Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

(8 December 1832 – 26 April 1910 / Kvikne)

P. A. Munch - Poem by Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

Many forms belong to greatness.
He who now has left us bore it
As a doubt that made him sleepless,
But at last gave revelation,-
As a sight-enhancing power,
That gave visions joined with anguish
Over all beyond our seeing,-
As a flight on labor's pinions
From the thought unto the certain,
Thence aloft to intuition,-
Restless haste and changeful ardor,
God-inspired and unceasing,
Through the wide world ever storming,
Took its load of thoughts and doubtings,
Bore them, threw them off,-and took them,
Never tired, never listless.

Still! for he had one haven of rest:
Family-life peace-bestowing!
Powers of light gave repose to his breast,
Calm 'mid the strife of his knowing.

Softly with music his wife led him in
Unto the sweet-smelling birches!
Unto the flowers and still deeper in
Under the fir-forest's churches!

Daughters drew near him in love secure
Cooling his forehead's hot fever;
Gently their message of innocence pure
Made him a childlike believer.

Or he joined glad in their light-hearted game,
Colors and music surrounding,-
Gone were the clouds, in the heavens came
Sparkling of star-light abounding.

But as in an autumn evening
Silent, dreamy, dark, sheet-lightning
Wakens thought and feeling stormward,-
Or as in a boat a sudden
Stroke when gliding as in slumber
On between the cliffs that tower
In a quiet, balmy spring night,-
But a single stroke and soft, then
Echo takes it up and tosses
To and fro 'mid walls of mountains,
Thrush and grouse send forth their wood-calls
Deer rise up and listen keenly,
Stones are rolling, all are up now,
Dogs are barking, bells are clanging,
Ushering in the strife of daytime,-
Thus could oft a recollection
Down-light falling in that playtime,
Waken all his thought and doubting!

Then it roved the wide world over,
Then it hottest burned within him,-
But it lavished light for others!

Rise of races, spread of language,
Birth of names, all laws' close kinship,
Small and great in equal passion,
Equal haste and doubting goal-ward!-
There where others stones saw only,
He saw precious gems that glistened,
Sunk his shaft the mine to deepen.
And where others thought the treasure
Sure and safe for years a hundred,
Doubt possessed him as he burrowed
Day and night - and saw it vanish!
But the unrest that gave power
Made him oft the goal pass over;
While to others he gave clearness,
Intuitions new deceived him.
Therefore: where he once had striven,
Thither he would turn him never,
Changed his ground and shifted labor,
From his own thought-conquests fleeing.
But his thoughts pursued, untiring,
Followed, growing, as the fire,
Kindled in Brazilian forests,
Storm-wind makes and storm-wind follows!
Where before no foot had trodden,
Ways were burned for many millions!

Northward stretches Scandinavia
'Mid the fog that dims the Ice-sea,
Darkness of the months of winter
Lays its weight on sea and mountain.
Like our lands are too our peoples.
Their beginnings prehistoric
Stretch afar in fog and darkness.
But as through the fog a lighthouse,
Or as Northern Lights o'er darkness,
Gleamed his thought with light and guidance.
When with filial fond remembrance
Tenderly he sought and questioned,
Searching for his people's pathways-
Names and graves and rusty weapons,
Stones and tools their answer gave him.
Through primeval Asian forests,
Over steppes and sands of deserts,
'Neath a thousand years that moldered,
Saw he caravan-made footsteps
Seek a new home in the Northland.
And as they the rivers followed,
Followed them his thought abundant,
Into Nature's All full-flowing.-

See his restless soul's creation!
Harmony of truth he yearned for,
Found it not, but wonder-working
New discoveries and pathways,
-Like those alchemists aforetime
Who, though gold was all their seeking,
Found not that, but mighty forces,
Which to-day the world are moving.-

**

Deepest ground of all his being
Was the polar power of contrast,
For his thought, to music wakened
By the touch of
Northern Saga
,
Vibrated melodious longing,
Toward the
South
forever tending.
In his eye the lambent fire,
Of his thought the glint, showed kinship
With the free improvisator
In the land of warmth and vineyards.
And his swiftly changing feeling
And his all-consuming ardor,
That could toil the livelong winter
Till caprice the fruit discarded,-
That immeasurable richness
Wherein thoughts and moods and music,
Joy and sorrow, jest and earnest,
Gleamed and played without cessation,-
All a Southern day resembled!

Therefore was his life a journey,
Towards the South in constant movement,-
Through the mists of intuition,
From the darker to the brighter,
From the colder to the warmer,-
On the bridge of ceaseless labor
Bearing over sea and mountain!

Oh, the time with wife beside him
And his bonny playmate-sisters
(Gladsome children, winsome daughters),
When he stood, where evening sunshine
Glowed on Capitol and Forum,-
Stood where from the great world-city,
As from history's very fountain,
Knowledge wells in streams of fullness;-
Where a clearness large and cloudless
Falls upon the bygone ages
That have laid them down to rest here;-
Where to him, the Northern searcher,
It would seem, he had been straying
Too long lost in history's fogland,
Rowing round the deep fjords' surface;-
Stood where dead men burst the earth-clods
And themselves come forth for witness
In their heavy marble togas;-
Where the goddesses of Delos
In the frescoed halls are dancing,
As two thousand years before now;-
Pantheon and Coliseum
In their spacious fate have sheltered
All the world's swift evolution;-
Where a Hermes from that corner
Saw the footsteps firm of Cato,
Pontifex in the procession,-
Saw then Nero as Apollo
Lifted up take sacrifices,
Saw then Gregory, the wrathful,
Riding forth to rule in spirit
Over all the known world's kingdoms,-
Saw then Cola di Rienzi

Homage pay to freedom's goddess
'Mid the Roman people's paeans,-
Saw Pope Leo and his princes
Choose instead of the Lord Jesus
Aristotle dead and Plato;-
Saw again how stouter epochs
Raised the Church of Papal power,
Till the Frenchman overthrew it
And exalted Nature's Godhead;
Saw anew then wonted custom
In its pious, still processions
With a Lamb the great world's ruler!-
All this saw the little Hermes
On the corner near the temple,
And the wise man from the Northland
Saw that Hermes and his visions.

Yes, when over Rome he stood there
In that high, historic clearness,
And his eye the mountain-ridges
Followed toward the red of evening,-
Then all beams of longing focused
In a blessed intuition,
And - he saw a church before him
Greater far than that of nature,
And he felt a peace descending,
Larger far than all the present.

When the second time he came there,
After days and nights of labor,
Hard as were it for redemption,-
Then the Lord Himself gave welcome,
Led him gently thither, saying:
'Peace be with thee! Thou hast conquered!'

But to us with sorrow stricken
Turned the Lord with comfort, saying:
'When
I
call, who then dares murmur,
That the called man had not finished?'

Whoso dies, he here had finished!
Spite our sorrow we believe it,
Hold that He, who unrest giveth
(The discoverer's disquiet,
That drove Newton, drove Columbus),
Also knows when rest is needed.

But we question, while reviewing
All that mighty thought-armada
Now disbanded, home-returning:
Who again shall reunite it?

For when
he
cut his war-arrow,
Lords and liegemen soon were mustered,
And to aid from Sweden, Denmark,
England, France, swift-flying vessels
Coursed the sea-ways toward his standard.

Royal was that fleet and mighty,
By our shore at anchor lying;
We were wont to see it near us
Or to hear the wondrous tidings
Of its cruises and its conquests.

What it won we own forever;
But the fleet is sailing homeward.
Here we stand the last sail watching
As it sinks on the horizon.
Then we turn and breathe the question:
Who again shall reunite it?


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, March 31, 2010



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