Girish Mahajan (Editor)

I går såg jag ditt barn, min Fröja

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I går såg jag ditt barn, min Fröja

I går såg jag ditt barn, min Fröja (Yesterday saw I your child, my Freya), is one of the Swedish poet and performer Carl Michael Bellman's best-known and best-loved songs, from his 1790 collection, Fredman's Epistles, where it is No. 28. The song describes an attempt to arrest the "nymph" Ulla Winblad, based on a real event. The lyrics create a rococo picture of life, blending classical allusion and pastoral description with harsh reality.

Contents

The epistle is subtitled "Om et anstäldt försåt emot Ulla Winblad." (About an ambush of Ulla Winblad).

Context

Carl Michael Bellman is the central figure in Swedish song, known for his 1790 Fredman's Epistles and his 1791 Fredman's Songs. He played the cittern, accompanying himself as he performed his songs at the royal court. Jean Fredman is a fictional character and the supposed narrator in Bellman's epistles and songs, based on a real watchmaker of Bellman's Stockholm. The epistles paint a picture of the demimonde life of the city during the eighteenth century, where strong drink and beautiful "nymphs" like Ulla Winblad create a rococo picture of life, blending classical allusion and pastoral description with harsh reality.

Song

The song has five verses, each of 8 lines. The verses have the alternating rhyming pattern ABAB-CDCD. The music is in 3/4 time, and is marked Andante. The melody was reworked by Joseph Martin Kraus from a Languedoc folk tune; it is accompanied throughout by rapid, nervous quavers (eighth notes), giving the Epistle in Edward Matz's view a cinematic slow motion effect. The melody was used by "several parodists" in the 18th century; it had timbres including "Quoi-" and "Ah! ma voisine, es-tu fâchée?" which the musicologist James Massengale suggests Bellman may have had in mind.

Bellman's biographer, Paul Britten Austin, describes the Epistle as rococo, along with No. 25: Blåsen nu alla (All blow now). In it, Ulla Winblad, "a luxuriant Venus, incarnation of love and beauty" is almost caught by the police in Yxsmedsgränd, a narrow street in Stockholm's Gamla stan, where Bellman himself lived from 1770 to 1774. The epistle describes how she just manages to escape. Bellman simultaneously uses classical and contemporary imagery. He calls Ulla a nymph; she has been given a "myrtle" (crown of leaves) by Freya, the Nordic goddess of love; the Bondeska palace (visible from the corner of Yxsmedsgränd) is called the temple of Themis, classical goddess of justice; and Freya is to be worshipped in Paphos' land, equating her with Venus/Aphrodite. Paphos in Cyprus was where, in the myth, Aphrodite rose naked from the foaming sea, and her temple is nearby. But, non-mythologically, Ulla wears "a black embroider'd bodice" and petticoats with "frills and laces", and she loses her watch in the struggle. Britten Austin translates the entire Epistle.

Reception

Epistle 28 has been recorded by Cornelis Vreeswijk among others.

References

I går såg jag ditt barn, min Fröja Wikipedia


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