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For quite in the spirit of my desires are the thoughts and resolves of the poet; and had I a little boat in shape like to a crescent moon, I should try it on Lake Malar first. Never, no never, could the blessedness of a solitary sail, in such a little equipage, be more fully experienced elsewhere. There no cigar-smoke would dim and pollute the pure air of heaven; no huge cloak-and-smokeenveloped men would each moment startle me with a scrape and a roar and explosion, which make me think something is surely amiss in the steam-machinery, until a discharge at my feet, or, if politer, over the side of the little packet, informs me that the lining of a Swedish throat must be of some invaluable texture which never wears out—a species of gutta percha perhaps. The Swedes are the politest people in the world; but—I was talking of Lake Malar.
And so when I sailed up Lake Malar, on coming to Stockholm in the dreary autumn of 1851, I thought, that all the beauties I had vaunted on a former visit were, like other dreams of the beautiful and good, pleasant attributes rashly given by the imagination to things and beings that possessed them not. I saw it then shrouded in mist and chilling gloom; its waters, its islets, its banks, reflecting the leaden colouring of the heavy sky. I thought the beauty had never been, I blamed my rash imagination. I was wrong. It was a friend momentarily alienated—a friend whose friendship was under eclipse. Now the Malar is itself again; and I see its loveliness is not imaginary; I see I did not err in my former admiration and love.
The Lake is bright and beautiful; and we go pleasantly over it, and I ask myself if the clouds that dim and shadow the human heart can thus remove, and leave it still unchanged and smiling as before, when they pass away? Can the hearts that are darkened by cruelty, and sin, and wrong again grow bright in the glory and gladness of earth?
No; earth may not break the chain that earth has tied, but Heaven's love and Heaven's grace can ease the most galling fetter. It is the sunshine of Heaven that has restored our Lake to itself. Let us feel the emblem and cease to lament.
I almost think that Queen Victoria would enjoy herself in the water-excursions of Stockholm. The villa-palaces lying around it are all accessible by boats, and they are all, indeed, most charming retreats.
Of these summer-palaces Drottningholm is the Versailles of Stockholm, if Stockholm is the Paris of the North. Both Drottningholm and Gripsholm are among the charming islands of Lake Malar, and the way to the latter is most lovely. We went to the former with a bridal party, and had a pleasant day amid its beautiful grounds and forest, where nature is to me a thousand times more admirable than art: though the palace of Drottningholm is adorned in imitation of the style of Louis XIV. in France, and its formal gardens have many marble and bronze statues. Yet, while far grander than the villapalace of Hoga, it does not appear so great a favourite with its royal owners.
And we went to Gripsholm, and spent a whole long day there; and I saw a Swedish fair at the little town of Mariefred—or Mary's Peace, in English—and also the curiously-dressed people of the parish of Wingoker, whose costume, like that of the DalecarHans, has remained immovable from century to century. For men, it consists in a long, plain, and tight coat of coarse white cloth, with long coloured stockings; the women wear short, thick, and bright yellow petticoats, scarlet stockings, a tight boddice, with the wide linen sleeves of the under garment, and, I think, a red cap, a sort of skull-cap without border. I saw one wearing a black petticoat and yellow apron, and was told she was in mourning. They are a very industrious people, and their homemade linens, cottons, and thin flannels, made of cotton and wool, are constantly exhibited by them for sale in a certain quarter of the capital.
The island of Gripsholm was one of the monastic settlements which Gustavus Vasa, the Henry Till, of Sweden, appropriated to himself. Its name, to an English ear, conveys a curious association; that name was taken from its oncepowerful proprietor, Bo Jonson Grip. How little did Gustaf Vasa foresee, when building that quaint-looking palace and castle, the heavy, heavy sighs his own sons should breathe therein! the wearisome days that one brother should appoint another to drag out within these walls! the dark record of his own children's cruelty and crime, which they should transmit to posterity and history, so long—most probably much longer—than one of its stones shall stand upon another! How little foresee that, in that same palace, his own name and dynasty on the throne of Sweden, should finally become extinct! In this castle of Gripsholm, John, the second and favoured son of Gustavus Vasa, was imprisoned by his eldest brother, King Erik XIV., who liberated him after a confinement, by no means severe, of about three years. The wife of Duke John must have found him a better husband than he was brother, for when Erik offered her a royal castle and princely maintenance, if she would part from him, she pointed silently to the Latin motto on her wedding-ring, bearing the words, "Nought but death." And so she went with him to Gripsholm.
The chamber in which this royal pair were imprisoned, contrasts with the miserable one to which John, in his days of power, sentenced his wretched and dethroned brother, King Erik XIV., the suitor of our maiden Queen, Elizabeth. This latter prison-chamber is a poor, scanty room up in the tower; the boards of the floor are worn away just beneath the single window, where the captive king used to stand gazing out at the glimpse of nature that was to be seen; or watching for a still more delightful glimpse of his faithful Karin Monsdotter, whom he took, as the story goes, from selling fruit in the streets, to be