Hans Christian Andersen

One of the world's most famous writer of fairy tales, Hans Christian Andersen was also an accomplished and prolific poet. Born in Denmark in 1805, he came from a poor family. He left his home in Odense when he was only 14 to try to make a name for himself as an actor. He did not win fame and fortune on the stage, but his poetry gained him generous patrons, including the King of Denmark. At first, he wrote poetry and novels, but in 1835, he published his first book of fairy tales called, “Eventyr.” He found his forte in these works, and after this initial success, he produced roughly one volume every year. Among his most famous tales are: “The Little Match Girl,” The Ugly Duckling,” “The Snow Queen,” and “The Little Mermaid.” He was recognized as Denmark's greatest writer during his lifetime, and he died in 1875.

Legend says that Hans Christian Andersen wrote the poem, "Jeg Elsker Dig" (I Love You), to express his love for the famous Swedish soprano, Jenny Lind. Despite his eloquence, she rejected him. However, Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg created his most famous art song using H. C. Andersen's beautiful words, so his ardor lives on. Is the legend true, or is it a fairytale? Either way, it makes a great story!

Photographed by Thora Hallager.
Source: Odense Bys Museer

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson

Bj. Bjørnson is considered by many to be one of Norway's greatest authors. Born in 1832, he grew up in Nesset in Romsdal. He started to write poetry when he was eleven years old. At 17, he went to Christiania to study for the university. He graduated the university in 1852. He started to work as a journalist and drama critic. He wrote one of the first Norwegian novels, “Synnøve Solbakken.” This was a great success, and established him as an author. Halfdan Kjerulf's song, “Synnøves Sang,” was written for a later adaptation of this novel as a play.

Bjørnson was good friends with Henrik Ibsen, and succeeded Ibsen as the director of Ole Bull's Norwegian National Theater in Bergen in 1857. Bjørnson became an important political leader, fighting against Norway's union with Sweden, and working for parliamentary democracy. He became the National Poet of Norway, and one of his poems, set to music by Rikard Nordraak, became the Norwegian National Anthem, “Ja, Vi Elsker Dette Landet” (Yes, We Love This Land). Bjørnson was not a supporter of Landsmaal and wrote in Riksmaal. He left a legacy of poems, novels, and plays. He received the 1903 Nobel Prize for Literature, and lived to see Norway gain independence in 1905. He died while vacationing in Paris in 1910. A Norwegian warship was sent to bring his body back to the land of his birth.

Elias Blix

Elias Blix, the poet of "Barndomsminne Fraa Nordland," was a Norwegian hymn writer, Bible translator, linguist, and politician. He was born in 1839. He was part of the Nationalistic Movement in Norway, and a firm supporter of Landsmaal. He wrote extensively in this language. As a politician, he worked hard to have Landsmaal taught in the Norwegian public schools. He had translated the entire New Testament, and about 50 of the Psalms into Landsmaal before he died in 1902.





Friedrich Martin von Bodenstedt

Friedrich Martin von Bodenstedt was a German author, linguist, and poet. He was born at Peine, in Hanover in 1819. He studied in Göttingen, Munich and Berlin. He translated numerous works from Russian, Persian, and English. He wrote books on literature, poems, and an autobiography, and he was the director of the court theater at Meiningen. He died in 1892. It is not clear if he himself translated his poem, “Ein Traum” into Norwegian for Grieg to use as “En Drøm." The translation is masterful—a rare feat!

Hans Adolph Brorson

Hans Adolph Brorson, one of Denmark's foremost writers of the words for hymns, was born in 1694. A Lutheran minister, he was the bishop of Ribe from 1741 until his death in 1764. Among the several hundreds of hymns that he wrote, he adapted the words from Chapter 7 of the Book of Revelations to create the poem, "Den Store, Hvide Flok" (The Large, White Host).






Oscar Hoddø

I have not been able to find out much about Oscar Hoddø, the man who wrote the words for the song, "Nidelven." I do know that he was in the Norwegian Underground during WWII. He was killed, while fighting for Norway's freedom from Nazi occupation, in 1943.


Henrik Ibsen

Henrik Ibsen, poet of "Solveigs Sang," is one of the greatest Norwegian writers. Indeed, he is one of the world's greatest writers. He is the founder of modern prose drama, bringing the problems and ideas of his time to the stage. He was born in Skien, in the south of Norway, in 1828. He moved to Christiania (Oslo) in 1850 to study. He worked as a journalist as he studied to become a physician. He failed his entrance examinations, and the world gained a playwright.

In 1851, Ole Bull appointed Ibsen as the “stage poet” of Den Nationale Scene, the Norwegian National Theater, which Bull had founded in Bergen. It was in this theater, while staging more than 150 plays, that Ibsen learned his stagecraft. During this time, he wrote four plays based on Norwegian folklore.

He went on a study tour to Denmark and Germany, and returned to Bergen. He was then awarded a stipend for foreign travel from the government in 1864, and he also received financial aid from Bj. Bjørnson. For the next 27 years he lived abroad and only visited Norway. This was the time of his greatest works: “Peer Gynt,” “Pillars of Society,” “A Doll's House,” “An Enemy of the People,” “Ghosts,” and “Hedda Gabler.” He and Edvard Grieg were both made Knights of St. Olav in 1872. Ibsen returned to live in Norway in 1891. He suffered from mental illness during his final years, and he died of a stroke in 1906. On his 70th birthday, George Bernard Shaw called Ibsen “The greatest living dramatist.”


Andreas Jynge

Many of Agathe Backer Grøndahl's songs, including two of her song cycles, "Mor Synger," (Mother Sings) and "Barnets Vaardag," (A Child's Spring Day) are set to poems by Andreas Jynge. Two of them, "Efter en Sommerfugl" and "Mot Kveld," are on this CD. He was born in Skien in 1870. He was a government official and poet. He died in 1955.


Aslaug Låstad Lygre

Aslaug Låstad Lygre was a Norwegian poet. She was born in 1910. She published six collections of poems between the years 1943 and 1964. Her final work, an anthology, was published in 1978. Geirr Tveitt and Sparre Olsen have used her poems for songs. Her lovely "Vi Skal Ikkje Sova Burt Sumarnatta," written in Nynorsk and set by Geirr Tveitt, is on this CD. She wrote this beautiful poem while she was in a sanitorium being treated for tuberculosis. She died in 1966. Most of her work had long been out of print, but now there is a new collection of her poems called “Dikt i samling” (Collected Poems) available.


Jørgen Engebretsen Moe

Jørgen Engebretsen Moe was a Norwegian folklorist and poet, a Lutheran pastor, and the bishop of Kristiansand. He was born in 1813. In addition to his church duties, he collected and revised Norwegian sagas and folk songs. He worked with P.C. Asbjørnsen on the collection “Norwegian Folk Stories.” He is the poet of "Sæterjentens Søndag." He died in 1882.





John Paulsen

John Olaf Paulsen was a well-known Norwegian author of his day. Born in Bergen in 1851, he was good friends with Edvard Grieg, who set several of his poems to music. In the 1870's, he wrote several novels in the modern, realistic form, and was well-thought of by some of the major cultural icons of the day. Ibsen recommended him for a government stipend to study abroad. Later, however, Paulsen began to write sentimental, romantic novels that were popular with readers, but not with critics. Some of his friends thought that they saw themselves, negatively depicted, in his novels. Many believed that he squandered his talent. Ibsen, his former mentor, withdrew his support. Today, Paulsen is best known for his poem, “Naar Fjordene Blaaner” (When the Fjords Become Blue), which Alfred Paulsen set to music in 1907. John Paulsen died in Copenhagen in 1924.



A. O. Vinje

Aasmund Olavsson Vinje, poet of "Tyteberet," was a Norwegian essayist and poet. Born in Vinje in 1818, he made a reputation for himself as a journalist. He earned a law degree and became an attorney. A part of the Norwegian Nationalistic Movement, he founded the periodical, “Dølen” in 1858 to promote the use of Landsmaal. He wrote extensively in the new language, and was one of its biggest proponents. Edvard Grieg set several of his poems to music. His most famous work is “Ferdaminni fraa Sumaren 1860” (Travel Memories from the Summer of 1860), which was originally published in “Dølen.” He was politically active, and was famous for his irony and his articulation of the differences between urban and rural life in Norway. “Dølen” ceased publication when Vinje died in 1870.