Full text: Iceland 1930

Another great poet of the seventeenth century is Dean Stefin Ol- 
afsson (1620—1688), a very prolific writer of poetry, both religious 
and secular. Dean Stefan is a confirmed realist, and describes humble 
life in all its forms, sometimes in a bitter vein; vet he is not lacking 
in tender feeling. He employs a variety of metres, some of them very 
Eighteenth century poets. Lawman Pall Jénsson Vidalin (1667-— 
1727) wrote a number of single verses, remarkable for their sweet- 
ness of flow and clear thought. Dean Gunnar Pilsson (1714—1768), 
a man of vast erudition in antiquarian lore, is a genuine Icelan- 
der both in thought and expression. Eggert Olafsson (1726—1768), 
the great naturalist and pioneer of culture, studied abroad where he 
acquired a great variety and amount of learning. His sincere patriotism 
and desire to instruct his countrymen and show them the right way in 
everything are apparent in all his poems, which, though remarkably 
good for those days and sometimes reaching a high level, seem to 
readers of our day more illustrative of the author's keen intellect and 
profound learning than of any great poelical power. 
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries Iceland has produced 
many first-class poets who have in the main followed the old traditions, 
though with a wider range of subject and a greater variety of form. 
Their poetry is on the whole intensely national in spirit, showing in 
the first place the Icelander’s fondness for history, and secondly that 
our history is for the most part biographical. Many of the noblest and 
most beautiful poems in our language, from Egill Skallagrimsson’s 
‘Sonatorrek® onward, are funeral dirges, composed in commemoration 
of dead friends, and due to a need to understand and explain their 
character, to show their attitude to the work and struggle of the na- 
tion, and thus, as it were, to carve their names in marble. Funeral 
poems have been made on persons in every walk of life, men and 
women, young and old, and there is hardly an Icelandic poet who 
has not tried his hand at this kind of poetry. 
This period is also remarkable for no small number of poems on 
famous men of the past, and on great events in our history past and 
present. On the other hand, if we except the rimur, only two of our 
sagas have been worked info metrical form, neither poem being of 
any great merit. This might seem strange, but the reason is obvious: 
to most Icelanders it would seem a lost endeavour fo weave into nar- 
rative verse the events which have received an imperishable form in

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