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BALLADS AND OTHER POEMS.

1842.

PREFACE.

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There is one poem in this volume, in reference to which a few introductory remarks may be useful. It is The Children of the Lord's Supper, from the Swedish of Bishop Tegnér ; a poem which enjoys no inconsiderable reputation in the North of Europe, and for its beauty and simplicity merits the attention of English readers. It is an Idyl, descriptive of scenes in a Swedish village ; and belongs to the same class of poems, as the Luise of Voss and the Hermann und Dorothea of Göthe. But the Swedish Poet has been guided by a surer taste than his German predecessors. His tone is pure and elevated ; and he rarely, if ever, mistakes what is trivial for what is simple.

There is something patriarchal still lingering about rural life in Sweden, which renders it a fit theme for song. Almost primeval simplicity reigns over that Northern land, -almost primeval solitude and stillness. You pass out from the gate of the city, and, as if by magic, the scene changes to a wild, woodland landscape. Around you are forests of fir. Overhead hang the long, fan-like branches, trailing with moss, and heavy with red and blue cones. Under foot is a carpet of yellow leaves ; and the air is warm and balmy. On a wooden bridge you cross a little silver stream ; and anon come forth into a pleasant and sunny land of farms. Wooden fences divide the adjoining fields. Across the roads are gates, which are opened by troops of children. The peasants take off their hats as you pass; you sneeze, and they cry, "God bless you.” The houses in the villages and smaller towns are all built of hewn timber, and for the most part painted red. The floors of the taverns are strewn with the fragrant tips of fir-boughs. In many villages there are no taverns, and the peasants take turns in receiving travellers

. The thrifty housewife shows you into the best chamber, the walls of which are hung round with rude pictures from the Bible ; and

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brings you her heavy silver spoons,-an heirloom,—to dip the curdled milk from the pan. You have oaten cakes baked some months before ; or bread with anise-seed and coriander in it, or perhaps a little pine-bark.

Meanwhile the sturdy husband has brought his horses from the plough, and harnessed them to your carriage. Solitary travellers come and go in uncouth one-horse chaises. Most of them have pipes in their mouths, and hanging around their necks in front, a leather wallet, in which they carry tobacco, and the great bank notes of the country, as large as your two hands. You meet, also, groups of Dalekarlian peasant women, travelling homeward or townward in pursuit of work. They walk barefoot, carrying in their hands their shoes, which have high heels under the hollow of the foot, and soles of birch bark.

Frequent, too, are the village churches, standing by the road-side, each in its own little garden of Gethsemane. In the parish register great events are doubtless recorded. Some old king was christened or buried in that church; and a little sexton, with a rusty key, shows you the baptismal font, or the coffin. In the churchyard are a few flowers, and much green grass; and daily the shadow of the church spire, with its long tapering finger, counts the tombs, representing a dial-plate of human life, on which the hours and the minutes are the graves of men. The stones are flat, and large, and low, and perhaps sunken, like the roofs of old houses. On some are armorial bearings; on others only the initials of the poor tenants, with a date, as on the roofs of Dutch cottages. They all sleep with their heads to the westward. Each held a lighted taper in his hand when he died; and in his coffin were placed his little hcart-treasures, and a piece of money for his last journey. Babes that came lifeless into the world were carried in the arms of gray-haired old men to the only cradle they ever slept in ; and in the shroud of the dead mother were laid the little garments of the child, that lived and died in her bosom. And over this scene the village pastor looks from his window in the stillness of midnight, and says in his heart, “ How quietly they rest, all the departed !”

Near the church-yard gate stands a poor-box, fastened to a post by iron bands, and secured by a padlock, with a sloping wooden roof to keep off the rain. If it be Sunday, the peasants sit on the church steps and con their psalm-books. Others are coming down the road with their beloved pastor, who talks to them of holy things from beneath his broad

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