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- Early Plays - 2/50 -

Six years intervened between _The Grouse in Justedal_ and _Olaf Liljekrans_, and the revision in this case amounted almost to the writing of a new play. Fredrik Paasche in his study (_Olaf Liljekrans_, Christiania, 1909) discusses the relation of _Olaf Liljekrans_ to the earlier form of the play. Three years intervened between the first and final versions of _The Warrior's Barrow_. Professor A. M. Sturtevant maintains (_Journal of English and Germanic Philology_, XII, 407 ff.) that although "the influence of Ochlenschlaeger upon both versions of _The Warrior's Barrow_ is unmistakable," yet "the two versions differ so widely from each other ... that it may be assumed that ... Ibsen had begun to free himself from the thraldom of Ochlenschlaeger's romantic conception of the viking character." He points out the influence of Welhaven and Heiberg on the second version, elaborates upon the superior character-delineation, and shows in considerable detail the "inner necessity ... which brings about the change of heart in Gandalf and his warriors."

The revision of _Catiline_ came twenty-five years after the original version, and consisted largely of linguistic changes. Ibsen seems never to have completely disowned this play; it has been included in all the complete editions, whereas _The Warrior's Barrow_ and _Olaf Liljekrans_ appear only in the first complete edition, and were even then relegated to a supplementary volume. In suggesting the revision of _Catiline_, Ibsen proposed "to make no change in the thought and ideas, but only in the language in which these are expressed; for the verses are, as Brandes has somewhere remarked, bad,--one reason being that the book was printed from my first rough uncorrected draft." He had at that time not developed his careful craftsmanship, and sought in the revision merely to put the drama into the form which he had originally had in mind, but which at that time he had been unable to achieve. The changes that were actually made are summarized by D. A. Seip (Ibsen, _Samlede Digter Verker_, 1918, VII, 114) who quotes Halvdan Koht and Julius Elias (Ibsen, _Efterladte Skrifter_, III): "The two editions 'agree in the sequence of tenses, with a few exceptions also in the sequence of speeches, and on the whole even in the sequence of lines. The changes involve principally the poetic expression itself; after the second act they become more and more extensive, and the last two acts have been augmented with 100 lines.' ... Not infrequently there appear words and expressions which are suggestive of Ibsen's later works."

These plays now appear for the first time in English translation. A. Johnstone published in _Translations from the Norse, by a B. S. S._ (Gloucester, about 1876), an English rendering of the first act of _Catiline_ and a synopsis of the last two acts. William Archer explains at length his omission of _Catiline_ from his edition of Ibsen. "A great part of the interest lies in the very crudities of its style, which it would be a thankless task to reproduce in translation. Moreover, the poet impaired even its biographical value by largely rewriting it before publication. He did not make it, or attempt to make it, a better play, but he in some measure corrected its juvenility of expression. Which version, then, should a translator choose? To go back to the original would seem a deliberate disregard of the poet's wishes; while, on the other hand, the retouched version is clearly of far inferior interest. It seems advisable, therefore, to leave the play alone, as far as this edition is concerned." _Olaf Liljekrans_ and _The Warrior's Barrow_ were acted in English in London in 1911 and 1912 respectively, but the English renderings used in these presentations have never appeared in print.

The text of _Catiline_ in the present translation is that of the revised version as given in the edition of 1906-07; the text of the other two plays is that of the edition of 1898-1902. The meters of the original have been carefully reproduced. The great difficulty of rendering the ballad and lyrical meters of Ibsen into adequate English verse has made some stylistic changes necessary, such as the substitution of masculine for feminine rhymes, and the occasional alteration of the sense in slight measure.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge my gratitude to Professor O. W. Firkins, now of _The Weekly Review_, who suggested the translating of these plays and who offered from time to time invaluable criticisms; to Professor Howard M. Jones, of the University of Texas, Professor S. B. Hustvedt, of the University of Minnesota, and Professor W. W. Lawrence, of Columbia University, who read all or parts of these translations and made many helpful suggestions; and to Professor G. P. Krapp, of Columbia University, and my wife, who were of assistance in various ways.


_New York, January 3, 1921._

* * * * *


A Drama in Three Acts


* * * * *


The drama _Catiline_, with which I entered upon my literary career, was written during the winter of 1848-49, that is in my twenty-first year.

I was at the time in Grimstad, under the necessity of earning with my hands the wherewithal of life and the means for instruction preparatory to my taking the entrance examinations to the university. The age was one of great stress. The February revolution, the uprisings in Hungary and elsewhere, the Slesvig war,--all this had a great effect upon and hastened my development, however immature it may have remained for some time after. I wrote ringing poems of encouragement to the Magyars, urging them for the sake of liberty and humanity to hold out in the righteous struggle against the "tyrants"; I wrote a long series of sonnets to King Oscar, containing particularly, as far as I can remember, an appeal to set aside all petty considerations and to march forthwith at the head of his army to the aid of our brothers on the outermost borders of Slesvig. Inasmuch as I now, in contrast to those times, doubt that my winged appeals would in any material degree have helped the cause of the Magyars or the Scandinavians, I consider it fortunate that they remained within the more private sphere of the manuscript. I could not, however, on more formal occasions keep from expressing myself in the impassioned spirit of my poetic effusions, which meanwhile brought me nothing--from friends or non-friends--but a questionable reward; the former greeted me as peculiarly fitted for the unintentionally droll, and the latter thought it in the highest degree strange that a young person in my subordinate position could undertake to inquire into affairs concerning which not even they themselves dared to entertain an opinion. I owe it to truth to add that my conduct at various times did not justify any great hope that society might count on an increase in me of civic virtue, inasmuch as I also, with epigrams and caricatures, fell out with many who had deserved better of me and whose friendship I in reality prized. Altogether,--while a great struggle raged on the outside, I found myself on a war-footing with the little society where I lived cramped by conditions and circumstances of life.

Such was the situation when amid the preparations for my examinations I read through Sallust's _Catiline_ together with Cicero's Catilinarian orations. I swallowed these documents, and a few months later my drama was complete. As will be seen from my book, I did not share at that time the conception of the two ancient Roman writers respecting the character and conduct of Catiline, and I am even now prone to believe that there must after all have been something great and consequential in a man whom Cicero, the assiduous counsel of the majority, did not find it expedient to engage until affairs had taken such a turn that there was no longer any danger involved in the attack. It should also be remembered that there are few individuals in history whose renown has been more completely in the hands of enemies than that of Catiline.

My drama was written during the hours of the night. The leisure hours for my study I practically had to steal from my employer, a good and respectable man, occupied however heart and soul with his business, and from those stolen study hours I again stole moments for writing verse. There was consequently scarcely anything else to resort to but the night. I believe this is the unconscious reason that almost the entire action of the piece transpires at night.

Naturally a fact so incomprehensible to my associates as that I busied myself with the writing of plays had to be kept secret; but a twenty-year old poet can hardly continue thus without anybody being privy to it, and I confided therefore to two friends of my own age what I was secretly engaged upon.

The three of us pinned great expectations on _Catiline_ when it had been completed. First and foremost it was now to be copied in order to be submitted under an assumed name to the theater in Christiania, and furthermore it was of course to be published. One of my faithful and trusting friends undertook to prepare a handsome and legible copy of my uncorrected draft, a task which he performed with such a degree of conscientiousness that he did not omit even a single one of the innumerable dashes which I in the heat of composition had liberally interspersed throughout wherever the exact phrase did not for the moment occur to me. The second of my friends, whose name I here mention since he is no longer among the living, Ole C. Schulerud, at that time a student, later a lawyer, went to Christiania with the transcript. I still remember one of his letters in which he informed me that _Catiline_ had now been submitted to the theater; that it would soon be given a performance,--about that there could naturally be no doubt inasmuch as the management

Early Plays - 2/50

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