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Norwegian Emigrant Songs
Translated and Edited by Martin B. Ruud (Volume II: Page 1)

Introduction

The verses here printed are the first installment of a body of emigrant songs, widely scattered, which the Society hopes to collect and to publish from time to time. They have been printed before in the original Norwegian, most of them in Decorah-Posten; but no apology is needed for bringing them together and making them accessible in an English version. For on any valuation they form an interesting, even revealing, chapter in the history of Norwegian emigration to the United States. No one will charge them with depth or poetic glow, or think of them as embodying that imaginative reconstruction of life which it is the office of the poet to give. The most obvious reason for this, of course, is that the writers were not poets; for the most part only poetasters of the school of Oehlenschl¾eger and Andreas Munch. But a second reason is that these men were not, save in one or two poems, carried away by deep emotion, nor even emotion recollected in tranquillity; they are writing, indeed, not poems at all, but versified tracts for the times. And tracts cannot be turned into literature by the easy expedient of turning them into verse. We shall look in vain, then, for anything to touch the spirit; but the historian at least may find, by way of compensation, not a little to illuminate for him the backgrounds of emigration; the motives for it and the way it struck solicitous observers who stayed at home and did their futile best to stem the tide.

No one can doubt, in the light of these poems, that the dominating motive was economic. Of course there were other factors as well, even though they do not appear--sheer love of adventure and the Wanderlust of the race; and one remembers the devoted self-sacrifice of the pioneer clergy, who surely dad everything to lose. But all these were of secondary importance, and they affected only a handful. The compulsion that drove the emigrants out upon their hazardous adventure, the terrors of which are luridly portrayed in poem after poem, was the hope the new world held out to them of economic betterment. "Farewell, Norway, and God bless thee. Stern and hard wert thou always; but as a mother I honor thee, though thou skimped my bread." That strain is never far away. It was easy for moralists in comfortable berths to tell them that if they would but work as hard at home as they would have to .work in America, the stern soil of Norway too would yield unimaginable riches. That sermon had a good deal of truth, but there were sad flaws in it, and everyone knew it. They and their fathers had grubbed away generation after generation on their tiny strips of soil, and they could not see that it had brought them much or offered much for the future -- certainly no such dazzling prospects of wealth and social position as seemed to be theirs for the asking in EL Dorado. Ditmar Mejdel's capital skit, "Oleana," has about as much relation to the truth as satire usually has, but it does have a relation, and no one can miss the point.

One other factor, however, does emerge as one reads these poems- the sense on the part of so many of social and political inferiority. The constitution of 1814 had unlocked the doors of power to the peasants, but it did not quite open them, and its full potentialities were not to. appear for many a day. In the meantime, the old bureaucracy in church and state sat tight, and the old order only slowly gave way to the new. In the face of this supremacy, rooted as it seemed in the very nature of things, the little folk lost hope; the simple fact, and it was no less, that they had the most democratic society and government in Europe counted for little, even less the extraordinarily high character of the ruling class. I fancy that the dichotomy of culture was responsible for much of this feeling. The bureaucrats were cosmopolitan, strange exotics of Copenhagen and London and Paris, planted in an alien soil among alien people whose ways and speech they despised or patronized, or at any rate preferred to admire at a distance. There were exceptions of course, but they hardly altered the general attitude. Norway had begun even then to pay the penalty of this cleavage in her civilization. But whatever the cause, there can be no doubt about the feeling- in Norway were servitude and chains and slavery; across the sea, in Oleana, men were, not merely men, --- there was small comfort in that, --- but gentlemen of position, and, of course, of wealth.

In the face of such attractions it was useless for well-meaning patriots to protest. It was useless to tell victims of the America fever how free they were, how beneficent their government, how beautiful and romantic and historic their country; it was useless to ring the changes on the terrors of the wilderness or the subtler terrors of strange speech and outlandish religions and the horror of burial in unconsecrated ground. "I Norge vil jeg ikke slavel¾nken b¾re." Why should they, when they could go to a land where the beggar might not only look at the king but hope some day to be king himself?

And yet there was something heroic about it all. These men and women may have gone out with a bundle of incredible illusions and driven by motives something other than poetic, but the illusions did not encumber them long, and if they ever thought of the motive, it must have been often with an ironic smile. For it is easy enough to analyze in cold-blooded detachment the causes of emigration, and to say that they were social, political, economic, and what not; it is less easy, now that the immigrant has done his work, to. understand what that work cost. But that is Professor R¿1vaag's story.

The translations that follow cannot pretend to do more than to give the sense; there is, indeed, nothing else worth giving. One or two, like "The Flight to America" and Ole Rynning's "Emigrant Song," deserve better treatment, and so does that admirable jeu d'esprit, "Oleana." The rest are purely historical documents, hardly worse in English than in Norwegian. But this historical interest is by no means inconsiderable, for it is the interest attaching to documents of one of the great stories of modern times.

Emigrant Song
By Ole Rynning

Written on board the "®gir" in 1837

[Knud Langeland, Nordm¾ndene i Amerika; Nogle Optegnelser om de norskes Udvandring til Amerika, 27 (Chicago, 1889)]

The cliffs of Norway lie hidden now behind the waters, but our longings go out to those shores, with their dim and ancient oak-forests, where the soughing of the pines and the thunder of the glaciers are music to Norway's son.

And though Destiny should bid him pitch his tent where once Bj¿rn and Leif pitched theirs, he will cherish always the mountains of old Mother Norway, and yearn with pious longing to see his beloved home once more.

Farewell to Norway

[Nordlyset, August 19, 1847; reprinted in Hjalmar R. Holand, De Norske Settlementers Historie, 57 (Ephraim, Wisconsin, 1908)]

Farewell, Norway, and God bless thee. Stern and severe wert thou always, but as a mother I honor thee, even though thou skimped my bread. All things vanish. Grief and care sink down upon the heart; still the. memory of thee refreshes the soul like the deep sleep of a child.

Other lands offer me independence, and for my labor well-being to my children. These, oh Norway, thou didst not give me, for thou art a land of lords and slaves, where the great ones ruled and we obeyed.

Once more, God bless thee; to the day of my death I will pray God to keep thee; for thou wert the keeper of my childhood and the joys of childhood thou. gavest me. I will remember thee always, whatever life may bring, and I will pray, "Throw off the chains that embittered my youth for me."

The Flight to America {1}

[Bratsberg Amtstidende, December 14, 1842; reprinted in Gunnar Malmin, "Norsk Landnam i U.S.," in Decorah-Posten, March 20, 1925 (Decorah, Iowa) ]

"No," I said, "this is too much. I simply will not stand it. And they .who have done this wrong to me shall be made to pay for it dearly.

"I am going over to America, and when these people want a little Peter, why, then their Peter'll be missing !"

My younger brother Emil, in amazement, dropped his whip and his sled and looked at me with a curious smile, half way between laughter and tears.

"But listen, Emil, you shall go with me; we two must stand together like brothers. There is no staying here any longer. Yonder we shall live in joy and mirth."

The little fellow looked at his new shoes and patted the folds of his dress. "How far do you suppose it is?" and "Wonder if these shoes will hold out?"

"Well, it's farther than to Aunt Lisa in the country, and to get there from here, we must sail across the water.

"But once we pull through, we'll never regret it; for over there they'll give you a big estate and money into the bargain.

"There the horses are shod with silver, and the carriage wheels mounted with silver, too; and gold, why, that is spread all around you. All you need do is to pick it up.

"Over there raisins and almonds grow in huge clusters on the trees, and they cost you never a penny.

"Barley-sugar there is as big as biscuits; and the chocolates are like loaves of bread; it hails and snows sugar-cracknels and rains lemonade.

"Unlimited freedom, too, you have from day's end to day's end: you spit on the floor whenever you will, and strew it with burning cigars.

"And all day long you may sit and swing in wonderful rocking-chairs, and it's all a matter of your own sweet will if you care to go to school."

"Good," said Emil, "that settles the thing, for I don't much care to be sent to the Institute.

"I'll fetch my sugar-cracknel now- that'll taste good on the way- and the big Bible that's our very own."

And back he came, the sugar-cracknel in his mouth and the big Bible under his arm; and then we paused a moment, doubtful, for the parting was bitter.

We were leaving the old home forever. --Then mother opened a window a bit and called our names.

"Emil and Peter, where are you going? and what are you doing with that book out there in the street? Come straight in: here's Dorthe now--dinner is ready."

Bewildered and confused we stood--the great adventure forgotten -- and then meekly obeyed that kindly, commanding voice.

To Our Brothers Emigrating to America
By M. L. {2}

[Morgenbladet, June 24, 1842; reprinted by Malmin, in Decorah-Posten, March 20, 1925]

Today, as always, the glory of Norway is her deep valleys and towering mountains and bubbling springs: shame on her renegade sons; like withered leaves who may no longer challenge nature, they wish only for a favoring breeze. When men learned to worship false gods their strength grew feeble, their sinews weak, their hands palsied, and their minds confused.

A good Norseman loves, too deeply to give them up for anything in this world, his still birch woods and the eternal snows on the glaciers. A true son of the mighty fathers finds nothing nobler than these; for nothing greater, nothing more moving, came ever from the hands of God. But where the fires of the soul are extinguished and the streams of the heart are muddied, you see all things small and mean.

Aye, it is only when there is a light in his eyes, courage in his breast, and strength in his arm, when he comes to his work asking little and eager to give much, that a man can get on in Norway. Are not these the things lacking in the crowds that with a pack of illusions on their back stream down out of the western valleys to sail across the sea to lands where fortune is to be bought at a lower price?

For they are not driven as the vikings were by hatred of slavery and the violence of kings, by love of freedom and the glory of adventure, by a sense of strength that would be used or a power of mind that needs must be obeyed: nay, they are driven rather by their impotence in face of nature and the demands of the spirit; their sole vision is food and drink and a dull somnolence on the banks of the Missouri.

My fellow countryman, pray consider. Cast down these alien gods; give not your soul over to them: to the monster whiskey that drags men down to beasts, to a blinding self-love that makes the heart cold, and to that accursed troll Mammon: take up Olav's mace and strike them down. Then shall the sun rise again for the yeomen of Norway, and the harvest yield a thousand fold.

We are happy here in the mountains of Norway, despite the cry of Envy and the mockings of fools. Here were we born and here will we live; and we will give thanks to God who of his grace has given us so happy a dwelling for our earthly life, where brothers share our hopes and faith, where the divine seed may grow in our hearts, where love forges the chain that binds us together in life, gives comfort in sorrow, and, at the end of it all, a quiet grave.

My brothers, hear a word of counsel: remain at home here in the friendly North! From a sorrowful heart I beg you to stay here at home; do not sail over yonder. Little do you know what it is you are doing, nor the bitter disillusioning that may be yours. For when you are buried over there in the deep forests or the wilderness, a restless longing will shatter your peace, and you will remember then what now you forget.

Ah, yes, then you. will strain your eyes to the east where your hopes lie, and you will ask, "Where is the gain, where is the Fortune I sought?" Man cannot live by bread alone; hence came your blunder. You yielded to your senses, bade the fatherland farewell, to seek a heap of gold in foreign lands. You did not consider that its stones weigh down the soul and bury it at last in darkness.

* * * * *

The crowd hurries to the shore. Farewell, my friend, and God be with you. The yards are trimmed and the sails set, and out you sweep to sea.

That shouting seems to me a dirge sung for a friend. You, too, are moved, for I see the tears well up, your cheeks grow pale.

This land in the north is mirrored in your heart, and the memory goes with you. Bitter will the moment be when the last glimpse of the coast fades away in the east.

Ye young men in the pride of youth, farewell; may God go with you where'er you go; and ye maidens of Norway, God keep you ever chaste and pure. {3}

Friends and countrymen, a fond farewell! May you all, in the distant lands to which you go, prove the worth of the stock from which you sprang.

But my warmest prayer of all is this: Be true to God always; live your lives obedient to His law, so that yonder in the great forests you may die in His salvation.

* * * * *

A father could not persuade his older son to go with him: despite cries and protests he took the younger: black sorrow fell upon the mother.

The boy went solitary to the old home. Not a soul was there. He closed the door and went away. God forgive you, father, what have you done?

Faithful Signe has gone with her husband, hiding her grief in her bosom. She can stand it no longer, and falls unconscious to the deck.

Gundvor sits under the linden-tree (Havnens Lind), golden locks about her cheeks, and she sighs in her anguish, "I have no hope left to me."

Silently she wipes the tears away. "Good luck to you, Olav; but your sweetheart will never be happy again."

* * * * *

On the western ocean a mother rocks the child at her bosom. The child is sick; the storm is rising.

The sea-mews circle about with hoarse cries; the shark, his jams gaping wide, awaits the victim. The child cries, and moans. Oh, God, it is dead!

The mother's heart is broken: Wildly she stares at the sea. "Oh, God, what would I not give for a church-yard! They will cast my child into the sea."

A Poor Man's Dreams of Emigration to America
By "David"

[Morgenbladet, May 4, 1843; reprinted by Malmin, in Decorah-Posten, March 20, 1925]

Spring has returned, and longings awaken now in our countrymen's breasts: life is so cramped and narrow here at home; surely things are better in America.

As the waves of the Atlantic are gilded by the sun, he dreams that he stands on that distant shore: "There my wishes shall all be fulfilled; there shall I find my El Dorado.

"I know well that even in the loveliest lands I may win my bread only in the sweat of my brow. But there prosperity will mark my every step, and life flow as a stream of happiness and peace.

"For the land is fertile there, and wages are high, and I can easily earn what here I may never hope for, there where Fortune smiles on the humble, and all are equal before the law."

Thus he thinks, and his imaginings conjure up the picture of a golden age. Would to God it were not all a dream ! Would to God he may not mingle his tears of regret with the waters of the sea.

All his goods he gives away that he may sail hence unencumbered. He does not reflect, "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." I pray God that he may not mingle tears of regret with the waters of the sea.

And to him, O God, who cannot seek the land of fortune alone, but with his wife and children, grant that his wanderings do not lay him in his grave.

The pangs of grief strike deeper in foreign lands, where Norse tongues can speak no comfort in our loneliness: strange speech in strange lands is poor requital for the loss of the familiar tones of home.

Before you set out consider thoughtfully what you have to win and to lose: here you have but to harrow; yonder you must plow, and learn everything anew from the beginning. Life is short: order and contentment will bless the soil of our fathers for us.

Emigrant Song

[From Drammen. Printed by Malmin, in Decorah-Posten, March 20, 1925]

I am nothing but a cussed tramp, with hardly a rag to my name; but if only I could emigrate I'd get what I want. For I notice that every blessed emigrant, ne'er-do-wells and all, can get to America along with the best of them.

Oleana 

[Decorah-Posten, March 20, 1925; contributed by Rasmus B. Anderson]

In Oleana, that's .where I'd like to be, and not drag the chains of slavery in Norway.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! Oleana !

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! Oleana !

In Oleana they give you land for nothing, and the grain just pops out of the ground. Golly, that's easy.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

The grain threshes itself in the granary while I stretch out at ease in my bunk.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

And the crops (?)! You just ought to see the potatoes! You can distil at least a quart of whiskey from every one of them.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

And Munchener beer, as sweet as Ytteborg's, runs in the creeks for the poor man's delectation.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

And the salmon, they leap like mad in the rivers, and hop into the kettles, and cry out /or a cover.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

And little roasted piggies rush about the streets politely inquiring if you wish for ham.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

And the cows they milk and churn and make cheese just as skilfully as Else my sister.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

And the calves they kill and flay themselves and turn to veal roast faster than you can take a drink.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

And the hens lay eggs as big as a storehouse, and the cocks strike the hour like an eight-day clock.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

And cakes fairly rain from the skies above you. Good Lord, what wondrous tid-bits.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

The sun shines faithfully all night long, so that you can see in the dark just like a cat.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

The moon is full every night, that is certain: I am observing it now with a bottle for a telescope.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

You bet, they give you two dollars a day for carousing; and if you are good and lazy, they'll probably give you four.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

The old woman and the kids, why, they go to the poorhouse; if they don't pay they get it on the snout.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

You don't have to work to support your bastards; if you did, I shouldn't be sitting here spinning verses.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

And we all stalk about in velvet suits with silver buttons, smoking meerschaum pipes which the old woman fills for us.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

And she has to sweat and toil and struggle; and if she doesn't do it, she gives herself a beating.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

And every last one of us plays upon the fiddle, and dances a merry polka; and that's not so bad!

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! etc.

Oh, I'd much rather live in Oleana than drag the chains of slavery over there in Norway.

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! Oleana !

Ole-Ole-Ole-oh ! Oleana !

Evening Prayer on the Atlantic
Bb Chr. H.
Written on the Banks of Newfoundland, April(?)6, 1846

[Morgenbladet, July 19, 1846; reprinted by Malmin, in Decorah-Posten, March 27, 1925]

Once again has the sun gone to rest, and another day of life has slipped by. No one may halt the hurrying hours; no one may bid Time stay. Oh, but ere night spreads its cool wings over the dark waters my thoughts shall ascend, silent, full of gratitude, to heaven and to my God. "Merciful Father, Thou who hast summoned earth and sea from the deeps of chaos; Thou who dost forgive each fallen sinner and never askest 'Who?' or 'Why?' Thou, unchanging forever and ever, Thou who dost bless the penitent child, the Everlasting Limb of the Tree of Life, at the foot of thy Throne I offer my prayer:

"'
Far toward the North, where the darkling spruce covers the mountains, there have I builded my humble cot; poor, aye, poor because of me, O God; I best know it. And there have I left behind me in grief and suffering her, the jewel of my earthly life; but with the hope, O God, that in' days to come, I shall clasp once more my beloved wife.

"' O Thou who searchest each human heart, Thou who hast given us life, O Father in Heaven, here in grief and anguish I pray that Thou wilt .watch over my humble home. Home! that dost keep my only treasure, all that I cherish, for thee I pray. Bless them, O, God, the loved ones at home, wife and son, bound to me in bonds of blood and affection. Bless, too, all those who have befriended me and who have reached me a helping hand! 

* * * * *

"'Night has fallen; the evening breezes hurry our ship toward a foreign shore. But the ties that bind me to home fire my courage and strengthen my soul. Should all things else perish- fleeting as a shooting star--O God, let not the ties break that bind me to the North.'"

Norway and America
By P.

[Morgenbladet, August 23, 1846; reprinted by Malmin, in Decorah-Posten, March 27, 1925]

"Norway is a poor and wretched land, and now I am going to America.

"Here I have to slave and suffer want: in America every one can make a living.

"There I shall win riches and glory. Farewell, farewell! Here we go.

"Farewell, farewell, here we go. You'll be sorry you didn't come along."

* * * * *

Poor fellow! You'll soon regret you've left friends and kin and home behind you.

When the ship bears you far from Norway's coast, deep longings will waken and melt your heart.

Then, be assured, the welling tears will moisten your cheek, and your bitterness will soften.

For Norway is truly a fostering mother; and you will miss her, miss her more than you can think.

* * * * *

In the Bible we read that the Jews wept by the waters of Babylon, and prayed.

For they dreamt of the towering mount of Zion, and they wasted away in anguish and longing.

And should you, some day, reach America, I fear it will go with you as it did with the Jews.

For
many a man has gone to America; but many a man has come disappointed away.

But even should you find there gold abundant as the sands of the sea, one thing you will never find -- a fatherland.

The Emigrant's Lament
By G. Berner

[Morgenbladet, June 3, 1855; reprinted by Malmin, in Decorah-Posten, March 27, 1925]

Ah, why did I forsake that beloved land that saw my birth, my North land! Though the waves of the Arctic wash thy shores, still thou art the dearest on earth. In vain now I repent the rash passion that took me to this foreign shore, where only an aching longing fills my heart.

I miss the smiling dale, and the mountain bathed in memories of childhood, and the spring and its bubbling waters leaping down the rocks. For here the springs are not so blue, nor the fields so green, nor Nature so lovely, as in the old homeland in the North.

I miss the gracious season of summer, when Nature never sleeps, and the elves dance on the green, and the midnight sun glows in the sky. I miss the majesty of winter--the flaming northern lights turning night to day.

I miss that lovely being with the blooming cheeks, whose image is printed deep in my heart and whose charm nothing may withstand--a maiden of Norway. And more than all, I miss the speech of Norsemen, sharp and crisp as the clash of swords.

When I hear them, those familiar tones from the mountains and dales of the homeland, my heart is filled with a melancholy happiness, and they speak to me in a thousand voices of the carefree years of childhood, and they conjure up before me a vision of mother beckoning me home.

And then, overwhelmed with sorrow, I think of the spot that conceals the dust of the dear departed, where weed-flowers burgeon midst the mouldering leaves. O ye storms, sweep me back, if only for a moment, to weep. and pray beside the moss-grown grave.

Fortune
By G. Berner

[Morgenbladet, July 15, 1855; reprinted by Malmin, in Decorah-Posten, March 27, 1925]

Seek not in distant lands an uncertain and illusive good fortune. Think you not that griefs afflict you, there no less than here? Think you that you can ever forget the soil that conceals the dust of your fathers? Think you that you can still the silent inner voices that speak to you of the lovely valleys of home? And do you think that, enveloped in these memories, you shall find peace and fortune on your melancholy way? No, no! Do not deceive yourself!

The Emigrant Ship
By "Rungolf"

[Morgenbladet, April 30, 1861; reprinted by Malmin, in Decorah-Posten, March 27, 1925]

On an evening in spring-time, as the sun brilliantly clear and bright, was setting, gilding the tree-tops with its light, a ship flying the Norwegian flag lay quietly at anchor, its image mirrored in the waters.

To my inward eye the ship there in the peace of evening lay bathed in a light of sadness. From the shore came only the sighing of the forest, and in the light evening breeze the little billows rippled on their way.

A peace like the peace of heaven rested on sea and land. In the sky, clouds, brilliant red, drifted by like a conflagration, and in the water their glowing reflection.

It was as though Nature was being lulled asleep and sighed softly, as though one heard the moan of some dark secret anguish from behind the veil of night.

There saw I the ship freighted with its precious cargo from the North for the banks of the Mississippi; ah, yes, the vessel sailing to the music of hope and of happy days to come.

It lay there, so proud and stately, held back by the failing breeze, and the flag that so often had sung in exultation in the might of the storm, hung lifeless and weeping.

* * * * *

On shore a little band gaze rapt at the stately ship so soon to take from us the rich fruits of life's summer and autumn and the flowers of its spring-time.

Alas, many a son and daughter of Norway is now to sail far across the sea, leaving behind them their home and friends and kinsfolk for a world they do not know.

Where now is the spell of the motherland, the land of our youth and our childhood? Surely our hearts still cling to her.

Are not her skies still blue, her meadows flower-bedecked, .her fields golden? The forests, are they desolate and empty? and the treasures of the sea, have they come to. an end?

Has she been harried by an enemy and laid waste, her laws annulled? Is her freedom but a name; virtue and happiness, are they chimeras?

O my brother, look about you and tell me if Norway is not the happiest and richest of lands. The foundations of society are sound, and every citizen lives his life in peace.

Wherever my eye falls, on mountain, valley, and fjord, an abundance of riches smiles at me. From. the blooming meads of the south to the heaths of Finmark, busy hands may win their daily bread.

Toilsome, I know, is the way in mountains and valleys; and the sea takes its toll; but the folk grow hardy and strong, and they know how to win through.

See yon noble patriarch with the snow-white hair. The tears come to his eyes as he bids farewell to his son, who with wife and children would leave him now.

The old man has lived here these many years, safe and happy on the farm of his fathers. All he required he had, and here where his forbears rest, he too would rest.

They go aboard; the old man stands motionless on the shore gazing at the ship, like Mother Norway herself lamenting the going of her children.

* * * * *

The winds swell the flapping sails, and the ship glides majestically out to sea. The groves fade away, and the deep valley and the mountain peaks are lost in the mists.

"Farewell "-- the last word of parting. The storms from the North shall shout it, and the little billows gliding softly off-shore shall sing it like a threnody heard in dreams.

And yet, even now, when the last skerry has disappeared, the brothers still stand gazing fixedly at the spot where the last glimpse of the fatherland vanished away.

Stay in the Country and Maintain Yourself Honorably
By P. A. Jensen

[Morgenbladet, January 29, 1864; reprinted by Malmin, in Decorah-Posten, March 27, 1925]

Where in this wide world do you imagine that you will find greater happiness than here at home? Think of your father's silver hair, your mother's voice, your brother and sister; think too of friends and kin. When they shall meet together, where then will you be found?

Think you that you will find in those new lands to which you go the same music in the streams? the same sun? the same summer? Think you the flower that grew by your mother's cot blooms on foreign shores no less?

Nay, be sure, you will not find it so. For clouds will hide the sun from you, and. darkness, the stars. Soon will you forget the speech and customs of your father; and however life may deal with you, you will live an exile always.

How can you thus rashly spurn the life your father lived? Or do you fancy that you can carry the old farm with you in your pack? Honest toil never suffered want, nor honor, shame. And if loafers lacked for bread, is it not fitting so?

You would go to seek for gold? Assuredly, you shall find more at home. Dig it out of the soil; that .will bring you honor. Wrest it from the deeps of the sea and the heart of the mountains, where it glows like burning coals in the darkness.

Here, under the protection of beneficent laws, you are as free as the birds of the air. Would you bring that to an end? Dare you take the. risk? Here the faith of your fathers was to you as a shield and buckler. What if it should fail you on an alien soil?

For where in all the world could you lose your own self? 'Nay, stay rather at home in the land of your people. Your cottage, indeed, may be humble and your fortune poor; but when all is over, friendly hands will deck your grave with flowers.

Notes
<1> In a letter by Professor Rasmus B. Anderson that appears in Decorah-Posten for March 27, 1925, "The Flight to America" is attributed to "the most popular Danish poet of the time, Christian Winther, who died in 1876." Professor Anderson adds the following information: "When I was a student at Luther College we used 'Jensen's Reader' in which the poem, under the title 'Flugten til Amerika,' appeared. I remember that. I once recited it at a declamation contest. As printed in Decorah-Posten for March 20, some of the opening lines are lacking. Winther's poem begins as follows: 'Long ago when I was little, and had begun to go to school and to wear shoes, and had discarded my kilts,' etc."

<2> This poem was written by the noted Norwegian hymn writer, Magnus B. Landstad, and is included in his collection of Sange og Digte af forskjellige Slags, mest fra gamle Dage (Christiania, 1879).

<3> In the poem as printed in Landstad's Sange og Digte this verse is preceded by a farewell addressed to an "old, gray-haired man," closing with the line "Though you love life, you go to die on a foreign shore."

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