Tegnér, Esaias

Tegnér, Esaias

(ĕsī`äs tĕng-nâr`), 1782–1846, Swedish poet, bishop of Växjö. Tegnér was the most popular of the Swedish romantic poets. An optimistic nationalist and liberal in his youth, he later became melancholy and conservative and was subject to periods of madness. His militant anti-Russian Svea (1811) and Axel (1821, tr. 1840) were followed by his great Frithjof's Saga (1820–25), which is based on collections of Scandinavian sagas and is considered the masterpiece of the Swedish Gothic tradition. Tegnér's sermons and speeches are classics of the Swedish language.

Tegnér, Esaias


Born Nov. 13, 1782, in Kyrkerud, Värmland; died Nov. 2,1846, in Östrabo, near Växjö. Swedish poet.

The son of a pastor, Tegnér graduated from the University of Lund in 1802. In 1818 he became a member of the Swedish Academy. In 1824 he was made a bishop. Tegnér’s early poems are written in a classicistic style. Battle Song for the Skåne Militia (1808) and the epic poem Sweden (1811) reflect the events of the Russo-Swedish war (1808–09). Although Tegnér was a central figure in Swedish romanticism, his works were characterized by the rationalism and clarity of poetic thought and style associated with the aesthetics of the Enlightenment. Tegnér disputed the vague mystical ideas of the Phosphorists, a Swedish literary movement, and drew close to the romantic Gothic Society, with which he shared an interest in prefeudal Scandinavia. Rejecting the Holy Alliance, he idealized Napoleon (the poem The Awakened Eagle and other works) and the era of Charles XII (the poem Charles XII). In the lyrical epic poem Axel (1822) he glorified the love of a Swedish soldier for a Russian girl.

The interweaving of romantic classicistic motifs characterizes Tegnér’s best works— Norway (1814), Song to the Sun (1817), Children of the Lord’s Supper (1820; Russian translation, 1862), and Frithiofs Saga (1819–25; Russian translation, 1841), the most important work of Swedish romanticism. Based on an ancient Icelandic saga, Frithiof’s Saga celebrates the heroic Viking heritage. It synthesizes epic, lyric, and dramatic elements; it is distinguished by a wealth of poetic forms and devices and has become a Swedish national epic.

Tegnér’s later years were marked by a crisis in his world view and work, partly as a result of mental illness. His poems Ode to Melancholy, The Dead One, and Farewell to My Lyre are permeated with pessimism.


Samlade skrifter, parts 1–10. Stockholm, 1918–25.
Brev, vols. 1–10. Malmö, 1953–70.
In Russian translation:
Saga o Frit’ofe; Aksel’. Introduction by G. G. Aleksandrov. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935.
Saga o Frit’ofe. Introduction by V. Admoni. Moscow, 1959.


Belinskii, V. G. “Fritiof, skandinavskii bogatyr’: Poema Tegnera v rus. per. Ia. Grota.” Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 5. Moscow, 1954.
Brandes, G. “Isaiia Tegner.” Sobr. soch., 2nd ed., vol. 2, part 2. St. Petersburg, 1906.
Braude, L. Iu. “Saga o Frit’ofe E. Tegnera i ee islandskie istochniki.” In Skandinavskii sbornik, fasc. 11. Tartu, 1966.
Wrangel, E. Tegnér i Lund, parts 1–2. Stockholm, 1932.
Böök, F. Esaias Tegnér: En biografi. Stockholm, 1963.
Nilsson, A. Svensk romantik: Tegnér. Lund, 1964.
Werin, A. Tegnér, 1782–1825. Lund-Stockholm, 1974.