Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

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Come up on deck! The morning is clear,--
Memory wakes, as the landmarks appear.
How many the islands, green and cheery,
The salt-licking skerries, weed-wound, smeary!
On this side, on that side, they frolic before us,
Good friends, but wild,--in frightened chorus
Sea-fowl shriek round us, a flying legion.
We are in a region
Of storms historic, unique for aye.

We fare the fishermen's venturesome way!
Far out the bank and the big fish shoaling,
The captain narrates; and just now unrolling
Sails run to shore a swift racing match;--
Good is the catch.

Yes, yes,--I recognize them again,
Romsdal's boats' weather-beaten men.
They know how to sail, when need's at hand.

But I'm forgetting to look towards land!
-- -- -- It whelms the sight
Like lightning bright,--
In memory graven, but not so great.

Wherever I suffer my eyes to wander,
Stand mountain-giants, both here and yonder,
The loin of one by the other's shoulder,
Naught else to where earth and sky are blending.
The dread of a world's din daunts the beholder;
The silence vastens the vision unending.

Some are in white and others in blue,
With pointed tops that emulous tower;
Some mass their power,
In marching columns their purpose pursue.
Away, you small folk!--In there "The Preacher"
In high assembly the service intoning
Of magnates primeval, their patriarch owning!
Of what does he preach, my childhood's teacher?
So often, so often to him I listened,
In eager worship, devout and lowly;
My songs were christened
In light that fell from his whiteness holy.

-- How great it is! I can finish never.
Great thoughts that in life and legend we treasure
Stream towards the scene in persistent endeavor,
The mighty impression to grasp and measure,--
Dame's hell, India's myth-panorama,
Shakespeare's earth-overarching drama,
Aeschylus' thunders that purge and free,
Beethoven's powerful symphony,--
They widen and heighten, they cloud and brighten
--Like small ants scrambling and soft-cooing doves,
They tumble backward and flee affrighted;--
As if a dandy in dress-coat and gloves
The mountains approached and to dance invited.
No, tempt them not! Their retainer be!
You'll learn then later,
How life with the great must make you greater.

If you are humble, they'll say it themselves,
That something is greater than e'en their greatest.
Look how the little river that delves
High in the notch within limits straitest,
Through ice first burrowed and stone, a brook,
Slowly the giants asunder wearing!
Unmoved before, their face now and bearing
They had to change 'mid the spring-flood's laughter;
Millions of years have followed thereafter,
Millions of years it also took.
In stamps the fjord now to look on their party,
Lifts his sou'-wester, gives greeting to them.
Whoever at times in their fog could view them
Has seen him near to their very noses;--
The fjord's not famed for his well-bred poses.

Towards him hurry, all white-foam-faced,
Brooks and rivers in whirling haste,
All of his family, frolicsome, naughty.
If ever the mountains the fjord would immure,
Their narrows press nigher, a prison sure;--
His water-hands then with a gesture haughty
Seize the whole saucy pass like a shell;
Set to his mouth, he begins to blow it
With western-gale-lungs,--and then you may know it,
Loud is the noise, and the swift currents swell.

Forcing the coast, a big fjord, black and gray,
Breaks us our way;
Waterfalls rushing on both sides rumble.
Sponge-wet and slow,
Cloud-masses over the mountain-flanks fumble;
The sun and mist, lo,
Symbol of struggle eternal show.

This is my Romsdal's unruly land!
Home-love rejoices.

All things I see, have eyes and have voices.
The people? I know them, each man understand,
Though never I saw him nor with him have spoken;
I know this folk, for the fjord is their token.

One is the fjord in the storm's battle-fray,
Another is he when the sunbeams play
In midsummer's splendor,
And radiant, happy his heart is tender.
Whatever has form,
He bears on his breast with affection warm,
Mirrors it, fondles it,--
Be it so bare as the mossy gray rubble,
Be it so brief as a brook's fleeting bubble.

Oh, what a brightness! Beauty, soul-ravishing,
Shines from his prayer, that now he be shriven
Of all the past! And penitence lavishing,
All he confesses; with glad homage given
Mirrors and masses
Deep the mountains' high peaks and passes.

The old giants think now: He's not really bad;
In greater degree he's wrathful and glad
Than others perchance; is false not at all,
But reckless, capricious,--true son of Romsdal.

Right are the mountains! This race-type keeping,
They saw men creeping
Over the ridges, scant fodder reaping.
They saw men eager
Toil on the sea, though their take was meager,
Plow the steep slope and trench the bog-valley,
To bouts with the rock the brown nag rally.
Saw their faults flaunted,--
Buck-like they bicker,
Love well their liquor,--
But know not defeat,--hoist the sail undaunted!

Different the districts; but all in all:
Spirits vivacious, with longings that spur them,
Depths full of song, with billows that stir them,
Folk of the fjord and the sudden squall.

Viking-abode, I hail you with wonder!
High-built the wall, broad sea-floor thereunder,
Hall lit by sun-bows on waterfall vapors,
Hangings of green,--your dwellers the drapers.
Viking-born race,--'t is you I exalt!

It costs in under so high a vault
A struggle long unto lordship stable;
Not all who have tried to succeed, were able.
It costs to recover the wealth of the fjord
From wanton waste and in power to hoard.
It costs;--but who conquers is made a man.
I know there are that can.

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