(http://www.pgdp.net) from page images generously made available by Internet Archive (https://archive.org)
Note: Project Gutenberg also has an HTML version of this file which includes the original illustrations. See 57106-h.htm or 57106-h.zip: (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/57106/57106-h/57106-h.htm) or (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/57106/57106-h.zip)
Images of the original pages are available through Internet Archive. See https://archive.org/details/charmofscandinav00clarrich
THE CHARM OF SCANDINAVIA
[Illustration: The Old Borgund Stave-kirke.
FRONTISPIECE. _See page 314._]
THE CHARM OF SCANDINAVIA
FRANCIS E. CLARK and SYDNEY A. CLARK
Boston Little, Brown, and Company 1918
Copyright, 1914, by Little, Brown, and Company.
All rights reserved
F. E. C. S. A. C.
While this book is largely based upon personal observation in the countries described, the authors have taken pains to consult many recent and some older authors who have written about Scandinavia, that they might become familiar with the history and customs of the countries which a traveler could not otherwise so readily understand.
Among these authorities may be mentioned Paul Du Chaillu’s work on “The Viking Age”; Boyesen’s “History of Norway” in the “Story of the Nations” series, a most excellent and informing book, as interesting as it is accurate; Goodman’s “The Best Tour in Norway”; F. M. Butlin’s recent valuable book, “Among the Danes”; “Swedish Life in Town and Country,” by Oscar G. von Heidenstam; Emil Svenson, Holger Rosman, Gunnar Anderson, and C. G. Lawins, who have combined to write a handbook about Sweden’s history, industries, social systems, art, etc.
We should like to acknowledge especial indebtedness to a book by Hon. W. W. Thomas, entitled “Sweden and the Swedes.” No American has written so sympathetically about the Swedes from a long and intimate knowledge of them as Mr. Thomas, who as Consul, United States Minister, and private citizen has spent nearly half a century among them. This book, like Ernest Young’s admirable volume on Finland, has been used chiefly, as have the other authorities, to confirm, modify, or correct our own impressions.
Since this book is the result of more than one journey throughout the length and breadth of Scandinavia, the dates appended to the different letters do not necessarily refer to the time they were written, but rather to the season and the part of the country described.
In all essential particulars the book is a record of the actual experiences that brought the authors under the spell of Scandinavia. They hope this story of the sturdy, liberty-loving peoples may impart to the reader something of the same charm.
F. E. C. S. A. C.
BY WAY OF EXPLANATION
(An introduction which the authors, earnestly but with becoming modesty, ask their readers to peruse, that the scheme of the book may be understood.)
Phillips and Aylmer had engagements which required them to take long journeys in Sweden and Norway, Denmark and Finland, and a friendly discussion arose as to the relative beauties and merits of these countries. Aylmer upheld the charms of Norway and Denmark with youthful vehemence, and Phillips, with equal vigor, asserted the superiority of Sweden and Finland. Judicia, to whom they appealed, suggested that each one, while on his journey, write her full and interesting accounts of the things in Scandinavia that charmed them most, and she would then render her decision. But, the letters written, she begged the question by proposing that the letters be published, and each reader decide for himself. The writers agreed, and “The Charm of Scandinavia” is the result.
“To the northward stretched the desert, How far I fain would know; So at last I sallied forth, And three days sailed due north, As far as the whale ships go.
“The days grew longer and longer, Till they became as one, And northward through the haze I saw the sullen blaze Of the red midnight sun.”
PHILLIPS WRITES OF SWEDEN AND FINLAND 1
AYLMER WRITES OF NORWAY AND DENMARK 175
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
The Old Borgund Stave-kirke _Frontispiece_
Map of Scandinavia 1
Skikjoring, a Highly Enjoyable Sport 8
Skate Sailing, a Favorite Sport in Sweden 8
The Royal Palace, Stockholm 16
Tea House on Banks of Mälar 20
Some Girls of Dalecarlia 34
Where Gustavus Adolphus Rests among Hard-Won Battle Flags 42
A Typical Swedish Landscape in Winter 46
Reindeer and Lapps from North Sweden 66
Lion-Guarded Statue of Charles XIII, in King’s Garden, Stockholm 74
The Castle at Upsala 86
The Locks, Borenshult, Göta Canal 96
The Gorge of the Göta at Trölhatten 100
Ruins of St. Nikolaus Cathedral, Visby, Gotland 110
Interior of a Finnish Cottage 136
In Finnish Lakeland 144
In Eastern Finland 150
Fish Harbor, Helsingfors 164
Copenhagen Exchange 182
Watch Parade in Amalienborg Square 196
The Splendor of Tivoli on a Gala Night in Summer 196
Frederiksborg Castle, Copenhagen 208
Trondhjem Cathedral 250
On the Sognefjord 256
Ski Jumping 260
The Railroad between Bergen and Christiania 268
Bergen, Northeast from Laksevaag 278
Across the Glassy Geirangerfjord 286
German Battleships in Norwegian Waters 292
A Stolkjaerre 296
Fishermen Arranging their Nets at Balestrand on the Sognefjord 300
Three Little Belles of the Arctic at Tromsö 304
The Hardanger Glacier and Rembesdal Lake 308
View from Hammerfest 310
[Illustration: NORWAY, SWEDEN AND DENMARK
COPYRIGHT, 1914, BY THE J. N. MATTHEWS CO., BUFFALO, N. Y.]
THE CHARM OF SCANDINAVIA
PHILLIPS WRITES OF SWEDEN AND FINLAND
In which Phillips descants on his route to Scandinavia from Berlin; on the gastronomic delights of a Swedish railway restaurant; on the lavish comfort and economy as well as the safety of travel in Sweden; on the quiet charms of the scenery in southern Sweden, as well as on the well-earned social position and independence of the Swedish farmer.
STOCKHOLM, January 1.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
You have brought this upon yourself, you know, for it was your proposition that Aylmer and I should try to make you feel the charm of Scandinavia as we have felt it. But do not suppose that we are going to enter upon a contest of wits in order to make our respective countries shine upon the written page, or that we are going to indulge in high-flown descriptions. We shall try to tell you of things as we see them; of the peasant in his low-thatched roof, who is as interesting as the king in his palace. We may not even think it beneath our dignity to tell you of the _Smörgåsbörd_, and of the different kinds of cheese of many colors which grace the breakfast table, for all these different, homely, commonplace things enter into the spell of Scandinavia.
As you know, we started on this long northern journey at Berlin. This trip has been robbed of all its terrors, since keen competition has compelled the railway and steamboat companies to exchange the little _Dampfschiff_, little bigger than tugboats, which used to connect Germany with Scandinavia, for great ferry steamers, which take within their capacious maws whole railway trains, so that now we can go to sleep in Berlin, in a very comfortable _sofwagn_, and wake up the next morning on Swedish soil, with no consciousness of the fact that in the middle of the night we had a four hours’ voyage across a bit of blue sea which is often as stormy as the broad Atlantic itself.
You remember that I wrote you about a former journey across this same bit of water during an equinoctial gale, how our boat was tossed about like a cork, how the port was stove in, and I was washed out of my bunk. Well, last night I was reminded of that former journey by contrast, for I never knew when we were trundled aboard ship at Sassnitz, or when we were trundled on to dry land again at Trelleborg. I was sorry to cross the island of Rügen in the night, for this bit of wind-swept, sea-washed land will always be associated for us with “Elizabeth” and her adventures, though to be sure her German garden was not on Rügen, but on the mainland near by.
However, if I did not know when we passed from Germany to Sweden, it was very evident that we were in a different country when the window curtain was raised in the morning, and the porter informed me deferentially, in his musical Swedish voice, that “_caffe_ and _Smörbröd_” would be served in the compartment if I wished. Everything is different here. This little four hours’ voyage in the middle of the night seems to have put a wide ocean between the experiences of to-day and yesterday. The brick houses are exchanged for wooden ones. The pine trees which abound in the sandy wastes north of Berlin have been exchanged for graceful white birches, sprinkled with spruce and fir. Instead of the gutturals of the south we hear the open, flowing vowels of the north. Even the signs with which the railway stations are so abundantly plastered that one has difficulty in finding their names, are different from those in Germany, and our attention is called to wholly different brands of beer, whisky, and margarine.
One thing you will rejoice in, I am sure, Judicia, and that is, that I am assured by every responsible authority that railway accidents are almost unknown in Sweden, or at least that the risk is quite infinitesimal. It is said that even in America, which has such an evil reputation for railway smashups, you can travel by rail on the average a distance one hundred and fifty-six times around the world without getting a scratch. I wonder how many thousands of times one would have to travel twenty-five thousand miles in Sweden before the train would run off the track or bump into another train. One would think that the railway accident insurance companies in Sweden would get very little business.
I concluded not to accept the porter’s kind invitation to “_caffe_ and _Smörbröd_,” for I wanted to indulge at the first opportunity in a genuine Swedish railway restaurant. Think of anticipating _with pleasure_ a railway restaurant breakfast in America or England!
I waited for breakfast until we reached Alfvesta, well on toward noon, and then made the most of the twenty-five minutes generously allowed for refreshments. “Can this be a railway restaurant?” a stranger would say to himself. Here is a bountifully filled table covered with all sorts of viands, fish, flesh, and fowl, and good red herring besides. And around this tempting table a number of gentlemen, hats and overcoats laid aside, are wandering nonchalantly, as though they had the whole day at their disposal; picking up here a ball of golden butter and there a delicate morsel of cheese; from another dish a sardine, or a slice of tongue or cold roast beef, or possibly some appetizing salad. If you would do in Sweden as the Swedes do and not declare your foreign extraction, you, too, will wander around this table in a most careless and casual way, and, when you have heaped your plate with the fat of the land, and spread a piece of crisp rye flatbread thick with fresh and fragrant butter, when you have poured out a cup of delicious coffee reduced to exactly the right shade of amber by abundant cream, then you take your spoil to a side table near by and try to feel as much at leisure in eating it as your Swedish fellow passengers appear to be.
But this is only the beginning. This is just to whet the appetite for what is to come. I counted twenty-seven different dishes on the _Smörgåsbörd_ table from which one might choose; or one might take something from each of the twenty-seven if he so desired. Then comes the real meal: fish and potatoes, meat and vegetables of several different kinds, salad, puddings, and cheese—and to all of these viands you help yourself. No officious waiter hovers over you, impatient for your order and eager to snatch away your plate before the last mouthful is finished, an eagerness only equaled by his rapacious desire for the expected tip. No, the only official in the room is the modest young lady who sits at a table in the far corner, and who seems to take no notice of your coming and going. If you get up a dozen times to help yourself from either end of the table; if you pour out half a dozen cups of coffee, or indulge in a quart of milk from the capacious pitchers, it seems to be no concern of hers. Her only duty is to sit behind the table and take your money when you get through, and a very small amount she takes at that.
If you have “put a knife to your throat,” and have contented yourself with coffee and cakes, the charge will be fifty _öre_, or thirteen and a half cents. If you have helped yourself, however liberally, only from the cold dishes, the _Smörgåsbörd_, the charge will be seventy-five _öre_, or twenty cents, while even the most extravagant meal, where everything hot and cold is sampled, would be but two _kronor_, or a trifle over fifty cents.
I shall not tell you, Judicia, how much I paid for that particular breakfast, for I know that your first remark would be: “All that in twenty-five minutes, and you a Fletcherite!”
What strikes the uninitiated traveler with wonder and amaze on reaching Sweden is the lavishness of everything and its cheapness. On this table in Alfvesta, for instance, there were great mounds of butter nearly a foot high, instead of the little minute dabs that we see on most continental tables, with which you are supposed to merely smear your bread. The big joints of beef, the great legs of mutton, the bright silver pudding dishes of capacious size, all seem to say to the tourist: “Help yourself, and don’t be stingy.” But elegance is not sacrificed to abundance. Everything is neat and clean. The silver is polished to the last degree. The glasses are crystal clear. You do not have to scrub your plate with your napkin, as is the custom at some continental hotels, and the cooking is as delicious as the food is abundant.
Am I dwelling too long upon these merely temporal and gastronomic features of Sweden? Do you remind me that the charm of a country does not depend upon what we shall eat or what we shall drink? I reply that the first thing for a traveler, like an army, to consider, is the base of supplies. What famous general was that who made the immortal remark that every army marched upon its stomach? Why is not that equally true of a traveler?
But though the dinner table is one of the initial experiences in Sweden, it does not often need to be described. _Ex uno disce omnes_, and from this one meal you may learn what to expect from Trelleborg on the south to Riksgränsen, some twelve hundred miles farther north, the Dan and Beersheba of Sweden. At every stopping-place, large or small, which the railway time-table kindly marks with a diminutive knife and fork, to show that the needs of the inner man are here met, you will find just such lavish, well-cooked, moderate-priced refreshments. Indeed the favorite English phrase, “cheap and nahsty”, has no equivalent in Swedish, for there is no such thing known. Cheapness does not imply poor quality or slatternly service.
You are reminded of this fact even before you leave Berlin, for a sleeping-car berth which costs more than twelve _marks_, something over three dollars on the south side of Berlin, costs for a longer distance on the north side, since most of the journey is to be in Sweden, less than six _marks_, or not quite one half as much, while the compartments are even more comfortable and better fitted. Yes, dear Judicia, Scandinavia is the country for you and me to travel in as well as for the very few other Americans, who, according to European notions, are not millionaires.
When I took my seat again after breakfast at Alfvesta, in the comfortable second-class compartment, we were soon flying, as rapidly as Swedish trains ever fly, which is rarely more than thirty miles an hour, through the heart of southern Sweden, and I had time to refresh my memory concerning this great Scandinavian peninsula, which, as some people think, hangs like a huge icicle from the roof of the world. The icicle idea, however, is entirely erroneous, so far at least as the southern part of Sweden and Norway go. The average temperature is about that of Washington, though it is cooler in summer; and very often in the neighborhood of the west coast, where the Gulf Stream, that mighty wizard of the Atlantic, does its work, there is little snow or ice from one year’s end to another.
This southern section of Sweden is called Gothland, or, literally, the Land of the Gota or Goths, a name which we always couple with the Vandals. Indeed, one of the titles by which the King of Sweden is still addressed at his coronation is “Lord of the Goths and Vandals.” Truly these old Goths and Vandals were the “scourge of God”, as Attila their leader was called, when they sailed away in their great viking ships, carrying their conquests as far as the Pillars of Hercules, and founding colonies and kingdoms along all the shores of Europe, and even across the Mediterranean, in Africa.
Scandinavia, when judged by its square miles, is certainly no mean country. Sweden alone, which claims a little more than half of the great peninsula, is as large as France or Germany, and half as large again as all Great Britain. If we should compare Sweden with some of our own more familiar boundaries, we should see that it is a little larger than California, and not unlike that Golden State in its geographical outlines. We should see also that it is about three times as large as all New England, and more than three times as large as Illinois.
[Illustration: Skikjoring, a Highly Enjoyable Sport.]
[Illustration: Skate Sailing, a Favorite Sport in Sweden.]
Before I finish this journey I shall have a realizing sense of Sweden’s long-drawn-out provinces, for it takes nearly sixty hours of continuous railway travel to go even as far north as the railway will carry us.
Gothland in the south, Svealand in the center, and Norrland in the north are the three great divisions of Sweden, the latter larger than the other two put together.
From the car window I see many charming sights, even in this wintry season. Indeed I am not sure that Sweden is not quite as lovely in winter as in summer. The red farmhouses, half buried in snow (for the winter is more severe now that we are getting away from the coast); the great stacks of hay that enable the patient cows to chew the cud contentedly through the long winter days; the splendid forests of white birch, the most graceful tree that grows; the ice-locked lakes, and the rushing streamlets that are making their way to the Baltic—all these combine to give us a landscape which is charming in the extreme.
I suppose that Aylmer will surfeit you with eloquent descriptions of far-reaching fjords, mighty mountains, and abysmal cañons when he comes to write about his beloved Norway, but I am sure he will find nothing more peacefully lovely and harmonious than the farmlands of southern and central Sweden. These are the lands, too, which raise not only grass and turnips and sugar beets, but a grand crop of men and women, who are the very backbone of the Swedish commonwealth. More than eighty-five per cent of the land is owned and farmed by its proprietors, and mostly small proprietors at that. Absentee landlordism is little known. A country whose people thus have their roots in the soil has little fear from anarchists and revolutionists.
These peasant proprietors, as they are called, are by no means the dense yokels with which we associate the word “peasant” in many parts of Europe. The peasants of Sweden are simply farmers, and not always small farmers at that, for they sometimes own hundreds of acres. They are farmers who enjoy the daily newspapers and the monthly magazines, whose children all go to school, and who can aspire to the university for their sons and daughters, if they so elect. They are farmers who hold the balance of power among the law-makers of Sweden, and who always have a hundred or more of their own number in the Riksdag, some of whom are among the best orators and debaters in the Assembly. They know that no important piece of legislation to which they are opposed can ever be enacted in Sweden, and they are as proud as the nobility itself of their ancient history, and more tenacious of their ancient privileges.
Honorable W. W. Thomas, for many years the American Minister to Sweden and Norway, and who has written entertainingly concerning the people of the country, which he came to consider his adopted land, tells a good story that illustrates the independence of the Swedish peasant. It is worth quoting to you, as the train rushes by hundreds of just such peasant homes.
“Clad in homespun, and driving a rough farm wagon, this peasant pulled up at a post station in the west of Sweden. There were but two horses left in the stable, and these he immediately ordered to be harnessed into his wagon. Just as they were being hitched up, there rattled into the courtyard in great style the grand equipage of the Governor of the Province, with coachman and footman in livery. Learning the state of affairs, and wishing to avoid a long and weary delay, the coachman ordered these two horses to be taken from the peasant’s cart and harnessed into the Governor’s carriage, but the peasant stoutly refused to allow this to be done.
“‘What,’ said the Governor, ‘do you refuse to permit those horses to be harnessed into my carriage?’
“‘Yes, I do,’ said the peasant.
“‘And do you know who I am,’ quoth the Governor, somewhat in a rage; ‘I am the Governor of this Province; a Knight of the Royal Order of the North Star, and one of the chamberlains of his Majesty the King.’
“‘Oh ho,’ said the peasant, ‘and do you, sir, know who I am?’
“He said this in such a bold and defiant manner that the Governor was somewhat taken aback. He began to think that the fellow might be some great personage after all, some prince perhaps, traveling in disguise.
“‘No,’ said he in an irresolute voice, ‘I do not know who you are. Who are you?’
“‘Well,’ replied the peasant, walking up to him and looking him firmly in the eye, ‘I’ll tell you who I am—I am the man that ordered those horses!’
“After this there was nothing more to be said. The peasant quietly drove away on his journey, and the Governor waited until such time as he could legally procure fresh means of locomotion.”
As I said, I thought of this characteristic story of peasant independence as my train sped by many a comfortable farmhouse, whose occupants, I have no doubt, would defy the authority of the governor, or of the king himself, if he should attempt to trample upon their rights.
But we are now drawing near to Sweden’s capital, and perhaps you will think that this letter is quite long enough for my first promised installment concerning the charms of Sweden.
In which Phillips lauds Stockholm as the most beautiful of European cities; tells the tragic story of the royal palace; remarks casually upon the superabundance of telephones, for which Stockholm is famous; describes the Riksdag and the medieval ceremony of opening Parliament, and comments briefly on the relations of Church and State in Sweden.
STOCKHOLM, January 3.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
When last I wrote you, if I remember rightly, I was just approaching Stockholm, after the six-hundred-mile journey from Berlin. It was quite dark, and for that I was not sorry, for Stockholm is so brilliantly lighted that it is almost as beautiful by night as by day. As we approached, the many quays, from which scores of little steamers are constantly darting to and fro, were all picked out by globes of electric light. Old Stockholm, climbing the hill to the left, looked like a constellation of stars in the bright heavens, and the occasional glimpses of broad streets which one gets as he approaches the central station were flooded with the soft glow of the incandescent burners. Nevertheless, beautiful as was the night scene, I was quite impatient for the morning light to reveal the glories of the most beautiful capital of Europe, which I remembered so well, but was none the less anxious to see again.
“The most beautiful capital in Europe!” did I hear you say, Judicia, with a suspicion of skepticism in your rising inflection? “Have you forgotten Paris, and Rome, and Budapest, and Vienna? Are you not somewhat carried away by your desire to make out a good case for Sweden?” No, I cannot plead guilty to any of these charges, which I am sure are lurking in your mind, for ever since my first visit, years ago, I have considered Stockholm, for beauty of situation, for freshness and vigor, and (though this might be disputed) a certain originality of architecture, not only in the first rank of cities, but the first in the first rank. To be sure, it is not as large as many another city, but bigness is not beauty. It has not the picture galleries of Florence, or the antiquities of London, or the palaces of Paris, but it has charms all its own, which, in my opinion, weave about it a spell which no other city possesses.
The morning light did not dissipate the impressions of the evening before, nor the happy memories of the past, for I found that Stockholm had improved in its architecture since my last visit, though its glorious situation can never be improved.
Through half a dozen different channels the waters of the great lake Mälar rush to join the Baltic, for, though the lake is only eighteen inches above the sea, so great is the volume of water that it is always pressing through the narrow channels in swirls and eddies, and it dances forward with an eager joy that gives one a sense of marvelous life and abounding vigor and seems to impart its character to the whole city. Around the city on one side are the stern, fir-clad promontories, the great lake and the black forests to the west, and one can seem to step from the heart of nature’s wilds into the heart of the most advanced civilization. Out toward the Baltic on the east is an archipelago forty miles in length, dotted with islands and headlands, smiling and peaceful in summer, ice-bound and storm-lashed in the winter, but equally beautiful in January or June.
The first building that strikes the eye is naturally the royal palace, which, I must say, to republican eyes, looks square and somber and lacking in ornamentation, but which connoisseurs in palaces say is one of the most beautiful in Europe.
Do you remember my writing you some years ago about my interview with good King Oscar in this old palace? After waiting in the public reception room for a little while I was announced by the lord chamberlain and stepped into a little room leading off the large reception hall, and there, all alone, stood a very tall and very handsome man in a light blue military uniform, with two or three jeweled decorations on his breast. This was Oscar II, by the grace of God, King of Sweden and Norway, of the Goths and Vandals. He bowed and smiled with a most winning and gracious expression, and, coming forward, took me by the hand and led me to a seat on one side of a small table, on the other side of which he seated himself. I do not think it was the glamour of royalty that dazzled my eyes when I wrote of his winning smile. Many others have spoken of his charm of manner, and he was noted as being the most courtly, affable, and gracious monarch that sat upon any throne of Europe.
But alas, the good king has died since my last visit to Stockholm, his later years being embittered by the partition of his kingdom, when Norway decided to set up a king of her own. But though kings may come and kings may go, the grim old palace which has harbored all the rulers of Sweden for eight hundred years still stands on the banks of the tumultuous Mälar.
When the palace was rebuilt, or restored, some two hundred and twenty years ago, it was the scene of a most tragic event. In 1692 Charles XI decided that it was time to remodel the old home of the Swedish kings, which had already stood upon that spot for six centuries. He commanded Tessin, a great architect, who has left his impress upon Stockholm and all Sweden, to rebuild the palace. Accordingly the architect traveled in Italy and France and England to make a study of the best palaces he could find. When his plans were completed, he showed them to Louis XIV of France, who was so much pleased with them that he commanded his ambassador to Sweden to congratulate Charles XI “on this beautiful edifice he was proposing to erect.”
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
The Royal Palace, Stockholm.]
But Charles XI never lived to see the plans carried out. He died after the work had been well begun, and when the scaffoldings surrounded the palace on every side. The work of reconstruction was of course interrupted while the king’s body was lying in state, but just before the funeral procession moved out of the palace a fire broke out, and the whole edifice was destroyed, save the great walls, which are standing to this day. With extreme difficulty the king’s body was saved and carried into the royal stables, where his grandson, a lad fifteen years of age, who was destined to become Charles XII, one of the most famous kings of Sweden, had taken refuge.
A picture in the National Museum makes the scene live over again: the old queen, frightened by the double catastrophe; the boy king, helping his frightened grandmother down the steps, while the tongues of fire leap out at them from behind; the courtiers in hot haste carrying the coffin of the old king, while the little princesses look on with childish interest, scarcely realizing the gravity of the situation.
Again the great architect had to go to work on his task, so sadly interrupted. For thirty years it was pursued, during the days of Sweden’s greatest poverty, and only in 1754, nearly sixty years after Tessin began his work of rebuilding, was it completed, and nearly thirty years after the death of the master builder.
The palace has at least the merit of commodiousness, for we are told that “when King Oscar celebrated his Jubilee in 1897, all his guests, including more than twenty princes and half as many princesses, belonging to all the thrones of Europe, were lodged there with their numerous suites.”
But your republican soul, Judicia, will be more interested in some of the other buildings of Stockholm, perhaps even in the hideous excrescence which towers up above the roofs of the houses, and which shows us where the telephone exchange is situated, to which ten thousand wires, more or less (I did not count them), converge. I should think, however, that it would require at least ten thousand wires to satisfy the rapacious demands of the Stockholmers for telephone service. Every hotel room, even in the modest hostelries, has one, and most of them have two telephones, a city telephone and a long-distance one.
In every little park and open space are two telephone booths, for long and short distances. Stockholm, with a population about the twentieth part of greater London, has nearly twice as many telephones as the British metropolis, and the service is always prompt, cheap, and obliging.
Then there is the great Lift, a conspicuous feature of Old Stockholm, which hoists passengers in a jiffy from the level of the Baltic to the heights of the old town. That, too, would interest you, Judicia, for I remember your strenuous objections to hill-climbing.
To turn from structures, useful but hideous, to one more beautiful, and, shall I say, less useful? there is the Riksdag, a modern building of very handsome and generous proportions, where the law-makers of Sweden assemble, and where, I suppose, rival parties fire hot shot at one another as freely as they do in Washington or London. Every year the Swedish parliament meets in the middle of January and closes its sessions on the fifteenth of May, and this is the one place which the king may not enter, as one of the guardians of the Riksdag proudly informed me. Both houses of Parliament go to him, but he may not return to them. At the opening of Parliament, the legislators assemble in the palace, where the king addresses them, and the medieval ceremony connected with this function is worth telling you about.
After prayers and a special sermon in the cathedral relating to the duties of legislation (a religious custom that reminds us of the old Election Day Sermon of the good State of Massachusetts, a custom now unhappily abolished), the members of the upper and lower houses march into a great hall in the palace, the speakers of the two houses leading the way, and take their seats on either side of the throne. This throne is of solid silver, on a raised platform, and on either side of it are seats for the princes and members of the royal family. The queen and princesses sit in the gallery, surrounded by members of the court. “All sorts and conditions of men are represented—bishops and country clergymen, provincial governors and landed noblemen, freehold peasants, rural schoolmasters, university dons, and industrial kings.”
We are reminded of the past history of Sweden by the uniforms of the military guards, some of whom are in the costume of Charles XII, and others in that of Gustavus III. The courtiers are arrayed in gorgeous uniforms, and their breasts blaze with their many decorations. After the guard and the gentlemen-in-waiting come the princes, in the march to the throne room, and last of all the king himself. He seats himself upon the throne and commences his address, which always begins with the words, “Good Sirs and Swedish Men” and ends with his assurance of good will to all.
The presidents of the two houses respond to the speech of the king. The heads of the departments read their reports and present their budgets. Then, the stately ceremony being over, the gorgeous procession files out in the same order in which it came in, and the two houses proceed to the Parliament Building to begin the work of the new session.
If the fad that prevailed among our novelists a few years ago in finding titles for their stories should ever reach Sweden, I am sure that there would be a novel called “The Man from Dalecarlia,” for he is certainly the most picturesque figure in the Riksdag. In the midst of the sober, black coats and white shirt fronts and patent-leather shoes and top hats, he stands out like a very bird of paradise in his navy blue coat, trimmed with red piping, bright red waistcoat, knee breeches tied with heavy tassels, and bright shoe-buckles. He might have stepped into the Riksdag out of the century before last. But I am glad he has not discarded his national costume, and, whenever I see a Dalecarlian girl on the street in her bright striped apron and piquant cap (and these girls often seek service in Stockholm), I am again grateful for the bit of color which they bring into the gray, wintry streets.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
Tea House on Banks of Mälar. In the distance, the Grand Hotel, Stockholm.]
Most of the Swedes are decidedly conventional in their costume in these days, and you see more shiny beavers and Prince Albert coats than you would in the streets of London, though it cannot be said that Swedes despise brilliant uniforms on state occasions. At such times the diplomatic representatives of the United States look like crows in a flock of peacocks.
While I am writing you about the government and the court, let me tell you a few words about the church, for Church and State are very closely connected in Sweden. To be sure, there are many free churches—Independent (or Congregational), Baptist, and Methodist—but the prevailing religion, to which I suppose three fourths of the people in the country adhere, is the State Lutheran Church. There are some exceedingly fine churches in Stockholm, though, considering the size of the city, it strikes a visitor that there are surprisingly few. Some of the parishes are very large, and contain twenty or thirty thousand nominal adherents. The Church of the Knights is perhaps the most interesting one, where many of the kings of Sweden, even down to our own time, are buried.
The parish priest is appointed by the king, or consistory, at least nominally, and is paid out of the taxes. Yet there is a good degree of self-government in the churches, for the parish elects the boards of administration of church affairs, and even votes on ministerial candidates. Each candidate has to preach a trial sermon before the congregation, while the king, if it is a royal benefice, as many of the churches are, appoints one of the three candidates who receive the highest number of votes, usually appointing the one who is the candidate of the majority.
It must be even a more trying thing to “candidate” in Sweden than in America, for here it is frankly admitted that the preacher and his sermon are on trial, and there is no polite fiction about an exchange with a brother minister, with a suggestion that the health of the candidate’s wife requires a change of parishes.
I had it in mind, Judicia, to tell you in this letter about certain things less lofty than affairs of Church and State, but must reserve the story for another epistle.
In which Phillips suggests that Stockholm should be called the “Automatic City”; describes the queer statistical animals, called “unified cattle”; extracts some interesting facts from the census; does not consider the stores or the bathtubs beneath his notice; treats of the effective temperance legislation of Sweden, and tells why a fire is so rare an excitement in Stockholm.
STOCKHOLM, January 7.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
You know how our American cities often strain themselves to find an appropriate name or nickname by which they shall be known among their sister municipalities. Stockholm is certainly the “Queen City of the North,” and is deserving of any other high-flown title you have a mind to give her. But if we descend to more prosaic designations, we might well call it the “Automatic City.” Nowhere in the world can you drop a penny in the slot and get so much back for it as you can in Stockholm.
The automobile, which abounds everywhere, is an automatic machine which registers in its taximeter the distance run, and thus avoids all disputes with the chauffeur. The telephones, whose little green pagodas dot the city in every direction, are also penny-in-the-slot affairs, and you can talk, as I think I have already told you, with any town on the map of Scandinavia for a very reasonable sum.
But when it comes time for _frokost_ (breakfast), or _middag_ (dinner), then the automat is very much in evidence. It seems at first to the traveler that the keeping of automat restaurants is the chief business in Stockholm, for we find one at almost every corner. Drop a ten _öre_ piece in the slot, and, according to your choice of viands, a glass of milk, a cup of tea or coffee, a cheese sandwich, a sausage, or a boiled egg drops out of the spout. Or, if you wish a more extravagant meal, twenty-five _öre_ (about seven cents) will give you your choice of a dozen hot dishes. One writer with a sense of humor speaks of such establishments as I have described as the “rich man’s automat,” but he is not far from wrong when you compare this establishment with the little wooden buildings which you see in the market squares and along the docks of Stockholm, for this is the automat reduced to its lowest terms for cheapness and simplicity. There is no apparent opening in this wooden box, but a shelf runs around it, and large cups are chained to it, with a tap in the wall at every few feet. Inside is a tank of hot milk. The marketmen drop a five _öre_ piece (a trifle over a cent) into the slot, and out runs nearly a pint of rich, hot milk. No wonder that there are enough cattle to give every man, woman, and child in Sweden on the average one milch cow, or else the “poor man’s automat” could never be maintained at any such figures.
The process of arithmetic, however, by which this milch cow is allotted to every man, woman, and child, is interesting and peculiar, since for the purpose of comparative statistics the Swedish Bureau has invented fictitious animals called “unified cattle.” This is explained by Mr. Sundbarg in his _Swedish Land and Folk_ as follows: The milch cow is the unit, and all other animals the multiples. For instance, a horse is equal to a cow and a third; a sheep is reckoned as a tenth of a cow; a goat as only a twelfth of a cow, while it takes four pigs to make a cow. I cannot for the life of me see why a pig should be worth two and a half sheep; can you? A reindeer is only worth a fifth of a cow, which seems to me altogether too small a value to put upon these indispensable animals of snowland.
Well, the result is that in the last census which is available to me Sweden possessed something over five millions of these composite animals called “unified cattle,” and, as I before told you, every mother’s son and daughter in Sweden, on the average, possesses one milch cow, or it may be three quarters of a horse, ten sheep, twelve goats, four pigs, or five and a half reindeer. If I were a Swede I think I would choose to have my share in reindeer.
While we are dealing with statistics, Judicia, let us have it out and squeeze the census dry of interesting facts and be done with it. How many wealthy persons do you suppose there are among the five and a half millions of Swedes who have not yet crossed the Atlantic to seek a home in the New World? Well, if at your leisure you can find out what 13.75 per cent of five and a half millions is you will know exactly the number of people that can be called “wealthy.” It would not be far from seven hundred thousand. Then in “easy” circumstances we find sixty-seven per cent of the people, or about three and a half millions. In “straightened” circumstances there are rather more than could be called wealthy, while we find that there are only about three per cent of the people who are in genuine poverty and have to receive help from the State or from their richer neighbors.
I think these statistics speak exceedingly well, for the Swedes. Agur’s prayer, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me,” seems to have been answered for them. Even those in wealthy circumstances are not so enormously rich that they are in danger of losing heaven by such a burden of wealth as would prevent the camel from passing through the eye of the needle.
Since I have told you how many cows, how many fractions of a pig or of a reindeer every Swede possesses, you may also be glad to know that if all the land were divided up evenly every old grandam and every baby in the cradle would have twenty and a half acres. Only two and a quarter acres of these are under cultivation, but he would have nearly ten acres of woodland, which would surely furnish him with enough fuel, while his seven and a half acres of uncultivated land would furnish plenty of pasturage for his cow, or his three-quarters of a horse.
Speaking of fuel, I must launch into a mild eulogy of these Swedish stoves. Even Aylmer will admit that they are better than the air-tight, iron monstrosities which they have in Norway, and in America too, for that matter, where “central heating” has not replaced them. These Swedish stoves are much like the German porcelain heaters, only they are built on a more generous scale. They occupy a whole corner of the room, and often extend from floor to ceiling. Usually they are of white porcelain, though often other colored tiles are used, and sometimes they are highly ornamented with cupids or dragons, or like allegorical animals.
In the morning, quite early, the pretty chambermaid makes a fire of short birch sticks, filling the firebox up to the top. Then the drafts must be left open until all the gases and smoke have escaped, which have such a tortuous course to travel through the many pipes concealed within the porcelain that gradually they heat the great white monument through and through. When the birch is reduced to living coals, the dampers are shut off; the heat is thus retained, and a genial warmth is given out for the rest of the day. Even at night the tilings of the stove are quite warm, and you seldom want more than one “heating” in the course of the twenty-four hours, except in the most extreme weather.
After this little excursion into stoveland, let me return for a moment to our fascinating statistics. It is said that the Swedes are the longest-lived people in the world, and within a hundred years they have reduced the death rate nearly one half. I wonder if this low death rate is not due in part to their cleanly habits. I suppose the fresh, northern mountain air, crisp and frosty in the winter, and the out-of-door life which a people largely agricultural live has much to do with it, but I am also inclined to think that their love of the prosaic bathtub is partly responsible, for I suppose that the Scandinavians, with the exception of the Japanese, and perhaps the Finns, are the cleanliest people in the world.
I have seen a funny picture which represents a school bath. It is a photograph, too. Here is a big school bathroom with a dozen tubs shaped like washtubs setting on the floor, each one occupied by a sturdy little youngster of some ten summers. Each one is industriously scrubbing the back of his next neighbor, while he is immersed up to his middle in the warm water. Over each boy’s head is a shower bath, and if friendly competition does not make the back of each of those boys immaculate I do not know how cleanliness can be achieved.
However much the school tub may have to do with the longevity of the Swede, I know that the blue ribboners would ascribe the increasing span of his years to the temperance law which the last parliamentary half-century has seen enacted and enforced. Sweden once had the sad reputation of being the most drunken country in Europe, and no wonder, for in 1775 Gustavus III made liquor selling and liquor making a State monopoly, and much revenue was derived from intoxicating fluids. The heaviest drinker was the greatest benefactor of the State, for he was thus adding with every dram to the public revenues. Tea and coffee were shut out of the country by the laws, lest some poor toper should prefer them. Beer even was unknown, and wine was rare and costly.
Who do you think was the first man to protest against this wholesale drunkard making? It was no other than Linnæus, the gentle botanist, to whom the world is indebted for naming more plants than Adam ever named. He tried to convince the people of the awful effects of alcoholism upon the national life. After about a decade and a half the government became ashamed of itself and abolished its monopoly. But then things went from bad to worse, for the making and selling of liquor became absolutely free. Everybody who had a little grain made it into whisky. Every large farm had its distillery, and to make drunkards became, not the business of the State, but of everybody who wished to make money.
Thus things went on for some forty years, when the Neal Dow, or more properly the Father Matthew of Sweden, came to the front. This was Canon Wieselgren, who in 1830 began to write and lecture against this awful national evil, and at last, aided by famous men of science, who made exhaustive studies of alcoholism, he brought about a complete and blessed reform in the liquor laws. The tax on whisky was raised so high that private individuals could neither make nor sell it. Local option was allowed, and many communities forbade altogether the sale of liquor. At last the famous Gothenburg system was adopted, and “the monopoly of the manufacture and sale of spirits was given to a company which is allowed to make only a fair rate of interest out of the capital employed, and must hand over the surplus to the community, to be used in the support of such institutions as may tend to diminish the consumption of liquor and combat drunkenness.” The company is guaranteed five per cent on its capital should the sale fall below a certain minimum. This system has the great advantage that it precludes all desire on the part of the company and its retail sellers to increase the sale of drink, as the interest on the capital employed is secured and is not liable to be increased by a larger output.
There are various other regulations which are of interest to all in our country, since the liquor problem is always a burning question. The retail seller must provide food as well as drink, and is not allowed to sell liquor without food, and then only in a small glass to each customer. Youths under eighteen years of age cannot buy, and the retail shops must close at six o’clock. The profits that are made by the company must be used in providing rooms, free libraries, lectures, sports, and games, and it is said that the visitors to the seven reading rooms thus provided in Gothenburg reach half a million every year. Now Sweden and Norway are the most temperate countries in Europe. A drunken man is a _rara avis_. Crime has diminished in like proportion, as is to be expected.
Let me tell you of one more Swedish phenomenon before I close this letter. During all this visit to Stockholm, and in my previous visits as well, I have never seen a fire engine go tearing through the streets, though one could hardly live for a day in Boston or New York without such an excitement. And yet they have fire engines and horses ready harnessed day and night in Stockholm, and men sleeping in their boots ready to drop down through a hole in the floor on to their seat on the fire engine at any moment. One would think that the men would get tired of waiting for an event that so seldom happens, and that the horses would die for lack of exercise, as they undoubtedly would if they had to wait for a fire to give them a good run.
Do you want to know, Judicia, why the excitement of a fire is so rare in Stockholm? I will tell you, as my friend, Mr. Thomas, the ex-Minister to Sweden, has told me. “Once a year, if you live here, two gentlemen will call on you with book and pencil in hand and carefully examine every stove in your rooms. They also examine all the flues and chimneys. They are officers of the municipality, and the patriarchal government of Stockholm wishes to see that there is no danger of your burning yourself up.”
If they find that your chimneys are foul, a little boy with a sooty face, with white teeth and eyeballs shining through the grime, will wait on you. He will have a rope wound around his neck, with an iron hook on the end, and you must let him go down your chimney and clean out all the soot and cinders. You must also comply with twelve regulations when you build your house, which relate to the material for the walls and the roof, the construction of the cellar, etc., and the house must not be more than sixty-eight feet high. If you think these regulations are too severe, they will at least reduce the size of your insurance bill, for $1.25 will insure your house for $2500 for a year; that is, the premium is a twentieth of one per cent—less than a quarter part of what it would be in America. For $17.50 you may insure your house _forever_ for $1000. If it stands for two hundred years you will never have to pay another cent; so you see there are some advantages, even if there are some annoyances, in a paternal government.
I know your aversion to statistics, my dear Judicia, and in spite of their proverbial dullness it does seem to me rather necessary for one who would feel the deepest charm of Sweden to know something about the characteristics of the Swedes and their comparative standing in matters material and moral with the other nations of Europe. But since, in an early letter, these matters have been disposed of, I can promise you in my next something to which your romantic soul will respond more generously.
Wherein Phillips tells of the many beautiful excursions from Stockholm, and soon takes Judicia into the heart of Dalecarlia, noted for the fertility of its soil and the bright costumes of its maidens. He also rehearses the romantic story of Gustavus Vasa, involving the treacherous cruelty of Christian II and the many hairbreadth escapes of Gustavus, until he roused the Swedes to fight for and win their freedom.
MORA, DALECARLIA, January 10.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
I told you in a former letter, did I not, about the pretty maidens from Dalecarlia whom one often meets in their bright costumes on the streets of Stockholm, as well as the “Member from Dalecarlia,” who relieves the solemn monotony of the Riksdag with his ancient provincial costume. Attracted by these brilliant birds of passage, I am going to take you to-day to the very heart of Dalecarlia, where they live, for it is the most interesting province in all Sweden.
Stockholm has the distinct advantage, not only of being a most interesting city in itself, but of being a center from which you can easily make excursions to any part of Scandinavia, east or west, or north or south; and, believe me, in whichever direction you start you will have no regrets that you did not take some other excursion, for each one has its own peculiar fascination.
A story is told of a young English couple who came to Stockholm for their honeymoon. They thought a week would be sufficient to exhaust the attractions of the city and its environs. Without guide or guide book they started out one morning, taking one of the little steamers, not knowing or caring whither they went or where they would bring up. So delighted were they with this trip that the next day they took another, and the next still another, and so on every day for three months they made a different excursion over the waterways of Sweden, coming back to Stockholm every night; and even then they had not exhausted the possible trips. Indeed there are more than two hundred of these little steamers that ply through the canals and the lakes, and along the Baltic coast. One of the delights of Sweden is its infinite variety.
If it were summer time we would take one of these little steamers along the coast directly north to Gafle; but at this time of year it is more convenient to take the comfortable train, which in a few hours will land us in the very heart of Dalecarlia, or Dalarne, as the Swedes usually call it.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
Some Girls of Dalecarlia.]
The province has many attractions. Smiling valleys, which one can see even under their blanket of snow must be abundantly productive, are frequently crossed by strong rivers rushing to the Baltic. The Dal especially is a splendid stream, while Lake Siljan, a great sheet of water in the very heart of the province, with peaceful shores sloping gently back from its blue waters on every side, adds the last touch to the sylvan scene. I am writing of it as it is in summer, but I am always in doubt whether these Swedish landscapes are more beautiful in white or green.
The quaint costumes of the Dalecarlians, as you can imagine, add immensely to the interest of the country. It is the only province of Sweden, so far as I know, that retains its ancient dress and glories in it. In some parts each parish has its own peculiar costume, and, as is natural and appropriate, the ladies are far brighter in plumage than the men.
As you know, I am not good at describing a lady’s dress. How often have you upbraided me for not being able to tell you what the bride wore? Let me then borrow the description of a connoisseur in these matters: “Bright bits of color were the maidens we met along the road. The skirts of their dresses were of some dark-blue stuff, except in front. Here, from the waist down, for the space that would be covered by an ample apron, the dress was white, black, yellow, red, and green, in transverse bars about two inches wide. Each bar was divided throughout its entire length by a narrow rib or backbone of red, and these gaudy stripes repeated themselves down to the feet. The waist of these dresses was very low, not much more than a broad belt, and above this swelled out their white chemise, covering the bust and arms, and surmounted with a narrow lace collar around the neck. Outside the collar was a gaudy kerchief, caught together on the breast by a round silver brooch with three pendants. On their heads was a black helmet of thick cloth, with a narrow red rib in the seams. The helmet rose to a point on top, and came low down in the neck behind, where depended two black bands ending in red, woolly globes that played about their shoulders. Under the helmet might be seen the edge of a white kerchief bound about their brows, and beneath the kerchief escaped floods of golden ringlets that waved above bright blue eyes and adown brown, ruddy cheeks. In cold weather the maids and the matrons also wear a short jacket of snowy sheepskin with the wool inside.”
But the greatest charm to me about Dalecarlia is not in the lovely pastoral scenery, or even in the bright costumes and brighter faces of its maidens, but in its noble, soul-stirring history, for here is where Sweden’s Independence Day dawned, and to the devout Swede every foot of the province is sacred soil.
To get fully into this tonicky, patriotic atmosphere we must go around the great lake to Mora, on its northwestern shore. Then we will walk a mile out into the country, for you will not mind a little walk through the snow on a beautiful crisp morning like this, until we come to a square, stone building, which is peculiar in having a large door but no windows. The custodian, who lives near by, unlocks the massive door, and we find on entering that what we have come to see is all underground.
Opening a trapdoor in the center of the building, our guide precedes us down half a dozen steps until we stand on the floor of a small cellar, less than ten feet square and perhaps seven feet high. Here was enacted the homely scene which was the turning point in Sweden’s history. The cackling geese that saved Rome, the spider that inspired Bruce to another heroic effort for Scotland’s freedom, were not more necessary to the story of these nations than was Margit, wife of Tomte Matts Larsson, who placed a big tubful of Christmas beer which she had been brewing over this trapdoor so that the bloodthirsty Danes, who were eagerly searching for Gustavus Vasa, never suspected that he was hidden in the cellar beneath.
But in order to understand the full significance of this rude cellar and the importance to the history of Sweden of Margit’s ready wit, we must go back to Stockholm in imagination and transport ourselves by the same ready means of conveyance back nearly four hundred years to the later months of 1520, when Christian II of Denmark, who was a Christian only in name, was crowned king of Sweden in the Church of St. Nikolaus at Stockholm.
Christian had been provoked by the opposition of the leading Swedes to the union of their country with Denmark and with their attempt to set up a king of their own. At last he determined to crush out all opposition, and with a great army he ravaged the country, conquered the provinces one after the other, and, as we have seen, was at last crowned king in Stockholm.
He appeared to be on especially good terms with the nobles of the country that he had conquered, and invited them all, together with the chief men of Stockholm and the most distinguished ecclesiastics of the country, to the great festivities connected with his coronation. Suddenly, and mightily to their amazement, they all found themselves arrested and thrown into various dungeons on the charge of treason to the king. The city was put in a state of siege. The muzzles of big guns threatened the people at every street corner. But the prisoners were not kept long in suspense. Soon the gates of the palace, in whose dungeons they were confined, were flung open and, surrounded by soldiers and assassins, they were marched to a central square.
First Bishop Matthias was brought forth. “As he knelt with hands pressed together and uplifted as in prayer, his own brother and his chancellor sprang forward to take a last farewell. But at that very moment the headsman swung his broadsword. The bishop’s head fell and rolled on the ground toward his friends, while his blood spurted from the headless trunk.”
One by one the other victims followed—twelve senators, three mayors, and fourteen of the councilors of Stockholm—until, before the sun set on that black Thursday, November 8, 1520, eighty-two of Sweden’s best and noblest men had paid the penalty of their love of freedom and their hatred of tyranny. This was but the beginning. Other outrages followed. The noble ladies of Sweden were carried off to Copenhagen and there thrown into dungeons. This massacre is called in history “Stockholm’s Blood Bath.”
The unchristian Christian by this massacre seems to have merely whetted his appetite for blood, for on his return to Denmark the next month he glutted his insane desire for the lives of his best people by many another murder.
A touching story is told of such a scene in Jönköping. He beheaded Lindorn Rabbing and his two little boys, eight and six years of age. The elder son was first decapitated. “When the younger saw the flowing blood which dyed his brother’s clothes, he said to the headsman, ‘Dear Man, don’t let my shirt get all bloody like brother’s, for mother will whip me if you do.’ The childish prattle touched the heart of even the grim headsman. Flinging away his sword, he cried: ‘Sooner shall my own shirt be stained with blood than I make bloody yours, my boy.’ But the barbarous king beckoned to a more hardened butcher, who first cut off the head of the lad, and then that of the executioner who had shown mercy.”
Do you wonder, Judicia, that the hearts of the Swedes were mad with grief and anger? Yet they seemed utterly cowed, stunned, so terrible were their disasters, and it appeared impossible that help should arise from any quarter.
But Sweden’s darkest day was just before its dawn, and the one who was to accomplish her deliverance from tyrants forever was a young man four and twenty years of age. His father, Erik Johansson, was one of the noblemen whose blood reddened the streets of Stockholm on that awful November day, while his mother and sisters were carried off to languish in the dungeons of Copenhagen. Just as the ax was about to strike its fatal blow, a messenger came in hot haste from the king offering pardon to Erik Johansson, but he would not accept it from such a monster, and he cried out: “My comrades are honorable gentlemen. I will, in God’s name, die the death with them.”
His son, Gustavus, had also been summoned to Stockholm by the king; but he suspected mischief, for he had already been a wanderer for two years in the wilds of Sweden to escape Christian’s wrath, so he did not obey the order. When he heard of the massacre, he at once fled from his hiding-place on the banks of Lake Mälar and sought refuge in Dalecarlia. Here he adopted the costume of the country as a disguise. He put on a homespun suit of clothes. He cut his hair squarely around his ears, and with a round hat, and an ax over his shoulder he started out to arouse the Swedish people to make one more last stand for liberty.
Here in beautiful Dalecarlia he had innumerable adventures. I should have to write a volume if I attempted to tell them all. On one occasion he was let down from a second-story window of a farmhouse by a long towel held by Barbro Stigsdotter, a noble Swedish woman whose husband had taken the side of the king. She deserves a place beside our own Barbara Frietchie, and I wish I were another Whittier to immortalize her. When her dastardly husband returned with twenty Danish soldiers to arrest the young nobleman, Gustavus was nowhere to be found, and we are told that Arendt Persson never forgave his wife this deed.
Another good story is told about Gustavus at Isala not far away. Here the hunted fugitive was warming himself in the little hut of Sven Elfsson, while Sven’s wife was baking bread. Just at this unlucky moment the Danish spies who were searching for him broke into the hut. But with rare presence of mind and noble patriotism, with which Swedish women seem to have been preëminently endowed, she struck him smartly on the shoulder with the long wooden shovel with which she was accustomed to pull her loaves out of the oven, at the same time shouting in a peremptory voice: “What are you standing here and gaping at? Have you never seen folks before? Out with you into the barn!”
The Danish soldiers could not believe that a peasant woman would treat a scion of the nobility like that, and concluded that after all he was not the man they were looking for. Sven himself seems to have been as patriotic as his wife, for when the soldiers had retired for a little he covered Gustavus up deep in a load of straw and drove him out farther into the forest. But the suspicious soldiers could not be so easily put off their scent, and, suspecting that there might be somebody or something of importance under the straw, they stuck their spears into it over and over again. At last, satisfied that there was nothing there, they rode on.
But soon drops of blood began to trickle through the straw upon the white snow, and in order to allay the suspicions of the Danes, who might come up with him at any moment, Sven gashed his horse’s leg, that they might suppose that the blood came from the animal and not from anything concealed in his sledge. At Isala to-day we see the barn of good Sven Elfsson, and just in front of it a monument telling of Gustavus’ hairbreadth escape. Fortunately the wounds received by him under the straw were not serious, and after many days and many adventures he reached Lake Siljan and the little village of Mora, where we first saw him concealed in Larsson’s cellar, over whose door good Margit had put her tub of Christmas beer.
Christmas Day came at last in the sad year of 1520, as it has in many a glad year since for the people of Sweden, and the Dalecarlians flocked to the church at Mora. After the church service, as they streamed along the road to their homes, a young man of noble mien suddenly mounted a heap of snow by the roadside and in burning words, made eloquent and forceful not only by his bitter indignation but by his terrible sufferings as well, he rehearsed the perfidy and cruelty of the Danes, and urged the Swedes to assert their rights as free men and save their country.
But the people were tired of fighting and overawed by the savage Christian and his myrmidons, and they begged him to leave them in peace. The poor young nobleman had exhausted his resources; he had fired his last shot, and so in despair of arousing the people to fight for freedom, since in Dalarne of all the provinces he expected to find the spirit of liberty not quite dead, he fastened his long skis on his feet, took a staff in his hand, and disappeared into the forest.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
Where Gustavus Adolphus Rests among Hard-Won Battle Flags.]
Day after day he made his solitary way through the woods and over the snow fields, for he knew that the spies of Denmark were on his track. He had almost approached the borders of Norway, where he intended to seek an asylum, when he heard a sound of approaching runners, and then the glad cry, which must have sounded like music in his ears: “Come back, Gustav; we of Dalecarlia have repented. We will fight for Fatherland if you will lead us.” We can imagine how gladly he responded and how eagerly he returned with the two ski-runners to Mora. Here the people elected him “lord and chieftain over Dalarne and the whole realm of Sweden.”
As a snowball grows in size as it rolls down the hill until it becomes an irresistible avalanche, so the peasants of Sweden gathered around Gustavus, sixteen at first, then two hundred. In a month there were four hundred, and he had won his first victory at Kopparberget. There he spoiled the Egyptians and divided the spoil among his followers, which of course did not diminish his popularity. Soon the four hundred grew to fifteen hundred, and the hundreds became thousands.
But the Danes were not to give up without a struggle. Six thousand men were sent out against the patriots, who had now mustered five thousand men to oppose them on the banks of the river Dal, on the edge of the province nearest to Stockholm. The Danes were mightily surprised when told that the Swedes were so determined to win that they would live on water and bread made from the bark of trees. One of their commanders cried out: “A people who eat wood and drink water, the devil himself cannot subdue, much less any other.”
The Danes were utterly defeated, their _morale_ very likely being affected by these terrible stories of the wood-eating Dalecarlians. Some of them were driven into the river and drowned, and the rest flew helter-skelter, broken and defeated, back to their headquarters. Of course the war was not entirely over, but the young hero knew no defeat, and finally, on June 23, 1523, on Midsummer’s Eve, which is a holiday in Sweden second only to Christmas, Gustavus Vasa, who had been unanimously elected king by the Riksdag, rode triumphantly into his nation’s capital.
He showed his religious character by going first to the cathedral, where he kneeled before the high altar and returned thanks to Almighty God; and here in my story I may well leave the man who freed his country from the Danish yoke—the George Washington of Sweden.
You are such a stanch patriot, Judicia, and such a hater of tyrants, dead or alive, that I know I need not apologize for writing somewhat at length of this glorious period in Swedish history.
Wherein are described the glories of an Arctic winter; the comfort of traveling beyond the polar circle (with a brief philological excursion); the inexpressible beauties of the “European Lady of the Snows”; the unique railway station of Polcirkeln, and the regions beyond.
KIRUNA, LAPLAND, January 15.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
I wonder if you remember how I wrote you some years ago about a journey I made toward the arctic circle in midwinter, and how enraptured I was with the still, cold days, the wonderful frosty rime on every bush and fence rail, and the dawn and twilight glories of the low-running Arctic sun.
Well, finding myself in Sweden again in winter, I resolved to push my explorations a little farther toward the North Pole and to enjoy once more, if possible, one of the most delightful experiences of my life. The former journey was made about the middle of February, if I remember rightly, and certain engagements obliged me to turn my face southward before I had nearly reached the “farthest north” which I longed for. This time I resolved that I would not be robbed of a single zero joy, but would, if possible, catch the sun napping; that is, that I would get beyond that degree of latitude where for days at a time he never shows his face above the rim of the horizon, and where the mild-mannered moon almost rivals his power at midday.
In order to do this, and to find the sun hibernating, I had to leave Stockholm early in January, for, though he goes to bed in many parts of Lapland late in November, he rises and shakes out his golden locks before the middle of January, unless you go to the most northern point of Scandinavia, and then you get out of Swedish Lapland into Norway. So you see I had no time to lose, if I would catch the sun in bed, and must leave other charms of Sweden in winter as well as in summer for later letters.
To go far beyond the arctic circle in winter is not much to brag about in Sweden, for you can make the journey quite as comfortably as you can go from New York to Chicago, and the distance, by the way, from Stockholm to Kiruna is about the same.
Do not suppose, however, that we have any “Twentieth Century Limited” in this part of the world. The Lapland flier takes about thirty-eight hours to make the distance, but one need have no fear of dashing into another flier at the rate of fifty miles an hour, for the Lapland express runs only three times a week in either direction.
[Illustration: A Typical Swedish Landscape in Winter.]
Though the speed is not hair-raising, the accommodations are all that could be desired. Only second and third-class cars are run on most of the roads of Sweden, though, by a polite fiction, you can buy a first-class ticket if you insist upon it. If you are “a fool, a lord, or an American,” you may possibly do so, in which case you will pay the combined fare of a second and third-class ticket. The guard will put you in a second-class compartment just the same as those of your fellow travelers and paste up on the window the words “First Class.” It is said that at the same time he sticks his tongue in his cheek and winks derisively at the brakeman.
I cannot vouch for this fact, for I have never bought a first-class ticket in Sweden, and I never should, even if I had money “beyond the dreams of avarice,” as the novelist would say. For the second-class compartments are entirely comfortable, upholstered in bright plush, with double windows and ample heat, which each traveler can turn on or off for himself, a little table on which to put your books and writing materials, a carafe of fresh water, which is changed several times a day, and a crystal-clear tumbler. What more can you ask? To be sure your privacy is more likely to be invaded than if you are a “first-class” snob, and you may sometimes have as many as three other people in your compartments, which easily accommodates six. But to see the people and hear them, even if you cannot understand their tongue, is part of the joy of traveling, and the Swedish language is so musical with its sing-song rhythm that it never grates upon the ear, and if one is disposed for a nap it will quite lull him to sleep.
My friend, ex-Minister Thomas, has so admirably described one inevitable and absolutely unique Swedish expression that I think I must quote for you his sprightly account of it. “Should you ever hear two persons talking in a foreign tongue,” he says, “and are in doubt as to what nation they belong, just listen. If one or the other does not say ‘ja så,’ within two minutes, it is proof positive they are not Swedes. There is the ‘ja så’ (pronounced _ya so_) expressing assent to the views you are imparting, ‘just so’; the ‘ja så’ of approval and admiration, with a bow and a smile; the ‘ja så’ of astonishment, wonder, and surprise at the awful tale you are unfolding. Now the Swede’s eyes and mouth become circles of amazement, and he draws out his reply, ‘ja so-o-o-o-o-o-o!’ There is the hesitating ‘ja så’ of doubt; the abrupt ‘ja så, ja så!’ twice repeated, which politely informs you that your friend does not believe a word you are saying; the ‘ja så’ sarcastic, insinuating, and derogatory; the fierce ‘ja så’ of denial; the enraged ‘ja så,’ as satisfactory as swearing; the threatening ‘ja så,’ fully equivalent to ‘I’ll punch your head’; and the pleasant, purring, pussycat ‘ja så,’ chiefly used by the fair—a sort of flute _obligato_ accompaniment to your discourse, which shows that she is listening and pleased, and encourages you to continue. And other ‘ja sås’ there be, too numerous for mention. I am inclined to think there is not an emotion of the human soul that the Swedes cannot express by ‘ja så,’ but the accent and intonation are different in every case. Each feeling has its own peculiar ‘ja så,’ and there be as many, at least, as there are smells in Cologne, which number, the most highly educated nostrils give, if I mistake not, as seventy-three.”
Some other phrases in Swedish are almost equally useful, and if we should hear a fellow traveler say _lagom_ over and over again we would know that somebody or something was “just about right,” though we might not be able to determine from the context whether he was referring to the scenery, to his wife’s disposition, or to the _frokost_ which he enjoyed at the last railway station.
Another very useful Swedish word, which it is a pity we cannot introduce into our English vocabulary, is _syskon_. This is a collective noun, referring to brothers and sisters alike and embracing all of them that belong to one family. As “parents” refers to both father and mother, so _syskon_ means all the brothers and sisters of the family.
However, if I keep on with this rambling philological discussion I shall not get you to Kiruna, my dear Judicia, even within the thirty-eight hours which the Swedish time-table allows. I must tell you though that, since this is a journey of two nights and parts of two days, the “lying down” accommodations are quite as important as those for sitting up. But for five crowns additional, or about $1.30, you can secure a comfortable berth, nicely made up in your compartment, with clean linen.
The black porter with his whisk brush is not at all in evidence, for there is no dust in these trains, at least in winter time, and the white porter who makes up your bed, who is, I suspect, also a brakeman, is never seen except night and morning, when he makes and unmakes it. When you alight you never hear the familiar phrase, “Brush you off, sah?” and you have to search for your bed-maker if you desire to slip a _kroner_ into his hand—a piece of superogatory generosity which quite surprises him.
Something over an hour after leaving Stockholm on our journey north we came to the famous old university city of Upsala, but I could not stop here if I wished to see the Midday Moon, and shall have to go back at some future day in order to tell you about this most interesting historic town in Sweden, the burial place of Gustavus Vasa and the depository of one of the world’s chief philological treasures, the Codex Argenteus.
The Lapland express leaves Stockholm at 6.30 in the evening, which at this time of the year is several hours after dark, and it was not until the next morning, between nine and ten o’clock, that the landscape became visible; yet the first signs of dawn come wonderfully early in these northern latitudes, considering how near we are to the land of perpetual night. By eight o’clock in the morning one has a suspicion that the sun is somewhere far, far below the horizon. By nine o’clock the suspicion deepens into a certainty, and by ten o’clock on your side of the arctic circle, where I found myself early on the morning after leaving Stockholm, the tiniest rim of the sun may be seen peering above the horizon, as though uncertain whether it were worth while to go the rest of the way or not.
I wish I had counted the number of minutes he required to fairly get above the horizon after showing his first segment. I remember that once in Iceland I timed the setting sun, and it took him just seven minutes to sink below the horizon. You remember how in the tropics he plumps down and up, as we have seen him in South America and in India. For a shrewd Yankee guess I would say that it takes Phœbus from fifteen to twenty minutes to really rise and shake out his golden locks in Lapland, in wintertime.
The day was a short one, at least the daylight day—not more than six hours in length; but what a glorious day it was! The fairies were at work while I slept and trimmed every twig and pine needle and every spray on every bush with thick, white rime. Once in a lifetime one sees such a sight in America, and then not in its perfection. In Sweden it is an everyday occurrence, but it is always inexpressibly lovely. So lavish are these frosty decorations that no humblest stump or fence rail is omitted. It is no little layer of frost either that you have to examine with the microscope in order to see its beauties, but a thick and heavy fringe, often fully two inches deep. Neither is it an evanescent creation, for, as the low-running sun is not very powerful, it does not melt until well along toward high noon, and there is no wind to dissipate it.
Even when this glory of the morning frost is gone, the snow still remains on all the larger branches of the trees, and one misses only the fine tracery of the frost, which brings out in marvelous black and white the wonders of this rarely beautiful scene.
The views on this journey are seldom imposing and grand. There are no Alps, and even our own White Mountains eclipse in majesty anything that I have seen in northern Sweden. For the most part the landscape is a peaceful, pastoral one. Little farmhouses with their cluster of outbuildings abound, the stables for the cattle and the hardy horses being built as warm as for the hardy men and women. The smoke curls up straight toward the zenith and hangs like a cloudy pillar over every chimney. The people who come to the railway stations are healthy and ruddy. Most of them come on skis, and others with kick-sleds, which they shove before them, standing upon one runner; often they make marvelously good time, even with a heavy load on the sled.
These farmhouses look so attractive with their dull red walls and green roofs that I often wished the train would stop and let me visit them. But I have seen enough of them to know how they look inside. They are usually one story high. In the middle is a large living room with two or three smaller rooms opening out of it. This living room is parlor and dining room, and sometimes kitchen as well, and not infrequently, if you look carefully, you will see two little alcoves, one on either side, covered with a curtain during the day. These, you must know, are the bedrooms, or bed alcoves. The hole in the wall is just big enough to contain a single bed, while the baby’s cradle is hung near the mother’s bed, from a rafter in the ceiling, and a touch of the hand will set it swinging. The walls are hung with rude but interesting tapestries, made by the housewife herself and representing Bible scenes, or sometimes more familiar landscapes. Do you remember how we saw just such a room in Cavalla, the old Neapolis of St. Paul, and the famous Mahomet Ali’s cradle hanging from the roof in just that way?
In Skansen, a beautiful park near Stockholm, where are preserved things characteristically Swedish from all parts of the kingdom, one may see houses of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, built on exactly the same plan, only that the modern farmhouse is ampler and cleaner and has many conveniences which the Goth of olden times would have doubtless considered effeminate luxury. I wonder what he would have said if he had heard the tinkle of a telephone bell, as he might to-day in many a Swedish farmhouse, and had been told that way up beyond the Arctic circle he could speak into a little tube against the wall and be heard distinctly in Stockholm or Christiania, or Berlin or Paris, for that matter.
But I am getting ahead of my story, and this railway ride is so delightful that I cannot bear to have you, any more than myself, lose a mile of it. Though the scenery for the most part is not majestic, at times it grows bold and striking. Some hills of considerable size appear upon the horizon. Charming valleys open up between them, where the frequency of farmhouses shows that the soil is peculiarly fertile. Wide, brawling rivers rush to the sea so impetuously that even arctic cold cannot fetter them. There are hours of such scenery, which satisfy the desire of the most romantic imagination; yet for the most part there is a mild and subdued loveliness about the view from our car windows which has its own peculiar charm and which needs no precipitous cliffs or bleak mountainsides or cavernous gorges to enhance its beauty.
At last we came to one of the most interesting stations in the world. It is not very grand, to be sure, and it is half buried in snow, and you see scarcely a house in the vicinity. But it is exactly on the arctic circle, and rejoices in the appropriate name of Polcirkeln. I almost hugged myself as a polar explorer until I looked around at my comfortable surroundings—luxurious plush seats, a temperature of exactly 68° according to the thermometer in my compartment, the soft glow of the electric lamp overhead when the early twilight appears.
Someone who has written of these winter days in the far north says: “It is not the cold and snow that make the northern winter dreary; cold and snow are invigorating and exhilarating. It is the short days and leaden skies; the long darkness and the gloom; the perpetual sense of being pursued by the dark as by a nightmare; the perpetual hurry by day to accomplish something before the darkness overtakes you; and the ever-present, unformed, unreasoning, lurking fear, strongest in December, lest the life-giving sun leave you forever.”
But I must say that I have never felt this depression of spirits in the far north. For the most part the skies are not leaden, but the long dawn and the longer twilight paint them with all imaginable colors with which the rainbow can scarcely vie. Why should one be in a perpetual hurry in such a land? There are twenty-four hours in the day here as in the tropics. Most things you can do by electric light as well as by daylight, and there is plenty of the former, not only on the trains but in every considerable town. As for the fear that the sun will never rise again, even if you do not see him for a month he gives you abundant evidence that he is just below the horizon and that you will soon see his cheerful face again.
Of course I had three square meals during this arctic day, and even beyond Polcirkeln in this wilderness of ice and snow the railway restaurants flow with metaphorical milk and honey. But I have already described a Swedish railway eating-house, and I will only tell you now that when I came to pay my modest bill at a restaurant well into Lapland the pretty cashier, when she saw that I spoke “American,” beamed all over with delight and exclaimed in rapturous joy: “When did you come over, and how are all the folks?” In the remaining minutes before the train started I learned that she had lived for several years in America, where she had many relatives, and that she had only just returned to her arctic home. I was glad to inform her that all the folks in America were well, so far as my knowledge extended. This artless little piece of Americanism amid the snows of Sweden brightened the journey for many an hour.
And here, dear Judicia, I think I must end the story of one of the most delightful of travel days. To-morrow I will tell you something of what I have seen in Kiruna and its wonderful mountain of solid iron.
In this chapter Phillips describes a day without a sunrise; his anxiety lest the sun should appear; the wonderful beauties of sunrise and sunset where the sun never appears; the fitful glories of the aurora borealis; the daily bombardment of Kiruna; the great iron mountain from which the bombardment comes; Luleå, the metropolis of the north, and a Lapp encampment in winter.
KIRUNA, January 14.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
I wonder if, when you were a girl, you were as much fascinated by Bayard Taylor’s travel books as I was. Did you read _Views Afoot_, and especially did you gloat over his _Northern Travels_? If you did, you remember how when he got up toward the borders of the arctic circle, though he did not get nearly as far north as Kiruna, he went out of his hotel door one morning and found that the thermometer had sunk to forty degrees below zero. Do you remember with what a sort of rapture he recorded this fact, as though he had now actually reached the land of the aurora borealis, and how he seemed to revel in every degree that the mercury sank? I will not be sure of the exact degree of cold that so rejoiced his soul, for I have not read my Bayard Taylor for many a year, but I was conscious of an experience something like his when I went out on the crisp, frosty streets of Kiruna this morning and watched for the sun which I devoutly hoped would not rise.
By nine o’clock the sky had begun to glow faintly. I wandered about the streets, keeping my eye on the eastern horizon as earnestly as a good Mohammedan faces toward Mecca. Moment by moment the glow, which was at first barely discernible, deepened, and the fleecy clouds grew rosy. Evidently something was doing just below the horizon; but very, very gradually the dawn came on. By ten o’clock the sky was blushing like a modest damsel in the presence of her lover, but still the Lord of Day did not appear. Ten minutes after ten, twenty minutes after, half-past ten! It seemed as though the sun must break above the horizon line at any moment, but still he delayed his coming, while all along the east, and far up toward the zenith, the sky was flushed with such a light, it seemed to me, as never was on sea or shore.
Twenty minutes of eleven, and still he did not appear; ten minutes of eleven, and I could see that the sunrise glories were a trifle dimmed, and a little to the north the beginning of the glorious pageant that attends the setting sun. Eleven o’clock came, and I was sure of it. The sun was setting and not rising. Though the skies were all aflame, and sunset mingled with the dawn, it was very evident that old Sol would not show his face in Kiruna to-day. Hurrah! I have got beyond the sunrise. I am in the land of the Midday Moon!
And why is it not as notable a thing to see a day without a sunrise as to see a day without a sunset? Why do not people travel to northern Sweden or Norway to see the Midday Moon, as well as the Midnight Sun? I venture to say that the phenomena of midwinter are even more glorious than those of midsummer. I cannot imagine that one would see any such wonderful sky tints in summer as in winter. For hours the sun’s beams played upon the feathery clouds of pale blue sky and constantly changed them from glory to glory.
At one time the brilliant tints predominated and the splashes of golden color lighting up the white snow put even Turner’s pictures to the blush. After many minutes these fiery colors changed to exquisite green and blue, and broken, opalescent hues adorned the clouds. Then a red gleam showed under one dark blue cloud. The sun seemed to summon all its strength for one last burst of glory, and the western sky, which I thought had passed its acme, glowed once more with a deep red, as though some vast furnace were throwing its hidden light upon the clouds. For more than four hours this wonderful display lasted, as sunrise faded into sunset, and it was not until nearly three o’clock this afternoon that the last beam of day had entirely faded.
But the beauty of the scene did not consist altogether in the glorious colors of the sunset. All the accessories have made it forever memorable. As I walked to the top of a little eminence near Kiruna, the stillness could almost be felt. A dog barking half a mile away was distinctly audible. The axes of the workmen whom I left building a log-house as I tramped on through the snow and climbed the hillside made a melodious tapping, which could be heard as far as the dog’s bark.
The trees everywhere were loaded with their beautiful burden of snow. The pines and birches seemed in the dim light of the setting sun to have blossomed out like cherry trees in May. The mercury registered only a little below zero, or perhaps some forty degrees of frost, according to Celsius, by whose thermometers the Swedes swear, for I have found no such cold weather as that in which Bayard Taylor revelled. But the zero air was so dry and still that the ordinary clothes which I found necessary and none too much for Boston east winds were entirely sufficient.
As I came down the hill, the workmen were still busy on their log house in the deepening twilight. A Yankee in a white slouch hat must be a rarity in these altitudes in winter, but they did not pause in their work or exhibit any curiosity at the sight of an outlander. Perhaps their natures partake of the largeness and solitude of their great forests and snow fields, and they are not moved by the curiosity which affects other mortals. After watching them for a few moments, I left them fitting their logs together without nails or spikes, sawing and cutting with bare hands in this zero weather as though it were balmy June.
But even when the last ray of the setting sun (which had never risen) had faded away, the glories of the Arctic night did not disappear. Indeed they had but just begun, for the aurora borealis began to shoot out its wavy lines of fire in the northern sky. Higher and higher the waves mounted toward the zenith, until they arched overhead. Palpitating like a living thing, the white would change to green, and the green to a reddish glow, and all the time the streamers that seemed to be shooting up as from a mighty volcano on either side of the North Pole waved and wavered like banners in the wind; now being folded in upon themselves, then flaunted out to their full width, as though Erebus himself were blowing upon them.
But the interests of Kiruna are not altogether centered in the far horizon. At half-past eight in the morning, and again at half-past four in the afternoon, I was startled by a series of tremendous explosions. They could not be thunderclaps, for there were few clouds in the sky and not the slightest indication of a storm.
Over and over again the thundering volleys rolled, and as I looked toward the west I could see a vivid flash in the darkness preceding the thunderclap by some seconds. And yet the flash and the thunder did not seem to come from the sky, but from a massive hill, which bulked dimly against the horizon, across an intervening valley. You have already guessed what the bombardment was. It came from the mighty iron mountain of Kiruna and was the explosion of the dynamite charges which every morning and every afternoon are set off to loosen the ore. More like a rapid-fire Gatling gun perhaps than like thunderclaps the explosions became, after the first few shots, and from various parts of the mountain, high up and low down, and to the right and the left, one could see the dull flashes and hear the reverberating roar, scores of shots every minute, until perhaps two hundred had been fired.
This iron mountain accounts for a lot of things in this part of the world. This was the magnet which drew the railway, the most northerly railway on the face of the earth, up so far through the dreary Lapland wilds. Do not suppose for a moment that the Swedes were so philanthropic as to build the road for the sake of a few Americans who wanted to see the Midday Moon or the Midnight Sun (for you must know that you can see his Majesty from the top of Kiruna’s iron mountain all day long if you happen to be there any day during the latter part of June). No, it was this great loadstone mountain that compelled the thrifty Swedes to build a railway through the snow a thousand miles north of Stockholm. Their enterprise was well repaid, for this mountain is from fifty to sixty per cent solid iron, and the best iron in the world.
From Kiruna it is transported nearly one hundred miles farther north to Narvik, across the Norwegian border, where there is an ice-free port all the year round, and where great ships are constantly waiting within its quiet fjord to transport sections of Kiruna’s iron mountain to New York and Philadelphia and London and Hamburg and Boston. There is another iron hill some five or six miles from Kiruna, from which the ore is shipped by overhead electric skids to Kiruna and thence transported by rail to Narvik. Indeed it is said by geologists that all the hills about this little Arctic metropolis are full of iron, and they are not likely to be exhausted for a thousand years to come.
Kiruna reminds me of a hustling American town more than any other that I have seen in this part of the world. It is only fourteen years old, and yet it has ten thousand inhabitants; hundreds of well-built houses; a good electric tramway, which carries the miners back and forth from the works on the mountain to their homes in the little city; four fine schoolhouses, and a big church with a huge bell tower, situated at some little distance from the sanctuary.
Let us not plume ourselves on the thought that we have all the enterprise in the world, or lay the flattering unction to our souls that no one else can build a city in a decade, for here is one with all the conveniences and comforts and many of the luxuries of life; and if we go another hundred miles farther north we shall find a still larger town, less than twelve years old, with good blocks of stores, large residences, and splendid wharves, to which the commerce of the world pays tribute; for Narvik, where the sun does not rise for a month or six weeks in wintertime, is even younger than Kiruna. To-morrow I intend to go to Luleå (pronounce it _Luleo_, for the little circle over the _a_ gives it the _o_ sound), and I will finish this arctic letter there.
LULEÅ ON THE BALTIC.
A funny, if chilly, experience awaited me when I arrived here last night. It was well on toward midnight, and, though a crowd of fellow passengers disembarked from the third-class cars, there was no hotel porter or _trager_ or _dienstman_ to tell me where I should go. My somewhat aged Baedeker had not informed me of the name of a single hotel.
The only individual who took any interest in me was a small boy, and from his voluble Swedish and more comprehensible gestures I felt that he wished to lead me to a hotel. Having nothing better to do, I followed my diminutive guide. It was very cold, at least twenty degrees below zero, the severest weather I have seen at all in this northland. The streets were dark, for most of the electric lights had been put out, but I followed the small boy trustingly. When I seemed to waver in my allegiance, he would run back and urge me on. At last we came to a house which had few signs of being a hostelry. I suspect it was his mother’s humble residence. I followed him in at the door, and he discoursed fluently to the lady of the house, apparently telling her of my needs. She looked quite as blank as I did, but at last she opened a door into a somewhat shabby parlor and gave me to understand that I could sleep on the lounge if I wished to.
I declined the invitation, for I remembered having passed in the dark a house that looked more like a hotel. Going back through the frosty air, I soon found it, and over the door made out the legend _Privat Hotellet_. Here, much to my joy, I found a large room, nicely heated, with two beds, a huge, white monument of a stove, and a whole picture gallery, though not all by the old masters, on the wall, and all this for seventy-five cents a day. To be sure I could get neither bite nor sup in this _Privat Hotellet_, but what did that matter when almost at the next door I found, in the morning, a restaurant on whose generous tables were piled mounds of butter, stacks of oat cakes at least two feet high, a peck of small potatoes, unlimited milk and coffee, pickled fish, fried fish, cold meat, everything on the most lavish scale, and all for sixty _öre_, or fifteen cents?
But you should have seen my fellow boarders eat! They were all hardy tars, who had sailed the Baltic for many a year, when the ice does not interfere with their trade, and the way they made those viands disappear was a caution to a dyspeptic. Even Aylmer, who has just joined me here on his way south from northern Norway (did I forget to give you this interesting piece of information, Judicia?), could not keep up with them. He said that they could give the boys in the college commons a good handicap and then beat them in the race through the breakfast, hands down—but then they had the advantage of being able to use both knife and fork with equal dexterity.
Luleå, as you have already gathered, is on the banks of the Baltic; in fact, it is on its extreme northern shore, and the sea here is so charged with fresh water from the more than two hundred rivers that flow into it from the Swedish and the Finnish shores that it is like a great fresh-water lake, and freezes in its northern end as solidly as Moosehead or Winnepesaukee. As we wandered down to the shore the next morning after our hotel adventure, we could see nothing but a vast expanse of snow-covered ice. Only a few large schooners and small steamers, frozen solidly into the ice, convinced us that this was indeed the Baltic Sea.
Luleå is a very presentable town, quite the metropolis of this part of the world. Many of the blocks are of brick and stone. A splendid church of cathedral dimensions stands in the center of the town, broad streets lined with well-built houses radiate from it on every side, and an enormous hotel overlooking the Baltic makes an attractive bid for summer visitors, though at this time of year it is closed as tight as a bank vault.
I must not forget to tell you about the glorious snow and frost of Luleå. We have seen it everywhere throughout northern Sweden, as I have before told you, but never in such absolute perfection as in this favored town. This is, indeed, the Spell of Sweden. The slight fogs which often envelop this region for a little time and then disappear leave their beautiful frescoing upon every tree and bush and telegraph wire and fence post. Rather, perhaps, I should say they do the work of a sculptor and transform everything into pure white marble. Every smallest twig is covered thick with rime, never less than two inches deep. Strike the tree a sharp blow with your cane and a perfect shower of snow will descend, powdering you from head to foot, unless you quickly stand from under. But the next morning the tree will be covered once more by this invisible sculptor with powdery marble, and again it stands statuesque and lovely in its immaculate white against the sky.
When the rime is not so thick, magical nature transforms the trees and shrubs into white coral, and the little arctic bushes, which can never grow to any great height, stand up above the snow in such a way that you can scarcely believe that some ancient sea has not receded and left a forest of coral exposed to view.
The only spot of color in this white wilderness is made by the mountain-ash tree which the Luleåns have induced to grow in one of their parks. These trees are covered thickly with bright red berries, which the English sparrows—unfortunately even the Arctic cold and snows cannot drive them away—rejoice in. They pick out the kernels of the berries and cover the snow beneath with the blood-red husks.
One most delightful excursion we must take you upon. It can be made from almost any point in Lapland, but Luleå is as good a starting point as any. It is a visit to the nomadic Lapps who abound in this region. We often see these little fellows, with their yellow faces, about the color of snuff, of which I understand they are inordinately fond, and their slanting Mongolian eyes, as they come into the towns with their reindeer hitched to long sledges. These patient animals furnish them with almost all that they need—meat and tents and clothing and milk; thread made from their sinews and needles from their bones. When the Lapps want a little money for tobacco or coffee they drive a deer into the neighboring town and sell him for whatever his carcass will bring.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
Reindeer and Lapps from North Sweden, now in Skansen Park, Stockholm.]
But you must see them in their native habitat to really know the Lapps. So we hired a sledge whose low runners raise one but a few inches from the crisp snow, stuck our feet into the abundant straw, tucked around us the warm reindeer robes, pulled our caps over our ears, and told our driver to do his best to find a Lapp camp. This is not always easy, for the Lapps are genuine gypsies in their liking for a nomadic life, and they are here to-day, there to-morrow, and somewhere else the next day.
However our driver had an idea in what direction they might be found, and, after half a dozen English miles, or about one Swedish mile, we heard a tremendous barking of dogs and knew that we were approaching our goal, for the one indispensable quadruped, aside from the reindeer, in a Lapp encampment, is a barking dog, and often a good many of him. It was not a large camp, only a single family of Lapps with perhaps twenty or thirty reindeer and half a dozen dogs. Their only shelter, even when the mercury reaches fifty below zero, is this reindeer-skin tent, with a hole in the top and quite loose around the sides.
A miserable fire burned in the center of the tent, and some of the smoke found its way through the hole in the top. But hospitality is not unknown even in these snowy wilds, and our hosts at once set to work to make us a cup of coffee, their one luxury, which they knew their visitors would appreciate. To be sure the cup and coffeepot looked almost as dirty as the faces of our hosts, but who minds a few microbes more or less among the millions you are constantly swallowing. To be sure, also, our hosts expected a gift of several times the value of the cup of coffee, but that was purely a gift and not by any means payment for value received.
I cannot say that I fell in love with the Lapps or their surroundings, but I must confess that I conceived a new admiration for the missionary spirit of Prince Bernadotte, the brother of the King of Sweden, who I understand has sometimes come to this far north region to preach to the Laplanders.
He once informed me that the only time he was ever in Russia was when he stepped across the boundary of Swedish Lapland into Finnish Lapland, and then only a few feet on the other side. I suppose that a Swedish prince would very likely be _persona non grata_ in the dominions of the reactionary Czar.
A half-hour in the Lapp settlement was enough for a complete disillusionment concerning the joys of nomadic life in Lapland, and we were glad to turn our faces once more toward the thriving little metropolis of the north Baltic.
Contains a glimpse of the history of Sweden as suggested by the monuments of Stockholm; Birger Jarl; Bridget, the saint without a monument; Gustavus Adolphus, the champion of Protestantism; Charles XII, who conquered half of Europe; Linnæus, the lover of flowers; John Ericsson, the inventor of the “Monitor.”
STOCKHOLM, January 17.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
My last letter left us in a Lapp camp on the northern edge of the Gulf of Bothnia, surrounded by dirty Lapps, yelping dogs, and ruminating reindeer; and here I am, after three days, in Stockholm again, while Aylmer has gone back to his beloved Norway, striking across Sweden and over the mountain by rail to Trondhjem, since he was unwilling, as he said, to “waste any time in Sweden.”
Imagine, Judicia, the superciliousness of youth! To waste time in Sweden, the land of heroes and patriots, the land of Gustavus Adolphus and Charles XII, the land that saved northern Europe for liberty and freedom of conscience. Wasting time in Sweden, indeed!
What should you say to the idea of studying a little Swedish history with me, with the help of the monuments of Stockholm? Some people, I know, consider monuments a great bore and hasten by them with scarcely a glance, but that is because they do not know the delightful stories that they can tell with their bronze or marble lips.
Let us first call upon Birger Jarl. We find him on Riddarholmen, standing erect on a lofty marble pillar, with his shield and his sword, his steel armor and his helmet, looking down from his lofty pedestal as though he would say to us: “What have I to do with you, upstart Americans, you children of a day, whose nearest western shore even was not discovered by Columbus for more than two hundred years after I sailed the seas in my viking ships.”
The great _Jarl_ seems to have been the first one to have discovered the impregnable position which Stockholm’s islands offered for defense. To be sure there was quite a population on these islands before Birger’s time, but he was a man of far-seeing vision, as his position on his lofty monument indicates, so he made of Stockholm one great fort. On every side it was surrounded by water, the great Lake Mälar, and the two rushing rivers that carried its waters to the Baltic.
Birger was never anything but a _Jarl_, but he was the greatest of all the earls, and so powerful that he was able to place his son Magnus above all his brother earls, and made him the first king of Sweden. Magnus was not unworthy of his name, for he too was a great ruler for those rude times, though if the son was Magnus I think the father should be called Major, if not Maximus, for he really founded the kingdom of Sweden, as well as the city of Stockholm.
Sweden of course had a history before the days of Birger and Magnus, but it is so mixed up with that of Norway and Denmark, who were really the predominant partners in those early days, that I shall have to resign St. Olaf and some of the other exceedingly interesting worthies of that time to the pen of Aylmer, thus giving him, my dear Judicia, a vast advantage in his efforts to claim for Norway your favorable verdict.
I must remark in passing, however, that St. Olaf, or King Olaf Haraldson of Norway, to give him his full title, once found himself and all his fleet shut up in Lake Mälar by chains stretched across its western outlet. This was in the year 1007; so in order to get out of his _cul-de-sac_, he dug a shallow channel across a neck of land that prevented him from making his way into the Baltic, that he might thus evade the clutches of Olaf Skötkonung of Sweden. Nature favored his project, and the strong current that sets from the great lake to the Baltic Sea soon wore a wide thoroughfare, through which the king and all his ships escaped into the Baltic and thence home to Norway. This channel made of a former peninsula the island of Staden, so that the Swedes may thank St. Olaf for making one of the three great islands of their capital which Birger Jarl found it so easy to fortify and defend.
A monument that I have been looking for but have not yet found, though there may be one somewhere in Stockholm, is a memorial to St. Bridget. If any Swedish woman deserves a monument, surely it is this same saint “Birgitta,” as she is called in Swedish. In my youth I naturally supposed that St. Bridget was an Irish lady; but she was a pure Swede, and a Swede of the mystical type, in some respects not unlike a fellow countryman of more modern days—the great Swedenborg. She devoutly believed that she received many revelations from Christ and the Virgin Mary, which are preserved to this day in large tomes.
She lived before the Reformation, but was none the less a reformer of the first order. The rule of her abbey, which she believed was enjoined by Christ himself, made chastity, humility, and voluntary poverty the first requisites. “No member of the convent could possess the smallest piece of money; nor even touch silver or gold except when necessary for embroidery, and then only after permission obtained from the abbess. The nuns ate the simplest food and fasted three days in the week. To remind them of their mortality, a bier always stood at the church door, and near the cloister yawned an open grave. Thither these devout women repaired every day, and the abbess threw a handful of earth into the pit, while the sisters repeated psalms and prayers.”
In these days, when the social pendulum has swung so far to the other extreme, there is something worthily heroic in this story of good Birgitta. There is a tonic in it, like a strong east wind, that blows away the miasma of modern social life.
Whatever we may think of her, she made a tremendous impression upon Sweden, an impression which is fresh and vivid to this day, as anyone who studies the history of Sweden speedily discovers. St. Bridget was a woman of tremendous courage. She knew how to reprove the Pope as well as the King. Moreover, her influence was not confined to Sweden, for she spent much time in Rome and is acknowledged throughout the whole Catholic world as one of their greatest saints.
Again come with me to one of the chief squares of Stockholm, and there we will see the figure of the noblest Swede of them all, Gustavus Adolphus, the hero of Protestantism, the victor of a score of hard-fought battles. I will not take you to the monument of Gustavus Vasa, the grandfather of Gustavus Adolphus, for we have already traced his glorious career from the days when he was a hunted fugitive in Dalecarlia to the day when he mounted in triumph the Swedish throne at Stockholm.
But great as was the grandfather, his grandson Adolphus was greater still, as a general, as a reformer, as a man. Between the days of the grandfather and the grandson Sweden had thrown off the power of the Roman church, whose possessions had been seized by the crown; and two of the immediate disciples and pupils of Luther, the brothers Olaus and Laurentius Petri, had firmly established the reformed religion throughout the kingdom.
An unhappy interregnum between grandfather Vasa and grandson Adolphus, who ascended the throne in 1611, had left Sweden in a parlous state, with foes without and fightings within. The great king and general succeeded in shutting out Russia from the Baltic and capturing one of the important provinces of Poland, Livland, which also bordered on the Baltic. But it was not until 1630 that Gustavus Adolphus became a mighty figure in European history. For twelve years the German Protestants had been putting up a courageous but losing fight with the overwhelmingly superior Catholic forces of Europe. Little by little they had been beaten, and their power was being gradually circumscribed.
“In 1630 it seemed as though the continent of Europe was hopelessly doomed to fall beneath the united supremacy of the Papacy and the Empire. From the southern shore of the Baltic Wallenstein, the great leader of the imperial forces, stretched his hand threateningly to grasp the Baltic Sea and its approach, the sound, which chief means of communication with the ocean had become for Sweden a matter of vital importance to keep open. As much to defend the independence as the Protestantism of Sweden, Gustavus Adolphus was forced to go to Germany and there assail the enemy on his own ground. Within the short period of two years he succeeded by his brilliancy both as a warrior and a statesman in changing the fate of the world.”
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
Lion-Guarded Statue of Charles XIII in King’s Garden, Stockholm.]
His brilliant exploits in Germany were confined to two short years. His great victory at Breitenfeld in 1631 was followed by the battle of Lützen in 1632, which cost Sweden and the world the victor’s life. But though the war raged for sixteen years longer, the Protestant cause was never again hopeless. The victory of Adolphus turned the tide, and his noble personal friend and chancellor, Axel Oxenstierna, maintained the prestige of Sweden as one of the great powers of the world, fully recognized in the Peace of Westphalia, which in 1648 closed the bloody Thirty Years’ War.
As I stand before the fine equestrian statue of Gustavus, I take off my hat to that noble warrior and reformer, even though it is frosty winter weather, and, as I look at his majestic figure, I can hear the Swedish army on the battlefield of Lützen singing the king’s own hymn of triumph:
“Fear not, O little flock, the foe That madly seeks your overthrow.”
It has been truly said the “sword of Gustavus Adolphus was mighty as the pen of Luther.”
Every year on the sixth of November a great procession of Swedes with bands and banners, led by the famous choral societies of Stockholm, proceeds through the streets on a triumphal march to the Church of the Knights, where the great king lies buried, a spot forever sacred to the lovers of freedom.
In the king’s park in Stockholm we find another interesting statue, that of Charles XII. He stands with his sword in one hand pointing with powerful finger to the Baltic, on whose shores he gained his greatest victories.
As I gazed at the noble statue, I thought how this great-grandson of Gustavus Vasa came to the throne as a boy of fifteen years of age. How three years after, Russia, with Peter the Great for her emperor; Poland, then the great power of central Europe; Saxony and Denmark all united their forces to crush this eighteen-year-old king and the country for which he fought so bravely. But he was equal to them all. One after another he conquered Denmark, Prussia, and Poland in the field, and for nine years with Sweden, a little nation of only two and a half millions of people at his back, he held them all at bay.
“With an army of eight hundred half-starved, half-frozen Swedes on a chill November morning he charged upon forty thousand Russians behind intrenchments at Narva and put them to utter rout, taking in prisoners alone more than double his little army.”
Many were his vicissitudes; defeated after nine years of victory by the Russians at Pultava, he had to flee to Turkey, hoping to enlist the sympathies of the Sultan against the Russians. For five years he remained there in exile, and then, almost alone, in an incredibly short space of time, made his way across Europe, and for years more fought the battles of Sweden against mighty odds, but with indomitable courage and often with success, until a bullet at the battle of Fredrikshald in Norway put an end to this heroic life and at the same time closed the era of Sweden’s greatness.
I cannot take you to all the statues of Stockholm to-day, Judicia, but there are two others which I think we must visit. As a lover of flowers you would never forgive me if we did not together make our obeisance before the monument of Linnæus. It is true that he is associated more particularly with Upsala and its university, where I hope later to see his grave, but he has a worthy statue in Stockholm in the Humlegård. There he stands in a benignant attitude that befits a great naturalist. I am glad that he is surrounded by the trees and plants and flowers that he loved so well and did so much to make us familiar with.
When a man is preëminently distinguished in one line, his services to the world in other directions are apt to be overlooked. Linnæus was not only a great botanist, but a distinguished physician and a brilliant writer on geographical subjects. He traveled much throughout Sweden, and our knowledge of Swedish life in the eighteenth century is largely due to his interesting and accurate accounts of his travels. He is said also to have created a new style of Swedish prose, and to have been as eminent as a teacher as he was as an investigator.
You would hardly recognize him under his Swedish name, Carolus a Ljnné, or Carl von Linné, as he is more commonly called. Linné was the most prominent lecturer of his time, we are told. “When he took a ramble, discoursing as he went and ‘demonstrating Flora’s charming children’ then Botany became the _scientia amabilis_, a knowledge of which was an honor for all, from royalty down to the poorest peasant.”
As I gazed at his statue, however, I could not help thinking, with a sense of mild pity, of the millions of school children with no great gifts for botanical research who have struggled over the two hard names which he set the fashion of assigning to every plant, one for the genus and one for the species; and who have studied, with many a groan, his system of identifying plants which seem to them as dry as the herbariums which they have been compelled to collect and arrange.
One other statue, among the latest erected in Stockholm, is of peculiar interest to Americans, for it commemorates the man who, more than any other inventor, saved the Union in the terribly black days of ’63. This man was Captain John Ericsson, the son of a Swedish miner, “born and brought up in a miner’s hut in the backwoods of Sweden.” On Sunday, September 14, 1890, the body of Ericsson was given over by America to the perpetual care of Sweden, his native land. It had been brought from New York in the warship _Baltimore_ by Captain Schley, who afterwards won his laurels on the coast of Cuba.
The body was placed on a beautiful pavilion, directly in front of the statue of Charles XII and very near one of Stockholm’s principal quays. With solemn ceremonies and appropriate words the body was conveyed by Captain Schley to the American Minister, and by him given over to the Swedish government, a Swedish admiral accepting it in behalf of his country.
All around the catafalque were magnificent floral emblems contributed by Americans and Swedes alike, and on the coffin itself was a _Monitor_ made of immortelles, in the American and Swedish colors, a white dove perched on the turret. This was the offering of the Swedish-American ladies who had crossed the Atlantic with the body. After these ceremonies the coffin was borne in state through the streets of Stockholm and carried to the little town of Filipstad, near which he was born. On the spot where the great funeral pavilion stood, by Stockholm’s quay, is now the monument to the inventor of the _Monitor_, the savior of the American Union, strong and massive as the man whom it commemorates. It will always be to every American the most admired of Stockholm’s many statues.
Wherein a jump is made from midwinter to midsummer, and the water journey from Stockholm to Upsala is described, during which the palace of Drottningholm is passed, and the famous ruins of Sigtuna, Skokloster Palace, with its rare art treasures, until we reach Upsala, the university town of Sweden, the “City of Eternal Youth,” with its thirteen “Nations.” Also something about the Codex Argenteus, the noble cathedral with its noted graces, as well as Gamla Upsala with the tumult of Odin, Thor, and Frey.
UPSALA, June 15.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
It is a long time, is it not, since last I tried to impress you with the charm of Sweden. Do not think for a moment, however, that I have given up the pleasant task. It is, as you know, simply because other duties have interfered with the pleasure of telling you about this part of the great northern peninsula, and in my more brief and fragmentary letters I could not attempt to do justice to this interesting part of the earth’s surface. Now it is approaching midsummer, the glad, high days of all Scandinavia.
But to go back a little in my story. What a glorious season is spring in these northern latitudes! I pity the people who must spend all their lives in the tropics and never know the joy of seeing old mother earth wake up from her long winter’s nap.
Considering its latitude, spring comes wonderfully early in Scandinavia. Even in February you can see the yellowing of the willow trees, and the catkins begin to show their downy faces on many a bush. Very early in March you will see little girls from the country on the streets of Stockholm and Upsala, selling the earliest wild flowers, that look like our hepaticas. Soon the ice in the great lakes in the southern part of Sweden breaks up, and from the Mälar huge cakes, on which you might build a little house and float out to sea, come rushing down through the city to the Baltic.
Perhaps you remember that when in midwinter I went to the far North to see a sunless day my railway journey took me through the university city of Upsala. In this balmy June weather I want you to go with me by boat, for it is by far the most interesting and picturesque way. Starting from the Riddarholmen quay of Stockholm, we are soon out upon the great lake which adds so much beauty to Stockholm’s environments. On all sides of us are Sweden’s vast forests of pine and birch, clothing the gentle hills to their very top and coming down to the shore until their feet are almost washed by Mälar’s ripples. On through a long, narrow arm of the lake we steam, being admitted to new beauties by floating bridges that open their doors for us as we approach. Each turn in the channel reveals something a little more beautiful than the last scene.
Nor is it rural loveliness alone that enchants one with this journey, for we are constantly getting glimpses of charming villas, old chateaux, castles, and occasional ruins, each one of which is alive with historic interest.
The great palace of Drottningholm, with its beautiful gardens, a favorite residence of the kings of Sweden, is one of the first palaces that we see. Soon after the chateau of Lennartsnäs appears, and we remind ourselves that it was once owned by Lennart Torstenson, a hero of the Thirty Years’ War, with whom I fear that neither you nor I are acquainted. And now we come to the old city of Sigtuna, whose inhabitants, like many of the people of Palestine, are indebted to their ancestors for the modest degree of prosperity which they enjoy to-day.
A famous American preacher once published an oft-quoted sermon on the “dignity of human nature as disclosed by its ruins,” if I remember the title correctly. The former dignity of Sigtuna is certainly disclosed by its ruins, for above the few and humble dwellings of the present day rise the ruins of three mighty churches, St. Olaf, St. Per, and St. Lars.
Sigtuna was destroyed by the Esthonians from Russia, when they raided Sweden away back in the year 1181. It is said that they carried off two great silver doors from one of these churches, and if you go to Novgorod, in Russia, perhaps you will see them doing duty in some Greek Orthodox church of the present day.
But the most interesting palace that we see on our way to Upsala is Skokloster. You will see that there is more than a suspicion of a cloister in this name, for the Cistercian nuns once lived in these woods in a forest cloister. But the palace that we see was erected by the great Field Marshal Carl Gustaf Wrangel, and by studying its treasures you can learn more in half a day about the Thirty Years’ War than by reading a small library of books. It is still in the possession of the descendants of the Field Marshal, and I venture to say there is no more interesting collection in the world of the relics of the titanic struggle that freed Europe from her long thralldom.
I did not count them, but I am told that there are over twelve hundred guns and eight hundred swords and daggers, most of them the relics of this war. An immense library, a splendid collection of old manuscripts, rare pictures, and porcelain make the palace far more interesting than most museums. There is one treasure which I have since read about and which I am very sorry I did not see. It is a little gold ring containing a ruby set in diamonds. “This is the ring the great Gustavus Adolphus gave to his first and only true love, the beautiful and gifted Ebba Brahe, on their betrothal. The diamond ring that Ebba gave to Gustavus in return is preserved in the sacristy of the cathedral at Upsala.”
Five of the love letters of Gustavus are still preserved, and no lover ever wrote more ardently or charmingly. But the course of true love is not any more likely to run smoothly with princes than with other people. Indeed I am not sure but the average man has a decided advantage over a prince in that respect. For though Gustavus and Ebba were betrothed, they were never allowed to marry. The old queen would not allow Gustavus to have a Swedish subject for his wife, but made him marry a German princess with few brains and small personal attractions compared with Ebba Brahe, while Ebba married a Swedish Field Marshal. This accounts for the fact that her engagement ring is treasured at Skokloster to-day, for the son-in-law of Field Marshal Wrangel belonged to the Brahe family, in whose possession it has remained ever since.
Does not this little romance seem to bring the great warrior a little nearer to us? As we think of that little ruby ring, he is no longer a demigod, but a disappointed lover, a lovelorn wooer, “sighing like a furnace”; thinking, no doubt, unutterable things about the stern old queen who would not let him have his own way.
It gives us a glimpse, too, of the influence of woman in those old days. Even the most advanced suffragette of the present time cannot make a British Prime Minister bend to her will, while one woman in the olden days was enough to make the greatest warrior of Christendom quail and give up the one on whom he had set his heart’s affection.
But if Skokloster detains us too long, I shall not be able to bring you to Upsala to-day. A few hours after leaving Skokloster, we enter the little Fyris River, which winds through a wide plain and takes us close to the heart of Sweden’s most famous university town.
One can tell that he is in a college town before the boat ties up at the wharf, for students in white caps have come down to the wharf to meet other students in white caps, who are coming back to their college duties. There are two thousand of them here, and nearly one hundred and fifty professors and instructors. A beautiful name has been given to Upsala by someone who calls it the “City of Eternal Youth.” A happy name indeed for any college town, where every six or eight years the student body wholly changes, and with every year new blood and young life is injected into the veins of the old institution.
Some educationalists think that our college course in America is too long, and that young men are consequently obliged to begin their life work too late. What would they say to Upsala, I wonder, where the course is from six to ten years, though the average age of entering is nineteen. Philosophy, law, and theology exact six years of study on the average, before the examinations can be successfully passed, while medicine requires eight or ten. Surely the doctors of Sweden should be well equipped for their life work.
Another unique feature of Upsala University is the institution of the “Nations.” These Nations are something like the Greek-letter societies of American colleges, with the important distinction that every student at Upsala must join one of the Thirteen Nations, and there is none of the snobbishness which is beginning to characterize some of our Greek-letter societies.
These Thirteen Nations all have buildings or rooms of their own, and each one is named after one of the provinces of Sweden, while a distinctive flag waving over the building shows what Nation inhabits it. The chief university building is worthy of any institution on either side of the Atlantic, but there is no great group of buildings or splendid quadrangle, and the first effect of Upsala as a university town is rather meager and disappointing. A homely brick building with a round tower at either end was formerly a royal palace, but is now used by the university.
Gustavus Adolphus, who had a hand in almost everything of importance in ancient Sweden, gave the university a splendid endowment, and sent back to it from his battlefields many of the spoils of war, among others a great library from Wurzburg, Germany. It is said that at the same time he forwarded the Twelve Apostles in silver and the golden Virgin Mary from the Wurzburg cathedral to the Swedish mint to be coined into _kroner_. He doubtless felt, like his great English prototype, Cromwell, that the apostles should “go about doing good.”
The chief treasure of Upsala is an old, time-worn parchment manuscript, in many respects the most interesting book in the world, for it is the only original Gothic manuscript extant and the only early source of information concerning the Gothic language, the oldest of all Teutonic tongues.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
The Castle at Upsala.]
The manuscript contains a translation of the four Gospels in Gothic by Bishop Ulphilas. The good bishop died in the year 388, and this copy was made undoubtedly within a century of his death. Not only did Ulphilas make this translation, but he invented the Gothic alphabet, some of whose letters show his indebtedness to the Greek. The letters are stamped in silver upon purple parchment, while some of the capitals and more important words are in gold or otherwise illuminated.
It has been said: “The old monk who laboriously stamped this parchment with his single types, a letter at a time, little knew how near he came to inventing printing, yet had he only combined three or four types together and stamped a word at once, the great invention would have been made there and then.”
I am not so sure of this, for our modern printing-press uses letters set one at a time, as the old monk used his hot metal types. But evidently the world was not yet ripe for Gutenburg and his printing-press, and it had to wait another thousand years for the invention that opened the aristocratic halls of learning to the democracy of the world. A saying of Max Müller’s is worth quoting for you here: “To come to Upsala,” he says, “and not see the Codex Argenteus would be like going to the Holy Land without seeing the Holy Grave.”
I am glad that the guardians of the Codex are fully alive to its unique value. Every night, in its silver case, it is locked up in a fire and burglar-proof safe, for the authorities remember that many years ago a watchman stole ten leaves of the Codex. For twenty years they were lost, and only on his death-bed the thief confessed his folly and drew them out from the pillow beneath his head. Such a theft seems to me a good deal like stealing a red-hot stove, or, perhaps the Mona Lisa, for how a thief could expect to dispose of any of these treasures or profit by them without discovery is a mystery.
Another building here, to which I must not fail to introduce you, is the splendid cathedral, the noblest church in Sweden and the historic center of the kingdom. It has recently been so thoroughly restored that all the old cathedral has been renovated out of it, except its memories and its tombs. Yet from the modern standpoint it is a magnificent building, nearly four hundred feet long, and with three beautiful Gothic spires that soar as many feet into the air.
The tombs have interested me the most, however. Here lies Gustavus Vasa, in a granite sarcophagus between his two wives, who in effigy lie on either side of him, while no thoughts of jealousy or rivalry stir their granite hearts. Here, too, is the charming philosopher and naturalist, Linnæus, whose statue in Stockholm I described, and Swedenborg, the great mystic, who could look into heaven and hell and describe what he saw there, and whose works, which have so strong a hold on a multitude of Americans to-day, are published and re-published in a multitude of languages.
I have been introducing you only to “new” Upsala, and to people and books that are not more than a thousand or fifteen hundred years old; but there is an old Upsala about three miles from the cathedral, which I have greatly enjoyed visiting. It is within easy walking distance on this bright June day, and I set out to find my own way to Gamla Upsala, which was not a difficult task in spite of my slight knowledge of the Swedish language, since the average Swede will take unlimited pains to tell a traveler what he wishes to know.
One of these polite gentlemen upon the street happened to hear me asking the way to Gamla Upsala. He was walking with his wife, and he told me to follow them and they would show me the way. I naturally supposed that they were going in that direction themselves, and trudged on behind them, since our limited knowledge of each other’s tongues did not allow much personal intercourse. They turned from one road into another, walking a good mile and a half, I should judge, until we came in sight of three singular mounds in the distance, a mile or more away. “These,” they said, pointing to them, “mark the site of Gamla Upsala.” Then they bade me a polite good afternoon and turned around to pursue their homeward journey. Apparently they had come all this way to show a solitary American the site of the ancient city and to make sure that he would not get lost on the straight and narrow road that leads to it.
As I approached the King’s Mounds, or _Kungs Högar_, I found that they were not unlike the _Bin Tepe_, or the Graves of the Thousand Kings on the Lydian plain, near old Sardis in Asia Minor. To be sure the tumuli of Lydia are for the most part far larger than the mounds of Gamla Upsala. Still these are very considerable tumuli, about sixty feet high and two hundred and twenty-five feet in diameter.
They are called the Mounds of Odin, Thor, and Frey, but you must not suppose, Judicia, that the old viking gods are buried here. By the way, where do you suppose such mythical personages are buried? But someone, not knowing who the ancient occupants of these graves might be, gave them these names, which certainly add to the interest of Gamla Upsala. I almost felt, as I scrambled to the top of Odin’s Hill, which is the largest of the three, that I was standing on the grave of one of the ancient gods.
Of course inquisitive moderns have not allowed the ancient bones in these tombs to rest in peace, but all that they found when they opened them were the half-burnt remains of some old kings whose names and dates nobody is wise enough to know, together with some pieces of gold and copper ornaments, some glass dishes, and bones of the kings’ horses and dogs, all of which were burnt apparently in the same great holocaust which consumed his mortal remains. Whether his wives had to share the fate of his horses and dogs, deponent saith not.
There is another interesting mound not far from Odin’s tumulus. It is twenty feet lower than his grave and has a large level space on the top. This is the hill where the ancient, open-air parliament was held and where, as late as the days of Gustavus Vasa, the kings were accustomed to address the people.
Gamla Upsala is now a very small hamlet with a little stone church, whose high and narrow windows and massive tower make it look more like a fort than a sanctuary. Upon this spot, we are told, once stood a splendid temple to the stalwart old gods who have given their names to the tumuli—Odin, Thor, and Frey. It is only a little more than a hundred years since this temple was destroyed and since priests still offered sacrifices, perhaps of human victims.
Let me close my story of Gamla Upsala with a sentence from the story of Adam of Bremen, who wrote his Chronicle in the very last days of heathendom, about the year 1070. “In this sacred house,” he says, “which everywhere is adorned with gold, the people worship the images of three gods, and this so that Thor, who is the mightiest of them, occupies the seat of honor in the middle, while Odin and Frey have their places on each side of him. When pest or famine is at hand, they offer to Thor’s image; when it is war, to Odin’s; at wedding celebrations, to Frey.” Adam also relates that near the temple stood a grove in which the bodies of victims, human beings as well as beasts, were hung up, “and this grove is sacred in the eyes of the heathen.” He says that “every tree in it is held to be divine on account of the death or blood of those offered there.” What a tremendous gap in the history of the world is indicated by the little distance between Odin’s Mound and that homely Christian church! What a tremendous advance from the big Gamla Upsala of the eleventh century to the little Gamla Upsala of the twentieth!
Which tells of Swedish lakeland; the commodious craft on which one sails through it; with some side remarks on the coinage of the country and the honesty of the people. Returns to the four great lakes, and tells of hill-climbing by steamer and going down hill by the same route across Vettern and Venern until the falls of Trollhätten and Gotenburg are reached.
LAKE VENERN, June 20.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
While I am sailing across this magnificent lake I must indite another epistle to you, telling you of the fascinations of Swedish lakeland. There will be plenty of time, too, to write you all about it, for Lake Venern is eighty miles long, the largest lake, if I am not mistaken, in all Europe, and our steamer traverses almost its whole length. Let me advise you, if you ever have another long holiday, to spend it among Sweden’s lakes. You have seen the Swiss lakes more than once, and the Italian lakes and the Cumberland Lake region of England, but in many respects Sweden’s lakes surpass them all in size, in picturesqueness, and in the convenient and delightful way one may get from one to the other. It is true that there is no Mount Pilatus in Sweden, or Monte Rosa, but there are other charms which fully make up for the lack of the mountain scenery one finds in France and Italy. And as for the little “waters” which one finds in Cumberland, they pale into insignificance beside these great reservoirs of the purest, most translucent water on the earth’s surface.
But the great advantage that they have over every other lake region in the world is that you can see all the great lakes in a three-days’ journey without leaving the very comfortable steamer on which you embark at Stockholm.
At Lucerne you can have a fine excursion on the _Vierwaldstättersee_, but, unless you come back by land, you must return by the same route to Lucerne. Your steamer cannot climb the hills and get over into Lake Geneva, or strike across country and find its way into Lake Thun and Lake Brienz; but that is just what you can do in Sweden. You can journey clear across the lower end of Scandinavia, from the Baltic to the Kattegat, passing through a continuous succession of the most delightful scenes, through rivers and canals, across lake after lake, past ancient castles that will tell you the whole story of Sweden, until at last you come out on the western sea and land at Sweden’s second greatest city, Gotenburg. In this journey you even climb some considerable hills without leaving your stateroom, unless you choose, or your comfortable seat on the steamer’s deck, and at some places in your journey you are more than three hundred feet above your starting point on the Baltic, or your arrival point on the Kattegat.
But let us begin at the beginning, for this journey is worth describing in detail. To begin with, the craft on which we set sail is no little motor boat or steam launch, as you might imagine when I tell you of its ability to climb hills, but a very substantial and commodious little steamer, with quite elegant staterooms, upholstered abundantly in red satin, and with two wide berths and ample toilet accommodations.
What a travesty it is, Judicia, to speak of many of the steamer cabins even on Atlantic steamers as “staterooms.” Rooms of state! Call them vaults, closets, or any other appropriate name. But, really, it is not very much of an exaggeration to call the cabins on the great Göta Canal line of Sweden staterooms. They are quite good enough for statesmen of average quality, and even royalty need not object to them for a three days’ occupancy.
The berths are not one above the other, to which the unfortunate man in the upper berth must climb by a precarious ladder, but are on either side of the room, and make very comfortable lounges by day. The table, too, on these steamers, is everything that could be desired; but that is to be taken for granted in Sweden. The _Smörgåsbord_ is abundant and varied, and the hot dishes are always admirably cooked. When your meal is finished you simply write down on a long account book which hangs on the wall what you have had, whether merely coffee (which includes all the cakes and sweet bread that you wish), or _Smörgåsbord_, or perhaps a full dinner.
At the end of the voyage the amount is reckoned up, and the cashier takes your word for what you have eaten. You are very likely to be surprised at the smallness of your bill, whether she is or not.
This trustfulness in your probity tempts me to dilate upon the refreshing honesty of these Scandinavian nations. Especially if you come direct from Italy, the contrast is most refreshing. You never have to scan your bills and add up the items to see that the cashier has not slipped in a few extra francs for his or her perquisite. You need not even count your change, unless you want to make sure that the change-maker has not cheated himself. You need never bite your money or ring it on the pavement to be certain that it is not bad; or examine the date on the coins to find out whether the smiling clerk who gives you the change is not working off some obsolete coins on you which you cannot honestly dispose of without a loss of fifty per cent.
In Scandinavia a _kroner_ is a _kroner_ and an _öre_ is an _öre_, and I should be as much surprised to find a bad coin in any of these kingdoms as to find one of the unmentionable little creatures, so common in some other countries, in a Scandinavian bed.
The coinage of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway is interchangeable. At any bank in any of the three kingdoms, or at any store where you may trade, you will receive money that is good in every other place, from Korsör to Hammerfest.
Each of these three kingdoms had its own money, with the head of its king stamped on its own coins, and its bank notes issued by its own banks. But Denmark’s money is exactly the same value as Sweden’s, and Sweden’s of precisely the same worth as Norway’s, and the money of each passes current at its face value in all.
If, my dear Judicia, you will bring this idea of an assimilated currency to the attention of all the great nations, and persuade them to accept it, you will confer an enormous boon upon every traveler.
During this monetary discussion we have not made much headway along the Göta Canal. Now I will make up for lost time. A few minutes after our steamer left the quay at Stockholm we found ourselves among the islands of beautiful Lake Mälar, famous in Sweden’s story, but before long we came to the deep cut by which the waters of the lake join a bay of the Baltic. Lake Mälar covers nearly five hundred square miles, and though less than a fifth part as large as Lake Venern, it is yet one of the greatest lakes in Europe. Let me at least make you acquainted with the names of Sweden’s four inland seas, which ought to be as familiar to a traveler like yourself, as Lake Como or Maggiore. They are the Venern, the Vettern, the Hjelmar, and Mälar.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
The Locks, Borenshult, Göta Canal.]
Mr. Von Heidenstam, in _Swedish Life in Town and Country_, says: “It is a common saying that you cannot stand on any given spot in these districts without having a lake in view somewhere, for by the side of the giant lakes smaller ones abound, spread over the face of the whole country. Of the hundred and ten millions of acres forming the surface of the country, over eight and a half millions are covered by lakes. Large and small, they dot the green earth with blue wherever the eye turns. The peasants call them the ‘eyes of the earth,’ and limpid and blue they are, like the eyes of the northern maidens.”
If you will consult the map you will easily understand our tortuous but delightful course across southern Sweden from Stockholm to Gotenburg.
The deep cut which I have told you about that leads from Lake Mälar to the Baltic Sea was soon passed (for in order to reach the great canal we must first get into the Baltic), and we found ourselves sailing among the beautiful islands and past the charming villas which dot the coast in this region. A few hours more and we entered another long, narrow gulf or fjord, until at Norrköping we struck the canal again. Before long we came to the fifteen steps by which our steamer climbs from little Lake Roxen to the level of the Vettern.
This is indeed the most delightful hill-climbing that I have ever enjoyed. From one lock to another the steamer rises, while the passengers can either stay on deck or they can get off and stroll up on foot.
We had plenty of time to visit Vreta Klosterkyrka, which is celebrated as the place where Ebba Leijonhufvud spent her widowhood and died in 1549. I do not know that Ebba was particularly celebrated for her exploits or for beauty of face or form, but she was the mother-in-law of Gustavus Vasa, and even that oft-derided relationship adds an interest to the place.
The beautiful church, which is built upon the ruins of the old cloister, contains the ashes of several kings, but these old forgotten worthies are not of so much interest as the coffins that we saw in another chapel of the church. There are five of them, piled one above the other, and each one contains a Douglas. The most famous Douglas of them all, a younger son of the head of the great Scottish clan, fought under Gustavus Adolphus in the Thirty Years’ War. For his bravery he was made a Swedish count, and many a Swedish noble with Douglas blood in his veins lives in Sweden to-day.
By the time we had sauntered slowly up the hill and had visited the site of Gustavus Vasa’s mother-in-law’s cloister, and ruminated sufficiently on the past, we were ready to take the steamer again for another lovely sail down an arm of Lake Vettern to Vadstena, and here we had time enough to go ashore and see another castle of Gustavus Vasa’s, who seems to have sprinkled his residences all over this part of Sweden. Here, we are told, “he celebrated his marriage with his third wife, Catarina, a blushing bride of sixteen, though the bridegroom was almost four times as old, and this, too, notwithstanding that the girl was already betrothed to a noble youth, and ran away and hid herself in her father’s garden when the old king came to court her.”
In Vadstena are two churches, each some five hundred years old, one of which is famous as the last resting place of St. Bridget, to whom I have already introduced you, for here she had founded the celebrated nunnery, whose inmates had to take such strict, ascetic vows.
Across Lake Vettern we sailed through another canal, that led us between charming pastures, musical with the tinkle of cowbells; past fine farms, the red farmhouse making a spot of color on the rich green turf; past gently wooded hills, until we came to magnificent Lake Venern. But we had to get downhill before we reached the Kattegat, for we were one hundred and forty-four feet above the sea, and eleven great locks, each of them one hundred and twelve feet long, is the stairway by which we descended.
Since it took some time for our steamer to go down the hill, we walked instead, for we get many a glimpse from the shore of some of the most beautiful rapids I have ever seen. These are the falls of Trollhätten. Is not that a name that lingers upon your lips and suggests all sorts of trolls and sprites and water nymphs? A tremendous volume of water comes rushing down over the falls, for Europe’s largest lake, as I have before told you, here empties itself, or rather throws itself into the sea. Except for its one majestic fall, Niagara cannot show us anything more exciting in the way of cataracts than Trollhätten. There are five of them, the smallest twenty-five feet high, and the biggest forty-two feet of steep incline, while the river is lined on either side by jagged rocks and high cliffs, past which it comes surging and swirling with deafening roar, hurling its spray high in the air.
I wish the poet-laureate Southey had seen the falls at Trollhätten and had expended some of his adjectives upon them instead of wasting them all upon that little streamlet at the end of Derwent Water when he wrote “How the Waters come down at Lodore.”
At the foot of the falls we took the steamer again for a few hours’ sail down the Göta River, until we came to Sweden’s greatest commercial city, Gotenburg, where steamers are waiting to carry Sweden’s products and Sweden’s emigrants to the ends of the earth.
I fear I may have given you the impression, as I have described the getting up and downhill across Sweden’s broad southern end, of merely a holiday waterway, but the Göta Canal is the great artery of Sweden. Through it, up and down these gigantic steps, pass twelve thousand vessels every year, some of them steamers capable of making an Atlantic voyage, some of them full-rigged schooners or brigs.
The charm of the trip, too, is not by any means confined to the scenery or the ancient castles, for our fellow passengers, by their gentle politeness, do much to make the journey memorable. If you had been with us, they would have taken pains to find out any titles which the American colleges may have incautiously conferred upon your husband, and would always address you as the “Lady Doctor.” They would not think of using the word _ni_ (you) in addressing you. We are told about one of the young lady clerks in a great store in Stockholm who sent word to a gentleman that his son had insulted her. On asking the girl what the insult was, she replied: “He addressed me as _ni_.” I am speaking now of the way in which chance acquaintances or strangers address one another.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
The Gorge of the Göta at Trölhatten.]
But now and then, as we hear our fellow passengers talking together, we notice a peculiarly affectionate stress of accent upon the little word _du_, and we know that the two men who are talking together are fast friends, or they would never address each other as “thou.” “The event marks an important stage in their friendship, it is said, and is accompanied by a little ceremony. The higher in rank, or the elder of the two, says, ‘Let us lay aside our titles.’ Pouring out bumpers (let us hope it is always in Sweden’s temperance beverage), they stand erect, and clinking glasses drink the brothers’ _Skol_. Then, grasping each other warmly by the hand, they say: ‘Thanks, brother.’ Thereafter they are ‘_du_ brothers’; they always address each other as _du_, or ‘brother.’”
This custom of _fosterbrödralag_, or foster brotherhood, is as old as Sweden itself, but in olden times the foster brothers instead of clinking glasses cut gashes in their arms and let their blood mingle together as it fell to the earth, a too strenuous ceremony for these milder-mannered days.
Have I not told you enough, Judicia, to prove the proposition with which I set out: that there is no more charming journey in the world, when we consider the scenery, the historic associations, our means of conveyance, and our fellow passengers, than this trip through Sweden’s magnificent Göta Canal?
Describes the ancient city of Visby; the Gotlanders of old; their wonderful wealth; their defeat by King Valdemar, and the vats of gold that he demanded for the city’s ransom. Returning to more modern days, Midsummer’s Day, the great holiday of Sweden, is described.
VISBY, June 24.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
Please refer to the map once more, and you will see in the blue water, nearly halfway between the Swedish coast and the Baltic province of Russia, a long, scraggly island, with many capes and indentations. You will see that it is called Gotland, and on its western shore you will see that there is a city called Visby. I do not know that I can give such a traveler and geographer as yourself any real information about Gotland, but I will at least venture to refresh your memory concerning this most interesting island, for a very considerable part of the world’s history for a good many scores of years centered in this piece of sea-washed land, which contains barely twelve hundred square miles of surface.
At one time Visby, which has now dwindled to a somewhat obscure tourist resort, was the London of northern Europe. The East and the West paid their tribute to it. Russia sent her timber and her furs, and England and Germany and Flanders their precious stuffs, which were here exchanged for other precious stuffs and then went their several ways to all parts of Europe.
One of their old ballads tells us:
“The Gotlanders weigh their gold with twenty pound weights, And play with choicest jewels, The pigs eat out of silver troughs, And the women spin with golden distaffs.”
That the old ballad had some foundation in fact is shown us by the splendid ruins that tell us of Visby’s former greatness.
Throughout Gotland there are no less than ninety great Gothic churches, most of them in ruins, while in Visby alone were sixteen of these churches, some of them among the largest in Europe. So much has the city dwindled that in only one of these churches is heard the voice of prayer and praise to-day. The walls of ten others can still be seen, but they are merely magnificent ruins.
That the ancient Gotlanders were proud of their splendid isolation, in the middle of the Baltic, and were not inclined to bend the supple knee to any potentate, is indicated by a tradition that has come down to us, of the ambassador whom these island people sent to the king of Sweden to seek an alliance for mutual offense and defense. This ambassador was named Strabagn, which being interpreted means “Long Legs.”
When he reached Upsala, where was then the royal palace, he found the king and queen dining in their great banquet hall. The king had a grudge against the Gotlanders, whom he considered too toplofty and independent, and so Mr. Longfellow was kept standing in the hall while the royal pair continued their sumptuous meal. At last the king condescended to ask gruffly, “What’s the news from Gotland?” “Nothing” replied Strabagn, “except that a mare on the island has foaled three colts at a birth.” “Ah,” said the king, “and what does the third colt do when the other two are sucking?” “He does as I do,” answered Long Legs; “he stands and looks on.” This stroke of wit pleased the king and queen so much that they invited the ambassador to make a third at their table, and were finally willing to conclude a treaty which was as much to the advantage of Sweden as of Gotland.
The thirteenth century was the Golden Age of Gotland. In this century the great warehouses were built, and it became the commercial metropolis of northern Europe. There were few stronger fortresses in the world, for an enormous stone wall thirty feet high surrounded the city, and from the wall no less than forty-eight huge towers arose.
It does not take much imagination to reproduce ancient Visby, for thirty-eight of the forty-eight towers are still standing. They are more than sixty feet high, and one can see in each of the five stories the holes through which the archers fired their arrows, doubtless winged with death for many a foe, while from the battlemented top of the towers huge stones were thrown from the catapults.
But in spite of Visby’s isolation, and in spite of her mighty fortifications, she was not impregnable as she supposed, for in 1361 Denmark, which in those early days seems to have always been the evil genius of Sweden, sent an army under the command of King Valdemar Atterdag to capture the city. The people behind their strong fortifications at first laughed at him and mustered all their troops to defend the city, but Valdemar was victorious, nearly two thousand of Visby’s noblest defenders were slain, and the city was at the mercy of the Dane.
He would not accept its surrender and accord it the honors of war, even after it had capitulated, but tore down a part of the wall to prove his ruthless might and marched as a conqueror to the center of the city.
One is reminded by Valdemar’s conquest of the hard terms that Pizarro made when he conquered the Peruvians. You remember that for the ransom of King Atahualpa he went into a great room, and drawing a red mark on the wall as high as he could reach he told the Peruvians that they must fill that room with gold as high as the red mark if they would release their king from bondage and save him from death.
King Valdemar did something of the same sort to the Visbyites, for he took the three biggest ale vats that he found in the city and commanded the people to fill them with gold and silver within three hours. So frightened were the inhabitants by his bloodthirsty cruelty that they obeyed, stripping themselves of their golden ornaments, rifling their churches and their treasure-houses, until the big vats were full to the brim.
But even this did not avail to save them from further rapine, for Valdemar made a clean sweep of all that was left and poor Visby was plundered by the rapacious troops of all her riches.
I should like to be able to tell you that I saw the bones of Valdemar Attardag safely encoffined where he could do no more harm, but the next best thing was to see the _Jungfrutornet_, or the “Maiden’s Tower,” where, according to tradition, the noble maid who opened the gates of Visby to the Danish king, whom she loved, was walled up alive. You need not waste much sympathy on this maiden, however, for I am told on good authority that she is a strictly mythical girl, and that her story was invented by the people of Visby to account for what many believed was a somewhat cowardly capitulation of the city to the Danes.
King Valdemar, however, must have had one or two redeeming traits of character, for he erected a great stone cross on the battlefield to commemorate the death of the eighteen hundred citizens whom he slew. The cross can still be seen, scarcely marred by the passage of these five hundred years, and the inscription on it is not a record of triumph so much as a memorial to the dead.
You have noticed, perhaps, that this letter is dated “June 24.” This date may not have any great significance for you, but it is a high day in Sweden, perhaps the most joyous of all the year, for it is Midsummer’s Day, the day without a night in many parts of this northern land.
In almost every village in Sweden you will see to-day a _Majstang_. Perhaps you can guess that a _Majstang_ is a Maypole, though I think I hear you say, “Why have a Maypole in June?” The Swedish word for May, _Maj_, is an ancient term meaning “green leaf,” and June 24 is preëminently the Feast of the Green Leaf.
It is not the somber evergreens, however, that decorate the windows at Christmas time and that stand dressed with Christmas candles and Christmas gifts; the Midsummer Tree is the birch. If it should ever be put to a vote in Sweden, I think the Swedes would decide that the birch is their most beloved tree. It is equally beautiful in summer and in winter. In the former its delicate drooping branches are covered with green, and in the latter with white. There is nothing quite so lovely in the northern latitudes as the birch trees silvered with a thick coating of frost in midwinter, unless it be these same birch trees in their glad green livery in midsummer.
On June 23, in preparation for Midsummer’s Day, all the lads and lassies that you see in the country will have a load of birch boughs on their shoulders. In Stockholm hundreds of wagons and little steamers bring tens of thousands of young birch trees to the city, and every window and doorway is decorated with its delicate green. Even the dray horses are decked out in green, and “the wearing of the green” is more popular in Sweden on June 24 than in Ireland on March 17.
This is the out-of-door festival of the country. At Luleå in the far north the people all flock on Midsummer’s Eve to a mountain near by called Mjaolkudds Berget. Here each family builds a small bonfire and over it makes their coffee, which is supposed to have a peculiar flavor and potency on Midsummer’s Eve. The midnight sun cannot quite be seen from Mjaolkudds Berget, but according to the ancient custom the coffeepot must be placed on the hot coals just as the last rim of his upper disk disappears. Before the coffee is brewed, the upper disk is again visible above the horizon, and then the coffee can be drunk by every member of the family, from the great-grandmother to the youngest scion.
This of all days is a day of life and color in Sweden. Let us not stay in little Visby, with its mournful ruins reminding us of the golden days of Gotland, but go out into the country, for nature is ever fresh and new. She knows nothing about ruins, or, if she does allow some giant tree to totter and fall in the forest, she soon covers up his decaying form with moss and creepers. The colors that we see are not all green by any means, for this is the day when Swedish maidens adopt the bright, ancient costumes of their country, the Crown Princess herself having set the example. The Maypole is set up on every village green, and the children first are given the right of way. Hand in hand they romp around the Maypole, singing the folk songs and the glees which Sweden’s children for many a generation have sung on Midsummer’s Day. Then the older ones take their place, and all is motion and gladness and color and song.
If we should find ourselves in the woods after the day’s festivities are over, we should very likely see some silent, solitary maidens wandering through the fields, in the long twilight which here lasts till midnight. Do not think that they are lovelorn lasses deserted by their swains, for they are simply seeking to know their own fortunes, which Midsummer’s Night reveals to them. In one of the provinces the maiden must pick three flowers each, of three different kinds, and must speak to no one until the next morning. These flowers she puts under her pillow when she goes to bed, and if she has been conscientiously tongue-tied, and has been quite alone when she picked the flowers, and has replied to every question which teasing suitors would put to her only by signs, she will dream of her future husband, and the next morning will know who he is to be.
In other provinces she has to pick nine different kinds of flowers from as many different farms, and this bouquet is even more efficacious than a smaller one. Why should we not have such a midsummer holiday in America? It is true that we have our Fourth of July, which is not very far from the right date, but, however “safe and sane” we may make it, the Fourth of July can never be anything but a patriotic holiday, nor should it be.
Thanksgiving Day is too late in the year for an out-of-door holiday, and the thirtieth of May is dedicated to a sacred celebration all its own. But why should we not have one genuine out-of-door day, a day when we shall see to it that every city child may romp and play in God’s green fields, and when we may make it a joyous duty to thank the Giver of all, not only for the harvests and for the full granaries as on Thanksgiving Day, but for the sun and the green trees and the flowers and grass and everything that makes us glad to be alive? What day could be so good for such a celebration in America as well as in Sweden as Midsummer’s Day?
Before we bid good-by to Gotland and Visby, let us climb in the late evening twilight the ruined towers of the church of St. Nikolaus. From the old wall we can look out to sea, and if our imagination is strong enough, supplemented by a sufficient knowledge of old traditions, perhaps we shall see an eerie, reddish light on the calm waters of the Baltic. This light comes from two great carbuncles in the bottom of the Baltic. These carbuncles once adorned the western gable of the church of St. Nikolaus, where, according to the tradition, “these carbuncles shone with the brightness of the sun at noonday, throughout the night, and served as guiding lights to storm-tossed mariners far out on the Baltic wave. Twenty-four soldiers stood constantly on guard to watch these ruddy gems, the most precious possessions of the church, and no one, on pain of death, might approach the sanctuary after the going down of the sun.”
[Illustration: Ruins of St. Nikolaus Cathedral, Visby, Gotland.]
King Valdemar could not leave such priceless jewels to St. Nikolaus, and so he snatched them from the rose windows which they adorned, put them on his biggest ship, and sailed away to Denmark. But justice followed the sacrilegious freebooter; his ship was wrecked on one of the little islands which line the coast of Gotland, and the king himself barely escaped with his life. The carbuncles sank to the bottom of the sea, which accounts for that strange glow which any one with a vivid imagination can see from the ruined tower of St. Nikolaus as he looks off on the peaceful Baltic.
Wherein something is told of Sweden’s art and artists; the ancient rock-cutting of Bohus; the art treasures collected by the heroes of the Thirty Years’ War; Cederstrom’s picture of Charles XII; Carl Larsson’s pictures of the home; the mural paintings of the schoolhouses; also something about Sweden’s great authors and singers.
STOCKHOLM, June 30.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
With your love for libraries and picture galleries I should not dare to send you this last letter from Sweden without telling you something about the Swedes who have contributed to literature and art, though, if I should attempt to go into the subject exhaustively, I fear that many names of Swedish artists and authors would be unfamiliar even to you.
Sweden’s first and original art gallery is a strange one indeed, for it is unroofed except by the blue dome of heaven, and not a canvas hangs upon its walls. Nevertheless it is one of the most interesting galleries in all Europe. It is found in the province of Bohus, on the west coast of Sweden, north of Gotenburg. Shall we call these old artists sculptors or painters? The material that they used was the solid rock, the face of the cliffs that slopes up gently from level fields. They did not chisel out a statue, but with some bronze tools in lieu of brushes they cut the figures which they would portray in the rock, not making them stand out as does the Lion of Lucerne, but cutting them like solid intaglios in the face of the rock itself.
So shallow are the cuttings that water has to be poured upon them to bring the figures out from the gray rock in which they are cut, but as the water trickles down from the bucket which the stout maiden who acts as guide and guardian of this picture gallery splashes upon the rock, wonderful shapes appear: viking ships, some large enough to be manned by a crew of one hundred men, evidently the warships of the long ago; men on horseback and men on foot; men plowing with yokes of oxen, while now and then there towers above all the men and beasts a gigantic figure with an ax or a thunderbolt in his hand, no doubt the God of War under whose ægis the old Northmen went out to battle.
The most common of these rock pictures are the representations of the viking ships, showing that in those days, as in these, the Scandinavians were great sea-faring people. The prows of these ancient piratical craft one often sees reproduced on the roofs of Swedish and Norwegian houses to-day. Of course these pictures are very crude, very much such as a child of five years of age would draw upon his slate to-day. But that is natural, for you must remember that they were drawn in the childhood of Scandinavia, at least twenty-five if not thirty-five hundred years ago, for it has been proved conclusively that they were chiseled by men of the Bronze Age of Sweden, which lasted from fifteen hundred to five hundred years before Christ.
We are very grateful to you, crude artists of the older time, for your pictures, for they tell us many things about ancient Sweden. They tell us that you sailed the seas in great ships rowed by a hundred men, though you do not seem to have known how to harness the winds to your craft, for we see no signs of masts or sails. We know that you had dogs and cows and horses, and that you plowed your fields with a crooked stick drawn by a pair of oxen. We know that you had carts that ran on two wheels, and that you were expert with spear and shield, and I venture to say that your art museum, old as it is to-day, will last longer than the Pitti or the Uffizi; and long after Macaulay’s New Zealander has gazed upon the ruins of London from his picturesque position upon the bridge, the pictures in your gallery will still lead mankind to speculate upon the kind of folk whom you chiseled in the everlasting rocks. No fire can destroy your gallery, no thief can steal your Mona Lisa, no conqueror can carry away your art treasures.
It is a far cry from the rock galleries of Bohus to the fine collections of old and new masters of which Stockholm and Gotenburg boast. Some of the finest pictures, too, are not found in the metropolis of either eastern or western Sweden, but in the palaces and castles which dot the interior of the country. I have already told you about some of these palaces like Skokloster and others, which contain Correggios and Titians and pictures of Paul Veronese, for in the Thirty Years’ War the mighty Swedish generals fell heir to many of the splendid picture galleries of southern Germany, and all they had to do was to pick out the best pictures by the greatest masters and send them to their northern home.
In those days “looting” was not “stealing,” at least in the eyes of the victors, and they had this excuse at least, that the pictures and works of art, if _they_ had not taken them, would have fallen into worse hands. They would have reminded you that their great opponent Tilly, when he captured Heidelberg and destroyed the library, could find no better use for the most valuable manuscripts than to use them as a litter for his horses. In this way the Codex Argenteus, of which I have before written you, was taken when the Swedes captured Prague and sent on its far journey to Upsala.
I am afraid that most of the names of Swedish artists would hardly be recognized by you, though I think you would admire some of their paintings as much as I do. I have time and room in this letter to tell you of only two that greatly interested me.
Baron Cederstrom devoted himself to the period of Charles XII, whose tragic story you remember. Cederstrom’s greatest picture shows the body of the king borne on a stretcher by a dozen soldiers over the dreary, snow-covered, mountainous defiles that separate Norway from Sweden. “The pathos of this pitiable end to so glorious a career appears in the attitude of a solitary mountain huntsman, who, with his boy and dog, stands by the wayside as the procession passes. He is the only one to doff his fur cap and salute the remains of one who but a short time before made half Europe tremble, while the other half was lost in amazement at his extraordinary fortunes and prodigious victories.”
Another artist whose pictures are of unusual interest is Carl Larsson, the most popular artist in Sweden to-day. He is the painter of the home, of the fireside and the nursery, of the sitting room and the kitchen, of the boy and girl and the grandmother as well. His own son and daughter figure in many of his pictures.
One that especially impressed me was a canvas representing this same son and daughter gazing at a skull on the center table in their home. The look of serious half-comprehension on the girl’s face as she points out the skull to her brother, and of half-frightened awe with which he gazes at it, will not soon fade from my mind. Another portrait of his daughter leaning against a birch tree, the white bark and new leaves no purer than her own sweet face, is also a picture to be remembered. It has been copied upon so many postcards that the Swedes, at least, are not likely to forget it.
Mr. Von Heidenstam well characterized Larsson when he says: “His audacity, his love of novelty and adventure, the freshness of his impressions, the youthfulness of his enthusiasms, and his whole vision of life are Scandinavian to the core. In his pictures of home life, mostly taken from his own home, he is genial, happy, fond of bright colors, of flowers and sunshine, enraptured with existence, and prone to see its bright side.”
The Swedes are wise in not relegating all the paintings of their best artists to museums or picture galleries, which are seldom visited by the people, but many of the higher and even primary schools in Stockholm and other cities have been adorned with mural paintings by their best artists: Larsson, Prince Eugene, Oscar Björck, Thegerstrom, and Nils Kreuger are all well-known painters, who have put some of their best work upon the walls of Sweden’s schoolhouses, picturing landscapes, national customs, and some of the great events in Sweden’s history, and placing them where Sweden’s children cannot help being impressed by them.
I cannot honestly say that the chief charm of Sweden consists in the spell which her artists have woven about her, and I suppose few people would come to Sweden to study art. Her real fascination lies in her glorious out-of-doors—in her noble forests, her shimmering lakes, her glorious snow fields and frost sculpture in winter, her rushing rivers and turbulent rapids—all these things I have tried to tell you about, and this is the raw material of the artist.
Compared with Italy or Spain, Sweden’s art is yet very young, but, with such models as nature’s lavish hands has furnished on every side, it seems to me very probable that the great artists of the future will be found in these Scandinavian lands.
I wish they would spend more time in Lapland in midwinter. I wish they would paint for us the little trees that Jack Frost converts into white coral every day. I wish they would paint for us the rare combination of sunrise and sunset, and the glowing sky where the sun never rises at all. I wish they would show him to us not only on the longest day of the year at midnight, as they have often done, but on the shortest days, as he peers timidly above the horizon, or goes bowling along for an hour or two on its very edge. These are pictures which no country but Sweden furnishes in their perfection, and pictures which the Swedish artist could most easily reproduce and which would make his canvas immortal.
The authors of Sweden are many and well beloved. I can name but two of them here, though I fear the Swedes will never forgive me if I do not mention Bellman, their Robert Burns, and some others. I pick out these two because they are as well beloved in America as in Sweden. Tegnér is one of them. He may be called, perhaps, the Macaulay of Sweden, only his lays are not those of ancient Rome, but of ancient Sweden. Someone has said that “his heroic poems sent a thrill through old and young when first they were published.” He became popular throughout all Europe, and more than fifty translations of his poems are found in a dozen different European languages.
Longfellow made him known and loved by American readers by his beautiful translation of the _Children of the Lord’s Supper_. “The scene in the country church, decked out with flowers and evergreens for the solemn ceremony, the rustic boys and girls bowing and curtsying as they made their responses before the assembled congregation, and the attitude and words of the patriarchal pastor are all true to life.”
Another of your best-loved authors, Judicia, I must remind you, was also a Swede—Frederika Bremer. She was also more than a writer of charming tales. She was an ardent champion of woman’s rights, but I warrant you she would never have used dynamite in obtaining them, or have poured paint into letter boxes to secure “votes for women.” Her good work for their uplift is still carried on by the “Frederika Bremer Union.” It protects and encourages women who are struggling to make a place for themselves in the world, and seeks in every way to raise the standard of woman’s work and wages. Our former American Minister, Mr. Thomas, gives an interesting account of a call he made upon her in 1864, nearly fifty years ago, only a year before her death:
“Up three flights of a stone stairway to a little landing, I make my way,” he says. “A curtsying Swedish maid answers my knock and shows me into a cozy sitting room. Presently a little old woman with a decided stoop in her shoulders enters and meets me with extended hand and a pleasant smile, bidding me welcome with one of the sweetest voices I ever listened to. This was one forenoon in January, 1864. The cozy sitting room was in Stockholm in the fourth story of a brick house, on the long Drottning-Gatan, and the little old woman was Frederika Bremer, the great Swedish novelist.”
This was in the darkest period of our Civil War. Mr. Thomas asked Miss Bremer for her autograph for the Sanitary Commission Fair, soon to be held in New York, explaining that the proceeds would be devoted to the sick and wounded soldiers. “It will give me real joy,” she said, “to do anything to help on liberty in America, or to comfort the soldiers who have become disabled in fighting for it.” Her eyes beamed brightly as she spoke, and her whole manner showed how actively she was interested in our cause and country.
“This interesting _tête-à-tête_ gave me the best opportunity for observing Miss Bremer,” continues Mr. Thomas. “The stoop of her shoulders was hid in the ample cushions of her easy chair. A neat, white lace cap covered her head. Her gray hair was brushed straight back from a noble, lofty forehead, white as marble, and her mild blue eyes beamed with a tender compassion that made one forget the great author in the sympathizing friend and compelled me to call her beautiful, for beauty of soul shone forth in every glance.”
I have quoted this intimate description, for there are few living Americans who have actually seen and talked with the gentle authoress, and I fear me there are few Americans who read her books to-day, but you have not forgotten how, in our early days, her pure and wholesome novels were justly admired and loved.
Do you remember the little girl who for some childish misdemeanor was shut up in a dark closet as a punishment, and how she found there Miss Bremer’s _Home Life_, and how she lay down at full length on the floor, placing the book as near the crack of the door as she could, reading the story nearly half through before the time of her punishment had expired? She gained more from her punishment than anyone but herself knew, for Frederika Bremer’s charming picture of home life remained with her as an inspiration through all her life.
Speaking of our early days, Judicia, I was reminded that we must belong to a former generation when I asked Aylmer when we were together in Luleå what he knew about Jenny Lind, the great Swedish soprano. Would you believe it, he had never heard of her? The singer who made the greatest sensation in America of anyone that ever crossed the ocean; the singer who was as good as she was beautiful, and whose voice was no purer or sweeter than her life! We at least know how the ticket offices were besieged by eager thousands who wished to hear her voice, and what extravagant prices, as they were then considered, were paid for her concerts. And yet Aylmer had never heard of this most famous of all northern warblers, of this great philanthropist, as she became in her later life! Moreover he confided to me that he had never heard of Christine Nilsson, a more modern singer of almost equal fame. Well, well, we must be growing antiquated!
There is one man who to be sure cannot be classed as an artist or an author, and yet I suppose he has done more for literature as well as for science and the cause of peace than any other man in Sweden. This is Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, an article which we chiefly associate with war, but which has really done more to revolutionize mining and engineering. Thanks to dynamite, it has been possible to bore the mighty tunnels through the Alps; to knock down the iron mountains of northern Sweden and send them off piecemeal to other parts of the earth; to dig the subways of New York and Boston and Chicago, and to tunnel the North River for the commuters of Manhatten. No man ever did more good with his vast wealth, or disposed of it more wisely when he died, than Alfred Nobel, and now each year magnificent awards of some forty thousand dollars each are given by this foundation to people who have achieved great things in physics, in medicine, in literature, and for peace.
You will observe, Judicia, that I have not bored you with any stories of Swedish games and sports, of skiing and ski jumping, of bobsleighing and rodeling, and that I have not even alluded to Swedish gymnastics. There is a method in my seeming madness, for though I am much interested in these matters, especially in the out-of-door sports, I am not quite so wild about them as is Aylmer, and, since they are common to all Scandinavia, I will leave them for him to describe and thus give his Norway a great advantage, when you come to hold the scales of justice between the eastern and western lands of the peninsula. But I beg you to remember that Sweden is quite as famous in these particulars as her sister kingdom across the mountains.
Relates to Finland; why it should be included in Scandinavia; its earlier and later history; its degradation by Russia; the charming journey from Stockholm to Åbo; and tells of a winter adventure in the Gulf of Bothnia.
ÅBO, FINLAND, July 1.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
I wonder if you are asking why I include Finland in the letters which we submit to you in regard to the relative merits of the different parts of Scandinavia. Do I hear you say that Finland is a part of Russia, and that the Finns are not even of Aryan stock like the Swedes, but are descendants of Turanian tribes, “first cousins to the Hungarians, and forty-second cousins to the Turks”?
Nevertheless, in spite of all this, I must maintain that Finland is more a part of Scandinavia and more nearly related to the Swedes in customs, temperament, and manner of life than to any other nation. The Swedes were the people who found the Finns in barbaric heathenism, who Christianized and civilized them, though it must be acknowledged that, in doing this, they conquered and sometimes exploited them at the same time. For four hundred and fifty years after this conquest by Sweden the Finns constituted a loyal and devoted part of the Swedish kingdom, speaking the Swedish language almost as freely as their own, adopting Swedish laws and customs, and equal in political and social rights to their neighbors across the Gulf of Bothnia.
It was only about a hundred years ago that they were conquered by the Russians, when, after centuries of struggle, Sweden’s domains were rent in twain.
To prove my contention that to all intents and purposes Finland should be considered a part of Scandinavia, I must remind you that long before the Finns came to Finland the southern part of their country was doubtless inhabited by Scandinavians. One writer tells us that they were there “thousands of years before the Finns arrived.” But way off beyond Persia were some Turanian tribes, related to the Mongols and the Manchus, who started on that everlasting trek toward the west, which, since the days of the Pharaohs, seems to have urged the Eastern peoples on toward the setting sun.
They seem to have tarried in Persia for awhile and to have brought with them some Persian coins, which to this day are occasionally unearthed in Finland. On and on they pressed, the first of the Eastern hordes to cross the Ural mountains, until they came, some to the banks of the Danube and others to the shores of the Baltic. The tribes who settled the fertile plains of Hungary are the Magyars of to-day; those who pushed on to the Baltic Sea are the Finns.
Eric XI of Sweden was the first king to turn his attention particularly toward Finland. He seems to have desired not only the conquest of the Finns but their conversion to Christianity, and so he is known both as King Eric and St. Eric. It was no easy job, however, to conquer this slow, obstinate, patient race, and it was one hundred and fifty years, or, to be exact, in 1293, that Sweden’s conquest was complete. She soon set an example to all future conquerors, an example by which Great Britain has so well profited in these later days by giving perfect liberty to the conquered peoples and confirming their liberties by an irrevocable law.
Nothing better ever happened to the Finns than this conquest by the Swedes. Christianity, civilization, education, and an invaluable training in liberty under law was the result, until the descendants of those wild tribes from the steppes of Asia have become one of the most civilized, enlightened, and perhaps the best educated nation in the world.
Says Ernest Young, in his interesting book on Finland: “It is a remarkable fact that the Finnish and Swedish populations of Finland, though running like two different streams beside each other without blending, never rose against each other, but, on the contrary, always stood side by side in the same rank whenever sword was drawn at home or abroad. There was rivalry between them, but no oppression.… The laws and social order of Sweden were introduced without resistance into a country where law and society did not exist before. The people grew into these new forms, applied them according to their characters, and became familiar with them as their own.”
Would that Russia could have learned a lesson that Sweden taught to all the world, concerning conquered provinces. At first it seemed as though she had done so, and no one ever spoke fairer words to a conquered people than Czar Alexander I spoke to the Finns through the Governor-general in the “Act of Assurance,” given to the first Finnish Diet that convened after the cession of Finland to Russia by the Swedes.
At first it seemed as though these fair promises would be fulfilled, and for a time, doubtless, Finland was better off under Russian rule than she had been during the hundreds of years previously when she had been the battleground, continually tramped over by Swedish and Russian soldiers, and reddened with their blood as well as by that of her own citizens.
Each succeeding Czar seems to have treated Finland according to his own whims, or those of his prime minister, and with little consideration to the fundamental laws of the land so solemnly guaranteed and sworn to by each Czar as he came to the throne.
Little by little the Russians have been filching away the liberties of the Finns, depriving them of one boon after another, and ever threatening them with still direr evils. Finnish soldiers are no longer allowed to enlist for the defense of their fatherland, but instead they must pay a tribute to Russia and allow uncleanly Russian soldiers to be quartered in the beautiful barracks built for their own troops. Finnish stamps are no longer good for letters that go outside of Finland, and the _marks_ and _pennys_ in which they have reckoned their currency from time immemorial must give way to the more awkward _ruble_ and _kopeck_ with which they would prefer to have nothing to do.
In mean and picayunish ways the government interferes with their liberties. For instance, the people voted not long ago for the prohibition of alcoholic drinks, but the Czar, in his superior wisdom, doubtless absolutely inspired by his ministers, decreed that prohibition was not good for the Finns (and very likely not good for the Russian revenues), and so vetoed the law which had met with universal favor.
The Finnish Diet meets in a rather shabby and antequated building, but the people have obtained a good site for a new parliament house and have raised the money for the construction of a splendid building that would ornament the fine city of Helsingfors. Now the Czar tells them that they cannot afford a new building, and withholds his approval, so that they cannot do what they please with their own money. Some think that since he has had no use for a Finnish parliament, and soon intends to suppress it altogether, he sees no use for a parliament house.
The Finns number only three millions of people, and the Russians on their very borders, people of an alien race and an alien religion, who have scarcely yet emerged from barbarism, are more than a hundred million strong, and that tells the whole story.
The trek that was begun by the Finns before the Christian Era has been again taken up since Russia began to stamp out their liberties. More than three hundred thousand of them have come to our shores, and no people should receive a heartier welcome in Yankee land than they.
“In 1894 a statue to their beloved Czar, Alexander II, was unveiled at Helsingfors, a statue which is one of the noblest works of art in the capital and which is still often decorated with wreaths and flowers by the grateful Finns. It is almost unbelievable that when this statue was unveiled the Governor-general forbade the singing of an ode written for that occasion, because he took the phrase ‘The Father of Finnish liberties’ to imply a condemnation of his less enlightened successor.”
Perhaps you would like to read a translation of one verse of this ode, which tells of the gratitude of the Finnish people to the one who restored their liberties, while at the same time it shows how far removed from such praise is a government which could prohibit the singing of such a hymn. Here is the first verse:
“Hail noble prince! From town and land Our greetings come, from isle and strand, From forest, hill and dale. Wherever Finland’s folks may rest, Their debt for all they value best, In love to thee they pay.”
This excursion into Swedish history is longer than I intended, and has prevented me from telling you before that I left Stockholm last night on one of the delightful little steamers that ply across the Gulf of Bothnia from Sweden’s capital to Åbo, the ancient capital of Finland.
It is a charming sail. Much of the time we were within sight of land, and some of the most picturesque land in the world. A perfect swarm of islands of all sizes and shapes guard the coasts both of Finland and Sweden. Some of these islands are tree-clad down to the water’s edge; others are bare, gaunt, smooth rocks, whose surface has been washed by ten thousand storms—I was about to say ten thousand tides when I remembered that the Baltic is almost a tideless sea. It is a sea, too, that is being constantly conquered by the land, for, through some unexplained action of mighty subterranean forces, without volcanic shock or earthquake tremor, the land both of the Swedish and Finnish shores is gradually rising. On the northern end of the Baltic the land gains on the water at the rate of about four feet in a hundred years, and that the sea is at a very different level from what it was some thousands of years ago is shown by the fact that the remains of viking ships are found on the tops of very considerable hills at some distance from the shores.
After sailing across a strip of clear water free from islands, between which we thread our way for three hours after leaving Stockholm, we come to Mariehamn, about halfway between the two shores. Then comes another little stretch of clear water, and then another great archipelago like the one on the Swedish shore, and between hundreds of little islands and great islands our steamer makes its way to its berth in the port of Åbo.
Very much like its neighboring shore on the opposite side is the approach to Åbo. Some of the islands are mere bare rocks, sticking their heads only a few feet above the surface of the sea, while others contain farms and forests and a considerable population. Many beautiful villas adorn some of these islands, and a rare place they afford for a holiday or a summer residence.
But the Finnish shore can boast islands enough to furnish one for every day of a decade, and before the next decade is over very likely some new ones will arise above the surface of the water, like the one which had almost come to the surface in 1907, but not near enough to be charted, or to prevent the wreckage of the Czar’s yacht upon it.
Sweden and Finland rest upon the same submerged plateau of solid rock, which adds another proof to my contention that, for all practical and descriptive purposes at least, Finland must still be considered a part of Scandinavia.
Though one crosses the Gulf of Bothnia in the night, he does not cross in the dark, for at this midsummer season there is no real darkness in this fairyland of midnight dawn. I was reminded very forcibly by contrast of the last time I crossed this bit of blue sea, for it was then a white sea. As far as the eye could reach, it could rest upon nothing but ice, solid fields of it, to the north and south, to the east and west.
Soon after we started it grew dark, for it was midwinter then. A blinding snowstorm came on; the road-way between the ice floes was a narrow one, and, that we might keep a straight course, a powerful searchlight rigged to the foremast was set blazing, and its blinding white light, far out over the expanse of ice and snow, showed the narrow line of blue through which we must steer. Sometimes we would pass a steamer with a searchlight of her own, dazzling us for a moment with her radiance, while we returned the compliment by throwing our searchlight into her eyes.
Men with lanterns and sledges came from the towns on the shore, far out from the land, to get the cargo meant for their port, and could come right up to the steamer’s side, for the ice made a continual wharf forty miles long to the sea.
When we struck the ice on the Finnish shore we found a different “proposition,” which the little _Wellamo_ attacked right bravely, and for six hours or more we made good headway. When the ice was only three or four inches thick she would go through it as a cat would go through a pan of cream; when it was six or eight inches thick it was like plowing through soft butter; when it grew to be a foot thick it was like cutting our way through a stiff old cheese; and when the ice became two feet thick or more it was too much for the _Wellamo_, powerful as her engines were.
She would fall back and butt the ice again and again and again, but it was of no use. She would crunch it under her forefoot, and would almost rise on top of it, but it would always pile itself up in resistless masses in front of her.
Another ice-breaker came out from the Finnish shore to help us, but she proved of no avail, and was soon fast and tight in the ice two hundred yards from us. All day long the captain and crew worked to get us free. A dozen men with ice picks and axes hewed away at the frosty enemy that held us fast, but why the captain let them wear out their muscles in attempting the impossible I could not understand, for a tribe of Brownies might just as well attempt to level the Andes.
Families of seals came up through their breathing holes to look at us. They usually consisted of the old father and mother seal and one or two white, shaggy little babies, that looked like little polar bears. They were very tame and would let me go within twenty feet of them, when I left the steamer to pay them a visit. Then they would waddle off into the water. Sometimes a mother seal would poke her baby off the ice floe into the water out of harm’s way, which the little fellow apparently resented, for he would shake his shaggy head and scramble up on the ice again.
Surrounded by these interesting and novel scenes, we spent thirty hours ice-bound in the Baltic. Then the biggest ice-breaker of all, the _Sampo_, came to our rescue and landed us safely in Finland, after two nights and a day in the ice floe.
I was forcibly reminded of this memorable journey, because last night we sailed on the same stanch little steamer, the _Wellamo_, across smiling waters and between charming islands, with the sun to light our way for the most part instead of the electric lights, and when we reached the harbor there was that same benevolent old _Sampo_, the ice-breaker, that released us from our imprisonment, lying at the wharf. Her occupation is gone for the present, for, until next winter at least, she will not have to relieve any smaller steamers in distress, but can shove her ugly but useful nose in and out among the islands, whose people doubtless welcome her coming as we so gladly welcomed her on that January night which I have described.
The interesting sights and peoples whom I found on my arrival in Åbo I must describe in another letter.
Relates to Åbo, the ancient capital of Finland; tells of its famous castle and the picture of the scene once enacted there; its market place; its hospitable people; its fine old Cathedral; the tombs of the heroes of the Thirty Years’ War and of Queen Katherine, the peasant queen of Sweden.
ÅBO, FINLAND, July 10.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
Finland has four important commercial ports—Åbo, Hangö, Helsingfors, and Viborg. The two former are available in winter, for though not ice free, as the experience I related in the last chapter proves, the icebreakers can usually plow their way through and reach their berths in the course of time. Helsingfors and Viborg, however, are usually impossible in the winter time.
I was not sorry that my engagements led me first to Åbo, for historically it is the most interesting town in Finland. It is true that it is robbed of its ancient glory as the capital of the country and the seat of its great university, for both the capital and the university have been removed within the last hundred years to the more eligible site of Helsingfors. But Åbo has lost little time in crying over spilt milk or bewailing its ancient glories. Especially of late she has been making the most of her fine situation, as the city nearest to its neighbor, Sweden, and has greatly developed its commercial possibilities.
The port is a mile or more away from the heart of the city, with which it is connected by a line of electric cars. Almost the first thing that I saw on landing was a huge building covered with gray plaster. I found it difficult to decide whether it was a warehouse, a factory, or a prison. I was wrong in all my guesses, for it was Åbo’s famous castle, one of the great historic landmarks of Finland, and now converted into a museum, where one can study the costumes, the ancient armor, the furniture, and the articles of home life of this hardy, vigorous race.
The scene of one of the most interesting pictures that I ever saw is laid in this old castle. It is by Edelfelt, and now hangs in the national gallery at Helsingfors.
In a room of state in the old fortress lies an open coffin, in which is seen the face of a stern warrior with a long, flowing beard. Another soldier is standing by, with wrath upon his features, and, violating the sanctity of death, he pulls violently at the dead man’s beard. A lady of noble mien is standing near, resentment and haughty indignation depicted on her queenly face.
The great picture, perhaps the most famous and dramatic one ever painted by a Finnish artist, tells its own story, and when we know a little of Finnish history we can easily interpret it. The old man in the coffin is Klas Fleming, the commander of the castle; the soldier standing by and pulling the dead man’s beard is Duke Carl of Sweden, afterwards King Charles IX, who was striving to gain the throne and whom the Finns had vigorously opposed in favor of Sigismund their king. The duke could not capture the castle while the old commander was alive, but when he was killed it soon capitulated.
Angry at the long resistance, Duke Carl could only vent his wrath by showing an indignity to the dead. Turning to the commandant’s wife, who was standing by, he said, “If your husband were living his head would not be as safe as it is now.” But the countess, undaunted, replied, while her eyes flashed fire, “If he were living, your highness would not be here.”
There are two more very interesting centers in Åbo of which I must tell you. One is the market place, and the other the ancient cathedral. In the market place one can learn what people are to-day; in the cathedral one can learn from the monuments and the inscriptions something of what they were seven hundred years ago.
These open markets in the central square of most European cities are a great institution, and if Americans really want to reduce the cost of living, about which we all talk so much and so vehemently, they cannot do better than to establish such a country market in every considerable town throughout the Union.
To the market place in the center of Åbo come the farmers and their wives from all the surrounding country, some with large loads and some with little loads, but all ready to sell to any customer an infinitesimal quantity of their produce for an infinitesimal price. You can buy a single egg, or one carrot, or three or four potatoes, or a pat of butter that would not weigh an eighth of a pound, and you pay only what a single carrot is worth, or the price of an eighth of a pound of butter.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
Interior of a Finnish Cottage.]
The lady of the house, even if she be a lady of high degree, does not consider it beneath her dignity to go to market herself, though she may often send her maid, or take her along to carry the market basket. In this sort of marketing you do not have to pay two or three middlemen’s profits, nor do you have to pay your grocer or butcher for the salary of several high-priced attendants and for an automobile, or a two-horse team to deliver the goods.
The most curious thing I saw in the Åbo market was the bread, which was being peddled by many an old woman from the back of her cart. The cheaper kinds are made of rye meal, and are as hard as the nether millstone. The loaves are flat and about the size of a dinner plate, with a large round hole in the middle. They would make admirable quoits, which you know is my favorite game, and if my Finnish friends would not have considered it altogether too frivolous I should have bought some of these loaves and inaugurated a quoit tournament on the spot.
In some places the bread is baked only once in six months, and the older the bread the harder to masticate.
Some edibles are “not as nahsty as they look,” as our English friends say of certain of our American dishes, but to the uninitiated this Finnish black bread is quite as nasty as it looks, for it is sour as well as hard, and in the back districts, when harvests are poor, chopped straw and bark are mixed with the meal.
I would not have you imagine, however, for a moment, that in the well-to-do families, or in the comfortable hotels and restaurants, we are reduced to such fare as this. In fact, I know of no country in the world, unless it be Sweden, where food is so abundant, so varied, and so deliciously cooked.
As I wandered in and out among the stalls of meat and vegetables and bread and cheese, woolen stockings and aprons, and butter and sausages, where one could find almost anything he might want to eat or drink or wear, I was most interested in the faces of these rugged, weather-beaten peasants.
Ernest Young has well described the character of the Finnish people when he says: “Nature, fate, and tradition have stamped a common mark on the Finnish type of character, which, indeed, varies considerably in the country, but is easily recognized by the foreigner. The general traits of character are hardened, patient, passive strength; resignation; perseverance, allied to a certain obstinacy; a slow, contemplative way of thinking; an unwillingness to become angry and a tendency, when anger has been aroused, to indulge in unmeasured wrath; coolness in deadly peril, but caution afterwards; … adherence to the old and well known; attention to duty; a law-abiding habit of mind; love of liberty, hospitality, honesty; a predilection for religious meditation, revealing itself in true piety, which, however, is apt to have too much respect for the mere letter.”
My own briefer acquaintance with the Finns has confirmed Mr. Young’s study of their traits of character, and I could imagine that even in the market place, as I walked back and forth, I could discover in the faces many of these admirable traits.
When one meets the upper, I will not say better classes, one is sure to be charmed with his Finnish friends. Their abundant hospitality, which always presses upon us two cups of coffee (delicious coffee at that) when you really only want one; their deferential courtesy, shown not only in words, but in a multitude of kind and thoughtful actions; their intelligence; their intimate knowledge of the great world outside their own boundaries; their pleasing vivacity (for in this respect they differ from the quiet stolidness of the less educated peasantry) all these qualities combine to make them the most charming of hosts and companions.
The cathedral of Åbo stands not far from the market place, across the little river that runs through the town, and on a sightly eminence of its own. It was begun in 1229, and was not finished until the year 1400. How patient these old builders were! They did not run up their jerry-built houses and churches in a month, but when they were built they stood for centuries.
This cathedral is of purely Gothic architecture, much like the cathedral in Upsala, and it dates from about the same period. It has not been renovated out of all resemblance to its original self, however, like the Upsala dome, and on that account is more interesting, in my opinion. The lofty brick walls are scarred by the storms of the centuries and eaten out here and there by the tooth of time, but the church is well preserved in spite of its nearly seven hundred years, and is filled, Sunday after Sunday, with a throng of honest worshipers.
The mural paintings about the altar, though of modern date, are well worth studying, one of them, especially, which represents the first baptism in Finland at a spot very near to Åbo by Bishop Henrik, an English missionary, who in 1157 undertook the perilous task of converting the heathen Finns. The good bishop died in Finland, and was buried in this old church, where his bones rested in peace until 1720, when the Russians, for some unexplained reason, dug them up and carried them off. No man in these days knows his sepulchre. In some of the side chapels are buried heroes of the Thirty Years’ War, famous generals—whose suits of armor, scarred and dented by the enemy’s bullets, still stand beside their tombs.
The most famous tomb of all in the old Dom Church is that of Queen Katherine of Sweden, wife of Eric XIV, the oldest son of Gustavus Vasa. Eric had a checkered career, both politically and matrimonially. He was finally deposed from the throne, but while he occupied it his hand had been refused by Queen Elizabeth, by Mary Queen of Scots, and by two German princesses. He seems to have been very cosmopolitan in his love affairs, wooing Protestant and Catholic, Anglo-Saxon and Teuton with equal avidity. At length, having apparently no luck in court circles, he turned to a beautiful girl among his own people, and married a peasant’s daughter named Karin (or Katherine) Månsdotter. The following is the story which one often hears in Finland:
“One day King Eric was strolling through the market place at Stockholm, when his attention was attracted by a singularly fair and graceful child, the daughter of a common soldier, who was selling nuts. He sent her to his palace to be educated, and when she was old enough he asked her to marry him. All kinds of objections were raised by his nobles and his relatives, and accusations of witchcraft were made against Karin, but the wild and passionate monarch took his way and married the little nut-seller. Then a brother prince, who felt deeply the disgrace that had been brought upon the royal order by this unseemly match, sent Eric a present of a handsome cloak in the back of which was sewed a patch of rough, homespun cloth. Eric accepted the gift, had the patch of homespun embroidered with gold and studded with jewels until it was the most brilliant and valuable part of the garment, and then returned it to the donor.”
The peasant queen well repaid his love and devotion. She was buried in Åbo Cathedral, where her great black marble sarcophagus reminds every visitor of the little nut-seller who became a queen and who showed her queenly qualities in adversity and exile. A stained-glass window in the cathedral shows her dressed in white robes, with a crown upon her head, stepping down from her throne on the arm of a Finnish page.
The country round about Åbo is, for Finland, fertile and productive, and in this region is made much of the delicious butter that is sent to England, and often much farther afield, but which on its way through Denmark often gets labeled “Danish butter.”
It is interesting for those who butter their bread with the Finnish product to know that in the many steam creameries “the dairymaids in spotless white linen dresses and aprons receive, weigh, and sterilize the milk before it is made into butter, while all the churning, scalding, and butter-packing rooms are models of cleanliness.” It is always a wonder to me why countries that make such delicious butter seem to be so fond of margarine, for everywhere on the railway stations, in the tramcars and in the newspapers in Scandinavia one sees “Pellerin’s Margarine” advertised. But there are some questions which polite travelers must not be too inquisitive about, and this is one of them.
Butter would naturally lead us to cows (unless the suspicions excited by these advertisements turn us aside), and cows lead into the country, but I have not room in this letter to tell you of country life in Finland, a fascinating theme, which must be reserved for another letter.
Wherein something is told of the charming lakes of Finland and the canals that link them together; of the “Kalevala,” the great Finnish epic; of the Finnish farmhouse, without and within; of the inevitable bathhouse; of a melancholy Finnish wedding and the more cheerful Finnish funeral.
IN FINNISH LAKELAND, July 10.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
If you will study for a moment your _Universal Atlas_ you will see that “Lakeland” is a most appropriate name for Finland, for, if the land in your atlas is represented as white and the water as blue, you will find Finland more than a quarter blue. In the southern and most populous part of the peninsula there is more lake than land in many sections.
The country has been called, poetically, the “Land of a Thousand Lakes,” but this title has “the power of an understatement.” To call it the “Land of Ten Thousand Lakes” would still be below the truth. Why could not the geographers, while they were about it, have given this romantic country a more romantic name? “Finland” or Fen-land, as the word means, suggests bogs and swamps and impassable morasses. The name “Suomi,” by which the Finns designate their beloved country, is no better in its implications, for that, too, means “Swamp-land.”
However, since we cannot change the name we must take out of it all suggestions of miasmatic swamps and read into it suggestions of sparkling waters, cold and limpid; of birch-bordered lakes, studded with emerald islands; of quiet thoroughfares of water that lead from one lovely piece of water to another; a country where you can journey for three days through a constant succession of beautiful lakes without retracing your steps.
Man has assisted nature in making this waterway, and it is especially interesting to Americans to know that the great Saima Canal, which links together the longest stretch of lakes, was built by Nils Ericsson, the brother of the immortal engineer who built the _Monitor_, and who invented the screw which to-day drives every ship across the Atlantic.
None need ask for a more delightful trip than on these lake-linked canals, where one is continually passing from one lovely sheet of water to another, which now expand into a little wave-lashed sea, now narrow to the dimensions of a river. Again our boat twists around a granite headland, stern and precipitous; then skirts a tree-clad shore, or a meadow spangled with flowers of many colors, and again threads a narrow, tortuous passage for a mile or two, or is hoisted by a convenient lock to a higher level and another equally beautiful lake. The scenery is wilder but no less beautiful than in Swedish lakeland, which I have before described.
[Illustration: In Finnish Lakeland.]
Though our vessel is driven by steam and not by wind, one can appreciate the lines of the ancient Finnish poet who wrote:
“Pleasant ’tis in boat on water, Swaying as the boat glides onward, Gliding o’er the sparkling water, Driving o’er its shiny surface, While the wind the boat is rocking, And the waves drive on the vessel, While the west-wind rocks it gently, And the south-wind drives it onward.”
What poem do these lines remind you of, Judicia? I know that you will promptly respond _Hiawatha_. But the Finns would put it the other way about, and tell us that _Hiawatha_ reminded them of the _Kalevala_, and they would be right, for Longfellow learned this meter from a German translation of _Kalevala_, a meter in which all varieties of Finnish verse are written. _Kalevala_ means the “Land of Heroes,” and is a long poem describing every phase of Finnish life, animate and inanimate. It is a collection of the folk lore and ancient runes of the people, gathered together with infinite pains and put into modern rhyme and meter by Elias Lönnrot, a poor country doctor, who spent all his life in an inland village but yet made the greatest of all contributions to Finnish literature. We must take the _Kalevala_ along with us as we travel through Finnish lakeland.
This unknown old poet of the folk songs, who wrote before the recorded history of Finland began, serves as a pretty good botanical guide to the trees and shrubs along the banks of this great waterway when he tells us that Sampsa, the good and all-powerful genius of the older time, planted the trees which delight us in these later days.
“On the hills he sowed the pine-trees, On the knolls he sowed the fir-trees, And in sandy places heather; Leafy saplings in the valley. In the dales he sowed the birch-trees, In the loose earth sowed the alders, Where the ground was damp, the cherries, Likewise in the marshes, sallows. Rowan-trees in holy places, Willows in the fenny regions, Juniper in stony districts, Oaks upon the banks of rivers.”
When we think of the way in which a noble birch tree is often stripped and scarified by the boys who covet its bark, and the deer that love its leaves, and the winter frosts that make its gaunt boughs shiver in the cold winds, what can be prettier than the “Birch Tree’s Lament,” as described in this ancient poem:
“Often unto me defenceless, Oft to me unhappy creature, In the short spring come the children, Quickly to the spot they hurry, And with sharpened knives they score me, Draw my sap from out my body, Strip from me my white bark-girdle, Cups and plates therefrom constructing, Baskets too for holding berries.”
“And the wind brought ills upon me, And the frost brought bitter sorrows, Tore the wind the green cloak from me, Frost my pretty dress tore off me, Thus am I of all the poorest, And a most unhappy birch-tree, Standing stripped of all my clothing, As a naked trunk I stand here, And in cold I shake and tremble, And in frost I stand lamenting.”
In the course of our lake journey we pass countless farmhouses, all of which have common characteristics. Many are painted red and make vivid spots of color on the landscape, either in the midst of the green of summer or the white of winter. One large corner of the living room is devoted to a huge fireplace, in which great logs glow and cheerily crackle throughout the long, cold winter. On the rafters overhead dried vegetables are strung in festoons, or hoes, rakes, and fishing tackle adorn the ceiling.
The one piece of furniture of distinction and honor is the long sofa which graces one side of the room. What the throne is to the king’s palace, the sofa is to the peasant’s home. Says Paul Wainemann in his _Summer Tour in Finland_: “The right-hand corner of the sofa is the Holy of Holies and is always reserved for the governor’s wife, if she graces an assembly with her presence. Beside her would sit the wife of the official next highest in rank. An unmarried lady under no provocation would be tempted to seat herself on the sofa, it being considered the height of indecorum to do so, as well as being a sure and certain sign that she would remain a spinster to the end of her days. Needless to say, a mere man would be hounded out of the room if he even attempted to commit such an appalling breach of etiquette.”
I must say that in the last respect, though a mere man myself, my experience has been different from that of Mr. Wainemann, for I have frequently been urged and sometimes almost compelled by my Finnish hostesses to take the honored seat on the sofa, a seat which I could not refuse without an undue struggle to show humility and politeness.
An interesting and admirable addition to almost every Finnish home in the country is the bathhouse, which is usually built separate from the dwelling house. The Finns and the Japanese are the only two peoples whom I know who realize the virtue of a hot bath and almost daily indulge in it. The Englishman enjoys his cold tub, and carries his absurd bathtub with him, whether he is going to Timbuctoo or to the next town in his own country. The modern American can hardly exist in a house that does not contain one or more set bathtubs with hot and cold water, but the Finn and the Jap are the only peoples who believe in the hottest kind of a hot bath, though the Russians and Turks indulge in them occasionally.
In the country bathhouse unhewn pine logs often form the walls. A big, inclosed fireplace or stove of rough stones is built in the middle or on one side. When the stones are sizzling hot, an abundance of water is poured upon them, and in the steam, which seems almost scalding, the Finn lies down and enjoys the moist relaxation to his heart’s content. When he has enjoyed this sufficiently, he beats himself or his next neighbor with bunches of fragrant birch twigs, while his neighbor returns the favor. When he has been sufficiently soaped and rubbed and flogged with twigs, he jumps into the cold lake, if it be summertime, or rolls in the snow in winter. I have never seen it myself, but I am told on good authority that in the evening it is no uncommon sight in the country to see a row of naked men sitting outside the house, having just completed their cold plunge.
That this Finnish bath is an immemorial custom is shown by the fact that in one of the folk songs of the _Kalevala_, Anniki, the little sister of Ilmarinen, “the great primeval craftsman,” says to him:
“Now the bath-room’s filled with vapor, And the vapor-bath I’ve heated, And have steeped the bath-whisks nicely, Choosing out the best among them. Bathe, O Brother, at your pleasure, Pouring water as you need it, Wash your head to flaxen color, Till your eyes shine out like snow-flakes.”
In these pleasant farmhouses by which we glide so rapidly in our little steamer how many human comedies and tragedies must have been enacted; how many joys and sorrows have found place beneath these roofs? Births and betrothals, weddings and funerals, each has brought as much ecstasy or grief as the same events bring to the noble chateau or lordly palace.
You remember, Judicia, how we have sometimes been amused at the profound melancholy which occasionally invests a wedding at home. Do you remember how we have seen the weeping mother of the bride or groom sobbing out her congratulations, and how sometimes the whole assembly was almost dissolved in tears.
Well, in the olden times the Finns carried the mournful wedding to the nth degree of melancholy. As late as 1899 a writer in a popular magazine, speaking of a Russian wedding just across the Finnish border, says: “Such a thing as a radiant bride is unknown in those regions, and the chief idea seems to be to make as great a show of grief as possible, and to make the function as dismal as a funeral.”
A weeping wedding is not now known in Finland except in the remotest districts, but I am told that not long ago a company of professional wedding weepers were brought to Helsingfors from the far north to show how they could enliven marriage festivities and to remind a modern bride of the customs of long ago.
The _Kalevala_, that thesaurus of rhythmical information concerning ancient customs, tells us what was said to the bride before she left for her new home, to make her thoroughly appreciate the old homstead, and also the way in which she replied to the jeremiad. I will quote for you a few more lines:
“Hast thou never, youthful maiden, On both sides surveyed the question, Looked beyond the present moment, When the bargain was concluded? All thy life must thou be weeping, And for many years lamenting, How thou left’st thy father’s household, And thy native land abandoned, From beside thy tender mother, From the home of her who bore thee.”
And the lugubrious maiden replies,
“Blackest trouble rests upon me, Black as coal my heart within me, Coal-black trouble weighs upon me.”
[Illustration: In Eastern Finland.]
A funeral could hardly by any possibility have been more solemn in the ancient times than a wedding. Indeed often it must have been a more joyous occasion, for I am told that in some sections, even to this day, after the relatives have kissed the corpse, all the guests present shake him by the hand, and that the friends usually speak of him not as dead, but as one “whom it hath pleased God to take.”
You can see what a delightful experience a voyage through lakeland must be, in the midst of such charming and ever-changing scenery, the human interest constantly kept alive, not only by the abundant life along the shore, but by the unforgotten customs of the past which the _Kalevala_ has so beautifully preserved for us.
There are other and more thrilling voyages through the “Land of a Thousand Lakes” than the one I have taken you upon to-day. The trip, for instance, down the rapids of Uleå, which is made every day of the tourist season in long, narrow rowboats, under the care of skillful licensed pilots. The canoe trip from Moosehead Lake in Maine to the St. John River in New Brunswick through the Allegash waters is not unlike this journey down the Uleå River, though the passage of the many rapids is usually less thrilling. But in Finland, as in Maine, it takes a cool and skillful hand to pilot the frail craft down these ripping, roaring rapids. Now it looks as though the way was blocked up by a jutting headland; again it seems as if our craft would be dashed to pieces against a gigantic boulder in mid-stream, but always in the Uleå, as in the Allegash, the turn of a paddle avoids the threatened danger, and our boat floats out into smooth waters to the peaceful thoroughfare below the rapids.
But it is hopeless to attempt to describe all the interesting matters that cluster around country life in Finland. Here is a country as big as all Great Britain, with the Low Countries across the Channel thrown in. Who would have the nerve to attempt to describe country life in Belgium, Holland, Ireland, Scotland, and England in one letter? The very magnitude of the task must be my excuse for the fragmentary incompleteness of my attempt.
Which has to do with Tammerfors, the “Manchester” of Finland, and the railway which takes one thither; its remarkable church; the Wounded Angel and the Garden of Death; also something about the church boats of the country districts, and the strange notice given from the pulpit.
TAMMERFORS, FINLAND, July 15.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
Tammerfors is an inland city on the edge of the great lake region of which I wrote you in my last letter. I had to come here by rail, and perhaps you will be interested to know something about the railways of Finland. I must confess that as means of communication they cannot rival the steamers on the lakes and canals, but, as in most other countries, they are a very necessary evil, and, since in Finland they run on well-ballasted roads for the most part and burn fragrant wood instead of ill-smelling coal, their nuisance as smoke and dust producers is reduced to a minimum.
They are practically all owned by the State, and as the State is in no hurry to get its inhabitants from one place to another, or to get them out of the country, should they be bound to emigrate, the average rate of speed is not more than fifteen miles an hour. Even the express trains between Helsingfors and St. Petersburg are no cannon balls or “Flying Yankees,” for a mile in three minutes and ten seconds is the best they attempt to do for the whole journey.
Still if you have time enough at your disposal you can travel a surprisingly long distance in Finland for a surprisingly small amount of money. The third-class fares (and the third class is patronized by the great majority of people) costs less than a cent a mile, and you can go clear around the east coast of the Gulf of Bothnia to its northern tip, if you are so disposed, and at Haparanda can almost shake hands with our Swedish friends, whom I visited in Luleå a few months ago.
I would not advise you to take a third-class car if you intend to take a long journey in Finland, for the hard, yellow, wooden seats get decidedly tiresome before you have jolted over a hundred miles of Finnish scenery. The second-class cars are entirely comfortable and even luxurious on the principal lines, and you can settle down happily in your plush, springy comfort, usually having a whole seat to yourself.
The first-class accommodations, as in Sweden, are only distinguished from the second by the placard on the door or the window and by your own inner consciousness that you have paid considerably more than your neighbors for the same accommodations. Most of the cars are more like our American cars than the ordinary European coaches, with an aisle down the middle and seats on either side, though the same car may be divided into two or three compartments with doors between.
The stations are modest, wooden buildings, and, except for the numerous signs of margarine, beer, and other comestibles with which they are decorated, I could readily mistake them for railway stations in northern New Hampshire or western Dakota.
One could never, however, mistake a Finnish railway restaurant for a similar institution in America. Here one sees no quick-lunch counter, no aged sandwiches made the day before yesterday, no greasy doughnuts or any impossible concoction misnamed “coffee.” Here everything is neat, nice, and orderly. The coffee is sure to be delicious, for in the meanest Finnish hut, even in far Lapland, the proprietor would be ashamed to give you anything but a steaming and fragrant cup of their national beverage. With the coffee, and for the same price, you get an unlimited supply of little cakes or sweetbread, while if you want a full dinner of three or four courses, superbly cooked and elegantly served, it will cost you only two and a half Finnish _marks_, or about fifty cents, for a Finnish _mark_ differs from a German _mark_ in being of the same value as a _franc_.
Outside the station, in rows along the platform, I often see old women with baskets of apples or plates of fried meat or cakes, or loaves of coarse bread and bottles of milk, just as we saw them in that long journey across Siberia in the early days of the Trans-Siberian Railway. You remember how eagerly we used to race for the bread and milk stalls to get our supply before the little tables were swept bare by the hungry travelers? In Finland one does not have to be a sprinter in order to get his share of the food, for there is always an abundant supply at the restaurants. The old women on the outside, because of the cheapness of their wares, are largely patronized by the poorer people.
The notices in the stations and in the cars about smoking, spitting, putting your head out of the window, standing on the platform, and so on, are printed in six languages: Finnish, Swedish, Russian, German, French, and English, and the maps and diagrams and time-tables are so full of helpful information that no wayfaring man need go astray.
In one respect the Finnish railways differ from the Swedish, though they are such near neighbors. The Swedish trains glide away like the Arab when he has folded his tents, without making any fuss about it. No bell is rung, no whistle blown, no word of command given. The station master simply waves his hand when the exact second for departure has come, and unless you keep your eyes wide open, and your watch exactly with railway time, you are likely to see the rear car of the train vanishing in the distance while you make frantic but unavailing attempts to catch it. In Finland, on the contrary, there is no danger of your being left, for first the station bell rings, then it rings again, then the conductor blows his whistle, then the engineer answers him with the locomotive whistle, and by that time, everything being good and ready, the train will slowly get under way.
Tammerfors might well be called “Grand Rapids,” a name indeed which is not far from its Finnish significance, for through the center of the city rushes a tremendous stream of water, over rapids that make it swirl and eddy and shoot its spray high in the air. This river Tam affords a splendid water power for the principal manufacturing city in Finland, and is lined with great cotton and woolen mills and paper factories, which rightly give the city the nickname, even among its own inhabitants, of the “Manchester” of Finland.
In size, however, the Finnish Manchester is nearer the New Hampshire than the English Manchester, and its river rushes and tumbles through the city much as the Merrimac throws itself with mighty force against the water wheels of the New England city.
But neither Manchester, New Hampshire, nor Manchester, England, can boast such a remarkable church as the “Manchester” of Finland. Indeed, I doubt if such a church can be found in any one of the five continents. It is a very expensive church, built of solid granite, with enormous pillars that would not be put to the blush by the ruins of Baalbec, or the ancient temple of Sardis. In this church a great Christian Endeavor meeting was held which completely filled the audience room, as has been the case in the other cathedral churches of Finland, and I must say that it was rather a unique experience as I spoke to the living audience to see also a painted audience of naked men and half-clothed women coming out of their graves forming the great altar piece, representing the Resurrection morning.
Around the huge gallery, supported by enormous stone pillars, is a row of naked boys carrying a large garland which completely surrounds the gallery. This garland is supposed to signify the “Burden of Life,” and is composed of roses and thorns. Some of the boys are carrying it lightly, and others are staggering under its weight.
In other parts of the church are two remarkable frescoes, one representing two boys carrying a wounded angel on a kind of litter between them. The angel’s drooping wings, spotted with blood, and her sweet, patient expression contrast strangely with the rugged little Finnish boys who are carrying her. One of them has a resentful expression on his face, as though he were deadly tired of his burden. Did the artist mean to tell us that every boy carries an angel with him, though he often resents her presence and would be glad to get rid of her?
The other mural painting represents the “Garden of Death,” and shows us three grinning skeletons with watering-pots in their hands, sprinkling flowers of various kinds as they wander through their garden. One writer calls this a “perfectly hideous piece of symbolism,” but it did not so strike me. Though unpleasant in some of its features, it is not nearly so hideous as the pictures of the Last Judgment depicted by many of the old masters, and it teaches the worth-while lesson that “life evermore is fed by death.”
This church is characteristic of the new and audacious architecture of Finland. Ernest Young well describes it when he says: “Without a mass of photographs it is difficult to convey to the reader any idea of the curious character of this modern work. One man calls it “hideous”; another “lovely.” The choice of the epithet probably depends on your education, your prejudices, and your ability to seek sympathetically for the meaning of the builder. It falls into no category of known style; hence if you be but of the schools it will probably appal you.”
“To me,” he continues, “it is an intense joy, even when it is ugliest and least effective, for it is _daring_. It is only a man of courage who dares to do the things that these men do. It is full of the spirit of youth, and though it be not Gothic, nor Moorish, nor anything but Finnish, I could wander all day amongst the houses and streets where it is prevalent, feeling as though I were once more in the presence of an age when men dared to be original in defiance of all accepted traditions.”
I ought to tell you, perhaps, before I get through with this remarkable church that there was strong opposition, especially on the part of the clergy, to the extreme nudity of the decorations, but the persistence of the artists, and the pride of the people in their original productions, prevailed over all objections, and the paintings remain there, naked and unashamed.
Tammerfors, or the Rapids of the Tam, affords a good point of departure for the more remote interior of Finland, and here we should find churches and churchgoers of a different type from those which the large cities afford. The churches, like the houses of the people, are of wood, and some of them are enormous buildings in which the peasants from many miles around gather to worship and to be instructed by their honored pastors. With some families, as with our Puritan ancestors, Sunday begins on Saturday afternoon. This is perhaps a matter of necessity rather than of conscience, because not a few live at such a distance that they have to start on Saturday afternoon in order to get to church in season for the Sunday service. No sight in Finland is more unique than the great “church boats” that leave the remote villages on Saturday evenings for a journey through the long summer twilight to the distant church. These boats sometimes contain twenty or thirty worshipers, and the rhythm of the splashing oars is accentuated by the sweet voices of the maidens as they sing the psalms and hymns of ancient Finland. Practically all the people are Lutherans, though there are Free Church Lutherans and State Church Lutherans, and you may be sure that Luther’s famous hymn, “A Mighty Stronghold is our God,” often resounds along the peaceful waterways and is echoed from the pine-clad hills as the “church boat” makes its way to the sanctuary. In these days the “church boat” is often a steamer of considerable size, which starts early Sunday morning and collects three or four hundred worshipers from the different hamlets and farms within its circuit.
If we should attend church in one of these remote districts in the winter we would very likely hear the minister give out a singular notice from the pulpit. It would not be concerning a “Ladies’ Sewing-circle,” or a “Men’s Club,” or a “Turkey Supper,” or a “Strawberry Festival,” but, strangest of all strange pulpit “intimations,” as our Scotch friends would call it, it would relate to a _bear hunt_.
To be more specific, the minister would announce that a certain farmer had found a “ring,” and that no one must trespass upon his “ring.” This would mean that a certain member of the church had been lucky enough to track a bear to its lair, and that, without disturbing him, he had drawn a wide circle around him in the snow. Henceforward that bear is his property, either to kill or to sell to some sportsman who wants the excitement of a bear hunt.
Bruin himself, it seems, is not very particular about his winter quarters. When he is ready for his winter’s nap he lies down and lets the snow cover him up as it will. It often makes a large heap over his improvised bedroom, and his breath, escaping like steam from a hole in the snow which it has melted, often reveals his hiding place to the sharp-eyed farmer, who is always on the lookout for it.
The discoverer rarely disturbs Bruin himself, but he sends word to the Tourist Association of Helsingfors that he has a “ring” for sale, and there are many keen hunters, some of whom come from Russia and some from England, who are glad to pay from seventy-five to eighty dollars for the ring. When the huntsman reaches the bear’s winter quarters, the dogs and the beaters rout out the bear, who usually puts up a very stiff fight, and not altogether a one-sided one before he is dispatched by the hunter.
I must say it seems to me something like burglary, if not highway robbery and murder, to drive inoffensive Bruin in the dead of his long winter night out of his cozy sleeping apartment. Especially I am sorry for the mother bear, who always keeps her cubs with her during the long night, while the father bear keeps a bedroom of his own. As a result of these bear hunts, it is said that “in Viborg and other towns it is not uncommon to see young bears which have been caught in this manner acting as playmates for the children, and running at large in the gardens and on the hills.”
I suppose that Aylmer told you all about skiing when he wrote you of his winter in Norway, and I will simply remind you, and Aylmer, too, if you will communicate the fact to him, that the “ski is a _Finnish_ invention, and was known here many years before it was introduced into Norway.” So that fact counts at least one point for my side of Scandinavia.
Deals with Helsingfors, the capital of the Grand Duchy, and its strongly fortified islands; with Woman’s Suffrage in progressive Finland; with universal education; with the folk schools and the extreme attention given to them; with the university and its degrees; with the literature of the Finns and the more interesting Finn himself.
HELSINGFORS, FINLAND, July 20.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
Helsingfors is the best place in the world from which to write you my last letter about greater Scandinavia, for it is not only the capital and chief city of the Grand Duchy of Finland, but it is the best point of departure from the country for one whose pleasant tasks in these northern lands are nearly finished. From here I can go by rail to St. Petersburg, and thence to any other desirable spot on the earth’s surface; or I can sail to Riga, to Stockholm, to a number of places on the German coast, or to Hull in England, and, with only one change of steamer, can get back to our best-loved America.
But I cannot leave Scandinavia without telling you something of this interesting city, the center not only of the political life but of the educational, literary, and artistic life of Finland.
The Russians have taken pains to make Helsingfors’ strong, strategic position, impregnable from the military point of view. The entrance to the inner harbor is so narrow that only one ship at a time can pass between the frowning rocks, and the murderous guns of the forts are so mounted that they can be turned against the foe, whether he approach by land or sea.
A little way out from the inner harbor is a scattered group of frowning, rocky islands fortified with the latest type of death-dealing cannon. At the time of the Crimean War both France and England mustered their fleets to take one of these islands, but found it impossible. To-day it would be a still more difficult task.
If poverty makes strange bedfellows, international complications and affiances make still stranger chums. Here are the bitter enemies of sixty years ago hobnobbing together in these days of the _Entente cordiale_. Republican France, constitutional Britain, and autocratic, reactionary Russia, “as thick as thieves” (no opprobrious implication intended), and working together with all the wiles and all the might of diplomacy to offset and hold in check the Triple Alliance.
Speaking of politics and government, I would modestly recommend both the suffragettes and the anti-suffragettes of England to study the experience of Finland in regard to this burning subject. Here is the only European country that totally ignores the word “male” in its suffrage regulations. Every adult has a vote, and, as fifty-three per cent of the inhabitants are women, they hold the much-dreaded balance of power which is such a bugbear to the “antis” of Great Britain.
[Illustration: Fish Harbor, Helsingfors.]
Here is a country that is theoretically ruled by women, and yet there has been no tremendous cataclysm of the forces of nature. The sun rises and sets in Finland just as it used to do. People buy and sell and get gain, fall in love, are married and given in marriage, die and are buried, just as in the olden days. Theoretically the women could tip every man out of his parliamentary seat and run the government to suit themselves, but, strange to say, there are only seventeen women in the Finnish Diet. Less than one tenth of all the members belong to the terrible window-smashing sex, and one writer says of these seventeen: “They are mostly of middle age, grave, and even portentously solemn. They are apparently proof against all temptations of vanity. They dress with Quakerish simplicity and are completely absorbed in their duties.”
Whether it is due to the influence of woman or not, Finland is an exceedingly orderly and well-governed country, and it would be ruled still better did not the medieval government at St. Petersburg veto various measures relating to education and morals which would be for the welfare of the country. For instance, as I told you before, the Diet wants a larger measure of the prohibition of intoxicants, which the Czar has forbidden. The Diet has voted for compulsory education, which the imperial Romanoff, “with and by the consent of his ministers,” has also disallowed.
Nevertheless, in spite of this handicap Finland is in many respects the most progressive and best educated nation in Europe. Let the woman suffragists get what comfort they can from these facts, and let the suffragettes remember that in getting “votes for women” in Finland not a single bomb was exploded, or a house burned to the ground, or a single window broken by a wild and whirling female.
Until very recently there have been four estates in the Diet of Finland: Nobles, Clergy, Burghers, and Peasants. In the last-named house Finland was entirely unique. I have never heard of another nation that had a “House of Peasants” to legislate for it, but it must be remembered that many of these so-called peasants are very substantial farmers, and that their power in a country like Finland is paramount, as it ought to be.
In 1906 the four estates were abolished, and now there is only one legislative chamber, where representatives of all the people meet together to legislate for the welfare of their beloved fatherland.
You may have thought that I was drawing a “long bow” when I said that Finland was the best educated nation in the world, but I am prepared to defend the proposition. I do not mean to say that classical or technical education for the few has been carried to so high a point as in Germany, though in this respect Finland is not lacking. But in the rudiments of a sound education she is unsurpassed. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that every man, woman, and child of school age in Finland knows the three “R’s”—“readin’, ’ritin’ and ’rithmetic”—and he can pursue his education as much further as his time and inclination allow.
Think of the black belts of illiteracy in our own southland, of the “Crackers” who have never tried to learn their letters, of the hordes of newcomers to our shores, who could never get in if the reading test were applied to them! I acknowledge that America has a far different educational problem to deal with than compact, homogeneous Finland, but it nevertheless remains true that from the standpoint of elementary education Finland stands at the head of the class in the school of the nations.
Most exemplary and commendable care is taken to provide for the physical as well as the intellectual health of the children. I have not visited many of these schools myself, and am indebted to Mr. Ernest Young for the following facts. In the folk schools, which correspond to our public primary and grammar schools, manual work and gymnastics are required, as rigidly as study hours and recitations.
The General Architectural Council of Finland draws the plans for the schoolhouses. These plans provide for such minute affairs as the decorations of the rooms. In rooms facing the north, which will receive little sunlight, especially in the long winter days, warm reds, yellows, and greens are the prevailing tints; in the warmer rooms that face the south colder tones are used. There are no square corners for the accumulation of dust. The boys and girls have separate dressing rooms, and the newer buildings are provided with shower baths. Overcoats are hung up in the cloakrooms or corridors, and there is not only a separate place for each class, but a little closet for each pupil. Each of these is provided with a peg, a shelf for caps and bags, a stand for the umbrella, and a pigeonhole for the indispensable goloshes. Accommodations for snowshoes, sledges, skis, and bicycles are also provided. Every folk school in the country must have a playground and enough free land connected with it to furnish a garden plot for the teacher and pupils. The government is so fatherly, not to say motherly, as to ordain that the girls’ desks shall be provided with a pincushion.
Coeducation has no terror for the Finns, and boys and girls are educated together from the primary school to the time of their graduation at the university. Parents who are afraid of the effects of “calf love” from coeducation may perhaps be reassured by a remark quoted from a Finnish schoolgirl: “We may fall in love when we are at school,” she said, “but never with a boy in the same school as ourselves. You see, we know them too well.” You may be permitted, Judicia, if you desire to do so, to doubt the sweeping generalization of this young lady.
Finland must be a perfect paradise in summertime for poor and sickly children. They are not left to the occasional ministrations of some benevolent individual or voluntary society for a glimpse of the country, but, if they need an out-of-door holiday, they are sent by the municipality of Helsingfors into the country for a week, or a month, or three months, as the case may be, to recover health and strength in the holiday camps. That there is nothing haphazard about this municipal benevolence is shown by the fact that a public medical officer sends these poor children into the country and weighs and measures them before each holiday to know how much they have profited by it.
The morals of the children are looked after as well as their physical and mental training. Children who wish to go to any place of public amusement must ask permission of the head master of the school, unless they have distinct permission from their parents, and in many schools, even where parents give permission, the head master must be informed of it before the pupil goes to any public show. Every encouragement is given to poor and ambitious children who desire to pursue their education through the university. Free food, free clothes, and school books are provided for those whose parents absolutely cannot furnish them.
Helsingfors is the center of educational Finland, for here is the great college called the Alexander University, in grateful remembrance of Finland’s first Russian Grand Duke, the well-beloved Alexander I. When graduation time comes, each faculty in the schools of theology, law, medicine, and philosophy confers separate degrees. When the degrees are conferred, a cannon booms from the parapet near by in honor of each graduate, and the band welcomes him to his new honors with stately music. Instead of the gorgeous hoods displaying as many colors as Joseph’s coat, with which our own degrees are conferred, the Masters of Arts in Finland receive a gold ring, and the Doctors a silk-covered hat.
A beautiful motto is set over the door of _Studentshuset_, or “Students’ House,” the common meeting place of the students of both sexes. This was built by subscriptions voluntarily given by people in all parts of the country, and the motto over the door is, “Given by the Fatherland to its Hope.” No motto could better tell the ardent love of Finland for the higher education of its youth.
But you ask me, Judicia, “What of Helsingfors itself?” the city from which I have dated my letter. Well, it does not differ greatly from other European cities, when you look upon it superficially, for in its present aspect it is distinctively modern. Like all large Finnish towns, it has been burned down more than once, and after its last great conflagration, less than a century ago, its architects seem to have copied for the most part the models set them by other cities, for that was before a distinctive type of Finnish architecture began to make its appearance. Many of the streets are broad and lined with handsome houses and business blocks and public buildings. The University and the Art Museum are substantial but not imposing buildings, while the inadequate Diet House, as I told you, would soon be replaced by another if only Czar Nicholas would give his imperial permission.
In the center of one of the principal squares is a splendid statue of Alexander II, which a grateful people often decorate with wreaths to this day, as they remember the man who gave them back their liberties. One would think that no Russian bureaucrat to-day, intent upon taking away the liberties of the people, could look on this statue without a glow of inward shame.
The great church which dominates Helsingfors is St. Nicholas, which stands on a sightly eminence near the center of the city, and is a fine specimen of the Greek style of architecture. Here the state functions are observed, and here during my stay a great Christian Endeavor meeting was held which gave me an opportunity to see as fine a congregation of men and women, young and old, as one could see in any land beneath the sun.
Though the St. Nicholas is the largest and most popular church in the city, there is another whose architecture is far more remarkable, for it is the latest Finnish word in church building. It has the most massive and stately granite tower that I have seen on any church in Europe. It, too, stands upon a hill, and half a dozen streets seem to converge to it, so that whenever you lift up your eyes from almost any quarter of the city there is this magnificent tower, solemn, imposing, majestic, a conception which only a Finnish architect would dare to execute. The tower quite dwarfs the rest of the church, and from some points of view it seems to be all tower.
The audience room is of no inconsiderable size, and is better adapted for singing than for speaking. A fine organ in three sections, one in the front of the church, one in the rear, and one in the tower, whose notes seem to drop down as from heaven, render the musical services of unusual interest. If you should hear “Suomi’s Song” in this unique church, with its solemn and intensely patriotic cadences and words, you would better understand the love of the Finns for their country.
I have not space to tell you much of the literature of Finland, nor could I were my space unlimited, for much of the best of it has not been translated into English. As one has said: “A mere glance at a Finnish grammar, with its sixteen cases for the nouns and its host of grammatical complexities, gives one a humorous notion that it might have been perfected for the purpose of preventing any other nation from knowing anything about the beauties that it enshrines.”
However, some of the works of the beloved author Runeberg have been translated under the title _Ensign Stals Song_. I have already quoted from the _Kalevala_, the great epic of Finland, so admirably translated by Mr. Kirby and published in the “Everyman Library.” Of this poem Max Müller says: “It should have a place in the literature of the world, on the same shelf with the poems of Homer, the _Niebelungen_, and other great epics which the world will not willingly let die.”
After all, interesting as is the country, the architecture, the literature, and the social customs, the most interesting thing about Finland is the Finn himself. His sturdiness, his good sense, his progressive spirit, his willingness to try experiments, but always under the ægis of the Goddess of Law and Order; his healthy conservatism, his wise radicalism, his love of liberty, his hatred of tyranny—all combine to make one of the most interesting individuals on the face of the earth. I am glad that so many Finns have come to America, and that more are coming. They add the best possible element to our body politic. They do not herd together in the purlieus of our great cities, but for the most part spread themselves out over the limitless farmlands of the west, though some of them find employment in our manufacturing cities. Driven away from their home land by hard conditions of life or by the tyranny of their oppressors, three hundred thousand of them have found homes in the United States. Intelligent, law-abiding, liberty-loving, there is no better American than the Finnish American.
I do not know, Judicia, whether my poor letters have made you feel the charm of these sturdy, wholesome, homelike nations of the far north, whose fascination lies not so much in their art as in the varied beauties of the natural scenery and in the character of the people themselves, but, as for me, I must confess that I have fallen completely under the spell of Greater Scandinavia.
AYLMER WRITES OF NORWAY AND DENMARK
Aylmer explains his purpose in the letters he will write; from Germany to Denmark by ferry; the Danebrog; the wounded soldier; Harald Bluetooth and other characters of the past; Roskilde; the arrival in Copenhagen; certain of the Great Danes; “Bil-Jonen Teatret” and “The Hurricane Girls.”
COPENHAGEN, December 3.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
Here I am in “Merchants’ Harbor,” alias Kopmannaehafn, alias Axelhus, etc., but more anon of it and its names. First I must tell you about the trip here. Please don’t misunderstand my use of the word “trip.” I refuse to write you about “My Trip” as such. In other words, I am not going to personally conduct you by letter through Denmark and Norway. Thomas Cook and Thomas Bennett and James Currie and Mr. Baedeker, and many other good men, will do that for you by book. All I shall do is to keep my mind open to the pleasures and charms of these two countries, and when they cast their spell on me I shall try to make you feel it as I do. In other words, I am not going to be intimidated into having raptures over what the guide book stars, and, if I choose, I am going to like what it does not star. Furthermore, I am not going to take you on any set tour, for I don’t expect to take any such myself but I do expect to see a good many places in these closely united countries, and when anything appeals to me I shall describe it, in the hope that it may appeal equally to you.
Rather a long preamble to my first letter, isn’t it? But I trust it will make my idea plain and that you will not be disappointed if I don’t act in the capacity of courier. I said good-by to Germany and continental Europe yesterday noon at Warnemünde. Our train was trundled aboard the _Prinz Christian_, though I cannot state for which of Denmark’s many royal “Christians” it was named, and we had a two-hour sea voyage, during which it was evident from the pensive demeanor of some of my fellow passengers that seasickness was “not unknown,” as Baedeker would euphoniously say.
During this sea voyage we were supposed to take our noon meal, which I must now begin to call _middag_, and as I am by nature furnished with a good appetite I didn’t resist the invitation. Most of the ladies were “pensive” and remained on deck gasping, but the men, all wearing a look of conceited amusement, nonchalantly sought the dining cabin. I had heard much about the famous Danish _smörrebröd_, and I was keenly anticipating it, but I am sorry to say that _Prinz Christian_ was too much under foreign influence and did not offer the full glories of _smörrebröd_, which I found later here in Copenhagen. However, I will keep you for awhile in breathless suspense on that point.
Most of the people on the boat seemed to be Germans or Danes, and one couple opposite me at _middag_ I must describe. This “couple” consisted of a very big father and a very little son. The father was one of the greatest of the Great Danes, physically at least. I have hardly ever seen such a huge man. The son seemed to be ten or twelve years old, but he was as much below the average in size as his father was above it. The Great Dane seemed to think that strong, black coffee was the thing to make his infinitesimal son grow, and he made him drink three big cups of it. Father and son were the most stolid pair I have ever seen, but the little fellow was very miserable and wore a face as though he were taking medicine. He would gulp down all the coffee he could stand, then gasp for breath and look appealingly at his father, who stolidly urged him on. It was very pathetic, but at least I had the comfort of knowing that coffee could never ruin his nerves, for it was plain that he had none.
All this time I would not have yielded so calmly to the demands of the inner man if it had not been that there was nothing to see. _Prinz Christian_ was enveloped in a dense fog, and the limit of the view was a few yards of gray, tossing sea. But in spite of the fog, our noble captain steered straight for the ferry slip. A little jolting and bumping and clanking of chains, and we were on Danish soil.
By a miracle, which I think must have been performed largely for my benefit, the fog immediately rolled away. I refused then and I still refuse to believe those lugubrious writers who characterize Denmark’s winter as long and dreary and muddy. Certainly I couldn’t ask for finer weather than I have had during the thirty-six hours I have been in the country. I am open to conviction on that point, but the pessimist must produce something a good deal worse than the present weather before I will believe him.
I had not been on Danish soil two minutes before I saw the Danish flag, the world-famous _Danebrog_, waving over a schoolhouse. It was very striking, with its bold white cross on a vivid red background. There is a beautiful legend connected with the origin of this flag. It seems that “once upon a time” King Valdemar, being filled with holy zeal (possibly augmented by unholy greed), made an expedition against the heathen inhabitants of Esthonia. At first they submitted in crowds and were baptized. But when the novelty of being converted began to wear off, they turned against the evangelist king and fought furiously. “At this,” says the chronicle, “like Moses of old, Andres Sunesön (the archbishop) mounted the hill with his bishops and clerks, that they might lay the sword of prayer in the scales of battle; but when his arms dropped at last through weariness, his people began to fly. Then his brethren supported the old man’s hands, and as long as they were held up the Danes conquered.”
At this point a miracle occurred. The banner of the Danes had been lost in the fray, and to repair the loss “a red banner with the holy cross in white on it came floating gently down through the clouds.” King Valdemar gathered his men under this heavenly banner and had no further trouble in defeating the heathen (and gaining their desirable territory).
This king, by the way, was Valdemar den Seir, or the “Victorious.” Danish history fairly bristles with Valdemars, and even now there is a prince by that name.
The scenery all the way from Gjedser, the haven of the ferry from Warnemünde, smiled at us, at least until darkness erased the smile. The Danes have only one hill in their whole country, and that is far away in Jutland, but the flatness of the islands of Laaland and Zealand through which we pass does not make for monotony. Everywhere the landscape smiles cordially, warmly, invitingly. Really the landscape’s invitation was so genuine that I could hardly resist getting off at one of the little stations _en route_.
Most of the farmhouses are built of plaster with interlacing framework of wooden beams, which would make them Elizabethan, wouldn’t it, if they were a little more pretentious? The windmills are a cross between the ancient kind with four huge wings and the modern kind with many little spokes. They presented the appearance of Ferris wheels one third life size.
At the station of Kjöge a young soldier got on the train and I was shocked to note that he was badly wounded on the head, for he wore there a broad white bandage. I was pouring out my sympathy on the poor wounded soldier lad when he turned around, and it was not until then that I discovered that his “bandage” was a ridiculous blue and white cap, perched far on the off side of his head. I have since seen many of these “wounded” soldiers, and I can never quite control my amusement when I see a great strapping fellow with one of these foolish little caps fastened to the side of his head. In appearance they are like the caps that you find in the snapdragons at a children’s party.
About some other things Denmark seems very naïve. The smokestacks on all the engines have little bands of red and blue adorning them. Really they are cunning enough to play with. Also some of the railway cars are double-deckers, two-story affairs, while others are absolutely open like an electric car. They remind me of the pictures of the “first train in America—1820.”
Also the language is most delicious at times. A very frequent sign reads: _Ikke Spytte Paa Gulvet_. When you know that _ikke_ means “not” and that _gulvet_ means the “floor,” Chaucer will come to your aid for the rest. Pronounce that sign phonetically and see if you don’t feel as though you were stroking a kitten.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
One very historic town we passed through on the way from Gjedser to Copenhagen yesterday—ancient Roskilde. It was once an important city, far more so than the little village on the east coast of the island, which men called Kopmannaehafn. But the Reformation accomplished here, as in so many other cities of the north, its deadly work (of course deadly only from an architectural point of view), and Roskilde is now a busy, commonplace little town, with only the historic cathedral to remind us of the past. Old King Harald Bluetooth built a wooden church here a thousand years ago, and this cathedral was its immediate successor. It is the burial place of many of Denmark’s most famous kings and queens, among them Christian IV, who did perhaps more for the advancement of his country than any other king before or since, and Queen Margaret Valdemarsdatter, who was the only ruler strong enough to unite the three countries of Scandinavia into a single nation. Christian IX, the “father of half of Europe,” lies here, and many other Fredericks and Christians. Danish nobility is not clever at thinking up new names for itself. All who are not Valdemars are either Fredericks or Christians, with here and there a Canute or a Sweyn or a Gorm.
Right here I am tempted to go into a history of some of these old kings, whose names are so attractive, such as Gorm the Old, Canute the Great, Harald Bluetooth, and Sweyn Forkbeard, but Danish history is so closely interwoven with Norwegian that it is impossible to tell one without telling the other. For more than four hundred years they were actually united, and for nearly three hundred they were one and the same country. The language of the two countries has always been and is to-day practically identical. In view of this I think I will wait until I get to Norway and then give you a dissertation on the subject. In all this, Judicia, I am assuming that you don’t know any more about it than I did before I read it up. I hope you are not too much enraged at such an assumption.
It was as dark as Egypt or Pockonocket or any other place that is very, very dark when our train left Roskilde, but it was only a short journey to Copenhagen, and I enjoyed the pleasures of anticipation. A book I read on the train characterized Copenhagen as a dull, prosaic city, but being in an obstinate frame of mind I refused to be prejudiced against it. As the train drew into the huge new Vesterbro station, I felt a thrill of patriotic delight to note that the freight yard was illumined with red, white, and blue arc lights. Perhaps these colors were not very vivid or pronounced, but they were at least suggested, and I feel sure it was done in my honor.
There is much to tell about Copenhagen. It is not dull or prosaic, or, if it is, I like a dull, prosaic city. In this letter I will only describe my arrival in Denmark’s capital, and in a few days, when I have had a chance to see more, I will tell you more about it.
Outside the Vesterbro I found a perfect mob of “taxameters” (you know we have always spelled that word wrong in America). The poor old cabmen have been driven out of business by these swarms of gay, whizzing taxameters. Copenhagen is the breeding place of autos, I verily believe. We have a few in New York and Boston, and I’ve even seen them in other parts of the world, but I never saw what seemed so many in any other city. I dare not look up statistics for fear of having my impression shattered. Perhaps it is partly the audacity and gay colors of these autos that make them seem so omnipresent. They are purple or yellow or white, usually, and they own the city.
Copenhagen is a brilliantly lighted city. Really Broadway must extend itself if it would beat Copenhagen in this respect. There are all sorts of electric signs. In one window I saw a perfect imitation of fire. Paper streamers were blown upward by an electric fan and so lighted by red and orange electric lights that I had to look twice before I decided not to run for the nearest fire box. In another shop window an arctic blizzard raged furiously all the evening, and I suppose only abated when the shopkeeper went to bed. There are many brilliant electric advertisements, among which I am sorry to say certain whisky and cognac signs predominate. I fear there is more drunkenness in Denmark than in Sweden. At any rate a certain rather humorous writer says that the ferry from Helsingborg (Sweden) to Helsingör (Denmark) is much patronized by thirsty Swedes escaping from the Gothenburg system. However, I doubt not Phillips is enlarging upon Sweden’s stringent temperance laws as a claim for the superiority of that country, so I will lie low on that point.
To return to my arrival in Copenhagen. The taxameter whizzed me around in no time to Grand Hotel Jensen on Colbjörnsensgade, and I was greeted there, much to my surprise, by two very husky and very blonde lady porters, or should I call them “porterettes?” Well, these lady porters took my suitcase and even Jumbo up two flights of stairs to the room which was assigned me. You know something about Jumbo. It is almost as heavy as a trunk, and it takes a strong man to carry it far, but my blonde porterettes flew up the stairs with it, whistling as they went. Oh these Great Danes!
I took a short “twist” along Vesterbrogade and Frederiksberg Alle and back through a lot of other streets, whose names you are of course eager to know. The Danish and Norwegian language has the happy custom of attaching its definite or indefinite article to the end of its noun, and thus a hotel is a _hotellet_ and a theater is a _teatret_. One sign struck me as particularly interesting. It was no less than “Bil-Jonen Teatret,” which I took to mean the “Bill Jones Theater.” I was convinced of the correctness of my interpretation by seeing that the principal feature of the week’s program was “The Hurricane Girls from Broadway.” I haven’t yet seen the Hurricane Girls, and I doubt if I shall let them know that a fellow countryman is in the city.
It is getting late, even as the Danes reckon lateness, so I think I will say _god natt_.
As ever sincerely,
Copenhagen alias Axelhus; the origin of the city; the twin towers of Fjenneslev; the Raadhus and its towers; Christian IV and Brewer Jacobsen; Ströget; the fountains of Copenhagen; the Tivoli Gardens; smörrebröd.
COPENHAGEN, January 12.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
It is over a week since I wrote to you, and I have been sightseeing furiously ever since, but I have barely begun to see this interesting old town. It has rained all but two days of that time; but what of that? Personally, I like rain. Think how clean and wet it is. Why shouldn’t a city take a daily showerbath? Anyway, I like Copenhagen.
When I mailed my letter to you last week I went into a tobacco shop to buy a stamp, and also to inquire where the post office was, for I thought there might be something in the _poste restante_ for me. The shopkeeper sold me a stamp, but as for the post office, he said it wasn’t necessary to go there to mail my letter. I could drop it into one of the letter boxes which were everywhere. That remark in its naïveté reminds me of a sentence which I must quote from a book I have on Scandinavia. The author is very enthusiastic about the ship which carries him from England to Norway, and says: “The provision of the electric light in this noble ship is also a great luxury, enabling you to make light or darkness as you please in your berth, by merely touching a switch within easy reach.”
Think of it! Such luxury is almost effeminate, isn’t it? However, I don’t seem to be telling you much about this city, and there is so much to tell that I am in despair. The city’s original name was Axelhus, named for its original owner, Bishop Absalon, who found it a small fishing village and made it into a fortress against the heathen Wends. Perhaps Axelhus would not seem to bear a very close etymological connection with Absalon, but you see the bishop’s real name was Axel, and when he entered upon his ecclesiastical career he searched the Scriptures for a name which should sound something like “Axel.” As “Absalon” (the Danish form of “Absalom”) was the best he could find, he adopted that.
This Bishop Absalon and his brother Esbjörn Snare, who built and fortified Kallundberg on the opposite coast of Zealand, were the mainstays of Denmark eight centuries ago. The brothers were twins, and the sons of a famous warrior name Asker Ryg, who lived at Fjenneslev, in the middle of Zealand. One day Asker Ryg went to battle, leaving a church at Fjenneslev half built. He left word with his wife that should a son be born during his absence she was to have a tower built on this church, so that he might know the good news as soon as he should come in sight of the town. If a daughter should be born, no tower was to be built. Some time later Asker Ryg returned, and as he mounted the hill near Fjenneslev he saw a church with two towers. Axel and Esbjörn Snare were the cause, and they later proved worthy of their father’s rejoicing.
To-day Bishop Absalon continues to be the pride of the Copenhageners. In a square facing the island of Slotsholmen, which he made his strongest fortification, he sits in bronze, forever reining in his charger. He also guards the entrance to the new town hall, which of course I must call Raadhuset. I understand that an American architect (perhaps troubled with professional jealousy) says that if he put up a building like that in America his next step would be to pull it down. At any rate it cost the city six million _kronor_, more than a million and a half dollars, and is fitted out with a marvelous wealth of detail. On the walls of one of the stairways are two very interesting pictures representing the city in 1587 and 1611 respectively. It was about that time that the herring fisheries attracted so many merchants that the name of the town was changed from Axelhus to Kopmannaehafn, or “Merchants’ Haven.” Prominent in each of these pictures is a gallows on which two unfortunates are hanging. Probably they had stolen half a loaf of bread or committed some equally atrocious crime.
The Raadhus has a tower three hundred and forty feet in height, from which you get a fine view and a good idea of the city. On the wall, nearly up to the top, is a diagram, comparing this in height with various other high buildings and towers. Washington Monument and the Eiffel Tower are represented, and St. Peter’s, St. Paul’s, and St. Botolph’s in Boston, England, and the Chicago Masonic Temple, and a motley array of other high buildings. For some strange reason Woolworth’s skyscraper is omitted, as is also the Singer Building. Not one of New York’s skyscrapers is given a place in this hall of fame. I think I shall ask the mayor what he has against New York.
From the top of this tower you may see why Copenhagen is called the “City of Spires”—no, I should have spelled “spires” with a small “s,” as this was not the city where they held the diet. Christian IV is responsible for many of the spires which rise in all directions, for so many in fact that a certain author, in a perfectly vile pun, calls him an “aspiring” monarch. Of late years the old seventeenth-century Christian has had to divide the honors, in this particular, with Brewer Jacobsen. It is astounding to see how greatly the city has profited by the Carlsberg brewer’s generosity. Two fine collections of antiquities and of sculpture this philanthropist has given to the city, the Frederiksborg castle-museum, and the Ny-Glyptothek. Besides these he has made innumerable smaller gifts. Whenever a tower needs to be built or repaired, Brewer Jacobsen comes to the rescue and builds it or repairs it. Even now I understand he is contemplating the erection of a new spire on the famous Frue Kirke, to replace the one destroyed by a former bombardment of the city. At first it seemed rather ridiculous that so much of the city’s architectural splendor is due to beer, but I really believe the brewer has done much for the cause of temperance. His “beer” is something like ginger pop, and is scarcely more intoxicating than milk. It is so light that it is considered by many teetotalers as a temperance drink. If his temperance beer can compete with more harmful productions, he certainly is to be congratulated.
As for the buildings of Christian IV, their name is legion, for they are many. It is curious that so much of his making has lasted for three centuries or more, despite bombardments and innumerable fires. From the tower we see a curious spire formed of the interlacing tails of dragons. This was one of Christian IV’s towers. In other directions we see the spires of his summer palace, Rosenborg, and many other buildings which recall this great architect-king, among them Regenson, the college which he built for poor students; the Round Tower, which he built for the use of his astronomers, and his arsenal. He had the twin spires placed on the cathedral of Roskilde, and he built the famous castle of Frederiksborg, which his modern colleague in philanthropy, Brewer Jacobsen, has transformed into a museum. It is said that with his own hands he built the old tower on the Frue Kirke, and so reliable an authority as Hjalmar Boyesen says: “With level and square in his pocket, he walked about testing the soundness of the work of his carpenters, masons, and architects.”
He must have been a wonderful old king, even if he was not particularly modest about naming cities for himself. He founded the modern Christiania and named it for himself, and also Christianssund, in the south of Norway. Doesn’t he remind you of Alexander the Great in that respect? Boyesen says he was so democratic that he delighted to attend a party at the apothecary’s, where the jolly guests smashed all the windows; which makes me wonder whether, if he were alive to-day, he would join the jolly suffragettes of England in smashing windows.
You poor Judicia! I have kept you standing up in the Raadhus tower a long time, haven’t I? I hope you have not been cold, but if you have you can warm yourself by walking down some three hundred steps. From the Raadhus-Plads there is a series of streets leading to Kongens Nytorv, and here, between these two important squares, you will find _echt_ Copenhagen. It is lovingly called by the Danes _Ströget_, or the “Promenade.” Half of Copenhagen must go through here every day, though it is hardly wide enough for two teams to pass. Ströget is one of the few places in the city where electric cars are prohibited, and only an old-fashioned omnibus plies back and forth. I believe it would create a civil war if any company tried to desecrate this beloved, busy Ströget with an electric car line. You get jostled and elbowed all the way along, which would strike you as “not quite nice” in the Copenhageners, were it not that they expect to be equally jostled and elbowed. You see, people have elbowed their way through here for centuries, and that is part of the charm of it.
Midway in Ströget is a most interesting institution called Amagertorv, where for centuries the women of Amager have sold fruit and flowers. These women are the descendants of the Dutch people whom Christian II imported from Holland some four centuries ago. He fell in love with a Dutch girl whom he called _Dyveke_, or “Little Dove.” Later she became his morganatic wife, and the house which this very bad Christian built for her still stands on the corner of Nielsgade. In order that she might have congenial company he imported several hundred of her compatriots, and it is the descendants of these who still sell fruit and flowers in Amagertorv.
In Kongens Nytorv, the eastern terminus of Ströget, no less than thirteen streets converge. Here is situated, among other fine buildings, “Kongelige Teatret.” I refuse to interpret such obvious bits of the Danish tongue. It would be an insult to your intelligence. It was here that Holberg, the great dramatist, won his fame. I am sorry to say that his modern compatriot, Asta Nielsen, has won far more fame in certain circles. Perhaps you don’t know, Judicia, that Asta devotes her time and her histrionic talent entirely to moving pictures now. All over Italy and Germany I saw flaming advertisements of her as about to perform through the medium of moving pictures “The Dance of Death” and other equally thrilling dances. Oh, she is undoubtedly very popular with the patrons of the “movies,” but nevertheless I think I should prefer to be Holberg dead than Asta Nielsen alive.
In the middle of Kongens Nytorv is a well-known statue, which the Danes call _Hesten_ or the “Horse.” It represents Christian V riding down a writhing form, but whether that form represents abstract Envy or concrete Sweden no one seems to know. At any rate, Alexander the Great, Artemisia, Minerva, and Hercules are admiringly looking on, though how the Danes managed to corral all these people into Kongens Nytorv I don’t know. It is curious, too, that Hercules and Minerva have also found their way over to Slotsholmen, and there, together with Nemesis and Æsculapius, look up at Frederick VII.
Right here I must tell you something about Copenhagen’s many statues and fountains. In the Raadhus-Plads three of the weirdest dragons that were ever invented spout from their monstrous snouts three foolish little jets of water. The small boys used to play over these and stick corks in the dragons’ snouts, and so the clever authorities built a wide moat all around it, and now those boys have got to swim for it if they want to play practical jokes on the dragons. In Gammeltorv there is an old fountain which spouts golden apples on the king’s birthday and other national holidays. In another part of the city Gefion is represented plowing furiously with four bulls. This Gefion was an ancient goddess who was to have as much territory as she could plow up in a single night. By dint of great energy she plowed all the territory from Skaane, the southernmost province of Sweden, to the southernmost part of Zealand. The island of Zealand then broke off from Sweden and became the perpetual heritage of the Danes.
Another interesting monument represents an old soldier holding a little boy on his shoulder while the boy blows a horn. It is entitled _Den lille Hornblaeser_. Isn’t that great, and doesn’t the tender, affectionate, kitten-stroking tone get into your voice involuntarily when you say it? On the Holmens-Kanal, which, by the way, is a street, there is a statue to Niels Juel, who led the Danes to a great victory against the Swedes two and a half centuries ago. The statue is made from the guns of Ivar Hvitfeld’s frigate, _Danebrog_, which Ivar blew up in Kjöge Bay to save the rest of the fleet. It hardly seems fair that Ivar’s guns should have been used to build a statue to Niels, but such is the case.
The most unique statue I have ever seen stands in the museum, and formerly stood in “Gray Brothers’ Square.” It is called _Skamstötte_, or “Pillar of Shame,” and bears the inscription “To the eternal shame and disgrace of Corfitz Ulfeldt, the traitor.”
It would take more stationery than I have in stock to tell you of all the statues and fountains there are in this city. They must number well up into the hundreds. If anybody in Denmark says something clever, or if he is good-looking, or if he can write a readable book, or if he can cure somebody of appendicitis, they put up a monument to him.
The Danes are great lovers of royalty, and intensely loyal to their kings, though some of them have tried their subjects’ loyalty to the utmost. Danish kingship was in the past a “despotism tempered by sentiment,” as F. M. Butlin says. Some centuries ago, during the reign of Frederick V, it was said that “If the citizens of the capital had left off thrusting their heads out of their windows and shouting ‘Skaal Kong Christian,’ our absolute monarch would have felt unhappy.” I hope I shall not be arrested for _lèse majesté_ if I remark that their last king, Frederick VIII, was a very dissipated man. As you doubtless remember, he died mysteriously some time ago while sojourning incognito in Hamburg. However, their present king, Christian X, is an excellent monarch and much beloved by all. It is said that on hearing of his father’s death he immediately took the Holy Communion, as an indication of his desire to be a Christian in fact as well as in name.
This king and many of his relatives now live in the four palaces on Amalienborg-Plads. I had the luck to be in this _plads_ the other day at just twelve o’clock when the guard changed. It was a very pompous ceremony. The Danebrog was much in evidence, and the immense, black-plumed helmets of the soldiers added greatly to the solemnity of the occasion.
Perhaps you are weary enough of sightseeing by this time to come back with me and sample Danish _smörrebröd_ at Wivel’s restaurant, which is the most famous in the city. This is a sort of attachment to Tivoli, and while your mouth is watering for _smörrebröd_ I must describe Tivoli. It is considered the finest amusement park in Europe. It is not nearly as big as some others, but it is a model of its kind. The Copenhageners are not an idle people, but they love to amuse themselves. Amusement and relaxation, sheer and simple, Tivoli offers them. On holidays and anniversaries there is a most wonderful illumination.
[Illustration: Watch Parade in Amalienborg Square.]
[Illustration: The Splendor of Tivoli on a Gala Night in Summer.]
In “Economics 1” at college I remember learning with great struggles some horrible fabrications called _Jevons’ Criteria_. Well, the author of that outrage, Professor Stanley Jevons himself, writes this about Tivoli in his “Essays on Social Reform”:
“The Tivoli pleasure gardens form the best possible model of popular recreation. Englishmen think of Denmark only as a very little nation. But though small in quantity Denmark shames us in quality.… But my Danish friends, when questioned on the subject [of their country’s superiority], attributed a high civilizing influence to the Thorvaldsen Museum and the Tivoli Gardens at Copenhagen. Of course our magistrates could not permit so demoralizing a spectacle as ballet-dancing in the open air, but I wish they could see Froeken Leontine and Fanny Carey dance their _pas de deux_. They would then learn that among a truly cultured and well-governed people dancing may be as chaste as it is a beautiful performance. Compared with our Crystal Palace or Alexandra Palace, Tivoli is a very minor affair; but civilization is not a question of magnitude, and in spite of its comparatively small size Tivoli is a model of good taste and decency, and indicates the way in which, under good regulations, all classes may be induced to mingle.”
Butlin, in quoting the same passage, says:
“It must not be supposed that Tivoli is a kind of garden ‘settlement,’ where classes mix with the conscious intention of civilizing and being civilized. We are rather inclined to suspect that Professor Jevons’ Danish friends were wily Danes who knew that civilizing influence was the right kind of bait with which to lure a social reformer within the Tivoli walls, and that the Professor, having enjoyed his evening there, as he evidently did, felt called upon to justify his enjoyment by an analysis of its civilizing influence.”
Well, Judicia, I have kept you waiting for that _smörrebröd_ for some time while I quoted the authorities on Tivoli. When the _smörrebröd_ finally arrives, it looks like the most vivid of patchwork quilts. It consists of various pieces of bread and butter “smeared” with all sorts of substances of all sorts of colors. There are slabs of ultramarine and ultraviolet, lake, mauve, puce, yellow ochre, carmine, buff, drab, gray-green, black, orange, scarlet, and everything else. In _smörrebröd_ you find all the colors of the rainbow, and many others which have not yet been catalogued. These colors, when analyzed, are found to consist of all sorts of meats, fish, hard-boiled eggs, and parti-colored salads. If you have a grain of progressive originality in you, you will like _smörrebröd_. _Smör_ actually means “butter,” but I am sure that our word “smear” is a lineal descendant, and I prefer to translate _smörrebröd_ into “smeared bread.”
The Danes are famous for their dairy products and particularly for their butter. Don’t you remember in far-off Sidon in Syria we had for dinner one day, as a special treat, a little can of Danish butter? While I am on the subject of food, let me tell you of one custom Copenhagen has which New York ought to copy. The fishermen bring in their fish, alive, in great tanks inside the ship, and when they reach the city these fish are transferred, still alive, to portable tanks, and peddlers then wheel them all over the city. The customer picks out his fish and the victim is harpooned and killed and delivered on the spot. There is no doubt that the Copenhageners have fresh fish.
I have scarcely begun to tell you about this city yet, but I think I will give you a rest. When I get time to write again I shall tell you something about some of Denmark’s celebrities, such as Thorvaldsen, and Hans Christian Andersen, and Hamlet. I am afraid this last gentleman is an invention of Saxo Grammaticus and Shakespeare, but he is interesting nevertheless. Alors, au revoir.
Yours as ever,
Written on the train between Helsingör and Christiania. A little geography; who’s who in Denmark; Bertel Thorvaldsen and the Thorvaldsen Museum; Hans Christian Andersen; his experience with the “danseuse” of the Royal Theater; the final fulfillment of the gypsy woman’s prophecy; Frederiksborg; some “cute” tricks of Norse nobility in the past; Elsinore and “Prince Amleth”; the “Norges Communicationer.”
_En route._ HELSINGÖR to CHRISTIANIA, December 24.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
I am in Sweden now, and in spite of a troubled conscience I am enjoying my view from the car window. I suppose I ought not to allow myself to enjoy Sweden, as that is Phillips’ country, and honor should compel me to find fault with it. The country is really beautiful, with its long, rolling expanse of snow-covered land on one side and the Kattegat and Skager-Rack shaking hands on the other. However, I comfort myself and soothe my conscience by remembering that this part of Sweden is between Norway and Denmark, and with two such neighbors it could hardly be entirely without charm. The train was ferried across from Helsingör to Helsingborg, and we are now speeding along close to the Kattegat.
I am not forgetting that I left you in my last letter with the promise to tell you something about Denmark’s celebrities, but first I must treat you as a schoolgirl and tell you about the geography of this little country. Tell me, Judicia, how many principal islands are there in Denmark, and what are their names? What is Jutland? What is the difference between the Kattegat and the Skager-Rack? I am so sure that you don’t exactly know the answers to these abstruse problems (any more than I did two months ago) that I am going to take the liberty of telling you.
Jutland has earned its name, for it juts out into the North Sea and separates the Skager-Rack on the northwest from the Kattegat on the southeast, and it also looks like a sort of wedge thrust into the crevice between the two halves of the dividing Scandinavian peninsula. I am afraid the etymologist would say that it earned its name more from being the home of the Jutes than from its geographical propensity of “jutting.” It is a sandy peninsula, and boasts only one hill, which is made much of by the Danes. Schleswig-Holstein, as of course you know, should properly belong to Jutland and to the Danes. It is unmistakably a part of Denmark geographically and ethnographically, but the great and greedy Bismarck thought it would be a choice morsel to add to Germany, and, not being troubled by a very tender diplomatic conscience, he contrived to snatch it from poor little helpless Denmark. That was long ago, but the Danes still bristle at the name of Bismarck.
East of Jutland lie Denmark’s three large islands—Fyen, Zealand, and Lapland—and her countless smaller ones. If you will take the trouble to look at the map I suppose you can picture Denmark’s geography in your mind even more clearly than by reading my lucid and detailed description.
At this minute I am sure you are thinking of Bertel Thorvalsden, for he is sure to come first into your mind when you begin to inquire who’s who. You remember I quoted Professor Jevons as ranking the Thorvaldsen Museum even as high as Tivoli, as a civilizing influence. That is rather hard though on the museum, for this is really one of the world’s famous monuments. It stands in the very front rank of museums. Moreover it is unique in being the work of and the monument to one single man, the greatest artist-genius of the north. Really I am amazed at the greatness of Thorvaldsen. I have heard about him since I was in kindergarten, but I was struck anew by the greatness of his genius when I visited Copenhagen. He was the son of an Iceland ship’s carpenter, and the poorest of the poor. He was born at sea between Iceland and Copenhagen, and through all the early years of his life he assisted his father in his business. Those who know declare him the greatest classical sculptor of modern times.
The museum has the appearance of a huge tomb, and is anything but attractive from the outside. Inside is a mighty collection of the sculptor’s work. Many of the originals are here, and plaster models represent the rest. Among these models are two of his greatest works, the Lion of Lucerne, and the statue of Christ, which stands in the Frue Kirke. As I had seen the originals of both of these, I was not so thrilled by the plaster models. Inside, in a courtyard, is the sculptor’s grave, and it must be comforting to him to have his own beloved creations looking down upon his grave. Outside, all around the wall, are frescoes representing Thorvaldsen’s triumphant return from Rome in 1838. Hans Christian Andersen says of this home-coming: “It was a national festival; boats, decorated with flowers and flags, passed backward and forward between Langelinie and Trekoner. Joyous shouts were heard from the shore, where the people harnessed themselves to Thorvaldsen’s carriage and dragged it through Amalienborg to his dwelling.”
Thorvaldsen did not achieve this distinction, however, without a hard, discouraging, up-hill climb. He went to Rome to study first in 1796, and he labored so obscurely that even his friends lost faith in his talent. He could not afford to buy plaster of Paris, so he made from clay a model of Jason, which quickly fell to pieces. A second model failed to find a purchaser, and discouraged and heartbroken he prepared to sail for Denmark, when Thomas Hope, a wealthy English banker, justified nature in the bestowal of his surname by asking Thorvaldsen to reproduce in marble his statue of Jason. From this point the sculptor’s ambition revived, and in a few years he was hailed far and wide as the greatest living master of his profession.
Andersen’s autobiography contains many interesting bits about his friend Thorvaldsen. On his seventy-third birthday, and his last, the sculptor was greeted very early in the morning by a throng of friends who were celebrating the day by the use of “gongs, fire tongs, flasks, knives,” and other noisy implements. The old man threw on a dressing gown and slippers, and thus attired danced out of his bedroom and joined the hilarity. A few months later he died, and the news caused a whole nation to go into mourning.
But Hans Christian Andersen, the children’s poet, survived him. Andersen is to-day one of the best beloved writers in the world, as you will not hesitate to admit, Judicia. I am positive that Phillips can’t refer you to any Swedish author who is half as much loved, at least by people outside of his own land. One writer whose book I have recently read refers to this author as “H. C. Andersen.” Doesn’t that strike you as almost a sacrilege? Hans Christian Andersen is in a class by himself, and he ought to be called Hans Christian and not H. C. His fairy tales lose half their charm if we discover that the author is only H. C. Andersen. Hans Christian Andersen by any other name would not—well, he would not be as fragrant—I am getting involved here.
He was born in Odense, on the island of Fyen. Right here let me say that this town of Odense is not named for the much-advertised five-cent cigar, but for Odin, the same old god who gave us our name for the fourth day in the week. Hans was the son of a cobbler, and he spent the earliest years of his life, or parts of them, in a crib fashioned from a nobleman’s coffin, on which tatters of black cloth continued to hang. His mother wanted him to become a tailor, and he would perhaps have fulfilled her wish if a gypsy wise-woman had not chanced to cross his path and prophesy that Hans would some day become a great man. His parents believed the prophecy, and later their faith in the gypsy woman was justified.
Even as a boy Hans was in love with the drama. He could scrape up money enough to go to the theater only once a year, but the rest of the time he would get hold of the bill and imagine the whole play for himself. His introduction to dramatic society was most pathetic. An old bookseller in Odense gave him an introduction to a _danseuse_ at the Royal Theater at Copenhagen. Poor little Hans was frightened almost out of his wits when he met the lady dancer. He was “candidating,” as it were, and the meeting was very critical. He was so nervous that everything went wrong. His hat was too big for him, and, as he forgot to take it off, it fell over his ears. His new, confirmation shoes creaked, and he was forced to “ask his hostess’ permission to remove them, that he might be able to dance with more grace.” The peculiarity of this request, combined with the strange gestures he made, frightened the poor _danseuse_. She thought he was mad, and escaped under a pretext. Poor Hans, with tears in his eyes, and as utterly miserable as possible, hurried away. Yet he had inborn genius, and, like a city that is set on a hill, it could not be hid. A few years later he was received in his native town as a hero. The city was illuminated; the bishop met him at the station; the school children had a whole holiday; he received a congratulatory telegram from the king, and the man whom all Denmark delighted to honor says: “I felt as humble and small as if I stood before my God. It was as if every weakness, fault, and sin in thought, word, and deed was brought home to me.” As a matter of fact he had about as few faults and sins as it would be possible to have and still be human, and his one weakness was a too great sensitiveness.
He tells of how on one occasion he was anxious to obtain a traveling scholarship, and he also had a book of poems which he wished to present to the king, Frederick VI. His friends, being versed in the ways of the world, advised him to present his book at the same time he made his request for the scholarship. The same principle was of course involved as that which to-day implies that the giver of compliments has a request to follow. Well, such a proceeding seemed to the sensitive Hans as verging on dishonesty, and he was troubled to know what to do. He thus describes his interview with the king:
“I must have looked to the king extremely funny as I entered the room, for my heart was beating fast with anxiety. When the king came toward me in the quick way he had, and asked me what kind of a book I had brought him, I answered: ‘A cycle of poems, your Majesty.’ ‘Cycle, Cycle! what do you mean?’ Then I lost heart and said: ‘It is some verses on Denmark.’ He smiled. ‘Well, well, that is all right; thanks, thanks,’ and he bowed a dismissal. But I, who had not even begun my real errand, explained that I had much still to say, and then I told him about my studies, and how I had got through them. ‘That is very praiseworthy,’ said the king, and when I came to the point of my wish for a scholarship he answered, as they had told me he would: ‘Very well, then bring an application.’ ‘Yes, your Majesty,’ I burst out, all my self-consciousness gone, ‘I have it here with me, and it seems so dreadful to me that I should bring it with the book. I have been told to do so, as it is the custom, but I think it is horrid. I do hate it so.’ My eyes were full of tears. The good king laughed right out, nodded kindly, and took the application form.”
This bashful, timid Hans was really a wonderful man. He could take an old bottle or a piece of string or a barnyard hen and make a story out of it that the world, particularly the child’s world, will not willingly let die. Did you know that he invented the mission of the stork, and that every time _Life_ or _Judge_ gets off a joke in which a stork figures they have Hans Christian Andersen to thank for the idea?
Part of Andersen’s life was spent as a student at Elsinore or Helsingör, and so I think I will tear myself away from Copenhagen and go up to see the sights of northern Zealand. Before I tell you about Helsingör I must mention some of these castles of North Zealand. The island swarms with them, but the most interesting are Kronborg, Fredensborg, and Frederiksborg. In Kronborg, Holger Danske sits in confinement, and must remain there until the end of time. “He is clad in iron and steel, and rests his head upon his strong arms; his long beard hangs out over the marble table where it has grown fast. He sleeps and dreams in his dreams that he sees all that is happening above in Denmark. Every Christmas evening one of God’s angels comes to tell him that it is right what he has dreamt, and that he may sleep again, for no danger out of the ordinary is threatening Denmark.”
Fredensborg Castle, a few miles south, is the place where the clans gather for the annual Thanksgiving dinner. Perhaps they don’t call it by that name, and perhaps the gathering isn’t annual, but at least it is true that now and then the whole royal family of Denmark gathers together here in Fredensborg. As you know, the royal family of Denmark includes the King of Greece, Queen Alexandra, the Czarina of Russia, the King of Norway, and numerous princes and princesses. The name Fredensborg means “Castle of Peace” and the castle was built a century ago to commemorate the peace between Denmark and Sweden.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
Frederiksborg Castle, Copenhagen.]
Frederiksborg I am sure I have mentioned before as the joint product of Christian IV and Brewer Jacobsen, who have given us one of the most interesting and valuable historical museums in the world. Here are all the old heroes and heroines of Denmark, as well as all the sculptors and story-tellers and doctors and inventors and philosophers and musicians and merchants. Here, in short, you can find a collection of who’s who in Denmark, or rather of who has been who in the past. You could spend a week here studying these different celebrities and the stories connected with them. In the room called the Council Chamber is a colossal portrait of all the Danish royalties who were alive in 1886. There are no less than thirty-two persons in the picture, and the artist thought nothing of tucking away eight or ten royal children in one corner.
In another room the most celebrated of the ancients are collected, among them Gorm the Old, Canute the Great, who as you know was the king that could not be flattered, and Thyra Danebod. This Thyra is not so well known as the other two, but she was an interesting old shrew. I am not positive of her identity, as names were repeated so much in the old days, but I think she was sister of Sweyn Forkbeard, king of Denmark at the end of the tenth century. Whether or not my guess is correct, I want to tell you a little about this Thyra. She was a spoiled child, and wanted to be married to as many kings as possible. At least two kings, Burislav the Wend and Olaf Tryggvesson the Norwegian, claimed her at the same time as lawful wife, or rather she claimed them. She positively bullied Olaf into marrying her because she had had a tiff with Burislav. But Olaf could not please her. One day, a Palm Sunday, he bought her some spring vegetables as a special treat. She threw them in his face, remarking that her father, Harald Bluetooth, had given her a better present than that when she got her first tooth; what she wanted was land and revenue. She pestered him so continually that finally, for the sake of domestic peace, he started on a piratical expedition. He gained no land and lost his life, whereupon Thyra retrieved herself somewhat by dying nine days later of a broken heart.
In another room there are many pictures of different events of Danish history. One portrays the foul murder of Erik Glipping, son of Erik Plowpenny. His only fault was that he happened to be king of Denmark. Another picture shows the great Valdemar Atterdag, whose mission in life was to regain the territory which his father had pawned. This Valdemar Atterdag, by the way, was not particularly gentle in his estimate of human life.
However, killing people, particularly sons or defenceless children, was the favorite sport of some of the old kings and queens. Christina, mistress of Haakon Galen, an aspirant to the throne of Norway, one day took in her lap a little boy named Guttorm Siggurdsson, who happened to be the legitimate heir to the throne. She stroked the child lovingly over his whole body, and soon after little Guttorm complained that needles were sticking into him all over. After a few minutes he died in great agony. Haakon Galen was immensely amused. He kissed his mistress and soon after rewarded her by actually making her his wife.
I seem to be getting into a morbid strain, but fortunately there are many noble and cheerful tales which the history of Denmark and Norway affords. When I get time I will write you more about these. We are fast approaching Kornsjö, where, since it is on Norwegian soil, I can lawfully begin to take an interest in the scenery. But before we get there I must tell you something about Helsingör, for that is as well known to foreigners, thanks to Mr. Shakespeare, as any spot in Denmark. The statue of Saxo Grammaticus, who originally wrote of “Prince Amleth,” is made to wear an amused smile, as if he did not take himself or the story of Hamlet quite seriously. The following quotation from Horace Marryat will show you the source of some doubts:
“Hans Andersen assured me that it [Hamlet’s grave] did not exist. In the good old times, when Sound duties still were, and myriads of ships stopped at Elsinore to pay their dues and be plundered by the inhabitants, each fresh English sailor, on his first arrival, demanded to be conducted to the tomb of Hamlet. Now, on the outside of the town, by the Strandvej, in the garden of a resident merchant, stood or still stands a _hoi_ or barrow, one of the twenty thousand which are scattered so plentifully over the Danish domains. This barrow, to the great annoyance of its owner, was settled upon as a fitting resting place for Shakespeare’s hero. Worried and tormented by the numerous visitors who allowed him no peace, he, at his own expense, erected this monument in the public garden of Marienlyst, caused it to be surmounted by a cross and a half-erased inscription, fixing the date of Hamlet’s death the 32d of October, Old Style, the year a blank. Admirably, too, it succeeded. The British public was content, and the worthy merchant was allowed to smoke his pipe in peace under the grateful shade of his veranda.”
Butlin says of his first visit to Denmark that on inquiring for Hamlet’s grave he was told by a sarcastic Dane—the time being early autumn—that it was not usually built up before the spring, in time for English and American tourists to carry it away in chopped-off morsels during the summer.
As to Elsinore, that is an interesting place, with or without the actual grave of Hamlet. It is the scene of more historical events, connected with Norway, than almost any other place in Denmark. You remember that Marryat refers to the fact that it collected tolls from all the ships that passed through the Sound; and think of the nerve of it—it continued to do so even after Sweden had won the opposite coast of Skaane. All the nations concerned finally clubbed together and gave little Elsinore an immense ransom as token of future exemption from duty.
I have just discovered by referring to my _Norges Communicationer_ that we are due in Kornsjö in twenty minutes, so I shall soon be taking in the delights of Norway. As to this _Norges Communicationer_, let me tell you what an absurd system of time-tables they have here. This foolish _Communicationer_ is published every week and costs thirty _öre_ (about eight cents). This week’s edition has one hundred and eighty-four big pages, and a whole year’s edition takes up actually almost as much room as the new _Encyclopædia Britannica_. By subscribing to this very interesting weekly magazine you can get it for about a dollar per quarter, and less than two dollars and a half for the entire year. Think of that! The price includes postage, too. Oh, it’s a shame to pay so little; therefore I think I won’t subscribe.
I don’t know when I shall have time to write again. I am planning to go to Bergen in a few days and take from there one of the Bergenske and Nordenfjeldske Dampskibsselskab boats up along the coast. Every one has taken this trip in summer, when the country is looking for tourists all along the line, but I want to see the country out of season, and so I am planning to visit it in winter, regardless of warnings about the gloomy, perpetual night.
I shall write to you from somewhere, sometime.
The color scheme of a Norwegian winter night; a trip up the coast; the “Maiden of Lekö” and Torg’s Hat; the home of Haarek remind us of the early methods of introducing Christianity into Norway; Thangbrand, the ferocious Saxon priest; Olaf Tryggvesson; some interesting sights en route for the Lofotens; the Maelström and Pontoppidan’s sea serpent; the great Lofoten fisheries; the long war between cod and herring; sea life in the Lofotens; approach to Narvik; certain Norwegian characteristics.
NARVIK, NORWEGIAN LAPLAND, January 12.
N. Lat. 68° 30´: E. Long. 17° 30´ (circa).
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
I would just as soon wager that you never heard of Narvik before, and that you don’t know any more of its whereabouts than the heading of this letter tells you. I am basing my wager on the assumption that your knowledge of Norway is just about as extensive as mine was before I came here. Well, I cannot blame you much for your ignorance (if ignorant you are), for Narvik is a very young thing. It was born on January 1, 1902, but it is fast getting to be one of the important towns of this country, thanks to the iron hills of Lapland. However, I mustn’t tell you about Narvik before you get there. First I will ask you to go up along the coast with me by steamer and get something of the unconscious spell of northern Norway in winter, when it doesn’t suspect that it is showing off.
I decided to come to Trondhjem by rail instead of by steamer, so I hunted things up in my _Norges Communicationer_ and found that I could go direct from Christiania to Trondhjem in sixteen hours and there take one of the mail boats of that Dampskibsselskab (I love to pronounce that word) up to Narvik. I have several thousand things to tell you about Christiania and Trondhjem, but these must wait until later, as I am planning to visit these cities again. In this letter I shall simply tell you about northern Norway in the cold, gloomy winter, which is really neither cold nor gloomy. It is wonderful, this Norwegian winter. The whole country does not realize that there is an American tourist north of Trondhjem, and if it did realize, it wouldn’t care, for it is attending to its own business. I get the same pleasure out of seeing this tourist-ridden country out of season that I got from seeing Oberammergau in the winter of 1905, when the natives had forgotten the previous decennial Passion Play and had not begun to think seriously of the next.
This “awful, uncanny darkness” that seems to frighten so many people is one of my chief delights. On the average there have been only three or four hours a day when I could see to read by daylight, but the twenty-hour nights have been anything but depressing to me. It has been clear weather nearly all the time, and there have been many substitutes for Phœbus. Even when there has been no moon and no northern lights, the starlight has usually been enough to bring out in sharp relief the changing outline of mountains and rocky headlands. But much of the time the stars have had assistance. A brand new moon came to the rescue soon after we left Trondhjem, and as it was not particularly bothered by the blinding sunlight it had a great chance to make the most of itself. It is surprising how much light even a very new moon can give when it is not annoyed or forced out of business by such a light trust as the sun.
Occasionally the aurora borealis has come to lend its very gentle, wavering quota of illumination. It is extremely timid, and a bright moon can frighten it into retirement. But when it does appear it is the most bewitching of phantoms. It is always restless, always timid. It darts a long, white ray up to the zenith and then snatches it back as if in terror lest something should seize it and hold it fast. Sometimes it is as if a dozen streamers of the softest phosphorescent material were blown out by the action of some huge electric fans at the North Pole. The scene is never twice alike, even when seen from the same point, and when seen from the deck of a little steamer, winding its way through a twisting, cliff-bound channel, the variety is endless.
But the finest illumination of all is “under foot.” All the way from Trondhjem to Narvik we sailed through a sea of phosphorus. Imagine, Judicia, the brightest firefly or glowworm that you ever saw, and then picture several hundred of them together in a compact mass, and you will have some idea of one of the little floating islands of phosphorus through which we passed. I saw some of these greenish light globes that seemed as big as a grapefruit. It was as if green arc lights were strewn about promiscuously through this whole northern sea. I wish Thomas Edison had been along to tell me how many candle power one of these arc lights possessed, but I am sure that one placed in a dark room would give light enough to read by. This is not a fish story, Judicia. Really you cannot imagine what a brilliant, watery-green glow these Norwegian phosphorus lights give.
All this way we have been sailing on an inland sea, so to speak. The whole coast from Trondhjem to Hammerfest, with the exception of a few miles, is fringed with a belt of protecting islands, and seasickness is about as nearly unknown here as it could be anywhere. The boat stopped at many little fishing stations and gave an opportunity, which the tourist steamers in summer do not give, to see real Norwegian life.
About eighty miles from Trondhjem we pass the island of Almenningen, where are situated the quarries from which the blue chlorite was taken to build the famous Trondhjem Cathedral. From there on we begin to get into the famous fishing country, though we do not reach the center of the industry until we get up to the Lofoten Islands. Norway, as every one knows, is famous for its fisheries. Salmon and cod and herring and sardines are caught by the billion and sent all over the world. A few miles beyond Almenningen we see numerous white streaks on the rocks, which the wily fishermen have painted there, so that the salmon are fooled into thinking them their favorite waterfalls and are thus lured into the nets. At Brönö, about a hundred and fifty miles from Trondhjem, a herring fleet was stationed, waiting for the harvest. This herring fishery is conducted in a most scientific way. Scouts keep an eye out for a _sildstim_, or shoal of herring, and as soon as one is located they send a hurry call by telegram to the nearest fleet, which is immediately towed to the scene of action by tugboats. Telegrams are also sent in all directions for the purpose of securing a supply of barrels and salt.
Much more interesting than this are the cod fisheries, which were increasingly in evidence as we neared the Lofotens; but I will tell you more about that later.
A most curious rock formation marks the arctic circle, for directly on this imaginary line is a petrified man riding a petrified horse. A little to the north is a rock called the “Maiden of Lekö,” and near by are the “Seven Sisters of Alstahoug”—hard-featured, raw-boned girls, each about four thousand feet tall. Between the seven sisters and the “Maiden of Lekö,” Torg’s Hat lies floating on the sea—a stone hat, eight hundred feet high, pierced by a four-hundred foot tunnel. Perhaps you will be interested, as I was, to know how, when, and why these various people and Torg’s headgear got here. It seems that once the devil’s young brother, who lived in this neighborhood, went to see his seven devilish sisters. During the visit he met a cousin, the “Maiden of Lekö,” and fell in love with her. Unfortunately she did not reciprocate. The devil’s brother then smothered his love in rage, mounted his horse, and set out to kill the maiden. He took his bow and shot an arrow at her. But just at the crucial moment Torg, the hero of the story, saw the danger and threw his hat at the arrow, which pierced it through, four hundred feet (I’m afraid Torg had a big head), and harmlessly buried itself in the land near by. At this point the sun rose and turned everything and everybody to stone. The _dramatis personæ_ and the stage properties continue to exist through all these centuries. The devil’s brother sits on his charger and draws his bow. The maiden looks longingly for Torg, the seven she-devils look on, and the arrow is seen sticking into a near-by island after boring its immense tunnel through Torg’s Hat. This last is a truly wonderful phenomenon, and I know of no other way to explain it than by the arrow theory. The tunnel is four hundred feet long, four hundred feet above the sea, and varies in height from sixty-five to two hundred and forty-five feet.
We are now unmistakably in the north. I have not seen the sun since I left the scene of this ancient drama. For a few hours a day all the southern half of the sky has been illuminated by a soft glow, a cross between dawn and twilight. The combination produces color schemes much more beautiful than either could produce alone, and the always changing and always majestic outline of the mountains adds tremendously to their effect.
It has been warm enough to permit me to stand on deck quite comfortably all the time, and that in spite of the fact that it is midwinter and that I am more than a hundred miles north of the arctic circle. The temperature has a peculiar tendency to actually rise as you go north along this western coast. Even as far north as Hammerfest the water up to the very heads of the still fjords never freezes, while in the Baltic and the Gulf of Finland, about nine hundred miles due south, it is no uncommon thing for the big steamers crossing from Stockholm to be frozen in solid. The mean January temperature of the Lofoten Islands is about the same as that of Berlin, warmer if anything. Hammerfest is in the same latitude as the arctic regions of America, where Franklin perished, and as the uninhabitable regions of northern Siberia, yet the average winter temperature here is rather warmer than in New York. As I write, here in Narvik, January 12, a hundred miles north of the arctic circle and about twenty-nine degrees of latitude north of New York, it is raining, and there is no snow on the ground. Of course I don’t need to tell you that the Gulf Stream is responsible for all this.
Another peculiarity about the coast of Norway is that it is rising bodily out of the ocean. At Trondhjem it is a well-ascertained fact that in the days of Olaf Tryggvesson, who, as I have told you, was king about nine hundred years ago, the coast line there was twenty feet higher than it is now. In Hammerfest there are unmistakable indications of an old coast line six hundred and twenty feet above the present one. In some parts of Scandinavia the land is rising at the rate of five feet in a century. At that rate it will be about ten miles higher a million years from now. Even with my geologically untrained eye I can easily see in many of the fjords distinct lines which must formerly have been on the sea level.
Directly in the center of the stage of this old drama, the “Maiden of Lekö,” is an island called Thjötö or Thjotta, formerly the private property of an earl named Haarek. This Haarek was a heathen earl who lived in the time of the aforementioned Olaf Tryggvesson. Olaf was a Christian king, and consequently he was much distressed that this heathen earl possessed so much power. He accordingly summoned Haarek to his court and told him that he must either be baptized or killed. The former course seemed to Haarek on the whole the more attractive, and in the end he and all his house were baptized.
Perhaps this would be an appropriate time to tell you something about the strenuous methods by which Norway was converted to Christianity. Olaf Tryggvesson was the first great missionary-king, and he attacked with fiery zeal the problem of converting his realm. He was so strenuous that he aroused much anger in his subjects, who finally rebelled. At this, Olaf, who was always equal to any emergency, summoned six of the ringleaders, and holding an ax over the head of each in turn he offered them their choice of being killed or baptized. Most of them chose to be baptized, but one asked the priest where were the old heroes, Harald Fairhair and Halfdan the Swarthy. The priest replied that they were in hell, whereupon the courageous chieftain said very well, he would like to join them, and he was promptly killed. I suspect that in this case the heathen was nobler than the Christians.
King Olaf had a crony in his court, chaplain Thangbrand, the Saxon priest. Thangbrand was a perfectly ferocious man, whose insincerity as a missionary of the gospel of peace must have been most evident. Some years before he had visited Bishop Siric of Canterbury, who had presented him with a valuable and unique shield, on which was wrought the image of the crucified Christ. As Boyesen says:
“Shortly after this occurrence, Thangbrand made the acquaintance of Olaf Tryggvesson, who admired the shield greatly and desired to buy it. The priest received a munificent compensation, and, finding himself suddenly rich, went and bought a beautiful Irish girl, whose charms had beguiled him. A German warrior who saw the girl claimed her, and when his demand was scornfully refused challenged the priest. A duel was fought, and the German was killed. Some ill feeling was aroused against Thangbrand by this incident, and he fled to his friend, Olaf Tryggvesson, and became his court chaplain.”
Needless to say, King Olaf had no idea what Christianity really meant. To him it was merely a substitution of one polytheism for another. The Trinity, the Virgin Mary, and numberless saints took the place of Odin, Thor, Frey, and the rest of the old gods. The one difference which in time permeated the viking consciousness was that, while Odin and his colleagues rejoiced in bloodshed and cruelty, Christ the “White” advocated “Peace on earth, good will to men.” Thirty years later King Olaf Haroldsson earned by his life, and still more by his death, the title of Olaf the Saint. He took the Norse imagination captive, and by his truly saintly life and death won his country to real Christianity.
The first Olaf Tryggvesson resorted at times to the most cruel measures in his efforts to convert his subjects. Raud the Strong, who refused to accept the new faith, he tortured most horribly, finally, it is said, forcing an adder down his throat, which cut its way through his side and killed him with its poison. Eyvind Kinriva, another chieftain who refused to be baptized, “had glowing coals put upon his stomach at the king’s command, and expired under horrible tortures.”
In all this, however, Olaf verily thought that he did God’s service. He was so burning with zeal for the new faith, without at the same time having the slightest conception of what the new faith meant, that he subjected everything to this one idea of fierce missionary enthusiasm.
The case was quite otherwise with the vicious priest, Thangbrand. It is certain that he recognized himself for a charlatan who was interested in the new religion only for what he could get out of it. He had a parish at one time at Moster in Norway, but, as he found it inconvenient to live and support his Irish beauty on his slender income, he “formed the habit of making forays into the neighboring shires, replenishing his stores at the expense of the heathen.” King Olaf was incensed at this, and as a penance he made the Saxon priest go on a missionary journey to Iceland. Here Thangbrand killed nearly as many men as he converted, and he was finally outlawed and compelled to leave the island. But it is strangely enough a fact that about a year after his enforced flight Iceland did legally adopt the new faith at the Althing of June in the year 1000.
I will tell you more about Olaf the Saint and some of the other Olafs and Haakons and Haralds when I come back to Trondhjem. If I run on any more now about history I shall never get you to Narvik. Not far from Thjotta is the great “Svartisen” glacier, which is, being interpreted, “Swarthy Ice,” or “Black Ice.” This is the only glacier in Europe which sends branches down to the edge of the sea.
Fifty miles or so north of the arctic circle there is a town called Bodö, which the tourist steamers utterly ignore, but our good mail _skib_ of the Nordenfjeldske Dampskibsselskab does not scorn it, and afforded us a most interesting stop of two or three hours. Like all these arctic towns, Bodö is built entirely of wood, and offers a good opportunity for fires, which opportunity is seldom neglected for a very long time. There is a church parsonage near the town, which once sheltered no less a celebrity than Louis Philippe, when he was traveling incognito as “Herr Müller.” There is one old room in this house which is still called Louis Philippe’s chamber.
From a hill above Bodö I got my first glimpse of the Lofotens, and I could hardly wait to get among these islands. Directly east of Bodö is a fjord with the unpronouncable name of Skjerstadfjord, which opens out to the main sea through three very narrow openings. The fjord is so large and the openings are so small that a tremendous torrent is formed four times daily by the two incoming and the two outgoing tides. The tide only rises and falls six or at most eight feet, but you can see that to cover a fjord thirty miles long and six or eight miles wide with six feet of water, and to accomplish the inundation in a few hours through a tiny opening, requires a violent torrent. At the Godöström or Saltström, the narrowest of the openings, the tide is so violent that only for an hour at ebb and full tide do the steamers dare to go through.
As we approached the Lofotens, we passed the famous Maelström on the left. This Maelström is a feeble little current which passes around the edge of the southernmost island of the group. Compared with the Saltström it is a calm mill pond, yet some poet had the nerve to fool all the world into thinking that some horrible, yawning cavity in the sea existed somewhere along the Norwegian coast. I have learned that two poets and a bishop are largely responsible for this idea. The poets are Campbell and Poe, and the bishop bore the name of Pontoppidan. Campbell writes:
“Round the isle where loud Lofoden Whirls to death the roaring whale,” etc.
Campbell _could_ not have seen the Maelström, or he would not have written so ridiculously about it. I doubt, too, if he was ever frightened by the “roar” of a whale. A minnow or a tadpole could swim through the Maelström without realizing that he was in it, and as for a whale being “whirled to death”—well, perhaps a poet has a right to say such things. The good Bishop Pontoppidan, in the same work in which he dilates upon the horrors of the Maelström, tells of a sea serpent or _kraken_: “Its back or upper part,” he says, “which seems to be in appearance about an English mile and a half in circumference (some say more, but I choose the least for greater certainty) looks at first like a number of small islands surrounded with something that floats and fluctuates like seaweed.”
You may imagine, Judicia, how I was comforted by a certain guide book’s reassurance that “there is no doubt that this dreaded monster is a purely optical illusion.” So there isn’t any sea serpent with a back an English mile and a half in circumference, and there isn’t any yawning chasm.
Regardless of whirlpools and sea serpents, the approach to the Lofotens gave one of the most interesting views I have seen anywhere. It was high noon when we left Bodö, and, as it did not get dark until nearly three o’clock, we had a good view. Dear old Baedeker, for whom I am coming to feel a genuine affection, states that these islands form a chain which has “not inaptly been likened to a backbone, tapering away to the smaller vertebræ of the tail at the south end.” Whoever said that originally had a good command over similes, for it does have very much that form. The jagged outline of the mountains as we sailed over the “darkling” expanse of water was something for poets to write about.
One very prosy author describes the scene as “picturesque.” What a fine, expressive, original word it is, and incidentally how faithful and obliging! It will attach itself to a Neapolitan beggar, or a Damascus rag fair or a Nile dahabiyeh, or anything else in the wide world, and I do think the Lofotens might have a word of their own. Without any directly applied adjective, Campbell makes you see the Lofotens and feel their spell by these two lines:
“Round the shores where runic Odin Howls his war-song to the gale.”
After these lines, can’t you see the wind swirling around the sheer, rocky mountains?
It began to get dark as we approached the islands, and we had to feel our way through a big fishing fleet, which was just beginning operations. This fishing fleet was only a small section of the entire squadron. An average annual catch mounts up to nearly thirty million cod, and the record is thirty-seven million. Thirty million cod livers are taken out and boiled into cod-liver oil. Thirty million cod heads are burned and pulverized and made into fertilizer, and thirty million cod carcasses are hung up to dry, eventually to be sent all over the world.
This very useful fish formerly waged a mortal warfare with the herring in the region of Stavanger, very much farther south. The herring were the aborigines in that region, but in 1784 a battle resulted in a complete cod victory. For twenty-four years the cod held the fort. In 1808 a herring Napoleon arose and led his forces to victory. The cod were completely routed, and for sixty-one years the herring rejoiced in their native stamping ground, and the fishermen did not catch a single cod. In 1869 the cod again “came back” and have held their place ever since. However, there is no knowing when another Napoleon herring may arise. Perhaps fishes as well as men need a Hague Tribunal, and a Carnegie Foundation, and a Nobel Peace Prize.
These fishermen live a precarious and a dangerous life. Violent storms often spring up suddenly and toss their little smacks in all directions. In 1848, on February 11, five hundred fishermen were drowned in such a storm.
On one of the southern islands is a natural trap called “Whale Creek,” into which whales occasionally swim at high tide, and, being unable to turn around, find themselves stranded when the tide goes out. There is sea “life” all around these Lofoten Islands. There are eider ducks by the million, whose down is so valuable. These little ducks are said to have the power of diving one hundred and twenty feet for the crabs which form their daily bread. Lobsters and seals also bring a handsome revenue into the coffers of the natives. Of course sea gulls and porpoises are everywhere. Also there is a whole tribe of birds called “skua,” who live entirely by brigandage and highway robbery. Through laziness or inability, they will not or cannot earn their own “keep,” and they lie in wait and rob the sea gulls of their prey. If a Norwegian sea gull wishes to have any peace he must seek some secluded spot where he may dive and seize his prey unmolested by these skua thieves.
The most important stopping place in the Lofoten Islands is the town of Svolvaer. The same author who thinks that the Lofotens in general are “picturesque” finds Svolvaer “most picturesque.” Well, whatever adjective you do use to characterize the islands in general, you must, in all fairness, apply in the superlative degree to Svolvaer. The great, raw cliffs, two thousand feet high, come so close to the water’s edge and rise so sheer that the little town gives the appearance of one flattening himself against the rock and clinging by his finger nails and eyebrows. The ships in the harbor look like discarded peanut shells beside these towering walls of rock.
The shape of these boats, particularly of the small rowboats, gives away their pedigree instantly. They are unmistakably descendants of the vikings. They have high prows and high sterns, and these are adorned with various viking ornamentations.
At Svolvaer several Sea-Lapps came to the wharf to meet our steamer. They are rather poor specimens of Laplanders. They have given up their old, wandering reindeer life and are making a somewhat unsuccessful attempt to be Norwegian fishermen. Being between hay and grass, or rather between reindeer and cod, they are a very scraggly, unkempt lot.
At Lödingen, about a hundred and forty miles from Svolvaer by the steamer’s winding course, I had to change to a little boat, which took me on an eight-hour trip through the long Ofotenfjord to Narvik. This Ofotenfjord is one of the very finest in Norway, and yet it is seldom visited by Americans, as the summer tourist steamers all sail by. We got to Lödingen early in the morning, about seven o’clock, hours before dawn, and were soon chugging over the quiet Ofoten in a little boat of almost steam-launch diminutiveness. About half-past nine there began to be very faint signs that there might be a sun somewhere, and by eleven o’clock it had gotten near enough to the horizon to flood half the sky with a soft glow of changing and indescribable color. I saw many familiar mountains on this trip. Two Matterhorns, a Dent du Midi, a Gramont, and a Fujiyama were unmistakable. Fujiyama was absolutely perfect except that a little part of the top of the cone had been clipped off as though with a giant egg-decapitator. Dent du Midi was perfect, too, only Chillon being absent.
At one of the ports of call on the way to Narvik, a port which apparently consisted of three houses, a small viking boat came out and contributed two persons to our passenger list. After our boat had started again and was well on its way, a little boy appeared from somewhere and suddenly remembered that he had meant to get off at that station. Obligingly, and as a matter of course, the captain signaled to his engineer, the engines were reversed, and the boat chugged back a long way; someone called to the viking rowboat, which came out and got the belated passenger. There is no hurry about anything in this part of Norway, no confusion and no yelling. The people seem to make a point of not talking at all unless they have something that must be said. At several of the stops passengers were transferred back and forth without the assistance of a single spoken word by anybody. The Norwegians, at least in the quieter parts of the country, are as simple and genuine and honest as any people in the world. Truly I believe that it is a certain stolid honesty that makes them often so silent. I think they feel that it would not be quite genuine to say something that did not seem to be worth saying.
About four o’clock in the afternoon, when it had long been night, we came in sight of Narvik. I was astonished to see what a busy, hustling city it was. All along the fjord, in fact all the way from Trondhjem, I had lived in an atmosphere of slow, almost stolid, quiet. No one had been in a hurry. But here was a busy, noisy little city. Hundreds of bright electric lights twinkled in the distance, and from miles away I could hear the clanking of chains, the chugging of machinery, the tooting and puffing of trains, and a thousand other noises that go to the making of a commercial town’s wharves. A Baedeker of fifteen years back does not mention Narvik, for the very good reason that it did not exist; yet now it is the busiest town north of the arctic circle anywhere in the world. The iron mines of Kiruna in Swedish Lapland and the new railway from there to Narvik have made this seaport possible. It is said that now two and a quarter million tons of iron ore are exported annually from Narvik to all parts of the world, a large share going to Emden in Germany. Some of it, strangely enough, finds its way to Philadelphia, and not so very long ago I read in the paper of a collision of one of these Narvik iron-ore ships with an American ship in Delaware Bay. At the time I read the item I had not been to Norway, and I remember wondering where in the world Narvik was, and why an iron-ore ship from there should be in Delaware Bay. It is almost unbelievable that little Norway, with less than three million inhabitants, all told, has the fourth largest commercial fleet in the world, following Great Britain and the United States and Germany; yet such is the case. Narvik now contributes very considerably to this commercial fleet. There are frequently five or six big ships lying in the harbor, and others are always up at the wharves being loaded with ore.
As our little boat drew up at the wharf, a number of hotel porters appeared on the scene, and I tried to judge of them and choose by the appearance of the porters. Full of dignity, and absorbed in my occupation of studying the hotels through their representatives, I stepped boldly off the gangplank. Oh, Judicia! Alas for my dignity. My feet shot out from under me, and I slid into that nest of porters as a man slides for second base. My suit case and rug case bounded merrily away, and my derby rolled off, and just to the edge of the wharf, where it balanced for a long time and finally fell over, between the wharf and the steamer. Those hotel porters had never seen anything so humorous. As soon as they found I was not hurt, they separated into little groups and went off to laugh. One of them fished for my derby and collected my suit case and rug case, for which offices I was so grateful that I finally went to his hotel, which bears the name of Fönix. All Narvik was covered with glare ice, and it required the greatest skill to navigate the streets at all. It was raining gently, which made the ice a trifle more treacherous.
Fönix is Norwegian for “Phœnix,” and the hotel is very appropriately named, because it has risen out of the ashes of a former hotel which was burned a few years ago. My beloved British author, the inventor of the word “picturesque,” stopped at this same hotel when he was in Narvik. His chief items about the town are that there was a pianola in the parlor of the hotel and that the man in the next room to his made a good deal of noise. However, Narvik need not feel badly over such neglect, for the same author’s principal headline about Christiania is that the people “wear goloshes a good deal,” which he thinks rather a clever idea. His book is all right in its way, and gives an interesting account of a ski trip he took, but I cannot see how he could travel through Norway and apparently find pianolas and goloshes the most interesting attractions. He finds the Norwegian fishermen a “white-faced, ill-fed, unintelligent looking lot,” for which condition he believes consumption is largely responsible. I cannot imagine where he got this idea. I certainly haven’t noticed the ravages of consumption.
This seems to be lengthening into a very long letter, but I must tell you something about Narvik. It is a ramshackly, ugly town, architecturally speaking. There are no fine buildings, and everything gives the appearance of having been hastily tumbled together, any old way. Of course it is a mushroom town which sprang up simply to accommodate the endless stream of iron ore coming from Lapland, so I don’t have any trouble in forgiving its ugliness. It reminds me very much of the Alaskan towns that Rex Beach describes so vividly, though there are no evidences of wickedness here. It all looks temporary, and I should not be surprised if fifty years from now there should be a fine-looking city in place of this crude pioneer town.
Everybody, everywhere, is as honest as the hills, and it is wonderfully refreshing to find such a condition after traveling in Italy. I went into a shop to buy a needle and thread (for I am going to attempt to sew on a button) and the shop girl said she only had a full sewing kit, which would cost a _kroner_ (twenty-seven cents), and as that was more than I should want I could probably get a single needle and thread at the next shop. I went there and succeeded in getting one needle for three _öre_ and a spool of thread for ten—total expense, thirteen _öre_ (three cents). The Norwegians as a class—hotel keepers, shopkeepers, cab drivers, and everyone else—would rather starve than keep a quarter of an _öre_ that didn’t belong to them. Imagine a Neapolitan shopkeeper who considered it wrong to cheat a customer. He would be considered mentally unbalanced, almost a dangerous person, if he really indulged in conscientious scruples in such matters. These genuine, trusty Norwegians are a positive comfort to one who has lately been robbed in Naples.
Our waitress at the Fönix has one custom in common with all other waitresses in Norway. As she brings on each course, she says what sounds like “shuket.” With each course her voice sinks lower and lower, until at the dessert she barely whispers it. At first when I heard it I though she was trying to be kittenish. But as I didn’t “rise,” and as she kept on saying it, I changed my mind. I have only just learned that she was saying a very much abbreviated _vaer saa god_, which means “be so good,” and is somewhat equivalent to “if you please,” though much more universal. I have heard it a thousand times since I came to Norway, from young and old, high and low. It is never obsequious, the smirking prerequisite of an expected tip. It is natural politeness, and second nature to the Norwegians. It would be ill-mannered to omit _vaer saa god_ when serving anyone in any way.
I have recently heard from Phillips that he is reveling in the snow of Swedish Lapland. He is going to Luleå at the head of the Baltic to-morrow, and has invited me to join him there. So I am going to leave here to-morrow morning for Luleå, and go from there by rail to Trondhjem.
It may be some time before I shall write again, in view of which I hope you have been sensible enough to read this very long letter in installments.
Auf wiedersehen, then, until Trondhjem.
Some interesting etymology; from Trondhjem to Hell and return; Haralds, Haakons, and Olafs; Hasting and his sack of “Rome”; Harald Fairhair and his matrimonial ventures; Rolf the Walker; kissing by proxy; the descendants of Harald Fairhair; a Christian saint on the throne of Norway; Harold Gilchrist, a miracle of presumption; the blood-curdling bravery of the Jomsvikings; the troubled times before the accession of Olaf the Saint.
TRONDHJEM, February 15.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
I think I left you about a month ago in the seaport of Narvik. I want to give you by way of preamble some etymological information of interest which I have learned in connection with that name. The ending _vik_, which appears on the average in about every third name in Norway, means “creek.” It is the same root as the _vik_ in the word “viking,” and corresponds to the English “wich” or “wick.” A viking was nothing more nor less than a “creekling.” A modern resident of Sandwich or Harwich or even of Battle Creek is no less a viking, etymologically, than the old Norsemen.
I left Narvik January 13, spent that night in Gellivare, and joined Phillips next day at Luleå. The ride from Narvik to Riksgränsen, the first Swedish town, is one of the most beautiful I have ever taken. Right along the edge of a long arm of the Ofotenfjord the train wound its way, always climbing and always entering tunnels, only to emerge a little higher above the fjord. It was just beginning to dawn, with a fresh, clean light.
We had a great time in Luleå, and I shall have to admit that Sweden has some attractions after all. I came here to Trondhjem by way of Bräcke and Ostersund and Storlien, a route you can trace by the map I inclose, if you care to. Storlien is the border town between the two countries, and near it a wide path cut through the forest marks the boundary.
From here on we dropped right down to the edge of the fjord, which we reached at the town with the startling name of Hell. It is a delightful, smiling little town, and its only misfortune lies in its name. It offers an endless and irresistible opportunity for questionable puns. One guide book says: “Ten miles from Trondhjem on the railway to Sweden there is a station called Hell. The number of return tickets for this quiet rural spot which are bought by English tourists but never used constitutes quite a source of revenue.”
You see, even the prosy guide book cannot resist such an opportunity for a joke. Probably at least two thirds of the English-speaking tourists who visit this town imagine that they are original when they remark that the town is paved with good intentions, and that they are going to write a _Divine Comedy_ like Dante, etc., etc.
Hell is beautifully situated and offers pleasant excursions in all directions.
Here in Trondhjem I am in the heart and soul of Norway. The town was founded under the original name of Nidaros by our old friend Olaf Tryggvesson. Century after century the Haakons and the Olafs and Haralds and Eriks and all the other kings and warriors fought for Norway here. Many of the streets are named for the old heroes. The cathedral, which dominates the whole town, is a perpetual memorial to Olaf the Saint. I could not find a more appropriate spot from which to write you something about the history of Norway. There is so much that is interesting that I feel hopeless about trying to really make you acquainted with it. Hjalmar Boyesen has written five hundred and twenty-eight pages of vividly, dramatically interesting history on the subject, yet he does not pretend to write exhaustively. All I shall do is to skim over a thousand years or so and here and there pick out an incident or a character that particularly interested me.
The old Norsemen, the vikings, were the most terrible of roving marauders, terrible at least to the rest of the world. Tacitus says: “They deem it a disgrace to acquire by sweat what they might obtain by blood.” The chieftains were venerated in almost direct proportion to the number of marauding expeditions they had made and the number of towns they had plundered. For the sake of glory they made countless sallies in all directions, over the Baltic, to Finland and Germany, across to England and Ireland, to France, to Spain, and even to Italy. A marauder named Hasting is said to have gone as far as Italy and to have sought to conquer the Eternal City of Rome.
Unfortunately for this desire, Hasting was not good at geography. He arrived with his fleet at the city of Luna, near Carrara, and, thinking it was Rome, he concocted a wily scheme. He sent word to the bishop there that he was dying and wished to be baptized into the Christian faith before he passed away. The simple priest was in ecstasy at the thought of the heavenly glory he would win by converting such a notorious robber. He made great preparations for the reception of the Norseman. On the day when the ceremony of baptism was to be held, messengers came to the bishop saying that Hasting had suddenly died. A pompous funeral was held, and the bishop prepared to say masses for the welfare of the viking’s soul. As all were assembled for this purpose, Hasting suddenly burst from his coffin, called to his men, and fell savagely upon the bishop and the priests. It is reported that “blood flowed in torrents through the sacred aisles.” The whole city was captured amid a scene of wholesale slaughter. Some time after Hasting discovered that it was not Rome he had captured after all.
For many years various chieftains with picturesque names kept up this marauding life, interspersing their piratical raids with occasional attacks upon each other.
Finally an Yngling chief named Harald arose from obscurity and conceived the brilliant idea of conquering all Norway and uniting it into a single nation. The idea was presented to him very forcibly by a maiden named Princess Gyda, to whom he sent messengers asking her to become his wife. Like Sigrid the Haughty, Gyda was furious. She vowed that she would teach little kings the risks of proposing to her. She scorned Harald’s overtures, sending word that when he was king over all Norway she would consider his offer. The idea appealed to Harald, and he wondered why he had not thought of it before. Accordingly he vowed that he would not cut his hair until he had conquered all Norway. He eventually succeeded in his undertaking, but the process was long, and his hair, being of decidedly blond “persuasion,” waved like a bright banner wherever he went. He had always been called Harald Frowsly-Headed, but now he came to be called Harald Fairhair, and he founded a race of kings that ruled Norway for centuries. Also he married the proud Gyda, and lived happily ever after. Gyda seems to have been not even annoyed by the fact that during the interval in which he had been conquering Norway and letting his hair grow he had married a maiden named Aasa and had three sons.
Harald was a jealous tyrant, and made life in Norway so uncomfortable that many of the earls and nobles fled and founded settlements in the Hebrides and the Orkneys, and even in Iceland. Rolf the Walker (so called because he was so huge that no horse could carry him) embarked for France and made terrible ravages there. King Charles the Simple, however, succeeded in making a peace with him whereby Rolf was to be baptized and receive large fiefs. As token of his fealty to Charles the Simple he was to kiss the king’s foot. The haughty Rolf snorted at such an idea and sent one of his servants to perform the osculation. The proxy stalked stiffly to King Charles, seized his foot, and kissed it so violently that the simple Charles tumbled from his horse. Charles was frightened out of what wits he had, and instead of punishing such insolence gave Rolf the hand of his daughter in marriage, and also gave him half of his kingdom. This territory came to be called Normandy, and about two centuries later Rolf’s descendant, William the Conqueror, achieved fame.
Harald had countless matrimonial ventures. Besides Aasa and Gyda, he married half a dozen other wives. One of them, Snefrid by name, was a sorceress. For several years the king forgot everything but his passion for her, forgot even his other wives. She bore him five sons and then died, and the king was almost insane with grief until he discovered that she had been a sorceress. He was then thoroughly angry, and to save his face he married right and left in all directions. Among others he wooed Ragnhild, daughter of King Erik of Jutland. Ragnhild was a girl of some spirit. She said she would not put up with one thirtieth part of the king’s affection, and he could give her the whole or none. He accordingly deserted his other wives and devoted himself to Ragnhild. She bore him a son, who later became King Erik Blood-Axe.
When Harald was seventy years old he married his servant-girl, Thora, who was so tall that she was known as the “Pole.” She bore him a son, who became King Haakon the Good.
I should not dwell so much on Harald’s matrimonial adventures except they that form indirectly an important link in the long chain of Norwegian history. He had a small army of children, and he was foolish enough to stipulate at his death that each child, whether legitimate or illegitimate, should inherit a province, but that all should owe allegiance to his favorite son, Erik Blood-Axe.
For centuries there was a ceaseless squabbling among the numerous descendants. Every one who had any ambition asserted that he was a son or a descendant of Harald, and claimed the throne. As it was of course impossible to disprove such a claim, might became the only right. Two centuries later a vicious Irishman, named Harold Gilchrist, landed in Norway and claimed to be a son of King Magnus Barefoot and consequently a descendant of Harald Fairhair. He had no proof whatever of his claim, but no one could disprove it, and, as Gilchrist was a cruel and unscrupulous man, he actually succeeded in gaining the throne. He learned a smattering of the Norwegian language and ruled cruelly, leaving a monstrous name behind him, and a long line of vicious children who helped to complicate matters.
After all this it is a pleasure to come to a king who thoroughly earned the name of Haakon the Good. This king was the image of his father in face and figure, but exactly opposite to him in character. It is difficult to guess how he came by his wonderful qualities of soul and mind. His father was a faithless, polygamous roué, and his mother’s only claim to distinction lay in the fact that she was a servant-girl of gigantic stature. Haakon was almost a saint. He seems to have possessed every good quality in the category. He was gentle and lovable and mild, yet he was a model of manly strength and courage. He was beautiful to look at, and the bitterest enemy could not be in his presence for even a few minutes without falling under the spell of his powerful personality. With heart and soul and the tenderest conscience, he sought only for the good of his people. It was a new thing for a king to use his office for any purpose other than the gratification of selfish ambition. No wonder the people almost worshiped him.
He had spent his boyhood in England and had been baptized, and now the one desire of his heart was to bring his country to accept the Christian faith. He was so mild, and he loved mankind so devotedly, that he could not bring himself to use the militant methods of conversion which his successor, Olaf Tryggvesson, employed. He was too gentle to be a successful propagandist in a country fanatically devoted to Odin, but he did win a great many true converts in his quiet way. At one time he was forced much against his will to attend a popular feast in honor of Odin, but he quieted his conscience by making the sign of the cross over Odin’s horn. In battle he was almost invincible. At one time the sons of Gunhild attacked him with a force six times his own in strength, but so great was the zeal which Haakon’s followers displayed that his little handful of men won a great victory.
His enemies on this occasion were the sons of Erik Blood-Axe’s queen, Gunhild. She was as near a devil as Haakon a saint, and never has a queen been more heartily or more deservedly hated. Her sons inherited her devilish disposition with interest. This wicked queen brought troublous times to Norway after the death of Haakon the Good. One man, Tryggve, a grandson of Harald Fairhair and consequently a rival claimant to the throne, Gunhild particularly hated. She tricked him into her power and murdered him, but Tryggve’s widow fled to a tiny islet in the Randsfjord and there gave birth to Olaf Tryggvesson, later to be one of the greatest of Norway’s kings, the violent but successful propagandist of Christianity.
The name of little Olaf’s mother was Aastrid, and with fine courage she roamed for years with her little baby, a starving outcast, in continual terror of Gunhild. Her foster-father, Thorolf Lousy-Beard, joined her and her child, and for long they lived a hunted, precarious life. Fortunately for Norway, all Gunhild’s efforts proved in vain. Once one of her spies almost had the child, when a half-witted peasant appeared on the scene, rushed at the spy with a pitchfork, and saved Olaf’s life.
Earl Haakon was another of Harald Fairhair’s descendants who somehow escaped Gunhild’s murderous tentacles. He joined King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark, and as a reward for murdering Gold-Harald, an aspirant to the Danish throne, Bluetooth generously offered to accompany him on an expedition against Gunhild. On their arrival in Norway they took everything without striking a blow. “So great was the hatred of Gunhild and her sons,” says Boyesen, “that not a man drew his sword in their defense.” Gunhild fled in terror to the Orkneys, but, according to Saga report, was later enticed to Denmark by Harald Bluetooth, under promise of marriage, and drowned, at his command, in a swamp.
Earl Haakon now became King Haakon of Norway. He was a powerful and great king, and a sincere heathen. Harald Bluetooth was an insincere Christian. With ulterior and decidedly questionable motives he sent for Haakon to come and be baptized. For some reason Haakon appeared to obey, visited Bluetooth, and with a shipload of priests set sail from Denmark; but whether because of twinges of conscience or for less worthy reasons, he repented, hustled the priests ashore, and made an enormous sacrifice to Odin. Two ravens, messengers of Odin, immediately alighted on his ship and croaked loud approval, whereat Haakon was highly encouraged. The Christian Bluetooth was enraged. He sought the alliance of a powerful company of pirates called Jomsvikings.
These, under the influence of the flowing bowl, made most extravagant vows of vengeance (on Bluetooth’s account) against King Haakon. On the morning after things seemed different to them, but nevertheless, for their vows’ sake, they set out for Norway. Earl Erik, an illegitimate son of Haakon, born, it is said, when the king was fifteen years old, heard news of the Jomsvikings, and he and his father prepared to give them a warm reception. When the two fleets met, there ensued one of the wildest and most ferocious battles in all history. The phenomenal courage of these old heroes is almost unbelievable. One of the Jomsvikings, by name Haavard the Hewer, had both his legs cut off at the knees, but he fought on furiously, standing on the stumps of his knees. Bue the Big received a blow from one of Erik’s men which completely struck off his nose. Bue never stopped to mourn such a trifle as the loss of a nose. He jokingly remarked to one of his companions: “Now I fear the Danish maidens will no more kiss me.”
At length Haakon and Erik were victorious. Vagn Aakeson, the leader of the Jomsvikings, was bravely and hopelessly fighting on. “When all but thirty of his men were dead, he at last surrendered. The captives were brought ashore and ordered to sit down in a row upon a log. Their feet were tied together with a rope, while their hands remained free. One of Erik’s men, Thorkell Leira, whom Vagn at that memorable feast had promised to kill, was granted the privilege of reciprocating the intended favor toward Vagn. With his ax uplifted, he rushed at the captives, and, beginning at one end of the log, struck off one head after another. He meant to keep Vagn until the last, in order to increase his agony. But Vagn sat chatting merrily with his men; and there was much joking and laughter.
“‘We have often disputed,’ said one, ‘as to whether a man knows of anything when his head is cut off. That we can now test, for if I am conscious after having lost my head, I will stick my knife into the earth.’
“When his turn came, all sat watching with interest. But his knife fell from his nerveless grasp, and there was no trace of consciousness. One of the vikings on the log seemed in particularly excellent spirits. He laughed and sang as he saw the bloody heads of his comrades rolling about his feet.”
The next cracked a clever pun at the executioner’s expense, and Erik, who was superintending the job, was so pleased at his audacity that he pardoned him. The next of the doomed men had long flaxen hair, and humorously requested the executioner not to soil his hair with the blood. Accordingly an assistant was delegated to hold out of harm’s way the glorious flaxen locks. Just as the ax was descending, the Jomsviking jerked his head in such a way that the hands of the assistant were struck off at the wrists. He laughed derisively, and Erik, who was particularly partial to such cleverness, pardoned him.
At this point Gissur the White was suddenly shot dead by an arrow coming from nowhere in particular. It seemed that Haavard the Hewer, whom everybody had forgotten, was still alive and still standing on the bloody stumps of his knees. With his last dying gasp of strength he had shot this arrow.
During the battle King Haakon sacrificed one of his sons, and this horrible action did much to hasten the king’s overthrow. His name became a nightmare to his subjects. It was a name to scare bad boys with. In the most abominable manner he insulted several of his most powerful nobles, and finally they rose in revolt. In terror Haakon fled with a single thrall, named Kark, to Rimul, the home of his mistress Thora. She hid the two in a pigsty, and there they spent a horrible night. A searching party, under the leadership of Olaf Tryggvesson, who had lately returned to Norway from Russia, where he had spent his youth, walked all about, within hearing of the miserable king in his hiding place. Olaf mounted a stone close to the sty and said in a loud tone, which the two miserable men could hear, that he offered a great reward to whoever should find Haakon. This of course added to Haakon’s terrors the fear of treachery on the part of his thrall.
All night king and thrall sat in their noisome den, eyeing each other in awful, mutual distrust. Toward morning the king was overpowered by sleep. “But the terrors of his vigil pursued him sleeping. His soul seemed to be tossed on a sea of anguish. He screamed in wild distress, rolled about, rose upon his knees and elbows, and his face was horrible to behold.” Kark then stabbed his master, cut off his head, and took it to Olaf, claiming his reward. Olaf, on the dead king’s account, took vengeance on the traitor by killing him.
Longfellow has immortalized this event, and I lately came across these lines of his, commemorating Olaf’s celebration:
“At Nidarholm the monks are all singing, Two ghastly heads on the gallows are swinging; One is Earl Haakon’s and one is his thrall’s, While the people are shouting from windows and walls, And alone in her chamber swoons Thora, the fairest of women.”
These were hard old times. But the influence of a few noble kings like Haakon the Good and Olaf the Saint wrought in time a great change on these brave Norsemen. They were of too fine a stock to be permanently satisfied with a god who delighted in bloodshed and deceit. Christianity eventually gave them higher ideals without robbing them of their indomitable courage.
I will tell you in my next letter a little about the better days of Norway, particularly in connection with this old city. Of course I can only skim along, picking out a bit here and there. The reading of Boyesen’s _Story of Norway_ has left me with a tremendous respect for the caliber of the Norwegians, from the days of Hasting the Pirate to the days of King Haakon VII, who was crowned in Trondhjem Cathedral in 1905.
Good-by. As ever,
The “thermometer of Norway”; the Reformation in Norway; the caliber of the early Reformation pastors; the register of the “Hospitset”; “fladbröd” and “mysost”; a type of Norwegian gentleman.
TRONDHJEM, February 23.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
I have spent over a month now in Trondhjem, and I like it better and better every day. It bristles so with memories of the past, and yet it is such a wide-awake, modern city. Our old friend, Olaf Tryggvesson, founded it in 996, and ever since then the Norwegians have considered it the heart of their nation, even though Christiania is now the nominal capital. If Trondhjem is the nucleus of Norway, then the cathedral is the nucleolus. The Norwegians appropriately call it their national thermometer. It has been burned in whole or in part no less than seven times, and once it was struck by lightning and partly destroyed. It was built originally by King Olaf the Quiet in the eleventh century, and after every catastrophe some succeeding king has rebuilt it. If it happen that the cathedral has not been destroyed for several decades, the people occupy themselves with making additions. If hard times come to Norway, the cathedral is left as it may chance to be. If times are prosperous, money is given by state and private subscription to enlarge or beautify it. Just now times are prosperous, and strangely enough there has been no fire for over a century. Consequently there are now to be seen dozens of the most hideous gargoyles reposing in one part of the church, waiting to be put up.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
I don’t suppose you have any idea of the beauty and grandeur of this historic _Domkirke_. I never dreamed of finding anything like it way up here near the arctic circle. We Americans get into the habit of thinking that Cologne and Milan and Rome and Florence and one or two other places of continental Europe have all that is worth looking at in the line of cathedrals. But this Trondhjem Dom is as fine as any of them, though much smaller than most. It is built entirely of a bluish, slaty stone, except for the marble pillars, which contrast beautifully with the blue. It is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, and the entire church is as delicately fashioned as any in Europe.
My British author, before quoted, says of it: “This is supposed to be the grandest church in the whole of Scandinavia. It is built largely of bluish soapstone and white marble, and it is mostly Gothic in architecture. A service, apparently for children, was in progress, so we were not able to walk around the interior.” I am forced to think that the gentleman did not possess quite the average amount of ingenuity, or he might have somehow obviated the difficulty and seen the interior in spite of the service “apparently for children.” Well, this _is_ supposed to be the grandest church in the whole of Scandinavia, and it bears out the supposition.
To me its greatest interest lies in its history. The one great king particularly associated with this cathedral was Olaf the Saint. He was the king who finally achieved the conversion of his country to Christianity, and because of his devoted life and heroic death at Sticklestad he has been made the patron saint of Norway. Cold, relentless history reveals the fact that he was not in reality as near sainthood as Harald the Good, but his saintliness was of a more romantic character and appealed to the imagination of the people. After spending many years at the court of the Russian king, Jaroslav, he believed that he was called by a vision to go back to Norway and attempt to complete the conversion of his native land. He went to Sweden and collected all the men he could. They might be robbers and outlaws, but they must be baptized Christians, and he was courageous and consistent enough to dismiss a great many brave soldiers who refused to be baptized. At Sticklestad, in Norway, he met the opposing forces, but was beaten and finally killed, fighting bravely to the last. At the very moment when he was slain, there occurred a total eclipse of the sun. “The sun grew blood-red, and a strange red sheen spread over the landscape. Darkness fell upon the fighting hosts, and the sun grew black.”
Of course nothing more than this was needed to convince the people that Olaf’s god was angry with them. Stricken with terror, they did their utmost to atone for their guilt. They later built a great cathedral in his honor. They made him the national saint, and they laid his bones in a costly silver reliquary in the cathedral, where for six centuries devout pilgrims visited his shrine.
Better times did indeed come to Norway with the introduction of Christianity, but some centuries later, when the countless claimants to the throne had ruined the nation’s unity, and Denmark had taken possession of Norway virtually as a province, Christianity suffered a horrible relapse. Denmark introduced into Norway the Reformation, but the Danes considered their Norwegian subjects scarcely worth salvation. They sent to Norway the very lowest scum of their clergy. As Boyesen says, “Ex-soldiers, ex-sailors, bankrupt traders, all sorts of vagabonds, who were in some way disqualified for making a living, were thought to be good enough to preach the word of God in Norway.” Just as England once sent its criminal class to Australia, so Denmark in the Middle Ages sent its vagabond class to Norway in the form of Protestant pastors. For a long time physical strength was the Norwegian pastor’s only requisite. As a general rule he could scarcely read, and cared little or nothing for the religion he taught except as a means of keeping the wolf from his door; but if only he could thrash the strongest ruffian in his parish he was sure of success.
I am staying at the _Hospitset_, which corresponds somewhat to the _hospitzes_ or Christian hotels in Switzerland and Germany. When I arrived here I had to sign a sort of register that seemed to me unwarrantably inquisitive. It must know my name, my destination, my last previous address, my permanent address, my age, my occupation, and I don’t know what other items of gossip. Some of the guests have used the opportunity to exercise their native wit. _Exempli gratia._ Michael O’Shaughnessy writes that his permanent address is care of the king of Siam; his occupation, plumber; his age, thirty-two; his destination, heaven. Many other humorists, mostly signing themselves under obvious _noms-de-plume_, have thought fit to enliven the dull pages for future readers. This register is a government institution, at least in many places, and the hotel keeper must not be blamed for such inquisitiveness.
The food in this _Hospitset_ is excellent, both as to quality and quantity. One Norwegian feature of the meals is the cheese. You know Norway is famous for its _sæters_, or mountain dairies, where butter and cheese are made. The most delicious, to my mind, and certainly the most typically Norwegian, is a brown cheese called _mysost_. It looks like brown Windsor soap, as English authors never fail to remark, and it is sweetish. It is made from goat’s milk, and tastes as though all the cheese part had been extracted. That does not sound particularly attractive, perhaps, but honestly I like it immensely. A great cube of it, measuring something less than a foot on all sides, is put on the table, and each guest is supposed to pare off as many thin slivers of it as he can eat. It is most delicious when taken with Norwegian _fladbröd_. This is a sort of oat cake, and when well made is as crisp and delicious as anything I know of in that line.
I admit that both the _mysost_ and the _fladbröd_ are somewhat unique. There is nothing like either of them in England or America, or anywhere except in Scandinavia, and unless you are something of an adventurer you may not like them at first. Several very conservative authors write most disparagingly of it: of course they do, for _mysost_ and _fladbröd_ are new to them. _Mysost_ they liken to brown soap, “which however will not lather.” _Fladbröd_, they say, “resembles in appearance and consistency old boot-leather.” I, personally, have never tasted old boot-leather or brown soap, but if it is really true that they taste like _fladbröd_ and _mysost_, then I shall begin cultivating my appetite for them as soon as I get home.
I have met a good many of the Norwegians. Most of them speak English, at least here in Trondhjem. Particularly I am impressed with the stateliness and nobility of the old men. You have seen pictures, haven’t you, of Björnstjerne Björnson, and Grieg, and some of the others. Well, they are typical. I have talked with several of these old, patriarchal Norwegians, and they are the finest, truest gentlemen you can imagine. Benevolence and good will seem to radiate from them.
Doctor J. D. Forbes calls the Norwegians “a free, intelligent, and fine-hearted people,” and certainly he is right. Another author finds that “sincerity, honesty, and freedom from conventional cant are the chief national virtues.” If you combine these two opinions you will come near to describing the Norwegian of to-day.
The other day I hired a very good violin at a shop here, and had to pay the exorbitant sum of one _kroner_. I didn’t have to make any deposit, and the shopkeeper asked me no questions. When I was going out he inquired at what hotel I was staying. I told him, and he said in English: “Never mind, then, about returning the violin. I’ll come around to the hotel some time and get it.” Can you imagine such confidence in any other country? The Norwegians expect you to trust them, and in return they trust you.
I intend to go to Christiania in a few days and will write to you from there.
[Illustration: On the Sognefjord.]
Holmenkollen, the skiing center of the world; the throng of sport-seekers; Holmenkollen Day; the stuff from which Norsemen are made; Veidirektör Krag; Harald Hardruler; how to manufacture a halo.
HOLMENKOLLEN, March 15.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
I have found the home of winter sport. Its name is Holmenkollen. Of course all Norway is known as the birthplace of the ski, and Holmenkollen is the sporting center of Norway. To-day a heavy mantle of fog has settled over Christiania, but up here at Holmenkollen we don’t know what fog means. It is as bright and crisp and clear as possible. Winter has not thought of passing the first flush of its youth, though it is the middle of March. It is often good skiing here until the end of April.
Every day and many times a day the electrics from Christiania bring up a load of sport-seekers, the skis and sleds being strapped on to the outside of the car. There is a winding course, five miles long, which is crowded every minute of these long, bright afternoons with an endless procession of boys and girls, young men and maidens, old men and old women, on skis or sleds or toboggans. Really the most doddering, toothless grandma is no more out of place at Holmenkollen than the toddling, toothless babe, and neither of these two extremes is more out of place than the stalwart youth of “collegy” age and appearance. Every one comes to Holmenkollen. If you are a beginner and can’t stand up on skis, you will have company, and if you are a world’s champion you will have plenty of other aspirants to dispute the title with you.
You could hardly find a more jumbled and heterogeneous collection of humanity anywhere than you can find any bright winter afternoon on the slopes of Holmenkollen. I have just been out for an hour or so, taking an “inventory” of the sport-seekers. It was an average crowd, and I must describe its appearance as it slid by my place of inspection, by the roadside.
First came three girls, each clad in most brilliant sweaters, and each on a separate sled, dragging behind her a pole twenty-five or thirty feet long, which served as rudder and also as brake. After a little pause a very buxom, oldish woman appeared around the bend in the course. She had two little children on the sled with her, who were fairly chortling with delight. A solemn old man next passed by. I have seldom seen a face which exhibited such profundity of thought and such deep concentration on his occupation as the face of this old man showed. He was dragging his feet so hard that he barely crept along. He gave the appearance of being absorbed in a very dangerous undertaking, which he was going to “see through” if it killed him.
While he was trundling by, a pair of skiers appeared, flying at tremendous speed. They were a man and a woman, and the most graceful pair you can imagine. They swirled around the corner, and when they came to the old man went one on either side, making a bridge over him with their hands. He continued on his precarious course without the slightest indication that he had seen them.
The next in the procession was a man on a sled, smoking a pipe as he went and actually reading a paper. But a very self-conscious smile betrayed his suspicion that he was being watched. I fear he was guilty of an attempt to “show off.” Next came two tottering English girls on skis. They fell every few yards, and as they passed me one of them reeled and tremblingly cried: “Oh dear, I’m going again.” She did “go,” and I had the opportunity of rescuing her. She said “_tak tak_” very sweetly, which was probably all the Norwegian she knew, and I was so delighted to have palmed myself off as a native that I said nothing for fear of spoiling her illusion. After this several men went sailing by on skis. They turned down a very steep side path and whirled out of sight like lightning. There is nothing like the beauty and grace of a ski artist who is absolutely sure of himself. His knees do not totter, he doesn’t reel about, he takes the turns smoothly and easily with a confidence which is wonderful to behold. A good skier seems to me nearer to a bird than a good aëronaut.
All this which I have described passed by my station of inspection in about two minutes, and the kaleidoscope continued hour after hour.
The greatest sporting day of the year is what is called Holmenkollen Day. Then all Christiania adjourns to the neighboring hill. The shops are closed, and it is virtually a holiday for all. It usually comes early in March, and on it are held annually the greatest contests in Norway, and perhaps the greatest in all Europe. All the best ski runners and ski jumpers from all over Europe assemble for the test. The most coveted prize is the King’s Prize, which is given for the best aggregate of marks for any single competitor in the two big events, the fifteen-kilometer ski race and the ski jump. No one who does not compete in both these events is eligible for the King’s Prize. The fifteen-kilometer race is held on the day before the big jumping contest and is comparatively uninteresting. The competitors start at intervals of thirty seconds, and each one is timed separately. There is no excitement at the finish, and for all the spectator can tell the last man in may be the winner.
On the big day the crowds begin to assemble about eleven o’clock, though the contest does not begin for two hours. Boxes are built all along the side of the jump to accommodate the wealthy aristocrats who can afford to pay for them. Some forty thousand “plebs” take their stand around the great “horseshoe,” which is roped off as a landing and stopping place for the jumpers.
[Illustration: Ski Jumping. An Absolutely Perfect Jump.]
Promptly at one o’clock a tremendous cheering announces the arrival of King Haakon, Queen Maud, and little Crown Prince Olaf. This trio constitutes the first real royalty of their own that the Norwegians have had for five or six centuries, and they go wild with enthusiasm whenever any one of the party appears at a public gathering. Little Prince Olaf is all but worshiped by his future subjects, and if they don’t look out I fear they will some day have a spoiled crown prince on their hands. However, he seems to be at present a very natural and normal boy.
As soon as the royal party arrives, the jumping begins, and this year, though there were fully two hundred competitors, and each one had two jumps, the whole contest was run off in a little over two hours. Of course that meant three or four jumps to a minute, and so there was a steady stream swooping down from the hill to the take-off, then sailing out into the air and landing a hundred feet or so down the slope, where, if the jump was successful, they continued their course at express-train speed.
Of course the great majority of the jumpers were Norwegians. It takes years and years of practice to become skillful, and only those who have been at it since babyhood reach the highest pinnacles of skill. No matter how many times you see ski jumping, the thrill never seems to wear off.
As each jumper took his place at the top of the hill, a huge number on a blackboard announced to the spectators who was coming. All the competitors were numbered, as they are in races, and printed lists were distributed for the convenience of the onlookers.
The jumpers would come tearing down the hill and crouch low as they approached the take-off. Then, with arms outspread, they would shoot out into space, straightening themselves quickly and bending forward. While they were in the air, they would put one ski a little ahead of the other; with a little “spat” the skis would strike the snow far down the slope; agile and light as a feather, the jumper would sink down almost on his heels, and then, if he kept his balance, he would fly ahead for a second or two, then make a beautiful “Telemark” or Christiania swing, coming to a dead stop. Telemark and Christiania are in skiing parlance two methods of coming to a sudden stop.
As I understand it, a Telemark means a wide, sweeping curve, with one foot considerably in front of the other, while the Christiania is a quick snap at right angles accomplished by a sudden swing of the arms and of the whole body. However, nobody quite understands how it is done unless he has been practicing it half a lifetime. There is a great knack about it, and it was beautiful to watch the ease with which many of the jumpers did it.
Of course there were unfortunates who fell. There would be a wild whirl of arms and legs and skis and snow, and, when the whirl gradually resolved itself into a man, he would crawl to one side to get out of the way of the next comer.
The distance some of these men jump is appalling. A leap of one hundred and forty-eight feet such as that made by Harald Smith (a Norwegian in spite of his surname) is certainly more like flying than jumping.
Compared with these thrilling exhibitions the mild daily procession down the five-mile slope of Holmenkollen seems rather tame, but it is interesting nevertheless. In the restaurant here, which overlooks the city and fjord of Christiania, there is a huge picture of Nansen. He was once a competitor in ski jumping, and perhaps it was here that he developed the courage which later made him famous the world over as an explorer.
The modern Norwegians have inherited their love of sport from their viking ancestors. I have lately been reading in Du Chaillu’s _The Viking Age_ an account of viking sports, and the prowess of the present-day Norwegians is explained in my mind. A viking, it seems, had to be athletic if he would amount to anything. Courage, skill, and dexterity were the necessities of his life.
Once there was a viking named Kari who saved his life by means of his high-jumping ability. His enemy Sigurdson ran at him with a spear from behind, but Kari saw him just in time, jumped high in the air so that the spear went under his feet, and then came down on top of it, smashing the handle.
The sagas abound with tales of athletic prowess, and, even if these sagas were apt to become a little over enthusiastic in dealing with their heroes, nevertheless we can see easily enough how it is that the modern Norwegian comes by his wonderful athletic skill and courage.
Nansen is not the only explorer to whom Norway does honor. You know it was not long ago that Amundsen’s name was on all lips, because of his discovery of the South Pole. He, too, has the stuff in him of which vikings were made.
Up near the top of this five-mile road stands a bronze figure leaning carelessly against a milestone. He rests his bronze fist on his bronze waistcoat, and a bronze felt hat and a bronze cane complete the picture of calm self-satisfaction. On close inspection I learned that this was no other than Veidirektör Krag, who long ago directed the building of this road and now stands contentedly surveying his work. Besides having a good view of the sports, he has a wonderful prospect out over the fjord and the national capital.
If Veidirektör Krag had stood there four or five centuries ago he would have seen not Christiania, but Oslo. Five times the city has been burned, and after one of its destructions, in 1624, Christian IV rebuilt it and modestly named it for himself.
The original Oslo was founded for a very practical purpose by Harald Hardruler in 1051. Oslo was in the heart of the province of Viken, which had formerly belonged to Denmark and had never been fully amalgamated with Norway. At the period when Harald ruled, things were in a particularly precarious state in Viken, owing to the fact that the shrine of St. Olaf, in Trondhjem, was proving a magnet and drawing prosperity from Viken to that section of the country. Accordingly the practical Harald said there ought to be a local saint in Viken—a saint who should rival Olaf and make Viken as important a center as Tröndelag. He soon discovered that a cousin of his, named Hallvard, had recently died, and was said to have been a good man. Harald decided to kill several birds with one stone. By creating Cousin Hallvard a saint he could bring prosperity to Viken, and he could greatly hasten the unification of his kingdom. Therefore he built a shrine for Hallvard, after first canonizing him (without the aid of the pope), and around the shrine he laid the foundations of the city of Oslo. As an historical fact, Hallvard was scarcely worthy of the honor which was thrust upon him. He was probably rather a good man for those times, but he certainly had done nothing unusual, and the halo which was thrust about his memory was a masterpiece of human ingenuity.
I expect soon to go over to the Hanseatic city of Bergen on the west coast of Norway, and I will write to you from there. Auf wiedersehen.
Written on the train crossing the great Christiania-Bergen route. The prophet of Norway; Nicholas Breakspeare; a typical Norwegian hotel; the Gogstad ship takes us back a few centuries; Odin as poet; the practical opening of the Earlier Frostathing’s Law; the advertising propensities of the Norwegians; the liquor laws of Norway; the musical Spirit of the North; Ole Bull and Edvard Grieg.
_En route._ CHRISTIANA to BERGEN, April 3.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
Again I seem to be writing to you from a train. I have traveled all day over one of the finest railroads, from a sightseeing point of view, in all Europe. At last darkness is settling down, and I have several hours yet before I reach Bergen, so I may as well employ my time in writing to you, not that I write to you on principle only when there is nothing else to do.
I am traveling on a circular ticket which I bought at Trondhjem of Bennett, “the traveler’s guide, philosopher, and friend,” as Mr. John L. Stoddard styles him in one of his lectures on Norway. Bennett is, to my mind, the final authority on Scandinavian travel. In Norway Thomas Cook is dwarfed into insignificance by Bennett. The same lecturer whom I have quoted goes on to say: “And who is Bennett? you perhaps exclaim. My friends, there is but one Norway, and Bennett is its prophet. Bennett is the living encyclopædia of Norway! Its walking guide book! Its animated map! He sketches lengthy tours back and forth as easily as sailors box the compass! And to still further aid the general public, he has begotten four young Bennetts who act as courteous agents for their father in Bergen, Trondhjem and Christiania.”
His most entertaining guide book contains testimonials from various celebrities. Ex-President Theodore Roosevelt writes a typical letter, bursting with half-suppressed energy and vehemence, in which he thanks the prophet of Norway for his courtesy. Other celebrities, such as the Zemudar of Palavipat (Judicia, don’t tell me you never heard of him!) write in glowing terms, and one anonymous enthusiast, with a poetic turn of mind, writes:
“So be you a clerk or a lord of the Senate You’ll always do well to rely upon Bennett.”
I seem to be using a great amount of stationery in singing the praises of this tourist agency, but really, Judicia, Bennett is one of the “institutions” of Norway. Everywhere appears the sign _Benyt Bennett’s Billetter_, which command I have gladly obeyed.
I should have told you before that in coming from Trondhjem to Christiania we passed through a very interesting historic region, the district of which Lake Mjösen is the center. A few miles south of Lake Mjösen is Eidsvold, where the famous national _thing_ was held on various occasions.
Christiania is distinctly a city of the modern type. Scarcely anything venerable remains. I stopped while I was there in a pleasant though modest hotel on Carl Johan’s Gate. Certainly part of the attraction lay in the name, for it is called Fru Bye’s Hotel. Right across the street Fru Bye’s daughters, Fröknerne Bye, keep a _Privat Hotel_. What a pleasure it must be to the good Fru to have the Fröknerne in business right across the street. The freedom of Fru Bye’s Hotel is delightful. Meals are apparently served at all hours. Supposedly breakfast, or _frukost_, comes about mid-forenoon; dinner, or _middag_, from two till four o’clock; and supper, or _aftensmad_, from eight until ten. On several occasions I got home to the hotel about eleven o’clock and had a full supper. Everything was spread out for me on the table, including _mysost_ and _fladbröd_, and no one was hovering around anxiously to count the number of pieces I ate, or the number of glasses of milk I drank.
All around the wall are hung huge old copper platters, highly ornamented. The whole hotel is cozy and typically Norwegian.
[Illustration: The Railroad between Bergen and Christiania.]
Carl Johan’s Gate, on which it is situated, is the most important street in the city, as it runs straight up to the royal palace. Not far from the palace are situated the National University, the National Theater, the Parliament or _Storthing_ building, and various other public buildings very similar to those of any other European capital. The city has suffered so frequently from fire that it has given up the picturesque for the substantial. Among other buildings of particular interest to Americans is the headquarters of the Nobel Peace Commission.
There is only one place (outside of Fru Bye’s Hotel) in all Christiania where I felt I was truly in Norway rather than in any other European city. That was when I was in the presence of the famous Gogstad viking ship, which is placed in a shed back of the University. This ship was found near the entrance to the Christiania fjord, buried in blue clay, where it had lain for a thousand years or so, and it convinced me that the marvelous tales which the sagas relate are tales of actual heroes; for certainly the sagas did not invent this Gogstad ship. In the center is the Death Chamber, where the captain was buried in his beloved ship. Here one may see just how the viking made his marauding expeditions, how the oars were arranged sixteen on a side, how the square sail was attached by means of pulleys to a mast fastened in the center, and how the rudder was attached on the right side (whence “starboard” or steerboard). The whole ship is only about eighty feet long and sixteen feet wide, and how the ancients managed to navigate the North Sea and the Bay of Biscay and sail far around into the Mediterranean in such primitive craft I cannot understand.
In this old Gogstad ship were found the bones of a dozen horses, several dogs, and a peacock. The owners of these bones were to be the chieftain’s bodyguard during his voyage to the next world. Du Chaillu says of this ship:
“Very few things in the north have impressed me more than the sight of this weird mausoleum, the last resting place of a warrior, and as I gazed on its dark timber I could almost imagine that I could still see the gory traces of the struggle and the closing scene of burial when he was put in the mortuary chamber that had been made for him on board the craft he commanded.”
This same author has written a book of two volumes of some twelve hundred pages about the vikings, and since I saw the Gogstad ship I have been intensely interested in reading of their customs. Their Bible was a long poem called _Hávámal_, supposed to have been written by Odin himself, containing much worldly wisdom. Odin, it seems, was the precursor of Horace Fletcher as an advocate of “dietetic righteousness.” He says:
“A greedy man Unless he has sense Eats ill-health for himself; A foolish man’s belly Often causes laughter When he is among wise men.
“Herds know When they shall go home And then walk off the grass; But an unwise man Never knows The measure of his stomach.”
The same god also poses as an authority on matters of the heart. He says:
“The words of a maiden Or the talk of a woman Should no man trust; For their hearts were shaped On a whirling wheel, And fickleness laid in their breasts.”
Many epigrammatic gems of wisdom the poet utters, under the name of Odin. Most of them have rather a cynical turn, such as the following:
“A day should be praised at night; A woman when she is burnt; A sword when tried; A maiden when she is married; Ice when crossed; Ale when drank.”
Many other quotations from the old Norse writers are extremely entertaining. The first item in the Earlier Frostathing’s Law, Section I, Article I, begins in a very practical way with the following words:
“Every child which is born into this world shall be raised, baptized, and carried to the church, except that only—whose heels are in the place of his toes, whose chin is between his shoulders, the neck on his breast with the calves on his legs turning forward, his eyes on the back of his head, and seal’s fins or a dog’s head.—It shall be buried in the churchyard and its soul shall be prayed for as well as is possible.”
Apparently there used to be considerable doubt whether a deformed child could be legitimately an object for prayer, but nevertheless the experiment was to be tried.
The Norwegians are great advertisers. I have never seen in any other country such a complete utilization of every inch of available space. Inside the electric cars layers of “ads,” three deep, line the car above the windows. A clock in the middle of the car is surrounded by them; the electric lights and windows have advertisements wrought into their very being. Every available inch and much that we should not consider available is used to instruct the passenger as to his needs, which range from insurance companies and banks all the way through cash registers and skates and lamp chimneys to bananas and margarine and Mellin’s Food.
The one thing which it is difficult to get in Christiania is liquor—not that I have personally tried to get any, but I have learned through my oft-quoted British author that he found it very difficult. He was considerably annoyed at finding himself unable to buy whisky anywhere in Christiania from 1 P.M. on Saturday until Monday morning. The liquor laws of Norway are very strict indeed, and cause annoyance to many tourists, who find themselves deprived of their “nip.” However, I hope they remember that these laws, which have been enacted in the last thirty or forty years, have, in a great degree, reduced drunkenness, poverty, crime, and disease. It would seem that a tourist who has a spark of unselfishness in him, however much he may long for his cocktail, would not grudge Norway the laws that have proved such a blessing to the whole country.
Besides forbidding the sale of liquor on Sundays and holidays, and on the eve of festivals, many districts, under government permission, have absolutely prohibited it. There is not a saloon in Norway, but in the larger towns a few of the hotels and restaurants are allowed to sell liquor under certain restrictions. All profits from its sale, with the exception of the company’s expenses and five per cent interest, must be devoted to public and philanthropic purposes. Consequently the trade does not offer great inducements to ambitious merchants.
My train has already passed Voss and is rapidly nearing old Hanseatic Bergen, and I have not even begun to tell you of the glories of this day’s ride. We left Christiania soon after daylight, and in a little less than three hours reached the town of Hönefos, which is one of the centers of the Norwegian wood-pulp industry. There is a great mill here which receives trees in its capacious maw and turns them out again in the form of pulp. Gigantic letters on the side of a barn announce that from here comes the pulp which eventually is made into _Lloyd’s Weekly_ and the London _Daily Chronicle_.
A little farther on we catch a glimpse of some lofty pine forests which inevitably bring to mind Milton’s lines:
“His spear, to equal which the tallest pine Grown on Norwegian hills, to be the mast Of some great admiral, were but a wand, He walked with.”
Soon after leaving Hönefos, we begin to climb and leave the tall, Norwegian pine and even the scrubby, Norwegian birch far below. This is the only regular railway in Europe which travels above the tree line. To get beyond the tree line in Switzerland, the railway would have to reach an altitude of at least seven thousand feet, but here of course the line is much lower. The resort of Finse has not a single wild tree to its name, though it is only four thousand feet above sea level. Finse is the most unique sporting center in the world, for its winter season lasts from August 1 to July 31, inclusive. Every year there is held a Midsummer Skiing Contest, which attracts people from all over Europe. Here one may ski at midnight by daylight on soft, feathery snow. Of course it is too far south to afford a midnight sun, but it is not too far south to afford midnight daylight.
To-day our train started out in a light rain, ran through a terrific blizzard, and into a bright, sunlit afternoon. I have never seen such concentrated essence of winter as I saw at Finse. The snow must have been four or five feet deep on the average, and in drifts it was ten or twelve feet deep. Finse’s freight house was buried; a big white mound showed where it ought to be, and where it might some day appear if the sun, by its heat, or men, by their shovels, ever attained energy enough to remove the white shroud. Giant snow plows kept the track clear, and our train ignored the blizzard. We “skirted” several invisible valleys, absolutely shut out by the driving snow, and, as Baedeker would say, “threaded” several tunnels, and to my infinite surprise emerged from one of them into a bright, sunny afternoon at Myrdal. We had passed the highest point of the line and had left our blizzard on the other side of the watershed.
From Myrdal I could look far, far down the Flaam Valley, which is one of the finest in Norway. Here and there, clinging to the rocky sides of the valley, were _sæter_ huts. It would be easy enough for one of the milkmaids to “fall out of her _sæter_,” as the peasant of Mark Twain fame once “fell out of his farm.”
Whenever I think of a _sæter_, my mind invariably jumps to the romantic figure of Norway’s greatest violinist, Ole Bull. Are you acquainted with a plaintive Norwegian air called _Sæterjentens Söndag_? You must have heard it, even though you may not recognize it by name. Well, that was written by the great Ole Bull, and it is unquestionably the most familiar and the most beloved of Norway’s national melodies. Ole Bull was born at Bergen, so I am less than a half-hour’s journey from the place which this musician, whose tones thrilled all Europe and America, called home.
He is not the only musician who achieved world-wide fame, with Norway as a starting point. Every one who loves music knows Grieg’s famous _Peer Gynt Suite_, with its _Anitra’s Dance_, which seems to reflect the wild, free spirit of the north. Nordraak and Kjerulf and many other lesser musical lights have made all the world familiar with the music of the northland.
I must “pack up” now, as we are fast nearing Bergen. I shall be in an atmosphere there almost as historical as that of Trondhjem, so if some history creeps into my next letter I hope you will forgive me. I shall write you soon from there.
As ever yours,
Bergen, a Hanseatic city; an interesting museum; “Little Sir Alf”; the greatest military genius Norway ever had; the struggle between “Birchlegs” and “Baglers”; further historical connections of Bergen; Haakon Haakonsson.
BERGEN, May 1.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
I am comfortably situated in Hotel Norge, on Ole-Bulls-Plads. Directly beneath my window stands Ole Bull himself, continually though silently playing his violin, through rain and hail and snow and vapor and stormy wind. Bergen is a thoroughly old-world city. To be sure, it has a modern section, but the whole flavor of the place is ancient. Like all other towns in Norway, it has suffered time after time from fire, but, strangely enough, it has been built up on the old lines. Another thing that lends a flavor of antiquity is the fact that it is surrounded (supposedly) by seven hills, like the seven hills of Rome, though it is an unfortunate geographical fact that there are not seven but four in the case of Bergen. Of course there are countless little unevennesses in the ground, some of which might even be called hillocks. With more romance than accuracy the citizens have selected three of these mounds, added them to their four real hills, and put seven on their armorial bearings.
There is a wide street, which assumes the proportions and name of a square, which separates the old town from the new and also serves in the capacity of fire road. When we cross this square, which bears the name of Torv-Almenning, we are in fairyland—a dirty, medieval, Hanseatic fairyland. The streets are very narrow, and the white timber houses with their red-tiled roofs certainly lay claim, along with the Lofoten Islands and the Damascus rag fair and the Nile dahabiyeh, to the right of being called picturesque. The _vaagen_, or harbor, is inclosed on all sides by ancient warehouses, suggesting fish. At the end of the harbor is a market, where fish are sold with considerable bargaining.
A great part of Norway’s fish trade passes through Bergen, though the principal reason for this seems to lie in the fact that it always has been so. Formerly it was compulsory. The German merchants settled in Bergen and succeeded in gaining an absolute monopoly on the trade, which they maintained for nearly three centuries. At one end of the market lies the Hanseatic House, now made into a museum. It is the only genuine house of its kind now in existence, anywhere, and gives a good idea of the manner in which these selfish old merchants conducted their business. Here we find the merchant’s office and his manager’s bureau, the clerk’s apartments, and even the common bedroom. An old ledger is exhibited, which, as Goodman says, “contains, no doubt, the record of many a fraudulent transaction.” The whole house, inside and out, is profusely ornamented and painted in lurid colors, which make not the slightest pretense of harmonizing. All sorts of articles are exhibited, which formerly made up the merchant’s office and household property, “such as their scales and weights, the latter [here a little sidelight on Hanseatic methods] being of two sorts, for buying and selling; their cloaks, lanterns, candlesticks, fire engines, snuff boxes, washing bowls, drinking cups and tankards, machines for chopping cabbage, and staves with bags for making collections in church.”
The arms of the leaguers were half an eagle and half a codfish, or a cornucopia with a cod supplanting the usual fruit or flowers.
The merchants trusted each other no more than they trusted outsiders, and their strong-box is fitted with three locks, the keys to which were possessed by three different members of the league.
These “crooks” were very modest about some things. Their bedrooms were arranged in a peculiar way, with the beds along the side of the wall, each bed opening out through a sort of lattice work to a main corridor. This was to enable the female domestic to make the gentleman’s bed without having to enter his room.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
Bergen, Northeast from Laksevaag.]
The German merchants of the league grew more insolent as they grew more powerful, and they used to swagger around the quays, beating and bullying the native Norwegians who chanced to be in their way. It is with peculiar delight that I read of a trick played on them by the notorious pirate, the Norwegian Baron Alf Erlingsson, called “Little Sir Alf.” He was as bold in spirit as he was diminutive in stature, and he became a constant terror to the Hanseatic merchants, because of the depredations he committed upon them. They tried by every means in their power to get him into their hands, but he always outwitted them. As Boyesen says: “It was of no use that the league sent out ships of war to capture him; he outmaneuvered them, deceived them, sent them on a wild-goose chase, and ended by capturing his would-be captors.”
As a final, crowning insult, he one day appeared incognito in an open boat and bargained with them about the price set upon his head. It is a sad fact that later the little pirate’s luck deserted him. He was captured and brought before Queen Agnes of Denmark. On his arrival before this lady, she twitted him mercilessly about his size. He blazed out in return that she would never live to see the day when she could bear such a son, at which the queen furiously ordered him to be put to death by way of the rack and wheel.
There is an old cathedral here, which the Bergeners proudly point out as the home of the Reformation when it first reached Norway. Perhaps you might not think this anything to be very proud of, in view of what I told you in one of my other letters about the introduction of the Reformation from Denmark. But Bergen does have a right to be proud, for it was here that Bishop Gjeble Pedersson lived and finally succeeded in educating a good, native Norwegian clergy, which gradually supplanted the abominable class Denmark sent.
Denmark’s treatment of Norway in matters of religion was only a sample of her treatment of Norway in all matters. King Christian I wished to arrange a marriage between James III of Scotland and his daughter Margaret, but, as he did not happen to have sufficient money in his exchequer to supply the customary dowry, he promptly pawned the Orkneys for fifty thousand _gulden_, and the Shetland Isles for an additional sum. Thus poor, downtrodden Norway lost her island possessions, which she had colonized and held for ages. It was a cruel blow, and the land mourned as for the loss of her own children.
To the northwest of Bergen is an interesting tower called Sverresborg, named for Sverre Sigurdsson, the most romantic figure in all Norwegian history, and certainly the country’s greatest king, from the point of view of pure genius. For thirty years, at the end of the twelfth century, the history of Norway is the history of Sverre. Bergen is more closely associated with him than any other town in Norway, for it was here that the “Birchlegs” and the “Baglers,” with whom he was so closely identified, fought for a whole summer.
Sverre was born in the Faroe Isles at a time when Norway was absorbed, as usual, in a red-hot dispute over the succession to the throne. Sverre’s father had been King Sigurd Mouth, and his mother, whose name was Gunhild, had been cook in the king’s service, if the saga is true. At any rate, she was a very sharp-witted woman, and kept his royal parentage secret from every one, even from the boy himself. Magnus Erligsson occupied the throne of Norway and made every effort to exterminate the race of Sigurd Mouth. He heard that there was an illegitimate son of old Sigurd in the Faroes, and he sent a spy named Unas to kill the child. Gunhild cleverly averted this danger by inducing Unas to marry her and become the child’s stepfather. She was in the service of Bishop Matthias as a milkmaid, and she brought up her son with the idea that he should become a priest.
It so happened that when Sverre was a young man there was in Norway a pretender named Eystein Little-Girl. He certainly did not earn his nickname through his shyness in pushing his claims. He organized a small rebel band of brave outlaws and robbers, who succeeded in having him proclaimed king. Soon after, however, Eystein Little-Girl was killed, and his miserable band of supporters, who had come to be called “Birchlegs,” because of their dilapidated appearance and their birch-bark shoes, seemed destined to pass out of existence. They sought a new leader, and at this point Sverre appeared on the scene. They invited him to become their leader, and he accepted.
With this ragged little band of outlaws, numbering less than a hundred, Sverre set out to gain the throne of Norway, and in the end he succeeded. For long he roamed about, like Robin Hood with his merry men. He would “drop in” on a country festival and scare the people so that they fled, whereupon he and his merry men would sit down to a comfortable banquet.
However, this was more by way of a practical joke, enforced by hunger, than by any real cruelty, for Sverre was by nature extremely merciful. On one occasion, when he and his Birchlegs were crossing a mountain lake on rafts, he himself started out on the last one, but when he was some distance from shore a poor comrade, who was nearly dead and was being left behind, called piteously to be taken along. Although every raft was crowded to its utmost capacity, Sverre went back and got the dying man. The raft was so overloaded that he now had to stand up to his knees in icy water, but he did finally reach the other shore. It is reported that when Sverre’s foot left the raft (he was the last man to disembark), it sank out of sight. His followers regarded this as a miracle, and it filled them with hope.
Amid incredible hardships he fought his way to the throne, and he became so formidable that nurses throughout all Norway used to scare bad boys by saying that Sverre would catch them if they didn’t watch out.
In 1195 the Byzantine Emperor Alexius had a quarrel on his hands and sent an ambassador, Reidar, to collect from Norway two hundred mercenaries. Reidar collected his force and was prepared to return, when Bishop Nicholas, who hated Sverre with almost insane malignity, persuaded him to turn his attention to the task of wiping out the powerful Birchlegs. Accordingly these two hundred mercenaries were formed into the famous band called “Baglers” (crookmen, from _bagall_, a bishop’s crook or staff). The historic war between the Baglers and the Birchlegs centered around Bergen.
I climbed Flöifjeldet the other day, one of Bergen’s four real hills, and as I looked down on the city I could seem to see the whole struggle between Birchlegs and Baglers. But that was not the only famous struggle which took place in Bergen, and Sverre’s is not the only great name closely associated with it. Here, in Christ Church, Haakon Haakonsson was crowned on St. Olaf’s Day, July 29, 1247. On this occasion a continuous banquet was held for three days, for which function a huge boathouse was “commandeered,” as the palace was not large enough for the guests. It was the most splendid feast that had ever been held in Norway, and after the banquet a five-day fête was held in honor of the cardinal. At this fête Ordeals were forever abolished, on the very excellent ground that “it was not seemly for Christian men to challenge God to give his verdict in human affairs.”
Another reform was introduced, excluding from the royal succession all illegitimate sons—_in the future_. In putting forward this reform, Haakon Haakonsson must have made an effort to forget that he himself was an illegitimate son of King Haakon Sverresson.
His father, who was a son of the great Sverre, as his name indicates, had been foully murdered by his stepmother, the dowager queen Margaret. This dowager queen had stolen away Christina, Sverresson’s half-sister. As Sverresson was her legal protector, he tried in every way to get her back. Argument and pleading proving vain, he resorted to stratagem. He sent his cousin, Peter Steyper, who “burst into the princess’ room while her mother was taking a bath, crying at the top of his voice that the Baglers had come to town.” Christina was terrified, but Steyper told her not to fear, as he would save her. He took her in his arms and fled to the wharves, where he hustled her aboard his ship. The dowager queen soon discovered the trick and dashed down to the water’s edge in the most scandalous _décolleté_. She reached it just as the ship pulled off and for a long time vainly screamed curses after it. However, she took a glorious revenge by inviting her stepson to a banquet of peace and there poisoning him.
Interesting as is the history of Norway, it is to say the least “strenuous,” and it is rather a relief if you have been on Flöifjeldet, dreaming of Sverre and Haakonsson, to come down into Bergen’s quiet, old-fashioned market, where there are no Birchlegs and no Baglers now. The name “Bergen,” or Björgvin, means “pasture on the mountains,” and seems to suggest a restfulness with which history has not always favored the city. Many of the fisherwomen, or _fiskerpiger_, in the market place are gayly dressed in some of the varied forms of the national costume. However, I understand that the costumes are so much gayer and more conspicuous in the Hardanger and Sætersdal regions that I think I will wait until I get there before I tell you about them. I have not yet seen any of the well-known fjords, though I doubt if there is anything much finer in that line than the Ofotenfjord at Narvik.
I do not know when or from where I shall write to you again, but it will be from somewhere among the fjords, as no one could really feel the full spell of Norway, I suppose, without exploring the famous Hardanger and Sogne and some of the others. Another place which I want surely to see before I leave Norway is the famous Sætersdal in the south. It is here I understand that one may find the past _par excellence_—not history, for Sætersdal is not a particularly historic region, but the customs and manners and dress and general characteristics of the Norwegians of a few centuries back.
It may be some time before I shall write again, as there is much to see and much to explore. In the mean-time please prepare yourself to chalk up many points for Norway, for its fjords and its _dals_, as you know, are among its chief claims to distinction.
Yours as ever,
Norwegian fjord scenery; the “Seven Sisters” and “Pulpit Rock”; a comparison of the Sogne and Hardanger type of beauty; a drowned village; the cliff, Hornelen; the “City of Roses”; Björnstjerne Björnson; over the Romsdal-Gudbrandsdal route by carriole; an atmospheric kaleidoscope; the land of the “fos”; some Norwegian characteristics illustrated by the “skydsgut”; the “sæter” huts on the “fjeld”; Norwegian fauna; the terror of a lemming raid; “into the valley of death rode the six hundred”; a strange shipwreck; the giants of the Sogne; Balholm and Longfellow; Leif Eriksson; “The Skeleton in Armor.”
MAROK, GEIRANGER FJORD, June 27.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
Have you ever seen the ocean so still that there was not a single, tiniest wind-made ripple on it; when a rowboat left a broadening wake a quarter of a mile long, and when the circling sea gulls could signal to their images beneath? If not, I wish you could transport yourself by telegraph here to Marok. Here in this quiet, mountain-guarded Geiranger Fjord, eighty miles or so from the open sea, it is even calmer than the proverbial mill pond. It is not the stagnant calm of the mill pond either, suggesting green slime and malarial gases, but a clear, fresh, healthy calm, suggesting only peace and shelter from the elements. Probably the fjord’s surface will not long be left unmolested. Soon a breeze will come creeping around the turn of the Sunelvsfjord, or down the _dal_, from the frozen Lake Djupvand.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
Across the Glassy Geirangerfjord.]
My purpose in this letter, Judicia, is not to take you on the “best trip in Norway,” or indeed on any trip. Countless trips have been carefully planned and then as carefully written up for the assistance of future travelers and for the benefit of tourist agencies. I shall simply take you as though you were a chessman and put you on whatever spot I choose. I hope you will not rebel at such autocratic treatment, for I shall try to make the best moves I can. If you suddenly find yourself moved from one fjord or _dal_ to another without the assistance of steamer or train or _Norges Communicationer_, or anything but pure imagination, I hope you will accept the move in good faith. You know it’s yours as a reader not to question why, yours not to make reply, etc. I hope the places I describe will be their own reply.
Geiranger (please consult a map if you would know where it is) is probably oftener described and more praised than almost any other fjord in Norway, though it seems to me absolutely impossible to pick out any single fjord for first prize. Perhaps Geiranger would not receive so much attention were it not for its famous “Seven Sisters” and “Pulpit Rock.” The Seven Sisters are seven branches of a waterfall which drops hundreds of feet sheer into the fjord. As was the case with Bergen and its hills, it is an unfortunate, prosy, geographical fact that there are only four real branches to the waterfall; but three little wisps of spray up at the top separate slightly and give a somewhat plausible pretext for the name. Directly opposite the Seven Sisters is a projecting rock of most striking appearance, which would make an excellent pulpit if the preacher desired to address a vast audience of screaming sea gulls, but the pulpit is so high in air and so inaccessible that any other audience would be impossible.
There is one house which occupies a nook on the side of one of these lofty cliffs in Geiranger Fjord in such an inaccessible spot that formerly the only method of reaching it was by a rope, lowered by a member of the household. More recently, however, a flight of steps has been cut in the rock. It is often said that at some of these little houses the children are tethered, in order to prevent their falling down into the fjord.
Before I go any farther, Judicia, I must tell you something about the Norwegian fjords in general. Like so many other portions of the globe, Norway traces its peculiar formation to the grinding, irresistible glaciers of the ice age. While the actual coast line of Norway is about seventeen hundred miles, the distance is increased to twelve thousand if all the indentations are added, so that the fjords alone have a coast line which would stretch nearly halfway around the world. Also some of them are very deep, the Sogne showing a depth of nearly a mile in some places far inland. There are several fjords which stand out with particular prominence, not that they are necessarily finer than others, but because they are more accessible. The most southerly fjord to achieve fame is the Hardanger; then, going north, the Sogne, the Nord, the Hjörund, the Geiranger, and the Molde. One author, who signs himself O. W. F., thus vividly contrasts the great Hardanger and Sogne: “… whereas the mountains of the Sognefjord are knit together in mighty knots, those of Hardanger shoot in straight, slim peaks from the bottom of the fjord, higher and higher, until at last they end in glittering glaciers. Whereas the Sognefjord is wild, Hardanger is deep blue and tranquil.”
But the Nordfjord is not like either. The mountains do not rise continuously to a lofty tableland, but at intervals, in sharp, isolated peaks. No fjord is quite like another, and I cannot sympathize with the tourists who complain that Norwegian scenery, even in its grandeur, is monotonous. Of course to some unfortunate traveler who craves some new excitement every day Norway may be a dull country after he has once seen two or three of the fjords. They will all look alike to him, and some of these calm retreats like Marok will be unendurable.
Marok is a center for some of the most delightful excursions in Norway. A fifteen-mile boat ride and then a fifteen-mile drive to Oie will take you through one of the most varied and beautiful scenes that the imagination can picture. It is inspiring, no less in the mountain walls that rise on the Geiranger than in the smiling, sunlit Norangdal, which leads from Hellesylt to Oie.
Midway in this Norangdal a landslip occurred in 1908. It carried away a part of the road and formed a new lake by damming up the river. When the water of this new-born lake is clear, the roofs of the submerged houses of the old village may be plainly seen. There is something uncanny in the thought that a skillful swimmer might dive far below the water’s surface and _swim_ into the garret window of any one of these former habitations.
Another trip which Marok affords is up the valley to Grotlid, past the frozen Lake Djupvand; but still another valley, the Romsdal, which extends from Næs on the Molde Fjord to Domaas on the Dovre _fjeld_, and there connects with the Gudbrandsdal, leading down toward Christiania, affords such a wonderful trip that I think I must wait and tell you of that and not dull your appetite by describing inferior valleys.
But Marok needs no valleys to add to its attraction. The superb Geiranger is surely enough to bring it fame. At the opening of the long fjord, which changes its name every few miles and at its inmost extremity assumes the name Geiranger, is situated the town of Aalesund. It is a beautiful port, but its chief claim to distinction lies in the fact that it was once the home of Rolf the Walker, who, you remember, conquered Normandy and caused his proxy to kiss Charles the Simple’s foot so violently that he fell from his horse. In token of this conquest the town of Rouen has given to Aalesund a statue of Rolf.
A few miles north of Aalesund the steamers going to Molde pass a cliff called Hornelen, which towers three thousand feet in air. There is no cliff in Norway which can compare with it, and that is equivalent to saying that there is none in Europe. Formerly every tourist steamer which sailed by Hornelen fired a gun in order that the passengers might hear the echo, but this was done once too often, for on one occasion the concussion made by the firing of the gun loosened an immense amount of rock on the side of the cliff, and this came hurtling down, leaving a hole which can plainly be seen now.
Farther up the coast and not so very far from Trondhjem lies Molde, the “City of Roses.” You see, Portland, Oregon, does not have a monopoly of the name. Molde might equally well call itself the “City of Honeysuckles” or the “City of the Wild Cherry.” The town is at the head of the fjord which bears its name, and far in the distance we can just distinguish the Romsdalshorn, which we shall later see at closer range. Those skilled in mathematics say that forty-six peaks are visible from Molde, and even the mathematically untrained can count nearly that number. Prominent among the forty-six stand out King, Queen, and Bishop—you see, church and state are side by side.
The citizens of Molde are proud to relate that once the great Björnstjerne Björnson was a school teacher in their town. They may well be proud, for Björnson stands out as one of the most daring figures in Norway’s recent history. All Norwegians, and most other Europeans who take any interest in literature, are familiar with the fine, commanding face of Björnson, surrounded with its halo of white hair. No wonder he held his audiences in the hollow of his hand whenever he made public addresses. His oratory was not of the highest order, but his powerful personality compelled attention. Those who could not hear him speak can feel the thrill of his personality in his poems and stories. Some of his peasant tales, such as _A Happy Boy_ and _The Fisher Maiden_, are considered the finest of their type in all literature. He wrote his first verses when he was ten years old and his genius in this line culminated in his ode called _Bergliot_. He was always emotional, often fiery, and generally radical in his views, so much so that his figure and his writings became the center of a whirlwind of controversy. He wrote several national dramas, such as _Between the Battles_ and _Lame Hulda_, but later his genius took such a radical turn that he had the greatest difficulty in getting any manager to stage his plays. His symbolical play, _Beyond Our Powers_, dealing with religious themes, was either violently criticised or as violently praised, according to the personal feelings of the critic, and another, called _In God’s Way_, caused even more heated discussion.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
German Battleships in Norwegian Waters.]
Björnson seems not to have cared how much discussion or opposition he aroused, though he never tried to arouse it simply for the sake of publicity. He was daring and defiant, and cared not a snap of his finger what this or that critic said of him. Toward the end of his life he turned more to short stories, and in all of these the violent, startling, emotional element was never lacking. In the end he won the highest literary honor by receiving in 1903 the Nobel Literary Prize. Strangely enough this apostle of radicalism preached conciliation with Sweden during the crisis of 1905, and later he went so far as to advocate Pan-Germanism, the uniting of all the peoples of Germanic origin into a single nation.
There is no more interesting character in all the north than Björnson, unless it be his compatriot, Ole Bull. He could never be called “safe.” But in spite of his occasional wildness, he is recognized by all his people as a great reformer, and Molde is justly proud of its former school teacher.
I have rambled on a long time about Björnson. Interesting as _fjord_ and _fjeld_ and _dal_ are in themselves, they always seem to me more interesting when enhanced by memories of some striking character with whom they are associated. Therefore, I hope you will forgive my frequent rambles.
At the end of the long Molde Fjord is the little village of Næs, the starting point for the Romsdal-Gudbrandsdal route. No one who is not a stick or a lump of rock can take this trip without feeling his emotions stirred to their very foundations. There are few places in the world where nature has so unsparingly lavished her art as here. As if the diversity of the scenes were not enough in itself to hold our attention, nature provides an infinite variety of lighting effects. Fleecy clouds play about the mountain tops and then give way to full sunlight. A fog rolls up and curls around the Romsdalshorn, soon to dissolve into nothingness. A heavy curtain of clouds appears most unexpectedly, and the wildest thunder pounds and rolls and crackles through the valley to the accompaniment of pattering hail. We have hardly found shelter when all is over. The sun seems to shine twice as brightly as before, and a few discontented mutterings in the distance show whither the storm is retreating. All this in itself would be inspiring, yet the scenery needs no assistance in producing a feeling of reverence and awe.
On one side of the road towers the mountain pyramid called Romsdalshorn, beside which the poor little attempts of Cheops in Egypt would look pathetic. Opposite to the Romsdalshorn the “Witches’ Pinnacles” and the “Bridal Procession” carry on their little pantomime through endless ages. Formerly it was supposed to be a great feat to climb the Romsdalshorn, but it has now been done so many times that the glamor of the achievement has worn off. The whole route up the Romsdal is lined at this time of year with imposing waterfalls. A waterfall in Norway is called a _fos_, and on this route, as on so many others in Norway, it is practically impossible to get out of sight of at least one tumbling _fos_. The three in Romsdal which excite the most interest are Mongefos, Værmofos, and Slettafos. The latter produces a roar which can be heard a great distance away, but the finest looking of the three is Værmofos. It makes one great leap of seven hundred feet and then is divided by a projecting rock into three separate falls, which leap another three hundred feet. But the Værmofos is only one of thousands and thousands, which leap or tumble helter-skelter into valleys and fjords all through the land. One writer says: “To enumerate the waterfalls of Romsdal would be rather a serious task. There are a dozen or two that would support half a dozen hotels, and be perpetually sketched, photographed, and stereoscoped if they were anywhere up the Rhine.”
The road winds in sharp zigzags or wide curves ever higher and higher, with the Rauma surging along below in its rock-bound gulley until we reach Domaas at the top of the pass.
I should have told you before something about our method of locomotion. So much travel in Norway must be done by road (railway mileage is the least in proportion to the extent of territory of any country in Europe) that posting has been developed to a high degree, and certain peculiarly national conveyances have come into being. The most distinctive of these is the carriole, a very diminutive, two-wheeled gig, which accommodates but one person beside the driver, who sits up behind. Even this one person must place his feet in stirrups outside the wagon and below its floor. If he tries to keep his feet inside the wagon he will find himself cramped into a bowknot. Your driver, who is known as _skydsgut_ (pronounced _shusgut_), is generally a peasant boy. In many respects he is like peasant boys of other countries, but he is sure to possess the quality of absolute honesty. If you give him too much money by mistake, he will return your change. You cannot cheat yourself if you will. There is one other characteristic which your _skydsgut_ will possess, if he is at all a normal Norwegian; that is a stolid sort of courtesy, which cannot be bullied into doing anything for you, but will invariably do the utmost if politely requested. Demand your carriole rather peremptorily and a little harshly, and you will get no answer—neither will you get your carriole. Tell your _skydsgut_ that you are in a hurry to get started and would appreciate it if he could bring the carriole immediately. Before you have finished speaking he is off, and with all possible speed he brings you the carriole. The normal Norwegian simply cannot resist a polite appeal to his sympathy or courtesy. No more can he refrain from resisting to the finish an attitude of overbearing peremptoriness.
From the town of Domaas we must take a side excursion up into the Dovre Mountains or _fjeld_. The _fjeld_ is generally a wild, rough, mountain wilderness, implying snow fields. It is the paradise of the solitude seeker, unless it be robbed of its quietude by the ubiquitous huntsman. Here we find the _sæter_ huts in all their primitive, old-world charm. For centuries these _sæter_ huts have existed just as they exist to-day. They are very rude affairs, being built only for summer occupation. Trunks of fir trees are fitted together, and the chinks are filled in with birch bark and sods. Generally a single room is used as sitting room, dining room, kitchen, bedroom, and dairy. This doesn’t sound particularly attractive for the ultimate consumer of the dairy products, but the dairying processes are really carried on in cleanly and sanitary fashion.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
Into most of the accessible nooks of the _fjeld_ the sportsman has found his way. Beasts of the field and birds of the air are still abundant in some places. Of this latter class there are found the more or less international grouse, woodcock, snipe, partridge, and golden plover. The Lapland bunting, the puffin, the kittiwake, and the capercaillie have a more northern sound, but I am not enough of a huntsman or a naturalist to know just where their habitat is.
Bears and wolves are still found in Norway and add a decided thrill to the life of the adventurous hunter. There is a single island off the mouth of the Trondhjem Fjord which has an almost complete monopoly of the red deer. For some strange reason the red deer has disappeared throughout the length and breadth of peninsular Norway, but still abounds on this island of Hitteren.
I confess, Judicia, that I have not shot or caught a single bird, beast, or fish during all these past months, but I have seen a good many of them, and I have been much interested in reading the accounts of those who are initiated. One sportsman has amused himself and others by making a collection of the names by which different groups of animals are designated in the sporting world. He does not confine himself to Norway, but goes far afield and finds no less than thirty-one different names, all meaning “group.” Besides the common and well-known designations, he speaks of a “nide” of pheasants, a “wisp” of snipe, a “muster” of peacocks, a “siege” of herons, a “cast” of hawks, a “pride” of lions, a “sleuth” of bears, and several others equally fantastic and unfamiliar.
The most peculiarly national animal in Norway, whether he is designated collectively as a “pride” or a “muster” or a “siege” or otherwise, is the lemming. The lemming is a fierce little brute, about the size of a rat, but when brought to bay he is a most dangerous enemy. Ordinarily he is a rather harmless, useless beast, but once in awhile he becomes a national scourge. Such occasions are called “Lemming Years.” For some unaccountable reason swarms of lemmings are born, and they come sweeping over Norway in great waves. For days a ceaseless army of them marches seaward, and nothing can stop them. They eat all that lies in their path, and leave a track of devastation behind them like a plundering army of soldiers. They look neither right nor left, but travel straight on until they reach the open sea. They plunge down the mountain sides into the fjords, blindly and madly, and are soon drowned. It would be well for Norway if they all reached the sea, but alas, thousands fall by the wayside. Wells are choked up with their bodies, and the water is poisoned, so that “lemming fever” is the inevitable sequel to a lemming raid. I believe there has not been a big raid since 1902, but every summer the farmers expect them again and are filled with dread.
Returning to Domaas, we jog along in our carriole down to Otta in the Gudbrandsdal. Between Domaas and Otta, at a place called Kringen, the road “runs like a narrow ribbon between the steep cliff on the one side and the foaming river on the other.” Here, in 1612, six hundred Scottish mercenaries, hired by Gustavus Adolphus, landed at what is now Næs and prepared to walk to Sweden by way of the Romsdal and Gudbrandsdal valleys. At Kringen the Norwegians collected big boulders at the top of the cliff. A peasant girl named Pillar Guri stood on the opposite side and blew a horn to let her compatriots know just when the Scottish soldiers were passing below. At the signal the fatal shower descended, and it is said that not one of the six hundred escaped. Truly “into the valley of death rode the six hundred.” A monument has been placed on the spot to commemorate the event.
Now, Judicia, will you be an obliging chessman? If so, take two jumps backward and one to the right and land at Loen on the Nordfjord. There is an excursion from here to Lake Loen which offers something unique to the weariest and most blasé globe-trotter. Lake Loen is buried in the midst of the wildest, glacier-surmounted hills, and it almost seems an intrusion for prying eyes to visit it, yet it must submit not only to this indignity but to the positive disgrace of having a little steamer, by name the _Lodölen_, chug through its quiet waters. In some places great, jagged masses of glacial ice actually overhang the lake, hundreds of feet in air, and at times fragments break off and plunge down into the water.
Our little steamer _Lodölen_ is rather a curiosity, for its engine was taken from the wreck of a former ship. Some years ago the _Lodölen’s_ predecessor was quietly making its way along the eastern end of the lake when without warning a whole mountain, or at least a large part of a mountain, tumbled bodily into the lake. A tidal wave was created which caught the steamer and carried it far up the mountain side. To-day, from the deck of the _Lodölen_, we can see the wreck of the old ship whose engine is propelling the new. Perhaps the guardians of the lake rebelled at the indignity of having a steamer invade its quietness, and took this means of showing their displeasure; but persistent humanity seems to be unwilling to be thwarted. Perhaps some day the _Lodölen_ will meet with a similar fate and another steamer take its place.
The Sognefjord south of the Nordfjord is not only the deepest, but also the largest. For a hundred and thirty miles it stretches its branches into the heart of Norway. Indeed, it is shaped like a tree, the trunk being the main fjord. The great boughs which come out from this mighty trunk twist and taper into the most delicate twigs, and here and there diminutive _dals_ and hamlets present the appearance of leaves and buds, if you will permit your fancy to roam so far. Many authors are tempted into the most fanciful descriptions of Sogne’s grandeur. If you could see the dramatic audacity of nature here I am sure you would forgive even the extravagant imagination of the following description, which I quote from O. F. W.:
“Ever since the dawn of time these mighty graystone giants of the Sognefjord have sat there gloomy and stanch. Age has set deep marks on them. Their visages are now furrowed and weather-beaten, and their crowns snowy white. But their sight is still keen. When the storms of winter come sweeping in with the wild sagas of the sea, there is a blaze under those shaggy brows. They roar with hoarse voice across to one another when the rains of spring set in. In the dark autumn nights they shake their mighty limbs with such a crash and roar that huge masses scour down the slopes to the fjord, sweeping away all the human vermin that has crawled up and fastened itself upon them. Only during the light, warm, summer nights, when the wild breezes play about them and all the glories of the earth are sprinkled over them, when islands and holms rise out of the trembling sea and swim about like light, downy birds, when the birch is decked in green and the bird cherry is blossoming, the seaweed purling and the sea murmuring—then the deep wrinkles are smoothed out, then there falls a gleam of youth over the austere faces.”
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
Fishermen Arranging their Nets at Balestrand on the Sognefjord.]
There you have the Sogne, the poet’s Sogne perhaps, but I think not too fanciful, for the Sogne is the poet’s fjord above all others, and anyone who has no poetry in him should not invade its precincts. At Balholm, on this fjord, the German emperor is commemorating the famous Fridthjof with a statue. Longfellow translated the Fridthjof saga, so Balholm is thus connected with him too, and adds another point in favor of Sogne’s claim to the name of the poet’s fjord.
Longfellow wrote several poems connected with the northland. The most famous, as you know, and the one which connects Norway with America, is _The Skeleton in Armor_. I have read it half a dozen times since I came to Norway, and it has done more than anything else to make me feel and see the spell of the old vikings.
This has been a long letter and I have not touched upon Hardanger or Sætersdal or the North Cape, but those will keep for another letter, and if you will transform yourself into a “castle,” or, better still, remain a queen and move several squares due north, you will arrive at Marok again, where the gleaming Geiranger is beginning to be ruffled by evening breezes. I will write to you soon, probably from Sætersdal, where I know I shall find seventeenth-century Norway in all its charm.
As ever yours,
Aylmer visits the North Cape; Narvik to Hammerfest; the oft-imagined midnight sun a realization; Vanniman and the sun compass; Hardanger Fjord and region; the Norwegian Sunday; a country wedding; the snow tunnel at Haukeli Sæter; the precipice of Dalen; a natural boomerang; the “Norwegian Rhine”; the romance of Helgenotra; a “stave-kirke”; Henrik Ibsen; educational difficulties in Norway; itinerant schoolmasters; the charm of Sætersdal; wherein lies the Spell of Norway?
BREDVIK, SÆTERSDAL, August 18.
MY DEAR JUDICIA,
Before I tell you about Sætersdal I must say something about the North Cape and the midnight sun. Perhaps you wonder why I don’t save the famous North Cape for a climax instead of taking you up there first and then way back to the southernmost tip of Norway. My reason, which I hope later to justify, is this. To me the spell of Norway lies most of all in its _dals_ and in its _sæter_ regions, where the simplicity of the natives is untarnished and where the country is naturally beautiful. The place where this is true to the fullest extent is in the region whose appropriate name, Sætersdal, combines the thought of rugged upland and smiling _dal_.
I do not mean to minimize the glories of the North Cape. They are superb and almost too wonderful for us. They make us gasp for breath, and perhaps we feel almost tired after surveying them. I have felt “timorous” about approaching that subject at all, for many thousands of people, among them some noted writers, have visited the spot and have seen the midnight sun. Certainly ninety-nine per cent of them have tried to describe it, and many have had their attempts published.
I will not take you step by step, or port by port, on the long journey to Hammerfest, for I took you up as far as Narvik when I went there last winter, and the continuation is much the same. We pass Tromsö, the northernmost of Norway’s six bishoprics, and the town which long enjoyed the distinction of having the northernmost church in the world. Of course, thriving little Hammerfest has now robbed it of that honor. Hammerfest, I suppose, is more widely known, by name at least, than almost any other village of its size in the world, with the possible exceptions of Oberammergau and Stratford-on-Avon, which have earned their distinction in quite different ways. Every schoolboy and schoolgirl learns that Hammerfest is the most northerly town in the world. It has only two thousand inhabitants, but with the inpouring waves of tourists in the summer it becomes a most lively place. The whole town is pervaded winter and summer with a nauseating smell of boiling cod-liver oil. Doubtless the product is a fruitful source of income to the inhabitants, but personally I should hardly care to live in the reeking smell of it all my life.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
Three Little Belles of the Arctic at Tromsö.]
On the Fulgnæs, a promontory a little to the north of the town, there is the _Meridianstötten_, a column of granite with a bronze globe surmounting it, marking the spot, as the Latin and Norwegian inscriptions indicate, where the “geometers of three nations, by order of King Oscar I and Czars Alexander I and Nicholas I,” completed in 1852 the arduous task of measuring the degrees.
Our steamer, in going from Hammerfest to the North Cape, passes the Hjelmöstoren cliff, the home of millions, perhaps of billions of flapping, shrieking sea birds. Although the old birds and the wise ones are never disturbed by the passing steamer, even when it fires off a gun, the young fledgelings flap about in such clouds that they actually darken the face of the sun.
Finally we reach the grand old North Cape on the island of Magerö. The steamer drops anchor in Hornvik Bay, and we leave it and zigzag up the newly built road to the famous cliff. Our good ship _Kong Harald_ looks like a beetle floating on the water’s surface. The waves, which seemed rather formidable to us from the little boat which took us ashore, have now assumed the appearance of almost invisible ripples.
Come to the edge of the cliff with me, Judicia, and you will see a sight which you will never forget. If your nerves are strong and your conscience is clear, you may not tremble at the awfulness of the scene. But unless you are dead to emotion, something must stir within you. Far below and far beyond stretches the apparently limitless Arctic Sea—the vast, fatal, compelling sea which brave men of many nations have died in exploring. And there surely is the midnight sun. It must be that, for it is just midnight, and that great red ball of fire hanging a little above the horizon is very evidently not the moon. It is easy, isn’t it, to speak of the midnight sun, and hard to realize it. That mysterious golden globe bowling lazily along the northern horizon is in process of making a million sunsets and a million sunrises in other parts of the world, but here all is blended into one. Doctor John L. Stoddard, in a burst of eloquence, has thus described the color scheme which nature here presents:
“Far to the north the sun lay in a bed of saffron light over the clear horizon of the Arctic Ocean. A few bars of dazzling orange cloud floated above, and still higher in the sky, where the saffron melted through delicate rose color into blue, hung light wreaths of vapor touched with pearly opaline flushes of pink and golden gray. The sea was a web of pale slate color shot through and through with threads of orange and saffron, from the dance of a myriad shifting and twinkling ripples. The air was filled and permeated with a soft, mysterious glow, and even the very azure of the southern sky seemed to shine through a net of golden gauze. Midway … stood the midnight sun, shining on us with subdued fires and with the gorgeous coloring of an hour for which we have no name, since it is neither sunset, nor sunrise, but the blended loveliness of both.…”
Flowery as the language is, it is not one particle exaggerated. Exaggeration would be impossible.
A less ambitious author frankly admits his inability to describe a northern midsummer night. “The memory of one night in Norway,” he says, “makes one feel how powerless language is to describe the splendor of that … glory—glory of carmine and orange and indigo, which floods not only the heavens, but the sea, and makes the waves beneath our keel a ‘flash of living fire.’”
A more scientific, if less poetic person, who visited the northland was Vanniman, the American engineer, who was with Wellman when he made his unsuccessful attempt to reach the North Pole by airship. Vanniman perhaps neglected the beauties of nature for the more sordidly practical occupation of inventing a sun compass. The principle of this instrument is most interesting. Reasoning that at the precise moment of midnight the sun is due north, he “constructed a clock the hour hand of which traveled in the opposite direction to the sun, so that, on being pointed at the midnight sun and set going, it continued to point due north.”
I would feel more reluctant to tear myself and you from the glories of the North Cape were it not that quieter, gentler glories await us farther south. In the deep blue Hardanger Fjord and its surroundings we find all nature gentler and milder, even in its grandeur, than the nature of the far north or even of the rugged Sogne. The Hardanger district is fir-clothed and alder and birch-clothed as well, and presents a softer loveliness than the knotted, “brawny” aspect of other fjords. I’ll venture to say that the word Hardanger suggests to you, Judicia, only a species of embroidery, but if you had only seen the district it would suggest warmth of forest-clothed _dal_, majesty of lofty waterfall, and depth of cool fjord. Hardanger is famous, even in Norway, for its waterfalls. It outdoes the Romsdal. The Skjeggedalsfos is quite the finest in all Europe, and would not blush if placed beside Niagara, while several other _foses_ in the Hardanger district are nearly as fine.
Sometimes the Hardanger’s gentle smile has savored of the nature of a mask, for in one of its _foses_ it has kept a lurking danger. Far inland through the Eidfjord and the Simodal there is on a high plateau a glacier named the Rembesdal. From this a stream trickles into a mountain lake, then to plunge over a cliff into the Simodal. In former years, whenever the snow melted suddenly on the Rembesdal Glacier, the water thus formed would collect in a rocky upland valley choked off by the glacier itself from every exit. The water would gradually collect here until it was a small lake in itself, and still the glacier barred its way to freedom. Finally the strain would become too great, the barrier would give away, and the irresistible mass of ice, pushed on by the lake which it had formed, would plunge madly down into the lower lake, then over the cliff, and down into the peaceful, unsuspecting Simodal, where it would drown and destroy all that lay in its path. Finally human skill came to the aid of nature, and Norwegian engineers built under the glacier an iron tunnel through which the waters of the upper, artificial lake may drain down into the lower, natural lake.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
The Hardanger Glacier and Rembesdal Lake.]
To me the most interesting thing about the Hardanger district is its people. On Sundays they appear in all their finery, and the women make a gorgeous showing. They wear long skirts of dark blue, trimmed with black velvet and silver braid; white chemisettes with full sleeves, over which shines a gorgeous red bodice, with the most varied assortment of ornaments, some of them made of brass, and saucer-shaped. A belt adorned with huge metal buttons adds considerably to their festive appearance. The headdress is most elaborate, and it must require great skill to arrange it well. It is of snow-white linen stretched on a wire frame in something the shape of a half moon, and plaited very precisely and carefully. Judicia, I am not an authority on women’s clothing, and I feel utterly at a loss to attempt to describe these Hardanger women as they appear. Please lend your most charitable imagination to my meager description.
Sunday is rather a gala day in Norway, after church is over. The people as a rule are sincerely religious, but Sabbath observance such as was known in Puritan America or England is unheard of. King Haakon VII, who is himself an Evangelical Lutheran, reports with pride that when he traveled through the country districts of his kingdom he found a Bible in every peasant’s cottage. He adds that he considers this one of the hopeful features of his nation. Ninety-seven and six tenths per cent of the people are Lutherans, and they will no doubt cling to that form of the Protestant faith for centuries to come.
This gala Sunday is invariably discussed and commented upon by all writers about Norway. One or two authors frankly delight in it, rejoicing that in this free country no such thing is known “as that sour, narrow Sabbatarianism which we find in England.” Another author, while finding good qualities in it, guardedly believes that perhaps on the whole it does not make for the advancement of religion. Still others mourn it as a sure sign of national decay. These latter are perhaps too pessimistic, for, however you may regard the day, there is certainly no more devotedly, healthfully religious people in the world than those in the country districts of Norway. I am afraid that this cannot be said so strongly of the cities. Certainly the gala Sunday has made vast inroads into Christiania church congregations. Many who are of mediocre tendencies, religiously speaking, go up to Holmenkollen early of a Sunday morning, coast all the forenoon (perhaps intending to drop in for a half-hour’s service in the Holmenkollen chapel), and spend afternoon and evening in great hilarity. The chapel service seems rather a farce, as very few of the sport-seekers really avail themselves of the opportunity of attending. So you can see that some of the Christiania pastors have good cause to mourn their national hilarious Sunday.
[Illustration: _Copyright by Underwood & Underwood, N. Y._
View from Hammerfest.]
But to return to Hardanger. At the occasional country weddings in Hardanger the bride’s costume would bear comparison with the plumage of the bird of paradise. It is only in the depths of the country that you can now see a real Norwegian wedding, for Norway is becoming sadly internationalized in this respect, and plain white for the bride and funereal black for the groom are fast supplanting the old gay costumes. In Sætersdal you may stand a better chance than in the Hardanger district of seeing a good, old-fashioned country wedding.
A tough, spudding little pony draws a two-seated _stolkjaerre_, on which is seated the bride in all her finery, and adorned for the occasion in a magnificent crown of brass. Beside her sits the groom, and on the step of the carriage the master of ceremonies, the ancient fiddler. He must be ancient, white-haired, toothless, and a bit doddering, or it is hardly a genuine wedding. All along the bridal procession this doddering fiddler plies his bow at a tremendous rate, and if you are some distance away it really sounds very well. All Norway has for ages been devoted to the violin. It seems to me that half the people in Norway must either play it or play at it; it is the national instrument.
You will not find the full charm of seventeenth-century Norway until you get up here in the Sætersdal. It is an interesting trip, too, from Odda on the Hardanger Fjord overland by the Telemarken route to Skien, the birthplace of the famous Henrik Ibsen, and from there down to Christiansand, and up here through the Sætersdal to Bredvik. Not far from Odda we pass a hotel in the Seljestad glen where, as a certain guide book proudly points out, Mr. Gladstone, Lady Brassey, and the rest of the party of The _Sunbeam_ greatly enjoyed the view in 1885. Certainly Mr. Gladstone and Lady Brassey and the others were justified in their admiration, for there is no more beautiful spot in all the Hardanger district. At the top of the pass there is a mountain chalet called Haukeli Sæter, and here the snow falls in such immense quantities that even in summer the road passes through a tunnel dug through a snow drift.
Farther on, near Dalen, there is a precipice nine hundred feet high called the Ravnegjuv, under which a wild, mad river tears along. Whether this river is responsible I cannot say, but there is here a strong draft, blowing upward and back over the precipice. Throw over paper or leaves, or something equally light, and it will come sailing back to you like a boomerang. It is also stoutly claimed that the breeze is strong enough to blow back a hat, but I never heard of anyone who wanted to risk it. It would be an interesting experiment, and even if it failed the hat might not be a total loss; probably it would fall into the torrent below and go whirling down toward the Skager-Rack. The hatless experimenter could then hurry down to the mouth of the stream by carriage and train and there lie in wait for his wandering hat. This draft over the Ravnegjuv sinks into insignificance compared with the draft which swirls against certain parts of the Nærö _dal_ in the Sogne district. Here the farmhouses are surrounded by earthworks to protect them from the blasts of air caused by avalanches descending _on the other side of the valley_.
Farther down the Telemark route from Ulefos there is a fine excursion up the Saur River and the Nordsjö to Notodden and the Rjukan Falls. This Saur River is erroneously called the “Norwegian Rhine.” The Rhine should be called the “Swiss-German-Dutch Saur,” for I maintain that Norway is the fatherland of natural scenery, and the mere fact that the Rhine is situated within easy access of all Europe does not justify the implication that it is the last word in river scenery and that the Saur is rather a poor, second-rate, Norwegian imitation of it.
Opposite Notodden there is a romantic mountain called Helgenotra, from an old heroine named Helga Tveiten. As she was walking over this mountain, she met a _trold_ disguised as a handsome cavalier. She allowed herself to be beguiled by him, and together they strolled into a cave, which immediately closed behind them, leaving the girl entombed in the mountain. However, the ringing of church bells broke the spell; she was released from her prison, and had nearly reached home when the bell rope broke. The spell came back in full force, and she was dragged by magic back to her mountain tomb, where she is to this day buried.
I may say, as the comforting guide book says of Bishop Pontoppidan’s monstrous sea serpent with a back “an English mile and a half in circumference,” that “there seems to be no doubt that the whole thing is purely an illusion.”
However, there is a story connected with the Rjukan Falls, a little farther on, which is perhaps a trifle less mythical. A maiden named Mary had a lover named Eystein. On the face of the precipice over which the Rjukan plunges was a narrow path called Mari-sti, or “Mary’s Path.” Along this path Mary went to warn her lover of danger, for enemies were plotting against his life. He fled for safety, but returned after many years along the selfsame path to claim his bride. In his haste he ran, and slipped and plunged down into the foaming abyss of the Rjukan. The story runs that “for many years after this a pale form, in whose eyes a quiet madness spoke, wandered daily on the Mari-sti and seemed to talk with someone in the abyss below. Thus she went, until a merciful voice summoned her to joy and rest in the arms of her beloved.”
The Rjukan Falls are still wonderful to behold, and formerly vied with Skjeggedalsfos for the honor of being the finest waterfall in Norway, but electric plants and other industrial developments have robbed it of any claim to true greatness, and the Mari-sti has become a busy thoroughfare. Along the way between Notodden and the Rjukan we meet many peasants in the ancient Telemark costume, white stockings, green vests, and silver buttons being predominant features. At Hitterdal, a village not far from Notodden, there is an old _stave-kirke_, or stock church, dating from the thirteenth century. There are very few of these ancient churches now left in Norway, as fire has destroyed most of them. In the last century and a half at least forty Norwegian churches have been struck by lightning and destroyed, and of course lightning is only one method out of many of setting fire to a church.
The finest example of a medieval _stave-kirke_ is at Borgund in the Valdres district. It is built of logs of timber and the roof is arranged in several tiers like a pagoda. The walls are shingled with pieces of wood cut into the shape of the scales of a fish, and the many pinnacles and gables are surmounted by the most curious wooden gargoyle dragons, pointing their tongues skyward.
Returning to Ulefos we are within a few miles of Skien. Skien is in itself a dull, brick and stone town, devoted largely to the wood-pulp industry, but its honor of being the birthplace of Norway’s greatest literary genius is enough distinction for one town.
Here Henrik Ibsen was born on March 20, 1828. This great genius, the first to raise Norwegian literature to a standard as high as anything in all Europe, was strangely slow in discovering his talent. For seven dreary years, “which set their mark upon his spirit,” he was apprenticed to an apothecary in Grimstad. One of his companions says of him during this period that he “walked about Grimstad like a mystery sealed with seven seals.” He lived for awhile a most precarious, hand-to-mouth existence as a Christiania journalist. Then he became stage poet at the Bergen theater and studied the drama at Copenhagen and at Dresden. He wrote some poems, which began to earn for him a wide reputation. But soon his Bergen theater failed; he applied for a poet’s pension at Christiania and was refused, though one was at the same time granted to Björnson. Sick and discouraged and fighting against poverty, and above all burning with bitterest rage, he went to Berlin and Trieste and then to Rome.
In this tempestuous mood he wrote at Rome a poem called _Brand_ in which he let himself go and poured out his bitterness against his native land. Brand was a Norwegian priest who tried to live like Christ and “was snubbed and hounded by his latitudinarian companions.” It was a magnificent poem, and verily Norway must have trembled at its ferocity, for in Brand’s “latitudinarian companions” the poet had typified the current religious and moral sentiment of his native land.
Soon he wrote the dramatic satire _Peer Gynt_, in which the hero typified Ibsen’s conception of Norwegian egotism, vacillation, and luke-warmness. He commenced this splendid work in all the fiery anger with which he had written _Brand_, but in spite of himself he soon forgot his anger and developed the great piece of literature which critics say is as fine as anything produced in the nineteenth century.
Four years later he did receive a poet’s pension, for his country could not longer ignore his genius.
He had phenomenal success in many lines, but finally turned his attention to simple conversational drama. He is one of the most widely discussed dramatists of recent times. He fearlessly, almost morbidly, braved convention, and was venomously attacked as an immoral writer. Hjalmar Ekdal, the main character of one of his plays, _The Wild Duck_, has earned the name of being the most abominable villain in all the world’s drama. Certainly Ibsen revelled in the sins and faults of society, but only, as he himself says, as a diagnosist, and not, like Tolstoy, as a healer.
On his seventieth birthday the great dramatist was received with the highest marks of honor by the native land which he had so bitterly abused, and it must have been soothing to his fiery, cynical nature to thus come into his own during the last days of his life.
Henrik Ibsen, and all Norwegian literature in general, should be of especial interest to Americans, for it bears the same relation to Danish literature that our own bears to English. It is only within the last century that Norway has had any real, national literature. The great Holberg, who lived in the seventeenth century, was really a Norwegian, but he hardly thought of his own country as being a fitting home for literature, and he devoted his talents to Denmark, and is generally regarded as a Dane.
You will be ready now to make your way to Christiansand and then up this most peaceful of _dals_ to Brevik. On the way you will see many country scenes, becoming more and more unconsciously primitive and rustic as you leave the outside world behind. You will see swarms of children along the way, or should I say “prides” or “nides” of them? At any rate, there is no race suicide in rural Norway. These children are now in the midst of their summer holidays, which for many of them last nine months in the year. Education is compulsory from the ages of seven to fourteen for every child in Norway, but many of the farms, particularly in the lonely Sætersdal, are so far apart that it would be impossible to maintain any regular public-school system. Accordingly itinerant schoolmasters must travel over the length and breadth of Norway, imparting instruction to every child within the specified ages, for at least twelve weeks in the year. Sometimes he must devote his twelve weeks to a single child or a single family, and in this case he becomes the farmer’s guest. Sometimes two or three neighboring farmers combine and appoint one house as the common schoolhouse and the home of the itinerant pedagog. The Norwegian school-teacher’s life is thus one of pleasurable variety. Very often the farmer’s grown-up daughter assists the teacher in his labors, and many a tender passage occurs between them while the children are studying and the fond, hoping mother peeks through the crack of the door.
As I have said before, Sætersdal is the most charmingly peaceful spot in all Norway. There is nothing strenuous about the scenery or the life. Both continue as they have continued for ages and as they will continue for ages to come, unless the ubiquitous railway finds its way here. The cares of life for these peasants are reduced to a minimum. No problems perplex them. Perhaps their simple minds are hardly capable of being perplexed, but they live a calm, God-fearing, happy life. While their fellow countrymen in the towns are wrestling year in and year out with problems, they scarcely know what the word means. Perhaps you think this is a deplorable mental stagnation, but you would not and could not think so if you saw the people. They are noble and generous and honest and good, and as long as they possess these qualities they certainly do not need problems. These fine Norwegian peasants have done as much as all the fjords and mountains and waterfalls and valleys to fill me with the charm of Norway.
I had intended to visit the “Sand Hills of Jutland” and to write to you about them, but after all they are just what Hans Christian Andersen called them, sand hills, and, charming as some parts of Jutland doubtless are, I fear it would be an anticlimax to the varied glories of Norway. Denmark would not have so much interest for a lover of Norway were it not for the historical associations inseparably linking the two countries together, so I base my strongest plea on the land of the fjord. You have been very obliging, Judicia, in performing these sudden chess-metamorphoses from your natural queenliness to knighthood and castlehood and bishophood (I have never reduced you to the rank of a pawn), as the nature of your imaginary move might demand. However, I will refrain from further compliments, lest you should think I am trying to bribe you.
Trusting that the charm of Norway will take possession of you as it has of me, I await your Judicia-l decision.
 Honorable W. W. Thomas: _Sweden and the Swedes_.
 Emil Svensen: _Sweden’s Place in History_.
 Quoted by Honorable W. W. Thomas in _Sweden and the Swedes_.
 Honorable W. W. Thomas: _Sweden and the Swedes_.
 Ernest Young: _Finland_.
Åbo, 123, 128, 129, 134, 139, 141 Castle of, 135 Marketing in, 137
Absalon, Bishop, 188, 189
Alexander II, 170
Alexius, Emperor, 282
Alfvesta, 4, 7
Ambassador Long Legs, 103, 104
Andersen, Hans Christian, 204, 207
Atterdag, Valdemar, 105, 210
Aurora Borealis, 59
Bennett, 266, 267
Bergen, 273, 276
Bernadotte, Prince, 68
Birger, Jarl, 70
Birgitta, 71, 98
Bishop Absalon, 188, 189
Bishop Henrik, 140
Bishop Ulphilas, 86
Björnsen, Björnstjerne, 291, 292
Bothnia, Gulf of, 130
Boyesen, Hjalmar, 238
Brahe, Ebba, 83, 84
Bremer, Frederika, 119
Bull, Ole, 275
Bye, Fru, 268
Canon Wieselgren, 29
Charles XI, 16
Charles XII, 17, 69, 75, 78, 115
Christian II, 37, 38
Christian IV, 191
Christiania, 257 Holmenkollen, 258 Liquor Stores, 272 Winter Sports, 258
Christmas Day, 1520, 42
Codex Argenteus, 50, 87, 115
Copenhagen, 177 Frue Kirke, 190 Grand Hotel, 185 Pillar of Shame, 195 Promenade, 192 Raadhus, 189 Taxameters, 184 Thorvaldsen Museum, 202 Tivoli, 196 Vesterbrogade, 186
Dal, 34 Dalecarlia, 20, 33, 34, 35, 40, 43 Dalen, 312
Du Chaillu, 263
Elfsson, Sven, and wife, 41
Eric, XI, 124
Ericsson, John, 78
Finland, Art, 157 Bathing Customs, 148 Bear Hunt, 161 “Church Boat,” 160 Coffee, 155 Coinage, 126, 155 Education, 166 Four Estates in, 166 Lakes, 143 Railway Restaurants, 155 Russia’s Domination of, 126 Suffrage in, 164 Trains, 153 Wedding, 149
Frederick VIII, 196
Geiranger Fjord, 286, 288
Gilchrist, Harold, 242
Glipping, Erik, 210
Gogstad Ship, 269
Göta, Canal, 94, 96, 100
Gothenburg, 93, 97, 100
Goths and Vandals, 8
Gotland, 8, 102, 108, 110
Gulf of Bothnia, 130
Gustavus Adolphus, 69, 73, 75, 83, 86, 98
Gustavus Vasa, 37, 40, 42, 44, 50, 73, 75, 88, 90, 97, 98, 140
Gyda, 240, 241
Haakon Haakonsson, 283
Haakon, King, 245, 247
Haakon Sverresson, 283
Haakon VII, 260, 309
Halfdan the Swarthy, 221
Hamlet, 211, 212
Hammerfest, 304, 305
Hanseatic House, 277
Harald Bluetooth, 182, 183
Harald Fairhair, 221, 240, 244
Harald Hardruler, 264
Hardanger, 289, 307, 308, 309
Hasting, 239, 249
Helsingfors, 128, 134, 150, 163, 168, 169
Henrik, Bishop, 140
Hornvik Bay, 305
Hospitset, 253, 254
Ibsen, 311, 315, 317
Iron Mines, 60
Jarl Birger, 70
Kalevala, 145, 149, 172
Katherine, Queen, 140
Kiruna, 46, 56, 59, 60, 61
Lapland, 46, 50
Larsson, Carl, 116
Leijonhufvred, Ebba, 97
Lind, Jenny, 121
Linnæus, 29, 76, 88
Littlegirl, Eystein, 281
Lofotens, 218, 226
Longfellow, Henry W., 118, 145
Louis XIV, 16
Luleå, 62, 107, 154, 237
Magnus Barefoot, 242
Månsdotter, Karin, 140
Matthias, Bishop, 38
Molde, 290, 291, 293
Mounds of Odin, Thor and Frey, 89
Müller, Max, 172
Narvik, 61, 62 Hotel, 235 Iron, 231 Shops, 234 Temperature, 220
Nillson, Christine, 121
North Cape, 305
Odin, 89, 245
Olaf, St., 71, 224, 252, 264
Oscar, King, 15
Oxenstjerna, Axel, 74
Peasants’ Independence, 10
Plowpenny, Erik, 210
Prince Bernadotte, 68
Rabbing, Lindom, 39
Rime, 51, 66
Rjukan Falls, 314
Russia, 125 Domination of Finland, 126
Sætersdal, 285, 303, 308
Skokloster, 82, 114
Smith, Harald, 262
Sognefjord, 288, 300, 301
Steyper, Peter, 283
St. Nicholas, Church of, 171
St. Nikolaus, 110
Stockholm, 13, 23, 33, 38, 69, 81, 107 “Automatic City,” The, 23 “Blood Path,” 38 Great Lift, 18
Stoddard, John L., 266, 306
Sweden, Art, 114 Church Life, 21 Farm Statistics, 25 Fires and Insurance, 30 Honesty, 95 Independence Day, 36 Lakes, 92, 96 Language, 49 Lavishness, 6 Parliament, 18 Politeness, 89 Railway Restaurant, 4 Sleeping Cars and Fares, 7 Smörgåsbord, 1, 5, 94 Stoves, 27 Temperance in, 28 Tips, 49 Trains, 46, 49 Unified Cattle, 25
Swedenborg, 72, 88
Sweyn Forkbeard, 183
Tammerfors, 153, 156 Cathedral, 157 The “Manchester” of Finland, 157
Taylor, Bayard, 56, 59
Thirteen Nations, 85
Thirty Years’ War, 74, 83, 98, 115
Thomas, Hon. W. W., 10, 31, 47, 119
Thorvaldsen, Bertel, 202, 203
Torg’s Hat, 218, 219
Trelleborg, 2, 7
Trondhjem, 214, 215, 217, 237 Cathedral, 250
Tryggvesson, Olaf, 209, 221, 223, 238, 243, 254
Ulphilas, Bishop, 86
Upsala, 50, 84, 103 Cathedral, 88, 139 Gamla Upsala, 88 University of, 85
Venern, Lake, 96
Vettern, Lake, 97
Visby, 102, 108, 110
Von Heidenstam, 96, 116
Vreta Klostenkyrka, 97
Wainemann, Paul, 147
Warnemünde, 178, 181
Wellamo, 131, 132
Wieselgren, Canon, 29
Young, Ernest, 125, 138, 167
* * * * * *
The following probable printing errors were corrected:
Page xi “Alymer” changed to “Aylmer” 44 duplicate word “of” removed from “the George Washington of Sweden” 61 duplicate word “miles” removed from “one hundred miles farther” 72 “abby” changed to “abbey” 76 “more that double” changed to “more than double” 121 “every crossed the ocean” changed to “ever crossed the ocean” 162 “you, and Alymer, too” changed to “you, and Aylmer, too” 178 “Copengahen” changed to “Copenhagen” 193 “concete” changed to “concrete” 195 “geat lovers” changed to “great lovers” 202 “Bertel Thorvalsden” changed to “Bertel Thorvaldsen” 212 “Encyclopædia Brittanica” changed to “Encyclopædia Britannica” 237 “Ostersundand” changed to “Ostersund and” 240 “tryant” changed to “tyrant” 289 “Norangsdal” changed to “Norangdal” (both spellings do seem to be valid, but the inconsistency on the same page was jarring) 312 “Skagger-Rack” changed to “Skager-Rack”
Accents have been standardised, and punctuation amended where needed without further note. Authorial errors and inconsistencies have been left as is.