Several years ago I checked out an old book from the library entitled An Anthology of Icelandic Poetry. It was translated, of course, and I remember reading line after line, dreaming about a land that at the time felt so far away and foreign. I copied down a few of my favorite poems, and a couple weeks ago I rediscovered them. Here’s one by Stephan G. Stephansson, one of the all-time most famous Western Icelandic poets. When I first read it, something about the descriptions of our Icelandic home must have struck me. Now, having my own remembrances of Iceland, it resonates even more deeply.
By Stephan G. Stephansson (1853-1927)
Though you have trodden in travel
All the wide tracts of the earth,
Bear yet the dreams of your bosom
Back to the land of your birth,
Kin of volcano and floe-sea!
Cousin of geyser and steep!
Daughter of downland and moorland!
Son of the reef and the deep!
High over heaven and landscape,
Haunting your thought as it strays,
Torrents and towering summits
Tremble once more to your gaze.
Far in the outermost ocean,
The isle of your heart is awake,
Shining in shadowless summer,
Showered with light for your sake.
Vivid that Icelandic vision
Viewed in your dreams as they run –
Granite rocks growing with flowers,
Glaciers warm in the sun,
O kin of volcano and floe-sea,
Cousin of geyser and steep,
Daughter of downland and moorland,
Son of the reef and the deep.
Note: Translation is an art, not a science. This is only one translator’s interpretation of the original Icelandic poem.
Click here to read another version, this time entitled “Though You Travel Afar.”