Friday 10 December 2021

N.F.S. Grundtvig: 'De levendes land'


The land of the living


              I know of a land

Where hair does not grey, and where time’s rule is banned,

Where sun does not burn, and where wave does not ring,

Where autumn embraces the blossoming spring,

Where morning and evening unceasingly dance

              In noon’s brightest glance.


              Oh, wonderful land,

Where glass does not run full of tear-drops as sand,

Where nothing is wanting that’s worth holding dear,

Where that does not lack which so pained us back here!

With breast filled with longing we seek ever more

              Your sweet-smiling shore.


              Oh, long-promised land!

We greet you in morning hour’s mirror-clear strand,

When perfect your shadow the child may espy

And where woods are green dreams that there you must lie,

Where too it can share with the rushes and flowers

              Its smile and its hours.


              Oh, transient dream

Of island eternal in time’s rushing stream!

Of joy’s sacred temple in life’s vale of tears,

Of life half-divine in this hall’s mortal years!

The land of the living with you melts away

              From those made of clay.


              Oh, hope-dashing dream!

You glittering bubble on time’s rushing stream!

In vain would the poet, with voice and with pen,

From bright-gleaming shadows create you again;

Where shadow comes closest, the small will all weep

              Who on it gaze deep.


              Oh, spell-binding dream

Of pearl that’s eternal in time’s rushing stream!

You fool those poor persons who all seek in vain

In image and art what the heart would retain,

And make them call lasting what just disappears

              Like days, months and years.


              Oh, spirit of love!

Your hand let me kiss, reaching down from above

From heaven’s fair skies to this earth’s murky hold

And touching our eyes with its fingers of gold,

So blue-tinged there climbs behind surf-roaring strand

              The wonderful land!


              Oh, heavenly name,

Whose sacred embrace does our nature enflame,

So spirit can mingle with dust without grief

And bring back to life every dead withered leaf!

Oh, deep in my clay let me fall on my knee

              So God may see me!


              Oh, faith beyond bliss,

Whose high-vaulted bridge spans the gaping abyss

When drifting ice threatens in surf-roaring strand

From poor mortal dwelling to far promised land!

Come farther down to me, you high-honoured guest!

              That pleases you best.


              Oh, hope fleet of wing!

Oh, brother reborn through divine christening!

For all journeys made to the land o’er the sea,

Good tidings and comfort you’ve lavished on me,

May I ever thank you, so joy is in store

              When hope is no more!


              Oh, love perfect love!

Quiet source of fierce torrents that mightily move!

He calls you his father who ransoms our plight

Your spirit all soul’s vital force does ignite;

Your kingdom is there where man death does defy;

              May us it be nigh!


              Our father sublime!

You willingly reign in earth’s temple of grime,

Who builds up the spirit in Jesu’s sweet name,

In human embrace with an altar aflame,

With heaven-bright dwelling of faith dearly won,

              For you and your son.


              Oh, Christian faith sweet!

You grant every heart what the world cannot greet;

What barely we glimpse while our eye is still blue,

Is living within us, we know this is true;

Both heaven and earth are my land, life confides

              Where love e’er resides.

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