Works by Swedish painter Carl Larsson are informed by a very visible love of family – in the soft shades and warm light of often idyllic scenes of home, the artist provides us respite, he offers us in watercolour the relationship between beauty and all that is morally good. The domestic scenes, especially those of Christmas, remain fresh and appealing for they represent what most of us strive for – a few peaceful moments in the company of loved ones where the cares of the world have fallen away.
For many December is bittersweet, a time for reflection upon the past but also for forging traditions – those small customs for the benefit of the young, they who do not yet realize the importance of their heritage and who will, hopefully, keep it alive once we are gone. One wonders whether Larsson was familiar with Ring Out, Wild Bells by Alfred Lord Tennyson. The poem has been recited at the annual New Year’s Eve Celebration at Skansen in Stockholm every year since 1897. Its themes are clear and precise, as relevant today as they were when it was first published in 1850.
- Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
- Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
- Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.
- Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.
- Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out thy mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.
- Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.
- Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
- Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
Read more about these subjects:
Arts and Crafts Movement
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Gareth Davies-Jones reading Ring Out
17 thoughts on “F is also for Friday: A Swedish Christmas”
Very nice painting by Carl Larsson. It reminds me of the Christmas parties that used to be arranged when we were kids. In Denmark they’re now fighting to keep the traditions of putting up a christmas tree (the link is written in Danish):
I love the dreamy quality of Larsson’s paintings. Thanks for the link – I’ll get back to you once it’s gone through the translator!
Wow, what is the world coming to – we often say that people take their beliefs too far when it comes to stopping others from believing/demonstrating theirs (well, that’s the politically correct way of saying it!) – it’s just a christmas tree, for goodness sake… Don’t get me started….
greetings from Berlin – we have some books featuring the wonderful Carl Larsson interiors!
no snow actually in Sweden?
I have a soft spot for his work as where I grew up resembled his countryside paintings. Not in Sweden this year, my Canadian home is not measuring up to a white Christmas yet!
That was always one of my favorite poems growing up. When I first learned to type and had to create something in typing lab, I remember typing out a Christmas tree and I typed this poem underneath it and printed it out for all my family members. I was in fourth grade at the time, so you know, it was a homemade gift.
Do you still have a copy? It’s the little things that connect us and bring back so many memories!
My uncle still had his copy a few years back… I should go see if I can find it at his house next time I visit (he just lives across town from me). He framed it and would hang it up at Christmastime for years after I gave it to him.
And then you can digitize it!
Isn’t it amazing that what was relevant in 1850 is still so needed now. Would it be too much to hope that we (each and every one of us) will hear the message this year and take it to heart? Thanks for the excellent post.
Thanks – those are my hopes for the new year as well…
Such a timeless poem. St. Nick’s Day is one of the traditions I hope my boys will continue if they have families of their own in the future — my mother’s Eastern European heritage prompts recognition of the day with a little gift from St. Nick (typically a holiday-themed book in this household). ~ Kat
When my monsters were little we had Christmas elves that would bring holiday themed books! I miss reading with them…
As they became teens, keeping up with the tradition has been more challenging . . . David Sedaris’ “Holidays on Ice” and “I am Scrooge: A Zombie Story for Christmas” kept the tradition going this year :-)
I love David Sedaris – as it gets closer to Christmas I had thought about mentioning him on a post… when I first heard him (on VPR) read a story about the matriarch and her caretaker putting up the christmas tree I was driving and had to pull of the road to listen… Will look up the other title – thanks!
This is Wonderful! Every word and the painting! Thank you for sharing with us–love, Caddo
You’re very welcome – Larsson is wonderful (try and have a look at his other works) and Tennyson certainly had a gift for getting the message of the times across!