Fänad i helgade grifter : svensk djurgravpoesi 1670–1760
Sammanfattning: This dissertation examines a hitherto neglected genre in Swedish poetry of the 17th and 18th centuries: the animal epitaph. From 1670 to 1760 a considerable number of such poems were composed by several of the leading poets of the day. In this dissertation, besides tracing the history of the genre back to its origins in the ancient Greek epigram, I am chiefly concerned with the functions that the writing of such epigrams had in 17th and 18th-century Sweden. Two questions are addressed: (1) In what contexts were the poems written? (2) Why were they written, and for what purposes? The short answer is that they were written because they could promote careers; they could serve as covert ways of paying homage to noblemen and royalty; they could also be instrumental in criticizing those in power, or cloak the treatment of politically sensitive topics; they provided a means of educating, entertaining, or comforting the reader, whether a courtier, a member of an order, or a private citizen.
The eight chapters of the dissertation are devoted to a discussion of individual poems and authors deemed to be of especial significance.
Thus, the courtier Erik Lindschöld’s epitaphs on dogs served to celebrate peripheral events in court life while at the same time enabling the poet to pay his respects to his patroness, the queen dowager Ulrika Eleonora. The learned admiral Werner von Rosenfelt’s “Complaint on the Death of a Very Accomplished Parrot” was intended to teach and amuse; the same goes for the poetic efforts of Germund Cederhielm and Sophia Elisabet Brenner, the Swedish Sappho (who, as a woman, could not hope for preferment but might qualify for monetary rewards). Christoffer Leijoncrona’s epitaph on the bear brought down by Charles XI aims to bestow fame on the king both as hunter and ruler while Israel Holmström’s epitaph on Charles XII’s dog Pompe – the magnum opus of Swedish animal epitaphs – is a personal homage to the king, in which the coarse martial witticisms appropriate to army life serve the purpose of undaunted and humorous flattery. Olof von Dalin’s innovative epitaphs served as a vehicle for censuring the inferior brand of occasional verse produced by his contemporaries and castigated by him. By writing deliberately ‘bad’ occasional verse, Dalin was able to level hard-hitting criticism against his competitors. To a greater extent than any of his contemporaries, Dalin combines different elements of content and form in his epitaphs, which were considered to be politically and aesthetically daring.
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