Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen

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Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen (23 September 1848 - 4 October 1895) was a Norwegian-American author and college professor.
He was born at the Norwegian naval base Fredriksvern, near the village of Stavern in Vestfold County, Norway. Boyesen grew up in Fredriksvern, then in Kongsberg, and, from 1854, at Systrand in Sogn. From 1860, he went to Drammen Latin School, and, after his final exams, he took another exam at the university in 1868. Boyesen was well-schooled in both German and Scandinavian literature, graduating from the University of Leipzig and the University of Oslo.
Boyesen immigrated to the United States during 1869 and initially became assistant editor of Fremad, a Norwegian language weekly published in Chicago. The multi-lingual Boyesen subsequently taught Greek and Latin classes at Urbana University. Boyesen was a professor of North European Languages at Cornell University from 1874 to 1880. Boyesen became a professor of Germanic languages at Columbia University in 1881. His scholarly works included Goethe and Schiller, Essays on German Literature, A Commentary on the Works of Henrik Ibsen and Essays on Scandinavian Literature.

Through his public lectures, Boyesen won a reputation as an excellent lecturer. He was a prolific writer, and, over 20 years, he published 25 books including novels, short stories, poems, and literary criticism. He also published short stories, essays, and book reviews in periodicals. Boyesen is more commonly known for his works of popular fiction. His most successful books have remained those based upon Norwegian culture and habits. He wrote many books of fiction for adults and children and some poetry. He is best remembered for his novel Gunnar: A Tale of Norse Life, which is generally considered to have been the first novel by a Norwegian immigrant in America.

Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen

Poems published in Translatum:

« Last Edit: 14 May, 2011, 11:07:50 by Frederique »


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Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen (1848-1895), Thoralf and Synnöv (1872)

A Norse Idyl
By Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen
O, HAVE you been in Gudbrand’s dale, where Laagen’s mighty flood  
Chants evermore its wild refrain unto the listening wood?  
And have you seen the evening sun on those bright glaciers glow,  
When valleyward it shoots and darts like shafts from elfin bow?  
Have you beheld the maidens when the saeter path they tread         5
With ribbons in their sunny hair and milk-pails on the head?  
And have you heard the fiddles when they strike the lusty dance?  
Then you have heard of Synnöv Houg, and of myself perchance.  
For Synnöv Houg is lissome as the limber willow spray;  
And when you think you hold her fast, and she is yours for aye,         10
Then, like the airy blowball that dances o’er the lea,  
She gently through your fingers slips and lightly floateth free.  
Then it was last St. John’s Eve,—I remember it so well,—  
We lads had lit a bonfire in a grass-grown little dell;  
And all the pretty maidens were seated in a ring,         15
And some were telling stories, while the rest were listening;  
Till up sprang little Synnöv, and she sang a stave as clear  
As the skylark’s earliest greeting in the morning of the year;  
And I—I hardly knew myself, but up they saw me dart,  
For every note of Synnöv’s stave went straight unto my heart.         20
And like the rushing currents that from the glaciers flow,  
And down into the sunny bays their icy waters throw,  
So streamed my heavy bass-notes through the forests far and wide,  
And Synnöv’s treble rocked like a feather on the tide.  
“My little Synnöv,” sang I, “thou art good and very fair.”         25
“And little Thoralf,” sang she, “of what you say, beware!”  
“My fairest Synnöv,” quoth I, “my heart was ever thine,  
My homestead and my goodly farm, my herds of lowing kine.”  
“O Thoralf, dearest Thoralf, if that your meaning be,—  
If your big heart can hold such a little thing as me,—         30
Then I shall truly tell you if e’er I want a man,  
And you are free to catch me, handsome Thoralf—if you can!”  
And down the hillside ran she, where the tangled thicket weaves  
A closely latticed bower with its intertwining leaves,  
And through the copse she bounded, light-footed as a hare,         35
And with her merry laughter rang the forest far and near.  
Whenever I beheld little Synnö;v, all that year,  
She fled from my sight as from hunter’s shaft the deer;  
I lay awake full half the nights and knew not what to do,  
For I loved the little Synnö;v so tenderly and true.         40
Then ’twas a summer even up in the birchen glen,  
I sat listening to the cuckoo and the twitter of the wren,  
When suddenly above me rang out a silver voice;  
It rose above the twittering birds and o’er the river’s noise.  
There sat my little maid, where the rocks had made a seat;         45
And tiny crimson flowers grew all around her feet,  
And on her yellow locks clung a tiny roguish hood;  
Its edge was made of swan’s-down, but the cloth was red as blood.  
And noiselessly behind her I had stolen through the copse.  
I cursed the restless birch-trees for rustling in their tops;         50
How merrily my heart beat! And forth I leapt in haste,  
And flung a slender birch-bough around the maiden’s waist.  
She blushed and she fluttered,—then turned away to run,  
But straight into my sturdy arms I caught the little one.  
I put her gently down on the heather at my side,         55
Where tiny crimson flowers the rocky ledges hide.  
And as the prisoned birdling, when he knows his cage full well,  
Pours forth his notes full blithely, and naught his mirth can quell,  
So little Synnö;v, striving in vain my hold to flee,  
Turned quick on me her roguish eyes and laughed full heartily.         60
“My little Synnöv,” said I, “if I remember right,  
’T was something that you promised me a year ago to-night.”  
Then straight she stayed her laughter and serious she grew,  
And whispered, “Dearest Thoralf, you promised something too.”



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