Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

The pure norwegian flag

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Tri-colored flag, and pure,
Thou art our hard-fought cause secure;
Thor's hammer-mark of might
Thou bearest blue in Christian white,
And all our hearts' red blood
To thee streams its full flood.

Thou liftest us high when life's sternest,
Exultant, thou oceanward turnest;
Thy colors of freedom are earnest
That spirit and body shall never know dearth.--
Fare forth o'er the earth!

"The pure flag is but pure folly,"
You "wise" men maintain for true.
But the flag is the truth poetic,
The folly is found in you.
In poetry upward soaring,
The nation's immortal soul
With hands invisible carries
The flag toward the future goal.
That soul's every toil and trial,
That soul's every triumph sublime,
Are sounding in songs immortal,--
To their music the flag beats time.
We bear it along surrounded
By mem'ry's melodious choir,
By mild and whispering voices,
By will and stormy desire.
It gives not to others guidance,
Can not a Swedish word say;
It never can flaunt allurement:--
Clear the foreign colors away!

The sins and deceits of our nation
Possess in the flag no right;
The flag is the high ideal
In honor's immortal light.
The best of our past achievements,
The best of our present prayers,
It takes in its folds from the fathers
And bears to the sons and heirs;
Bears it all pure and artless,
By tokens that tempt us unmarred,
Is for our will's young manhood
Leader as well as guard.

They say: "As by rings of betrothal
We are by the flag affied!"
But Norway is not betrothèd,
She is no one's promised bride.
She shares her abode with no one,
Her bed and her board to none yields,
Her will is her worthy bridegroom,
Herself rules her sea, her fields.
Our brother to eastward honors
This independence of youth.
He knows well that by it only
Our wreath can be won in truth.
When we from the flag are taking
His colors, he knows 't is no whim,
But merely because we are holding
Our honor higher than him.
And none who himself has honor
Will seek him a different friend;
Our life we can for him offer,
But naught of our flag can lend.

Respectful I seek a hearing,
With trust in your temper sane,
And plead now our cause before you
In words that are calm and plain:

If, Sweden, you were the smaller,
Were young your freedom's renown,
Had your flag a mark of union
That pressed you still farther down
By saying that you, as little,
Were set at the greater's board
(For this is the mark's real meaning,
By no one on earth ignored),
Yes, if it were you,--and your freedom
Not hallowed by age, but young,
And a century's want and weakness
Still heavy in memory hung,
The soul of your nation harrowed
By old injustice and need,
By luckless labor and longing,
--And did you its meaning heed;
Yes, if it were you, whose duty
To teach your people were tried,
To honor their new-born freedom,
To find in their flag their guide:
Would longer you suffer it sundered,
Leave foreign a single field?
Would you not claim it unplundered,
Your independence to shield?
Would not to yourself you say then:
"If one has high lineage long,
If greater his colors' glory,
The more alluring his song.
Oh, tempt not him who from trouble
Is rising with new found might;
With pure marks direct him, rather,
To honor's exalted height."

Thus you would speak, elder hero,
If you in our home abode;
Your wont is the way of honor,
You fare on the forward road.
From eighteen hundred and fourteen,
And down to the latest day,
So oft for our independence
We stood like the stag at bay,
Brave men have risen among you,
And scorning the strife that swelled
Have talked for our cause high-minded,
Like Torgny to them of eld.


You say, it is "knightly duty,"
The fight for the flag to share,--
I hold you full high in honor,
But--that is our own affair!
For just because we encounter
The storm-blasts of slander stark,
It's "knightly duty" to free now
The flag from the marring mark.
The "parity" that mark preaches
Flies false over all the seas;
A pan-Scandinavian Sweden
Can never our nation please.
From "knightly duty" the smaller
Must say: I am not a part;
The mark of my freedom and honor
Is whole for my mind and heart.
From "knightly duty" the greater
Must say: A falsehood's fair sign
Can give me no special honor,
No longer shall it be mine.
For both it is "knightly duty,"
With flags that are pure, to be
A warring world's bright example
Of peoples at peace, proud and free.

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Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson