Universal Humming and Other Poems

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Many of these songs were not only published in their country of origin but also translated into other languages. Anthologies of foreign national airs offered an international perspective on this genre and it is often interesting to see what songs found a place in these kind of collections. Some songs also became very popular and part of the singing tradition in other countries and others did not. Here is an interesting example for the latter case that also led me to the history of the original song.

Once again I can start here with Friedrich Silcher who during the 19th century was one of the most popular and successful arrangers and editors of Volkslieder in Germany. He published several popular and successful anthologies arranged either for choirs or for singers accompanied by piano and guitar. I have already discussed this influential collection see here in my blog and at the moment I am busy trying to identify his sources, which is a very interesting task.

Nearly half of the songs he used were borrowed from Moore's anthologies. The rest was a rather unsystematic selection of songs from other - mostly European - countries. Among the Scandinavian Volkslieder he included was one said to be from Denmark that is worth a more detailed discussion Vol. Here we hear about Nordic heroes fighting against the decadent South and about blue-eyed Danish girls.

I assume at that time a liberal nationalist could sing this without bad conscience but today it sounds rather tasteless. No author is given and not even the translator's name is mentioned. But I know that Silcher regularly "forgot" to give appropriate credit to the original writers of the songs he used. This is no exception.

Nonetheless this particular song is easily recognizable from the first verse and the tune. At that time it was available in several Danish songbooks in different versions with different numbers of verses, for example as "Thyre Dannebods Vise" in A.

This Danish text is - except in the first couple of lines - quite different from the German version. There is nothing about blue-eyed Danish girls or about invading the South. In fact the text in Silcher's anthology is not a translation but a very free adaptation that has not much to do with the original song.

It is about building fortifications on the Southern border against invasions by the Germans and Slavs. The Thyra Dannebod mentioned here was queen of Denmark in the 10th century. The original song has a long and very interesting history that is worth reconsidering. It goes back several centuries and is based on some lines from medieval chronicles that served as the starting-point for a long historical ballad.

During the 19th century a shortened version of this ballad became immensely popular as a patriotic song with an anti-German tendency. But it is only available in Danish like nearly all relevant literature about this topic except Kuhn , pp. As usual I have included links to digital copies of the original sources and in the end I will add some words about this dubious German version that has so far not been discussed in this context.

Historian Vedel ; see Wikipedia ; Lundgreen-Nielsen , pp. This was an influential, innovative and often reprinted publication that offered an early glimpse into a genre that would later be defined as folkevise "national songs" or "Volkslieder" :. Syv added one hundred more songs from all kinds of different sources and now it was called Viser om Konger, Kemper og Andre or - even longer than Vedel's title - It Hundrede udvalde Danske Viser [ Four of the these new songs he had received from a friend and colleague of his, one Laurits Kok, whom he described as an "en flittig og vel forfaren Mand in vore gamle sager" p.

Kok ; see Dansk Biografisk Lexikon 9, , pp.

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But he was also a respected scholar who had written a Danish grammar - that remained unpublished - and worked on a Danish-Latin dictionary. One of the texts he contributed was a historical ballad in 14 verses, "Om Tyre Danebod" No. Here is described, "in a consciously folksy, in places even a humorous tone" Kuhn , p. But in reality these fortifications had originally been created several centuries earlier and by all accounts the real Queen Thyra was never involved in this project.

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Only more than two centuries after her death this apocryphal story - possibly a popular legend at that time - appeared in some medieval chronicles, at first in Svend Aagesen's Brevis Historia Regum Dacie c. Saxo, who described Thyra as a woman with "a man's heart" "cum sub specie feminae virilem animum", Aggesen lauded her - here in Fenger's Danish translation p.

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His text, at that time already available in Stephanius' edition ; see Dumreicher, p. It is also referred to in the note after the poem p. Kok embellished the story even more and ended up with 14 verses see the analysis in Dumreicher, pp. En ting mangler for dend have: ledet er af lave. This is Queen Tyre speaking. She celebrates Denmark's "lovely fields and meadows" that are enclosed by the "blue waves" of the sea and also their brave men who fight against the "Germans, Slaves and Vends". But she also notes what is missing: a gate at the Southern border to keep these enemies out.

Therefore she talks "with courage" to "Danmark's Styre" - the assembly of the chieftains - and proposes the building of a wall.

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At the end the wall is ready and Denmark's "rich fields" are now protected against foreign attacks:. Here Kok has created a kind of idealized image of Denmark's early medieval society. Noteworthy is the "the active role of the people [ It is not clear if he had any political intentions with this piece. But we know of course that a song about the past is also always a song about the present. During the 17th century there had been several invasions from the South. In the last decades the Duke of Holstein-Gottorp had caused a lot of trouble.

Not at least the old fortifications were in a very bad shape see Kuhn , p. Therefore it is easy to understand that he revived this heart-warming and inspiring story of a courageous female leader who rallied all Danes to work together to protect the country. Very interesting is the use of alliterations, but only when Queen Tyre is speaking.

They were common in old Norse poetry and it seems he wanted to give her voice an old Norse sound see Dumreicher, p. Later one scholar has called this text a "et vellykket Forsog paa det traeffe den gamle Tone" Friis , p. In fact it was more an attempt to achieve what the author apparently regarded as the "old" style. It is not necessarily "authentic" but has more of a pseudo-archaic tone.

At first Kok's song about Queen Tyre Danebod was not really successful.

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Of course it was easily available in the different reprints of Syv's anthology. But there is no evidence that this piece won any kind of popularity in Denmark during the 18th century. In fact its time had not come yet. Strangely it was first reprinted in France in Of course Laborde hadn't made a field trip to Scandinavia. His informant was C. Jacobi, at that time secretary of the Kongelige Videnskabets Selskab in Copenhagen, who sent him an interesting collection of tunes and texts from these countries. Interestingly Jacobi even tried a find a tune for this particular song.

But the peasants he asked didn't know any see pp. At this time a new era had already begun.


This also led scholars and intellectuals in Scandinavia to a reappraisal of their own ballad literature. Of particular importance was Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg ; see Wikipedia ; see Gerecke , a German writer and poet living in Denmark. He also noted that these old songs were unknown to some Danes and misjudged by others. In fact the current generation of Danish writers - like Holberg - was not fond of this genre.

Soon new anthologies of "old" songs began to appear see Lundgreen-Nielsen , pp. Here the reader could find some old Norse poetry as well as songs from manuscripts. Vedel and Syv are mentioned in the introductions. But the ballad about Tyre Danebod wasn't included. Perhaps it wasn't old enough. The second volume, by the way, was edited by Rasmus Nyerup ; see Wikipedia , a young scholar and librarian who would later play an important role in this field. The song's new life would only start in That year scholar and writer Knut Lyne Rahbek , see Wikipedia.

This was an anthology of poems and songs for patriotic purposes, dedicated to King Frederic V. But as the first text he used here Tyre Danebod's song pp. A short introduction sketches the historical background and its meaning for the present. It was the time of the Napoleonic wars. Denmark was also involved, but unfortunately on the wrong aside.

The British Navy had attacked Copenhagen two times, in and and the prospects weren't good at all. A "new patriotism" see Dumreicher, p. It is obvious that Rahbek dug out this old song because of its inspirational national message. Soon afterwards the first comprehensive modern collection of old Danish songs - based on Vedel's and Syv's editions - was published:. Here of course Kok's song about Tyre Danebod was included Vol. In the notes pp. More important for the song's future was the fact that they even published a tune Vol. It was printed here without any information about its source.

But it was a new melody, composed only a few years earlier:.