« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
It is a curious fact that there is, I believe, no country in Christendom where May-day is not celebrated. Here, in the cold north, the usages of Old England, in respect to it, are transferred to Midsummer’s-eve-- the feast of St. John ; the feast of Balder in the old mythology; Balder, the Good, the god of innocence. But still May-day has its Swedish celebration also_and a curious one it is.
On the evening, not the morning, of the first of May, the King, Royal Family and household, the Minister of State, diplomatic corps, and all the world of Stockholm-high and low, young and old-make a grand procession round the Djurgord. The great people go in their handsomest carriages; the lesser people, attired in their gayest or best dresses, go in any way they can.
The approach of the first of May is thus another epoch of the year at which work-people have no time to do anything. The hope of getting a new bonnet would be absurd, for, as every one must have new bonnets, no one has time to make them. Such seems to be the logic that is ever reproduced.
Fortunately, in adherence to the good old
fashion of our childhood, I had taken my brightest bonnet for Easter-day, and what had served for the greater festival was good enough for the lesser.
But the first day of May in England, as observed by those in whose hearts the love of good, and old, and pleasant ways, has not been superseded either by worldly coldness, or lost in careless forgetfulness, is a double festival —a festival of earth reviving from death to gladness and beauty -a festival of the Church, who commemorates upon it two of her evangelists, who helped to spread over that earth a spiritual gladness, which has caused, and shall yet cause, her deserts to rejoice and blossom as the rose. But this Maydav--the festival of St. Philip and St. James-is, in Sweden, only observed by an annual, and, what is called, a now antiquated custom of a tour round the deer-park; because the Swedes strenuously deny that they now have anything to do with the saints, and are zealous in assuring me, they do not keep holidays as saints' days.*
* Twelve months have gone away since these words were written. A glad and beautiful May-day has burst out on England, after a cold and tedious spring. And, now, at five o'clock on this bright morning of our double festival, I am
And such a May-day as this was for the annual procession of the Royal Park in Stockholm! The cold was more bitter than any I had felt in winter; for a keen and strong north-east wind was blowing. going to hear the hymn sung from the top of the tower of Magdalen College, at old Oxford.
And then I see the first flowers of spring brought to adorn the house of God, where we go to give thanks for all the blessings of this life; to hear again the words that Philip spoke to Nathaniel; to wonder at the beautiful appropriateness of those which the Church has selected, from the words of St. James, as the epistle for this day when the earth is decking her bosom with the bright fair things which are the types of all we seek or love in our mortal day—"Let the brother of low degree rejoice that he is exalted; but the rich in that he is made low; because, as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat than it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof faileth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth; so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.”
The flowers are before us, and the lesson they teach is read in our ears. This May-day is even a treble festival; for it is Sunday, also, in the year 1853. And I hear a sermon preached on these words of St. James, and, while invited to rejoice in the gladness of nature, we are instructed amidst its evanescent joys, “more perfectly to know" (in the words of the Collect for the day) “Jesus Christ to be the Way, the Truth and the Life, that so we may steadfastly walk in the way that leadeth to life eternal,” whether that way leadeth through the brightness or the shadows of a transitory world.
And on this first of May, I was also to leave my dwelling in Enkhus Grend, or Widow House Lane, and to remove to the very comfortable lodginghouse, or hotel, of Frue La Croix, in Brunkebergs Torg; one which is surprisingly little known to English travellers, to whom it would possess an additional advantage, since its kind and pleasant owner was born in England, and would speak our language much better than she even now does if the travellers, who suffer so much inconvenience in other quarters in Stockholm, resorted to her hotel.
The snow still lay on the heights of Södor when I took the last view I ever should take of them, from the windows which had been to me, for at least six months, like the face of a friend, to which, even if it change a little at times, we still turn to reap some consolation, some compensation for all the trials and annoyances we meet with from other things. That window was to me as the record, too, of thoughts, feelings, emotions, words, that never might be exactly reproduced, because originating in, and proceeding from, novel circumstances—yet which must be indissolubly linked with all that had been, all that should be, to me in life-in death—perhaps in eternity.
That May-day was the bitterest I ever felt. The sky was iron-grey, and seemed heavy with snow: the keen wind penetrated one's very bones. No sign of a leaf, or sprig, gave intimation of spring; it was like a bitterly cold first of March in England.
The thought of passing it, as I had intended to do, on the rocks of the Djurgord, was given up; and I gladly accepted the invitation of some of the kindest of my many kind Swedish friends, Kammerherre Cederschiold, to spend it at his house, the windows of which afforded a fine view of the procession, and of the throngs of citizens flocking out to the park.
With this “Lord of the Bedchamber,"--as we should translate the title Kammerherre—and his charming wife, who by Swedish courtesy bears the title of “Female Lord of the Chamber," the evening afforded me greater pleasures than were derived from merely watching a singular medley of persons-some brilliant, some gay, all decent, orderly, and the lower classes grave and respectable—who, in carriages, on horseback, or foot, poured on in a continuous stream, facing cold, wind, and dust, to make an annual promenade in the Djurgord on the evening of the first of May.