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THE ANGEL OF DEATH.


TRANSLATED FROM THE SWEDISH

BY

A. W. ALMQVIST.


SECOND EDITION.


BLOOMFIELD, N. J.

A. W. ALMQVIST, 165 FRANKLIN STREET.
1892.


COPYRIGHT 1884.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1882,
By A. W. Almqvist, New York,
In the office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington.




[Illustration]




PREFACE.


The original, of which this is a translation, is universally considered
one of the very best among many beautiful poems written by the same
illustrious author. The sublime didactic thoughts therein expressed, in
language majestic and yet so simple, have won for it a constantly
increasing popularity; and, during half a century, in a language so rich
in literary beauties as the Swedish, have maintained it among the
foremost of poetical productions of its kind.

A correct English translation, therefore, is fraught with difficulties
which but few persons can appreciate. It has been my aim to reproduce
the poem in the original meter, with the rhymes in their proper places.
Of course, care has been taken to preserve the sense, and even the
_idioms_ of the original. How far I have been successful it is hardly
for me to say. As it is, I give it to the reading public.

The poem has undoubted merits in the original. If the merits are
concealed in the translation, the fault is mine.

A. W. ALMQVIST.




BIOGRAPHY OF THE AUTHOR.

Gathered from the files in the Royal Academy of Sciences, Stockholm,
Sweden.


Johan Olof Wallin, (pronounced Valleen), the author of the "ANGEL OF
DEATH," was a native of Sweden, and was born in the parish of Stora
Tuna, in the province of Dalarne (Dalecarlia), October 15, 1779. His
father was a military man, and some time after Johan's birth became
captain of the Dalecarlia regiment. The future poet and preacher was one
of a large family, much larger than accorded well with the somewhat
restricted means of the captain of a regiment.

At a very early age, young Johan evinced a taste for books, and for
study generally; but the circumstances of his family were not such as to
encourage the hope of an academic career. As has often happened in such
circumstances, the talents of the boy commanded attention; and he was
not left without a good primary education. At the early age of thirteen
he began to help himself; and, by taking part in the education of
others, he contrived to prolong his own studies, and acquired great
proficiency in the classics, especially in Latin. When only seventeen
years of age, he made his first public appearance at the Gymnasium of
Westerås, and by the delivery of a poetical speech in Latin--a speech
which is still preserved and which is remarkable for its literary
merits--he astonished all his seniors. Henceforth Johan Olof Wallin was
a marked man among his contemporaries.

It was not long after this triumph at the Gymnasium, that young Wallin
felt discouraged for the want of funds. It was now desirable that he
should give himself to the higher department of study under competent
teachers; but money was needed, and he knew not where to find it. In his
difficulty he felt strongly tempted to give up his studies, and to give
himself to his father's profession. His delicate health, however, stood
in the way; and, happily, a serviceable situation as teacher having
offered itself, he was saved to literature. In the fall of 1799, after a
most creditable examination, he was entered as student at the Upsala
Academy. His career as a student was marked by great success, especially
in literature and philosophy; and, in 1803, he took his Doctor's degree.
In the same year, he obtained a prize from the Swedish Academy,[A] for
poetical translations of four of the Odes of Horace. Wallin was now in
his twenty-fourth year.

Encouraged by success, Johan tried the Academy again, and was successful
in carrying off, in one session, three prizes, the largest number ever
before awarded to one person, at one anniversary. One of them was the
"Grand Prize," and was awarded to a poem, called "The Educator." Some of
the lines give promise of the temple-orator that was to be:

"Thou sentinel on high! Will night not vanish soon?
We doubt the sheen of stars and quiet path of moon;
We placed our trust in Thee. Enlight the races striving!
Will night yet long endure? Is morning's watch arriving."[B]

Other poems followed. By this time, Johan, who had, from an early
period, shown a liking for the clerical profession, had passed all his
preliminary examinations with honors, and been ordained to the pastoral
office. He commanded attention, at once, as a preacher. But he clung to
the muses, or the muses clung to him; and his lyre, having been tuned in
harmony with his sacred calling, he soon began to distinguish himself as
a writer of hymns. Some of the finest hymns of which the Swedish
language can boast, are from the pen of Johan Olof Wallin. Nor were
secular themes wholly neglected. On January 20, 1808, on the occasion of
the unveiling of the statue of King Gustavus Third, he produced the
famous Dithyramb, a song which has taken a permanent and honored place
in Swedish literature. The same year he presented a similar poem to the
Swedish Academy, and was rewarded with a prize of two hundred ducats,
the highest prize ever given by the Academy.

In all great questions of a national or international character, Wallin
took a deep and lively interest; and the powerful influence, which he
exerted with tongue and pen, was always wielded in favor of the right.
How well he knew how to seize upon and turn to account existing
circumstances and passing events, is strikingly illustrated by his poem
on George Washington; his Dithyramb celebrating the union of Sweden and
Norway, and his splendid ode on the victories of the allies at Leipzig,
Dennewitz and Grossbeeren. The last named composition had an immense
success; and it was circulated by thousands among the soldiers of the
Swedish army abroad.

Wallin was at home in the region of sublime and lofty thought; but his
muse was not one-sided, or in any sense monotonous. Poems of a calm,
reflective character flowed gracefully from his pen; and, when occasion
called for the one or the other, he revealed rich veins of satire and
humor. One great secret of his literary success, both as a poet and
preacher, lay in the simplicity of his style. With him there was never
any striving after effect. His thoughts, whether of a lofty or
commonplace character, whether hortatory or didactic, whether satirical
or humorous, always found natural and easy expression in language which
was as direct as it was graceful and easily understood.

At the comparatively early age of thirty years, Wallin had taken his
place in the front rank of the scholars and public men of his day; and
whatever honors were in the gift of his admiring countrymen, were freely
showered upon him. Of these honors we mention only a few.

In 1810, he was elected a member of the Swedish Academy; and on several
occasions he was raised by acclamation to the proud position of chairman
and orator of that learned body. In 1815, he was made Knight of the
Royal Order of the North Star; and in the same year he became Dom-prost,
an office next in order to the Bishop's, and was honored with a seat in
Parliament. In 1818, he was made Pastor Primarius, and President of the
Consistory of Stockholm; and about this time he became an active and
useful member of the Royal Musical Academy. In 1824, he was raised to
the dignity of Bishop of the Church, and became commander of the Royal
Order of the North Star and honorary member of the Royal Academy of
Literature, History and Antiquities. Of this high body he was four times
elected Chairman. In 1828, he was elected member of the Royal Academy of
Sciences; ten years later he was made Praeses. In 1830, he was elected
Court Preacher, and Praeses or President of the Royal Consistory. In
1837, his honors culminated. He was elected a member of the Upsala
association for the promotion of Science; also member of the Serafimer
Order, a distinction rarely conferred except on royal persons and
princes of the blood, when he adopted as his motto, "In Omnipotenti
Vinces." In the same year, he became archbishop of Sweden and
pro-chancellor of the University of Upsala.

The "ANGEL OF DEATH," singularly characteristic of the author,
immediately after its publication took its place in the front rank of
the poetic productions of the language. The poem has never ceased to be
popular. It is issued each successive year in thousands, and in all
sorts of editions,--some of the recent _editions de luxe_ are marvels of
costly taste and typographic skill. His poetic productions are numerous,
and they are all of a high order of merit. The "ANGEL OF DEATH,"
however, partly on account of the undying interest of the subject, and
partly, also, because of its bold and daring thought and vigorous
expression, is that by which he is best known, and with which his name
is destined to be indissolubly linked.

Wallin is remembered as a great churchman, as well as scholar and poet.
As a preacher, he had few if any equals. Of dignified aspect, gifted
with a rich sonorous voice, and visibly impressed at all times with the
solemn character of his mission, he presented the very ideal of the
pulpiteer; and, whenever and wherever he appeared, he was attended by
admiring crowds composed of all ranks and classes of the people.[C] As
a hymn-writer he had also great success; and to his taste and skill, the
Swedish Church is indebted for its finest collection of sacred songs.[D]
How gracefully Tegner refers to him in his poem, "The Children of the
Lord's Supper," every reader of Longfellow is well aware:

"Hark! then roll forth at once the mighty tones of the organ,
Hover like voices from God, aloft like invisible spirits;
Like as Elias in heaven, when he cast from off him his mantle,
So cast off the soul its garment of earth, and with one voice,
Chimed in the congregation, and sang _an anthem immortal
Of the sublime Wallin, of David's Harp in the North-land_."

For thirty-one years, Wallin occupied a place, prouder, in many
respects, than the Swedish throne itself,--recognized and honored by his
countrymen as their greatest scholar, their greatest preacher, and one
of their greatest poets.



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