Friday, December 04, 2009

A Bench, Henrik Ibsen and Terje Vigen

I must admit that the bench I am posting this time is not very exciting. It is a common garden variety. However - the place I found it is not, and I must admit that the bench is partly en excuse for the rest of the post. As you can see for yourself, the bench is placed in a churchyard.

And it is situated right in front of a monument, right beside an old church.

The church is called Fjære Kirke, and is situated in the outskirts of Grimstad - an idyllic town in the most southern part of Norway. It dates from 1150 AD.

And why have I gone to all this trouble, who is the monument raised for and why have I mentioned Henrik Ibsen in the title? Bear with me a little bit more, and I'll try to explain:

Henrik Ibsen is best known as playwright and a theatre director, but also as a poet (which several of his plays clearly document). His most famous poem (in Norway at least) is called Terje Wigen. As usually Wikipedia has something to say on the subject:

Terje Vigen is a poem written by Henrik Ibsen, published in 1862. Much of the story and setting is from the area around the town of Grimstad in southern Norway where Ibsen lived for a few years in his youth. It describes the dramatic saga of Terje who, in 1809, tried to run the English blockade of Norway's southern coast in a small rowboat in a desperate attempt to smuggle food from Denmark back to his starving wife and daughter. He was captured and imprisoned on an English prison hulk at Fjære and released in 1814 after the Napoleonic Wars were over, only to find that his family had died. He became a pilot, and years later rescued an English Lord who turned out to be the commander of the ship that had captured him. The denouement, as in most Ibsen works, should be understood by reading the original.
I'll give you the first verse in both Norwegian and English (the English translation is an unofficial one, made by John Northam)

Der bode en underlig gråsprængt en
på den yderste nøgne ø; -
han gjorde visst intet menneske mén
hverken på land eller sjø;
dog stundom gnistred hans øjne stygt, -
helst mod uroligt vejr, -
og da mente folk, at han var forrykt,
og da var der få, som uden frykt
kom Terje Vigen nær.

-------

There lived a remarkably grizzled man
on the uttermost, barren isle
he never harmed, in the wide world's span,
a soul by deceit or by guile;
his eyes, though, sometimes would blaze and fret
most when a storm was nigh,-
and then people sensed he was troubled yet
and then there were few that felt no threat
with Terje Vigen by.


Then the last verse in the same way:

Ved Fjære kirke jeg så en grav,
den lå på en vejrhård plet;
den var ikke skøttet, var sunken og lav,
men bar dog sit sorte bræt.
Der stod "Thærie Wiighen" med hvidmalt skrift,
samt året, han hvile fandt. -
Han lagdes for solbrand og vindes vift,
og derfor blev græsset så stridt og stivt,
men med vilde blomster iblandt.

--------

In Fjære churchyard I saw a pilot,
that lay in a weathered sward;
it looked all neglected, a mean sunken spot,
but kept still its blackened board.
It read 'Thærie Wiighen' in white,
the datehis final repose had been.
He lay to the sun and the winds' keen weight,
and that's why the grass was so stubborn-straight,
but with wild field-flowers between.

-----------------------------

The monument was thus raised in 1906 over "Thærie Wiighen" , believed by legend to be the same Terje Vigen that Ibsen praised. Nobody knows if he was, but that does not change much when you are sitting on the bench by the monument and try to absorb the atmosphere, the history and the poetry.

18 comments:

Dimple said...

It is a beautiful bench, and the poem is beautiful also. I don't know Norwegian, but reading the verses beside each other I can find words which make sense, like "vilde blomster."

I will have a bench up a little later.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

I really appreciated this post, RuneE - you have conveyed the atmosphere, history and poetry wonderfully, and I feel I too am sitting on the bench.

Anne said...

Ååå dette kan vi som har gått på den norske grunnskolen vet du :-) uansett veldig pent og fint å lese i en post. Monumentet var jo flott da, og at der sto der..., ja, og hva er vel mer naturlig da enn å plassere en benk i nærheten. Mye folk som vandrer på en slik plas som har behov for å hvile sine ben litt sikkert.

Min benk kommer nok i morgen, for den blir nok si sort hvitt har jeg bestemt ;-)

Ha en kjekk fredag Rune. Klem herfra tl deg.

Carolyn Ford said...

This is a very informative post, RuneE. The history and poem were very much appreciated and enjoyed. Thank you for taking us on this side tour of your beautiful country.

My benches are up at:

http://carolyn1209.blogspot.com/2009/12/benches-of-week-watch-tower-desert-view.html

GAWO said...

Husker godt den gang vi streva oss igjennom versene om Terje V. Godt vi slapp de engelske i tillegg. Men morsomt å lese nå.
Jeg har vært i den kirken. Har familie som hører til der. Det var spesielt og fint for meg å få se den igjen nå.
Ønsker deg en fin helg :-)

Dina said...

The poetry, history, and photos are all so moving, Rune.

In contrast, my sleek and sterile benches at the airport are posted.
Shalom to you and all.

Ida said...

Veldig fin post med historisk sus.
Flott dokumentert,
gjennom dine bilder og andre kilder.
Noen ganger ser man det velkjente med nye øyne. Slik som jeg gjorde nå, ved å lese her. Vanligvis trekker man ut fragmenter her og der...
Alt er IKKE glemt om 100 år... ;)

John said...

As you say, not the most exciting bench in the world, but a really interesting piece of local and Norwegian history.

Gärdsmygen said...

Lustigt för min bänk idag finns också på en kyrkogård. Din bänk var väldigt snirklig med många krusiduller. Intressant med ett stycke historia!

becky at abbeystyle said...

What a lovely experience and story, as if I were sitting right there on that bench. Thanks for your careful telling of the Henrik Ibsen story...the bench is a delicious connection to times long gone by,

Reader Wil said...

This is a very interesting post, Rune! Ibsen is also a wellknown author overhere. Your photos are also very great. Scandinavian churchyards are not as morbid as those of south Europe. Ours are just sad. For my husband's grave I had a small Norwegian rock, which I preferred to a marble black tombstone.
Thank you for the birthday wishes!

√ Abraham Lincoln said...

I really like the ancient look of the church yard and the grounds around it. I can only think of one place we have visited that reminded me of ancient times and it wasn't that old. It was a tour of the Missions around San Antonio, Texas. They were large but not so big as to dwarf a Walmart store.

Still, back in their time, when they were built out there in that desert countryside, they must have been huge to the Native Americans and Native Mexicans who called that part of the country home.

These pictures remind me of those places Patty and I visited so long ago.

Brookville Daily Photo

Gerald (Ackworth born) said...

O I think it is a delightful bench with all that ironwork and it is a neat hook to hang your history lesson on.

Prospero said...

Thank you for the introduction to Ibsen's poetry, Rune. I am familiar with his plays, but was unaware that he was also a poet.

imac said...

Really enjoyed this post - and bench my friend, I love a tale of history, esp if from the grave yard.

Rune (Bildebloggen) said...

Kjempefin post Rune og flotte bilder som alltid,ser ut til å være en spennende kirke der bak også. Ha en fin helg :)

PERBS said...

The ironwork is wonderful. I did not get a new bench posted today.

GMG said...

Interesting post!! I read almost all the plays from Ibsen many years ago and saw may of them, but knew litlle (or nothing) about him as a poet!!