ASAIAS TEGNER

tegnerIntroduction

Asaias Tegner (1782-1846), who wrote the best known of all Swedish poems, was born in Wermland, the son of a pastor whose parents were simple peasants. Esaias entered Lund University, took a degree in philosophy in 1802, married his childhood sweetheart in 1806 and became full professor in 1812. He continued his university duties until 1824 when he accepted the more lucrative post of Bishop in Vexio. As Bishop he remained until his death, though the strain of leaving Lund and the wife of a town councillor with whom he had fallen in love brought on melancholy and fits of madness for which he was briefly institutionalized.

Tegner's first poem of any importance was Svea, a patriotic piece of 1811, and this was followed by his celebrated Song to the Sun in 1817. Then came three longer poems on which his fame rests — The First Communion (1820), Axel (1822) and the Frithjofs Saga (1820-25). The last made Swedish literature famous, and has been translated into most languages — 20 times indeed into German and 22 times into English. Tegner wrote little after his release from the Schleswig asylum in 1841, suffering a major stroke in 1843 and dying three years later.

Though Tegner tried in Gerda and Kronbruden to repeat his earlier success, these epics were left unfinished. Only Frithjofs won him instant and continuing popularity. A romantic paraphrase of an ancient saga written in 24 cantos, the poem follows an earlier Danish epic but is recast in a fresh and convincing way. Sagas are narratives of norsemen exploits and explorations, often written with stark and vivid detail. They include tales of Viking voyages but also reflect on the harsh politics and social conditions of contemporary Scandinavia. Their terse realism forms an important part of medieval European literature, and attracted many revivals in the nineteenth century — William Morris's Volsunga Saga being the best known to English readers.

Eighteenth century Swedish literature was mostly in prose, but the succeeding century has poets of international importance, especially Johan Runeberg (1804-77),and Gustaf Fröding (1860-1911), though August S trindberg will be the best known.

Twentieth century literature inherited the realism of the 1880s, but absorbed new influences — pessimism after WWI, modernism with Harry Martinson and Artur Lundkvist and surrealism with Gunmar Ekelöf. Modernism progressed further in 40s with Erik Lindegren and Karl Vennberg, who were followed after WWII by a great diversity of poetry in subject matter and style. Ekelöf became a central figure with poetry that draws on archetypal themes and literary sources, and very different was popular troubadour work of Evert Taube (1890-1976). Poetry since 1960 has been more politicized, experimental and anti-establishment.

Swedish is not widely spoken outside the country, and many Swedes speak excellent English. But to read the rich poetry of the last two centuries you may like to consider these anthologies/translations on Tegner and Swedish country: Masterpieces of Swedish Poetry (Ahlberg 1952), Friends, You Drunk Some Darkness (Bly 1975) and Modern Swedish Poetry in Translation (Harding and Hollo 1979). L. Gustafsson's Forays into Swedish Poetry (1978), S. Rossel's A History of Scandinavian Literature 1870-1980 (1982) are useful studies.

Suggestion: Ice Round Our Lips: Finland-Swedish Poetry. Translated by David McDuff. Bloodaxe Books. 1988. $32.00

A rewarding introduction to some of the leading 20th century writers in Sweden and Finland. Solid translations are supplemented with useful biographical essays.

Learning Swedish

Swedish can be learnt from books, tapes, courses and CDs available at multilingual, worldlanguage, arthur lynn, rosetta stone, language quest, pimsleur, and unforgettable languages.

Free lessons and material are at languageresourcesonline, word2word, and search language.

Other works, dictionaries, etc. can be ordered through grant and cutler, bestbookbuys, abebooks and alibris.

Swedish-English-Swedish online dictionaries are at multilingual books, word2word, dictionary.com, and lexilogos .

Some useful language exchanges: friends abroad, xlingo, mylanguage exchange, polyglot learn language, and lingozone.

Swedish Poetry

Information on Swedish poetry can be found on the following sites: Swedish literature, Johan Runeberg, Gustaf Fröding, August Strindberg, Harry Martinson, Erik Lindegren, Karl Vennberg and Evert Taube.

Good anthologies/translations on Tegner and Swedish country include: Masterpieces of Swedish Poetry (Ahlberg 1952), Friends, You Drunk Some Darkness (Bly 1975) and Modern Swedish Poetry in Translation (Harding and Hollo 1979). L. Gustafsson's Forays into Swedish Poetry (1978), S. Rossel's A History of Scandinavian Literature 1870-1980 (1982) are useful studies.

Asaias Tegner

Information on Tegner can be found on saga books.

 

C. John Holcombe   |  About the Author    | ©     2007 2012 2013 2015.   Material can be freely used for non-commercial purposes if properly referenced.