Sunday, 14 February 2016

First part of 'Sidste sang' by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

Final song

I send these songs at friends’ request
to Northern women, men addressed
in countries three residing.
(That also Finland’s folk at times
partake in songs of northern climes
I note with thanks abiding).

I send them – and first now I see
most have not what my memory
has kept and felt most keenly;
some are too short, some merely prate,
some storage made evaporate,
some need to age serenely.

More life was lived than songs were sung;
thoughts, fury, joy I round me flung
in places I frequented;
to be precisely on the spot
was almost more to me than what
my pen in fact recorded.

What’s strong and true’s a place to dwell,
eternity perhaps as well,
if blackening can’t sadden,
and he who’s not by such unmanned
and midst life’s lurchings dares to stand,
folk best with songs can gladden.

I once heard of a Spanish feast:
into the ring they first released
a horse of country stature;
and then a tiger from its cage; –
it prowled awhile in silent rage,
then leapt straight at its capture.

And folk enthused, they laughed and clapped
at leaping tiger, horse that scrapped,
though they could see no gore there;
for back and forth the tiger strove,
was struck by many hefty blows
until it lay quite floored there.

Then all the men did goad and yell
and women too; they almost fell
into the ring from ardour.
They screamed, provoked the tiger so,
– for all of them would see blood flow –
to make it fight yet harder.

– And folk enthused, they laughed and clapped
at leaping tiger, horse that scrapped,
– though all the blood was hidden;
the horse had clearly all the luck,
the tiger failed for all its pluck
though leapt as it was bidden.

I don’t know who won finally;
because that country horse is me,
the fight too has no ending; –
the town you know where this takes place,
that laughter, clapping would embrace -
its name needs no appending! –

Completely without hate I fight;
that which I love makes me feel light,
but angry too and heated.
My blood, my soul, are both in sight
in every single line I write,
thus die-straight when completed.

But as I now stand here today,
no grudge or rancour on me prey
against a single mortal, –
so show a kind heart to a man
to whom the cause was his whole plan,
the North his much-loved portal! –

1 comment:

John Irons said...

This, then, is why Oslo is known as Tigerstaden, and why there is a large sculpture of a tiger outside Oslo Sentralbanestasjon.

The last stanzas of this poem deal with homage paid by the writer to Grundtvig, Runeberg and Wergeland as early 'singers' of the North.