Henrik Johan Ibsen

(20 March 1828 – 23 May 1906 / Skien)

Mountain Life Poem by Henrik Johan Ibsen


IN summer dusk the valley lies
With far-flung shadow veil;
A cloud-sea laps the precipice
Before the evening gale:
The welter of the cloud-waves grey
Cuts off from keenest sight
The glacier, looking out by day
O'er all the district, far away,
And crowned with golden light.

But o'er the smouldering cloud-wrack's flow,
Where gold and amber kiss,
Stands up the archipelago,
A home of shining peace.
The mountain eagle seems to sail
A ship far seen at even;
And over all a serried pale
Of peaks, like giants ranked in mail,
Fronts westward threatening heaven.

But look, a steading nestles, close
Beneath the ice-fields bound,
Where purple cliffs and glittering snows
The quiet home surround.
Here place and people seem to be
A world apart, alone; --
Cut off from men by spate and scree
It has a heaven more broad, more free,
A sunshine all its own.

Look: mute the saeter-maiden stays,
Half shadow, half aflame;
The deep, still vision of her gaze
Was never word to name.
She names it not herself, nor knows
What goal my be its will;
While cow-bells chime and alp-horn blows
It bears her where the sunset glows,
Or, maybe, further still.

Too brief, thy life on highland wolds
Where close the glaciers jut;
Too soon the snowstorm's cloak enfolds
Stone byre and pine-log hut.
Then wilt thou ply with hearth ablaze
The winter's well-worn tasks; --
But spin thy wool with cheerful face:
One sunset in the mountain pays
For all their winter asks.

Submitted: Friday, April 16, 2010

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