Stephan G. Stephansson (1853 to 1927), Bill's great grandfather, was born in Iceland and
immigrated to North America in 1873. Eventually he and his family settled at Markerville, Alberta
(near Red Deer) where they lived out their lives farming in that community. He was a prolific
poet and composed some 1800 pages of poetry, mostly at night after the days work was finished.
When his first major volume, 'Andvokur' (Wakeful Nights) was published in 1908, he was acclaimed
as the greatest Icelandic poet since the 13th century. Stephansson is an
inspiration to those who hold pacifist views.
We've included a few of his poems...
The house that Stephansson built in Canada is an Alberta Provincial Historic Site. Bill Bourne grew up nearby and visited this house when he was a child and the house was in decline. Stephansson's pacifist philosophy has a positive and lasting effect on the Alberta artistic community.
by Stephan G. Stephansson
translated from Icelandic by Kristjana Gunnars (Red Deer College Press)
It was formerly believed, on a sea-battered shore
though the storm at home blasted,
that in the distant west there still lay lands,
where calm and sun never ended,
for there the good season had found it's retreat
and freedom and compassion - all that is best.
They set no sail, but thought high,
by the ocean they dreaming stood,
as the sun slid into the lowest west
in the evening's blue-misted spring dusk,
then hope and desire glide out with the breeze
on the still-blank, sun gilt, wide armed sea.
Though oceans still flood, that separate lands,
the passage across is effortless.
And our Markland, Canada, its genius and care
the world held out to you over the sea.
To the Greeks you could only appear in a poem -
but to Icelandic sea kings you gave yourself first.
Still human hope turns its tired eyes
from the east, to dream about you -
you proved good to all, who loved you fervently,
who possess here rapture and home.
And all with you is fullfilled and able to root
which the unquiet spirit has dreamed best
by Stephan G. Stephansson - translated from Icelandic by Watson Kirkconnell
In Europe's reeking slaughter pen
They mince the flesh of murdered men
While swinish merchants, snout in trough
Drink all the bloody profits off!
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