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Kan man skriva pastoral poesi så nära Nordpolen?: Arkadiska skildringar i isländska dikter från artonhundratalet
University of Iceland.
2017 (Swedish)In: Scripta Islandica: Isländska Sällskapets Årsbok, ISSN 0582-3234, E-ISSN 2001-9416, Vol. 68, p. 309-330Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The article focuses on representations of the Pastoral as a landscape aesthetic and literary convention in 19th century Icelandic poetry. Although originating in Classical Greece and Rome, and more attuned to warmer climes, the Pastoral has found its way to the far North. It enters Icelandic poetry sporadically in the 17th and 18th century through translations and parts of Enlightenment Georgica, but comes into its own in the 19th century, as the article shows. The Pastoral appears as a mode in the poetry of Jónas Hallgrímsson (1807–1845), though often fleeting and even elegiac, perhaps owing to the fact that Icelandic summers are short and rather cold. It can have a dark side in such poems, invoked in images of Et in Arcadia ego or an imminent death in nature. The idealized or idyllic version of Pastoral finds its clearest voice in the poems of Steingrímur Thorsteinsson (1831–1913). He wrote poems in which there is perpetual spring or summer in the Nordic Arcadia, lambs gambolling around Icelandic shepherds, who sing their songs and are as gentle and sanguine as their southern counterparts. But Steingrímur’s idyllic descriptions of Nordic nature do often have an interesting symbolic side. A traveller in one of his poems is riding across an Icelandic heath when he suddenly hears the beautiful song of a distant swan, which almost seems to be coming from another world. As is the case in many Romantic poems of various European nations, such encounters with natural phenomena lift the mind of the modern man and often result in a temporary mystical union with the creation. The traveller in Steingrímur’s poem returns to civilization with an elevated spirit, filled with natural harmony. This, in fact, is one of the principal functions of the Pastoral in literature, as scholars have pointed out. On the one hand, the Pastoral is based on the city dweller’s desire to find a retreat in nature, and on the other hand, it depicts his return to civilization, having benefitted from his encounter with nature. The Pastoral view and its artistic conventions were formed during Steingrímur’s extended stay in Denmark, where he was influenced by Danish poets and artists of the Biedermeier period, who idealized nature and presented it as a harmonious whole. Such Biedermeier descriptions included feminine attributes and personifications of nature, as often witnessed in Steingrímur’s own poems.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Isländska sällskapet , 2017. Vol. 68, p. 309-330
Keyword [en]
Steingrímur Thorsteinsson, Icelandic poetry, Pastoral, northern idyll, Biedermeier
National Category
Languages and Literature
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-336116OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-336116DiVA, id: diva2:1168399
Available from: 2017-12-20 Created: 2017-12-20 Last updated: 2017-12-20

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Scripta Islandica: Isländska Sällskapets Årsbok
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