31. Quatrains (Stökur)

(21 December 1844)

(21. decemberm. 1844)

Ah, who mourns an Icelander,
all alone and dying?
Earth will clasp his corpse to her
and kiss it where it's lying.

Such is my lot, my lonely doom.
Life would have brimmed with pleasure
had I known her better whom
I hunger for and treasure.

May your mornings all be gay!
May your nights bring gladness!
Here, this dark December day,
I dwell in exile sadness.

Look! the sun is circling north,
soon it will shine above you!
Would that I once more might set forth,
with one more chance to love you!

recording available

Enginn grætur Íslending
einan sér og dáinn,
þegar allt er komið í kring
kyssir torfa náinn.

Mér er þetta mátulegt,
mátti vel til haga,
hefði ég betur hana þekkt
sem harma ég alla daga.

Lifðu sæl við glaum og glys,
gangi þér allt í haginn;
í öngum mínum erlendis
yrki ég skemmsta daginn.

Sólin heim úr su[ð]ri snýr,
sumri lofar hlýju;
ó að eg væri orðinn nýr
og ynni þér að nýju!

Date:21 December 1844.
Form:Four four-line stanzas of alternating four-stress and three-stress lines rhyming aBaB and with the alliteration pattern 22 (ferskeytt óbreytt).
Manuscript:KG 31 a II (an untitled and undated draft in pencil, no doubt written 21 December 1844) (facsimile KJH200; image) and ÍB 13 fol. (a fair copy with the title "Stökur" ["Quatrains"] and the date "21. December-m. 1844") (facsimile KJH223-4; image).
First published:1847 (A221; image).
Sound recording:Valgerður Benediktsdóttir reads "Stökur." recording available [0:52]

Commentary:        This poem provides valuable insight into Jónas's mental condition during the last winter of his life. Hannes Hafstein wrote of this period: "More and more, his spirit began to turn in upon itself; ancient sorrows revived and depression deepened around him. The memory of forgotten love affairs from his school days woke again. . . . He felt totally isolated. . . . It seemed to him that life was unbearable — yet he hoped things would improve after the winter solstice" (BXXXVIII).

Both of Jónas's two early loves, Þóra Gunnarsdóttir and Christine Knudsen, have been proposed as the woman who is on his mind in this poem. It has even been suggested that they are both present, Þóra in stanzas 2 and 4, Christine in stanza 3. It is not possible to resolve this issue with finality. Since, however, Hannes refers specifically to "forgotten love affairs from his school days" (i.e., his days at Bessastaðir), and since homesickness for Iceland obviously plays a large role in the poem, Þóra seems a likelier candidate than Christine, whom he met after leaving Bessastaðir and who was living in Copenhagen during his last years (see ÁBT64).

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

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