Friday 26 June 2020

Anna Maria Lenngren (1754-1817)

Swedish poetry can boast at least three impressive female writers in any anthology: Sophia Elisabet Brenner (1679-1730), Hedvig C. Nordenflycht (1718-63) and Anna Maria Lenngren (1754-1817). These three were highly gifted and well-educated. Brenner, for example, wrote in French and Italian as well as Swedish and German (she was the daughter of an immigrant). I choose Anna Maria Lenngren here because she shares Wessel's ability to write pithy, trenchant short poems, but also chastises the clergy where appropriate and can compose witty satirical songs, like this one, which I met with in the late 1960s:

Old Boy Didrik

Old Boy Didrik, wise was he,
More than others round him squalling,
Held his peace, a tactic we
Would do well recalling:
Though the world always was tossing and straining –
From him came never a moan or complaining:
Seldom an ‘ah!’ from his lips could be heard – 
Didrik drank, said not a word.

Didrik also had a wife,
She was festive one whole season.
That soon went from Didrik’s life
For the age-old reason:
As his old lady grew stouter and fatter,
She put the screws on, said he was the matter,
Told him his failings, the wrongs he’d incurred –
Didrik drank, said not a word.

Dridrik’s son and heir, called Jens,
Comb and fiddle virtuoso,
Often filched the neighbour’s hens,
Maid played amoroso.
Didrik one day gave the upstart a bashing.
Mother defended the lad, her eyes flashing,
Didrik then hid like a shy, frightened bird –
Sat and drank, said not a word.

Poor old Didrik’s heart did quake
At his daughter, such a teaser,
From her bible she would make
Curlers when it pleased her.
The sixth commandment her tongs turned quite sable,
Gave birth to twins once while sitting at table.
Swore like a cossack so everyone heard –
Didrik drank, said not a word

Didrik, pushed around at home,
(Can one blame the man, not really!)
Every evening outward roamed
At his club drank freely,
On the same hook hung his hat as he entered,
Shunned talk of politics, shrewdly self-centred;
Never by dangerous topics was spurred –
Didrik drank, said not a word.

Didrik with his hair now greyed,
Through his beard the beer now seeping,
Saw at last on her bier laid
His fond wife now sleeping.
Didrik the funeral watched, but not glumly, 
Found that his tight-fitting crape was quite comely,
Hurried back home, where punch flowed undeterred,
Sang and drank, his wife interred.

 To hear the recording from the 1960s, go to here

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