Gustaf Fröding

(August 22, 1860 - February 8, 1911) was a Swedish poet and writer, born in Alster outside Karlstad in Värmland. The family moved to Kristinehamn in the year 1867. He later studied at Uppsala University and worked as a journalist in Karlstad.

His poetry combines formal virtuosity with a sympathy for the ordinary, the neglected and the down-trodden. It is highly musical and lends itself to musical setting; as songs it has developed in to the much wider world of popular music and frequently been re-recorded by Swedish singers like Olle Adolphson and Monica Zetterlund. He wrote openly about his personal problems with alcohol and women and had to face a trial for obscenity for that cause.

He is generally held to be one of the greatest poets of verse that Sweden has ever produced, on par with Carl Michael Bellman.

Jag köpte min kärlek för pengar,
för mig var ej annan att få,
sjung vackert, I skorrande strängar,
sjung vackert om kärlek ändå.

Den drömmen, som aldrig besannats,
som dröm var den vacker att få,
för den, som ur Eden förbannats,
är Eden ett Eden ändå.
—from Gralstänk
I purchased my love (how dearly!)
For money — what else could I get?
O jangling strings, sound clearly
The theme of my love-song yet!

For the dream, though the truth were vanished,
Was the princeliest dream I could get,
And for him who from Eden is banished
Is Eden an Eden yet.
— English translation by C.D. Locock 1925


The late part of his life he spent on different mental institutions and hospitals to cure his mental illness and alcoholism. During the first half of 1890 he spent a couple of years at the Suttestad institution in Lillehammer, Norway, were he finished his work on his third book of poetry Stänk och flikar. It was published 1896. He wrote great parts of that material at a mental institution in Görlitz, Germany. 1896 he moved back to Sweden. But as the year neared Christmas, his big sister Cecilia took the difficult decision to make him stay at Upsala Hospital in Uppsala, Sweden. Under the care of professor Frey Svenson Fröding got away from liquor and women, except one, Ida Bäckman. To this day, people thinks that Ida Bäckman wanted to marry Fröding and corrupt him in some way. Later she wrote books but they was always judged critically and never got good reviews. She is about to have her name cleared in Sweden. Fröding never married Ida. She was never asked to stop visit Fröding by professor Svenson and Cecilia Fröding. Instead Fröding grew fond of a nurse named Signe Trotzig. When he left Upsala hospital she stayed with him to the day he died.


There is a famous Swedish play called Sjung vackert om kärlek, written by Gottfried Grafström. The play focuses on Frödings long visit to Upsala Hospital. Also some flashbacks of his life before the hospital-visit. One of Mr Grafströms reasons to write the play was to clear Ida Bäckmans name. A writer who he thinks has gotten way to much critism for her relationship with the great artist Fröding. The play was very popular during the 70's and had a revival in Värmland 2007. It was conducted by the Theater of Värmland at Alsters Herrgård, the very place where Fröding was born.

External links

Selected works

Translated titles in italics.

  • Guitarr och dragharmonika (1891) - "Guitar and Concertina"
  • Nya dikter (1894) - "New Poems"
  • Räggler å paschaser (1895)
  • Stänk och flikar (1896) - "Splashes and spray"
  • Nytt och gammalt (1897) - "New and Old Pieces"
  • Gralstänk (1898) - "Splashes of Grail"
  • Efterskörd (1910) - "Aftermath"
  • Reconvalescentia (1913)
  • Samlade skrifter 1-16 (1917-1922) - "Assembled Writings 1-16"
  • Brev till en ung flicka (1952) - "Letters to a young girl"
  • Äventyr i Norge (1963) - "Adventures in Norway"
  • Brev 1-II (1981-1982) - "Letter 1-II"

His works in English

  • Poems (1903) - (trans. by Albert Björck)
  • Selected Poems (1916) - (trans. by Charles Wharton Stork)
  • Guitar & Concertina (1925) - (trans. by C.D. Locock, 100 poems)
  • Gustaf Fröding: His Life and Poetry (1986) - (written by Paul Britten Austin)
  • The Selected Poems of Gustav Fröding (1993) - (trans. by Henrik Aspán, in collaboration with Martin Allwood)
  • The Complete Poems of Gustaf Fröding (1997-1999) - (trans. by Mike McArthur, several volumes)
  • The North! To the North! (2001) - (trans. by Judith Moffett, five poets including Fröding)


Hark to the city-life roaring!
Dull is the boom of the rolling fray:
Sometimes a cry goes soaring
Shrill from the torrent spray.
Here all is quiet,
Quiet the water
Sleeps in the silent bay.

Here is all desolate seeming —
Far are we now from reality's strand:
Only the City of Dreaming
Woven on water and land.
Let your head rest now
Here on my shoulder —
Look o'er the taffrail's rand.

These are no rock-reefs that glimmer
Under our keel in the misty light:
Seest thou not castles that shimmer,
Seest thou the palaces bright?
That is Atlantis,
Dreamland's Atlantis,
The world that was sunk in night!

Look on the white walls shining
There where the ways by the citadel meet
Godlike statues are lining
Garden and market and street.
All is deserted,
Memories only
Wander with joyless feet.

Gold gat the power for oppression:
Lordlings of Mammon the empire seized,
Stole all the millions' possession,
Squandered in riot and feast.
Luxury's conquests
Won they, and Ruin
Grew as the tale increased.

Then, as the high Gods fated,
Vanished and sank in the gulfing waves
A people to death dedicated —
Sank to their ocean graves:
Splendidly gifted,
Sunken and perished,
Whelmed in the sunless caves.

Thick-set corals are gleaming,
Paving the city of dreams and of sleep:
Sunrays like starlight seeming
Fall on the soundless deep:
Weeds of old ocean,
Twining their fibres,
Over the columns creep.

Some day, ah some day for us too
Dawneth our hour for the quenching of light
Some day descends upon us too
Sleep and eternal night —
Waves rolling o'er us,
Sunlight that filters
Dim through the waters bright.

Over our city out yonder,
Reared on foundations of slime and sand,
Some day the sea-waves shall wander,
Flooding our shore and strand:
Over us swirling,
Over us swinging,
Folk from an alien land.

Gustaf Fröding New Poems
English translation by C.D. Locock 1925

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