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THE LIGHT HOUSE.
An Easter Offering. By FREDERIKA BREMER. Translated from the unpublished Swedish Manuscript, by Mary Howitt. London, Colburn.
PHANKFULLY do we accept this Offering from the old Swedish land,
returning our hearty acknowlegements to the Authoress for her charming
Sketches, and to Mary Howitt for a Translation equally marked by grace, beauty, and power. The Easter Offering consists of two distinct portions; the first is a story entitled “The Light-House'; the second, a sketch called “Life in the North,' which graphically pictures the opinions, philosophy, the social condition, and political genius of the Danish People. Who, after such an account of them, and of the struggle in which they are engaged, could with-nold his sympathy from them ? In regard to the 'Light-House,' we cannot do better than give an analysis of the story, illustrated by some of the most striking passages from this
STORY OF MARRIED LIFE.
Axel, and his young bride Ellina, are conversing in their new-home, tire subject being the revolving-flames of a distant Light-House, which Ellina, with characteristic feeling, fancies to be the Lights of some Wedding-Festival, that, it seems, is in Denmark always attended with illuminations. The bride is in the first flush of her undimmed joy, and the flash and splendor of the lights remind her of her own wedding night. Axel explains to her the machinery of the lights, but they had firmly seized her fancy, and she could scarcely sleep; she marked how her room was alternately lightened and darkened; she listened to the gusty winds which swept around her dwelling, preluding the storms of autumn; to the monotonous murmuring of the waves breaking upon the rocks on which their house was built, on the bare wild shore of the stormy Cattegat.
And these revolving lights, and these ever-returning waves and sounds, without rest or pause, awoke disquieting, and alternately pleasant and alternately inelancholy thoughts and forebodings in the breast of the young woman.
That was the first night in her new home.
She had dreamed a calm dream of childhood about happiness and joy, in one of the beautiful sonthern dales of Sweden, in a peaceful home amid affectionate parents, brothers and sisters and friends. Her home lay near a large city,--a seat of learning, and thence had reached her, voices and influences of the fine arts and the sciences; from the fountains of wisdom where man can drivk eternal yonth and gladness from all life’s glorious things. Much that was beautiful and good had the young girl seen in her own home and in nature. But she knew that beyond this great world, there was a still more beautiful, a still more glorious, a still greater world with which she should become acquainted when she was a
And thus she grew up, in a joyful presentiment of life, and thought to herself: When I am a woman I shall sce, and I shall become something much more, much better
Yes, then I shall begin rightly to live ; rightly to enjoy life. What this better, this more beautiful something was really to be, she did not rightly know. What young girl, indeed, has a name for her deep, delightful anticipations? But a something which will make the whole of life stand forth, as it were, in transtigured glory; a somethivg which will bring out the young soul from its twilight, into the life of light and the gladness of light,--which will satisfy its silent, but impcrious demands and enquiries;
-a something, which will make the consciousness of life, full, and great, and glorioussomething like this it would be ;--something like this would come ;-thus believed Ellina.
Axel Orn (literally an Eagle] was a young man of remarkable character, and highly esteemed; and Ellina had accompanied bim to his nest among the cliffs of the roaring, restless Cattegat.
But now let us return to the wild sea-rocks of Bohusän, and to their mysteries; because they have such. They resemble those human characters which outwardly are hard and rough, but within them lie hidden fruitful and lovely vallies. Make a closer acquaintance with the granite islands, and thou wilt scarcely find one amongst them which does not possess its grassy spots-- its beautiful, flowery fields. These grey cliffs draw in the beams of the sun, and long retain their warmth within their granite breasts. They communicate them to the earth which lies at their feet, and within their embrace, and the organic life blooms luxuriously therefrom. In wild abundance springs up the honeysuckle from every cleft of the rocks, and flings, with the shoots of the blackberry, its delicate blossoming arms around the mossy blocks of stone, converting them into beautiful monuments on the graves of the Vikings. Beds of irises and wild roses bloom beautifully in the bosom of the granite rocks; and up aloft, on the cool brow of the hills, where only the wild goat and the scabird set their foot, small white and yellow flowers nod in the wind above the breakers of the Cattegat, which foam at their feet. Upon the smallest of these cliffs the sheep find wholesome herbage, and thrive upon it; and upon the largest, in the midst of the granite fastuesses, may be seen a blooming Eden, planted with roses and lilies, where a son of Adam, with his Eve, lived, separated from the world, silently and-happily. We will believe so. But things go on queerly in these quiet, secluded Edens. It did not go on very well in the oldest, that we know; and in those of latter days—but a very little better—as far, at least, as the human beings are concerned. Generally speaking, life upon a solitary island is not very beneficial. The uniformity in the surrounding circumstances; the monotony of the days, in which ever recur the same impressions, the same occupations; the want of employinent, of active thought, and of living diversions,-cause the soul, as it were, to grow inward, and the feelings and the thonghts to collect themselves around certain circumscribed points, and to grow firmly to them. We see this in Iceland, and its formerly powerful race; how the slightest misunderstanding gave birth to quarrels, how quarrels grew into hatred, and hatred to burning and bloodshed, and all this from the monotonous pressure of time, and the recurrence of the same bitter billow-stroke against the heart. We see it in the Faroe Isles, in those quiet, insane figures which wander about among the rocks and the mist. For if misfortune and adversity come, and the human being has no place to flee to where he cau disperse their impressions, no place to go to from these mists and these dark cliffs, his understanding must at length become clouded.
Nevertheless, I love solitude, and the soul's undisturbed communion with itself, and cannot further pursue the conclusion to which these instances seem to lead, than to say ; that it is not good for man to be alone--for a long time.
And now again to our young couple, Axel and Ellina. It was an eagle which had taken a dove to its nest upon the rock. The unusual and stern scenery which surrounded her; the solitude; the storms of antumu; the roaring of the sea, all these had painfully depressed her heart. But she had her own home-there is not a woman who does not know this to be a happiness--and the domestic cares which it required. And there was, indeed, also the fire, the light house, which reminded her, every dark evening, of the most splendid night in her life, of the wedding, when she said ‘so much light! so much light!' And there was the first and the last, and before everything else-her husband. And he was not inerely a mau of a noble and powerful mind, but he was also a good husband.
Let us now sce, what, in actual life, became of the youthful aspirations of Ellina : were they realized ?
Ellina was very young when she, on the first evening, saw the wedding-lights up aloft from her new home.
Many years have passed since then, and Ellina was no longer young.
smooth, with but limited means, had greatly changed her, both outwardly and inwardly. She was an agreeable woman still, but the bloom of her yonth was over, and the soul, that soul which anticipated so much that was great and beautiful in life, which believed that it should advance from one brilliancy to another, till its whole world and life became transfigured in beaming light, this soul had long since said farewell to all its anticipations, to its dawning thoughts and hopes, in order to inclose itself within the innumerable weblike filaments of domestic cares and anxieties, daily repeating themselves like the waves upon the rock, like the shadow-side of the light house, like the sighs of the autumnal wind. Ellina fulfilled her duties faithfully. But this did not make her happy. For, altho the path of duty leads at last to happiness, as the six working days to the Sabbath, still, in the meantime, people may be unhappy. The deeper wants of Ellina's soul were not satisfied by this path. She felt as if something living and beautiful within her soul had been buried by degrees, as if it had been interred beneath the weight of earthly perplexities and petty
She seemed to herself sorrowfully changed. Ellina was no longer gay; she felt, at times, disposed to weep over herself. That is the way with an infinite number of women. They feel themselves capable of receiving life and all things in one great and beautiful whole. They believed that they should advance, were ascending in knowlege, in love, in joy, as in an upward tending metamorphosis. But the stream of life has carried them away to desolate regions. Their world has become oppressive. They are encased by earthly cares; they are caught in the meshes of petty objects, of petty thoughts, and petty interests. They are themselves obliged to frame these very meshes. Then does life lose for them its splendor, and the mind its morning-brightness and elasticity; then is the soul dejected; then, not unfrequently, does the temper become soured, and the horizon ever more contracted, ever more gloony. In some calm moment they cast an upward glance and look around and within themselves, with sorrowful astonishment, and exclaim 'ought this to be so ? Is life nothing more? Was it for nothing else that I have existed !' And they remember the yearnings of their youth. *Dreams! say they then; heave a sigh and let fall a tear, and then go on again in the daily weaving and spinning-spinning until they have spun their shroud, and that is the end of their day on earth.
But it is not merely so with women; no, it is so with many, many men, gifted with fervent and richly-endowed souls. Over the yard measure, the scales, over dry ledgercolumns, or in the pulpit, day out and day in, are they conscious of the past within themselves, the feeling, thinking, creative spirit by degrees blunted and deadened, and the heart buried, laid beneath the clod whilst it has truly lived. They also look up sometimes and ask “For what purpose is this life? Why do I live ?' These all are souls which are waiting for their Pentecost. Waiting souls ! Could I but let you feel, as certainly as I know it myself, that it comes ! And the glory of its reality will far exceed your most beautiful young dreams.
Ellina's husband was, as we have said, a man of a noble and a kind nature, and we maintain it. But he was, for all that, too exclusively a man, as she was too exclusively a
His strong character had an outward, practical bias; hers tended inward, was poetical and contemplative. On many subjects, there was between the two no point of meeting. They met still less frequently, when, as years went on, and the family increased, his labor for its support increased in proportion; and when, furthermore, he found himself disappointed in an expected promotion. In this way his time and his thoughts were more and more occupied by practical outward life. Naturally incommunicative, he became still more silent and austere. She felt herself still more and more solitary; but too prudent and too proud to complair of the unsatisfied wants both of heart and soul, she shut herself still more within herself. He became more and more like the hard rock; she more and more like the solitary lily within its walls. In addition to this, there was a little subject of difference which led to displeasure and contention between the married pair, and which often silenced, always recurred afresh. And in this way they became sundered by degrees, without rightly knowing how; but there was a something between them, a cloud, an invisible partition wall
, a nameless something, a something, they knew not what, which made them increasingly more and more alien to each other.
Married couples, who have traveled on together a long way thrö life, tell me, is not this an every day story? Is it not the history of every nine couples out of ten ? If the relationship between the two continues in this descending direction, married life, in the end,
becomes changed, until it somewhat resemble the Dead Sea, upon the shores of which no flower can thrive, no bird can sing, over the surface of which a pestilent vapor hangs, and out of whose depths may at times, in the decreased water, be seen to ascend the dark ruins of a formerly beautiful but cursed city. Silently stands married life, bearing little resemblance to any other life on earth. There goes forward in it a noiseless, incessant change either for good or for evil, just according as the married pair will it. The occasions may be different in every case, but in almost all, moments or crises occur by which it can be easily seen what hour strikes, what the time betides. In most instances, it happens, that when the first flames are extinguished, that deeper union is permitted to be dissolved, and the soul allowed
escape. And then it does som
“Provided that no heavenly love is near
To call the soul back with a bridal kiss;" and to wed her afresh to a higher and a holier union.
The misunderstanding in this case, arose from different views as to the education of the boys. The Father thought the Mother spoiled them, and wished to send them to a distant school, and convert them into clever fellows.'
The Mother, nevertheless, made them dutiful, while they adored her. Some of the * Eaglets' (or Orns) had already flown away—and the last and youngest, said Axel, must go too-must leave the parent nest. The Mother said No-he was so young, only ten, and so delicate. Therefore, should be go, answered Axel, that he might lead a more hardy life and grow
stouter. The will of the father overcame that of the mother ; but when he tore away the youngest son from her embrace--and he might have done it much more mildly-he tore also asunder a tie which had bound her heart to his. Thus did Ellina feel it.
When she was left alone, she felt herself very solitary. There was now no little arms to clasp themselves, morning and evening, around her neck; no little head to kiss every night when she went to rest ; no joyful merriment thrö the day, which made her forget all that was wanting to her soul.
All this she now missed; and the worst of it was, that Axel also was away, not merely from home, but also out of her heart. She felt it there so desolate, so dark, that she became afraid of it.
Yes, it is very probable that she would have borne the boy's absence very differently, if she could only have preserved the image of her husband, bountiful in her heart.
And, besides this, it was again autumn, and all the business of autumn claimed her attention---that very business which Ellina never liked, and which now seemed to her more oppressive than ever. There was preserving, and salting, and drying, and baking, for the whole winter ; sausages to fill, black puddings to boil, candles to dip, and so on, and so on,
The storms of autumn came; the waves beat again and again upon the rocks; the wind pursued its melancholy course round the dwelling; and the light house turned and turned, with its sameness of shade, and its sameness of light. This ever-recurring sameness had a depressing effect on the already dejected mind of Ellina.
Axel remained long away----much longer away than was necessary for taking his little boy to school. When he returned, he brought with him three strange gentlemen as guests. Ellina was not one of those silly women who think it a great hardship, and who look very cross, when their husbands bring with them to dinner, or to supper, an unexpected guest. But then, at once! three strange people whom she cared nothing about, when the beloved of her heart was taken from her; three strange gentlemen at the very time when her heart was full of sorrow, and when the pantry was empty-it was too much!
When Axel clasped her tightly and warmly in his arms, she remained within his embrace as pale and as stiff as the lilly might stand within the bosom of the rock, and returned no embrace, no warın kiss.
Wounded on his side, Axel now turned away from her to his lively guests, with whom he now exclusively occupied himself. Elina also hastened away. She went to see after the supper, and to provide for all the wants of the newly-arrived. Perhaps both husband and wife indistinctly felt at this moment that it was a good thing they were not alone with each other.
When the cup is brimful there needs, as we know, and as is often said, only one drop to make it run over. This one drop now came to Ellina, under the guise of her female domestic and cook, Mamsell Rödberg, the most prudent, the most faithful, and also the cleverest creature in the world, but who had a great propensity to see everything on its most tragical side, and in those particular cases, where good counsel should help, would begin by not being able to suggest one single expedient: hence Ellina, both in joke and earnest, called her my Mamsell Helpless.' But as Ellina was always full of resources, and Mamsell Rödberg was excellent in action, and carried out well whatever her mistress suggested, the two went on capitally together, altho Ellina had sometimes an ordeal of patience to go thrö when she wanted to take council with her servant as to what dinner should be provided, for Mamsell Helpless would then stand before her as stiff as a mile stone, and wave up and down, up and down, first one and then the other of her long, thin arms whilst she had not an available idea to make use of, and never had anything to suggest, excepting - spinach.'
Ellina succeeded, but not without some trouble, in meeting the necessities of the moment; and when after the evening meal was ended, she saw the four gentlemen amusing themselves at the card-table with cigars and sugar-water, she badė them good-night, and retired to her own room, deeply wearied both in body and soul.
The soul was wearied indeed, but the mind was excited. There was an agitation within her, which Ellipa had never felt before, a something which made her almost afraid of herself. It was a something murmuring and bitter against-her husband. Voices arose from the agitated waves which said :
'Is it come to this ? Am I merely to him a housekeeper, a servant to minister to his whims, to his convenience? My feelings, my sufferings, my heart's-life, do they deserve no regard, no indulgence ? Am I actually sunk so low? And Axel, and he who ought, who promised !-
'Silence !' said Ellina, resolutely interrupting the ascending voices, whilst she pressed both her hands tightly against her throbbing heart, as if she would still its beating. *Silence! Not a word against him. And he may now be, he may now become, towards me what he will; but my duty towards him shall be faithfully performed. He shall not see the torment in my soul, the cloud in my mind. He shall miss nothing, he shall not have cause to complain. Happy I cannot be, but I can be good, and I will be patient, God help me!
Ellina rose up, went to the window, and drew aside the curtains. She saw that the clouds which for so many days had collected in the heavens, had now opened, and made a pathway for the moon, who with her pointed horn turned upward, stood bright and beautiful in her first quarter above the mountain. The storm was hushed likewise. Ellina opened the window. The wind, at the same time bland and fresh, fanned her burning brow. The beams of the moon fell pleasantly upon the rocks and the waves, upon the withered flowers of the garden, and also upon the rain drops which hung upon the leaves of the trees. It was as if they whispered to her: 'Come out! come out !
Ellina wrapped a shawl around her shoulders, and tied a veil over her head, and went out. As she passed by her husband's room door, she stayed her steps involuntarily. She heard that he was still up, and she thought: 'Suppose I were to go in, and lean upon his breast--and I have not behaved kindly to him to-day! Perhaps that made him angry. Suppose I were to go to him and tell him all ?' 'No!' interrupted another voice, he cares very little about me, and he does not deserve it from me!'
And she went hastily and silently forward. How many good feelings, how many moments of reconciliation do not thus go by, and the time goes by also, and it becomes too late.
Ellina stood upon a rock-terrace by the sea-side, close to her home. The night was beautiful, bright and delicious, such as September nights often are on the western coast of Sweden. A deep repose had come over nature after the storms of the previous days. The yellow leaves fell silently from the trees; the flowers being withered as their stalks, but the moonbeam kissed them, and gentle breezes passed, sighing over them. It was as if some power of love were now abroad, and full of the spirit of beneficence and reconciliation. Even the billows of the Cattegat seemed to be under the influence of its fascination, and