Discovering a poet (temporary post)

Norwegian Rivers

Joseph Langland (1917- 2007)

written by Joseph Langland for the sesquicentennial of Norwegian immigration to the United States, 1975

“Yah, they are so kind of restless,
rushing around hills and tumbling the polished stones;
they always have somewhere to go.
Even when they pause in the precipitous valleys,
they climb
into deep long cold lakes
and then again begin
rapidly falling.

“Yah, we have seen them
pouring off mountaintops
like the first dream of a second flood.
And now, one hundred blood years later,
they amaze Norwegian-American travelers,
sailing the birdlike ferries
toward the evergreen towns
or running through summer on the cliff-hung roads
with the sheer bravado of their origins.

“Yah, now shall they see,
the affluent grandchildren,
how strong and supple minds
ran those rebellious rivers into the sea,
And now, yah, shall they hear
the low music of springs
watering those impoverished mountain meadows.

“Then let them guess as they can,
yah,
how the terrible excitements of alienation
fell on the manhood of our great-grandfathers
and the playfulness of their children,
then rose in a heartbreaking cry from their limbs
and washed from their empty hands.

“Then, yah, it was then,
stout in their sadness,
they stuffed their childhood into rosemaler trunks,
clamped them with iron bands,
locked once and for all on the eastern hemispheres,
and down those rutted trails and noisy rivers,
out through the western fjords,
they rode for half a century over the Atlantic
on one great ascending wave
toward the virgin hills and wide inland valleys
of Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

“And now, yah, even now,
grandmothers sitting in their rocking chairs,
and watching their children’s children
in Bergen and Decorah, Hardanger and St. Paul,
say, half to themselves,
yah, they are so kind of restless,
they always have somewhere to go,
hearing under their vaguely troubled,
half-drooping eyelids,
the melancholy of those hard hills,
and those old stones,
and rivers calling under the walled-up fjords,
to the muffled horns of the sea … ”

Langland at 4:22

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