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      THE BIRD OF POPULAR SONG

       

      IT is wintertime Theearthwearsasnowygarment,and 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 stove,andtalkaboutthe 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 sorrow,as anunquiet spiritmight sigh

      And a ship came sailing by The sailorslowered the anchor, andlanded. Among themwasa singer,and 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 sung,because therewasno singer among his companions

      Then the old bard struck the strings of his harp,and sang of the youthful courage of the hero, of the strength oftheman,and of the greatnessofhis good deedsThen the faceofthe dead gleamedlike the marginofthe cloud in the moonlightGladlyandofgood courage,theformarosein 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 heart,with a voice that told of home, like the voice that is heardby thebirdofpassageThesingingbird soared away,over mountain andvalley, overfieldandwoodhe was the Bird of Popular Song,who 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 praiseofheroes;hesings also sweetgentle songs oflove,so manyandsowarm,ofNorthernfidelityand truthHe has stories in wordsand in tones; he hasproverbsandsnatchesof proverb;songswhich,likeRunes 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 right,and 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 windowoftheknightlycastle,the lady of the castle sat with the parchment roll before her, and wrote down the old recollection in song and legend,while near her stood the old woman from the wood, and thetravelling pedlarwhowentwandering through the countryAsthesetoldtheirtales,thereflutteredaroundthem,withtwittering 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 town,like a heavydreamof thewinter nightEverything on the earth is hiddenaway, only the golden cross of the church, the symbol of faith, arises over the snow grave,and 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 harmony!Thatharmony 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 returning,and 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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