Full text: Iceland 1930

metres, and a long practice has enabled the Icelanders to detect at once 
the least flaw in the alliteration and assonance of verse. Indeed, most 
Icelanders may be said to have at one time or other of their life turned 
a rima-verse as neatly as a Welshman an “englyn“; for the art of 
verse-making is at present as high in reputation among the Icelanders 
as ever. The greatest Icelandic poet now living, Mr. Einar Benedikts- 
son, has rendered homage to the rima by composing one himself (a- 
bout 160 stanzas) in the most intricate rima-metre (sléttubdnd, palin- 
drome). And though the more complicated metrical forms have for the 
second-rate poet proved so difficult to handle as sometimes to neces- 
sitate the sacrifice of both thought and natural sequence of words, 
it is none ihe less true that much of the finest and most vigorous 
poetry in our language is composed in elaborate metres. — The forms 
based on the old metrical rules have always been faithfully adhered 
to, though foreign influences have now and then for a short space of 
time dulled the ear and tempted to easier metre and a less polished 
rime. This was the case with the Danish ballads introduced into Ice- 
land in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. They were slipshod trans- 
lations, which enjoyed some popularity for a time, but soon receded 
into oblivion. The same fate awaited the Lutheran hymns (of foreign 
origin) with which the country was flooded during, and some time 
after, the Reformation. They were poor translations marred by ex- 
tremely faulty rimes, though the metres themselves were for the most 
part new and good. The national tendency soon asserted itself; the 
hymns were gradually recast, and bishop Gudbrandur Thorliksson 
(1542--1627), the great champion of Lutheranism in Iceland, even 
went so far as to have certain portions of the Bible turned into met- 
rical form (rimur) so as to make them current coin among the people. 
But native hymns which soon arose, though poor enough at first, gra- 
dually developed considerably, and reached their highest level in the 
Passion-Hymns of the Rev. Hallgrimur Pétursson (1614— 1674) who 
with his intensity of feeling, his inexhaustible wealth of imagery and 
wise thought is by far the greatest religious poet Iceland ever 
produced. But he is also great in his secular poetry, much of which 
still lives on the lips of the people. His Passion-Hymns went into their 
forty-sixth edition on the two hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the 
poet's death. Every year, almost down to the present day, these hymns 
have been sung at family worship in every Icelandic home, and have 
thus been to the people an ever-flowing fountain of faith and wise 

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