34. Öxnadalur (Öxnadalur)

Color photo of peaks in Öxnadalur, small version.
[larger image/full caption]

Hraundrangi in Öxnadalur.


Þar sem háir hólar

Hillocks steep and stately
stride across the valley.
Dimly and sedately
dawn begins to rally:
sunlight rakes the summits —
smoking darkness plummets
down into the deep
dreaming its green sleep.

Þar sem háir hólar
hálfan dalinn fylla,
þar sem hamrahilla
hlær við skini sólar
árla fyrir óttu
enn þá meðan nóttu
grundin góða ber
græn í faðmi sér. . . .

Date:Winter 1844-5 (KJH314).
Form:One stanza of eight three-stress lines with the rhyme scheme ABBACCdd and the alliteration pattern 2222. The translation rhymes ABABCCdd.
Manuscript:KG 31 a II, apparently a first draft, written in pencil and without title (facsimile KJH205; image).
First published:1847 (A254; image) under the title "Brot" ("Fragment"). It was given the title "Í Öxnadal" ("In Öxnadalur") in 1929 by Matthías Þórðarson (1D191).

Commentary:        Öxnadalur, where Jónas Hallgrímsson was born and grew up, is one of the most picturesque valleys in Iceland. It is about 25 kilometers long, straight and deep and narrow, enclosed by high mountains on both sides. But it is hardly isolated, since the main route across northern Iceland passes through it (and always has). About halfway down the valley, along its north side, is an escarpment of knife-edged peaks, the highest and most spectacular of which is Hraundrangi ("Rockfall Spire," usually translated "Steeple Rock" in this collection).1 These peaks were left as remnants when the southeast face of the mountain Háafjall sheared off in prehistoric times, creating an enormous rockslide that gave birth to the mountain lake Hraunsvatn (where Jónas's father drowned when Jónas was eight) and sent rubble down into Öxnadalur to form the hillocks that "stride across the valley."

Color photo of Hraundrangi, small version.
[larger image/full caption]


The translation expands and elaborates the imagery of the original, which reads literally: "There where high hills fill half the valley, there where a ledge in the cliffs laughs in sunlight, early, before dawn, while the good green earth still clasps night in its embrace. . . ."

The Icelandic text consists entirely of dependent clauses and is obviously a fragment, probably the first stanza — all that was ever written — of a poem about the valley in Iceland that Jónas knew and loved better than any other. For a description of the valley, see the caption to Winkler's illustration of Steinsstaðir.


1 There are many images of Hraundrangi on this Web site. For the benefit of visitors curious about the much less familiar view from the other side — from Hörgárdalur — the following photo is included.

Color photo of Hraundrangi, small version.
[larger image/full caption]

Hraundrangi from Hörgárdalur.

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

Jonas' MS flourish for the end of a poem For technical assistance:
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