Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

where the firm snow crackled under our feet. They were covered with moving figures, servants carrying lanterns before ladies, and wolf and dogskin-covered coachmen waiting shivering at doors. Most persons, however, were on foot; scarcely a sledge was seen moving, nor the jingle of their musical bells to be heard. In three hours' time, full daylight might be expected, for it was nearly half-past six o'clock. A flood of light guided us to the church, which was the point of our destination. There was no gas there, but the effect was all the more curious: that great church was literally studded with candles --common tallow candles—which flared and glared in the keen morning air. The pillars were wreathed with them, the galleries set along with them in a double line; the brilliant altar, the gilt and decorated pulpit, all was in a blaze of candles; in fact, the church was dressed with lighted candles, much as our churches are dressed with holly and ivy. The profusion of candles was extraordinary, but the profusion of human creatures was more so. Far into the street, beyond the front door, that mass of people were seen standing quietly, but looking anxious. The porch, where nothing but the organ could be heard, was filled : many had their

psalm-books open. By the term Psalm-books, the whole Swedish service is to be understood. The chief part of that service consists in singing these psalms, which are not the Psalms of David, but those of Wallin, Tegner, and other celebrated modern poets of Sweden. Finding it impossible to stand in this large church, which on ordinary occasions is empty and dark enough, we left it and went to Stor Kyrkan, or the Great Church of Stockholm. There the brilliancy appeared to be greater, and the crowd scarcely less. An enormous candlestick, with seven branches, was all lighted up. It was a gift from a former Queen, in gratitude for her husband's escape from the Danes. More than twenty other candles surrounded the altar, which was in a blaze of light. The glittering and ornamented pulpit was literally wreathed with candles; and in the midst of its brilliancy appeared a plain, dark figure making into a prayer some of these metrical psalms, which are used for all purposes—to eke out a sermon, or to make up a prayer, or to be sung in a lengthened, monotonous strain by a drowsy congregation. But I must not forget that it is Christmas morning, and that I am standing in intense cold in Stor Krykan. Truly the church needs to be great, for

great is the concourse that flocks to its portals. They are most of the lower, and next of the middle classes: but one of the highest is here also, for in a grand pew, which a large gilt crown indicates as that used on state occasions by the truly amiable and beloved King Oscar, sits now that most interesting-looking and intelligent young prince, Gustaf, the second son in a really charming family, whose purely artistic head and lovely countenance create an instantaneous interest in the mind, for there is something there that causes one involuntarily to predict for such a form and face a shorter period of earthly existence. The young royal student and artist is an early riser, and here he is attending the Jul-otta. In general, however, the higher classes of this country are not the most exemplary church-goers.*

It was a curious sight to see so many people

* Alas! since this was written, the above prediction has had its melancholy fulfilment. Truly does the heart of the writer sympathise with those of the fond parents and tenderly-united family, which now are wrung with grief by the first break which has been made among them. The amiable Prince Gustaf has just died, after a few days’ illness, at Christiana. The above was his last Jul-otta.

e

crowding out at this early hour on a mid-winter's morn; more especially as the natives certainly feel the cold of their own climate more than foreigners do, at least they take much greater precautions against it. But what most surprised me, was to see the vast numbers of children, not infants, but children from six to ten years of age, who were so zealously brought to this service. Many were carried over the cold streets, and through the closely packed crowd. An honest countryman might be seen here holding up in his arms what in Ireland would be expressively called “a clever lump of a boy,” that he might see and hear to more advantage.

Mothers anxiously guided in little girls, with heads tied up in kerchiefs; young lads carefully conducted under their auspices still younger brothers; and motherly little sisters of twelve years old, with airs of maternal authority, worked their onward way with junior ones. The object of all these seemed to be, to get as far in as they quietly could; and with wonderful, but noiseless, scarcely perceptible perseverance, the end was accomplished.

"I do not think many of our English parents would like children to come out to church service so early in mid-winter," I remarked to my companion, as we came out. This kind Swede endeavoured to give me all the information in his power, because he said he wished to make his country better known to the English; and he thought of course that I would achieve that object. I kept for once my own counsel, and so got the information.

“Many of these people,” he said, “come from the country. The lower classes among us are anxious to get their children to this Jul-otta, because it is a tradition among them, that they will in that case easily learn to read; and in a country where all must read, it is naturally an object to have that art easily acquired, especially as the parish schools are both few and far apart, so that their parents are often the sole instructors of children.”

“Well, if all superstition had no worse tendency, I think even in England they might not get up a quarrel about that,-I am not sure of it though. But indeed this concourse of people to a Christmas morning service, would be almost incredible in England; and is the more singular to me, because the people here do not go to church nearly so much as we do."

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »