With a little help from my friends…
Among the growing number of works in the Community Collection housed in the gallery once part of the old Agincourt Public Library, there is an intriguing oil painting signed “Ekholm 1916”, about which we’ll probably never know very much. I hope you can understand why it became part of the community’s history.
Who wouldn’t be intrigued by a bonfire at twilight attended by a small group intent on feeding the flames and warming from its light. I have wondered what story might: a) be inherent in the painting itself, or b) find its way into the painting as part of Agincourt’s evolving narrative. I’m happy either way, especially if Option B does violence to a strong internal story line. Happily, there is a considerable amount of text written on the panel’s reverse—in pencil, of course, and smudged during the last ninety-seven years—which appears to be in a Scandinavian language. Our friend Molly Yergens speaks fluent Ny Norsk, but she was unavailable for the moment. Ekholm sounds more Swedish or Danish, so I reached out to my colleague Regin Schwaen, native Dane and only a few doors down the lobby.
Why do I crave a diaeresis floating above Eckholm’s “o”?
From personal experience, I can tell you that even fine 19th century penmanship can induce migraine to the aging 21st century eye. And, though this stuff is relatively clear, I could make little of it because European cursive is so different from written language here in the States, especially now that few people actually write. Regin scanned it, enlarged it multiple times and still had little luck. But then he sent it to his family in Denmark (Europe’s happiest country, confirmed by some recent survey) and the results are in. Part of it is a poem.
The text on the right is, in fact, the first verse of a famous poem, known to most literate Danes (and I have to believe their general level of literacy far exceeds ours) as “Flyv fugl! Flyv”, written in 1828 by Rasmus Villads Christian Ferdinand Winther and set to music ten years later by Johan Peter Emilius Hartmann. There’s no confusing either of these guys with your run-of-the-mill Winther or Hartmann. I know your Danish is rusty, as is mine, but here’s the text for enjoyment and edification. FYI: Google Translate does a credible job for the poem’s content, though I’m sure much of its actual poetry is garbled. And for those in need of even greater depth, there is also a YouTube video.
Flyv, fugl! Flyv over Furesøens vove!
Nu kommer natten så sort,
alt ligger sol bag de dæmrende skove,
dagen den lister sig bort.
Skynd dig nu hjem til din fjedrede mage,
til de gulnæbede små,
men når i morgen du kommer tilbage,
sig mig så alt, hvad du så!
Flyv, fugl! Flyv over Furesøens bølge,
stræk dine vinger nu vel!
Ser du to elskende, dem skal du følge,
dybt skal du spejde deres sjæl.
Er jeg en sanger, så bør jeg jo vide
kærligheds smigrende lyst,
alt, hvad et hjerte kan rumme og lide,
burde jo tolke min røst.
Flyv, fugl! Flyv over Furesøens rislen,
kærlighed kalder dig hjem.
Sæt dig nu kønt mellem løvbuskens hvislen,
syng så din kærlighed frem!
Kunne, som du, jeg i æteren svømme,
véd jeg nok, hvor gik min flugt.
Jeg kan i lunden kun sukke og drømme,
det er min kærligheds frugt.
Flyv, fugl! Flyv over Furesøens vande,
langt, langt bort i det blå!
Ensomt i skoven ved fjerneste strande
ser du min favre at gå.
Gulbrune lokker de flagre i vinden,
let er hun, rank som et aks,
øjet er sort, og roser har kinden,
ak, du kan kende hende straks!
Flyv, fugl! Flyv over Furesøens brusen,
dybt drager natten sit suk!
Træerne hviske med ængstelig susen,
hilse godnat med et buk!
Har du ej lyttet til mangefold smerte,
selv hos den fjedrede flok?
Sig et godnat til mit bævende hjerte,
sig det, du véd det jo nok!
Still, of course, there remains the painting and how this curious penciled note might color the story. Could the 1916 date tell us something? Europe was at war, though Sweden and Denmark remained neutral. Perhaps a further translation of the remaining text will answer that question.
Advice is not only welcome but encouraged.