As a schoolboy I read the first original play
written in Swedish, Urban Hiärne‘s Rosimunda (1665). Me and my friend Tor loved the absurd spelling, the odd changes that had occurred in the sense of many words and some of the comical one-liners. Recently I learned that about the same time Hiärne also wrote the first novel in Swedish, Stratonice (1666-68). Rosimunda deals with bloody intrigue at the Italian court of the conquering 6th century Lombard king Alboin. Stratonice is instead a pastoral romance set in the age of Alexander the Great. It is strongly derivative of the era’s pastoral fiction on the Continent.
Both of Hiärne’s works apparently conceal a subtext about his attempts to woo a certain young lady of high birth, which strikes modern readers as a liiittle iffy when we consider that Rosimunda premiered in Uppsala when Hiärne was 24 and the girl in question 12. (She in fact ended up marrying someone else.) Students at the time cultivated a courtly pastoral fandom based on the output of German pastoral literary societies, which encouraged lyrical devotion to unavailable females. Celadon, a main character in Stratonice, was also Hiärne’s alias in those circles.
Here’s a translation into modern English of Stratonice’s first two paragraphs (complete text here) just to give you a feel for what it’s about. I’ve deconvoluted the syntax and chopped up some of Hiärne’s longest sentences.
In the sixth year of Alexander’s reign, the great son of Philip, king of Macedonia, Thyrsis came from Corinth to Ephesus for the sake of the fair Castizane, whom he had long loved with all his heart. This Thyrsis was a servant of Parmenion and could not stay long in Corinth. But he had travelled a long way and was not far from where his brother Celadon, a shepherd whom he had not seen in a long time, was watering his sheep at a certain stream. And as Thyrsis did not have time to go to Athens, he wrote to his brother and asked him to come quickly to Corinth. Although Celadon had good reason to stay in Athens, brotherly love nevertheless caused him to start upon the trip. It was a cold and dry spring and there was little grazing for the sheep. Celadon, bringing ugly and starved livestock, endured hardship on the road. But his complaints were assuaged by the presence of his dearest brother before Phoebus had driven his tired horses into the Western Sea. And as Thyrsis greeted Celadon with true brotherly love, he would not let him go either before his brother had promised to accompany him to Ephesus – particularly as Parmenion employed three of Celadon’s brothers at his court and had ordered him to come. After three days with favourable wind they arrived at Ephesus in good health, but did not find Parmenion there. When Thyrsis learned that he had gone to his country manor about eleven kilometres from the city, he immediately went there across an inlet of the sea. Celadon, meanwhile, went to see his younger brothers, who greeted him with great joy. They had not seen him since a cruel plague had hit northern Nathaly, frightening these brothers and innumerable others away from the region. And so Celadon stayed at Parmenion’s court, seeing the sights of that famous city, particularly the widely celebrated Temple of Diana. After two days his brother Thyrsis came from Pelignum, where Parmenion stayed at the time, and asked Celadon to come with him there and kiss Parmenion’s hands. And so they went, bringing along Cobalus, Parmenion’s steward, who managed his court and servants. As this Cobalus was acquainted with Celadon and knew that he was not unskilled at drawing and painting, particularly portraits, he would not leave him alone before speaking to him of this.
When Celadon reached Pelignum along with his brother, he had to wait for about an hour in the hall before the august Parmenion was awake and dressed. Meanwhile he greeted Parmenion’s mother-in-law Selenista when she came in. She appeared to be a pious and meek person. Not long thereafter a veritable idol entered, who was beautiful beyond all description. Seeing her, Celadon was as if struck by lightning and felt an unexpected fire in his breast. But it died down considerably when his brother pointed out, as was shown also by the woman’s clothes, that she was of very high birth. She was the daughter of Pausanias, a powerful man, who was held above many other mighty men in the esteem of King Philip of Macedonia. He was the brother of Selenista and had joined Charon’s great army three years previously. Twelve months later his wife joined him, and so this Stratonice and her sister Sophonisbe were placed in the care of Selenista and Parmenion. And just as unexpectedly as Celadon fell in love, he fell out of it again, as when a handful of tow is set on fire and just as swiftly burns out. But he did not realise that a small spark of hope remained, telling him I know not what and encouraging him. Then he was called before Parmenion, who greeted him quite favourably and declared his wish to remain Celadon’s benevolent lord.