Poems and Songs
Björnstjerne Björnson was born in 1832 and died in 1909. The last edition of his Poems and
Songs in his lifetime is the fourth, dated 1903. It is a volume of two hundred pages, containing
one hundred and forty-one pieces, arranged in nearly chronological order from 1857, or just
before, to 1900. Of these almost two-thirds appeared in the first edition (1870), ending with
Good Cheer and including ten pieces omitted in the other editions, eight poems and two lyrical
passages from the drama King Sverre; the second edition (1880) added the contents in order
through Question and Answer and inserted earlier The Angels of Sleep; the third (1900)
extended the additions to include Frederik Hegel.
This translation presents in the same order the contents of the fourth edition, with the exception
of the following ten pieces:
Bryllupsvise Nr. I. Bryllupsvise Nr. II. Bryllupsvise Nr. III. Bryllupsvise Nr. IV. Bryllupsvise Nr. V.
De norske studenter til fru Louise Heiberg. De norske studenters hilsen med fakkeltog til deres
kgl. höiheder kronprins Frederik og kronprinsesse Louise. Til sorenskriver Mejdells
sölvbryllup. Nytaarsrim til rektor Steen. Til maleren Hans Gudes og frues guldbryllup.
Nine of these are occasional longs in the narrowest sense, with little or no general interest, and
showing hardly any of the author's better qualities: five Wedding Songs, a Betrothal Song, a
Silver-Wedding Song, a Golden-Wedding Song, and a Students' Song of Greeting to Mrs.
Louise Heiberg. The tenth, a characteristic, rather long poem of vigor and value, New Year's
Epistle in Rhyme to Rector Steen, is extremely difficult to render into English verse.
The translator has thought it best not to include any of Björnson's lyric productions not
contained in the collection published with his sanction during his life, the other lyrics in his tales,
dramas. and novels, many occasional short poems in periodicals and newspapers which were
abandoned by their author to their fugitive fate, two noble lyrical cantatas, and a few fine poems
written after the year 1900.
The translation aims to reproduce as exactly as possible the verse-form, meter, and rhyme of
the original. This has been judged desirable because music has been composed for so many of
these songs and poems, and each of them is, as it were, one with its musical setting. But such
reproduction seems also, on the whole, to be most faithful and satisfactory, when the translator
is not endowed with poetic genius equal to that of the author. The very numerous double
(dissyllabic) rhymes of the Norwegian are not easy to render in English. Recourse to the English
present participle has been avoided as much as possible. If it still seems to be too frequent, the
translator asks some measure of indulgence in view of the fact that the use here of the English
present participle is formally not so unlike that of the inflectional endings and of the post-positive