Sunday, 31 May, Nathan Söderblom and Gustaf Fröding
A fine summer day with intense blue and light green overpowering the gloomy pine. I make for Luthagen west of the river, next in line in the expansion of my familiar Uppsala. There are more buildings here by Gunnar Leche but I leave these for later and make for Stabby prästgård, originally a prebendal house for the professor of theology (picture on facebook). Its origins are in the sixteenth century but only the cellars remain from earlier times of what is now a nineteenth century building. It’s known latterly because the renowned cleric Nathan Söderblom lived there for over a decade before becoming archbishop of Uppsala and moving down to the archbishop’s palace. Then it was on the edge of the city and it’s still pleasantly relaxing to sit in the garden, which is permitted when the building is not let.
After communing with nature, I continue to the old cemetery, finding a place with a number of bikes already parked where I can hopefully achieve flock protection from cycle carnivores. Compared with Park St and especially compared with some tumbledown romantic jungles in the UK, the cemetery is very orderly with its neat rows and no stones lying at crazy angles. I photograph the list of graves of the great and the good for a planned visit later and content myself with Carl Peter Thunberg, Linnaeus disciple who went on botanical excursions in South Africa with fellow botanist Lady Anne Monson on her way to Calcutta, social success and an early death. And then down to the end to look at the poet Gustaf Fröding’s grave; his funeral was in Stockholm before being taken by train for interment in Uppsala. Nathan Söderblom by then archbishop said the following bierside words “Tre små böcker kom ut – och ett helt språk har sorg”. “Three small books were published and a whole language is in grief” (from the translation of Nathan Söderblom’s bio I believe). I presume that this was at the funeral service in Stockholm as Erik Axel Karlfeldt, fellow poet and later winner of the Nobel prize, held a speech at the interment and it sounds rather a jostle if the archbishop was trying to get a word in there too. In fact, I can only claim a half point for Fröding as I saw the grave but seized by the idea of an anonymous, epitaph-less wordless poet’s grave, I was convinced that it was an unmarked marble column nearby. Even the half point is fragile as I haven’t read Fröding – my knowledge of Swedish poetry is weak. But ideal David Kendall is going to fix this (as well as reading Nathan Söderblom’s bio and getting a better grasp of the cultural environment at the turn of the last century. I will at least return soon to the cemetery and tweak this irritating memory.
I’ve never been inside the cemetery before but I’ve known the area well for years, visiting it many times in the 1980s when I was a doctoral student in Uppsala. It was here that I had my Damascene moment when listening to an academic expatiating on some convoluted system with, (IMO), more than a whiff of merde de taureau. And the thought struck me what am I doing putting all this effort into obtaining an entrance ticket to an environment that bores me. And not so long afterwards my research object disappeared in the upheavals in eastern Europe, easing the passage of the jumble of pretend thesis papers to the recycling skip. It was just as well – butterfly minds shouldn’t try to do PhDs.