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Specimens of Northern Poetry.

RHYMED FROM FRENCH PROSE RENDERINGS.

I. NORSE.

 NATIONAL SONG.

Nurslings of our noble land,
Proudly sweep the solemn lyre,—
Gathered in heroic band,
Norway chant in words of fire!
At the name our sires arise,
At the name our hearts rebound,
Fiercely sparkle Norsemen's eyes
At that sweet and sacred sound!

When we think of days gone by,
Golden gleams our country's fame;
Forth, where Dovre meets the sky,
As to feast, the fighters came;
Fearless rovers crossed the seas,
Norse barks moored on foreign shores;
Home and heirloom liberties
Still had guards in countless scores.

Whilst the steel-clad warriors fought,
Whilst the martial clarion rung,
Hoary sage in silence thought,
Scald sublime in safety sung;
Clement monarchs, kings by right,
Ruled in wisdom, power, divine,—
Through the ages' murky night
Still their 'scutcheons stainless shine.

Time of glory—gone for aye!
But the Norsemen are the same;
In each brave heart burns to-day,
Pure as ever, freedom's flame;
When their fathers' deeds they sing,
Their hearts fill with joy and pride;
Nought seems sweetest southern spring,
By our icy Norway's side.




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Freedom's temple proudly towers,
Built by Norway's stalwart breed;
Freest thought of all is ours,
Freest word and freest deed;
Wildest woodbird, wildest wave—
They are not more free than we;
We obey the laws we gave—
Honest is our loyalty!

Darling land, of cloudclapt height,
Fertile valley, swarming shore,
Faith and love to thee we plight,—
Fain for thee our blood would pour;
Ever be our well-loved home,
Free as is thy moaning sea—
Whilst the billows round thee foam,
Wax in might and majesty!

II.—SWEDISH.

  NOSTALGIA.

Whither tends that troubled sigh?
What, my heart, thy suppliant cry?
Quenchless longing wasteth me
For a home beyond the sea;
Lonely on an alien strand,
I would find the unknown land.

Long enough my path has lain
Now in pleasure, now in pain;
Life is weary, for I know
How the days unvaried flow,
As the breaking billows moan
Evermore the same dull tone.

I have heard the laugh of glee,
And the wail of misery;
And of each I know the range—
Neither holdeth hope of change:
Modulate them as we may,
Sameness over both bears sway.




  ― 214 ―
Earth, in summer crowned a bride,
Widow's weeds in winter hide!
In the fall she weepeth wild,
Smiles in spring like soothed child:
'Tis but what has been before—
What, too, shall be evermore.

Peace and war, like shadow cast,
O'er this trembling globe have passed;
Sages in set terms have told
Of the free, pure Age of Gold;
Kings, war-weary, wisdom learn,
Make, on parchment, peace eterne.

That which they said yesterday,
Lo! 'tis what again they say;
Swear they as before they swore—
Round the world rolls evermore;
Footing ne'er in that swift round
Peace and Golden Age have found.

Changing seasons, palled, I view—
'Neath the sun there's nothing new;
Though a hundred forms there be,
'Tis disguised identity;
Earth, though she may mask her face,
Ever runs the same dull race.

Well I know how here on earth
Death awaiteth ev'ry birth:
How like gnats that come and go
In the evening sunlight's glow,
So we flit and fuss, till night
Ends the friendship and the fight.

I'm not as my fathers were,
Still unfrosted is my hair;
But life's weariness I've seen,—
All that is, is what has been:
Unto this drear end I'm brought,—
This is all that life has taught!

Pilgrim's staff I now let fall,
Unto you for rest I call,
Star-sown ocean—peaceful isles
Raining down your golden smiles,—
Ye who guard the light of day
Long since passed from us away!




  ― 215 ―
Let me follow your bright light,
Let me say to earth “good night!”
Nought again my soul can warm
In this world of dull, dark storm:
Lonely on an alien strand,
I would find mine unknown land.

  BIRDS OF PASSAGE.

They are flying slowly, sadly, moaning softly as they fly,
As the outcast leaves the hearthstone, so they leave our northern sky;
Forth to foreign shores they wander, and their melancholy wail
Lends a tone of wilder pathos to the melancholy gale:
“Whither, O our God,” they murmur, “dost thou bid thy children roam?
On the bank of what strange river henceforth must we find a home?

“We remember, and would linger still in Scandinavian land,
Here we first beheld the sunshine, here we grew, a happy band;
'Mid the blossom-laden lindens here we each have built a nest,
Here the summer breeze has lulled us on the fragrant boughs to rest;
But the homes that whilom knew us now shall know us nevermore,—
We have left them, sadly trooping to a distant, unknown shore.

“In the forests, oh! how lovely was the brief, calm, summer night,—
Roses in the thickets nodding, heavens raining golden light;
'Twas a night too fair for slumber—with a merry, twitt'ring song,
Each kept to his neighbour calling all the dewy night-time long;
Each with his own loving nestmate toyed in fond, fantastic play,
Till our sparkling eyes were dazzled by the glowing eye of day.

“Then the oak was thick with verdure, sprinkling in a fresh'ning shower
Pearls upon the spiky grass-tufts, brilliants on the blushing flower:
Now the wide oak standeth lonely, with bare branches round him spread,
Like the gaunt arms of a spectre; now the grass and flowers are dead;
Now the zephyr breathes no longer, now the bitter storm-winds blow—
Now the smiling May lies buried in a spotless shroud of snow.

What then lureth us to loiter in these kingdoms of the North?
Ev'ry day the sky-line narrows, dimmer the sad sun comes forth;
Song would sound more drear than wailing, echoing in this growing gloom;
Life is fading, Death is coming—lo! the land is but a tomb!
Therefore were our pinions given, far away through space to sail—
We salute thee, heaving ocean! Foaming billows, hail! all hail!”

Thus they sing, as forth they wander. Soon to softer clime they glide;
Vines are drooping from the elm-tops, crystal streams 'midst myrtles hide.
Then, my soul, when through thy life-tree autumn breezes roughly blow,
With'ring, scattering, thy pleasures, sink not 'neath thy load of woe:
If upon the bird of passage smiles a home beyond the sea,
Everlasting rest remaineth safe beyond the tomb for thee!

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