studies there by serving as tutor to the younger and richer boys. But in the meantime changes of vast importance had occurred in the constitution of his country changes to which he was destined in after life to give immortality by his art. In 18o7 Napoleon had met Alexander I. at Tilsit, and had offered Finland to the Russian monarch in exchange for help against England. By one of those coincidences which give history the air of a well-planned sensational drama, the autocrat who now lies under a mass of Finnish porphyry in his Parisian tomb set out on the last great perilous enterprise which led him to his doom by the sacrifice of Finland to Russian ambition. In February 1808, three Russian armies broke into Finland. Like the troops who obeyed the summons from Anjala in 1788, these armies were grievously disappointed to find the fruit not ripe or ready to drop into their hand. Everywhere the Swedish sentiment was decided ; the Finns rose in arms, 19,000 strong, and collected around the fortress of Tavasthus. But their resistance was at first not very successful. The south of the province was overpowered. Sveaborg, an impregnable maritime citadel, the Gibraltar of the north, built by Augustin Ehrensvärd, in 1749, on seven islets at the entrance of the harbour of Helsingfors, was shamefully and treasonably surrendered. In May the Russians marched into Helsingfors. Meanwhile the Finlanders had a different fortune in the north, where, under two noble generals, Adlercreutz and Döbeln, they rallied their forces to defend the sea-coast and the Bothnia districts. On April 18, across the frozen river Siikajoki, the Swedes and Finlanders won their first victory, and defeated the Russians again, nine days later, at Revolax. A little later, Döbeln contrived to drive the enemy back from the walls of Nykarleby, and to win a signal victory at Lappo. But on September 14, 1808, Adlercreutz lost all but honour at the terrible battle of Oravais, the most fiercely contested and the decisive engagement of the campaign. Finland was lost, and by the Peace of Fredrikshamn, on September 17, 1809, it was finally annexed, as a grand duchy, to the dominions of Russia.

Such were the events which agitated the childhood of Runeberg. In after life he clearly remembered seeing Döbeln and Kulneff, the Swedish general with the black band round his forehead that concealed the wound in the left temple which he bore away after the battle of Porro-salmi, the Russian general with his bright eyes and long brown beard. He saw them in the streets of Jakobsstad, when he was four years old, and this memory gave a particular colouring to his pictures of the war. Stories were repeated in his presence of the chivalric regard which each opponent had for the other how Kulneff forbade his Cossacks to fire upon Döbeln, and how Döbeln's soldiers respected the person of Kulneff; and when he came to write Fanrik Stals Sagner there was to be found among the portraits of friends and patriots a noble tribute to the generous Russian leader also. It is noticeable that in the native literature of Finland, since the annexation, there is none of the tone of smothered insurrection which marks the atmosphere of Poland, or even the dull discontent of Esthonia and Courland. The Swedish Lutherans of Finland have been by far the best treated of all the dependants of the empire. No attempt has been made to force Russian upon them as their official language, no check has been put on the free development of the literature, even when, as in the case of Runeberg, that development has taken the form of deepening and extending the patriotic sentiment. The fact is, that under the easy Russian yoke Finland is almost as free as she was under the Wasas, and has actually attained that intellectual and spiritual independence which Porthan, her great citizen of the eighteenth century, dreamed for her an independence which consists in liberty of thought, the spread of an education congenial to the nature of the people, and a free development of science and belles lettres.

In the autumn of 1822, Runeberg, then in his nineteenth year, left Wasa to enter a student life in the University of Abo. He enjoyed few of the luxuries and the amenities which we identify with the existence of an undergraduate. Such a university life as is to be found in Aberdeen or St. Andrews presents a truer analogy with that in a Scandinavian town. Most of the students were poor, many of them extremely poor, and among these few had a harder struggle than Runeberg. In the spring of 1827 he successfully closed his examinations, and received the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. It was a little earlier than this that he made his first appearance before the literary public. One evening in 1826 a party of young people met at the house of Archbishop Tengström, the metropolitan of Finland; a game of forfeits was set on foot, the last of which was lost by a student of the name of Runeberg. The young ladies put their heads together, and finally decided that, as he was suspected of writing verses, he should then and there compose a Hymn to the Sun. This he accomplished, nothing loth; and it was so highly approved of that Sjöstrom, then considered one of the chief Finnish poets, printed it forthwith in a newspaper of which he was the editor. The young poet had hardly received his degree, when an event occurred which entirely revolutionised his career. On a mild September evening in 1827, as the good people of Abo were going to bed, they were alarmed to hear the tocsin furiously sounded from the tower of their cathedral. A girl had spilt some tallow, the tallow had taken fire, and in half-an-hour the wood-built city was in a blaze. The fire spread with infinite velocity, engulfed the university first, and then the cathedral; before the morning broke, not an eighth of the flourishing capital of Finland still existed. In the confusion that ensued, the university was transferred to Helsingfors, a larger town further east on the Gulf of Finland, and this place has since then been the seat of government. Runeberg was left to choose his career. He decided to leave the sea-coast, where he associated only with educated persons using the Swedish language, and to penetrate into the heart of the country, by so doing to gain a knowledge of his beautiful fatherland and its singular aborigines. He therefore accepted a tutorship in a family living at Saarijarvi, a sequestered village in the heart of the country, on the high road between the Gulf of Bothnia and the White Sea. Here he had plenty of leisure to study the primitive life of the country people, among the desolate and impressive scenery of the interior. Saarijarvi lies on the extreme arm of one of the great winding lakes, that seem to meander for ever between forest and moorland, thickly dotted with innumerable islands. Round it stretch in every direction the interminable beech-woods, muffling the air with such a silence that the woodman's axe falls with a mysterious, almost with a sinister sound. There are few spots in Europe so utterly remote and inaccessible; the solitude is broken only by the farmer's cart, the footstep of some wandering Finn or Quain, or the voice of a Russian pedlar from Archangel singing loudly to keep himself company through the woods. Here it was that Runeberg buried himself for three years. He had a good many books, mainly the Greek poets ; he studied hard, whether nature was his master or Homer, and he set himself studiously to unlearn whatever his teachers had taught him of the art of Swedish poetry. The ruling genius of Sweden at that date was Tegnér, the famous poet of 'Frithiofs saga,' in whom the peculiarly Swedish vice of style, which consists in cultivating empty and sonorous phrases, had reached its climax. Tegnér was a poet of great genius, but he had not the intellectual courage or the inclination to cast behind him the poetic phraseology of his day. Instead of doing this, instead of adopting a realistic style, he simply gilded and polished the old " ideal " language, and the practical result of his brilliant productions was to paralyse poetry in Sweden for half a century. It was right that the voice which was to do away for ever with this glitter and fustian should come out of the wilderness. Not in Lund or Upsala, but in an unknown village in the heart of the forests of Finland, the seed was germinating which was destined to fill the whole country with a flower of a new sort, a veri-table wood-rose to take the place of the fabulous asphodel. In Tegnér the old forces that battled in Swedish literature had found a common ground, and, as it were, an apotheosis. There were no longer academic writers who loved the old French rules, "Phosphorists" who outdid Tieck and Novalis in mysticism, Gothic poets who sought to reconcile the antique Scandinavian myths to elegant manners and modern thoughts; all these warring groups united in Tegnér or were extinguished by him. Between Tegnér and Runeberg the natural link is wanting. This link properly consists, it appears to me, in Longfellow, who is an anomaly in American literature, but who has the full character of a Swedish poet, and who, had he been born in Sweden, would have completed exactly enough the chain of style that ought to unite the idealism of Tegnér to the realism of Runeberg. The poem of Evangeline has really no place in Anglo-Saxon poetry; in Swedish it would accurately express a stage in the progress of literature which is now unfilled. It is known that Mr. Longfellow has cultivated the language of Sweden with much assiduity, and has contemplated literary life in that country with all the unconscious affection of a changeling.

The years spent by Runeberg at Saarijarvi were occupied in almost continual literary production. He wrote here the most important and most original works of his early manhood. Among these must be mentioned Svartsjukans natter ("Nights of Jealousy "), a large part of his Lyrical Poems, and his great epic or idyl of Elgskyttarne, or "The Elk Hunters." Of these the lyrical poems have lately been translated in their entirety in a version remarkable for care and scholarship.1 They were originally published, together with a collection of Servian Folk-songs, in 1830, and formed Runeberg's first published volume. This publication followed close upon the young writer's reappearance in the civilised world; he left his hermitage in that year to accept the post of amanuensis to the council of the university, now settled in Helsingfors. The volume was dedicated to Franzén, the poet-bishop of Hernösand, one of the most illustrious persons Finland had produced; a poem addressed to this eminent man breathes the same fresh and unconventional air that animates the body of the book itself, and also contains not a few traces of the study of the poet eulogised. In fact, the influence of Franzén is strong throughout the early writings of Runeberg a pure and genial, but not robust influence, which did the young poet no harm, and out of which he very speedily grew. Franzén wrote to him a letter full of tenderness and prophecy. "I know," he had the generosity to write to this unknown beginner, "that it is, a great poet that Finland is about to produce in you." The perfume of the violet and the song of the lark were strong in this book of thoroughly sincere and unaffected verses ; and the public was not slow in acknowledging the Bishop of Hernösand to have been a true prophet.

In 1831 he attempted to win larger laurels than the coteries of Helsingfors could offer him. He sent in to the annual prize-giving of the Swedish Academy a poem of considerable length, Grafven Perrho ("The Grave in Perrho "), a work which for the first time displayed to advantage his rich severity of style, his epic force and freshness. It was the story of a grave in the wilds of Finland, the grave of an old man and his six tall sons, and told with infinite beauty the tragic circumstances that laid them there. The Swedish Academy, unable to overlook so much originality, but unwilling to crown a realist who disregarded the conventionalities so rudely, rewarded the poet with the small gold medal a distinction commonly given to very mediocre merit. Still this was a measure of national recognition : and, in the glee of success, Rune-berg married one of the young ladies who had set him his first lesson in verse five years before, at the house of Archbishop Tengström. This year, indeed, proved a turning point in his life, for he received a post which bound him to the capital; in reward for a learned tractate comparing the Medea of Euripides with the Medea of Seneca, he was appointed Lecturer on Roman Literature at the University. From this time forward every step was an advance ; he felt himself more and more sure of his genius, of his representative position in so small a state as Finland, where he began to take a place as literary oracle. He now undertook the labours of journalism, and founded a newspaper, the Helsingfors Morgonblad, which he edited with such success that it became the most influential journal in the grand duchy. Runeberg remained sole editor until 1837, and during these years he made it the medium of spreading far and wide the principles of culture and literary taste. All the best critical writings of the poet, all which is preserved in the sixth volume of his collected works, originally saw the light in the columns of the Helsingfors Morgonblad.

The greatest result of his solitude at Saarijärvi remained, however, still unknown till in 1832 he published his Elgskyttarne, or "The Elk Hunters." This poem marks an epoch in Swedish literature. It is as remarkable in its way as the novels of Zola; it begins a new class of work, it is one of the masterpieces of scrupulous realism, a true product of the nineteenth century. The form is the same adopted by Voss, Goethe, Tegner, Kingsley, and many more North European poets for narrative work the dactylic hexameter. But the Swedish language suits this exotic growth much better than German or English : there are more compact masses of rolling sound to be obtained, it is far more easy to observe the rules of position. Rune-berg seems to have gone straight back to Homer for his model ; and though there are moments when we feel that he could not entirely forget Hermann und Dorothea, his hexameters have as a rule a more pure and classical character than Goethe's.

The plan of the poem is as follows. The local magnate of an inland Finnish district, the Kommissarie or Agent, has ordered all the chief men of the place to meet at his house for an elk-hunt next morning. The worthy farmer, Petrus, at home in his large guest room, prepares, half overcome with sleep, for the duties of the morrow, furbishing up his gun, and listening to his wife Anna, as she busies herself in the house and gossips. The door opens, and Anna's brother, Mathias, a rich farmer from a distant parish, whose wife had died about a year before, appears on an improvised visit. He has scarcely sat down to supper, when Anna commences to mourn over the desolate condition of his children, and urges him to find a wife to take care of his fine home at Kuru. Petrus proposes the beauty of their parish, Hedda, the daughter of Zacharias, and the pair paint her virtues in such glowing terms that Mathias begins to wish to see her. It is agreed that he shall follow the hunt next morning, and be introduced to her incidentally at the meet. Next morning Petrus is waked by the noise of a quarrel between Pavo, one of his servants, and Aron, a beggar to whom, after the Finnish custom, he is exercising hospitality. He rises in the dark winter morning, and he and Mathias start for the rendezvous. It is a ringing frosty day, or rather night, for the stars are still brilliant overhead. Petrus supplies his brother-in-law with an old Swedish rifle, a jewel of a weapon, as he explains in an episode. It was with this rifle that Petrus's uncle, Joannes, picked out a spy at an incredible distance in 1808, and this leads to other tales of the great war with which they beguile the way to the Agent's. At last they reach the house, and receive a warm welcome; already the guest-room is full of people, and among the first they meet are Zacharias and his lovely daughter Hedda. There are, moreover, a group of Russian pedlars from Archangel who recognise Mathias, and loudly praise the hospitality they lately enjoyed at his house in Kuru. One of the pedlars, the brown-bearded Ontrus, thinks this an excellent opportunity for hawking his wares, and we have an exquisite picture of the girls darting like swallows around his pack as he displays his treasures. But alas ! they are poor, and there are no purchases. Mathias conceives that this is the moment for him to advance. He buys presents for them all, but the most costly and most tempting for Hedda. Petrus cannot help paying the beautiful girl a compliment in these words--

" As when a cloud in spring hangs bright o'er the trees on a hill-side,
Hushed is the underwood all, and the birches stand mutely admiring,
Watching the pride of the morning, the rose-hued breast of the cloudlet,

Till from the heart of it issues a breeze, and the shoots on the branches
Tenderly wave, and their leaves half unfolded shiver with pleasure,
Not less quivers the youth when he gazes on Hedda and hears her."

Hedda finds herself in a shy confusion, and sends Mathias a grateful glance when he reproves his brother-in-law for this persiflage. The Agent now appears, dawn is breaking, and the hunters all go out into the snow, Mathias still dreaming of the beauty of Hedda. However, they call upon him for a story, and he rouses himself to describe, in the most powerful and brilliant language, the killing of a bear. They find the elk on a wooded island, and the hunt begins; but we are transported back to the Agent's guest-room, where the Archangel traders have made themselves cosy with the girls, and where the youngest of them, the handsome Tobias, excited with beer and love, begins to dance about, and to offer the indignant Hedda all his wares in exchange for a kiss.

His elder brother, Ontrus, turns him out of doors, where he screams and sings and jumps about till he drops down fast asleep. Ontrus gravely presses on Hedda the advantages she would find in marrying this his scapegrace brother, till she at last escapes from his importunity by joining the old women upstairs. Ontrus then has a violent quarrel with a spiteful ancient dame, the cripple Rebecca, and at last falls fast asleep upon the floor. This odd scene is described with great humour, and in minute detail, like a Teniers. Meanwhile the hunt proceeds ; four elks are shot, of which Mathias bags two with the famous Swedish gun. On the way home he asks Zacharias for leave to court his daughter. No sooner has he entered the guest-room than he finds an opportunity of speaking to Hedda, and is on the point of tenderly pressing his suit, when the abominable old Rebecca puts in an oar and spoils it all. The girl flies to an upper room, but Mathias sends Petrus after her. A very quaint and charming scene ensues. Petrus sits down with his pipe opposite the conscious maiden, and recounts at great length the virtues and the possessions of this brave Mathias from Kuru," how fine his farm-stead is, how wild and fertile his fields are, taking care to explain that they consist of rich black top soil on a clayey bottom. These poetic details move the maiden less than an eloquent recital of the vigour and excellence of the possessor, and Petrus begs her not to refuse because Mathias is no longer a romantic youth. He perorises thus " --

Never so rich is in blossoms a field in the heart of the summer,
Child, as in pleasures the way to the grave if we walk with contentment;
If we but step with a care to the road, nor let Hope the enchantress
Leap from the path at our feet, and persuade us another were fairer.
Only the fool is beguiled, but he follows and wantonly wavers,
Never at peace, till death suddenly falls on him, sighing, and takes him."

Hedda finds it difficult to reply, but at last she manages to murmur a pretty and modest assent. And she sits awhile, weeping for pleasure, and patting Petrus's hand, until he weeps too, to keep her company. Then Mathias comes, and all is happiness. We are now taken back to the homestead at Tjäderkulle, where Anna sits at home, while Aron the beggar plays national airs upon the jew's harp an instrument, perhaps, hitherto unknown to epic poetry. At Anna's desire he tells the terrible story of his life : how one bad season after another ruined him, till at last his wife died of starvation, and he himself nearly went mad. He has scarcely closed this tragical recital, when Petrus enters, and proposes they should all immediately proceed to the Agent's house, to be present at the betrothal of Mathias ; this they accordingly do, and the poem ends with a spirited and humorous picture of the scene at the ceremony.

The next few years of Runeberg's life were full of work and happiness. In 1833 he published a second volume of lyrical poems, and improved his economical position by lecturing on Greek literature in the university. It was about the same time that he met the indefatigable collector of Finnish legends, the famous Dr. Elias Lönnroth, then still occupied in putting together the ancient epic of the Kalevala. In this new-found treasure-house of mythological wealth Runeberg took the keenest interest, and translated the beginning of it into Swedish. In 1836 Lönnroth made himself and Finland famous throughout Europe by his publication of the original text. It is perhaps fortunate that Runeberg did not carry out his original idea of translating the whole of the Kalevala, a work well performed by less representative hands than his. In 1834 he had attempted dramatic creation, in the form of a comedy in verse, Friaren fran Landet (" The Country Lover "), which was acted and printed in Morgonblad, but which the poet would never allow to be reprinted among his works. In 1836 appeared a poem far more worthy of his genius, the delicate idyl of Hanna. This also is written in hexameters, and closes the first period of his poetic career. It was dedicated " To the First Love," and it forms, in fact, a kind of modern " Romeo and Juliet." In a quiet Finland parsonage the pastor sits in his study, calmly smoking his pipe, and gazing over the hazy landscape. It is a warm summer afternoon, and he sits waiting for his son, who has just passed his examination at Abo. The lad has been told that if he passes he may bring home with him some poor comrade to spend the vacation in the country ; and he has passed, so a stranger is expected. In another room sits the pastor's lovely daughter, Hanna, weaving, but the perfume of the lilacs, blossoming at the open window, troubles her fancy, and she leans out into the warm air, her brain full of little graceful vanities, the pretty whims of a spoilt child. At this moment the old housekeeper, Susanna, enters, and tells her to dress as quickly as she can to receive the Bailiff; a man of fifty, rich and respected, who has just come to pay her father a visit. From some words the portly gentleman has let fall, she fancies that his mission is to ask Hanna for his wife. The girl is much fluttered but not displeased at this notion: to be the chief lady of the place is flattering to her vanity, and she does not comprehend what it is to be a wife. Her father comes to call her down, and though she clings to Susanna in her confusion, she is absolutely obliged to open the study-door at last.

"Blushing she stood at the door, in the exquisite charm of her shyness,
Coy as a strip of the sea that is caught by the rush of the morning,
Slender and quivering in rosy dismay through the gloom of the woodlands."

The Bailiff is hardly less confused than she; but her father, who greatly desires the match, expends much flowing speech, till the suitor succeeds in gaining confidence, and expatiates on the charms of his house and garden, the latter being so well-cultured and protected that sometimes, in very warm summers, they manage to ripen an apple. He apologises much for his age, though this has not occurred to Hanna as an objection. They give her some days to make up her mind, and she flies to her own room. There a girl, half friend, half dependent, called Johanna, is taken into her confidence, and violently objects to the match, advising Hanna to wait for some young suitor. Hanna, a little shaken in resolution, is desiring more light on this difficult subject, when suddenly her brother and his friend arrive. The Bailiff has by this time gone, and the pastor is left free to welcome his son. The friend is discovered to be the son of the poet whose bosom companion the pastor was at college, and who died early. He is a handsome, ardent, ingenuous youth, and the old man is delighted thus to renew the early alliance. Hanna enters, and there is mutual love at first sight. With him it is conscious, with her it is an unconscious trouble and dismay for which she cannot account. The pastor desires that they should embrace one another as if they were brother and sister, and Hanna kisses him lightly, like a summer wind, and disappears, to think it all over in her own room.

" So she thought to herself, and her thoughts were less words than a perfume." She smiles to think how fresh and radiant he is, and then she weeps not, she says, for love, but in anger that he, a young poor student, should dare to look so charming and so confidential. They have the evening meal together, and then her brother insists that she and the friend should go with him for a long stroll together. They proceed down to the lake, and the brother expatiates on the scene, a truly inland landscape, unlike the coast of the Gulf of Finland at Abo.

"Look at the lake in the sunset," he answered, "look you, how unlike
'Tis to the sea as it moans round the rock-built shores of your childhood!
Here there are verdure and colour and life; quaint numberless islands
Shoot from the breast of the wave, and, gracefully swaying on each one,
Clumps of underwood offer the worn-out mariner shadow.
Follow me down to the beach, calm strip between meadow and water,
Here you may glance o'er a wider expanse, discerning the hamlet
Dimly sequestered afar, and the steeple that shines in the distance."'

They continue their walk in the soft and magical air of a northern sunset, while their voices grow intenser and graver. A talk about wild birds reveals the tenderness of Hanna's nature, and she is led to tell, with exquisite pathos, the story of the death of an old fisherman whose hut they pass. At last the brother confesses that he is betrothed to the friend's sister. They all seat themselves in the purple twilight round a bubbling well, and subdued by the witchcraft of the sound of the water, the perfume of the earth and the colour of the heavens, the lovers, who only met a few hours before, obey a sovereign impulse and fall into each other's arms. The brother is de-lighted; all three proceed through the deepening dusk to ask the father's blessing, which he grants with some surprise, but with a very fairly good grace.

The great landmarks in a poet's life are events which would scarcely be worthy of mention in the biography of a man of action. The solitude at Saarijarvi, the public career in Helsingfors, had each in succession moulded and ripened the powers of Runeberg's mind ; a third step, the last in his life, was to develop those powers to their utmost, and to prepare him for their natural decay. In 1837 he accepted a professorate of Latin Literature at the College of Borga, and removed thither with his family. This quiet little town remained his home for forty years, until his death. Borg, which the long residence of Runeberg had rendered famous, lies some thirty miles east of Helsingfors, close to the sea, and on the high road into Russia. It has a cathedral and a bishop, and enjoys a certain sleepy distinction that prevents it from becoming too tamely provincial; but nothing can avail to make it other than a very hushed and dreamy little place. The poet became exceedingly attached to Borga, and soon fell into that absolute, almost mechanical round of life which so often marks the later years of men of genius. In this quietude, which the college and the cathedral preserved from entire stagnation, he was able to write without distraction, and with the utmost regularity. He was now recognised as a leading poet throughout Scandinavia : in 1839 the Swedish Academy, of its own free will, voted him the large gold medal, the highest compliment in its gift, and had he been a citizen of Sweden he would without doubt have been forthwith elected into that stately body. Baron von Beskow, on behalf of the Academy, conveyed to the young Finnish poet a series of compliments that could not fail to gratify him. It was indeed a period of transition. The old writers were passing away; several eminent poets of the elder generation had just died Wadman, Nicander, Wallin. Tegnér was at the height of his glory ; there was no young man so fit to be considered heir-apparent of the skaldship as Runeberg. He was thus urged on to still higher attainment. His first work at Borga was of doubtful success. Julgvallen, or "Christmas Eve," is an idyll of the sanie class as The Elk Hunters and Hanna, but it possesses neither the force of the first nor the sweetness and colour of the second. It is not even a complete story; it is merely an episode, and an episode not specially suited to poetic treatment. At the same time it is worked out with even finer dramatic tact and insight. An old crippled soldier, Pistol, is stumbling from his hut in the woods, through the snow, to the house of the Major, who has invited him to come to spend the restive Christmas Eve with his servants. Much jollity, however, cannot be expected : every one has some near relative away in the Russian armies fighting the Turk, and who knows if he be alive or dead ? Pistol thinks of his only son, the apple of his eye, of whom he has for a long while heard nothing. While he tramps on, he hears a carriage behind him, and the clear voice of the Major's younger daughter, Augusta, calling to him to get in and ride. She is the light of the whole parish, and a universal favourite. Her elder sister, whose husband is away in the war, and her mother, spend their days in weeping and sighing, and nearly drive the 91d Major out of his wits; Augusta alone tries to keep up something like cheerfulness at home. When they arrive at the house, Pistol goes into the kitchen, Augusta into the guest-room, where she finds the usual scene of petulant recrimination going on. Even she is almost in despair. But by degrees she manages to bring peace into the house again, and the way in which the Christmas Eve is spent, above stairs and below, is described very brightly and humorously. In the midst of it all there is a great noise in the courtyard, lights are brought, and it is found that the Lieutenant, Augusta's brother-in-law, has come back safe and sound. There are universal rejoicings, until he comes to explain that poor Pistol's son has been killed by the enemy in a skirmish. This renews their regret, and Pistol is almost broken-hearted, thinking of the desolate life he must now live, alone in the woods. But the Major declares that he will not allow him to go back to that solitude; he must in future take up his abode as one of the retainers of the great house, and in the prospect of so much kindness he is a little consoled for his loss. In Julgvallen Runeberg returns to the rigidly realistic style of Elgskyttarne, which he had partly abandoned in Hanna in favour of a tenderer and more romantic feeling.

In the same year, 1841, he published a very different poem, and a more successful one. He had hitherto devoted himself entirely to the study of Finnish character and the scenery of Finland; in Nadeschda he has drawn from his experience of Russian character and manners, and has in fact written one of those Builinas or national Russian epics about which Mr. Ralston has told us much and promised us more in his charming Songs of the Russian People. This curious poem is closely allied to the lyrical stories that Ruibnikof collected on the shores of Lake Onega from the lips of the peasants; it is composed from the peasant's point of view, and shows a singular insight into Russian popular feeling. Until Mr. Ralston completes his study of the Builinas, it is not easy for a non-Russian student to understand what is exactly the form of these curious epics; but Runeberg has probably been correct in composing Nadeschda in a great variety of unrhymed, strongly accentuated measures. Nadeschda is a lovely Russian girl, a serf, and when the poem opens we find her wandering beside a tributary of the Moskwa, stirring the flowers with her fair feet, and dreaming of some vague lover, who will come to marry her. She bends over the water, and while she is admiring her own reflection, she remembers that this beauty is the beauty of a slave, and can be bought and sold. At this moment Miljutin, her foster-father, comes to summon her to the festival of welcoming Prince Woldmar, their master, back to the castle. Nadeschda will not come, full of this new revolt against the humiliation of her birth. At last Miljutin persuades her to come, and leaves her that she may adorn herself; but she refuses to bathe in the river, to girdle herself with flowers, or to put on her saint's-day garments. She weaves a belt of thistles and other dolorous herbs, and binding them round her common dress, she follows Miljutin.

Meanwhile Prince Woldmar is approaching in a golden chariot, accompanied by his brother Dmitri, who is burning with jealousy to see the noble estate which his brother has inherited. Just outside the gates they stop, at Dmitri's desire, and while the cnrtége waits, the brothers, with their falcons on their wrists, pass out into the woodland, They send their hawks after a dove, who flies in terror into Woldmar's bosom, and Woldmar's falcon kills Dmitri's. At this the evil brother's rage increases, and he demands a ransom. Woldmar promises him the fairest of his slaves, and at that moment they perceive Nadeschda passing through the forest towards the castle. They regain their carriage, but these incidents have sufficed to throw Woldmar into a rage, and as they drive up through the ranks of gaily-dressed retainers, his eye catches one girl who has only a coil of straw in her hair and thistles for a girdle. He stops and shouts to her to come to him ; it is Nadeschda. He storms at her for her disrespect, and swears she shall instantly marry the basest of his grooms; but she, glancing timidly at him, perceives that he is the lover of her dream, and she flushes rosy red with shame and sorrow. He falls under the spell of her beauty and loves her, even before he has finished his reproof. Dmitri also perceives her loveliness, and claims her as the ransom for his falcon. But Woldmar gives Nadeschda her freedom, and then brusquely turning to Dmitri, says that he only promised to give him a slave, and that this is a free woman. Dmitri, excessively piqued, sends out the same night to secure her, but she has disappeared, and he cannot discover what has become of her.

Two years are now supposed, to pass, and we are presented to Nadeschda, a lovely and accomplished woman, who has been protected and educated in hiding by some noble ladies, friends of Prince Woldmar. He comes to visit her, and we are given one of Runeberg's characteristic love-scenes, full of tenderness and highly-wrought passion. He explains to her that they have everything to fear from his mother's pride and his brother's jealousy. In the next canto, however, he has resolved to brave these dangers, and bringing Nadeschda to his castle, he is about to be privately married to her, when Prince Dmitri hears of it, and communicates with his mother, the Princess Natalia Feodorowna. The proud dowager determines that, sooner than her son shall marry a serf, she will herself denounce him to the Empress. We then have a very dramatic scene. Potemkin is presented lounging on a rich ottoman, and scolding General Kutusoff and other eminent soldiers for the laxity of their regiments : he has some insolent word for each, and finally bids them all to leave his presence, except Prince Woldmar. Potemkin charges him with his intended mésalliance as with a crime, tells him of the Empress's displeasure, sends him off forthwith to Tomsk, and gives his castle, with Nadeschda in it, into his mother's care. Nadeschda is turned out of doors, and returns to the hut of her foster-father Miljutin. Thither Dmitri follows her, expecting an easy conquest, but her dignity and her despair overcome him, and he consents to leave her unmolested. The Princess Natalia ruins the district with her tyrannies, and the serfs are in the last condition of destitution, when suddenly the Empress announces that she is coming to the castle to spend the night. To hide the desolation of the scene, the Princess has some painted semblances of cottages set up along the opposite hill-side, and when the Empress arrives, she is so pleased at this appearance of comfort that she insists on going to visit the cottagers themselves. The Princess is accordingly disgraced, Nadeschda throws herself at the Empress's feet and is pardoned, and Prince Woldmar returns to celebrate his marriage.

The position of Runeberg at Borga became more and more firmly settled. In 1842 he was offered and accepted the chair of Greek. A third volume of lyrical poems, in 1843, and the cycle of romances entitled Kung Fjalar, in 1844, testified to the freshness and ascending vigour of his imagination. Kung Fjalar, in fact, marks the very apex of his powers ; Runeberg never exceeded this tragic work in the admirable later creations of his brain. It has an audacity, an originality that raise it to the first order of lyric writing. It is very difficult, by making a cold-blooded analysis of such a poem, to give the reader the least notion of its beauty. The plot is as follows. A mythical king of Gauthiod, Fjalar, has fought many battles and won as many victories ; his hair is silver, and he now determines to live at home in peace, and keep watch over the prosperity of his people. It is Christmas time, and there are revellings in Fjalar's castle. As his warriors gather round him, he tells them that he desires repose ; he swears that by his own help, resting on his own will alone, he will lead the land up into wealth and happiness. As he makes this oath, an unknown stranger strides up the hall ; he uncovers his face it is Dargar the seer, the all wise prophet, who hates Fjalar. He prophesies woe to Gauthiod and its king; and as a last sorrow, Fjalar is to see before he dies his only daughter locked in the burning embrace of his only son. At a curse so fearful, silence and consternation rule in the hall : no one dares to speak till Fjalar orders the nurse to bring Hjalmar and Gerda, his infant children. He takes one babe on each arm, not knowing which to sacrifice, till at last his warriors persuade him to leave the boy to reign after him. One of them, Sjolf, approaches, and lifting Gerda from the king's embrace, takes her out into the night, and flings her, " a laughing sacrifice," off the cliff into the roaring sea. Fjalar forbids her name to be mentioned again, and then walks out in silence. The next canto takes us twenty years onward. In the Ossianic kingdom of Morven the three sons of the king are all in love with his foster-daughter Oihonna, a lovely being mysteriously saved from the waves. Each of the sons tries to win her heart by a song. This is Gall's the eldest :

"Come, Oihonna, follow my life!
The hunter loves thee, rosy cloud!
The tall prince of the mountains
Prays thee to share his upland footways.

Hast thou seen from thy mountain rocks
The broad expanses smile in the morning?
Hast thou seen the wakening sunrise
Drink the dew of the trembling haze?

Remember the sound of the windy woodlands,
Leaves that stir in the wing of the wind,
Birds' riot, and the intoxicate
Brook that flies through the sounding boulders'

Dost thou know how beats the heart
When to the noise of the horn and hounds
Rustle the bushes, and lo! the stag
Checks his leap and is here before us?

Maiden, lov'st thou the sombre twilight
That melts to the shine of the dewy stars?
Come, from the summit of Mellmor
Let us watch how the night is born.

O how oft have I sat on the mountain
When n the west the sun has been closing
His glimmering gates, and the red glow
Slowly faded out of the sky.

I have drunk the cool of the spirit of even,
Seen the shadows walk over the valleys,
Let my thoughts go wander
Around the sea of nightly silence.

Lovely is life on the cloudy heights,
'Tis easy to breathe in the fragrant woods;
Ah ! be my bride ! I will open
A thousand pleasures around thy heart."

So sings Gall the hunter, but in vain; nor can Rurmar the bard, nor Clesamor the warrior soften her crystal heart. Next we have a scene in which Oihonna, "the huntress of the swan-like arm," is hunting the deer in the valley of Lora, in company with her friend the singer Gylnandyne. She sings the saga which tells how Hjalmar desired his father, King Fjalar, to let him go a-viking, and how, when the king would not, Hjalmar got away by stealth and won glory at sea. At this moment Oihonna is summoned back to Morven. When she arrives there, the Scotch king tells her of the circumstances of her coming to that land, how a captain, sailing one Christmas night by King Fjalar's castle, found a girl-child in the sea, brought her to Morven, and dying, bequeathed her to the king. Hjalmar, the terrible viking, now appears and attacks Morven. He fights with each of the sons of King Morannel in turn, and kills them ; the youngest, Clesamor, fights so well that Morven trembles to hear a late half-dying echo from Ossian's heroic days, but falls at last. Morannel dies of grief in the arms of Oihonna. We then return to Gauthiod, where, from the heights above his castle, Fjalar, now extremely old, gazes in content and self-gratulation over the land that has prospered under his firm will and peaceful rule. He thinks of the old curse only to deride it, when suddenly the evil seer, Dargar, arrives, and denounces the king. The hour of the vengeance of the gods is, he says, at hand ; and he points to a golden speck on the horizon, the dragon of Hjalmar returning across the sea. They watched the approaching fleet ; the prows grate the shore, and Hjalmar slowly ascends the mountain with a bloody sword in his hand. He explains that from the court of Morven he bore off Oihonna, a lovely and a loving bride; that on their homeward voyage she told the story of her birth, and that he perceived her too late to be his sister. With the sword he holds he slew her, and now he slays himself before his father's throne. The sun goes down, and when they turn to King Fjalar he is dead. Even from so slight an outline as this it may be seen how lofty a rendering this is of the old theme that wise men are powerless fighting against the gods. Fjalar is great, virtuous, and humane, but because he does not make the gods witnesses to his oath, he brings down upon himself and his race their slow but implacable vengeance. The style in which this poem is composed is exceedingly cold and severe, with delicate lyrical passages introduced with-out any detriment to the general solemnity. The work is like a noble frieze in marble, where among the sublime figures of the gods and their victims, the sculptor has sought to introduce an element of tenderer beauty in the flying graces of a garment or the innocent sweetness of a child's averted head.

We have now arrived at the work which did most to give Runeberg a name throughout all classes and in all the provinces of the North. It was in 1848 that he published the first series of Fanrik Stals Sag- ner (" Ensign Stars Stories "), a series of narrative poems dealing with the war of independence in 1808. The cycle professes to be said and sung by an old ensign, a veteran from the days of Dobeln and Adlercreutz, who recites to a young student all he can remember about the war. Similar stories Runeberg himself had heard, as a boy of sixteen, from an old corporal at Ruovesí. He himself, as we have said, dimly remembered seeing the Swedish and Russian armies pass through his birthplace, Jakobsstad. The publication of these national poems, breathing the full perfume of patriotic regret, the mingled tone of war-song and of elegy, created such a sensation as is but poorly comparable with the success of Mr. Tennyson's Charge of the Light Brigade. The volume was such a one as Mr. Dobell's England in Time of War might have proved in the hands of a far saner and more judicious poet. The first series appeared in 1848, the second in 186o; and with one poem on the treacherous surrender of Sveaborg, which was suppressed at the supplication of the descend-ants of the traitor, there are thirty-five pieces in all. They are varied in subject and style; they describe every one, from the king and the generals down to village maidens and "drunken privates of the Buff." Fanrik Stals Signer opens with the famous hymn which has become the national anthem of Finland, 'Wart land, vart land." This is one of the noblest strains of patriotic verse ever indited; it lifts Runeberg at once to the level of Callicles or Campbell, to the first rank of poets in whom art and ardour, national sentiment and power of utterance, are equally blended. Unhappily, in its crystal simplicity and its somewhat elaborate verse form, it is practically untranslatable. To enjoy it is one of the first and best rewards of him who takes the trouble to learn Swedish. The old Ensign is next described, and the events that led to his repeating these tales of his; and then the tales themselves begin. Some of the figures that stand out against the background of the war are of a marvellous freshness and realistic force. The stupid Sven Dufva, who had an heroic heart; Lieutenant Zidén, who cheered on his little troop from Wasa; Wilhelm von Schwerin, the boy-hero ; Otto von Fieandt, who uses his whip instead of a sword ; General Adlercreutz fighting at Siikajoki. All are good ; it may almost be said that not one is poor or weak. Perhaps the most exquisite, the most inimitable of all is "Soldatgossen," the boy whose father a brave young soldier fell at the battle of Lappo, and who is only longing to be fifteen years old that he may take up his rifle and go to fight the Russians. The absolute perfection of this poem, which it would be ruinous to fail to give, is too terrifying for a translator to attempt. Such a poem is like the strange draughts that Persian monarchs boasted ; it takes its colour wholly from the 'vase that holds it, and would seem mere trash poured into a less cunning goblet. As a ballad less fine, and in a form less exacting, I venture to attempt a version of Torpflickan; --

THE VILLAGE GIRL.

The sun went down and evening came, the quiet summer even,
A mass of glowing purple lay between the farms and heaven;
A weary troop of men went by, their day's hard labour done,
Tired and contented, towards their home they wended one by one.

Their work was done, their harvest reaped, a goodly harvest truly,
A well-appointed band of foes all slain or captured newly;
At dawn against this armed band they had gone forth to fight,
And all had closed in victory before the fall of night.

Close by the field where all day long the hard hot strife was raging,
A cottage by the wayside stood, half-desolate and ageing,
And on its worn low steps there sat a silent girl, and mused
And watched the troop come slowly by, in weary line confused.

She looked like one who sought a friend, she scanned each man's face nearly.
High burned the colour in her cheek, too high for sunset merely:
She sat so quiet, looked so warm, so flushed with secret heat,
It seemed she listened as she gazed, and felt her own heart beat.

But as she saw the troop march by, and darkness round them stealing,
To every file, to every man, her anxious eye appealing
Seemed muttering in a shy distress a question without speech,
More silent than a sigh itself, too anguished to beseech.

But when the men had all gone past, and not a word was spoken,
The poor girl's courage failed at last, and all her strength was broken.
She wept not loud, but on her hand her weary forehead fell,
And large tears followed one by one as from a burning well.

" Why dost thou weep? For hope may break, just where the gloom is deepest !
O daughter, hear thy mother's voice, a needless tear thou weepest;
He whom thy eyes were seeking for, whose face thou couldst not see,
He is not dead: he thought of love, and still he lives for thee.

He thought of love; I counselled him to shield himself from danger,
I taught him how to slip the fight, and leave them like a stranger;
By force they made him march with them, but weep not, rave not thus,
I know he will not choose to die from happy life and us."

Shivering the maiden rose like one whom awful dreams awaken,
As if some grim foreboding all her soul in her had shaken;
She lingered not, she sought the place where late had raged the fight,
And stole away and swiftly fled and vanished out of sight.

An hour went by, another hour, the night had closed around her;
The moonshot clouds were silver-white, but darkness hung below them.
" She lingers long; O daughter, come, thy toil is all in vain,
Tomorrow, ere the dawn is red, thy bridegroom's here again!"

The daughter came; with silent steps she came to meet her mother,
The pallid eyelids strained no more with tears she fain would smother ;
But colder than the wind at night the hand that mother pressed,
And whiter than a winter cloud the maiden's cheek and breast.

"Make me a grave, O mother dear; my days on earth are over!
The only man that fled to-day, that coward, was my lover;
He thought of me and of himself, the battle-field he scanned,
And then betrayed his brothers' hope and shamed his father's land.

When past our door the troop marched by, and I their ranks had numbered,
I wept to think that like a man among the dead he slumbered;
I sorrowed, but my grief was mild, it had no bitter weight,
I would have lived a thousand years to mourn his noble fate.

O mother, I have looked for him where'er the dead are lying,
But none of all the stricken bear his features, calm in dying ;
Now will I live no more on earth in shame to sit and sigh,
He lies not there among the dead, and therefore I will die."

There can be little doubt that in Fanrik Stals Signer Finland has presented Swedish literature with the most intimate, glowing, and original poetical work that it possesses. And it is very interesting to note how much of what is most notable in the history of Sweden has proceeded from this desolate and distant province, now hopelessly separated from the realm itself. In the annals of statecraft, of the church, of war, and of the navy, the names of Finns are singularly prominent. In literature, some of the leading writers in each century Frese in the seventeenth, Creutz and Kellgren in the eighteenth, Franzén, Fredrika Bremer, and Zakris Topelius in the nineteenth have been natives of Finland ; but of all these Runeberg is the greatest. On May 13, 1848, the Vart Land, to which music had been set by the greatest of Finnish composers, Pacius, was sung outside the city of Helsingfors, and the ringing tones of the new National Anthem were taken up by thousands of voices. This was the crowning day in the life of Runeberg.

By this time he had outlived the economical pressure of his earlier years. In 1844 he had been made titular Professor, and decorated with the order of the North Star by the King of Sweden, Oscar I. In 1847 he was unanimously elected Rector of the College of Borga. In 1851 he achieved the only foreign journey he ever took namely, a trip into Sweden, the great aim of which was a visit to the novelist, Almqvist. He entered Stockholm just in time to hear that this illustrious person, perhaps the first intellect which Sweden then possessed, had just taken flight for America under a charge of forgery and suspicion of murder. This startling catastrophe caused Runeberg a lively disappointment, which the Swedish Academy and its spokesman, Baron Beskow, did their best to remove by the cordiality of their welcome. Both in the capital and in Upsala he enjoyed the honours of a notable lion. At Upsala, however, he was thrown into the deepest melancholy by the constant necessity of answering the speeches made him on public occasions, for he was a very shy and poor speaker. He soon returned to Borga, never to leave it again, hugging himself with the delight in home which so often marks a man of his type of genius. He was now possessed of a handsome house, which it was his delight to fill with objects of art, for he posed as the first connoisseur in Finland. When he had originally settled in Borga he had rented a very small and humble house in the outskirts of the town; and towards the end of his life he was fond of repeating a story which showed that this prophet at least was not without honour in his own country. For, walking in the lonely streets one moonlight night, he was struck with a desire to go and look at this little lodging where he had spent so many of his struggling days. He found it; there was a light in the window, and, peeping through the shutters, he saw an artisan busy over his work, and singing. He listened attentively; it was one of Runeberg's own songs, and the poet turned away with tears of pleasure in his eyes. From this time forward his life was extremely uneventful. In 1853 he collected his prose writings, and published them under the title of Smarre Berattelser. In 1857, as president of the committee to select a National Psalter, he published a Psalm-book for the use of Evangelico-Lutheran Congregations in Finland, to which he contributed sixty-two psalms of his own composition. A second series of Ensign Stal's Tales appeared in 1860, and he closed his long literary career with the production of two dramatic works, Kan ej (" Can't "), a comedy in rhyme, performed and published in 1862; and Kungarne pa Salamis ("The Kings at Salamis"), a tragedy in the manner of Sophocles. This last is one of his noblest works, combining the Attic severity with the modern poet's realism and truth of detail. It resembles Mr. Swinburne's Atalanta in Calydon or Lord de Tabley's Philoctetes more closely than what the continental poets usually give us as revivals of the antique tragedy. The metre in which it is written is closely modelled on what the Swedish poet has conceived to be the tragic measure of the Greeks, the Sophoclean trimeter.

When, in 1870, Professor Nyblom, in editing the works of Runeberg, issued a biographical notice which still remains the chief storehouse of information, the poet was already in very weak and precarious health. As late, how-ever, as April 1877, he was well enough to publicly congratulate his old friend and fellow-poet Cygnus on attaining his seventieth birthday. But he was taken ill very shortly after, and on the afternoon of Sunday, May 6, 1877, he passed away in his seventy-fourth year. He has left many disciples behind him, and in his friend and follower, Topelius, Sweden once more borrows from Finland her most prominent living poet. The influence of Runeberg on the literature of his time has been healthy and vigorous. In Talis Qualis, who survived him only a few weeks, he found in Sweden itself a quick and strong imagination lighted at the lamp of his own. The present King of Sweden, Oscar IL, in his excellent poem of Svenska flottans minnen, has shown himself a scholar of the great Finnish realist. In Carl Snoilsky, the latest product of Swedish poetry, we find another side of Rune-berg's genius, the artistic and classic, laid under the contribution of discipleship, although the main current of this last writer's lyrical work flows in a more modern and a more intense channel, and proves him the more direct disciple of the great Danish lyrist, Christian Winther. We know as yet little of Runeberg's life, little of the inward development of his great powers. A collection of his posthumous writings, as well as an exhaustive biography, will be welcomed by every lover of his noble verse.

1878.



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