Harry E. Martinson, 73, Swedish author and poet who was corecipient of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1974, died yesterday in Stockholm after a long illness.

Both he and the late Eyvind Johnson, who shared the prize with him, were virtually unknown outside of their homeland at the time of their selection for the prestigious award.

Announcement of their winning quickly prompted protests and criticism since the two had only limited international reputations.

At the time, Mr. Martinson deploreds the criticism and said he was sad because of all the misunderstandings. Part of the reason that the fame of the two authors was limited to Sweden, he suggested, was the quality of the translation of their books.

"Strangely enough," he said, "it is always the small nations that have the best translators, people who know how to translate from a big language like English to a small one like Swedish" and vice-versa.

There was further criticism because both men were members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, which selects the winners.

Mr. Martinson was chosen for "writings that catch the dewdrops and reflect the cosmos."

Born in Jamshog, Sweden, he was orphaned as a child and ran away to sea at the age of 14. His exploits as a stoker, ship's cook and beggar in the world's harbors formed the background for his early writings.

In 1974, his four books available in English were "Cape Farewell," Flowering Nettles," "The Road" and "Aniara." The best known was the long narrative poem "Aniara," a tale of a giant spaceship cruishing into the void, examining in allegory man's journey through time.

An opera written in 1959 by Swedish composer Karl-Birger Blondahl, and based on "Aniara," was performed in Montreal at Expo 67.

Mr. Martinson and Mr. Johnson were Sweden's fifth and sixth Nobel literature winners since the prize was first awarded in 1901.

Mr. Johnson died in Stockholm in 1976.