43. Sheepfold Tarn (Efst á Arnarvatnshæðum)

Greyscale image of Jónas's sketch of Eiríkur's Glacier, small version.
[larger image/full caption]

Eiríkur's Glacier from Sheepfold Tarn.

Sheepfold Tarn

Efst á Arnarvatnshæðum

Up on Eagle Lake Highlands,
hours from a byre or barn,
in a world of lonely waters
is one called Sheepfold Tarn.

Beneath the brow of North Ridge
nodding angelica grows;
down through a marshy meadow
a murmuring brooklet flows.

I've seen no place more peaceful,
no place I hold more dear:
ice-cold Eiríkur's Glacier
knows everything spoken here.

Efst á Arnarvatnshæðum
oft hef eg klári beitt;
þar er allt þakið í vötnum,
þar heitir Réttarvatn eitt.

Og undir Norðurásnum
er ofurlítil tó,
og lækur líður þar niður
um lágan Hvannamó.

Á öngum stað eg uni
eins vel og þessum mér;
ískaldur Eiríksjökull
veit allt sem talað er hér.

Form:Three stanzas, each containing four three-stress lines with the rhyme scheme AbCb and the alliteration pattern 22.
Manuscript:KG 31 b I, the earlier copy (facsimile KJH282; image) and KG 31 a II, the later copy (facsimile KJH281; image), in neither of which the poem bears a title.
First published:1847 (A240-1; image) under the title "Réttarvatn" ("Sheepfold Tarn").

Commentary:        Eagle Lake Highlands (Arnarvatnshæðir) are a lonely solitude in west central Iceland. The dome of Eiríks Glacier (Eiríksjökull) dominates the horizon some 18 kilometers to the south. Sheepfold Tarn (Réttarvatn) is one of many small bodies of water dotting the area. The old horse track between Skagafjörður and Borgarfjörður, which Jónas travelled many times, crosses this wilderness of lakes, skirting the north edge of Sheepfold Tarn. North Ridge (Norðurás) is a hill north of the tarn; at its foot lies Angelica Field (Hvannamór). The area was a favorite place to camp overnight and break a journey across the highlands (see SkSs91).

On 20 September 1841, during his last journey along this route, returning south to Reykjavík after attending Bjarni Thorarensen's funeral, Jónas camped at Sheepfold Tarn to study the geology of the immediate area (2E389) and made the sketch reproduced above. The poem may preserve memories of this visit.

Copyright © 1996-8 Dick Ringler. All rights reserved.

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