Yfir kaldan eydisand...

Across the cold wasteland...

This short poem has been circling in my imagination.  It's an old familiar rhyme for many Icelanders, written in the mid-nineteenth century by Kristján Jónsson Fjallaskald (1842 - ­1869). Some of the attraction is the sound of this beautiful language, the inherent veil of incomprehension, and my willingness to be absorbed by sound and mystery.  I have a sense of what the words mean, but I love also what is left untranslated, and what shimmers at the edges of comprehension.  Here it is in Icelandic and my own rough translation.

Yfir kaldan eyðisand einn um nótt ég sveima. Nú er horfið Norðurland, nú á ég hvergi heima.

Across the cold wasteland (of sand) one night I flew (glided). Now the Northland is gone (lost to me), now I have no home.

Woodcut, 12 x 9.  The reflective area on the bottom is printed with graphite ink.

Woodcut, 12 x 9.  The reflective area on the bottom is printed with graphite ink.

Here in Iceland, working in the studio I sometimes feel utterly lost as I leave behind the comfort of the familiar.  I am OK with that. The theme I am contemplating is eternal, universal, and gets to the heart of the human condition: we all walk alone into the darkness eventually. I'm comforted by this voice from the past, a solitary soul striking out into the unknown.  

Woodcut, 9 x 12

Woodcut, 9 x 12

Drawing, 25" x 19", graphite and acrylic

Drawing, 25" x 19", graphite and acrylic

Here is a link to a YouTube video of the poem set to music, sung in haunting harmony.  Enjoy!