The Master Builder
With _The Master Builder_--or Master Builder Solness, as the title runs in the original--
we enter upon the final stage in Ibsen's career. "You are essentially right," the poet wrote
to Count Prozor in March 1900, "when you say that the series which closes with the
Epilogue (When We Dead Awaken) began with Master Builder Solness."
"Ibsen," says Dr. Brahm, "wrote in Christiania all the four works which he thus seems to
bracket together--Solness, Eyolf, Borkman, and When We Dead Awaken. He returned to
Norway in July 1891, for a stay of indefinite length; but the restless wanderer over
Europe was destined to leave his home no more. . . . He had not returned, however, to
throw himself, as of old, into the battle of the passing day. Polemics are entirely absent
from the poetry of his old age. He leaves the State and Society at peace. He who had
departed as the creator of Falk [in Love's Comedy] now, on his return, gazes into the
secret places of human nature and the wonder of his own soul."
Dr. Brahm, however, seems to be mistaken in thinking that Ibsen returned to Norway
with no definite intention of settling down. Dr. Julius Elias (an excellent authority)
reports that shortly before Ibsen left Munich in 1891, he remarked one day, "I must get
back to the North!" "Is that a sudden impulse?" asked Elias. "Oh no," was the reply; "I
want to be a good head of a household and have my affairs in order. To that end I must
consolidate may property, lay it down in good securities, and get it under control--and
that one can best do where one has rights of citizenship." Some critics will no doubt be
shocked to find the poet whom they have written down an "anarchist" confessing such
After his return to Norway, Ibsen's correspondence became very scant, and we have no
letters dating from the period when he was at work on The Master Builder. On the other
hand, we possess a curious lyrical prelude to the play, which he put on paper on March
16, 1892. It is said to have been his habit, before setting to work on a play, to "crystallise
in a poem the mood which then possessed him;" but the following is the only one of these
keynote poems which has been published. I give it in the original language, with a literal
DE SAD DER, DE TO--
De sad der, de to, i saa lunt et hus
ved host og i venterdage,
Saa braendte huset. Alt ligger i grus.
De to faar i asken rage.
For nede id en er et smykke gemt,--
et smykke, som aldrig kan braende.