The Angel of Death.
TRANSLATED FROM THE SWEDISH
A. W. ALMQVIST.
Bloomfield, N. J.
A. W. Almqvist, 165 Franklin Street.
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.
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 "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