Nordic Gods in Classical Dress

De diis arctois by C. G. Brunius

  • Arsenii Vetushko-Kalevich Lund University
Keywords: Carl Georg Brunius, Norse mythology, Neo-Latin epic, De diis arctois, Edda

Abstract

The 19th century in Sweden, like in many other European countries, saw a large decline in the quantity of Neo-Latin literary production. However, a range of skillful Latin poets may be named from this period: Johan Lundblad, Johan Tranér, Emil Söderström, Johan Bergman and others, engaged as well in translating from Swedish into Latin as in composing poems of their own. It was also in the 19th century that the longest Latin poem ever written in Sweden came out – “De diis arctois libri VI” by Carl Georg Brunius (1792–1869), remarkably neglected by the scholars, although it was published twice during the lifetime of its author (1822 and 1857).

The subject of the poem fits perfectly in the intellectual movement of the period, namely national romantic interest in the Nordic antiquities. The six books represent a summary of Eddaic mythology from the creation of the Universe until the Ragnarök.

Brunius’ admiration for the Scandinavian Middle Ages is apparent; later it turned out to be productive in architecture, the field in which Brunius is most remembered nowadays. Brunius does not seek to turn Scandinavian gods into Greek ones. He accurately follows his sources (both the prosaic and, to a somewhat smaller extent, the poetic Edda) in content, sometimes even in wording. However, it should be born in mind that the writer was a classicist by his education. Although many compositional traits of ancient epos are lacking in the poem, it is full of the allusions to classical authors at the phrasal level. Some of them are formulaic verse elements, others deliberate and exquisite quotations. It is this elegant combination of close adherence to the sources with the use of the ancient authors (Virgil, Lucretius, Ovid, Horace) that the paper is mainly focused on.

Published
2019-11-13