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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Per Daniel Amadeus Atterbom (1790–1855)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
AMONG the leaders of the romantic movement which affected Swedish literature in the earlier half of the nineteenth century was P. D. A. Atterbom, one of the greatest lyric poets of his country. He was born in Ostergöthland, in 1790, and at the age of fifteen was already so advanced in his studies that he entered the University of Upsala. There in 1807 he helped to found the “Musis Amici,” a students’ society of literature and art; its membership included Hedbom, who is remembered for his beautiful hymns, and the able and laborious Palmblad,—author of several popular books, including the well-known novel ‘Aurora Königsmark.’ This society soon assumed the name of the Aurora League, and set itself to free Swedish literature from French influence. The means chosen were the study of German romanticism, and a treatment of the higher branches of literature in direct opposition to the course decreed by the Academical school. The leaders of this revolution were Atterbom, eighteen years old, and Palmblad, twenty!  1
  The first organ of the League was the Polyfem, soon replaced by the Phosphorus (1810–1813), from which the young enthusiasts received their sobriquet of “Phosphorists.” Theoretically this sheet was given to the discussion of Schelling’s philosophy, and of metaphysical problems in general; practically, to the publication of the original poetry of the new school. The Phosphorists did a good work in calling attention to the old Swedish folk-lore, and awakening a new interest in its imaginative treasures. But their best service lay in their forcible and earnest treatment of religious questions, which at that time were most superficially dealt with.  2
  When the ‘Phosphorus’ was in its third year the Romanticists united in bringing out two new organs: the Poetical Calendar (1812–1822), which published poetry only, and the Swedish Literary News (1813–1824), containing critical essays of great scientific value. The Phosphorists, who had shown themselves ardent but not always sagacious fighters, now appeared at their best, and dashed into the controversy which was engaging the attention of the Swedish reading public. This included not only literature, but philosophy and religion, as well as art. The odds were now on one side, now on the other. The Academicians might easily have conquered their youthful opponents, however, had not their bitterness continually forged new weapons against themselves. In 1820 the Phosphorists wrote the excellent satire, ‘Marskall’s Sleepless Nights,’ aimed at Wallmark, leader of the Academicians. Gradually the strife died out, and the man who carried off the palm, and for a time became the leader of Swedish poetry, was Tegnèr, who was hardly a partisan of either side.  3
  In 1817 Atterbom had gone abroad, broken down in health by his uninterrupted studies. While in Germany he entered into a warm friendship with Schelling and Steffens, and in Naples he met the Danish sculptor Thorwaldsen, to whose circle of friends he became attached. On his return he was made tutor of German and literature to the Crown Prince. In 1828 the Chair of Logics and Metaphysics at Upsala was offered him, and he held this for seven years, when he exchanged it for that of Æsthetics. In 1839 he was elected a member of the Academy whose bitterest enemy he had been, and so the peace was signed.  4
  Atterbom is undoubtedly the greatest lyrical poet in the ranks of the Phosphorists. His verses are wonderfully melodious and full of charm, in spite of the fact that his tendency to the mystical at times makes him obscure. Among the best of his productions are a cycle of lyrics entitled ‘The Flowers’; ‘The Isle of Blessedness,’ a romantic drama of great beauty, published in 1823; and a fragment of a fairy drama, ‘The Blue Bird.’ He introduced the sonnet into Swedish poetry, and did a great service to the national literature by his critical work, ‘Swedish Seers and Poets,’ a collection of biographies and criticisms of poets and philosophers before and during the reign of Gustavus III. Atterbom’s life may be accounted long in the way of service, though he died at the age of sixty-five.  5
 
 
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