Ég uni mér ekki' út í Máney
I just don't enjoy Moon Island,
Farther away, wee fledglings
I hate it here on Moon Island,
Ég uni mér ekki' út í Máney,
Og hins vegar ungar hrjóta
Ég uni mér ekki' út í Máney
|Form:||Three stanzas, each containing four three-stress lines with the rhyme scheme AbCb and the alliteration pattern 22.|
|Manuscript:||KG 31 a II, where it has no title (facsimile KJH278; image).|
|First published:||1847 (A236; image) under the title "Máney" ("Moon Island").|
|Sound recording:||Norman Gilliland reads "Moon Island." [0:31]|
Commentary: There is no Moon Island (Máney) in Iceland. But there is a Moon River (Máná) on Tjörnes in the north and two islands called the Moon River Islands (Mánáreyjar) five sea miles off its mouth. Jónas never visited these islands. But he will have seen them from shipboard, presumably fairly close up, when leaving Akureyri in September 1837 (2E285) and again when approaching it in June 1839 (2E316). In the latter summer he spent several days travelling on Tjörnes (2E317) and no doubt glimpsed the islands again.1 Both islands are very rich in bird life, and in his parish description (1842) Rev. Þorgrímur Arnórsson says that large numbers of puffins are netted there in the spring (ÞSs188, 192).
It may have been the name of these islands, and their remoteness and isolation, that kindled Jónas's imagination.2 Although his own observation could have furnished him with all the details in the poem, it is worth noting that in one of the earlier accounts of Iceland with which he was closely familiar — Ólafur Olavius's Oeconomisk Reise (1780) — he will have come across the following passage about Horn Crag (the subject of the second of the twelve poems in By Land and Sea):
The few farmers [who live nearby] cannot possibly gather all the birds and birds' eggs that are found in these two enormous sea-cliffs, Hornbjarg and Hælavíkurbjarg — Hornbjarg by itself is a mile and a half long [one Danish mile = about 7.5 kilometers] — and they are even less able to take advantage, at the same time, of all the birds lying dead on the beach below the cliff, killed by the "stone-shower," i.e., by rocks falling down from above. There is so much of this falling rock that men have to be constantly on the alert for it, even when they are out in boats a little way offshore. (ÓOF168-9)
In Icelandic folklore, there are many accounts of people who have "lost their lives in tragic accidents, dying of exposure, or drowning, or meeting their end in some other way, unknown to their fellow men. Such persons not infrequently appear to relatives or friends in dreams and describe — usually in poetry — what caused their deaths or what the present condition of their bodies is" (1Íþs221; see also ibid. 221-6 and 522, 3Íþs302-6, and 6Íþm366). For example a farmer who froze to death one evening in a blizzard appeared at his wife's window later that night to complain (in a skáhend ferskeytla, no less):
The sardonic world of "Moon Island" is very different from the lyrical world of "The Lay of Hulda," where benign Nature presides over life and death while behind her stands the God who loves and cares for his creatures. On Moon Island, nature is savagely spendthrift of life, both man and beast, and the God whose "eye is on the sparrow" seems very far away indeed.
2 No one was more aware than Jónas of the plasticity of place names and the stories associated with them. He had invented both names and stories before, when it suited his purpose.