Friday, May 9, 2014

The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.

I got a truly lovely YouTube video of an Icelandic hymn from my husband who found it at John Scalzi’s website. Based on information in the comments at Scalzi’s site, the poem is from the 13th Century but the music was written in the 1970s.

At least a couple of the commenters at YouTube gave translations and one also gave some background information:

Hear creator of the heavens
what the poet begs.
Come softly to me
your mercy.
I trust in you,
you have created me.
I am your servant
you are my lord.

God, I trust in you
to heal me.
For the least, my king,
we need you the most.
Take, my God,
so powerful and inquisitive,
the sorrow out of our hearts.

My king, watch over me,
we need you the most.
For every moment
to hold ground.
Set the son of a maiden,
a beautiful matter.
All the help from you
in my heart.

This is written in a very violent time in the Sturlunga-age in Iceland. A few families were having disagreements over power and the man who wrote this poem was a member of one of those families. He was in the Ásbirninga family and his name was Kolbeinn Tumason. It is said that he wrote this just prior to "Víðinesbardagi", a battle in 1208. He said this poem over and over, so often that the people around him memorized it.

I smiled at “He said this poem over and over, so often that the people around him memorized it.” Since the commenter’s name seems to be Scandinavian, I assume he want to be sure non-Scandinavians understand bards and oral traditions. It’s rather sweet of him, I think.


Grim said...

The issue that occasioned the battle was the Bishop's refusal to turn over several Christians to Kolbeinn for traditional Icelandic justice. Kolbeinn was killed laying seige to the see.

How the hymn relates to the circumstances, or if it was meant to, is not clear to me. Perhaps the chieftain was asserting his loyalty to the divine King, but not accepting any intermediary princes in his hierarchy.

Elise said...

Neither of the translations I found in the YouTube comments made total sense to me - I assume something was lost in translation. The fact that the author was angry at the bishop does make the apparently Christian cast of the poem interesting, to say the least.