Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

To stang

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May Seventeenth in Eidsvold's church united,
To hallow after fifty years the day
When they who there our charter free indited,
Together for our land were met to pray,--
We both were there with thanks to those great men,
With thanks to God, who to our people then
In days of danger courage gave unbounded.

And when so mighty through the church now sounded
"Praise ye the Lord!" lifting our pallid prayer
To fellowship with all her sons, our brothers,
I saw you, child-like, weep in secret there
Upon the breast we love, our common mother's.

Then I remembered that from boyhood's hour
With all your strength to serve her you have striven,
Your youthful fire, your counsel cool have given,
And till it waned, your manhood's wealth of power.
With blessing then and praise of you I thought
In thankful prayer, as one of those who fought
To shield our land from storms of fate's hard weather,
Till 'neath the roof in peace we sat together.

Of you I thought;--but so think few and fewer.
Your manhood's fame ere you yourself has crumbled,
And you, alas, will not find justice truer,
Till you and yours one day have fallen, humbled.

For see, the roads you drew o'er hill and plain
For all our people's onward-pressing longing,
You dare not travel with the joyous train,
That greater grows while towards its future thronging.
You knew not what it was your labor wrought,
When steam and powder, bursting every barrier,
Gave new-born cravings each its speedy carrier
And to the people's spirit power brought.
The new day's work, as 't were the tempest's welter,
In din about you seemed a dream, a fable,
And with your like you built in fear a shelter
From soul-unrest, a looming tower of Babel.

While now you wait for the impending fight,
With gentle eye and stately head all hoary,
And o'er the mountains gleams the morning's glory,--
Your foes half hid amid the mists of night,--
As from an outpost in the wooded wild,
These words I send, of peace a token mild.

You fear the people? 'Tis your own that rally,
And like the fog arisen from the valley.
You think them rebels, void of sense and oneness?
Yes, spring's full floods obey no rule precise;
Storm-squalls and slush render the roads less nice,
The snow's pure white is partly soiled to dunness.
But spring is born! The man of genius free,
Prophetic, heeds its holy harmony;
For genius shares the soul of what shall be.
This you have not and never had an hour,
And so you shrink before the people's power.

You were a foreman with the gift of leading,
When pioneers cleared up a pathless tract;
Your lucid thinking and your gracious tact
Oft helped them over obstacles impeding.
But what new growths the ancient fields have filled,
From western seed to feed our land's wants tilled,
And what new light shines through your window-pane,
Longing for truth beneath religion's reign,
And what new things but whispering we say,--
And what foretells the dawning reckoning-day,--
You fail to understand and find but madness
In our young nation's fairest growth and gladness.

You answer: Poet's deeming is but dreaming,
And in the statesman's art most unbeseeming.
I answer: None has might men's life to sway,
If impotent the worth of dreams to weigh.
From cravings, powers that seek their form, ascending,
They fill the air; their right to be defending,
Till all men wakened to one goal are tending.
His nation's dreams are all the statesman's life,
Create his might, direct his aim in strife,
And if he this forgets, the next dreams blooming
Bring forth another, unto death him dooming.

The tempest-clouds that mount afresh and thicken
Cannot so dense before the morn's light hover
That we may not through cloud-rifts clear discover
Great thoughts that new-born victories shall quicken.

Such thoughts are radiant over me to-day,
And to my heart the warmer blood is streaming,
And all we live for, all that we are dreaming,
Its summons sends and strengthens for the fray.

The war-horns soon beneath the woods shall bray,
Through dewy night th' assailing columns dash,
Amid the sudden gleams of shot and slash
The fog dissolve before our new-born day.

Soon, though you threaten, will the heights be taken
For future ages, and our nation's soul
Can thence o'erlook the land in might unshaken,
With even hand and right to rule the whole.
It soon shall roll war's billows on to battle,
While from the clouds the fathers' weapons rattle!
O aged man, look round you where you stand,
For soon you have against you all our land.

But when you fall defeated on the field,
Then shall we say by your inverted shield:
He stood against us, since he knew not better,
A noble knight and never honor's debtor.

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Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson