Jul 20

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July 20: Erik Axel Karlfeldt

Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1864)

Erik Axel Karlfeldt

It was on this date, July 20, 1864, that Nobel-winning Swedish poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt was born in Folkärna, in the rural province of Dalarna, central Sweden. His father was a lawyer, his mother a devout Lutheran. While supporting himself as a teacher, Karlfeldt completed his University of Uppsala studies and graduated in 1902.

As a poet, Karlfeldt debuted in 1895 with a collection called Songs of Wilderness and of Love. This he followed with Fridolin’s Songs (1898), Fridolin’s Pleasure Garden (1901), Flora and Pomona (1906) and Flora and Bellona (1918) – for all of which, even as an old-fashioned voice in a modern age, he was greatly esteemed. In 1917, Karlfeldt’s alma mater, Uppsala University, awarded him the title of Doctor honoris causae. When offered the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1918, Karlfeldt protested that he had no right to the prize because he was little known outside his own country. Four years before his death, he published The Horn of Autumn (1927). The University of Minnesota published his selected poems, translated by Charles Warton Stork, in Arcadia Borealis (1938).

Karlfeldt had been seriously ill in 1913, which made him study his personal beliefs more closely. In a poem called “A Vagrant” we read this couplet:

What’s your religion? What is your creed?
I know only this: I know naught.

Karlfeldt was an Agnostic with mystic tendencies. He died in Stockholm on 8 April 1931 at age 66. Erik Axel Karlfeldt was finally awarded his Nobel Prize, posthumously, that same year.

Originally published July 2003 by Ronald Bruce Meyer.

About the author

Ronald Bruce Meyer

Freethought Almanac was created by Ronald Bruce Meyer, in collaboration with freethoughtradio.com, in March 2003. What started with a brief notice on the birthday of Albert Einstein, grew into almost 250,000 words on not only biography but history, philosophy, theology and politics — one day at a time. Freethought Almanac looks at these daily subjects from a godless point of view, that is, a point of view that is based not on fantasies, delusions or wishful thinking, but a view that is evidence-based.

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