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

tirsdag 29. juli 2014

Hymn for St Olav

Today, July 29, is the feast of St Olav of Norway, possibly the most important of Norwegian saints. Olav Haraldsson was born in 995 and died at the battle of Stiklestad close to modern-day Trondheim in 1030. In the year after his death, he was declared a saint by Bishop Grimkell whom Olav had brought from England to Norway, and he quickly became a rallying point for Norwegians who were disappointed with the Danish overlordship. Many of those who sought the saint's protection were his former enemies, many of whom had been Christian for many years and no thanks to Olav. It is therefore a myth that Olav brought Christianity to Norway, but as a saint he became a figurehead that united Norwegian Christians.

Olav has engendered a significant cultural legacy, as can be seen in the wealth of texts and sculptures depicting him. In later blogpost I hope to return to this fascinating repertoire of medieval culture, but this time around it will have to suffice with a modern hymn for St Olav, written in in 1896 by the Norwegian poet and playwright Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. I will first give the Norwegian text, which can be found here along with the musical setting by Wolfgang Plagge from 2000. I will then provide a literal translation of the text.

Du folk i Hellig Olavs hjem
Som han blant frie førte frem
Som han gav liv og kristen tro
Ved dåpen i sitt martyrblod.
Nu reis dei, syng på Olavs dag
Til Olavs Gud om Norges sak.

Hvelv over frie norske hjem
Det lyse håp som samler dem!
Gi at hver mor med barn på kne
Må trygg og glad vår fremtid se
Da blir det gamle hjem så kjært
Og kommer oss så nært, så nært!

Statue of St Olav in wood, 67 cm tall
Probably produced on demand in Lübeck c.1450, but found in Iceland
Courtesy of this website

O people in Saint Olav's home
Whom he among the free led forth,
Whom he gave life and Christian faith
By baptism in his martyr's blood.
Now stand up, sing on Olav's day
To Olav's god for Norway's sake.

Ensconce each free Norwegian home
In that light hope which gathers them!
Give that each mother with child on knee
May safe and glad our future see
Then will the old home be so dear
And come to us so near, so near.

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