Denmark Literature Part VI

By | December 18, 2021

The figure of Holberg reigns supreme over all. Favored by numerous trips abroad (he was also in Italy and spent a winter in Rome) he inserted Danish poetry in the great currents in European poetry of the time, thus freeing it both from provincialism and from the uniform imitation of German poetry. Eighteenth-century Danish comic poetry culminated in his Peder Paar ; satire in Shj œmtedigte ; the autobiography in his Epistola ad virum perillustrem ; the story in his Danemarks Riges Historie. With Niels Klimt, with Favole, with Epistler, with Moralske Tanker, Holberg grafted the French thought of the 18th century into the Danish spiritual life; and above all he was the great comic poet: the Molière of Denmark, it was said to himself; but, in reality, more primitive, more crude: more Germanic (see Jeppe paa Bjerget). Danish theater had a long tradition, especially in the Student Comedy with H. Justesen Ranch (1539-1607), with HW Laurenberg (1590-1658), with Mogen Skeel (1650-1694). This tradition blossomed with Holberg in an impressive flowering of fruitfulness – more than 20 comedies in just three years – and power: with greater consistency and human fullness Holberg shows you the inexhaustible improvisational genius of our commedia dell’arte.

Holberg was thus the man who closes the past and opens the new age. It was the rationalism of the eighteenth century, but with the freshness of its first blossoming, with the lifeblood that spiritual movements have in their origin. The driest rationalism arose after Holberg, represented in philosophy by Otto Horrebow (1769-1823), F. Sneedorff. (1761-1792), in theology by Christian Bastholm (1740-1819), NE Balle (1744-1816), in history by F. Suhm (1728-98), G. Schøning (1722-80), in philology by J Baden (1735-1804), F. Abrahamson, K. Nyerup; in literature by JC Tode (1736-1806), some of which have the merits of formal grace, by the Norwegian Ch. Pram (1796-1821), poet, playwright, essayist, by KL Rahbeck (1760-1829), playwright, editor by Holberg, historian, author of popular Drikkeviser, etc. Dominant personalities were PA Heiberg, playwright and novelist of French taste, lyric and satirical poet, interpreter of the social ideals of the century: like Malthe Conrad Bruun (1775-1826), who ended up as Heiberg in exile in Paris, revolutionary poet, author of the satirist Aristokratentcs Katekismus. Rationalistic ideologies, epistolary or descriptive verses, discursive prose, satirical aggression, didactic tendencies are common to all these authors. Such was the general craze for French literature that the Norwegian Wessel was induced to satirize it in the brilliant parody Kj œrlighed ude Strœmper. And even worse results had the imitation of Aufklärung German, which under Struensee was reflected in Denmark with what was more sloppy. For Denmark 2010, please check

The most typical and best product of the literature of the time was the fashion of magazines: Sneedorff’s Patriotiske Tilskuer was followed by Rahbeck’s and Pram’s Minerva, and finally Rahbeck’s Den Danske Tilskuer, contributing to an ever wider dissemination of culture. A prelude to the new times is encountered only in J. Ewald, the “Danish Klopstock”, which formally remained still closed in a classical taste, but, adhering to the Klopstockian movement of the “Nordic rebirth”, he turned to recall the ancient sagas, he admired Shakespeare and Ossian, took up the religious theme in the lyrics and in the Fiskerne gave the best work of Danish idyllic poetry; or, and more clearly still, in Baggesen, already completely modern in terms of sensitivity and open to all new ideas, but also as a formal taste still linked to the eighteenth century: one of the most representative figures of the spiritual restlessness that marked the whole of Europe end of the century.

The contrast that broke out in the second decade of the century. XIX between Baggesen and Oehlenschläger ended with the total victory of the latter, as well as for the genius that he possessed, because it was the expression of the new times of nascent romanticism. Medieval staëliano romanticism and German mystical romanticism were united together in its nature, easy to enthusiasm, to reverie, to dream. Who introduced him to the romantic world was the Norwegian Steffens, naturalist and philosopher, raised at the Schelling school. In a poem with an easy, rich, musical vein, he recalled the ancient world of legend and the national saga to new life, recreating them from his own spirit. Widespread the cult of Romance and Renaissance art seen with romantic eyes (Correggio). He added to Holberg’s play the first examples of a national romantic tragedy. He interpreted the soul of his people lyrically: he gave Aladdin the symbolic poem of the Danish spirit.

A large group gathered around him; including the meditative and profound lyric Schak-Staffelt, although still closed at times in classical forms; the Ingemann, the Danish Walter Scott, poet of Oggeri the Dane and novelist of medieval Denmark; Lo Hauch, playwright, short story writer, but above all a delicate lyric poet, pupil of Oehlenschläger, mystical, romantic, Novalist cantor; and above all, a leading figure alongside Oehlenschläger, Grundtvig, the translator of the Edda of Snorre and the chronicle of Saxo, the reconstructor of Scandinavian mythology, the historian of the time of the invasions on the English coast, the reawaker of national consciousness: great, as a scientist, and as a religious and social reformer, passionate, ardent; soul of the Scandinavian movement, exalting national sentiment, creator of a movement of thought that filled with itself, throughout the North, the decades around the middle of the century.

In one thing, however, in the fight against Oehlenschlager Baggesen had hit right: in that he claimed the importance of the form of poetry. And this struggle resumed towards 1820, against the “Formlosigkeit”, into which romanticism had also fallen in Denmark, JL Heiberg: Hegelian in philosophy and aesthetics; temperamental realist; classical taste; educated on French reading. Poetry, he admonished, is, yes, fantasy, genius, prophecy; but it is creation, form, awareness of one’s work. Matter doesn’t matter; it’s all good: not only the romantic one, even the present one. What matters is that it receives life from the form. With dramas, comedies, fairy-tale dramas, vaudevilles, and even more with criticism, Heiberg was the legislator of taste for twenty years, and he led literature towards a new tonality, which, without excluding romantic sentiments from itself, maintained an attitude of composed gentleness. H. verz (1798-1870) was a good squire to him by putting aesthetics in verse and applying it in his plays. Thomasine Gyllembourg (1773-1856), his mother, in Hverdagshistorier ; Carl Bernhard (1798-1865), his grandson, were devoted to him. And an orientation towards realism can also be seen in C. Bagger (1807-46), in the comedies of Th. Overskou (1798-1873), in the drama of PV Jacobsen (1799-1848). The same orientation came to true creation of poetry with Poul Meller. And even happier is the balance between realism and romantic sentimental background in Blicher’s village stories; or in the love poem – more idealistic in Ch. Winther, more sensual in E. Aarestrup – but both frank and rich in vein; as well as the balance between realism and romantic meditation by F. Paludan Müller, whose Adam Homo is so to speak the Faust Danish. The Italian cartoons of L. Bødtger have lightness of tone and freshness of color. The candid poet of fairy tales stands out above all: Andersen.

Denmark Literature Part VI