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Littell's Living Age/Volume 150/Issue 1933/Norwegian Sonnets

To Norroway, to Norroway,
     To Norroway owre the faem!


It was the point of dawn; and in the bow
     I stood alone, facing the grey north-east.
     Far on the left, like a huge brown sea-beast
That had been chased and was o'ertaken now,
Stolen on by night, lay Norway. From the prow
     A hissing of salt spray that still increased
     Rose plainly audible — for the gale had ceased
And the keel cut the sea-plain like a plough.
And so with only a ripple on the sea,
     And ne'er a storm-cloud o'er us muttering black,
We voyaged with an easy course and free
     And — disappointing, now on looking back;
For the old sagas make the surges flee
     Like riderless horses up the Skager Rack!


And speak ye may of grandeur and of gloom
     And all the dread magnificence that lies
     Where through the dale the foam-flecked torrent flies,
Or gorgeous sunsets o'er the mountains bloom.
But who shall in the sonnet's scanty room
     Set the majestic magnitude, the size,
     The mighty mountains and the widening skies
Up on Norwegian table-lands assume?
This you must see to feel within your heart,
     And cannot know from others: nature still
In this defies all imitative art,
     Baffles all schools and soars beyond their skill:
It is a joy she only shall impart,
     But, once received, it ne'er can cease to thrill.


Far in Norwegian solitudes we strayed:
     Behind us lay a long bright summer day,
     But evening now was stooping o'er our way,
When, at a sudden turn, alarmed we stayed.
It was a terror by the twilight made
     Of river, cliff, and cloud, and the weird play
     Of sunset's one live liberated ray
Piercing the horror of the pine-wood shade.
Stood, like a charred cross, or a huge sword-hilt,
     Against the sky, above the cliff's black line,
That seemed a bastion by Harfager built,
     A solitary thunder-blasted pine;
On the dark flood below, the sunset spilt
     What now was blood and now was wassail-wine.


Steep was the climb from Vallë: far below
     The sæter[1] we had left lay lost in mist,
     And still the height rose higher than we wist
Beyond the ravings of the Otteraa[2].
And now a thin bleak air began to blow,
     And now the bispevei[3] to turn and twist,
     Here round a tjern[4] no summer ever kissed,
And there behind a hide of hoarded snow.
The stars dissolved anon; and airy trills
     Of wavering music showed the day begun:
We toiled to meet the morn — o'er rocks, o'er rills;
     And, breathless but at last, our wish we won —
The top! and, lo, a countless herd of hills
     Tossing their shining muzzles in the sun!

"PAA HEJA:" Life on the Heights.

Is there a pleasure can with this compare? —
     To leap at sunrise from your mountain bed,
     Roused by a skylark revelling overhead,
And drink great draughts of golden morning air;
A plunge, and breakfast — simple rural fare;
     Then forth with vigorous brain, elastic tread,
     Hope singing at your heart o'er sorrow dead,
And strength for fifty miles, and still to spare!
That joy was ours! O memory! oft restore us
     Those autumn runs, here in the smoky town,
When through the woods our mad nomadic chorus
     Rang freedom up and civilization down!
Io! my hearts! the world was all before us,
     And we nor owned nor envied king nor crown!


Morning is flashing from a glorious sun
     On the broad shoulders of the giant fells
     That outreach arms across the narrow dells
And form a silent brotherhood of one
Listening their skylark laureate! New begun
     He up the heavens in ever-rising swells
     Carries their thanksgiving in song that wells
From his small breast as if 'twould ne'er be done.
What life his music gives them! They are free
     In the wild freedom of his daring wing;
And in the cataract of his song, the sea
     Of poetry that fills all heaven, they sing;
He is their poet-prophet in his glee,
     And in his work and worth their priest and king!


  1. Mountain farm
  2. Pronounced Ottero
  3. Bridle-path
  4. Mountain lake, tarn

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.

The author died in 1922, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.