Carl David af Wirsén

Carl David af Wirsén (December 9, 1842 – June 12, 1912) was a Swedish poet, literary critic and the Swedish Academy's permanent secretary 1884-1912.

Carl David af Wirsén
Carl David af Wirsén med signatur
BornDecember 9, 1842
DiedJune 12, 1912 (aged 69)
ChildrenEinar af Wirsén
Parent(s)Karl Ture af Wirsén
Eleonore von Schulzenheim


Wirsén was born in Vallentuna, Uppland, to Karl Ture af Wirsén and Eleonore von Schulzenheim.

He was also for several years, in company with the historian Hans Forssell, editor of the Swedish Literary Review.

In 1870, he became a lecturer in Swedish and Latin at Katedralskolan in Uppsala. In 1876 he moved to Gothenburg, where he lectured and took care of the museum's library and art collections.

In 1879 he succeeded Carl Wilhelm Böttiger to the seat 8 of the Swedish Academy, and moved the year after to Stockholm, where he became literary reviewer for the Post- och Inrikes Tidningar, and in 1886 also for the magazine Vårt Land.

In November 1884 he was appointed permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy. One of his tasks was to direct the work with "fixation of spelling" and the Academy's dictionary. The former work resulted in Svenska Akademiens ordlista (The Swedish Academy's dictionary), where the modern spelling was represented, in spite of af Wirséns's opposition. Together with Theodor Wisén and Esaias Tegnér Jr., he tried to obstruct the publication.

In December 1883, he was appointed member of The Hymn Book committee of the Church of Sweden, which had the task of "preparing, with discretion, a new proposal for hymnbook". The result was the edition of 1889. He was appointed member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1905.


Wirsén made his debut as a poet under the signature Kuno, first in the student's calendar Isblomman (1861) and in Namnlösa sällskapet's first publication Sånger och berättelser af nio signaturer ("Songs and tales by nine signatures", 1863). After that, it lasted until the mourning memorial in Uppsala in 1872 after the death of king Charles XV of Sweden, for whom he wroteSång till minne af konung Carl XV ("Song commemorating king Charles XV"). After several romantic poems in the monthly Nu, he published his first collection Dikter (poems) in 1876. It was followed by other collections of poetry. His Christian faith was expressed in several ways in his works, including hymns and spiritual poems, of which probably the best known is the summer hymn En vänlig grönskas rika dräkt.


af Wirsen's conservative views and an abundant publication of his literary criticism made him well-known but also provoked opposition, sometimes in harsh words, by his opponents, who represented new ideas with spelling reform and a freer style. According to his view, "the task of poetry is to discover the absolute, supersensual content, which is the foundation of the phenomena of the material world. The calling of the poet is a priesthood of light, he should in poetry reveal a higher world of purity and peace..."

As a critic, Wirsén found a hearing among many educated men, but not much connection with the young literature, and he has become notorious for his many negative reviews of August Strindberg, Verner von Heidenstam, Selma Lagerlöf, Henrik Ibsen and many others. His central position as permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy - the institution which started to award the Nobel prize of literature in 1901 - also gave him considerable influence on the choice of laureate in the first years; for instance, he was long able to exclude Selma Lagerlöf from the award, by year after year persuading a majority of the Academy members to vote for alternative candidates, often nominated by himself.[1]

Selected works


  • Dikter (Poems), first collection (1876)
  • Nya dikter (New poems), second collection (1880)
  • Sånger och bilder (Songs and images) (1884)
  • Vintergrönt (Winter green) (1890)
  • Toner och sägner (1893)
  • Under furor och cypresser (1896), med dikter som Spinoza, Septemberdag vid Bellmans byst
  • Visor, romanser och ballader (1899)

Historical literature biographies


  • En vänlig grönskas rika dräkt (1986) written in 1889
  • Det går ett tyst och tåligt lamm (1921)
  • Det är så tyst, han kämpat ut (Sånger och psalmer 1951) written in 1889.
  • Herren är tillstädes (Kyrklig sång 1928 nr 25 b.)
  • I livets bok, o Fader, skriv (1921)
  • Jag nu den säkra grunden vunnit (1921)
  • Nu dagen är till ända (1986)

Hymn books

  • Andliga Sånger (1898), samlingsverk.
  • Från Betlehem till Golgata (1882), andliga sånger
  • Vid juletid (1887), psalmer
  • I livets vår (1888)
  • Kristna högtids- och helgdagar (1889), sånger och psalmer


  • Studier rörande reformerna inom den franska vitterheten under sextonde och nittonde seklen (Studies concerning the reforms in the French literature of the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries) (1868)
  • Utgav och skrev en biografisk inledning till E. Björcks "Valda dikter" (1869)
  • Inledning till D. Klockhoffs "Efterlemnade skrifter" (1871).
  • Prolog vid sällskapsspektaklet till förmån för skandinavisk-etnografiska samlingen (1879)
  • Vid tvåhundraårsfesten till Calderons minne (1881)
  • Sång över Esaias Tegnér (1882)
  • Rafael (1883)
  • Sång vid Svenska akademiens hundraårsfest (1886)
  • Claes Livijn, ett självständigt bidrag till forskningen över Nya skolan.


  1. ^ "Våldsam debatt i Akademien när Lagerlöf valdes", artikel i Svenska Dagbladet, 25 september 2009.(in Swedish)

External links

Cultural offices
Preceded by
Carl Wilhelm Böttiger
Swedish Academy
Seat No.8

Succeeded by
Verner von Heidenstam
1842 in Sweden

Events from the year 1842 in Sweden

All flesh is grass

All flesh is grass is a much-quoted phrase from the Old Testament, Isaiah 40:6 (Hebrew: כָּל־הַבָּשָׂ֣ר חָצִ֔יר‎ kol habbasar chatsir). In the New Testament the phrase reoccurs in the First Epistle of Peter (see 1Peter 1:24; Greek: πᾶσα σὰρξ ὡς χόρτος, pasa sarx hōs chortos). It was a commonly used epitaph, frequently found for example on old ledger stones and monuments in churches in 17th century England. The phrase is interpreted to mean that human life is transitory. It has been used in various works, including:

"All Flesh is Grass", a poem by English poet Christina Rossetti

"War Photographer" by the Scottish poet Carol Ann Duffy, where it describes the sights seen in war photographs

"The Omnivore's Dilemma", a nonfiction book by Michael Pollan

it is repeated in a line of the poem "Difficulties of a Statesman" by T. S. Eliot

All Flesh is Grass, a novel by American science fiction writer Clifford D. Simak

a book on agriculture by American author Gene Logsdon

an album by Norwegian dark metal band Madder Mortem

it was inscribed on the pope's chest in the painting King Edward VI and the Pope

it was inscribed on the pope's chest in the painting Deathbed of Henry VIII

cited by Thomas Dekker in The Shoemakers' Holiday ( 1599 )

it was used as text for "Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras", the second movement of the German Requiem by Johannes Brahms

it was used in the first stanza of Kipling's poem entitled "Arithmetic on the Frontier"

it was used in the third stanza of the ninth poem in "Ten Songs" by W. H. Auden to reinforce the idea of "Tempus Fugit" used earlier in the stanza.

it was used in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood, "All flesh is weak. All flesh is grass, I corrected her in my head," (45). The name of the butcher's shop "All Flesh" is also a reference to this.

in the Michael Cimino film, Heaven's Gate (1980), John Hurt's character Billy Irvine mutters it to himself as, appalled, he drunkenly watches a battle unfold around him and is then killed.

the phrase appeared in an episode of Cracker, The Big Crunch(1994)

it gives the tone to the second part of the 1889 Swedish summer hymn En vänlig grönskas rika dräkt by Carl David af Wirsén

Bernhard von Beskow

Bernhard von Beskow (April 19, 1796 in Stockholm – October 17, 1868), Swedish dramatist and historian, was the son of a Stockholm merchant.

His vocation for literature was assisted by his tutor, the poet Johan Magnus Stjernstolpe (1777–1831), whose works he edited. He entered the civil service in 1814, was ennobled in 1826 and received the title of baron in 1843. He held high appointments at court, and was, from 1834 onwards, perpetual secretary of the Swedish Academy, using his great influence with tact and generosity. He was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1836.His works include many academical memoirs, volumes of poems, philosophy and a historical study, Om Gustav den tredje såsom Konung och Menniska (5 vols, 1860–1869, Gustavus III as king and man), printed in the transactions of the Swedish Academy (vols 32, 34, 37, 42, 44).According to the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition: "His poetry is over-decorated, and his plays are grandiose historical poems in dramatic form. Among them are Erik XIV (2 parts, 1826); and four pieces collected (1836–1838) as Dramatiska Studier, the most famous of which is the tragedy of Torkel Knutsson."

Carl Wilhelm Böttiger

Carl Wilhelm Böttiger (15 May 1807 - 22 December 1878) was a Swedish writer.

Einar af Wirsén

Carl Einar Thure af Wirsén (20 April 1875 – 5 January 1946) was a Swedish Army officer, diplomat and writer. Originally an officer, he was sent into the diplomatic service after World War I and served as a military attaché in Constantinople and Sofia where he witnessed the Armenian Genocide. From the Ottoman Empire and the Balkans, af Wirsén came to Poland and witnessed the country's resurrection. After serving in London, Reval and Riga, he was sent as envoy to Bucharest, Athens and Belgrade in 1921. After working in the Mosul Commission, af Wirsén was sent to Berlin, where he would stay for the next 12 years as envoy. Finally he was envoy in Rome for three years before retiring in 1940.

En vänlig grönskas rika dräkt

"En vänlig grönskas rika dräkt..." ("A Friendly Green Does Richly Dress..."), also called Sommarpsalm ("Summer Hymn"), is a popular 1889 Swedish summer hymn by the civil servant Carl David af Wirsén, and his only well-known work.

Fredrika Limnell

Catharina Fredrika Limnell née Forssberg (Härnösand, 14 July 1816 – Stockholm, 12 September 1897), was a Swedish philanthropist, mecenate, feminist and salonist.

Hans Forssell

Hans Ludvig Forssell (14 January 1843 – 2 August 1901) was a Swedish historian and political writer.

History of Rome (Mommsen)

The History of Rome (German: Römische Geschichte) is a multi-volume history of ancient Rome written by Theodor Mommsen (1817–1903). Originally published by Reimer & Hirzel, Leipzig, as three volumes during 1854–1856, the work dealt with the Roman Republic. A subsequent book was issued which concerned the provinces of the Roman Empire. Recently published was a further book on the Empire, reconstructed from lecture notes. The initial three volumes won widespread acclaim upon publication; indeed, "The Roman History made Mommsen famous in a day." Still read and qualifiedly cited, it is the prolific Mommsen's most well-known work. The work was specifically cited when Mommsen was awarded the Nobel Prize.

Janko Muzykant

Janko Muzykant (translated into English as Janko the Musician, and less commonly as Yanko the Musician or Johnny the Musician) is a short story (also described as novella) by Polish writer and winner of 1905 Nobel Prize in Literature, Henryk Sienkiewicz. It has been described as one of his most successful works in that genre.Janko Muzykant was first published in the Kurier Warszawski in 1879.The story is representative of the positivism in Poland period in Polish literature, focusing on social injustice and the wasted life chances for peasant children. Other themes include the folk beliefs and superstitions of uneducated peasantry. The story focuses on the unfair treatment of a child, Janko. Janko is a peasant child, gifted by musical talent, who becomes fascinated by the fiddle he hears from a nearby noble manor. He sneaks to the manor to touch them, is captured, sentenced to flagellation, and dies from injuries suffered.The story was well received in Poland, and was translated into a number of other languages, including English, Spanish and Russian. It was one of Sienkiewicz works cited by Carl David af Wirsén during his speech presenting Sienkiewicz with the 1905 Nobel Prize in Literature. Others have praised it for transcending national prose, and being universal. As early as 1957 the story had been translated by four different English translators, with seven different editions, the earliest of which was published in 1884. In Poland, it has been often included in the list of required school readings.In 1930 the story was made into a movie under the same name, directed by Ryszard Ordyński. In 1992 it was adapted as a one-hour television special.

List of members of the Swedish Academy

This is a list of members of the Swedish Academy by seat number. The dates shown indicate the terms of the members, who generally serve for life except for Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt who was excluded twice.

On 2 May 2018, the Swedish King amended the rules of the academy and made it possible for members to resign. The new rules also states that a member who has been inactive in the work of the academy for more than two years, can be asked to resign. Following the new rules, the first members to formally be granted permission to leave the Academy and vacating their chairs were Kerstin Ekman, Klas Östergren, Sara Stridsberg and Lotta Lotass.

Nobel Prize in Literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature (Swedish: Nobelpriset i litteratur) is a Swedish literature prize that is awarded annually, since 1901, to an author from any country who has, in the words of the will of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction" (original Swedish: "den som inom litteraturen har producerat det mest framstående verket i en idealisk riktning"). Though individual works are sometimes cited as being particularly noteworthy, the award is based on an author's body of work as a whole. The Swedish Academy decides who, if anyone, will receive the prize. The academy announces the name of the laureate in early October. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895. It was not awarded in 2018, but two names will be awarded in 2019.Although the Nobel Prize in Literature has become the world's most prestigious literature prize, the Swedish Academy has attracted significant criticism for its handling of the award. Many authors who have won the prize have fallen into obscurity, while others rejected by the jury remain widely studied and read. The prize has "become widely seen as a political one – a peace prize in literary disguise", whose judges are prejudiced against authors with different political tastes to them. Tim Parks has expressed skepticism that it is possible for "Swedish professors ... [to] compar[e] a poet from Indonesia, perhaps translated into English with a novelist from Cameroon, perhaps available only in French, and another who writes in Afrikaans but is published in German and Dutch...". As of 2016, 16 of the 113 recipients have been of Scandinavian origin. The Academy has often been alleged to be biased towards European, and in particular Swedish, authors. Some, such as Indian academic Sabaree Mitra, have noted that, though the Nobel Prize in Literature is significant and tends to overshadow other awards, it is "not the only benchmark of literary excellence."Nobel's "vague" wording for the criteria for the prize has led to recurrent controversy. In the original Swedish, the word idealisk translates as "ideal". The Nobel Committee's interpretation has varied over the years. In recent years, this means a kind of idealism championing human rights on a broad scale.

Rudyard Kipling

Joseph Rudyard Kipling ( RUD-yərd; 30 December 1865 – 18 January 1936) was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist. He was born in India, which inspired much of his work.

Kipling's works of fiction include The Jungle Book (1894), Kim (1901), and many short stories, including "The Man Who Would Be King" (1888). His poems include "Mandalay" (1890), "Gunga Din" (1890), "The Gods of the Copybook Headings" (1919), "The White Man's Burden" (1899), and "If—" (1910). He is regarded as a major innovator in the art of the short story; his children's books are classics of children's literature, and one critic described his work as exhibiting "a versatile and luminous narrative gift".Kipling was one of the most popular writers in the United Kingdom, in both prose and verse, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Henry James said: "Kipling strikes me personally as the most complete man of genius, as distinct from fine intelligence, that I have ever known." In 1907, at the age of 41, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, making him the first English-language writer to receive the prize and its youngest recipient to date. He was also sounded out for the British Poet Laureateship and on several occasions for a knighthood, both of which he declined.Kipling's subsequent reputation has changed according to the political and social climate of the age and the resulting contrasting views about him continued for much of the 20th century. George Orwell saw Kipling as "a jingo imperialist", who was "morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting".

Literary critic Douglas Kerr wrote: "[Kipling] is still an author who can inspire passionate disagreement and his place in literary and cultural history is far from settled. But as the age of the European empires recedes, he is recognised as an incomparable, if controversial, interpreter of how empire was experienced. That, and an increasing recognition of his extraordinary narrative gifts, make him a force to be reckoned with."

Swedish Academy

The Swedish Academy (Swedish: Svenska Akademien), founded in 1786 by King Gustav III, is one of the Royal Academies of Sweden. It has 18 members, who are elected for life. The academy makes the annual decision on who will be the laureate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, awarded in memory of the donor Alfred Nobel.

Uppsala högre elementarläroverk för flickor

Uppsala högre elementarläroverk för flickor (Uppsala High Elementary College for Girls) or Högre Allmänna läroverket för flickor (Higher Public College for Girls) was a pioneering Swedish school and later college for females. Commonly referred to as Magdeburg, the school was located in Uppsala, Sweden and was active from 1865 until 1968.

Valborg Aulin

Laura Valborg Aulin (9 January 1860, Gävle – 11 January 1928, Örebro) was a Swedish pianist and composer. Two works by Aulin, String Quartet E Minor, Op. 17 and String Quartet F Minor are the most important Swedish music compositions in that genre from the 1880's.

Verner von Heidenstam

Carl Gustaf Verner von Heidenstam (6 July 1859 – 20 May 1940) was a Swedish poet, novelist and laureate of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1916. He was a member of the Swedish Academy from 1912. His poems and prose work are filled with a great joy of life, sometimes imbued with a love of Swedish history and scenery, particularly its physical aspects.

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