Hans Christian Andersen.

Pictures of Sweden online

. (page 3 of 10)
Online LibraryHans Christian AndersenPictures of Sweden → online text (page 3 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


cloak, the most wealthy citizen of Vadstene, the merchant Michael. By
his side is his young, beautiful daughter Agda, richly-dressed and
happy; youth in beauty, youth in mind. All eyes are turned on the rich
man - and yet forget him for her, the beautiful. Life's best blessings
await her; her thoughts soar upwards, her mind aspires; her future is
happiness! These were the thoughts of the many - and amongst the many
there was one who saw her as Romeo saw Juliet, as Adam saw Eve in the
garden of Paradise. That one was Oluf, the handsomest young man, but
poor as Agda was rich. And he must conceal his love; but as only he
lived in it, only he knew of it; so he became mute and still, and
after months had passed away, the town's folk called him Oluf Tyste
(Oluf the silent).

Nights and days he combated his love; nights and days he suffered
inexpressible torment; but at last - one dew-drop or one sunbeam alone
is necessary for the ripe rose to open its leaves - he must tell it to
Agda. And she listened to his words, was terrified, and sprang away;
but the thought remained with him, and the heart went after the
thought and stayed there; she returned his love strongly and truly,
but in modesty and honour; and therefore poor Oluf came to the rich
merchant and sought his daughter's hand. But Michael shut the bolts of
his door and his heart too. He would neither listen to tears nor
supplications, but only to his own will; and as little Agda also kept
firm to her will, her father placed her in Vadstene cloister. And Oluf
was obliged to submit, as it is recorded in the old song, that they
cast

" - - den svarta Muld
Alt öfver skön Agdas arm."[B]

[Footnote B: The black mould over the beautiful Agda's arm.]

She was dead to him and the world. But one night, in tempestuous
weather, whilst the rain streamed down, Oluf Tyste came to the
cloister wall, threw his rope-ladder over it, and however high the
Vettern lifted its waves, Oluf and little Agda flew away over its
fathomless depths that autumn night.

Early in the morning the nuns missed little Agda. What a screaming and
shouting - the cloister is disgraced! The Abbess and Michael the
merchant swore that vengeance and death should reach the fugitives.
Lindkjöping's severe bishop, Hans Brask, fulminated his ban over them,
but they were already across the waters of the Vettern; they had
reached the shores of the Venern, they were on Kinnakulla, with one of
Oluf's friends, who owned the delightful Hellekis.

Here their marriage was to be celebrated. The guests were invited, and
a monk from the neighbouring cloister of Husaby, was fetched to marry
them. Then came the messenger with the bishop's excommunication, and
this - but not the marriage ceremony - was read to them.

All turned away from them terrified. The owner of the house, the
friend of Oluf's youth, pointed to the open door and bade them depart
instantly. Oluf only requested a car and horse wherewith to convey
away his exhausted Agda; but they threw sticks and stones after them,
and Oluf was obliged to bear his poor bride in his arms far into the
forest.

Heavy and bitter was their wandering. At last, however, they found a
home: it was in Guldkroken, in West Gothland. An honest old couple
gave them shelter and a place by the hearth: they stayed there till
Christmas, and on that holy eve there was to be a real Christmas
festival. The guests were invited, the furmenty set forth; and now
came the clergyman of the parish to say prayers; but whilst he spoke
he recognised Oluf and Agda, and the prayer became a curse upon the
two. Anxiety and terror came over all; they drove the excommunicated
pair out of the house, out into the biting frost, where the wolves
went in flocks, and the bear was no stranger. And Oluf felled wood in
the forest, and kindled a fire to frighten away the noxious animals
and keep life in Agda - he thought that she must die. But just then she
was stronger of the two.

"Our Lord is almighty and gracious; He will not leave us!" said she.
"He has one here on the earth, one who can save us, one, who has
proved like us, what it is to wander amongst enemies and wild animals.
It is the King - Gustavus Vasa! He has languished like us! - gone astray
in Dalecarlia in the deep snow! he has suffered, tried, knows it - he
can and he will help us!"

The King was in Vadstene. He had called together the representatives
of the kingdom there. He dwelt in the cloister itself, even there
where little Agda, if the King did not grant her pardon, must suffer
what the angry Abbess dared to advise: penance and a painful death
awaited her.

Through forests and by untrodden paths, in storm and snow, Oluf and
Agda came to Vadstene. They were seen: some showed fear, others
insulted and threatened them. The guard of the cloister made the sign
of the cross on seeing the two sinners, who dared to ask admission to
the King.

"I will receive and hear all," was his royal message, and the two
lovers fell trembling at his feet.

And the King looked mildly on them; and as he long had had the
intention to humiliate the proud Bishop of Lindkjöping, the moment was
not unfavourable to them; the King listened to the relation of their
lives and sufferings, and gave them his word, that the excommunication
should be annulled. He then placed their hands one in the other, and
said that the priest should also do the same soon; and he promised
them his royal protection and favour.

And old Michael, the merchant, who feared the King's anger, with which
he was threatened, became so mild and gentle, that he, as the King
commanded, not only opened his house and his arms to Oluf and Agda,
but displayed all his riches on the wedding-day of the young couple.
The marriage ceremony took place in the cloister church, whither the
King himself led the bride, and where, by his command, all the nuns
were obliged to be present, in order to give still more ecclesiastical
pomp to the festival. And many a heart there silently recalled the old
song about the cloister robbery and looked at Oluf Tyste:

"Krist gif en sadan Angel
Kom, tog båd mig och dig!"[C]

[Footnote C: Christ grant that such an angel were to come, and take
both me and thee!]

The sun now shines through the open cloister-gate. Let truth shine
into our hearts; let us likewise acknowledge the cloister's share of
God's influence. Every cell was not quite a prison, where the
imprisoned bird flew in despair against the window-pane; here
sometimes was sunshine from God in the heart and mind, from hence also
went out comfort and blessings. If the dead could rise from their
graves they would bear witness thereof: if we saw them in the
moonlight lift the tombstone and step forth towards the cloister, they
would say: "Blessed be these walls!" if we saw them in the sunlight
hovering in the rainbow's gleam, they would say: "Blessed be these
walls!"

How changed the rich, mighty Vadstene cloister, where the first
daughters of the land were nuns, where the young nobles of the land
wore the monk's cowl. Hither they made pilgrimages from Italy, from
Spain: from far distant lands, in snow and cold, the pilgrim came
barefooted to the cloister door. Pious men and women bore the corpse
of St. Bridget hither in their hands from Rome, and all the
church-bells in all the lands and towns they passed through, tolled
when they came.

We go towards the cloister - the remains of the old ruin. We enter St.
Bridget's cell - it still stands unchanged. It is low, small and
narrow: four diminutive frames form the whole window, but one can look
from it out over the whole garden, and far away over the Vettern. We
see the same beautiful landscape that the fair Saint saw as a frame
around her God, whilst she read her morning and evening prayers. In
the tile-stone of the floor there is engraved a rosary: before it, on
her bare knees, she said a pater-noster at every pearl there pointed
out. Here is no chimney - no hearth, no place for it. Cold and solitary
it is, and was, here where the world's most far-famed woman dwelt, she
who by her own sagacity, and by her contemporaries was raised to the
throne of female saints.

From this poor cell we enter one still meaner, one still more narrow
and cold, where the faint light of day struggles in through a long
crevice in the wall. Glass there never was here: the wind blows in
here. Who was she who once dwelt in this cell?

In our times they have arranged light, warm chambers close by: a whole
range opens into the broad passage. We hear merry songs; laughter we
hear, and weeping: strange figures nod to us from these chambers. Who
are these? The rich cloister of St. Bridget's, whence kings made
pilgrimages, is now Sweden's mad-house. And here the numerous
travellers write their names on the wall. We hasten from the hideous
scene into the splendid cloister church, - the blue church, as it is
called, from the blue stones of which the walls are built - and here,
where the large stones of the floor cover great men, abbesses and
queens, only one monument is noticeable, that of a knightly figure
carved in stone, which stands aloft before the altar. It is that of
the insane Duke Magnus. Is it not as if he stepped forth from amongst
the dead, and announced that such afflicted creatures were to be where
St. Bridget once ruled?

Pace lightly over the floor! Thy foot treads on the graves of the
pious: the flat, modest stone here in the corner covers the dust of
the noble Queen Philippa. She, that mighty England's daughter, the
great-hearted, the immortal woman, who with wisdom and courage
defended her consort's throne, that consort who rudely and barbarously
cast her off! Vadstene's cloister gave her shelter - the grave here
gave her rest.

We seek one grave. It is not known - it is forgotten, as she was in her
lifetime. Who was she? The cloistered sister Elizabeth, daughter of
the Holstein Count, and once the bride of King Hakon of Norway. Sweet
creature! she proudly - but not with unbecoming pride - advanced in her
bridal dress, and with her court ladies, up to her royal consort. Then
came King Valdemar, who by force and fraud stopped the voyage, and
induced Hakon to marry Margaret, then eleven years of age, who thereby
got the crown of Norway. Elizabeth was sent to Vadstene cloister,
where her will was not asked. Afterwards when Margaret - who justly
occupies a great place in the history of Scandinavia, but only
comparatively a small one in the hearts - sat on the throne, powerful
and respected, visited the then flourishing Vadstene, where the Abbess
of the cloister was St. Bridget's grand-daughter, her childhood's
friend, Margaret kissed every monk on the cheek. The legend is well
known about him, the handsomest, who thereupon blushed. She kissed
every nun on the hand, and also Elizabeth, her, whom she would only
see here. Whose heart throbbed loudest at that kiss? Poor Elizabeth,
thy grave is forgotten, but not the wrong thou didst suffer.

We now enter the sacristy. Here, under a double coffin lid, rests an
age's holiest saint in the North, Vadstene cloister's diadem and
lustre - St. Bridget.

On the night she was born, says the legend, there appeared a beaming
cloud in the heavens, and on it stood a majestic virgin, who said: "Of
Birger is born a daughter whose admirable voice shall be heard over
the whole world." This delicate and singular child grew up in the
castle of her father, Knight Brake. Visions and revelations appeared
to her, and these increased when she, only thirteen years of age, was
married to the rich Ulf Gudmundsen, and became the mother of many
children. "Thou shalt be my bride and my agent," she heard Christ say,
and every one of her actions was, as she averred, according to his
announcement. After this she went to Niddaros, to St. Oluf's holy
shrine: she then went to Germany, France, Spain and Rome.

Sometimes honoured and sometimes mocked, she travelled, even to Cyprus
and Palestine. Conscious of approaching death, she again reached Rome,
where her last revelation was, that she should rest in Vadstene, and
that this cloister especially should be sanctified by God's love. The
splendour of the Northern lights does not extend so far around the
earth as the glory of this fair saint, who now is but a legend. We
bend with silent, serious thoughts before the mouldering remains in
the coffin here - those of St. Bridget and her daughter St. Catherine;
but even of these the remembrance will be extinguished. There is a
tradition amongst the people, that in the time of the Reformation the
real remains were carried off to a cloister in Poland, but this is not
certainly known. Vadstene, at least, is not the repository of St.
Bridget and her daughter's dust.

Vadstene was once great and glorious. Great was the cloister's power,
as St. Bridget saw it in the prospect of death. Where is now the
cloister's might? It reposes under the tomb-stones - the graves alone
speak of it. Here, under our feet, only a few steps from the church
door, is a stone in which are carved fourteen rings: they announce
that fourteen farms were given to the cloister, in order that he who
moulders here might have this place, fourteen feet within the church
door. It was Boa Johnson Grip, a great sinner; but the cloister's
power was greater than that of all sinners: the stone on his grave
records it with no ordinary significance of language.

Gustavus, the first Vasa, was the sun - the ruling power: the
brightness of the cloister star must needs pale before him.

There yet stands a stone outline of Vadstene's rich palace which he
erected, with towers and spires, close by the cloister. At a far
distance on the Vettern, it looks as if it still stood in all its
splendour; near, in moonlight nights, it appears the same unchanged
edifice, for the fathom-thick walls yet remain; the carvings over the
windows and gates stand forth in light and shade, and the moat round
about, which is only separated from the Vettern by the narrow carriage
road, takes the reflection of the immense building as a mirrored
image.

We now stand before it in daylight. Not a pane of glass is to be found
in it; planks and old doors are nailed fast to the window frames; the
balls alone still stand on the two towers, broad, heavy, and
resembling colossal toadstools. The iron spire of the one still towers
aloft in the air; the other spire is bent: like the hands on a
sun-dial it shows the time - the time that is gone. The other two balls
are half fallen down; lambs frisk about between the beams, and the
space below is used as a cow-stall.

The arms over the gateway have neither spot nor blemish: they seem as
if carved yesterday; the walls are firm, and the stairs look like new.
In the palace yard, far above the gateway, the great folding door was
opened, whence once the minstrels stepped out and played a welcome
greeting from the balcony, but even this is broken down: we go through
the spacious kitchen, from whose white walls, a sketch of Vadstene
palace, ships, and flowering trees, in red chalk, still attract the
eye.

Here where they cooked and roasted, is now a large empty space: even
the chimney is gone; and from the ceiling where thick, heavy beams of
timber have been placed close to one another, there hangs the
dust-covered cobweb, as if the whole were a mass of dark grey dropping
stones.

We walk from hall to hall, and the wooden shutters are opened to admit
daylight. All is vast, lofty, spacious, and adorned with antique
chimney-pieces, and from every window there is a charming prospect
over the clear, deep Vettern. In one of the chambers in the ground
floor sat the insane Duke Magnus, (whose stone image we lately saw
conspicuous in the church) horrified at having signed his own
brother's death-warrant; dreamingly in love with the portrait of
Scotland's Queen, Mary Stuart; paying court to her and expecting to
see the ship, with her, glide over the sea towards Vadstene. And she
came - he thought she came - in the form of a mermaid, raising herself
aloft on the water: she nodded and called to him, and the unfortunate
Duke sprang out of the window down to her. We gazed out of this
window, and below it we saw the deep moat in which he sank.

We enter the yeoman's hall, and the council hall, where, in the
recesses of the windows, on each side, are painted yeomen in strange
dresses, half Dalecarlians and half Roman warriors.

In this once rich saloon, Svanta Steenson Sture knelt to Sweden's
Queen, Catherine Léjonhufved: she was Svanta Sture's love, before
Gustavus Vasa's will made her his Queen. The lovers met here: the
walls are silent as to what they said, when the door was opened and
the King entered, and saw the kneeling Sture, and asked what it meant.
Margaret answered craftily and hastily: "He demands my sister Martha's
hand in marriage!" and the King gave Svanta Sture the bride the Queen
had asked for him.

We are now in the royal bridal chamber, whither King Gustavus led his
third consort. Catherine Steenbock, also another's bride, the bride of
the Knight Gustavus. It is a sad story.

Gustavus of the three roses, was in his youth honoured by the King,
who sent him on a mission to the Emperor Charles the Fifth. He
returned adorned with the Emperor's costly golden chain - young,
handsome, joyous and richly clad, he returned home, and knew well how
to relate the magnificence and charms of foreign lands: young and old
listened to him with admiration, but young Catherine most of all.
Through him the world in her eyes became twice as large, rich, and
beautiful; they became dear to each other, and their parents blessed
their love. The love-pledge was to be drunk, - when there came a
message from the King, that the young Knight must, without delay,
again bear a letter and greeting to the Emperor Charles. The betrothed
pair separated with heavy hearts, but with a promise of mutual
inviolable troth. The King then invited Catherine's parents to come to
Vadstene palace. Catherine was obliged to accompany them; here King
Gustavus saw her for the first time, and the old man fell in love with
her.

Christmas was kept with great hilarity; there were song and harp in
these halls, and the King himself played the lute. When the time came
for departure, the King said to Catherine's mother, that he would
marry the young girl.

"But she is the bride of the Knight Gustavus!" stammered the mother.

"Young hearts soon forget their sorrows," thought the King. The mother
thought so likewise, and as there chanced to come a letter the same
day and hour from the young Knight Gustavus, Fra Steenbock committed
it to the flames. All the letters that came afterwards and all the
letters that Catherine wrote, were burnt by her mother, and doubts and
evil reports were whispered to Catherine, that she was forgotten
abroad by her young lover. But Catherine was secure and firm in her
belief of him. In the spring her parents made known to her the King's
proposal, and praised her good fortune. She answered seriously and
determinedly, "No!" and when they repeated to her that it should and
must happen, she repeatedly screamed in the greatest anguish, "No no!"
and sank exhausted at her father and mother's feet, and humbly prayed
them not to force her.

And the mother wrote to the King that all was going on well, but that
her child was bashful. The King now announced his visit to Torpe,
where her parents, the Steenbocks, dwelt. The King was received with
rejoicing and feasting, but Catherine had disappeared and the King
himself was the successful one who found her. She sat dissolved in
tears under the wild rose tree, where she had bidden farewell to her
heart's beloved.

There was merry song and joyous life in the old mansion; Catherine
alone was sorrowful and silent. Her mother had brought her all her
jewels and ornaments, but she wore none of them: she had put on her
simplest dress, but in this she only fascinated the old King the more,
and he would have that their betrothal should take place before he
departed. Fra Steenbock wrested the Knight Gustavus's ring from
Catherine's finger, and whispered in her ear: "It will cost the friend
of thy youth his life and fortune; the King can do everything!" And
the parents led her to King Gustavus, showed him that the ring was
from the maiden's hand; and the King placed his own golden ring on her
finger in the other's stead. In the month of August the flag waved
from the mast of the royal yacht which bore the young Queen over the
Vettern. Princes and knights, in costly robes, stood by the shore,
music played, and the people shouted. Catherine made her entry into
Vadstene Palace. The nuptials were celebrated the following day, and
the walls were hung with silk and velvet, with cloth of gold and
silver! It was a festival and rejoicing. Poor Catherine!

In November, the Knight Gustavus of the three roses, returned home.
His prudent, noble mother, Christina Gyldenstjerne, met him at the
frontiers of the kingdom, prepared him, consoled him, and soothed his
mind: she accompanied him by slow stages to Vadstene, where they were
both invited by the King to remain during the Christmas festival. They
accepted the invitation, but the Knight Gustavus was not to be moved
to come to the King's table or any other place where the Queen was to
be found. The Christmas approached. One Sunday evening, Gustavus was
disconsolate; the Knight was long sleepless, and at daybreak he went
into the church, to the tomb of his ancestress, St. Bridget. There he
saw, at a few paces from him, a female kneeling before Philippa's
tomb. It was the Queen he saw; their eyes met, and Gustavus hastened
away. She then mentioned his name, begged him to stay, and commanded
him to do so.

"I command it, Gustavus!" said she; "the Queen commands it."

And she spoke to him; they conversed together, and it became clear to
them both what had been done against them and with them; and she
showed him a withered rose which she kept in her bosom, and she bent
towards him and gave him a kiss, the last - their eternal
leave-taking - and then they separated. He died shortly afterwards, but
Catherine was stronger, yet not strong enough for her heart's deep
sorrow. Here, in the bed-chamber, in uneasy dreams, says the story,
she betrayed in sleep the constant thought of her heart, her youth's
love, to the King, saying: "Gustavus I love dearly; but the rose - I
shall never forget."

From a secret door we walk out on to the open rampart, where the sheep
now graze; the cattle are driven into one of the ruined towers. We see
the palace-yard, and look from it up to a window. Come, thou
birch-wood's thrush, and warble thy lays; sing, whilst we recal the
bitterness of love in the rude - the chivalrous ages.

Under that window there stood, one cold winter's night, wrapped in his
white cloak, the young Count John of East Friesland. His brother had
married Gustavus Vasa's eldest daughter, and departed with her to his
home: wherever they came on their journey, there was mirth and
feasting, but the most splendid was at Vadstene Palace. Cecilia, the
King's younger daughter, had accompanied her sister hither, and was
here, as everywhere, the first, the most beautiful in the chase as
well as at the tournament. The winter began directly on their arrival
at Vadstene; the cold was severe, and the Vettern frozen over. One
day, Cecilia rode out on the ice and it broke; her brother, Prince
Erik, came galloping to her aid. John, of East Friesland, was already
there, and begged Erik to dismount, as he would, being on horseback,
break the ice still more. Erik would not listen to him, and as John
saw that there was no time for dispute, he dragged Erik from the
horse, sprang into the water himself, and saved Cecilia. Prince Erik
was furious with wrath, and no one could appease him. Cecilia lay long
in a fever, and during its continuance, her love for him who had saved
her life increased. She recovered, and they understood each other, but
the day of separation approached. It was on the night previous that
John, in his white cloak, ascended from stone to stone, holding by his
silk ladder, until he at length entered the window; here they would
converse for hours in all modesty and honour, speak about his return
and their nuptials the following year; and whilst they sat there the
door was hewn down with axes. Prince Erik entered, and raised the
murderous weapon to slay the young Lord of East Friesland, when
Cecilia threw herself between them. But Erik commanded his menials to
seize the lover, whom they put in irons and cast into a low, dark


1 3 5 6 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryHans Christian AndersenPictures of Sweden → online text (page 3 of 10)