It is so chilly in the mighty North!
Lower down, to habitable earth,
Thou wouldest go, from snow and ice,
Where the vine and orange bless the land;
Where green-clad May and ripened summer stand,
Lingering over Paradise.
Ah! how sweetly fly life’s careless hours!
Whisperest thou, among yon leafy bowers,
Near the nightingale’s soft song:
Could I drink of those clear silver streams,
Each fair vision of my fondest dreams
Would for once to truth belong!
Wherefore not? for, what is truth, or seeming?
What you can and know, awake or dreaming,
That is life’s reality:
Trust but in Poesy to wing your flight ;
It may be boundless, as the heaven’s own light,
And as ocean’s waters free.
Behold! Skidbladner hails you from the shore:
The golden ship of fancy can explore
Every sea and every land:
Always on her sail fair breezes blow;
Earth more bright, the heavens more lofty show,
When upon her deck you stand.
Odin contrived her when the world he built;
Envy, and selfishness, and coward guilt,
Dare not in the fair ship be:
A bard with golden harp the rudder guides;
And, chased by favouring gales, the smooth keel glides
Round the earth and round the sea.
Climb the polished deck whene’er you list:
From the Spirit-world, like morning mist,
Falls the veil; it is your own:
Rock and wood with friendly smile invite you,
Boundless fields of blue expanse delight you,
Clearly from your top-mast shown.
Fearless sail on! see where, ‘mid golden clouds,
Yon western city stands; where joyous crowds
Raise the song and lead the dance:
How gloriously its marble pillars shine;
While from each turret, bathed in light divine,
Streams the purple-coloured glance.
There Braga’s harp, as if in Idavall,
Is sounding yet to grace the festival,
Balder there is living still:
Fates of the future, memories of the past,
Riddles of life and death, in order placed,
You may study as you will.
Then pine not to forsake the chilly North!
The fleeting glories of the natural earth
To Art eternally belong;
And, wheresoever fate hath set your home,
Fair Hellas and Hesperia will come,
New created by your song.
(Translator´s Note: Skidbladner, according to the Edda, is a ship, made by the dwarfs, the sons of Ivald, and given by them to Frey. It is large enough to receive on board all the Asas, yet may be taken to pieces, and carried in the pocket. As soon as the sail is hoisted, there is a fair wind. It is here employed to typify the power of imagination.)
* Text of the poem, and the “Translator’s note,” taken from Specimens of Swedish and German Poetry, translated by J.E.D. Bethune, 1848.
I’ve mentioned Tegner before, but this is the first time he’s been featured, so please enjoy this opportunity to decide for yourself whether he’s worth the praise Longfellow heaps upon him. More details another day.
This is only the second time Skidbladner’s come up, but it’s never a major factor in the Edda. It was among the gifts the gods received from the dwarfs alongside Mjolnir in the wake of one of Loki’s earliest bits of treachery.
The featured image is concept art from Marvel’s Thor (2011) by Vance Kovacs.