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- Poems and Songs - 40/44 -


Note 31. TO JOHAN DAHL, BOOKDEALER. Johan Fjeldsted Dahl was born in Copenhagen, January 1, 1807, and died in Christiania, March 16, 1877. He came to Christiania in 1829, and established in 1832 a business of his own, both publishing and selling. In the mercantile, social, literary, and artistic life of the city he came to have an important place and influence. Dahl had published Norway's Dawn, by Welhaven, and in the time of the Wergeland-Welhaven conflict (see Note 36, and as to Wergeland, Note 78) a violent personal quarrel developed between Wergeland and Dahl about an entirely unimportant matter. Dahl had provided his porter with a green livery having red borders. Wergeland, who regarded Dahl as the leading representative of the "Copenhagenism" (Danish, anti-Norwegian tendencies) he was contending against, had an epigram printed, The Servant in Livery, and insulted the porter on the street. This led to a slashing newspaper feud between Wergeland and Dahl. After everybody's feelings had grown calmer, Wergeland wrote about the burlesque occurrence in a farce entitled The Parrot, and Dahl had humor enough, himself to publish this satirical skit. The light from his shop. Wergeland derisively styled Dahl's store "the first slander-shop of the city;" it was, in face, the meeting- place of the "party of intelligence," those interested in European culture and esthetic criticism, i.e., it was the resort of those opposed to Wergeland.

Note 32. TO SCULPTOR BORCH. Christopher Borch (1817-1896) was a lifelong friend, of whom in 1857 Björnson wrote in letter: "The most childlike, natural man I know, with his even, light walk, and his fine, small hands," and "there is poetry in that man. Oh, how you have misunderstood him!" It was this friend who, about the same time as these letters were written, helped Björnson open his spirit to the influence of Grundtvig (see Note 57). Borch for many years gave free instruction to convicts in the Akershus prison in drawing and other subjects, and so helped them to a future when they came out.

Note 33. CHOICE. A Danish publisher issued a calendar with poems on the months by different Scandinavian poets. When Björnson was invited to contribute, all the other months were already written up or assigned, and only April was left.

Note 34. NORWEGIAN SEAMEN'S SONG. Saint Olaf's Cross. Of the insignia of the Royal Norwegian Order of St. Olaf, founded in 1847 by King Oskar I; the characteristic feature is a white cross. Hafursfjord's great day (see Note 5), near Stavanger.

Note 35. HALFDAN KJERULF was born September 15, 1815, and died August 11, 1868. He early showed talent for music, and though he had to study law from 1834 on, he yet studied and wrote music with a crushing sense of lack of knowledge and opportunity. He was dangerously ill in 1839, and always weak physically. His father died in 1840, and Kjerulf then began to earn his living by music. A stipend received in 1850 enabled him to go to Leipzig for a year. In 1851 he settled in Christiania as a teacher of music, where for the rest of his life his influence as a composer was most important. His compositions are all of the lesser forms; his best work was done from 1860 to 1865. He was in general a pioneer of modern Norwegian music, and one of the first to draw from the inexhaustible fountain of folk-music. He wrote exquisite music for many songs of Welhaven, Wergeland, Moe, Björnson, and others.

Note 36. NORWEGIAN STUDENTS' GREETING TO PROFESSOR WELHAVEN. Johan Sebastian Cammermeyer Welhaven was born December 22, 1807, lived from 1828 in Christiania, was lector from 1840 to 1846, and from 1846 to 1868 professor of philosophy in the University; he died October 21, 1873. His poetical works were: Norway's Dawn, 1834; Poems, 1839; New Poems, 1845; Half a Hundred Poems, 1848; Pictures of Travel and Poems, 1851; A Collection of Poems, 1860. A polemical writer, gifted with wit and fine taste, and a social-political author, Welhaven represented in his earlier period the "party of intelligence"" over against the chauvinism of the radical Peasant party of Wergeland (see Note 78). He was an adherent of Danish culture and of the esthetic view of art and life, who hated all national exclusiveness and showed a love of his country no less true and intense than Wergeland's by chastising the Norwegians of his time for their big, empty words and their crass materialism. For this he was rewarded with abuse, and called "traitor to his country" and "matricide." In reality Welhaven was a dreamer, a worshiper of nature, a man of tender feeling. His subjective lyric poetry is not surpassed in richness of content and beauty of form by that of any other Norwegian. Outside of his ordinary University duties Welhaven was also active; he was a favorite speaker at student festivities and musical festivals, notably at the Student Meetings in Upsala, 1856, and in Copenhagen, 1862. But early in 1864 his health failed and he was unable thereafter to lecture regularly. In August, 1868, he requested to be retired; on September 24, the University Authorities granted his request and a pension at the highest rate; but the Storting, on November 12, reduced this to two-thirds of the amount proposed. The same day the students brought to Professor Welhaven their farewell greeting, marching with flags to his residence, where this poem of homage was sung.

Note 37. FORWARD. The composer Grieg and his wife spent Christmas Eve, 1868, with Björnson's family in Christiania. Grieg, who then gave to Björnson a copy of the first part of his Lyriske Smaastykker, has written the following account of the origin of this poem: "Among these was one with the title 'Fatherland's Song.' I played this for Björnson, who liked it so well that he said he wanted to write words for it. That made me glad, although afterwards I said to myself: It probably will remain a want, he has other things to think of. But the very next day I met him in full creative joy: 'It's going excellently. It shall be a song for all the youth of Norway. But there is something at the beginning that I haven't yet got hold of -- a certain wording. I feel that the melody demands it, and I shall not give it up. It must come.' Then we parted. The next forenoon, as I was giving a piano lesson to a young lady, I heard a ring at the entry-door, as if the whole bell apparatus would rattle down; then a noise as of wild hordes breaking in and a roar; 'Forward! Forward! Now I have it! Forward!' My pupil trembled like an aspen leaf. My wife in the next room was frightened out of her wits. But when the door flew open and Björnson stood there, glad and shining like a sun, there was a general jubilee, and we were the first to hear the beautiful new poem."

Note 38. THE MEETING. The Student Meetings, i.e., conventions of university students in the three countries, were originally an important part of "Scandinavism" (see Note 21). The first was held in 1843; that of 1862 was the last to have a distinctly political character. After 1864 the chief aim of these gatherings was to improve the position and strengthen the influence of the student in the community. In 1869 Christiania invited the Danish students to meet there with their Swedish and Norwegian comrades, in the interest of culture, better acquaintance with one another, people, and land, and cooperation in general for the future of the kingdoms. Gjallar-horn, Heimdall's horn, to be blown especially at the beginning of Ragnarok, symbolical here of the painful passing of the old order, which ushers in a new world.

Note 39. NORSE NATURE. See note to the preceding poem. King Halfdan the Black (died 860) was the father of Harald Fairhair. It was said of him that he once dreamed he had the most beautiful hair one could see, luxuriant locks of various lengths and colors, but one of them larger, brighter, and fairer than all the others. This was interpreted to mean that King Halfdan would have many descendants, and they would rule Norway with great honor; but one of them would surpass the others, and later this was said to be Olaf the Saint. Nore, the largest mountain of Ringerike.

Note 40. I PASSED BY THE HOUSE. Written in 1869. The translator has not been able to verify the statement that the poem refers to a cousin, to whom Björnson was devoted from his student days.

Note 41. THOSE WITH ME. This poem of tender homage to his wife (see Note 12) and home was written during the summer of 1869, while Björnson was on a lecture tour, which took him to northernmost Norway. His fourth child, and first daughter, Bergliot, was born June 16, 1869, in Christiania. When their golden wedding was celebrated in 1908, Björnson said to his wife: "You knew me and knew how ungovernable I was, but you loved me, and there was a holy joy in that. To you always came back from much wildness and many wanderings. And with all my heart I give you the honor. To you I wrote the poem: 'As on I drive, in my heart joy dwells'. It was not poetical and not sentimental, but just plain and direct. I wrote it to glorify my home and you. And I believe that no more beautiful and deep poem in praise of home has been written. For there is life's wisdom in it. It is yours, Karoline, and your honor."

Note 42. TO MY FATHER. Written in 1869. Peder Björnson was settled as a pastor at Kvikne in Österdal at the time of the poet's birth. Originally he was an independent farmer, like his father and grandfather, on the large farm Skei on the Randsfjord, where he was born in 1797. He completed his theological training in 1829, came to Kvikne in 1831, to Nes in Romsdal in 1837, and to Sogne in 1852. On retiring in 1869 he moved to Christiania, where he died, August 25, 1871. His large frame and great physical strength were hereditary in his father's family. Our race. Allusion to the tradition of the descent of the Björnsons from ancient kings through the poet's great-grandmother, Marie Öistad. The Norwegian peasant, see Note 78.

Note 43. TO ERIKA LIE (-NISSEN) (1847-1903). One of the great pianists in Norway, she was born in Kongsvinger on the river Glommen, where her parents resided also when this poem was written in 1869. She gained European fame by her concerts from 1866 on, married the physician Oskar Nissen in 1874, and after 1876 resided in Norway. She was distinguished for the poetic quality of her playing, for warmth and fullness of tone, and for faultless technique.

Note 44. AT MICHAEL SARS'S GRAVE. He was born in Bergen, August 30, 1805, and died in Christiania, October 22, 1869. In 1823 he became a student of the University in Christiania, where for a time he devoted himself to natural science, continuing his boyhood's lively interest. But the necessity for self-support turned him to theology. In 1830 he was appointed pastor at Kinn in the Söndfjord,


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