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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Steen Steensen Blicher (1782–1848)
Critical and Biographical Introduction
 
AMONG the men nearest to the heart of the Danish people is Steen Steensen Blicher, who was born in 1782 on the border of the Jutland heath with which his name is so inseparably linked. The descendant of a line of country parsons, he was destined like them to the ministry, and while awaiting his appointment he supported his family by teaching and by farming.  1
  When after years of hardship he finally obtained a parish on the Jutland heath, the salary was too small to support his large family. It was only during the very last years of his life that he was freed from harassing cares by the generosity of three friends, who, grateful for his literary work, paid off his debts.  2
  While he was in college at Copenhagen he heard the lectures of the Norwegian Henrik Steffens, an interpreter of the German philosophic and romantic school. Steffens aroused a reaction against the formalism of the eighteenth century, and introduced romanticism into the North by his powerful influence over men like Oehlenschläger, Grundtvig, and Mynster in Denmark, and Ling and the “Phosphorists” in Sweden. Through these lectures Blicher became much interested in the Ossianic poems, of which he made an excellent Danish translation.  3
  The poems and dramas with which he followed this work were of no great importance. It was not until he began to look into the old Danish traditions that he found his true sphere. The study of these quaint and simple legends led him to write those national peasant stories which he began to publish in 1826. They are not only the best of their kind in Danish, but they bear favorable comparison with the same kind of work in other literatures. They are not written as a study of social problems, or of any philosophy of life or moods of nature as they are reflected in human existence; they are merely a reproduction of what the country parson’s own eyes beheld—the comedy and tragedy of the commonplace. What a less sensitive observer might have passed in silence—the brown heath, the breakers of the North Sea, the simple heart and life of the peasant—revealed to him the poesy, now merry, now sad, which he renders with so much art and so delicate a sympathy. Behind the believer in romanticism stands the lover of nature and of humanity.  4
  Among his works the best known are ‘E Bindstouw’ (The Knitting-room), a collection of stories and poems, full of humor, simple and naïve, told by the peasants themselves in their own homely Jutland dialect. These, as well as some of his later poems, especially ‘Sneklokken’ (The Snowbell), and ‘Trækfuglene’ (Birds of Passage), possess a clear, true, and national lyric quality.  5
  Dying in 1848, Blicher was buried in Jutland, near the heath on which he spent whole days and nights of happy solitude. On one side of the stone above his grave is engraved a golden plover, on the other a pair of heath-larks, and around the foot a garland of heather, in memory of that intimate life with nature which, through his own great love for it, he endeared to all his readers.  6
 
 
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