An Essay Toward a History of Shakespeare in Norway
by Martin Brown Ruud
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The University of Chicago


A Dissertation

Submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of Arts and Literature in Candidacy for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy Department of Germanics and English by


Reprint from Scandinavian Studies and Notes Urbana, Illinois 1917

The Collegiate Press George Banta Publishing Company Menasha, Wisconsin

* * * * *


I have attempted in this study to trace the history of Shakespearean translations, Shakespearean criticism, and the performances of Shakespeare's plays in Norway. I have not attempted to investigate Shakespeare's influence on Norwegian literature. To do so would not, perhaps, be entirely fruitless, but it would constitute a different kind of work.

The investigation was made possible by a fellowship from the University of Chicago and a scholarship from the American-Scandinavian Foundation, and I am glad to express my gratitude to these bodies for the opportunities given to me of study in the Scandinavian countries. I am indebted for special help and encouragement to Dr. C.N. Gould and Professor J.M. Manly, of the University of Chicago, and to the authorities of the University library in Kristiania for their unfailing courtesy. To my wife, who has worked with me throughout, my obligations are greater than I can express.

It is my plan to follow this monograph with a second on the history of Shakespeare in Denmark.


Minneapolis, Minnesota. September, 1916.


Shakespeare Translations In Norway


In the years following 1750, there was gathered in the city of Trondhjem a remarkable group of men: Nils Krog Bredal, composer of the first Danish opera, John Gunnerus, theologian and biologist, Gerhart Schoning, rector of the Cathedral School and author of an elaborate history of the fatherland, and Peter Suhm, whose 14,047 pages on the history of Denmark testify to a learning, an industry, and a generous devotion to scholarship which few have rivalled. Bredal was mayor (Borgermester), Gunnerus was bishop, Schoning was rector, and Suhm was for the moment merely the husband of a rich and unsympathetic wife. But they were united in their interest in serious studies, and in 1760, the last three—somewhat before Bredal's arrival—founded "Videnskabsselkabet i Trondhjem." A few years later the society received its charter as "Det Kongelige Videnskabsselskab."

A little provincial scientific body! Of what moment is it? But in those days it was of moment. Norway was then and long afterwards the political and intellectual dependency of Denmark. For three hundred years she had been governed more or less effectively from Copenhagen, and for two hundred years Danish had supplanted Norwegian as the language of church and state, of trade, and of higher social intercourse. The country had no university; Norwegians were compelled to go to Copenhagen for their degrees and there loaf about in the anterooms of ministers waiting for preferment. Videnskabsselskabet was the first tangible evidence of awakened national life, and we are not surprised to find that it was in this circle that the demand for a separate Norwegian university was first authoritatively presented. Again, a little group of periodicals sprang up in which were discussed, learnedly and pedantically, to be sure, but with keen intelligence, the questions that were interesting the great world outside. It is dreary business ploughing through these solemn, badly printed octavos and quartos. Of a sudden, however, one comes upon the first, and for thirty-six years the only Norwegian translation of Shakespeare.

We find it in Trondhjems Allehaande for October 23, 1782—the third and last volume. The translator has hit upon Antony's funeral oration and introduces it with a short note:[1] "The following is taken from the famous English play Julius Caesar and may be regarded as a masterpiece. When Julius Caesar was killed, Antonius secured permission from Brutus and the other conspirators to speak at his funeral. The people, whose minds were full of the prosperity to come, were satisfied with Caesar's murder and regarded the murderers as benefactors. Antonius spoke so as to turn their minds from rejoicing to regret at a great man's untimely death and so as to justify himself and win the hearts of the populace. And in what a masterly way Antonius won them! We shall render, along with the oration, the interjected remarks of the crowd, inasmuch as they too are evidences of Shakespeare's understanding of the human soul and his realization of the manner in which the oration gradually brought about the purpose toward which he aimed:"

[1. It has been thought best to give such citations for the most part in translation.]

Antonius: Venner, Medborgere, giver mig Gehor, jeg kommer for at jorde Caesars Legeme, ikke for at rose ham. Det Onde man gjor lever endnu efter os; det Gode begraves ofte tilligemed vore Been. Saa Vaere det ogsaa med Caesar. Den aedle Brutus har sagt Eder, Caesar var herskesyg. Var han det saa var det en svaer Forseelse: og Caesar har ogsaa dyrt maattet bode derfor. Efter Brutus og de Ovriges Tilladelse—og Brutus er en hederlig Mand, og det er de alle, lutter hederlige Maend, kommer jeg hid for at holde Caesars Ligtale. Han var min Ven, trofast og oprigtig mod mig! dog, Brutus siger, han var herskesyg, og Brutus er en hederlig Mand. Han har bragt mange Fanger med til Rom, hvis Losepenge formerede de offentlige Skatter; synes Eder det herskesygt af Caesar—naar de Arme skreeg, saa graed Caesar—Herskesyge maate dog vel vaeves af staerkere Stof.—Dog Brutus siger han var herskesyg; og Brutus er en hederlig Mand. I have alle seet at jeg paa Pans Fest tre Gange tilbod ham en kongelig Krone, og at han tre Gange afslog den. Var det herskesygt?—Dog Brutus siger han var herskesyg, og i Sandhed, han er en hederlig Mand. Jeg taler ikke for at gjendrive det, som Brutus har sagt; men jeg staar her, for at sige hvad jeg veed. I alle elskede ham engang, uden Aarsag; hvad for en Aarsag afholder Eder fra at sorge over ham? O! Fornuft! Du er flyed hen til de umaelende Baester, og Menneskene have tabt deres Forstand. Haver Taalmodighed med mig; mit Hjerte er hist i Kisten hos Caesar, og jeg maa holde inde til det kommer tilbage til mig.

Den Forste af Folket: Mig synes der er megen Fornuft i hans Tale.

Den Anden af Folket: Naar du ret overveier Sagen, saa er Caesar skeet stor Uret.

Den Tredje: Mener I det, godt Folk? Jeg frygter der vil komme slemmere i hans Sted.

Den Fjerde: Har I lagt Maerke til hvad han sagde? Han vilde ikke modtage Kronen, det er altsaa vist at han ikke var herskesyg.

Den Forste: Hvis saa er, vil det komme visse Folk dyrt at staae.

Den Anden: Den fromme Mand! Hans Oien er blodrode af Graad.

Den Tredje: Der er ingen fortraeffeligere Mand i Rom end Antonius.

Den Fjerde: Giver Agt, han begynder igjen at tale.

Antonius: Endnu i Gaar havde et Ord af Caesar gjaeldt imod hele Verden, nu ligger han der, endog den Usleste naegter ham Agtelse. O, I Folk! var jeg sindet, at ophidse Eders Gemytter til Raserie og Opror, saa skulde jeg skade Brutus og Kassius, hvilke, som I alle veed, ere hederlige Maend. Men jeg vil intet Ondt gjore dem: hellere vil jeg gjore den Dode, mig selv, og Eder Uret, end at jeg skulde volde slige hederlige Maend Fortraed. Men her er et Pergament med Caesars Segl: jeg fandt det i hans Kammer; det er hans sidste Villie. Lad Folket blot hore hans Testament, som jeg, tilgiv mig det, ikke taenker at oplaese, da skulde de alle gaa hen og kysse den dode Caesars Saar; og dyppe deres Klaeder i hans hellige Blod; skulde bede om et Haar af ham til Erindring, og paa deres Dodsdag i deres sidste Villie taenke paa dette Haar, og testamentere deres Efterkommere det som en rig Arvedel.

Den Fjerde: Vi ville hore Testamentet! Laes det, Marcus Antonius.

Antonius: Haver Taalmodighed, mine Venner: jeg tor ikke forelaese det; deter ikke raadeligt, at I erfare hvor kjaer Caesar havde Eder. I ere ikke Traee, I ere ikke Stene, I ere Mennesker; og da I ere Mennesker saa skulde Testamentet, om I horte det, saette Eder i Flamme, det skulde gjore Eder rasende. Det er godt at I ikke vide, at I ere hans Arvinger; thi vidste I det, O, hvad vilde der da blive af?

Den fjerde: Laes Testamentet; vi ville hore det, Antonius! Du maae laese Testamentet for os, Caesars Testament!

Antonius: Ville i vaere rolige? Ville I bie lidt? Jeg er gaaen for vidt at jeg har sagt Eder noget derom—jeg frygter jeg fornaermer de hederlige Maend, som have myrdet Caesar—jeg befrygter det.

Den Fjerde: De vare Forraedere!—ha, hederlige Maend!

The translation continues to the point where the plebeians, roused to fury by the cunning appeal of Antony, rush out with the cries:[2]

2. Pleb: Go fetch fire!

3. Pleb: Plucke down Benches!

2. Pleb: Plucke down Formes, Windowes, anything.

[2. Julius Caesar. III, 2. 268-70. Variorum Edition Furness. Phila. 1913.]

But we have not space for a more extended quotation, and the passage given is sufficiently representative.

The faults are obvious. The translator has not ventured to reproduce Shakespeare's blank verse, nor, indeed, could that be expected. The Alexandrine had long held sway in Danish poetry. In Rolf Krage (1770), Ewald had broken with the tradition and written an heroic tragedy in prose. Unquestionably he had been moved to take this step by the example of his great model Klopstock in Bardiete.[3] It seems equally certain, however, that he was also inspired by the plays of Shakespeare, and the songs of Ossian, which came to him in the translations of Wieland.[4]

[3. Ronning—Rationalismens Tidsalder. 11-95.]

[4. Ewald—Levnet og meninger. Ed. Bobe. Kbhn. 1911, p. 166.]

A few years later, when he had learned English and read Shakespeare in the original, he wrote Balders Dod in blank verse and naturalized Shakespeare's metre in Denmark.[5] At any rate, it is not surprising that this unknown plodder far north in Trondhjem had not progressed beyond Klopstock and Ewald. But the result of turning Shakespeare's poetry into the journeyman prose of a foreign language is necessarily bad. The translation before us amounts to a paraphrase,—good, respectable Danish untouched by genius. Two examples will illustrate this. The lines:

.... Now lies he there, And none so poor to do him reverence.

[5. Ibid. II, 234-235.]

are rendered in the thoroughly matter-of-fact words, appropriate for a letter or a newspaper "story":

.... Nu ligger han der, endog den Usleste naegter ham Agtelse.


I have o'ershot myself to tell you of it,

is translated:

Jeg er gaaen for vidt at jeg sagde Eder noget derom.

On the other hand, the translation presents no glaring errors; such slips as we do find are due rather to ineptitude, an inability to find the right word, with the result that the writer has contented himself with an accidental and approximate rendering. For example, the translator no doubt understood the lines:

The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones.

but he could hit upon nothing better than:

Det Onde man gjor lever endnu efter os; det Gode begraves ofte tilligemed vore Been.

which is both inaccurate and infelicitous. For the line

He was my friend, faithful and just to me.

our author has:

Han var min Ven, trofast og oprigtig mod mig!


Has he, Masters? I fear there will come a worse in his place.


Mener I det, godt Folk?—etc.

Despite these faults—and many others could be cited,—it is perfectly clear that this unknown student of Shakespeare understood his original and endeavored to reproduce it correctly in good Danish. His very blunders showed that he tried not to be slavish, and his style, while not remarkable, is easy and fluent. Apparently, however, his work attracted no attention. His name is unknown, as are his sources, and there is not, with one exception, a single reference to him in the later Shakespeare literature of Denmark and Norway. Not even Rahbek, who was remarkably well informed in this field, mentions him. Only Foersom,[6] who let nothing referring to Shakespeare escape him, speaks (in the notes to Part I of his translation) of a part of Act III of Julius Caesar in Trondhjems Allehaande. That is all. It it not too much to emphasize, therefore, that we have here the first Danish version of any part of Julius Caesar as well as the first Norwegian translation of any part of Shakespeare into what was then the common literary language of Denmark and Norway.[7]

[6. William Shakespeares Tragiske Vaerker—Forste Deel. Khbn. 1807. Notes at the back of the volume.]

[7. By way of background, a bare enumeration of the early Danish translations of Shakespeare is here given.

1777. Hamlet. Translated by Johannes Boye.

1790. Macbeth. Translated by Nils Rosenfeldt. Othello. Translated by Nils Rosenfeldt. All's Well that Ends Well. Translated by Nils Rosenfeldt.

1792. King Lear. Translated by Nils Rosenfeldt. Cymbeline. Translated by Nils Rosenfeldt. The Merchant of Venice. Translated by Nils Rosenfeldt.

1794. King Lear. Nahum Tate's stage version. Translated by Hans Wilhelm Riber.

1796. Two Speeches.—To be or not to be—(Hamlet.) Is this a dagger—(Macbeth.) Translated by Malthe Conrad Brun in Svada.

1800. Act III, Sc. 2 of Julius Caesar. Translated by Knut Lyhne Rahbek in Minerva.

1801. Macbeth. Translated by Levin Sander and K.L. Rahbek. Not published till 1804.

1804. Act V of Julius Caesar. Translated by P.F. Foersom in Minerva.

1805. Act IV Sc. 3 of Love's Labour Lost. Translated by P.F. Foersom in Nytaarsgave for Skuespilyndere.

1807. Hamlet's speech to the players. Translated by P.F. Foersom in Nytaarsgave for Skuespilyndere.

It may be added that in 1807 appeared the first volume of Foersom's translation of Shakespeare's tragedies, and after 1807 the history of Shakespeare in Denmark is more complicated. With these matters I shall deal at length in another study.]


It was many years before the anonymous contributor to Trondhjems Allehaande was to have a follower. From 1782 to 1807 Norwegians were engaged in accumulating wealth, an occupation, indeed, in which they were remarkably successful. There was no time to meddle with Shakespeare in a day when Norwegian shipping and Norwegian products were profitable as never before. After 1807, when the blundering panic of the British plunged Denmark and Norway into war on the side of Napoleon, there were sterner things to think of. It was a sufficiently difficult matter to get daily bread. But in 1818, when the country had, as yet, scarcely begun to recover from the agony of the Napoleonic wars, the second Norwegian translation from Shakespeare appeared.[8]

[8. Coriolanus, efter Shakespeare. Christiania. 1818.]

The translator of this version of Coriolanus is unknown. Beyond the bare statement on the title page that the translation is made directly from Shakespeare and that it is printed and published in Christiania by Jacob Lehmann, there is no information to be had. Following the title there is a brief quotation from Dr. Johnson and one from the "Zeitung fuer die elegante Welt." Again Norway anticipates her sister nation; for not till the following year did Denmark get her first translation of the play.[9]

[9. The first Danish translation of Coriolanus by P.F. Wulff appeared in 1819.]

Ewald, Oehlenschlaeger, and Foersom had by this time made the blank verse of Shakespeare a commonplace in Dano-Norwegian literature. Even the mediocre could attempt it with reasonable assurance of success. The Coriolanus of 1818 is fairly correct, but its lumbering verse reveals plainly that the translator had trouble with his metre. Two or three examples will illustrate. First, the famous allegory of Menenius:[10]

Menenius: I enten maae erkjende at I ere Heel ondskabsfulde, eller taale, man For Uforstandighed anklager Eder. Et snurrigt Eventyr jeg vil fortaelle; Maaskee I har det hort, men da det tjener Just til min Hensigt, jeg forsoge vil Noiagtigen det Eder at forklare. . . . . . Jeg Eder det fortaelle skal; med et Slags Smil, der sig fra Lungen ikke skrev; Omtrent saaledes—thi I vide maae Naar jeg kan lade Maven tale, jeg Den og kan lade smile—stikende Den svarede hvert misfornoiet Lem Og hver Rebel, som den misundte al Sin Indtaegt; Saa misunde I Senatet Fordi det ikke er det som I ere.

Forste Borger: Hvorledes. Det var Mavens Svar! Hvorledes? Og Hovedet, der kongeligt er kronet, Og Oiet, der er blot Aarvaagenhed; Og Hjertet, som os giver gode Raad; Og Tungen, vor Trumpet, vor Stridsmand, Armen, Og Foden, vores Pragthest, med de flere Befaestingner, der stotte vor Maskine, Hvis de nu skulde....

Menenius: Nu hvad skulde de?... Den Karl mig lader ei til Orde komme, Hvad vil I sigte med det hvis de skulde?

Forste Borger: Hvis de nu skulde sig betvinge lade Ved denne Slughals Maven som blot er En Aflobs-Rende for vort Legeme?

Menenius: Nu videre!

Forste Borger: Hvad vilde Maven svare? Hvis hine Handlende med Klage fremstod?

Menenius: Hvis I mig skjaenke vil det som I have Kun lidet af, Taalmodighed, jeg mener, Jeg Eder Mavens Svar da skal fortaelle.

Forste Borger: I! Den Fortaelling ret i Langdrag traekker!

Menenius: Min gode Ven, nu allerforst bemaerke. Agtvaerdig Mave brugte Overlaeg; Ei ubetaenksom den sig overiled Som dens Modstandere; og saa lod Svaret: I Venner som fra mig ei skilles kan! Det Sandhed er, at jeg fra forste Haand Modtager Naeringen som Eder foder, Og dette i sin Orden er, thi jeg Et Varelager og et Forraads-Kammer Jo er for Legemet; men ei I glemme: Jeg Naeringen igjennem Blodets Floder Og sender lige hen til Hoffet-Hjertet— Til Hjernens Saede; jeg den flyde lader Igjennem Menneskets meest fine Dele; Og de meest fast Nerver, som de mindste Blandt Aarene fra mig modtager hver Naturlig Kraft, hvormed de leve, og Endskjondt de ikke alle paa eengang— I gode Venner (det var Mavens Ord) Og maerker dem heel noie....

Forste Borger: Det vil vi gjore.

Menenius: Endskjondt de ikke alle kunde see, Hvad jeg tilflyde lader hver isaer, Saa kan jeg dog med gyldigt Dokument Bevise at jeg overlader dem Den rene Kjaerne, selv beholder Kliddet. Hvad siger I dertil?

Forste Borger: Et svar det var— Men nu Andvendelsen!

Menenius: Senatet er Den gode Mave: I Rebellerne. I undersoge blot de Raad det giver Og alt dets Omhue. Overveier noie Alt hvad til Statens Velferd monne sigte, Og da I finde vil, at fra Senatet Hver offentlig Velgjerning som I nyde Sit Udspring bar, men ei fra Eder selv— Hvad taenker I, som er den store Taae Her i Forsamlingen?

[10. Coriolanus—Malone's ed. London. 1790. Vol. 7, pp. 148 ff.]

Aside from the preponderance of feminine endings, which is inevitable in Scandinavian blank verse, what strikes us most in this translation is its laboriousness. The language is set on end. Inversion and transposition are the devices by which the translator has managed to give Shakespeare in metrically decent lines. The proof of this is so patent that I need scarcely point out instances. But take the first seven lines of the quotation. Neither in form nor content is this bad, yet no one with a feeling for the Danish language can avoid an exclamation, "forskruet Stil" and "poetiske Stylter." And lines 8-9 smack unmistakably of Peder Paars. In the second place, the translator often does not attempt to translate at all. He gives merely a paraphrase. Compare lines 1-3 with the English original; the whole of the speech of the first citizen, 17-24, 25-27, where the whole implied idea is fully expressed; 28-30, etc., etc. We might offer almost every translation of Shakespeare's figures as an example. One more instance. At times even paraphrase breaks down. Compare

And through the cranks and offices of man The strongest and small inferior veins, Receive from me that natural competency Whereby they live.

with our translator's version (lines 50-51)

jeg den flyde lader Igjennem Menneskets meest fine Dele.

This is not even good paraphrase; it is simply bald and helpless rendering.

On the other hand, it would be grossly unfair to dismiss it all with a sneer. The translator has succeeded for the most part in giving the sense of Shakespeare in smooth and sounding verse, in itself no small achievement. Rhetoric replaces poetry, it is true, and paraphrase dries up the freshness and the sparkle of the metaphor. But a Norwegian of that day who got his first taste of Shakespeare from the translation before us, would at least feel that here was the power of words, the music and sonorousness of elevated dramatic poetry.

One more extract and I am done. It is Coriolanus' outburst of wrath against the pretensions of the tribunes (III, 1). With all its imperfections, the translation is almost adequate.

Coriolanus: Skal! Patrisier, I aedle, men ei vise! I hoie Senatorer, som mon mangle Al Overlaeg, hvi lod I Hydra vaelge En Tjener som med sit bestemte Skal —Skjondt blot Uhyrets Taleror og Lyd— Ei mangler Mod, at sige at han vil Forvandle Eders Havstrom til en Sump, Og som vil gjore Jer Kanal til sin. Hvis han har Magten, lad Enfoldighed Da for ham bukke; har han ingen Magt, Da vaekker Eders Mildhed af sin Dvale, Den farlig er; hvis I ei mangle Klogskab, Da handler ei som Daaren; mangler den, Lad denne ved Jer Side faae en Pude. Plebeier ere I, hvis Senatorer De ere, og de ere mindre ei Naar begge Eders Stemmer sammenblandes Og naar de kildres meest ved Fornemhed. De vaelge deres egen Ovrighed, Og saadan Een, der saette tor sit Skal, Ja sit gemene Skal mod en Forsamling, Der mer agtvaerdig er end nogensinde Man fandt i Graekenland. Ved Jupiter! Sligt Consulen fornedrer! Og det smerter Min Sjael at vide, hvor der findes tvende Autoriteter, ingen af dem storst, Der kan Forvirring lettelig faae Indpas I Gabet, som er mellem dem, og haeve Den ene ved den anden.


In 1865, Paul Botten Hansen, best known to the English-speaking world for his relations with Bjornson and Ibsen, reviewed[11] the eleventh installment of Lembcke's translation of Shakespeare. The article does not venture into criticism, but is almost entirely a resume of Shakespeare translation in Norway and Denmark. It is less well informed than we should expect, and contains, among several other slips, the following " 1855, Niels Hauge, deceased the following year as teacher in Kragero, translated Macbeth, the first faithful version of this masterpiece which Dano-Norwegian literature could boast of." Botten Hansen mentions only one previous Danish or Norwegian version of Shakespeare—Foersom's adaptation of Schiller's stage version (1816). He is quite obviously ignorant of Rosenfeldt's translation of 1790; and the Rahbek-Sanders translation of 1801 seems also to have escaped him, although Hauge expressly refers to this work in his introduction. Both of these early attempts are in prose; Foersom's, to be sure, is in blank verse, but Foersom's Macbeth is not Shakespeare's. Accordingly, it is, in a sense, true that Hauge in 1855 did give the Dano-Norwegian public their first taste of an unspoiled Macbeth in the vernacular.[12]

[11. Illustreret Nyhedsblad—1865, p. 96.]

[12. Macbeth—Tragedie i fem Akter af William Shakespeare. Oversat og fortolket af N. Hauge. Christiania. 1855. Johan Dahl.]

Hauge tells us that he had interested himself in English literature at the risk of being called an eccentric. Modern languages then offered no avenue to preferment, and why, forsooth, did men attend lectures and take examinations except to gain the means of earning a livelihood? He justifies his interest, however, by the seriousness and industry with which Shakespeare is studied in Germany and England. With the founts of this study he is apparently familiar, and with the influence of Shakespeare on Lessing, Goethe, and the lesser romanticists. It is interesting to note, too, that two scholars, well known in widely different fields, Monrad, the philosopher—for some years a sort of Dr. Johnson in the literary circles of Christiania—and Unger, the scholarly editor of many Old Norse texts, assisted him in his work.

The character of Hauge's work is best seen in his notes. They consist of a careful defense of every liberty he takes with the text, explanations of grammatical constructions, and interpretations of debated matters. For example, he defends the witches on the ground that they symbolize the power of evil in the human soul.

Man kan sige at Shakespeare i dem og deres Slaeng har givet de nytestamentlige Daemoner Kjod og Blod.

(We may say that Shakespeare in them and their train has endowed the demons of the New Testament with flesh and blood). Again, he would change the word incarnadine to incarnate on the ground that Twelfth Night V offers a similar instance of the corrupt use of incardinate for incarnate. The word occurs, moreover, in English only in this passage.[13] Again, in his note to Act IV, he points out that the dialogue in which Malcolm tests the sincerity of Macduff is taken almost verbatim from Holinshed. "In performing the play," he suggests, "it should, perhaps, be omitted as it very well may be without injury to the action since the complication which arises through Malcolm's suspicion of Macduff is fully and satisfactorily resolved by the appearance of Rosse." And his note to a passage in Act V is interesting as showing that, wide and thorough as was Hauge's acquaintance with Shakespearean criticism, he had, besides, a first-hand knowledge of the minor Elizabethan dramatists. I give the note in full. "The way to dusty death—

Til dette besynderlige Udtryk, kan foruden hvad Knight og Dyce have at citere, endnu citeres af Fords Perkin Warbeck, II, 2, "I take my leave to travel to my dust."

[13. This is, of course, incorrect. Cf. Macbeth, Variorum Edition. Ed. Furness. Phila. 1903, p. 40. Note.]

Hauge was a careful and conscientious scholar. He knew his field and worked with the painstaking fidelity of the man who realizes the difficulty of his task. The translation he gave is of a piece with the man—faithful, laborious, uninspired. But it is, at least, superior to Rosenfeldt and Sander, and Hauge justified his work by giving to his countrymen the best version of Macbeth up to that time.

Monrad himself reviewed Hauge's Macbeth in a careful and well-informed article, in Nordisk Tidsskrift for Videnskab og Literatur, which I shall review later.


One of the most significant elements in the intellectual life of modern Norway is the so-called Landsmaal movement. It is probably unnecessary to say that this movement is an effort on the part of many Norwegians to substitute for the dominant Dano-Norwegian a new literary language based on the "best" dialects. This language, commonly called the Landsmaal, is, at all events in its origin, the creation of one man, Ivar Aasen. Aasen published the first edition of his grammar in 1848, and the first edition of his dictionary in 1850. But obviously it was not enough to provide a grammar and a word-book. The literary powers of the new language must be developed and disciplined and, accordingly, Aasen published in 1853 Prover af Landsmaalet i Norge. The little volume contains, besides other material, seven translations from foreign classics; among these is Romeo's soliloquy in the balcony scene.[14] (Act II, Sc. 1) This modest essay of Aasen's, then, antedates Hauge's rendering of Macbeth and constitutes the first bit of Shakespeare translation in Norway since the Coriolanus of 1818.

[14. Ivar Aasen—Skrifter i Samling—Christiania. 1911, Vol. 11, p. 165. Reprinted from Prover af Landsmaalet i Norge, Forste Udgave. Kristiania. 1853, p. 114.]

Aasen knew that Landsmaal was adequate to the expression of the homely and familiar. But would it do for belles lettres?

Han laer aat Saar, som aldri kende Saar.— Men hyst!—Kvat Ljos er dat dar upp i glaset? Dat er i Aust, og Julia er Soli. Sprett, fagre Sol, og tyn dan Maane-Skjegla, som alt er sjuk og bleik av berre Ovund, at hennar Taus er fagrar' en ho sjolv. Ver inkje hennar Taus; dan Ovundsykja, so sjukleg gron er hennar Jomfru-Klaednad; d'er berre Narr, som ber han. Sleng han av! Ja, d'er mi Fru, d'er dan eg held i Hugen; aa, giv ho hadde vist dat, at ho er dat! Ho talar, utan Ord. Kvat skal ho med dei? Ho tala kann med Augom;—eg vil svara. Eg er for djerv; d'er inkje meg ho ser paa, d'er tvo av fegste Stjernom dar paa Himlen, som gekk ei AErend, og fekk hennar Augo te blinka i sin Stad, til dei kem atter. Enn um dei var dar sjolve Augo hennar. Kinn-Ljosken hennar hadde skemt dei Stjernor, som Dagsljos skemmer Lampen; hennar Augo hadd' straatt so bjart eit Ljos i Himmels Hogdi, at Fuglar song og Trudde, dat var Dag. Sjaa, kor ho hallar Kinni lint paa Handi, Aa, giv eg var ein Vott paa denne Handi at eg fekk strjuka Kinni den.—Ho talar.— Aa tala meir, Ljos-Engel, med du lyser so klaart i denne Natti kring mitt Hovud, som naar dat kem ein utfloygd Himmels Sending mot Folk, som keika seg og stira beint upp med undrarsame kvit-snudd' Augo mot han, naar han skrid um dan seinleg-sigand' Skyi og sigler yver hoge Himmels Barmen.

It was no peasant jargon that Aasen had invented; it was a literary language of great power and beauty with the dignity and fulness of any other literary medium. But it was new and untried. It had no literature. Aasen, accordingly, set about creating one. Indeed, much of what he wrote had no other purpose. What, then, shall we say of the first appearance of Shakespeare in "Ny Norsk"?

First, that it was remarkably felicitous.

Kinn-Ljosken hadde skemt dei Stjernor som Dagsljos skemmer Lampen, hennar Augo, etc.

That is no inadequate rendering of:

Two of the fairest stars in all the Heaven, etc.

And equally good are the closing lines beginning:

Aa tala meir, Ljos-Engel med du lyser, etc.

Foersom is deservedly praised for his translation of the same lines, but a comparison of the two is not altogether disastrous to Aasen, though, to be sure, his lines lack some of Foersom's insinuating softness:

Tal atter, Lysets Engel! thi du straaler i Natten saa hoiherlig over mig som en af Nattens vingede Cheruber for dodeliges himmelvendte Oine, etc.

But lines like these have an admirable and perfect loveliness:

naar han skrid um dan seinleg-sigand' Skyi og sigler yver hoge Himmels Barmen.

Aasen busied himself for some years with this effort to naturalize his Landsmaal in all the forms of literature. Apparently this was always uppermost in his thoughts. We find him trying himself in this sort of work in the years before and after the publication of Prover af Landsmaalet. In Skrifter i Samling is printed another little fragment of Romeo and Juliet, which the editor, without giving his reasons, assigns to a date earlier than that of the balcony scene. It is Mercutio's description of Queen Mab (Act I, Sc. 4). This is decidedly more successful than the other. The vocabulary of the Norwegian dialects is rich in words of fairy-lore, and one who knew this word treasure as Aasen did could render the fancies of Mercutio with something very near the exuberance of Shakespeare himself:

No ser eg vel, at ho hev' vore hjaa deg ho gamle Mabba, Naerkona aat Vettom. So lita som ein Adelstein i Ringen paa fremste Fingren paa ein verdug Raadsmann, ho kjoyrer kring med smaa Soldumbe-Flokar paa Nasanna aat Folk, dan Tid dei sov. Hjulspikann' henna er av Konglefoter, Vognfelden er av Engjesprette-Vengjer, og Taumann' av den minste Kongleveven. Av Maanestraalanne paa Vatn er Selen, og av Sirissebein er Svipeskafted og Svipesnerten er av Agner smaa. Skjotskaren er eit nett graakjola My so stort som Holva av ein liten Mol, som minste Vaekja krasa kann med Fingren. Til Vogn ho fekk ei holut Haslenot av Snikkar Ikorn elder Natemakk, som altid var Vognmakarann' aat Vettom.[15]

[15. Ivar Aasen: Skrifter i Samling. Christiania. 1911, Vol. I, p. 166.]

The translation ends with Mercutio's words:

And being thus frightened, swears a prayer or two, And sleeps again.

In my opinion this is consummately well done—at once accurate and redolent of poesy; and certainly Aasen would have been justified in feeling that Landsmaal is equal to Shakespeare's most airy passages. The slight inaccuracy of one of the lines:

Av Maanestraalanne paa Vatn er Selen,

for Shakespeare's:

The colors of the moonshine's watery beams,

is of no consequence. The discrepancy was doubtless as obvious to the translator as it is to us.

From about the same time we have another Shakespeare fragment from Aasen's hand. Like the Queen Mab passage, it was not published till 1911.[16] It is scarcely surprising that it is a rendering of Hamlet's soliloquy: "To be or not to be." This is, of course, a more difficult undertaking. For the interests that make up the life of the people—their family and community affairs, their arts and crafts and folk-lore, the dialects of Norway, like the dialects of any other country, have a vocabulary amazingly rich and complete.[17] But not all ideas belong in the realm of the every-day, and the great difficulty of the Landsmaal movement is precisely this—that it must develop a "culture language." To a large degree it has already done so. The rest is largely a matter of time. And surely Ivar Aasen's translation of the famous soliloquy proved that the task of giving, even to thought as sophisticated as this, adequate and final expression is not impossible. The whole is worth giving:

Te vera elder ei,—d'er da her spyrst um; um d'er meir heirlegt i sitt Brjost aa tola kvar Styng og Stoyt av ein hardsokjen Lagnad eld taka Vaapn imot eit Hav med Harmar, staa mot og slaa dei veg?—Te doy, te sova, alt fraa seg gjort,—og i ein Somn te enda dan Hjarteverk, dei tusend timleg' Stoytar, som Kjot er Erving til, da var ein Ende rett storleg ynskjande. Te doy, te sova, ja sova, kanskje droyma,—au, d'er Knuten. Fyr' i dan Daudesomn, kva Draum kann koma, naar mid ha kastat av dei daudleg Bandi, da kann vel giv' oss Tankar; da er Sakji, som gjerer Useldom so lang i Livet: kven vilde tolt slikt Hogg og Haad i Tidi, slik sterk Manns Urett, stolt Manns Skamlaus Medferd, slik vanvyrd Elskhugs Harm, slik Rettarloysa, slikt Embaet's Ovmod, slik Tilbakaspenning, som tolug, verdug Mann faer av uverdug; kven vilde da, naar sjolv han kunde loysa seg med ein nakjen Odd? Kven bar dan Byrda so sveitt og stynjand i so leid ein Livnad, naar inkj'an ottast eitkvart etter Dauden, da uforfarne Land, som ingjen Ferdmann er komen atter fraa, da viller Viljen, da laet oss helder ha dan Naud, mid hava, en fly til onnor Naud, som er oss ukjend. So gjer Samviskan Slavar av oss alle, so bi dan fyrste, djerve, bjarte Viljen skjemd ut med blakke Strik av Ettertankjen og store Tiltak, som var Merg og Magt i, maa soleid snu seg um og stroyma ovugt og tapa Namn av Tiltak.

[16. Skrifter i Samling, I, 168. Kristiania. 1911.]

[17. Cf. Alf Torp. Samtiden, XIX (1908), p. 483.]

This is a distinctly successful attempt—exact, fluent, poetic. Compare it with the Danish of Foersom and Lembcke, with the Swedish of Hagberg, or the new Norwegian "Riksmaal" translation, and Ivar Aasen's early Landsmaal version holds its own. It keeps the right tone. The dignity of the original is scarcely marred by a note of the colloquial. Scarcely marred! For just as many Norwegians are offended by such a phrase as "Hennar Taus er fagrar' en ho sjolv" in the balcony scene, so many more will object to the colloquial "Au, d'er Knuten." Au has no place in dignified verse, and surely it is a most unhappy equivalent for "Ay, there's the rub." Aasen would have replied that Hamlet's words are themselves colloquial; but the English conveys no such connotation of easy speech as does the Landsmaal to a great part of the Norwegian people. But this is a trifle. The fact remains that Aasen gave a noble form to Shakespeare's noble verse.


For many years the work of Hauge and Aasen stood alone in Norwegian literature. The reading public was content to go to Denmark, and the growing Landsmaal literature was concerned with other matters—first of all, with the task of establishing itself and the even more complicated problem of finding a form—orthography, syntax, and inflexions which should command general acceptance. For the Landsmaal of Ivar Aasen was frankly based on "the best dialects," and by this he meant, of course, the dialects that best preserved the forms of the Old Norse. These were the dialects of the west coast and the mountains. To Aasen the speech of the towns, of the south-east coast and of the great eastern valleys and uplands was corrupt and vitiated. It seemed foreign, saturated and spoiled by Danish. There were those, however, who saw farther. If Landsmaal was to strike root, it must take into account not merely "the purest dialects" but the speech of the whole country. It could not, for example, retain forms like "dat," "dan," etc., which were peculiar to Sondmor, because they happened to be lineal descendants of Old Norse, nor should it insist on preterites in ade and participles in ad merely because these forms were found in the sagas. We cannot enter upon this subject; we can but point out that this movement was born almost with Landsmaal itself, and that, after Aasen's fragments, the first Norwegian translation of any part of Shakespeare is a rendering of Sonnet CXXX in popularized Eastern, as distinguished from Aasen's literary, aristocratic Western Landsmaal. It is the first translation of a Shakespearean sonnet on Norwegian soil. The new language was hewing out new paths.

Som Soli Augunn' inkje skjin, og som Koraller inkje Lipunn' glansar, og snjokvit hev ho inkje Halsen sin, og Gullhaar inkje Hove hennar kransar,

Eg baae kvit' og raue Roser ser—, paa Kinni hennar deira Lit'kje blandast; og meire fin vel Blomsterangen er, en den som ut fraa Lipunn' hennar andast.

Eg hoyrt hev hennar Royst og veit endaa, at inkje som ein Song dei laeter Ori; og aldrig hev eg set ein Engel gaa— og gjenta mi ser stott eg gaa paa Jori.

Men ho er storre Lov og AEre vaer enn pyntedokkane me laana Glansen. Den reine Hugen seg i alting ter, og ljost ho smilar under Brurekransen.[18]

[18. "Ein Sonett etter William Shakespeare." Fram—1872.]

Obviously this is not a sonnet at all. Not only does the translator ignore Shakespeare's rime scheme, but he sets aside the elementary definition of a sonnet—a poem of fourteen lines. We have here sixteen lines and the last two add nothing to the original. The poet, through lack of skill, has simply run on. He could have ended with line 14 and then, whatever other criticism might have been passed upon his work, we should have had at least the sonnet form. The additional lines are in themselves fairly good poetry but they have no place in what purports to be translation. The translator signs himself simply "r." Whoever he was, he had poetic feeling and power of expression. No mere poetaster could have given lines so exquisite in their imagery, so full of music, and so happy in their phrasing. This fact in itself makes it a poor translation, for it is rather a paraphrase with a quality and excellence all its own. Not a line exactly renders the English. The paraphrase is never so good as the original but, considered by itself, it is good poetry. The disillusionment comes only with comparison. On the whole, this second attempt to put Shakespeare into Landsmaal was distinctly less successful than the first. As poetry it does not measure up to Aasen; as translation it is periphrastic, arbitrary, not at all faithful.


The translations which we have thus far considered were mere fragments—brief soliloquies or a single sonnet, and they were done into a dialect which was not then and is not now the prevailing literary language of the country. They were earnest and, in the case of Aasen, successful attempts to show that Landsmaal was adequate to the most varied and remote of styles. But many years were to elapse before anyone attempted the far more difficult task of turning any considerable part of Shakespeare into "Modern Norwegian."

Norway still relied, with no apparent sense of humiliation, on the translations of Shakespeare as they came up from Copenhagen. In 1881, however, Hartvig Lassen (1824-1897) translated The Merchant of Venice.[19] Lassen matriculated as a student in 1842, and from 1850 supported himself as a literateur, writing reviews of books and plays for Krydseren and Aftenposten. In 1872 he was appointed Artistic Censor at the theater, and in that office translated a multitude of plays from almost every language of Western Europe. His published translations of Shakespeare are, however, quite unrelated to his theatrical work. They were done for school use and published by Selskabet for Folkeoplysningens Fremme (Society for the Promotion of Popular Education).

[19. Kjobmanden i Venedig—Et Skuespil af William Shakespeare. Oversat af Hartvig Lassen. Udgivet af Selskabet for Folkeoplysningens Fremme som andet Tillaegshefte til Folkevennen for 1881. Kristiania, 1881.]

To Kjobmanden i Venedig there is no introduction and no notes—merely a postscript in which the translator declares that he has endeavored everywhere faithfully to reproduce the peculiar tone of the play and to preserve the concentration of style which is everywhere characteristic of Shakespeare. He acknowledges his indebtedness to the Swedish translation by Hagberg and the German by Schlegel. Inasmuch as this work was published for wide, general distribution and for reading in the schools, Lassen cut out the passages which he deemed unsuitable for the untutored mind. "But," he adds, "with the exception of the last scene of Act III, which, in its expurgated form, would be too fragmentary (and which, indeed, does not bear any immediate relation to the action), only a few isolated passages have been cut. Shakespeare has lost next to nothing, and a great deal has been gained if I have hereby removed one ground for the hesitation which most teachers would feel in using the book in the public schools." In Act III, Scene 5 is omitted entirely, and obvious passages in other parts of the play.

It has frequently been said that Lassen did little more than "norvagicize" Lembcke's Danish renderings. And certainly even the most cursory reading will show that he had Lembcke at hand. But comparison will also show that variations from Lembcke are numerous and considerable. Lassen was a man of letters, a critic, and a good student of foreign languages, but he was no poet, and his Merchant of Venice is, generally speaking, much inferior to Lembcke's. Compare, for example, the exquisite opening of the fifth act:


Lor: Klart skinner Maanen, i en Nat som denne, da Vinden gled med Lys igjennem Lovet, og alt var tyst: i slig en Nat forvist Trojas Murtinder Troilus besteg, til Graekerlejren, til sin Cressida udsukkende sin Sjael.


Klart skinner Maanen, i en Nat som denne, mens Luftningen saa sagte kyssed Traeet at knapt det sused, i en saadan Nat steg Troilus vist up paa Trojas Mur og sukked ud sin Sjael mod Graekerlejren der gjemte Cressida.

Jes: I slig en Nat sig Thisbe listed aengstelig, over Duggen saa Lovens Skygge for hun saa den selv, og lob forskraekket bort.

En saadan Nat gik Thisbe bange trippende paa Duggen og ojned Lovens Skygge for den selv og lob forfaerdet bort.

Lor: I slig en Nat stod Dido med en Vidjevaand i Haanden paa vilden strand, og vinked til Kartago sin elsker hjem igjen.

En saadan Nat stod Dido med en Vidjekvist i Haanden paa vilden Strand og vinkede sin Elsker tilbage til Carthagos Kyst.

Jes: I slig en Nat Medea plukked Galder-Urt for Aeson hans Ungdom at forny.

Det var en saadan Nat, da sankede Medea de Trolddomsurter der foryngede den gamle Aeson.


I slig en Nat stjal Jessica sig fra den rige Jode, Lob fra Venedig med en lystig Elsker til Belmont uden Stands.

Og en saadan Nat sneg Jessica sig fra den rige Jode og lob med en Landstryger fra Venedig herhid til Belmont.


I slig en Nat svor ung Lorenzo at han elsked hende, stjal hendes Sjael med mange Troskabslofter og ikke et var sandt.

Og en saadan Nat svor ung Lorenzo hende Kjaerlighed og stjal med Troskabseder hendes Hjerte og aldrig en var sand.


I slig en Nat skjon Jessica, den lille Klaffertunge, loi paa sin Elsker, og han tilgav hende.

I slig en Nat bagtalte just skjon Jessica sin Elsker ret som en lille Trold, og han tilgav det.


Jeg gad fortalt dig mer om slig en Nat, hvis jeg ei horte nogen komme—tys!

Jeg skulde sagtens "overnatte" dig hvis ingen kom; men tys, jeg horer der Trin af en Mand.

Lembcke's version is faithful to the point of slavishness. Compare, for example, "Jeg skulde sagtens overnatte dig" with "I would outnight you." Lassen, though never grossly inaccurate, allows himself greater liberties. Compare lines 2-6 with the original and with Lembcke. In every case the Danish version is more faithful than the Norwegian. And more mellifluous. Why Lassen should choose such clumsy and banal lines as:

I slig en Nat Trojas Murtinder Troilus besteg

when he could have used Lembcke's, is inexplicable except on the hypothesis that he was eager to prove his own originality. The remainder of Lorenzo's first speech is scarcely better. It is neither good translation nor decent verse.

In 1882 came Lassen's Julius Caesar,[20] likewise published as a supplement to Folkevennen for use in the schools. A short postscript tells us that the principles which governed in the translation of the earlier play have governed here also. Lassen specifically declares that he used Foersom's translation (Copenhagen, 1811) as the basis for the translation of Antony's oration. A comparison shows that in this scene Lassen follows Foersom closely—he keeps archaisms which Lembcke amended. One or two instances:

Foersom: Seer, her foer Casii Dolk igjennem den; seer, hvilken Rift den nidske Casca gjorde; her rammed' den hoitelskte Bruti Dolk, etc.

Lembcke: Se, her foer Cassius' Dolk igjennem den; se hvilken Rift den onde Casca gjorde. Her stodte Brutus den hoitelskede, etc.

Lassen: Se! her foer Casii Dolk igjennem den; se hvilken Rift den onde Casca gjorde. Her rammed den hoielskte Bruti Dolk, etc.

[20. Julius Caesar. Et Skuespil af William Shakespeare. Oversat af Hartvig Lassen. Udgivet af Selskabet for Folkeoplysningens Fremme som forste Tillaegshefte til Folkevennen for 1882. Kristiania, 1882. Grondal og Son.]

For the rest, a reading of this translation leaves the same impression as a reading of The Merchant of Venice—it is a reasonably good piece of work but distinctly inferior to Foersom and to Lembcke's modernization of Foersom. Lassen clearly had Lembcke at hand; he seldom, however, followed him for more than a line or two. What is more important is that there are reminiscences of Foersom not only in the funeral scene, where Lassen himself acknowledges the fact, but elsewhere. Note a few lines from the quarrel between Brutus and Cassius (Act IV, Sc. 3) beginning with Cassius' speech:

Urge me no more, I shall forget myself.

Foersom (Ed. 1811) has:

Cas: Tir mig ei mer at jeg ei glemmer mig; husk Eders Vel—og frist mig ikke mere.

Bru: Bort, svage Mand!

Cas: Er dette muligt?

Bru: Hor mig; jeg vil tale. Skal jeg for Eders vilde Sind mig boie? Troer I jeg kyses af en gal Mands Blik?

Cas: O Guder, Guder! skal jeg taale dette?

Bru: Ja, meer. Brum saa dette stolte Hierte brister; Gak, viis den Haeftighed for Eders Traelle, og faa dem til at skielve. Skal jeg vige, og foie Eder? Skal jeg staae og boie mig under Eders Luners Arrighed? Ved Guderne, I skal nedsvaelge selv al Eders Galdes Gift, om end I brast; thi fra i dag af bruger jeg Jer kun til Moerskab, ja til latter naar I vredes.

And Lassen has:

Cas: Tirr mig ei mer; jeg kunde glemme mig. Taenk paa dit eget Vel, frist mig ei laenger.

Bru: Bort, svage Mand!

Cas: Er dette muligt?

Bru: Hor mig, jeg vil tale. Skal jeg mig boie for din Vredes Nykker? Og skraemmes, naar en gal Mand glor paa mig?

Cas: O Guder, Guder! maa jeg taale dette?

Bru: Dette, ja mer end det. Stamp kun mod Brodden, ras kun, indtil dit stolte Hjerte brister; lad dine Slaver se hvor arg du er og skjelve. Jeg—skal jeg tilside smutte? Jeg gjore Krus for dig? Jeg krumme Ryg naar det behager dig? Ved Guderne! Du selv skal svaelge al din Galdes Gift, om saa du brister; thi fra denne Dag jeg bruger dig til Moro, ja til Latter, naar du er ilsk.

The italicized passages show that the influence of Foersom was felt in more than one scene. It would be easy to give other instances.

After all this, we need scarcely more than mention Lassen's Macbeth[21] published in 1883. The usual brief note at the end of the play gives the usual information that, out of regard for the purpose for which the translation has been made, certain parts of the porter scene and certain speeches by Malcolm in Act IV, Sc. 3 have been cut. Readers will have no difficulty in picking them out.

[21. Macbeth. Tragedie af William Shakespeare. Oversat af H. Lassen. Udgivet af Selskabet for Folkeoplysningens Fremme som andet Tillaegshefte til Folkevennen for 1883. Kristiania. Grondal og Son.]

Macbeth is, like all Lassen's work, dull and prosaic. Like his other translations from Shakespeare, it has never become popular. The standard translation in Norway is still the Foersom-Lembcke, a trifle nationalized with Norwegian words and phrases whenever a new acting version is to be prepared. And while it is not true that Lassen's translations are merely norvagicized editions of the Danish, it is true that they are often so little independent of them that they do not deserve to supersede the work of Foersom and Lembcke.


Norwegian translations of Shakespeare cannot, thus far, be called distinguished. There is no complete edition either in Riksmaal or Landsmaal. A few sonnets, a play or two, a scrap of dialogue—Norway has little Shakespeare translation of her own. Qualitatively, the case is somewhat better. Several of the renderings we have considered are extremely creditable, though none of them can be compared with the best in Danish or Swedish. It is a grateful task, therefore, to call attention to the translations by Christen Collin. They are not numerous—only eleven short fragments published as illustrative material in his school edition (English text) of The Merchant of Venice—[22] but they are of notable quality, and they save the Riksmaal literature from the reproach of surrendering completely to the Landsmaal the task of turning Shakespeare into Norwegian. With the exception of a few lines from Macbeth and Othello, the selections are all from The Merchant of Venice.

[22. The Merchant of Venice. Med Indledning og Anmaerkninger ved Christen Collin. Kristiania. 1902. (This, of course, does not include the translations of the sonnets referred to below.)]

A good part of Collin's success must be attributed to his intimate familiarity with English. The fine nuances of the language do not escape him, and he can use it not with precision merely but with audacity and power. Long years of close and sympathetic association with the literature of England has made English well-nigh a second mother tongue to this fine and appreciative critic. But he is more than a critic. He has more than a little of the true poet's insight and the true poet's gift of song. All this has combined to give us a body of translations which, for fine felicity, stand unrivalled in Dano-Norwegian. Many of these have been prepared for lecture purposes and have never been printed.[23] Only a few have been perpetuated in this text edition of The Merchant of Venice. We shall discuss the edition itself below. Our concern here is with the translations. We remember Lassen's and Lembcke's opening of the fifth act. Collin is more successful than his countryman.

Lor: Hvor Maanen straaler! I en nat som denne, da milde vindpust kyssed skovens traer og alting var saa tyst, i slig en nat Troilus kanske steg op paa Trojas mure og stonned ud sin sjael mod Graekerteltene hvor Cressida laa den nat.

Jes: I slig en nat kom Thisbe angstfuldt trippende over duggen,— saa lovens skygge, for hun saa den selv, og lob forskraekket bort.

Lor: I slig en nat stod Dido med en vidjekvist i haand paa havets strand og vinkede AEneas tilbage til Karthago.

Jes: I slig en nat Medea sanked urter som foryngede den gamle AEsons liv.

Lor: I slig en nat stjal Jessica sig fra den rige Jode med en forfloien elsker fra Venedig og fandt i Belmont ly.

Jes: I en saadan nat svor ung Lorenzo at hun var ham kjaer og stjal med mange eder hendes hjerte, men ikke en var sand.

Lor: I slig en nat skjon Jessica, den lille heks, bagtalte sin elsker og han—tilgav hende alt.

[23. I have seen these translations in the typewritten copies which Professor Collin distributed among his students.]

"A translation of this passage," says Collin,[24] "can hardly be more than an approximation, but its inadequacy will only emphasize the beauty of the original." Nevertheless we have here more than a feeble approximation. It is not equal to Shakespeare, but it is good Norwegian poetry and as faithful as translation can or need be. It is difficult to refrain from giving Portia's plea for mercy, but I shall give instead Collin's striking rendering of Shylock's arraignment of Antonio:[25]

Signor Antonio, mangen en gang og tit har paa Rialto torv I skjaeldt mig ud for mine pengelaan og mine renter.... Jeg bar det med taalmodigt skuldertraek, for taalmod er jo blit vor stammes merke.

I kalder mig en vantro, blodgrisk hund og spytter paa min jodiske gaberdin— hvorfor? for brug af hvad der er mit eget! Nu synes det, I traenger til min hjaelp.

Nei virkelig? I kommer nu til mig og siger: Shylock, laan os penge,—I, som slaengte eders slim hen paa mit skjaeg og satte foden paa mig, som I spaendte, en kjoter fra Jer dor, I be'r om penge! Hvad skal jeg svare vel? Skal jeg 'ke svare: Har en hund penge? Er det muligt, at en kjoter har tre tusinde dukater? Eller skal jeg bukke dybt og i traelletone med saenket rost og underdanig hvisken formaele: "Min herre, I spytted paa mig sidste onsdag, en anden dag I spaendte mig, en tredje I kaldte mig en hund; for al den artighed jeg laaner Jer saa og saa mange penge?"

[24. Collin, op. cit., Indledning, XII.]

[25. Collin, op. cit., Indledning, XXVI. (M. of V., 1-3)]

It is to be regretted that Collin did not give us Shylock's still more impassioned outburst to Salarino in Act III. He would have done it well.

It would be a gracious task to give more of this translator's work. It is, slight though its quantity, a genuine contribution to the body of excellent translation literature of the world. I shall quote but one more passage, a few lines from Macbeth.[26]

"Det tyktes mig som horte jeg en rost; Sov aldrig mer! Macbeth har myrdet sovnen, den skyldfri sovn, som loser sorgens floke, hvert daglivs dod, et bad for modig moie, balsam for sjaelesaar og alnaturens den sode efterret,—dog hovednaeringen ved livets gjaestebud....

Lady Macbeth: Hvad er det, du mener?

Macbeth: "Sov aldrig mer," det skreg til hele huset. Glarais har myrdet sovnen, derfor Cawdor skal aldrig mer faa sovn,—Macbeth, Macbeth skal aldrig mer faa sovn!"

[26. Collin, op. cit., Indledning, XXV. Macbeth II, 1.]


We have hitherto discussed the Norwegian translations of Shakespeare in almost exact chronological order. It has been possible to do this because the plays have either been translated by a single man and issued close together, as in the case of Hartvig Lassen, or they have appeared separately from the hands of different translators and at widely different periods. We come now, however, to a group of translations which, although the work of different men and published independently from 1901 to 1912, nevertheless belong together. They are all in Landsmaal and they represent quite clearly an effort to enrich the literature of the new dialect with translations from Shakespeare. To do this successfully would, obviously, be a great gain. The Maalstraevere would thereby prove the capacity of their tongue for the highest, most exotic forms of literature. They would give to it, moreover, the discipline which the translation of foreign classics could not fail to afford. It was thus a renewal of the missionary spirit of Ivar Aasen. And behind it all was the defiant feeling that Norwegians should have Shakespeare in Norwegian, not in Danish or bastard Danish.

The spirit of these translations is obvious enough from the opening sentence of Madhus' preface to his translation of Macbeth:[27] "I should hardly have ventured to publish this first attempt at a Norwegian translation of Shakespeare if competent men had not urged me to do so." It is frankly declared to be the first Norwegian translation of Shakespeare. Hauge and Lassen, to say nothing of the translator of 1818, are curtly dismissed from Norwegian literature. They belong to Denmark. This might be true if it were not for the bland assumption that nothing is really Norwegian except what is written in the dialect of a particular group of Norwegians. The fundamental error of the "Maalstraevere" is the inability to comprehend the simple fact that language has no natural, instinctive connection with race. An American born in America of Norwegian parents may, if his parents are energetic and circumstances favorable, learn the tongue of his father and mother, but his natural speech, the medium he uses easily, his real mother-tongue, will be English. Will it be contended that this American has lost anything in spiritual power or linguistic facility? Quite the contrary. The use of Danish in Norway has had the unfortunate effect of stirring up a bitter war between the two literary languages or the two dialects of the same language, but it has imposed no bonds on the literary or intellectual powers of a large part of the people, for the simple reason that these people have long used the language as their own. And because they live in Norway they have made the speech Norwegian. Despite its Danish origin, Dano-Norwegian is today as truly Norwegian as any other Norwegian dialect, and in its literary form it is, in a sense, more Norwegian than the literary Landsmaal, for the language of Bjornson has grown up gradually on Norwegian soil; the language of Ivar Aasen is not yet acclimatized.

[27. William Shakespeare: Macbeth. I norsk Umskrift ved Olav Madhus. Kristiania. 1901. H. Aschehoug & Co.]

For these reasons it will not do to let Madhus' calm assertion go unchallenged. The fact is that to a large part of the Norwegian people Lassen's translations represent merely a slightly Danicized form of their own language, while to the same people the language of Madhus is at least as foreign as Swedish. This is not the place for a discussion of "Sprogstriden." We may give full recognition to Landsmaal without subscribing to the creed of enthusiasts. And it is still easier to give credit to the excellence of the Shakespeare translations in Landsmaal without concerning ourselves with the partisanship of the translator. What shall we say, then, of the Macbeth of Olav Madhus?

First, that it is decidedly good. The tragedy of Macbeth is stark, grim, stern, and the vigorous, resonant Norwegian fits admirably. There is little opportunity, as in Aasen's selections from Romeo and Juliet for those unfortunate contrasts between the homespun of the modern dialect and the exquisite silk and gossamer of the vocabulary of romance of a "cultured language." Madhus has been successful in rendering into Landsmaal scenes as different as the witch-scene, the porter-scene (which Lassen omitted for fear it would contaminate the minds of school children), the exquisite lines of the King and Banquo on their arrival at Macbeth's castle, and Macbeth's last, tragic soliloquy when he learns of the death of his queen.

Duncan and Banquo arrive at the castle of Macbeth and Duncan speaks those lovely lines: "This castle has a pleasant seat," etc. Madhus translates:

Duncan: Ho hev eit fagert laegje, denne borgi, og lufti lyar seg og gjer seg smeiki aat vaare glade sansar.

Banquo: Sumar-gjesten, den tempel-kjaere svala, vitnar med, at himlens ande blakrar smeikin her, med di at ho so gjerne her vil byggje. Det finst kje sule eller takskjeggs livd og ikkje voll hell vigskar, der ei ho hev hengt si lette seng og barne-vogge. Der ho mest bur og braeer, hev eg merkt meg, er lufti herleg.

This is as light and luminous as possible. Contrast it with the slow, solemn tempo of the opening of Act I, Sc. 7—Macbeth's "If it were done when 'tis done," etc.

Um det var gjort, naar d'er gjort, var det vael, um det vart snart gjort; kunde loynmordsverke, stengje og binde alle vonde fylgdir og, med aa faa hurt honom, naa sitt maal, so denne eine stoyten som maa til, vart enden, alt, det siste som det fyrste i tidi her—den havsens oyr og bode me sit paa no—,—med live som kjem etter det fekk daa vaage voni. Men i slikt vert domen sagd alt her. Blodtankane, me el, kjem vaksne att og piner oss, som gav deim liv og fostra deim; og drykken, som me hev blanda eiter i aat andre, vert eingong uta miskunn bodin fram av rettferds hand aat vaare eigne munnar.

The deep tones of a language born in mountains and along fjords finely re-echo the dark broodings in Macbeth's soul.

Or take still another example, the witch-scene in Act IV. It opens in Madhus' version:

Fyrste Heks: Tri gong mjava brandut katt.

Andre Heks: Tri og ein gong bust-svin peip.

Tridje Heks: Val-ramn skrik. D'er tid, d'er tid.

Fyrste Heks: Ring um gryta gjeng me tri; sleng forgiftigt seid—mang i. Gyrme-gro, som under stein dagar tredive og ein sveita eiter, lat og leid, koke fyrst i vaaro seid.

Alle: Tvifaldt trael og moda duble; brand frase, seid buble!

Andre Heks: Moyrkjot av ein myr-orm kald so i gryta koke skal. Odle-augo, skinnveng-haar, hundetunge, froskelaar, sleve-brodd, firfisle-svord, ule-veng og lyngaal-spord til eit seid som sinn kann rengje hel-sodd-heitt seg saman mengje!

This is not only accurate; it is a decidedly successful imitation of the movement of the original. Madhus has done a first-rate piece of work. The language of witch-craft is as international as the language of science. But only a poet can turn it to poetic use.

Not quite so successful is Macbeth's soliloquy when the death of Lady Macbeth is announced to him:

Det skuld'ho drygt med. Aat slikt eit ord var komi betre stund.— "I morgo" og "i morgo" og "i morgo," slik sig det smaatt fram etter, dag for dag, til siste ord i livsens sogubok; og kvart "i gaar" hev daarer vegen lyst til dust og daude.

It is difficult to say just where the fault lies, but the thing seems uncouth, a trifle too colloquial and peasant-like. The fault may be the translator's, but something must also be charged to his medium. The passage in Shakespeare is simple but it breathes distinction. The Landsmaal version is merely colloquial, even banal. One fine line there is:

"til siste ord i livsens sogubok."

But the rest suggests too plainly the limitations of an uncultivated speech.

In 1905 came a translation of The Merchant of Venice by Madhus,[28] and, uniform with it, a little book—Soga um Kaupmannen i Venetia (The Story of The Merchant of Venice) in which the action of the play is told in simple prose. In the appendatory notes the translator acknowledges his obligation to Arne Garborg—"Arne Garborg hev gjort mig framifraa god hjelp, her som med Macbeth. Takk og aere hev han."

[28. William Shakespeare—Kaupmannen i Venetia. Paa Norsk ved Olav Madhus. Oslo. 1905.]

What we have said of Macbeth applies with no less force here. The translation is more than merely creditable—it is distinctly good. And certainly it is no small feat to have translated Shakespeare in all his richness and fulness into what was only fifty years ago a rustic and untrained dialect. It is the best answer possible to the charge often made against Landsmaal that it is utterly unable to convey the subtle thought of high and cosmopolitan culture. This was the indictment of Bjornson,[29] of philologists like Torp,[30] and of a literary critic like Hjalmar Christensen.[31] The last named speaks repeatedly of the feebleness of Landsmaal when it swerves from its task of depicting peasant life. His criticism of the poetry of Ivar Mortensen is one long variation of this theme—the immaturity of Landsmaal. All of this is true. A finished literary language, even when its roots go deep into a spoken language, cannot be created in a day. It must be enriched and elaborated, and it must gain flexibility from constant and varied use. It is precisely this apprentice stage that Landsmaal is now in. The finished "Kultursprache" will come in good time. No one who has read Garborg will deny that it can convey the subtlest emotions; and Madhus' translations of Shakespeare are further evidence of its possibilities.

[29. Bjornson: Vort Sprog.]

[30. Torp. Samtiden, Vol. XIX (1908), p. 408.]

[31. Vor Literatur.]

That Madhus does not measure up to his original will astonish no one who knows Shakespeare translations in other languages. Even Tieck's and Schlegel's German, or Hagberg's Swedish, or Foersom's Danish is no substitute for Shakespeare. Whether or not Madhus measures up to these is not for me to decide, but I feel very certain that he will not suffer by comparison with the Danish versions by Wolff, Meisling, Wosemose, or even Lembcke, or with the Norwegian versions of Hauge and Lassen. The feeling that one gets in reading Madhus is not that he is uncouth, still less inaccurate, but that in the presence of great imaginative richness he becomes cold and barren. We felt it less in the tragedy of Macbeth, where romantic color is absent; we feel it strongly in The Merchant of Venice, where the richness of romance is instinct in every line. The opening of the play offers a perfect illustration. In answer to Antonio's complaint "In sooth I know not why I am so sad," etc, Salarino replies in these stately and sounding lines:

Your mind is tossing on the ocean; There, where your argosies, with portly sail,— Like signiors and rich burghers of the flood, Or, as it were, the pageants of the sea,— Do overpeer the petty traffickers That curt'sy to them, do them reverence, As they fly by them with their woven wings.

The picture becomes very much less stately in Norwegian folk-speech:

Paa storehave huskar hugen din, der dine langferd-skip med staute segl som hovdingar og herremenn paa sjo i drusteferd, aa kalle, gagar seg paa baara millom kraemarskutur smaa', som nigjer aat deim og som helsar audmjukt naar dei med vovne vengir framum stryk.

The last two lines are adequate, but the rest has too much the flavor of Ole and Peer discussing the fate of their fishing-smacks. Somewhat more successful is the translation of the opening of Act V, doubtless because it is simpler, less full of remote and sophisticated imagery. By way of comparison with Lassen and Collin, it may be interesting to have it at hand.

Lor: Ovfagert lyser maanen. Slik ei natt, daa milde vindar kysste ljuve tre so lindt at knapt dei susa, slik ei natt steig Troilus upp paa Troja-murane og sukka saali si til Greklands telt, der Kressida laag den natti.

Jes: Slik ei natt gjekk Thisbe hugraedd yvi doggvaat voll og loveskuggen saag fyrr lova kom; og raedd ho der-fraa romde.

Lor: Slik ei natt stod Dido med ein siljutein i hand paa villan strand og vinka venen sin tilbake til Kartago.

Jes: Slik ei natt Medea trolldoms-urtir fann, til upp aa yngje gamle AEson.

Lor: Slik ei natt stal Jessika seg ut fraa judens hus og med ein fark til festarmann for av so langt som hit til Belmont.

Jes: Slik ei natt svor ung Lorenso henne elskhugs eid og hjarta hennar stal med fagre ord som ikkje aatte sanning.

Lor: Slik ei natt leksa ven' Jessika som eit lite troll upp for sin kjaerst, og han tilgav ho.

Jes: I natteleik eg heldt nok ut med deg, um ingin kom; men hyss, eg hoyrer stig.

But when Madhus turns from such flights of high poetry to low comedy, his success is complete. It may be a long time before Landsmaal can successfully render the mighty line of Marlowe, or the manifold music of Shakespeare, but we should expect it to give with perfect verity the language of the people. And when we read the scenes in which Lancelot Gobbo figures, there is no doubt that here Landsmaal is at home. Note, for example, Act II, Sc. 1:

"Samvite mitt vil visst ikkje hjelpe meg med aa rome fraa denne juden, husbond min. Fenden stend her attum olbogen min og segjer til meg: "Gobbo, Lanselot Gobbo; gode Lanselot, eller gode Gobbo, bruka leggine; tak hyven; drag din veg." Samvite segjer: "nei, agta deg, aerlige Gobbo," eller som fyr sagt: "aerlige Lanselot Gobbo, rom ikkje; set deg mot roming med hael og taa!" Men fenden, den stormodige, bed meg pakka meg; "fremad mars!" segjer fenden; "legg i veg!" segjer fenden; "for alt som heilagt er," segjer fenden; "vaaga paa; drag i veg!" Men samvite heng un halsen paa hjarta mitt og talar visdom til meg; "min aerlige ven Lanselot, som er son av ein aerlig mann, eller rettare: av eit aerligt kvende; for skal eg segja sant, so teva det eit grand svidt av far min; han hadde som ein attaat-snev; naah; samvite segjer: "du skal ikkje fantegaa." "Du skal fantegaa," segjer fenden; "nei; ikkje fantegaa," segjer samvite. "Du samvit," segjer eg, "du raader meg godt." "Du fenden," segjer eg, "du raader meg godt." Fylgde eg no samvite, so vart eg verande hjaa juden, som—forlate mi synd—er noko som ein devel; og romer eg fraa juden, so lyder eg fenden, som—beintfram sagt—er develen sjolv. Visst og sannt: juden er sjolve develen i karnition; men etter mitt vit er samvite mit vitlaust, som vil raade meg til aa verta verande hjaa juden. Fenden gjev meg den venlegaste raadi; eg tek kuten, fenden; haelane mine stend til din kommando; eg tek kuten."

This has the genuine ring. The brisk colloquial vocabulary fits admirably the brilliant sophistry of the argument. And both could come only from Launcelot Gobbo. For "the simplicity of the folk" is one of those fictions which romantic closet study has woven around the study of "the people."

Of the little re-telling of The Merchant of Venice, "Soga um Kaupmannen i Venetia"[32] which appeared in the same year, nothing need be said. It is a simple, unpretentious summary of the story with a certain charm which simplicity and naivete always give. No name appears on the title-page, but we are probably safe in attributing it to Madhus, for in the note to Kaupmannen i Venetia we read: "I Soga um Kaupmannen i Venetia hev ein sjolve forteljingi som stykkji er bygt paa."

[32. Soga um Kaupmannen i Venetia. Oslo, 1905.]


In the year 1903, midway between the publication of Madhus' Macbeth and the appearance of his Kaupmannen i Venetia, there appeared in the chief literary magazine of the Landsmaal movement, "Syn og Segn," a translation of the fairy scenes of A Midsummer Night's Dream by Erik Eggen.[33] This is the sort of material which we should expect Landsmaal to render well. Oberon and Titania are not greatly different from Nissen and Alverne in Norwegian fairy tales, and the translator had but to fancy himself in Alveland to be in the enchanted wood near Athens. The spirit of the fairy scenes in Shakespeare is akin to the spirit of Asbjornson's "Huldre-Eventyr." There is in them a community of feeling, of fancy, of ideas. And whereas Madhus had difficulty with the sunny romance of Italy, Eggen in the story of Puck found material ready to hand. The passage translated begins Act II, Sc. 1, and runs through Act II to Oberon's words immediately before the entrance of Helen and Demetrius:

But who comes here? I am invisible; And I will overhear their conference.

[33. Alveliv. Eller Shakespeare's Midsumarnatt Draum ved Erik Eggen. Syn og Segn, 1903. No. 3-6, pp. (105-114); 248-259.]

Then the translator omits everything until Puck re-enters and Oberon greets him with the words:

Velkomen, vandrar; hev du blomen der? (Hast thou the flower there? Welcome, wanderer.)

Here the translation begins again and goes to the exit of Oberon and the entrance of Lysander and Hermia. This is all in the first selection in Syn og Segn, No. 3.

In the sixth number of the same year (1903) the work is continued. The translation here begins with Puck's words (Act III):

What hempen homespuns have we swaggering here? So near the cradle of the fairy queen? What, a play toward! I'll be an auditor; An actor, too, if I see cause.

Then it breaks off again and resumes with the entrance of Puck and Bottom adorned with an ass's head. Quince's words: "O monstrous! O strange!" are given and then Puck's speech: "I'll follow you: I'll lead you about a round." After this there is a break till Bottom's song:

"The ousel cock, so black of hue," etc.

And now all proceeds without break to the Hail of the last elf called in to serve Bottom, but the following speeches between Bottom and the fairies, Cobweb, Mustardseed and Peaseblossom, are all cut, and the scene ends with Titania's speech:

"Come, wait upon him, lead him to my bower," etc.

Act III, Sc. 2, follows immediately, but the translation ends with the first line of Oberon's speech to Puck before the entrance of Demetrius and Hermia:

"This falls out better than I could devise."

and resumes with Oberon's words:

"I'll to my queen and beg her Indian boy,"

and includes (with the omission of the last two lines) Oberon's speech beginning:

"But we are spirits of another sort."

Eggen then jumps to the fourth act and translates Titania's opening speech. After this there is a break till the entrance of Oberon. The dialogue between Titania and Oberon is given faithfully, except that in the speech in which Oberon removes the incantation, all the lines referring to the wedding of Theseus are omitted; the speeches of Puck, Oberon, and Titania immediately preceding the entrance of Theseus, Hippolyta, Egeus, and their train, are rendered.

From Act V the entire second scene is given.

Eggen has, then, attempted to give a translation into Norwegian Landsmaal of the fairy scenes in A Midsummer Night's Dream. He has confined himself severely to his task as thus limited, even cutting out lines from the middle of speeches when these lines refer to another part of the action or to another group of characters. What we have is, then, a fragment, to be defended only as an experiment, and successful in proportion as it renders single lines, speeches, or songs well. On the whole, Eggen has been successful. There is a vigor and directness in his style which, indeed, seem rather Norwegian than Shakespearean, but which are, nevertheless, entirely convincing. One is scarcely conscious that it is a translation. And in the lighter, more romantic passages Eggen has hit the right tone with entire fidelity. His knowledge is sound. His notes, though exhibiting no special learning, show clearly that he is abreast of modern scholarship. Whenever his rendering seems daring, he accompanies it with a note that clearly and briefly sets forth why a particular word or phrase was chosen. The standard Danish, Norwegian, and German translations are known to him, and occasionally he borrows from them. But he knows exactly why he does borrow. His scholarship and his real poetic power combine to give us a translation of which Landsmaal literature has every reason to be proud. We need give only a few passages. I like the rollicking humor of Puck's words:

Kor torer uhengt kjeltrings pakk daa skvaldre so naere vogga hennar alvemor? Kva?—skodespel i gjerdom? Eg vil sjaa paa— kann hende spele med, um so eg synest.

And a little farther on when Bottom, adorned with his ass's head, returns with Puck, and the simple players flee in terror and Puck exclaims:

Eg fylgjer dykk og forer rundt i tunn, i myr og busk og ormegras og klunger, og snart eg er ein hest og snart ein hund, ein gris, ein mannvond bjorn, snart flammetungur, og kneggjer, goyr og ryler, murrar, brenn, som hest, hund, gris, bjorn, varme—eitt um senn.

we give our unqualified admiration to the skill of the translator. Or, compare Titania's instructions to the faries to serve her Bottom:

Ver venlege imot og ten den herren! Dans vaent for augo hans, hopp der han gjeng! Gjev aprikos og frukt fraa blaabaerlid, ei korg med druvur, fikjur, morbaer i! Stel honningsekken bort fraa annsam bi! Til Nattljos hennar voksbein slit i fleng,— kveik deim paa jonsok-onn i buskeheng! Lys for min ven, naar han vil gaa i seng. Fraa maala fivreld slit ein fager veng, og fraa hans augo maaneljose steng. Hels honom so, og kyss til honom sleng.

Fyrste Alven: Menneskje.

Andre Alven: Heil deg!

Tridje Alven: Heil!

Fjerde Alven: Heil og sael!

Titania: Ten honom so! Leid honom til mitt rom! Eg tykkjer maanen er i augo vaat; og naar han graet, daa graet kvar litin blom, og minnest daa ei tilnoydd dygd med graat. Legg handi paa hans munn! Og stilt far aat!

It is, however, in his exquisitely delicate rendering of the songs of this play—certainly one of the most difficult tasks that a translator can undertake—that Eggen has done his best work. There is more than a distant echo of the original in this happy translation of Bottom's song:

Han trostefar med svarte kropp og nebb som appelsin, og gjerdesmett med litin topp og stare med tone fin. Og finke, sporv og lerke graa og gauk,—ho, ho![34] han laer, so tidt han gjev sin naeste smaa; men aldri svar han faer.

[34. The translator explains in a note the pun in the original.]

The marvelous richness of the Norwegian dialects in the vocabulary of folklore is admirably brought out in the song with which the fairies sing Titania to sleep:[35]

Ein alv: Spettut orm med tungur tvo, kvass bust-igel, krjup kje her! Ole, staal-orm, fara no, kom vaar alvemor ei naer!

Alle alvene: Maaltrost, syng med tone full du med oss vaart bysselull: bysse, bysse, bysselull, ei maa vald, ei heksegald faa vaar dronning ottefull; so god natt og bysselull.

Ein annan alv: Ingi kongrov vil me sjaa, langbeint vevekjering, gakk! Svart tordivel, burt her fraa, burt med snigil og med makk!

Alle alvene: Maaltrost, syng med tone full du med oss vaart bysselull: bysse, bysse, bysselull, bysse, bysse, bysselull, ei maa vald, ei heksegald faa vaar dronning ottefull; so god natt og bysselull.

[35. Act II, Sc. 2.]

It is easy to draw upon this fragment for further examples of felicitous translation. It is scarcely necessary, however. What has been given is sufficient to show the rare skill of the translator. He is so fortunate as to possess in a high degree what Bayard Taylor calls "secondary inspiration," without which the work of a translator becomes a soulless mass and frequently degenerates into the veriest drivel. Erik Eggen's Alveliv deserves a place in the same high company with Taylor's Faust.

Nine years later, in 1912, Eggen returned to the task he had left unfinished with the fairy scenes in Syn og Segn and gave a complete translation of A Midsummer Night's Dream. In a little prefatory note he acknowledges his indebtedness to Arne Garborg, who critically examined the manuscript and gave valuable suggestions and advice. The introduction itself is a restatement in two pages of the Shakespeare-Essex-Leicester-Elizabeth story. Shakespeare recalls the festivities as he saw them in youth when he writes in Act II, Sc. 2:

thou rememberest Since once I sat upon a promontory, And heard a mermaid upon a dolphin's back, etc.

And it is Elizabeth he has in mind when, in the same scene, we read:

That very time I saw, but thou could'st not, Flying between the cold moon and the earth, Cupid all armed, etc.

All of this is given by way of background, and it is of little importance to the general readers what modern Shakespeare scholars may say of it.

Eggen has not been content merely to reprint in the complete translation his earlier work from Syn og Segn, but he has made a thoroughgoing revision.[36] It cannot be said to be altogether happy. Frequently, of course, a line or phrase is improved or an awkward turn straightened out, but, as a whole, the first version surpasses the second not in poetic beauty merely, but in accuracy. Compare, for example, the two renderings of the opening lines:


Nissen: Kor no ande! seg, kvar skal du av?


Tuften: Hallo! Kvar skal du av, du vesle vette?

Alven: Yver dal, yver fjell, gjenom vatn, gjenom eld, yver gras, yver grind, gjenom klunger so stinn, yver alt eg smett og kliv snoggare enn maanen sviv; eg i gras dei ringar doggar, der vaar mori dans seg voggar.

Alven: Yver dal, yver fjell, gjenom vatn, gjenom eld, yver gras, yver grind, gjenom klunger so stinn, alle stad'r eg smett og kliv snoggare enn maanen sviv; eg dogge maa dei grone straa som vaar dronning dansar paa.

Hennar vakt mun symrur vera, gyllne klaede mun dei bera; sjaa dei stjernur alvar gav deim! Derfraa kjem all angen av deim. Aa sanke dogg—til de eg kom; ei perle fester eg til kvar ein blom. Far vel, du ande-styving! Eg maa vekk; vaar dronning er her ho paa fljugand' flekk.

Kvart nykelband er adelsmann, med ordenar dei glime kann; kvar blank rubin, paa bringa skin, utsender ange fin. Doggdropar blanke skal eg sanke, mange, mange, dei skal hange kvar av hennar adels-mennar glimande i oyra.

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