I love you little...
"Farewell to Iceland from one Leaving for America" by B.S.
This poem appeared in the periodical Framfari on April 5, 1878, under the title "Kveđja Ameríkufara til Íslands" ("Farewell to Iceland from One Leaving for America"). The poem is heavy with the weight of bitterness over the onerous conditions in Iceland. The desire for
freedom and the yearning to be able to use their talents blend with the settlers' longing for a milder climate and more fertile soil. It is clear that many of the pioneers left Iceland with ambivalent feelings; despite the bitterness expressed, one can discern in the last verses the
emigrants' anguish over having to leave their mother country.
I love you little or not at all,
you grassless land of Icelandic sulphur,
Although you brought me into this world
of difficulties and very little happiness.
I have no love for Kröflu or Ódáđahraun
nor any place else that's so cursed;
It's an evil life where punishment is reality
And the earth's surface burnt coal-black.
I have no love for Hekla and the blue peaks
nor for the high, blad summits of the glaciers,
for they give off dark mists
and cold fog which would sweep over everyone.
I have no love for the brownish rivers here
mixed with glacial gravel,
nor for the evil-smelling creek
that has often been noxious to men.
Nor do I love the blizzards and storms that rage here,
nor the ice from Greenland's coasts,
nor the dusty places, the desert land
where through the ages all has been covered with sand.
Though beautiful hillsides are found here and there,
where buds open up over night,
there soon comes a fiery-rain and dark blizzard of ash,
and the herbs shrivel under the blight.
I love everything blooming, living and bright,
but see here most things that destroy them,
and drag them into a battle with piercing suffering
which chokes and destroys all life.
Here battles rage constantly and because there is no protection from them,
there is nothing to gladden the life-force,
and Kronus consumes his mute children,
those who are born from the earth.
Many an excellent soul has grown and expanded here,
whose imaginative powers were truly an endowment of the Creator,
but had to shrivel in the fire and burn on the pyre
in the agony of slavery.
Such a soul is the only kind I can love,
but most frequently here they were wasted,
became rigid when the mountains erupted
just like the trolls in the lava formations.
I love all freedom, fulfillment and work,
but find them thrown from their seats,
for oppression eroded their art and substance
and everything is bound in fetters of iron.
Although I walk around the place where my cradle stood,
on the withered and unfertile land,
I find no nourishment there for my heart
for Nature answers me not.
She doesn't rejoice when I smile or grieve
when I'm struck and stung by the tempest,
and although my breast is about to burst
I have to shut it all within my own bosom.
Though I go to visit my forefathers' graves
and, weeping, would stand there a while,
they have all long since gone
to the happy realms where there is no death.
The holy voices whisper to me:
Why are you seeking the dead?
They've been taken up, are no longer here,
far removed from the sufferings of life.
They've been transported to freedom's realm,
flown forever from thralldom and suffering;
I mourned them before, I don't mourn them now,
nor shall I seek the seats of their desolation.
Were I to trace the path of my life,
it would give me no pleasure to find it,
it would sap all my courage and daring,
that thorny road of the days I have lived,
I recall then tradition - I have no love for it.
It distorted the honesty of my spirit,
it weighed down my will - all oppression is a bitch -
and tradition shaped the nature of thralldom.
That's why many a longing I had within me died.
Fate and the world were to blame.
and good intention that all to often froze
in the cold blasts of misery.
Thus I fought all the years of my life
until I felt surrounded by the chill of death.
That's why I left. I thought it more bearable.
Let those return who will.
I was forced to go ahead and am fully aware
of what the future has to offer,
but the hovel I lived in yesterday
I need never see again.
My life was often like an empty desert
with little communication with men,
for friendship comes to an end
when no more ale is left in the pot.
I never learned fine manners nor the deportment of a man of substance,
nor did I consider myself on the same level as important men.
That is why it was my fate to bend my back
and try to make bread of stones.
Though I've now begun to walk the path of important men
and can no longer bend my back with ease,
I seem to hear everyone say:
When adversity strikes you must look out for yourself .
If I look toward the mountain, the view quickly changes,
svei, svei, I'm having a bad dream.
I'm looking at a black hole and gaping which I have to fill
and out of which ugly red eyes peer.
And love has flowed out of an ice-cold land
so there is no place for it now among neighbours,
for Hydra the evil is not on the prowl,
swallowing up the possessions of men.
And Satan the deceiver is spreading discord as best he can
and slithering like a snake through the heather
for the corruption that stemmed from the apple
now occupies the high-seat at the assembly.
And the sheep-mange is raging over the land.
Man's power is helpless against it.
It seemed to be letting up for a while,
but soon came back more noxious than ever.
Our fathers' land is less than blest,
though you sing of the blessing of freedom;
The upper class rules, the thrall accepts alms.
That'a what is happening there now.
Now the ceremonial cup has been drunk; men that all is deceit.
They sit in the factory where laws are made.
At both ends there is fire and flame
and in between poison has dropped,
Yes, the cup has been drained and the land sunk -
they hear the atonement in the deep,
the more widespread the fire and the longer it burns,
the deeper it all will sink.
The Lord is calling and strong is his help:
you have struggled long and been on your guard,
now go out, all you who love my commandments,
so you do not perish in the fire.
I therefore turn my face to the future
and look toward distant strands.
God's sun shines so beautifully and gently
in lands where men are independent.
The Lord will lead me and refresh my spirit,
and there is a pleasant place for me to go.
I do not look back with longing on my pleasure garden,
for that it never was.
[Two verses are missing here from the periodical Framfari's translation]
He who loves freedom, let him travel with me
to seek a new home for his family.
The apostles of oppression ought to stay here
to sit by the fire and fog.
They would close the channels to the sea, keep a firm hold on all,
and bind us fast to the places we used to live.
Let him sit by the fire who burns here best,
and bake himself with the embers of the volcanoes.
Now the Lord points the way to heaven's bright hall
with high columns of flame:
Let all my people depart from the valley of gloom;
in the last days it will sink into the deep.
Look how befouled the land is, and ugly,
with miserably blackened woods and meadows,
for the day after Easter ash turned day into night
as it once did in the land of Hercules.
But the spirit is confused and the mind is not clear
in the heaviness of dense smoke;
they're falling down like Phaeton did,
those who formerly sang Iceland's praises.
Only oppression is born here now and that which destroys happiness.
Freedom has become stranded,
so my dearest thought is to carry my bones
far away from this unlucky land.
It is getting bright in the west; although our home was saved,
they're arguing futilely at the Althing.
we'll improve our lot when the sun shines again
and in the meantime sail away.
Iceland, I bid you farewell for the last time;
fate directs me to the sea;
rather than consume my brother,
I prefer to die among strangers.