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position is secondary; but, in respect to style, he deservedly ranks at the head of the Danish poets, his cotemporaries.
About a score of years afterwards, and in the same city of Odensee, there arose another poet whose name ought to be distinguished among those eminent persons who have struck out a new course and indicated a new style. This ingenious person was no other than the schoolmaster Christiern Hansen, who attempted, the first in Denmark, to establish theatrical entertainments. He wrote three scenic pieces, partly humorous partly serious, whereof the subjects are evidently borrowed from the ancient German dramatists; and, by its rudeness, his en position throughout betrays a palpable lack of experience. His first piece bears for its title, "The Story of a Man who outwitted a Woman, with the help of a Dog," and ten characters act their assigned parts in the representation. One of them, Præco, opens the affair with a prologue designed to arrest the hearers' attention, and the orator concludes with a moral induction. Instantly after this, a wealthy citizen makes his appearance; and, although newly married, he is ready to set out on a pilgrimage, and bids adieu to his bride. Scarcely has the good man taken his departure than the wooers of his wife present themselves at her door. First of all, a boorish neighbour advances, and bluntly prefers a declaration of love to the lady, without having recourse to rhetorical professions. The young wife disdainfully repels him. She is next addressed by a monk, in prim and pretty phrases; and he is succeeded by a courtier who makes the most magnificent promises. But the bland flattery of the one and the other's superb protestations alike prove unavailin; the monk retires in despair; the courtier goes in search of a sorceress, and hires her to enchant the fair dame of whom he declares himself enamoured. Forthwith to her aid, the hag invokes the inferna' spirits; but, as she is then only a novice in witchcraft, the devils hold her in derision. Feeling annoyed,
• This observation must be considered as referring, in a limited sense, to dramatic writings composed according to definite rules; for, it is certain that the Danes, the Swedes and the Norwegians had long been acquainted with that sort of scenic exhibitions whereof traces are to be found in the early history of every people. The Edda speaks of the harlequin whom Gylf met at the Gate of the Gods; and Snorro Sturleson relates that king Hugleik retained harpers, conjurers and minstrels, at his court. Several poems of the Kæmpeviser may be regarded as dramatic compositions which were recited with a sort of theatrical accompaniment. In Sweden anciently, the Lakaré were attended with music and pantomimes.
the courtier takes to blustering; and, having lost confidence in her old friend Beelzebub, the profligate hireling has recourse to another expedient. She takes a vile, ugly black dog; and, weeping ruefully, she presents herself before the inflexible bride. "What have
you got here, my good woman?" the lady inquires sympathizingly. "Alas, Madam !" the siren asseverates, "I have met with a dreadful misfortune. Believe me! I had a charming daughter, the most beautiful, the most affectionate, the most delicious young damsel, the eye ever beheld. Well! a young gentleman pays his addresses to her; she declines the offer; he persists; she remains inflexible; and, in order to be revenged, the lover procures her being changed into a dog. There," she exclaims, in pointing to the hideous brute beside her, "there stands my poor dear child!" "O Heavens! is it possible," cries the new-married wife, "that when a woman rejects a declaration of love, she incurs the risk of being transformed into a beast?" "Nothing is more certain, Madam; every day, the same thing occurs.” "Ah me! how unfortunate! Why, this very morning, I have rejected a man of fashion, every way accomplished, and abundantly amiable." "Send for him instantly," cries the betrayer, "otherwise there is no knowing what may happen." The gentleman re-appears; the piece finishes; and the audience separates, delighted and edified with so profound an artifice for deceiving a silly
Hansen's second essay is the "Judgment of Paris ;" and it is nothing other than a combat of coquetry by three goddesses, who strive to gain the preference of a youthful shepherd. Juno promises him sovereignty: Minerva engages to endow him with wisdom and Venus undertakes to delight him with the enjoyments of love and beauty. Paris is young, and sighs not for the sweets of power: neither does he languish for the excellencies of wisdom: he pronounces the charms of Venus to be incomparable, and accepts her promised boon. Juno regards his award with scorn, and withdraws, uttering threats of vengeance.
The Schoolmaster's third lucubration bears the title, "The Life and Death of Saint Dorothy;" and this is a "Mystery" founded on a play often acted in France and Germany, during the sixteenth century.
In these dramatic productions of his, the worthy "Dominie" of Odensee merits little commendation on the score of invention. Here and there, however, he sketches some interesting representations of manners, and doles out a few racy reflections. Otherwise, his verses
are generally rather polished, and his diction indicates advancement in the culture of his native language.
Whilst Christiern Hansen was thus endeavouring to establish the "dramatic art" in Denmark, an anonymous writer translated the romances of chivalry, the "contes plaisans," the tale of Ruus, and the “histoire galante" of Flores and Blantzeflor.
Ruus is one of those bitter satires which the " Middle-Age occasionally launched forth against the monks, by way of vindicating its independence at the very time it was playing the disciple." The author of Ruus relates how, one day, Disorder found his way into a monastery, Disobedience raised his front before the altar, and Depravity unlocked the cellars. For a length of time, the devil had kept a vigilant eye upon the saintly brotherhood; so, he concluded that this was an excellent opportunity for catching a cluster of souls, and that it would be a great shame were so good a chance suffered to escape. Behold, then the arch-hypocrite puts himself into livery, assumes a respectable appearance, hastens to the abbey, and solicits the place of a domestic servant. The abbot interrogates the false menial, who produces satisfactory testimonials concerning his qualifications, and is engaged for cook to the establishment. What marvellous management of the sagacious abbot! Well, from the hour that the devil " posa la main sur les fourneaux," the whole convent shone like a guild-hall at the time of an illumination. From that day forwards, adieu to fasts and penance, adieu to vigils and meagre diet. The skilful cook entirely proscribed the insipid fare enjoined by the monastic regulations, declaring it to be altogether unworthy of attention. With the design of exciting the impaired appetite of his masters, and of prolonging the time of their repasts, he provided well-spiced condiments, and invented endless refinements. At early morn, the fire of hell crackled in the kitchen: the tables groaned under the weight of substantial hams and haunches of venison; and, throughout the day, the cellar was open. There, sat the monks roaring over their bacchanalian orgies; and the devil, who treated them so handsomely, soon perceived in their increasing rotundity that his efforts were not fruitless. Several months glided in this state of delicious indolence; and the cook, who had so nicely played his part in the instalment of laziness and revelry at the abbey, he began to fancy himself entitled to a recompence. Imp-like and impudent, he demanded to be made a monk; and, though a devil as he was, a monk they made him accordingly. He received the cowl between two butts; and, thenceforward, Brother Ruus became
his designation. For this once at least, the miserable monastery fell entirely under the devil's dominion. The choir was abandoned; neither prayer nor holy chant were now heard in the church: brother Ruus over-ruled the abbot, and brother Ruus governed the monks also be tippled by day, and he played the rake by night he experienced a particular pleasure in exhibiting the cowl and the cassock where they ought never to be seen. When he performed excursions through the country, his presence proved a great misfortune to every house he visited, and to the peasants with whom he stopped to talk. His envenomed breath dispread a moral poison around him, and he rarely entered a hamlet without exciting a quarrel or committing a cruel theft. One day, however, brother Ruus fell a victim to his own knavishness. He stole a cow from a poor peasant who had no other property in the world. For a whole day, the unfortunate man vainly sought for his cow every where, in the valleys and on the hills. At night, on finding himself wildered in the mazes of a forest, he took shelter in the hollow trunk of a tree. At his feet, with surprise, he perceived a subterranean passage: he descended the mysterious way: and, after wandering onwards for many a weary hour, he arrived at the gates of hell. The time was a day of solemn audience. Satan was then seated on his throne, and his emissaries to earth were then assembled to render an account of their proceedings. Some of them had stirred up a civil war: some had created discord in families: others had fostered a delight in robbery, encouraged blasphemy, promoted sacrilege. At these tidings, the king of Pandemonium sometimes grinned a smile most horrible, and sometimes he coaxed his minions with an approving nod. Anon, a jolly demon made his appearance attired in the reverend guise of a monk: this was brother Ruus. His homage done, he proceeds to relate the incidents of his monastic life the crew of devils envy him his occupation, and Satan himself applauds the villain's cozenage. With the report of Ruus, the council terminated; and the peasant, overwhelmed with dismay, retraced his steps through the hollow oak. Next day, he hastened to the abbey, and described the dreadful scene he had witnessed. The abbot's eyes are opened, and he becomes sensible of his guiltiness: he assembles the penitent brotherhood: and, altogether, they fall on their knees, devoutly imploring the forgiveness of Heaven. Ruus is driven with disgrace from their society; and the purified austerity of their monastic functions is resumed.
This grotesque fiction represents the prominent features of imaginative literature in Denmark, during the middle age. It appears
among the ethological compositions of that period as Gothic arches are seen through clusters of nosegays or the branches of trees. It is an epigram in the middle of a prayer; it is a profession of infidelity interrupting a protestation of faith. This tale obtained an extensive circulation in France and England:* when it was transplanted to Denmark, the time is unknown.
The romance of "Flores and Blantzeflor"+ was printed at Copenhagen in MDIX. This clever sketch in chivalry was read, from the north of Europe to the south, in every castle and baronial abode: the Danish version of it is a mere translation, and this is very dull.
Such, then, were the conditions of Literature and Education in Denmark, previously to the sixteenth century. Concomitant with this miserable written poetry, however, there existed a traditional poësy; and this was a noble, sweet, luxuriant poësy, which grew up in the middle of the Danish Middle-Age, like a forest of oaks in the centre of a sterile plain. This is the Poetry of the Kæmpeviser.‡ It was long misunderstood by the Wits: the Philosophers despised it: but, no sooner did an intelligent Spirit rescue from oblivion this sonorous harp, this "voice of ancient days," than the multitude listened with delight, the poets poured forth applauses, the learned felt amazement. From that time, Denmark no longer had reason to regard with envy the heroic rhymes of Spain or the border-ballads of Scotland. The Land of Lodbroc now possesses her own Cancionnero; she now has her own Minstrelsy.
* With reference to the original popularity of this fantastic piece of "romanticity," a leonine sentiment occurs in Seidelin's Paramia Ethica, printed at Frankfort in MDLXXXIX: Quis, the rhymer inquires, non legit quæ frater Rauschius agit?
The original idea of this Romance has been ascribed to Boccacio, but without any reason. It was first introduced into the north by Euphemia countess of Brandenburgh, queen of Norway. Now, Euphemia died in the year мCCCXII, and Boccacio was born in A.D. MCCCXII.
An Essay on the "Kompeviser" will appear in a subsequent number of this journal. ED.