To Those Bound West|
Written by Tómas Jónasson in 1873
In the National and University Library of Iceland is a packet of manuscripts pertaining to Stephan G. Stephansson and his relations in Bárđardalur. Among the contents of the packet are the verses which appear here. This is a well-written poem bearing the signature G. S. d., but when contemporary sources are consulted, it seems likeliest that the author is Tómas Jónasson, generally considered to be from Hróarsstađir in Fnjóskadalur.
Presumably Tómas wrote the poem for Guđný Stefánsdóttir from Eyjardalsá, Stephan G. Stephansson's paternal aunt. It is easily conceivable that Guđný recited the poem for her two siblings and their families before their emigration in July 1873. Certainly many western-bound travellers were sent off with cooler a farewell than can be found in this poem.
Friends and relations! It's soon we must part;
thus a terse valediction I send you herein.
Catastrophe's verse is a useless farewell; let us
face, then, with courage, what must now begin.
Onward to victory, 'long paths not yet trodden,
my brothers and sisters! May God speed you on.
Assured in His fortress to win every battle
May His strength be your armor, His love be your bond.
Hail to them always! who, bursting the shackles
of bleak destitution with brute strength of will,
then drink of the fountain of wealth and of freedom
and, thirst quenched, would rest in new pastures so still
that no blame can accrue to the child of exhaustion
who fixes his gaze on that sweet distant place
and while struggling, back bent, over storm-ravaged tundra
toward Halcyon meadows would quicken his pace.
The sea is that sorcerer who bears you away
Hiding Iceland's stark coast behind pillars of salt,
the hills of your youth and the goddess of mountains
obscured by the waves that harsh sea-gales exalt.
Prepare for her children a warm, welcome bed
and receive them with smiles when they knock at your door,
for they'll follow your path and will ask you for solace,
on your hearth to rest their feet, weary and sore.
Though you travel toward sunsets in gold Western skies
and would build there a home with a foreigner's heart,
may your Icelandic spirit be always within you
and bind you to those who must watch you depart.
Though the world would surround you with noise and confusion
and its magnets would pull you with pitiless force,
though its whitewater current would sweep you downstream,
you must hold fast the rudder that keeps you on course.
Onward to victory, O pioneer spirit!
The step that you take now is fateful indeed,
but the future will show us your courage and strength
so that we may be brave, strong, and daring at need.
The stones that impede you you'll move from the pathway
and blaze there a trail for your fellows to find
It is noble to test the ice ahead;
it will make it easier for others to follow.
Onward to victory, prosperity's children,
who trudge the rough road toward riches and ease!
Though Fate would divide us and cleave our small nation,
we bid you farewell with a prayer for peace,
asking God in His splendour, the King of all Justice
To crown you with happiness, as is your due.
Onward to victory, my brothers and sisters!
Be ever courageous, faithful and true.
G. S. d.