Northern lights in the Westfjords


Einar Benediktsson (1864-1940) is one of Iceland’s most revered poets. He was an influential figure in the independence movement of Iceland, a lawyer and a highly ambitious entrepreneur. His poetry has been classified as neo-romantic, collected in five books during his lifetime. This is the poem Northern lights and was published 1897 . Translated by my friend Sveinbjörn Jónsson.

Does the son of the dust know anything more beautiful

than the palace of gods in electronic flames?

Seeing ground and bay underneath a golden bow!—

Who can now settle with cards and wine?

Even the soil is clean like a maiden on a sheet;

slumbering in the autumns dry flowers.

Each sand corn shines in the colours of the air

and the brooks kiss in silvery roses.

By the universe bosom everything is fire and decoration

of slithering northern lights.

Northern lights in the Westfjords


From the seventh heaven to the ocean’s horizon

the suns dance up on an open stage,

but the waves of the ocean of light , with blowing hems,

fall and boil by the shadow shore.

It’s like some one is playing with hidden hands

music box with glittering sticks and rings.—

Now everything mortal gazes upon lands of life

from closed roads, from dark graves,

and rime cliffs by the silent sea

stare to heaven, with their crystal eyes.

Northern lights in the Westfjords


Now it all seems so small and low

that we live for and fight against.

Though they throw stones, hate and threaten,

I’m in peace with every petty.

Because the blue air vaults so bright and high.

Now every star smiles though hopes fail,

and the mind is lifted higher,

and the power of God is breathing from body of dust.

We sense our guts, we know tonight

our right in the empire of the light.—

Northern lights in the Westfjords

How powerful and deep is the ocean of heaven

and huge the yachts, that sail there?

Searching for the harbour,

whether they turn off or against.

But never has anyone seen him who gave the eye

— and the sources of light have neither been found nor explained.

Kneeling and with their praying stick

men wait at the palace of all glory.

But the stage is empty and all gates are locked

and silent is the spirit who lives there.

Northern lights in the Westfjords

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