"You build a house for your soul,
and wander proudly
with the house on your back,
like a snail.
When danger is near
you crawl inside
and are safe
behind your hard
And when you are no more,
the house will
to your soul's beauty.
And the sea of your loneliness
will sing deep
- "Conch" translated from the Norwegian by Robert Hedin
"This is the dream we carry through the world
that something fantastic will happen
that it has to happen
that time will open by itself
that doors will open by themselves
that the heart will find itself open
that mountain springs will jump up
that the dream will open by itself
that we one early morning
will slip into a harbor
that we have never known.
- "This is the Dream" translated from the Norwegian by Robert Bly
"Not by car,
not by plane -
by neither haysled
nor rickety cart
- or even Elijah's fiery chariot!
You' never get farther than Basho.
He got there by foot."
- " Not by Car, But by Plane" translated from the Norwegian by Robert Hedin
Olav Hauge (1908-1994) was a poet, a translator, and a horticulturalist, whose writing made a mark on the literary and geographical landscape of his country. Widely read in European literature, Hauge was also a prolific translator of works from German (Heym, Trakl, Brecht, and Paul Celan, from the French (Mallarme, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Michaux, and Rene Char) and English (Blake, Browning, Tennyson,Yeats, and D.H. Lawrence). The German romantic Friedrich Holderlin whose blend Greek mythology and pantheistic mysticism beguiled Hauge, permeated his inner life, so deeply so that Hauge sometimes lost his footing in ordinary life. When that happened Hauge suffered psychotic episodes, spending several years in a mental hospital during his twenties.
For most of his life Hauge lived alone in a small house filled with books; only in 1978 did he finally marry Bodil Cappele, an artist. he loved books so much so that he wanted to share them with his neighbors, mostly farmers and laborers who had little time for reading. Often when one would drop in he would pull a book off the shelf, saying "No doubt you've read this..."
Trained in horticulture at university, Hauge tended a small orchard. Although the Hauge family owned a large farm, Norwegian custom dictated that the bulk of it go to Olav's older brother so the younger one received just three acres on which he grew apples. And though he loved apples, he loved literature more. Hauge's first poems were published when he was thirty-eight years old. Something in the grandeur of the green mountain landscape of western Norway found a correlative for Hauge in the poems of the 8th century Chinese poet Li Po. Hauge's Journals, kept from 1924-1994 and published after his death, reveal a man of extraordinarily broad culture.
When Hauge died his body was carried uphill by a horse drawn carriage for burial in the Ulvik cemetery. Those who attended the funeral reported that the carriage was accompanied by a colt and its mother who trotted gaily alongside the casket all the way up the mountain. I like to think that Li Po was with them in spirit..
Harald Sohlberg (1869-1935) is the other great Norwegian artist, the one who did not paint The Scream. Although reasonably contemporary (Edvard Munch lived from 1863-1944), Sohlberg painted the Norwegian landscape in a somewhat romantic style; contra that his use of color is clear and neat, reminding my of the contemporary American Alex Katz. Munch has been judged the more modern of the two for his expressionist style and febrile temperament. Both artists disdained comparisons of their works with those of other artists. Hauge is a modernist, his poetry spare and concrete in style - and yet Sohlberg's landscapes strike me as a visual equivalent in their rendering of the unique character of northern light.
1. Harald Sohlberg - Fisherman's Cottage. circa 1907, Art Institute of Chicago.
2, Harald Sohlberg - Flower Meadow in the North, 1905, National Museum of Art, Oslo.
3. Harald Sohlberg - A Country Road, 1905, National Museum of Art, Oslo.