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Best Famous Henrik Ibsen Poems

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by Henrik Ibsen |

TO THE SURVIVORS

 NOW they sing the hero loud; -- 
But they sing him in his shroud. 

Torch he kindled for his land; 
On his brow ye set its brand. 

Taught by him to wield a glaive; 
Through his heart the steel ye drave. 

Trolls he smote in hard-fought fields; 
Ye bore him down 'twixt traitor shields. 

But the shining spoils he won, 
These ye treasure as your own.-- 

Dim them not, that so the dead 
Rest appeased his thorn-crowned head.


by Henrik Ibsen |

THANKS

 HER griefs were the hours 
When my struggle was sore,-- 
Her joys were the powers 
That the climber upbore. 

Her home is the boundless 
Free ocean that seems 
To rock, calm and soundless, 
My galleon of dreams. 

Half hers are the glancing 
Creations that throng 
With pageant and dancing 
The ways of my song. 

My fires when they dwindle 
Are lit from her brand; 
Men see them rekindle 
Nor guess by whose hand. 

Of thanks to requite her 
No least thought is hers,-- 
And therefore I write her, 
Once, thanks in a verse.


by Henrik Ibsen |

MOUNTAIN LIFE

 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.


by Henrik Ibsen |

THE MINER

 BEETLING rock, with roar and smoke 
Break before my hammer-stroke! 
Deeper I must thrust and lower 
Till I hear the ring of ore. 

From the mountain's unplumbed night, 
Deep amid the gold-veins bright, 
Diamonds lure me, rubies beckon, 
Treasure-hoard that none may reckon. 

There is peace within the deep-- 
Peace and immemorial sleep; 
Heavy hammer, burst as bidden, 
To the heart-nook of the hidden! 

Once I, too, a careless lad, 
Under starry heavens was glad, 
Trod the primrose paths of summer, 
Child-like knew not care nor cummer. 

But I lost the sense of light 
In the poring womb of night; 
Woodland songs, when earth rejoiced her, 
Breathed not down my hollow cloister. 

Fondly did I cry, when first 
Into the dark place I burst: 
"Answer spirits of the middle 
Earth, my life's unending riddle!--" 

Still the spirits of the deep 
Unrevealed their answer keep; 
Still no beam from out the gloomy 
Cavern rises to illume me. 

Have I erred? Does this way lead 
Not to clarity indeed? 
If above I seek to find it, 
By the glare my eyes are blinded. 

Downward, then! the depths are best; 
There is immemorial rest. 
Heavy hammer burst as bidden 
To the heart-nook of the hidden!-- 

Hammer-blow on hammer-blow 
Till the lamp of life is low. 
Not a ray of hope's fore-warning; 
Not a glimmer of the morning.


by Henrik Ibsen |

IN THE PICTURE GALLERY

 WITH palette laden 
She sat, as I passed her, 
A dainty maiden 
Before an Old Master. 

What mountain-top is 
She bent upon? Ah, 
She neatly copies 
Murillo's Madonna. 

But rapt and brimming 
The eyes' full chalice says 
The heart builds dreaming 
Its fairy-palaces. 

* * * 

The eighteenth year rolled 
By, ere returning, 
I greeted the dear old 
Scenes with yearning. 

With palette laden 
She sat, as I passed her, 
A faded maiden 
Before an Old Master. 

But what is she doing? 
The same thing still--lo, 
Hotly pursuing 
That very Murillo! 

Her wrist never falters; 
It keeps her, that poor wrist, 
With panels for altars 
And daubs for the tourist. 

And so she has painted 
Through years unbrightened, 
Till hopes have fainted 
And hair has whitened. 

But rapt and brimming 
The eyes' full chalice says 
The heart builds dreaming 
Its fairy-palaces.


by Henrik Ibsen |

BURNT SHIPS

 TO skies that were brighter 
Turned he his prows; 
To gods that were lighter 
Made he his vows. 

The snow-land's mountains 
Sank in the deep; 
Sunnier fountains 
Lulled him to sleep. 

He burns his vessels, 
The smoke flung forth 
On blue cloud-trestles 
A bridge to the north. 

From the sun-warmed lowland 
Each night that betides, 
To the huts of the snow-land 
A horseman rides.


by Henrik Ibsen |

A BROTHER IN NEED

 NOW, rallying once if ne'er again, 
With flag at half-mast flown, 
A people in dire need and strain 
Mans Tyra's bastion. 

Betrayed in danger's hour, betrayed 
Before the stress of strife! 
Was this the meaning that it had-- 
That clasp of hands at Axelstad 
Which gave the North new life? 

The words that seemed as if they rushed 
From deepest heart-springs out 
Were phrases, then! -- the freshet gushed, 
And now is fall'n the drought. 
The tree, that promised rich in bloom 
Mid festal sun and shower, 
Stands wind-stript in the louring gloom, 
A cross to mark young Norway's tomb, 
The first dark testing-hour. 

They were but Judas kisses, lies 
In fatal wreaths enwound, 
The cheers of Norway's sons, and cries 
Towards the beach of Sound. 
What passed that time we watched them meet, 
'Twixt Norse and Danish lord? 
Oh! nothing! only to repeat 
King Gustav's play at Stockholm's seat 
With the Twelfth Charles' sword. 

"A people doomed, whose knell is rung, 
Betrayed by every friend!" -- 
Is the book closed and the song sung? 
Is this our Denmark's end? 
Who set the craven colophon, 
While Germans seized the hold, 
And o'er the last Dane lying prone 
Old Denmark's tattered flag was thrown 
With doubly crimsoned fold? 

But thou, my brother Norsemen, set 
Beyond the war-storm's power 
Because thou knewest to forget 
Fair words in danger's hour: 
Flee from thy homes of ancient fame-- 
Go chase a new sunrise-- 
Pursue oblivion, and for shame 
Disguise thee in a stranger's name 
To hide from thine own eyes! 

Each wind that sighs from Danish waves 
Through Norway's woods of pine, 
Of thy pale lips an answer craves: 
Where wast thou, brother mine? 
I fought for both a deadly fight; 
In vain to spy thy prow 
O'er belt and fiord I strained my sight: 
My fatherland with graves grew white: 
My brother, where wast thou? 

It was a dream! Arise, awake 
To do a nation's deed! 
Each to his post, swift counsel take; 
A brother is in need! 
A nobler song may yet be sung-- 
Danes, Danes, keep Tyra's hold-- 
And o'er a Northern era, young 
And rich in hope, be proudly flung 
The red flag's tattered fold.


by Henrik Ibsen |

WILDFLOWERS AND HOTHOUSE-PLANTS

 "GOOD Heavens, man, what a freak of taste! 
What blindness to form and feature! 
The girl's no beauty, and might be placed 
As a hoydenish kind of creature." 

No doubt it were more in the current tone 
And the tide today we move in, 
If I could but choose me to make my own 
A type of our average woman. 

Like winter blossoms they all unfold 
Their primly maturing glory; 
Like pot-grown plants in the tepid mould 
Of a window conservatory. 

They sleep by rule and by rule they wake, 
Each tendril is taught its duties; 
Were I worldly-wise, yes, my choice I'd make 
From our stock of average beauties. 

For worldly wisdom what do I care? 
I am sick of its prating mummers; 
She breathes of the field and the open air, 
And the fragrance of sixteen summers.


by Henrik Ibsen |

WITH A WATER-LILY

 SEE, dear, what thy lover brings; 
'Tis the flower with the white wings. 
Buoyed upon the quiet stream 
In the spring it lay adream. 

Homelike to bestow this guest, 
Lodge it, dear one, in thy breast; 
There its leaves the secret keep 
Of a wave both still and deep. 

Child, beware the tarn-fed stream; 
Danger, danger, there to dream! 
Though the sprite pretends to sleep, 
And above the lilies peep. 

Child, thy bosom is the stream; 
Danger, danger, there to dream! 
Though above the lilies peep, 
And the sprite pretends to sleep.