Full text: Iceland 1930

the sagas themselves; that would be like recarving a perfect statuary 
in order to produce something more than perfect. 
The historical bent is also seen in our patriotic poetry, in which the 
nineteenth century is particularly rich. Almost every poem on Iceland 
teems with reflections on her history, sometimes expressing regret for 
lost renown, sometimes predicting a bright future yet in store for the 
nation. Even in poems picturing Icelandic scenery the historical ele- 
ment is present, and the reason is not far to seek: almost every lo- 
cal name has its history, every farm has been the scene of events 
preserved in fradition and saga, so that the mind is unconscious- 
ly attracted to the past as much as to the present. But these are not 
the only themes our poets work on; they produce humorous verses, 
satires, elegies, philosophical poems, and stanzas on all the workings 
of the human heart; they present us with pictures of every phase of 
Icelandic life, of the farmer with his scythe, and the shepherd with 
his flock; of the sailor in his boat, and of travels across hill and 
dale; there are poems on the weather, on the seasons, on our flora 
and fauna. In this connexion one kind of Icelandic poetry may be 
mentioned which can scarcely be paralleled in other literatures, viz. 
the Pony Verses. The pony is the most useful servant of the Icelander, 
and without the services of this excellent animal the country would have 
been uninhabitable. Many an Icelandic steed has therefore had a fune- 
ral poem which a prince might envy; and a selection of the best of 
‘his poetry would fill a bulky volume. In a word, any and every in- 
cident may call forth a poem, for making ditties has always been a 
popular sport among the Icelanders, and some of our best poets have 
been men in humble life. 
During this period many foreign metres have been adopted in addi- 
tion to the court and rimur metres which are stil as much in vogue 
as ever, But the foreign metres have been changed so as to bring 
them into accordance with Icelandic metrical rules, retaining the allitera- 
tion, rime-syllables, etc. 
I shall now proceed to mention the principal poets of this era. 
The Rev. Jon Thorliksson (1743 —1819) partly belongs to the eigh- 
teenth century; but with his translations of foreign works, e. g. Mil- 
ton’s Paradise Lost, Kiopstock’s Messias, Pope’s Essay on Man, a.s.o0., 
he has had great influence on the poets who came after him. He is 
also the author of hymns, occasional poems and witty verses which 
to this day live on the lips of the people. 
Bjarni Thorarensen {1786—1845) governor {amtmadur) wrote mostly

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