By Johan Sebastian Cammermeyer Welhaven (1807–1873)
Translation by William Morton Payne
OH, like a youth our race with courage bold
Shall yet wax strong behind its mountain rim;
While many an evil giant, fierce and grim,
Shall fall, and lie in death’s embraces cold.
And valorous deeds, like those men did of old,
Shall here once more be praised in song and hymn;
The life renewed of saga-ages dim,
In glowing words shall once again be told.
The word shall turn to act of high emprise;
The thought now hushed shall spring to burning speech
In hall of counsel and the sacred fane.
The noisy shout shall cease, the precept wise
Shall take its place, and, far as sight may reach,
The gleam shall grow into the light again.
Johan Sebastia Welhaven made his name by attacking the crude patriotic poetry popular at the time and espoused the theory that poetry should be beautiful as well as meaningful. His feud with Henrik Wergeland, a popular nationalist poet, makes more sense when put in the contest that he was romantically involved with Wergeland’s younger sister. This was a good old fashioned machismo showdown of who’s got the bigger swagger and to my mind Welhaven certainly won. There’s nothing sweeter than besting your rival than by seducing his sister.
His celebration of the romantic tradition inspired other artists of his day, including Edward Grieg and Ibsen. Welhaven opposed the theories of the extreme nationalists and desired that Norwegian culture align itself with the rest of Europe. Welhaven gave voice to his aesthetic creed in the 1834 sonnet cycle Norges Dæmring (“The Dawn of Norway”), one of which is highlighted above. The sonnets spoke of his love Norway in tightly constructed sonnets. Welhaven extended his influence into Norwegian culture as an academic by teaching for 26 years at the Royal Frederik’s University in Christiania, delivering lectures on literary subjects.
by Olav H. Hauge
You’ve left the big storms
behind you now.
You didn’t ask then
why you were born,
where you came from, where you were going to,
you were just there in the storm,
in the fire.
But it’s possible to live
in the everyday as well,
in the grey quiet day,
set potatoes, rake leaves,
There’s so much to think about here in the world,
one life is not enough for it all.
After work you can fry bacon
and read Chinese poems.
Old Laertes cut briars,
dug round his fig trees,
and let the heroes fight on at Troy.