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THE BIRD OF POPULAR SONG

 

IT is wintertime Theearthwearsasnowygarmentand looks like marble hewn out of the rock the air isbright and clear thewind is sharp as a welltemperedsword and the trees stand like branches of white coral orblooming almond twigs and here it is keenas on the loftyAlps

The night is splendid with the gleam of the Northern Lights and with the glitter of innumerable twinkling stars

The storms come theclouds arise and shake outtheirswan's down the snowflakes fly they cover roadand house open fields and closedin streets. But we sitin thewarmroom by thehot stoveandtalkaboutthe old timesAnd we listen to thisstory

By the open sea was a grave mound and on it sat atmidnight the spirit of the buried hero who had been a king The golden circlet gleamed on his brow his hair fluttered in the wind and he was clad insteel and ironHe bent hisheadmournfully and sighed indeep sorrowas anunquiet spiritmight sigh

And a ship came sailing by The sailorslowered the anchor andlanded. Among themwasa singerand he approached the royal spirit andsaid

"Why mournest thou andwhereforedost thou suffer thus"

And the dead man answered

"No one hath sung the deeds of my life they aredeadandforgottensongdothnot carrythemforthover the lands nor into the hearts of men thereforeI have norest and no peace."

And he spoke of his works and of his warlikedeeds whichhis contemporaries had known but which hadnotbeen sungbecause therewasno singer among his companions

Then the old bard struck the strings of his harpand sang of the youthful courage of the hero of the strength ofthemanand of the greatnessofhis good deedsThen the faceofthe dead gleamedlike the marginofthe cloud in the moonlightGladlyandofgood couragetheformarosein splendour and in majesty and vanished like theglancingof theNorthernLights Naughtwastobeseen butthegreen turfymound with thestones on which no Runic record has been graven but at thelast sound of the harp there soaredover the hill as though he had fluttered from the harp alittle bird a charming singing-bird with the ringing voiceof the thrush with the moving pathos of the human heartwith a voice that told of home like the voice that is heardby thebirdofpassageThesingingbird soared awayover mountain andvalley overfieldandwoodhe was the Bird of Popular Songwho neverdies.

Wehear his songwe hear it now in theroom on a winter's eveningwhile the"whitebees" are swarming without and the storm takes firm hold The bird sings notalone the praiseofheroeshesings also sweetgentle songs ofloveso manyandsowarmofNorthernfidelityand truthHe has stories in wordsand in tones he hasproverbsandsnatchesof proverbsongswhichlikeRunes laid under a dead man's tongue force him to speak andthus Popular Song tells of the land of his birth

In theold heathen days in the timesofthe Vikings its nest was in the harp of the bard

In thedaysof knightly castles when the strong fist held the scales of justice when only mightwas rightand a peasant and adogwereofequal importance where did the Bird of Song find shelter and protection Neither violence nor stupidity gave him a thought

But in the gabled windowoftheknightlycastlethe lady of the castle sat with the parchment roll before her and wrote down the old recollection in song and legendwhile near her stood the old woman from the wood and thetravelling pedlarwhowentwandering through the countryAsthesetoldtheirtalesthereflutteredaroundthemwithtwittering and song the Bird of Popular Song who never dies so long as the earth has a hillock upon which his footmay rest.

And nowhe looksin upon us and sings Without are thenightand the snow-stormhe laystheRunesbeneath our tongues and we know the land of our home Heavenspeaks to us in our native tongue in the voice of the Birdof PopularSong theoldremembrancesawake the faded coloursglow with a fresh lustre and storyandsong pour us a blessed draught which lifts up our minds and our thoughts so that the eveningbecomesas a Christmas fes- tival

The snowflakes chase each other the ice cracks the stormrules without forhehas themight he is lord but not the Lord Of All

It is wintertime The wind is sharp as a twoedged sword the snow-flakes chase each other it seemed as though it had been snowing for daysandweeks and the snow lies like a great mountain over thewhole townlike a heavydreamof thewinter nightEverything on the earth is hiddenaway only the golden cross of the church the symbol of faith arises over the snow graveand gleamsinthe blueairand inthe bright sunshine. Andovertheburied town fly the birds of heaven the smalland thegreat they twitterand they sing asbestthey may each bird with his own beak

First comes theband of sparrows they pipe at everytrifle in the streets and lanes in the nests and the hous- es theyhave stories totellabout thefront buildings and the back buildings

"Weknow theburied town"they say"everything living in it is piep piep!piep"

The black ravens and crows flew on over the white snow

"Grub grub" they cried"There's something to be got down there something to swallow and that's mostimportant That's the opinion of most of them down thereand the opinion is googoogood"

The wild swans come flying on whirring pinions andsingofthenobleandthegreat that will still sprout in the hearts of men down in the townwhich is restingbeneath its snowy veil

No death is therelifereigns yonder we hear it on the notes that swell onward like the tones of the church or- gan which seize us like sounds from the elfhill like thesongs of Ossian like the rushing swoop of the Warmaidens' wingsWhat harmonyThatharmony speaks to our hearts and lifts upoursouls!—Itis the Bird of Popular Song whom we hear

And at this moment the warm breath of heaven blows down from the skyThere are gaps in the snowy moun tains the sun shines into the clefts spring is coming thebirds are returningand new races are coming with the same home sounds in their hearts.

Hear the story of the year:"The might of the snow- storm, the heavy dream of the winter night, all shall be dissolved, all shall rise again in the beauteous notes of the Bird of Popular Song who never dies!"

 


 

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