And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

lørdag 26. april 2014

April in 19th-century Norway

One of Norway's most famous and important writers was Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910). He is most known for his plays, his short novels and for penning the lyrics to the Norwegian national anthem, but he also composed a number of shorter poems. Bjørnson was a controversial figure in his own time because of his attacks on the establishment, siding with the weaker elements of society and relentless in his verbal attacks on those with whom he disagreed. His literary output was substantial and wide-ranging, and he was awarded with the Nobel Price for literature in 1903 as the third recipient in its history.

In this blogpost I present to you one of his shorter poems, April, which was first published in Dikte og Sange 1870, poems and songs, and an abbreviated version was printed in his collection Guldkorn, gold nuggets, in 1888. An image of the poem as it appears on the page of this latter collection can be seen below. I have translated the poem into English below, but with the purpose chiefly to retain the exuberant rhythm of the lines rather than keeping the rhyme-scheme or to present an elegant translation.

The abbreviated version, from Guldkorn, 1888
Courtesy of this website


Jeg vælger mig april!
i den det gamle falder,
i den det ny får fæste,
det volder lidt rabalder, -
dog fred er ej det bedste,
men at man noget vil.

 Jeg vælger mig april,
fordi den stormer, fejer,
fordi den smiler, smelter,
fordi den ævner ejer,
fordi den kræfter vælter, -
i den blir somren til!

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, 1903
Courtesy of wikimedia


I select April!
in that the old things fall,
in that new things take hold,
it causes some commotion, -
though peace is not the best thing
but that something is desired.

I select April,
because it rages, sweeps,
because it smiles and melts,
and ability possesses,
because forces are upturned, -
in that is summer made!

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