50. Home (Suður fórumk um ver)

Color photo of Snæfellsnes, small version.
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Color photo of Baula, small version.
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Color photo of Hafravatn, small version.
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Color photo of Jónas's grave, small version.
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Jónas's grave at Þingvellir.


Suður fórumk um ver

I journeyed forth
from the frozen north,
bringing vows with me
on the misty sea.
I have found pleasure
in full measure
but hope to rest
on my Hulda's breast.

There dwells my brother,
my blessèd mother,
my sisters, my friends,
in the flower-starred glens
between mountains and sea —
how familiar to me! —
where my life's blind spark
once sprang from the dark.

I pray I may rest
where the priests and the best
of farmers have trod,
with faith in God
and themselves strong as stone —
as strong as my own! —
and where life flows bright
amid bounties of light.

Suður fórumk um ver,
en eg svarna ber
öflga eiðstafi
úr úthafi:
mjög þótt yndum,
heimrof mig finni
hjá Huldu minni.

Þar er barmi blíður
og blómafríður
runnur í reit
er eg rökkri sleit;
dalur, sól og sær
og systur tvær,
og ástvinir góðir.

Þar er búþegn bestur,
bóndi og prestur,
til þess tel eg vottinn —
trúir enn á drottinn
og á sjálfan sig
svo sem ég á mig,
þar er líf í landi
og ljóshæfur andi.

Date:March/April 1845 (see KJH315).
Form:Three strophes of runhenda, the rhyming variant of fornyrðislag first used in the "Höfuðlausn" attributed to Egill Skallagrímsson (see Bbk44). Jónas's poem rhymes in couplets; the rhymes are masculine or feminine ad lib., the rhyme-scheme of the original being aaBBCCDD EEffggHH IIJJkkLL (and of the translation aabbCCdd EEffgghh iijjkkll). Each couplet has the alliteration pattern 22.
Manuscript:KG 31 a II, apparently a first draft, with no title (facsimile KJH238-9; image).
First published:1847 (A255-6; image) under the title "Brot" ("A Fragment"). The title "At Home" ("Heima") was first used by Matthías Þórðarson in 1929 (1D88-9).

Commentary:       "Hulda" is Iceland, of course. The opening lines of the poem, as well as the meter and rhyme scheme, are modelled on the "Höfuðlausn" ("Head Ransom") often attributed to the skáld Egill Skallagrímsson (ca. 910-ca. 990).1 Egill's poem, ostensibly composed during a visit to York in England ca. 937, is believed to be the earliest surviving Icelandic poem to contain end-rhyme.

In Jónas's manuscript of this poem, lines 4-7 of the third stanza originally read: "(who) still believes in God / and in himself, / as I (do) in myself — / much more than the Danes do." He then rewrote the seventh line to read: "there is life in (that) land," and added the eighth line "and a spirit capable of light." The cancelled reading suggests how deep were Jónas's disappointment and resentment, in his last days, about what he interpreted as the Danes' inadequate appreciation of him and his work.


1 Sveinn Yngvi Egilsson points out that Jónas's lines reflect the way Egill's poem is printed in the Lexicon Poeticum (1860) of Jónas's teacher Sveinbjörn Egilsson, adding that "it is probable that Jónas knew the poem from his teachers at Bessastaðir and their manuscript copies, rather than from printed books" (Bbk45n71).

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

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