Visit to Sweden - or
"Pictures of Sweden" Introduction

by Hans Christian Andersen


Pictures of Sweden
by Hans Christian Andersen


It is a delightful spring: the birds warble, but you do not understand their song? Well, hear it in a free translation."Get on my back," says the stork, our green island's sacred bird, "and I will carry thee over the Sound.

Sweden also has fresh and fragrant beech woods, green meadows and corn-fields. In Skane, with the flowering apple-trees behind the peasant's house, you will think that you are still in Denmark."

"Fly with me," says the swallow; "I fly over the mountain ridge, where the beech-trees cease to grow; I fly further towards the north than the stork. You shall see the vegetable mould pass over into rocky ground; see snug, neat towns, old churches and mansions, where all is good and comfortable, where the family stand in a circle around the table and say grace at meals, where the least of the children says a prayer, and, morning and evening, sings a psalm. I have heard it, I have seen it, when little, from my nest under the eaves."

"Come with me! come with me!" screams the restless sea-gull, and flies in an expecting circle. "Come with me to the Skjärgaards, where rocky isles by thousands, with fir and pine, lie like flower-beds along the coast; where the fishermen draw the well-filled nets!"

"Rest thee between our extended wings," sing the wild swans. "Let us bear thee up to the great lakes, the perpetually roaring elvs (rivers), that rush on with arrowy swiftness; where the oak forest has long ceased, and the birch-tree becomes stunted. Rest thee between our extended wings: we fly up to Sulitjelma, the island's eye, as the mountain is called; we fly from the vernal green valley, up over the snow-drifts, to the mountain's top, whence thou canst see the North Sea, on yonder side of Norway.

"We fly to Jemteland, where the rocky mountains are high and blue; where the Foss roars and rushes; where the torches are lighted as "budstikke" to announce that the ferryman is expected.

Up to the deep, cold-running waters, where the midsummer sun does not set; where the rosy hue of eve is that of morn."

That is the birds' song. Shall we lay it to heart? Shall we accompany them? — at least a part of the way. We will not sit upon the stork's back, or between the swans' wings.

We will go forward with steam, and with horses — yes, also on our own legs, and glance now and then from reality, over the fence into the region of thought, which is always our near neighbour-land; pluck a flower or a leaf, to be placed in the note-book—for it sprung out during our journey's flight: we fly and we sing.

Sweden, thou glorious land! Sweden, where, in ancient times, the sacred gods came from Asia's mountains! land that still retains rays of their lustre, which streams from the flowers in the name of "Linnaeus;" which beams for thy chivalrous men from Charles the Twelfth's banner; which sounds from the obelisk on the field of Lutzen!

Sweden, thou land of deep feeling, of heart-felt songs! home of the limpid elvs, where the wild swans sing in the gleam of the Northern Lights!

Thou land, on whose deep, still lakes Scandinavia's fairy builds her colonnades, and leads her battling, shadowy host over the icy mirror!

Glorious Sweden! with thy fragrant Linnaeus, with Jenny's soul-enlivening songs! To thee will we fly with the stork and the swallow, with the restless sea-gull and the wild swans.

Thy birch-woods exhale refreshing fragrance under their sober, bending branches; on the tree's white stem the harp shall hang: the North's summer wind shall whistle therein!

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