A Norwegian-American Pioneer Ballad
By Einar Haugen (Volume XV: Page 1)
The ballads of a nation are precious for the insight they give into the thoughts and
feelings of common men. Even if they do not always merit the name of
"literature," they bear the imprint of close contact with universal springs of
human feeling and conduct. This quality has led historians to turn to the songs and
ballads of the past when they wished to reach the essentially human core of history.
A particularly interesting example of this form among Norwegian-American poems is one
included in Norwegian Emigrant Songs and Ballads by Theodore C. Blegen and Martin
B. Ruud, under the title of "How Things Have Gone."
This ballad, which tells
in simple but appealing words the story of Norwegian pioneering in early Wisconsin,
appears to have been the most popular of all songs written in this country in a Norwegian
rural dialect. Unfortunately the version given by Professors Blegen and Ruud is
incomplete, and has been taken from a late, somewhat faulty copy of the song. It will
therefore be of some interest to determine the earliest appearance of the ballad in the
Norwegian-American press, its authorship, its original form, and the story of its
reception among the Norwegian immigrants.
It should be noted that very few of the ballads or poems written by Norwegians in the
United States were composed in the dialects which the immigrants actually spoke. When
these pioneers took pen in hand to compose literature, they inevitably made use, however
clumsily, of the official Dano-Norwegian with which they had been indoctrinated in their
schools and newspapers, and which was sanctified for them by its dominance in church and
sacred writing. Yet there runs through the course of Norwegian poetic creation in the
United States a thin trickle of dialect verse; it deserves special study as a direct
expression from the people of moods and ideas which they found difficult to put into the
bookish Dano-Norwegian. This practice was encouraged by a rising movement in Norway which
strongly advocated such use of the dialects and for which the peasant philologist Ivar
Aasen even created a written norm, the so-called landsmaal or "New
Norse," to accommodate the dialects and give them a common orthographic denominator.
In general, however, this "new language" aroused mixed feelings among the
immigrants, who conservatively clung to the writing they had learned. They showed little
tolerance for innovations, even in the direction of writing their own spoken dialects --
such was their subservience to the official norm. It is therefore the more striking that
in this ballad the familiarity of the theme and the homely vigor of expression should have
been such that the song found wide acceptance and enduring popularity, as evidenced by the
number of times it has been reprinted and alluded to and by the variety of textual and
dialectal forms in which it constantly reappears.
Only a complete search of the Norwegian-American press and literature would reveal the
whole story. But even a somewhat casual survey has uncovered eleven complete printings
from 1878 to 1940, not including Professor Blegen's, and nine or ten incidental allusions
quoting a stanza or two. In time, these references span most of the period of Norwegian
group life in this country; in place, they include the whole Middle Western area of
Norwegian settlement and extend beyond, to China and Norway. As far as can now be
determined, the maiden appearance of "How Things Have Gone" was on March 13,
1878, in the Chicago newspaper Norden, where it was printed without comment. There
was only the pseudonym "Starkad" to identify its author, and the date line
"Moscow, Wisconsin, 1878." Since this version appears to be the original, it is
here reprinted, with a translation into English verse. The melody is "Dei vil altid
klaga og kyta." The translation is intended to be singable, and to render the spirit
rather than the precise wording of the original.
KORLEJDES DÆ GJEK
(HOW THINGS HAVE GONE)
Kom no, Nordmenn fraa Hauga og Dala,
Som hey Noreg aa norske Folk kjær,--
Lad oss setja os ne, mæ' me tala
Um korleids dæ hev gjenget oss her.
Come, Norwegians from hilltops and valleys,
To whom Norway and Norse folk are dear;
Let's sit down now and chat here together
On the life we have led over here.
Jau -- i Fyrsten dæ gjek lit paaskakka,
Daa me landa paa framande Jor,
Av dæ Maalet, som folket her snakka,
Skjyna me 'kje eit einaste Or.
At the start we had troubles a-plenty
When we stepped on this far-away strand;
We heard only a meaningless babble
When our ears caught the speech of the land.
Læra Spraaket va nokot, som leitte,
Ofta stod me mæ skamfulle Fjæs:
Naar ein Yankee deg sporde, ka du heitte,
Raakte jamt, at du svara honom: Yæs!
'Twas a long pull learning the language,
And our spirits were often downcast;
When a Yankee would ask what our names were,
We would most often answer him, "Yas!"
Ikkje va me no helder av dei Rike,
Dæ gjekk seint me aa byggja aa bu.
Me laut Kjæring aa Unga lata skrika,
Til me Pengar fekk tent til ei ku.
We were not in the ranks of the wealthy,
And our homes took a long time to build;
We sought work that would earn us some money,
For our youngsters were hungry and chilled.
Men sore Tiderna frametter lakka,
Vart dæ betre aa betre enn før:
Borni lærde seg snart til aa snakka,
Aa me solde lit Æg aa lit Smør.
With the passing of years we were hopeful,
That our lot would improve over now;
For the children were learning the lingo,
And we sold some produce from the cow.
Aa saa grov me eit Hol burr i Bakka,
De var Hus, de var Heim, de var Bu!
Men um Kvelden, naar heimatt' du lakka,
Var den Heimen vel kjær, kan du tru!
So we dug us a hole in the hillside;
There was house, there was hearth, there was home --
But at nightfall, as homeward we plodded,
We were fond of that sod-covered room!
Soleids livde me got i dæ smaae,
Me var nøjd mæ dæ, Herren os gav,
Vaara "Fordringar" daa vaaro faae,
Imot no, daa me era "vel av."
We were pleased and content with our living.
Well endowed with the gifts of the Lord;
We demanded much less to keep happy
Than today when we more can afford.
Komne ut av den norske Stein-Ura,
Tok me her av dæ skralaste Land,
Me lot Yænkien paa Prærien skura
Aa helt sjølv os til Skog og til Vand.
We had known just the rock slopes of Norway,
Gave the Yankees the best of the land;
We were seeking for woods and for water,
And the prairie was not in demand.
Men hjaa Yænkien jamt laut me træla,
Naar før Pengar me saato ibeit,
De var feint so du kunna deg forfæla,
Naar du saag, kor me baska og sleit.
But whenever we needed some money,
We would work for the Yankees a time;
We would labor and slave to our utmost,
Were so willing 'twas almost a crime.
Daa var Vægjerne ikkje so jamne;
Bærre Brottur aa Kneikar aa Staup!
Kubberulla me dreiv allesamne
Aa ho gjekk ikkje myket paa Laup.
Those were days when the roads weren't level;
They were rocky and rugged indeed.
When we drove into town in our oxcarts,
There was never an excess of speed!
Men daa Yænkien saag, kor me stridde,
Vart han gavmild aa undte os vel,
De var mange, som Mat til oss flidde;
Gud velsigne den gavmilde Sjæl.
When the Yankees perceived how we struggled,
They were ready at once with their praise;
And they shared with us many a tidbit;
Now may God bless their generous ways.
Aa so vilde vaar Tak me daa syna,
So at alle den greit kunna sjaa,
Difyr' Arbejd me gjorde, so dæ muna,
So del sjølve laut undrast derpaa.
We desired to show we were grateful,
And were anxious to be of some use;
We took hold of the roughest of jobs here,
Just to show them what we could produce.
Uti Skogen me hogg, so dæ braka,
(Flisi dreiv net som Sprak av eit Eld)
Splitta "Ræls," so i "Loggen" dæ knaka,
Aa eit Hundre me hadde før Kveld.
We split rails till the forest re-echoed,
And the chips looked like sparks as they flew;
You should see how the trees came a-crashing;
We cut hundreds before we were through.
Saag du Yænki'n, kor Augo hah rengde,
Daa ban saag, kor slags Karar me va':
At seks Bushels paa Nakken me slengde.
Jamen totte han, detta var bra.
Did you see how the Yanks were astonished
When they learned of what stuff we were made?
When six bushels we hoisted at once, sir,
They agreed that we had made the grade.
Retno æ me blit gamle i Lande,
Aa me liva no jamnan alt vel,
Um no alt ikkje gjekk os tilhande,
Kan me lel væra velnøjd aa sæl.
Now the years are commencing to lengthen,
We are living right royally here;
And although we have had our reverses,
We look forward without any fear.
Me hey Farmar aa Skulor aa Kjørkje,
Aa dæ gjenger no stendigen fram,
Aa i Samhold aa Tru æe vaar Styrkje,
Aa av der skal me aldrig faa Skam.
We have schoolhouses, farms, and our churches,
And we're still ever forging ahead;
While our strength lies in faith and in union,
There'll be nothing that we need to dread.
No æ Borni vaar au vortne store,
Dei kan jølpa se sjøl, um dei vil;
At dei likna paa Far aa paa More,
Dæ æ nokot, som høyrer so til.
Now our children have grown up to manhood,
They can scratch for themselves when they need;
If they look like their fathers and mothers,
It just proves they belong to the breed.
Vaara Jentor kan Huset vaart stella,
Dæ va Synd, um me klaga paa dei,
Ja dei kveikja vaart Liv som ei Kjella
Paa ein Færdamanns langsame Lei'.
We have daughters adorning our households,
Of whose charm there is much one could say;
They inspire our lives like a fountain
On the traveler's wearisome way.
At me hava dei gjævaste Gutar,
Kan vel ingen forundra seg paa,
Naar han huksa dei Vikingeknutar,
Som Forseldro æ sprungne utaa.
That our lads are accounted the bravest
Won't be cause for surprise any more
If we just don't forget for a moment
That they sprang from the vikings of yore.
Aa so vonar eg, Manddommen vara,
At den aukar seg Aar etter Aar,
So dei støt kan sjaa Jento aa Kara
Av dæ go'e gamle Slag, som forslaar.
Let us hope that our manhood will prosper
And grow stronger as year follows year;
May there always be menfolk and women
With the strength of the old pioneer.
In effect this poem is a versified speech, such as would be made at a gathering of old
pioneers. It reflects with feeling and picturesqueness the difficulties overcome, the
pride in achievement that was an authentic part of the westward movement. But the poem
gains a special character with its flavor of immigration, its definitely
Norwegian-American perceptions, which include the immigrant's struggles with the language,
his economic subservience to the native "Yankee," his unwise choice of land,
and his overtones of viking pride. Its Norwegian-American character extends into the very
bones of the language, which shows a moderate but authentic use of English and Anglicized
expressions ("well off," "Yankee,'' "prairie," "splitting
rails," "logs," "bushels"; to which may be added kubberulle, a
neologism for the oxcart). While our ballad is by no means a great piece of poetry, it
caps a generation of Norwegian pioneering in Wisconsin and sums it up in homely,
The poem, except for its English words, is composed in Norwegian rural dialect. But it
does not consistently follow any one dialect, and there are even vacillations of usage
within the poem which reflect widely scattered districts in Norway.
Yet the choice of
words, the syntax, and the whole cast of the grammar are authentically rural, and could
have been produced only by someone who had mastered one of the central or western
dialects. It seems probable that he has deliberately sought to disguise his dialect to
make the poem acceptable to speakers of other patois, and in this endeavor he must have
gotten some help from Ivar Aasen's New Norse norm.
All who spoke midland or western
dialects could recognize the substance of their own speech in the poem, and it is notable
that each person who later reproduced the ballad from memory unconsciously reshaped it
into his own dialect.
If the influence of Aasen were not apparent in the language, it would still be striking
in the style and content. The meter is that of Aasen's classic poem, "Del vil alltid
klaga og kyta," first printed in 1855 and familiar through schoolbooks to all
Norwegians. But the contents are even more reminiscent of Aasen's other poem in the same
meter, "Millom bakkar og berg," printed in 1862. This poem, too, presents in
simple narrative form -- with overtones of rustic humor -- the founding of homes amid
great poverty, the love of home and country, an appeal to ancestral tradition, and pride
in solid accomplishment. For all its simplicity Aasen's poem stands very high in poetic
value, a representative of the best in Norwegian national folk tradition. It was an
excellent model to use for just this kind of rustic verse. Compare the sixth stanza of our
ballad with Aasen's first:
Millom Bakkar og Berg ut med Havet
heve Nordmannen fenget sin Heim,
der han sjølv here Tufterna gravet
og sett sjølv sine Hus uppaa deim.
'Mid the hillsides and cliffs by the seashore
The Norwegian has builded his home,
Where himself he has dug the foundations
And implanted his house thereupon.
The ballad was no sooner printed than it began to excite interest. Within the year it
was reprinted, at the request of a reader, in Deeorah-posten.
Sixty years later
a woman missionary in China wrote to the same newspaper, recalling that the ballad had
been read aloud in her childhood in Dakota Territory. She had then memorized it and could
still, in 1940, quote fifteen stanzas. "The pioneers certainly found it extremely
interesting," she wrote.
O. O. Enestvedt, historian of the Numedal group, reprinted the poem in 1916 with the
comment that he had read it in Norden as a boy and had learned it by heart.
"It seems to have struck home in the minds of many, for we find the song rendered in
many different variants."
In 1922 A. M. Sundheim, editor of a book devoted to the
history of the Valdres people, included it at the request of an old Valdres pioneer, with
the words, "It is now fifty years since the song was written, and it is mentioned
from that time as a delight to the pioneers."
In sending it anew to Decorah-posten
in 1925, the Reverend Kr. Kvamme stated that it had become very popular, and that he
had got a copy of it from "our old [parochial] school teacher, Isak Røinestad."
Mr. Einar Hoidale, a Minneapolis lawyer, informed me in a letter of May 17, 1939, that
he had learned it as a boy in Lac qui Parle County, Minnesota.
These are some examples of the appeal which the ballad carried. But historians and
novelists of pioneer life have also found it a useful embellishment to their writing. As
early as 1893 Peer O. Strømme used it in his well-known novel Hvorledes Halvor blev
prest (How Halvor Became a Minister)
He tells about a christening party, where
"most of the men were outside, drinking and singing ballads. Thrond knew one, which
he called the 'Valdres ballad,' and which was a huge success. The hero of the ballad had
recently come to America and could tell them how he had shown the Yankees samples of the
Valdres men's capacity for work and thereby gained honor and glory. But the stanza that
amused them most was one that told how clever he had been at learning English, even though
things had gone badly enough at first." He then quotes two lines of Stanza 3.
In 1893 a Norwegian traveler copied the ballad while visiting a Minnesota farmer; he
included it in some travel memoirs published in Norway three years later, with the
comment, "As far as the language is concerned, it is no masterpiece; but the contents
. . . will help to throw light on life in the western world (Vesterheimen)."
A subscriber to the paper Amerika in 1903, who lived in Sibley County,
Minnesota, quotes Stanza 16 as a conclusion to an account of the local settlement.
description of a Numedal settlement along the Minnesota River in 1911 includes quotations
from Stanza 5 and the last two lines of Stanza 8.
A historian of the Spring Grove
community in Minnesota quotes Stanza 9 in a description of pioneer days.
installment of "Stories and Scattered Recollections" in the paper Visergutten,
published in Canton, South Dakota, about 1923, Stanza 4 is quoted.
H. R. Holand,
when he came to write the history of the Coon Valley settlement in Wisconsin, included a
version of the ballad to enliven his chapter on social and political conditions.
native of Coon Valley, Carl Neprud, who went to China and became a member of the Chinese
customs service, recited the poem with great éclat at a Scandinavian festival in
An article about "the first schoolmaster in Goodhue County,
Minnesota," included a somewhat fictionized historical account of an old drunkard who
sang two stanzas (2 and 3) from "the old Prairie Ballad."
The ballad secured an even more enduring form of distribution by its inclusion in full
in certain books that were widely sold among Norwegians. The first of these was R. B.
in which Anderson reprinted a series of articles
about emigrants from various localities in Norway that had previously appeared in his
vigorous one-man newspaper, Amerika. Anderson's untiring salesmanship and the direct,
personal appeal of his book placed it in a great number of farm homes throughout the
Middle West. In 1929 the ballad forced its way by popular acclaim into a songbook of the
Anundsen Publishing Company, entitled Sange og riser; it has been sold by the
thousands to the readers of Decorah-posten, an Anundsen publication. The version
used was the one sent in by the Reverend Kr. Kvamme of Ossian, Iowa, referred to earlier,
which contains all twenty stanzas in the original order, but with some changes in spelling
and dialect forms due to a restoration by the pastor.
In this book of songs the
ballad has presumably met the eyes and heart of many a Norwegian pioneer, singing by his
fireside. Perhaps Bjorn Holland was right when he wrote, "This unpretentious literary
effort will easily stand the test of time."
Like the ballads of the Middle Ages, our poem usually appears without an author's name
and in a variety of versions that bear the mark of oral transmission. The first to make a
kind of claim to authorship was one G. C. Seviek of Dows, Iowa, over whose name a version
of the poem was printed in 1902.
This claim was vigorously refuted by an anonymous
writer in the Mount Horeb (Wisconsin) Mail, who asserted that Syver Holland,
of Moscow, Wisconsin, was the true author.
Finally, we have a strong claim advanced
in 1940 by Mrs. Reier K. Ulen, of Decorah, Iowa, for her late husband, whose childhood was
spent at Spring Grove, Minnesota.
There are excellent reasons for dismissing the first and the last of these claims
almost at once. There is nothing to connect the ballad with Iowa or Minnesota, but there
is a frequently recurring tendency to call it the "Wisconsin Ballad" (Wisconsinvisen).
Nothing is known about G. C. Sevick, but a good deal of material is available
about R. K. Ulen, which definitely points away from the probability of his having written
Most of the verse that Ulen contributed to various newspapers and publications
was written in ordinary Dano-Norwegian. He also wrote a few poems in dialect, and this is
probably what produced the impression that he had composed our ballad. But never a one of
his poems shows any trace of Ivar Aasen's style or language, and they are all written in
strict Hallingdal dialect.
When we add to this that the earliest printed version is
dated Moscow, Wisconsin, 1878, there cannot be much doubt that the only candidate who
deserves serious consideration is Syver Holland.
If the poem had not been published over a pseudonym, there might never have been any
problem of authorship. The pen name "Starkad," drawn from Old Norse heroic
sagas, recurs in the columns of the Norwegian-American press under other communications
from the township of Moscow. It is variously written Starkadr and Starkoder. A year after
the appearance of his pioneer poem, Starkad sent to Norden another bit of verse
which had been sung on the occasion of a celebration of the Norwegian holiday, May 17, in
This he did not directly claim as his own, but imbedded it in a very amusing
account of the celebration and described it as "verses composed by a member" of
the Moscow Reading Society, which had sponsored the festivities.
In another article
he wrote with evident pride about this society, then in its seventh year. "It now
includes something over fifty members with more than two hundred volumes at their
disposal. Among these books are many of the best contemporary Norwegian authors, as well
as several of the older ones."
We learn that the society had sponsored a number
of public celebrations, and above all that Seventeenth of May festival in 1875 when the
incomparable Ole Bull had played his violin to them from the schoolhouse porch.
"I have never heard anyone complain over hearing him so unexpectedly, but many
complained because they were so unbelieving and didn't come because they thought it was a
lie when we said that he would come." In 1878, Starkad informs us, they had
celebrated both the Norwegian and the American national holidays. "It is our custom
to have a distinguished outside speaker, but also to have a couple of members appear with
speeches, songs, and various other things, yes, even with home-made snatches of verse (rimstumper)."
These passages clearly reveal Starkad as a man of cultural interests, a leading member
of the reading society here alluded to, and a participator in its programs. There is only
one person who fulfills all these qualifications, and that is the above-mentioned Syver
Holland. He had organized the society in 1872;
he was a member of the committee that
invited Rasmus B. Anderson to give the speech of the day at the celebration in 1875;
and he made a speech of gratitude to Ole Bull for unexpectedly coming with Anderson on
that unforgettable Seventeenth of May and playing to the multitude.
This speech he
concluded with a four-line verse in honor of Ole Bull:
|Til Høien blir et Hul,
Til Dovre ei er mere til,
Til da hver Normand vil
Erindre Ole Bull.
|Until the hill becomes a hole,
Until the Dovre Mountains fall,
Till then each Norseman shall
Remember Ole Bull.
Syver Sigurdson Holland was born in Etne, Norway, on February 2, 1839, and immigrated
to Walworth County, Wisconsin, with his parents in 1846.
He attended district school,
and studied at Albion Academy when he was twenty-two years of age. He taught in the
district schools a few years, farmed for a time, and was married to Martha Johannesdatter
Bakken in 1868. But in 1870 he sold his farm and bought a fourth interest in a store and
grist mill owned by his brothers at Moscow, in Iowa County, Wisconsin. Here he and his
brothers prospered; eventually a town was named for them, still in existence as
Hollandale, Wisconsin. They were described by an anonymous writer in Norden as
"worthy men, generally liked, and kindly in their ways with creditors."
Syver died in May, 1884, only forty-five years old, leaving his widow Martha to carry on
the literary interests of the family. Anderson gives us an engaging glimpse of the man in
his description of the evening when Ole Bull promised these country folk that he would
play for them, "I can still see how Syver Holland sat rubbing his hands together in
He was a man with talents beyond the average, who assumed a position of
leadership in his community and leavened its social life with literary interests within
the first generation of its founding.
That he was the author of our ballad is finally confirmed by the explicit statement of
his brother, Bjorn Holland, in his history of the town of Moscow. But this account raises
two further problems which cannot be settled with the evidence at hand. Bjorn asserts that
the song was written for the May Seventeenth celebration when Ole Bull appeared, and that
Syver sang it on this occasion "amidst prolonged cheers and applause."
would make the ballad five years earlier than the dated first printing that was cited
previously. It is not mentioned in Anderson's account of the celebration; in 1902 Anderson
had clearly forgotten it, if he had ever heard it; it does not seem to have been printed
in any of the leading Norwegian-American papers during the years 1875-78. There is no
apparent reason why it should have lain buried for five years and then have turned up in
print bearing the specific date of 1878. Another difficulty is that the version used by
Bjorn is markedly different from that of 1878, but agrees to a very considerable extent
with that printed in Amerika in 1902.
Since this short version thus turns up
independently in 1902 and 1919, it must have some basis. One might even theorize that this
was the original draft, which Holland had revised before publication in 1878. But there is
no evidence for this, and the probability is rather strong that Bjorn Holland's account of
the song and of the occasion for which he presumed it was composed, written forty years
after the event, contains some errors.
In any case, the ballad grew out of the work of the Moscow Reading Society, or the
Moscow Circulating Library Association, as Bjorn Holland calls it. Its purpose, as stated
by Syver himself, was "to promote a healthy enlightenment in general and to acquire
the best of our Norwegian nationality in particular."
This is an interesting
phenomenon, especially characteristic of the early seventies, when such societies were
being organized in many Norwegian communities under the influence of Chicago newspapers
We learn from Bjorn's account that "the society grew from year
to year in goodly proportions and wielded a commanding and wholesome influence in a
literary direction from far and near."
Eventually it had about two hundred
members, owning three hundred books and periodicals to a value of four hundred dollars.
The society made a practice of securing outside speakers; an anonymous writer in Norden
in 1879 announced that it expected as lecturer the famous Norwegian author Kristofer
Janson, incidentally a leading advocate of Aasen's New Norse. "He can be certain of
having attentive listeners."
Bjorn Holland adds that as an adjunct to the
library association a debating club was organized, the Apollo Debating Society, which
discussed such philosophic topics as "Resolved, that liquor has caused more misery
among people than ambition." The reading society organized by these ambitious farmers
survived until 1888, four years after the death of Syver Holland; he was clearly the soul
of the enterprise.
We have here uncovered a bit of cultural history which illustrates at once the workings
of oral tradition and the line of transmission from Norwegian to American culture. A man
of unusual abilities, born in Norway, educated in America, but steeped in the literature
of the homeland, creates out of the material of the pioneer life he knows best a ballad
that strikes home to the hearts of his fellow Norwegian Americans. Again and again people
of various dialect backgrounds learned his poem by heart, and wrote it down without regard
to the spelling norm which he had in mind when he wrote it, unconsciously shaping it over
into their own forms. Spurious authors came forward to claim it, and like the beloved
child of the Norwegian proverb, it came to bear many names. So fully did it reflect the
common experiences of the pioneer immigrant that it was taken as the pioneer song: they
called it the "Prairie Ballad," or simply the "Old Pioneer Ballad." It
seemed to belong with those ancient songs which proclaimed in their text that they had
"made themselves" and had come floating into the world on a drifting plank.
<1> Pages 344--350. This book was published in Minneapolis in 1936.
<2> See a discussion of this problem in Blegen, Norwegian Migration to
America, 1835-1860, 159 (Northfield, 1931).
<3> Note the mixture of forms with and without final r (hauga, dala, huksa, but
pengar, kneikar, vonar); the use of -i, -a, and -o indiscriminately for the
feminine singular and neuter plural definite endings (borni, stein-ufa, flisi,
forældro); the mixture of -e, -ur, -or, and -o for the weak feminine plural (kjørkje,
brottur, jentor, jento); the irregular use of verb plurals (hava, liva, era, vaaro,
saato) side-by-side with singulars. On the other hand the author quite consistently
ends all his infinitives in -a, which points to western Norway, but could be due to
Ivar Aasen's New Norse.
<4> He writes silent t in nokot and myket -- but not in dæ (it),
for which Aasen wrote det- and ends his plural definites in -erna or -erne
(tiderna, vægjerne). forms for which the spoken dialects provide no authority. Such
forms, as well as the rare verb plurals (see preceding note), were a part of Aasen's norm
(see his Norsk grammatik of 1864). As will be shown later, the author probably came
from Etne in southwestern Norway (Sunnhordland); this dialect has final r's (though
neighboring communities lack them), an e-vowel in the weak feminine plurals, an -o in the
strong feminine singular, no verb plurals, infinitives in -a, and dæ for the pronoun
"it." As has been seen all these forms are rotund in the poem; the others he
might easily have learned from his Telemark and Valdres neighbors after his emigration to
<5> Decorah-posten, March 26, 1879.
<6> Decorah-posten, April 26, 1940.
<7> Aarbog ur. 2 for Numedalslaget, 125-127 (1916).
<8> Valdreser i Amerika, aarbok 1922, 20-22 (Minneapolis, 1922).
<9> Decorah-posten, December 15, 1925.
<10> Page 27. This work was published in Decorah, Iowa, in 1893.
<11> A. Sollid, En Amerikatur; reiseerindringer, 116-118 (Skien, 1896). I
am indebted to Theodore C. Blegen for this reference.
<12> Bygdejævning, 413 (Madison, Wisconsin, 1905).
<13> Samband, no. 40, p. 306-316 (August, 1911).
<14> O. S. Johnson, Nybyggerhistorie fra Spring Grove og omegn, 183
(Minneapolis, 1920). I am indebted for this and the preceding reference to Ella Valborg
Rølvaag (now Mrs. Tweet).
<15> From an undated clipping.
<16> H. R. Holand, Coon Valley; en historisk beretning om de norske menigheter,
56 (Minneapolis, 1928). The version lacks seven stanzas, and numerous verbal changes
reflect oral transmission. Certain Gudbrandsdal forms suggest that Holand garnered it from
<17> Letter to the writer, dated Washington, D. C., November 28, 1944.
<18> Trygve Giverholt, in Decorah-posten, August 2, 1940.
<19> Pages 200-202. This work was published in Madison, Wisconsin, in 1903.
<20> There is no date on the title page of Sange og viser; the information
above has been kindly supplied by M. C. Henningsen of the Decorah-posten staff, who
has supervised the revisions of the songbooks published by the firm.
<21> Bjorn Holland, History of the Town of Moscow, 71 (Hollandale,
<22> Amerika, February 5, 1902.
<23> As reprinted by Anderson in Amerika, the notice runs: "For aught
we know Mr. Sevick of Dows, Iowa, may be a poet. But poem No. 2 on page 4 of the issue of
'Amerika' for Feb. 5th should not be credited to him; for the late S. Holland of Moscow
wrote the verses about 25 years ago as 'Badgerina' can attest." "Badgerina"
appears to be Syver Holland's widow, Martha, herself a literary person. See LaGrange
Pioneers, 196 (Walworth County, Wisconsin, 1935), and A. O. Barton in Capital
Times, February 25, 1934. Curiously enough, Anderson did not reprint this correction
or make any change in authorship when he reprinted the poem in Bygdejævning the
following year (Madison, 1903).
<24> Decorah-posten, May 7, 1940.
<25> Sange og viser, 270; Einar Hoidale to the writer, May 17. 1939 Kr.
Kvamme of Ossian, Iowa, in Decorah-posten, December 15, 1925.
<26>Mrs. Ulen, in an interview in the summer of 1940, gave the writer a great
deal of interesting information about her late husband, as well as copies of his verse. He
was born in Flaa, Hallingdal, on August 9, 1849, and emigrated with his parents in 1857.
He bought a farm near Decorah in 1870, and ran an extensive dairying business; in 1917 he
moved to Decorah, where he died in 1925.
<27> Note svallø (talk), infinitive, instead of tala; kvindfølkje (women
folk) --- compare the norske folk of our ballad; infinitives varying from -e (or
-ø) to -a instead of the consistent -a of our ballad.
<28> Norden, June 4, 1879.
<29> Two lines are directly repeated from our ballad, and this version contains
many forms that show it to be written by the same person, e.g., tiderna (the times)
and soto (sat).
<30> Norden, October 30, 1878.
<31> See also the account in Rasmus B. Anderson, Life Story, 227-230
(Madison, Wisconsin, 1915).
<32> Holland, History of Moscow, 115.
<33> Anderson, Life Story, 227.
<34> Skandinaven og Amerika, June 10, 1873.
<35> LaGrange Pioneers, 193 ff.; Holland, History of Moscow, 115.
The Norwegian form of the family name was Haaland, the name of a farm in Etne; the first
name is variously written Sigurd (the official form), Sjur (the spoken form), and Syver
(an intermediate written form). The writer has found information on the place of birth
only in a necrology of Syver's brother Christian in the Blanchardville (Wisconsin) Blade,
December 30, 1920.
<36> Norden, November 19, 1879.
<37> Anderson, Life Story, 228.
<38> Holland, History of Moscow, 75.
<39> The title is Heimtraa (Longing for Home), much less appropriate than
the other; Stanzas 7, 10, 12, 17, and 20 are missing; the sequence of the rest is somewhat
changed; Stanza 16 is rewritten; and the spelling is less consistent.
<40> Whatever its origin, his version is marred by numerous misprints. Through
his book, however, and Anderson's Bygdejævning, it was spread far and wide.
<41> Norden, October 30, 1878.
<42> See notices from Spring Grove, Minnesota, in Skandinaven, January
31,1872; from Coon Valley, Wisconsin, in Fædrelandet og Emigranten, May 9, 1872;
from Clayton County, Iowa, in Skandinaven, April 8, 1872.
<43> Holland, History of Moscow, 66.
<44> Norden, November 19, 1879.