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Gildet på Solhaug (The Feast at Solhaug)
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Contents

1. Introductions by authors/translators
       in Norwegian
       in English
2. Abbreviations
3. Bibliography
4. Credits


Introductions by authors/translators:

in Norwegian

Ibsen (1883):

FORTALE TIL ANDEN UTGAVE


   „Gildet på Solhaug“ skrev jeg i Bergen i sommeren 1855, altså for omtrent 28 år siden.
   Stykket opførtes samme steds for første gang den 2. Januar 1856 som festforestilling til erindring om den norske scenes stiftelsesdag.
   Jeg var dengang ansat som instruktør ved det bergenske teater og ledede altså selv indstuderingen af mit stykke. Det fik en fortrinlig, en sjelden stemningsfuld udførelse. Med lyst og hengivelse blev det givet, og således blev det også modtaget. „Den bergenske lyrik“, der efter sigende skal have afgjort de seneste politiske valg deroppe, svulmede på hin teateraften højt i det fuldt besatte hus. Forestillingen endte med talrige fremkaldelser af forfatteren og af de spillende. Senere på aftenen gav orkestret, ledsaget af en stor del af publikum, mig en serenade udenfor mine vinduer. Jeg tror næsten, jeg lod mig henrive til at holde et slags tale til de forsamlede; jeg véd i al fald, at jeg følte mig såre lykkelig.
   Et par måneder senere opførtes „Gildet på Solhaug“ i Kristiania. Også dersteds blev det af almenheden modtaget med meget bifald, og dagen efter den første opførelse skrev Bjørnson i „Morgenbladet“ en varm, elskværdig, ungdommelig opsats derom. Egentlig var det ikke nogen anmeldelse eller kritik; det var snarere en stemningsrig fri fantasi, digterisk improviseret over stykket og over forestillingen.
   Men så kom den rigtige kritik, forfattet af de rigtige kritikere.
   Hvorledes blev man i hin tid, – jeg mener i årene fra 1850 til omkring 1860, – en rigtig literatur-kritiker, og navnlig dramatisk kritiker i Kristiania?
   Jo, det gik i regelen således til: Efter nogen tids forberedende øvelser i „Samfundsbladet“ og efter oftere at have påhørt de diskussioner, som om aftenerne efter teatertid førtes på Treschows kafé eller „hos Ingebret“, begav den vordende kritiker sig hen i Johan Dahls boglade og lod sig forskrive fra København et exemplar af J. L. Heibergs „Prosaiske Skrifter“, om hvilke han havde hørt sige, at de skulde indeholde en afhandling betitlet „Om Vaudevillen“. Denne afhandling blev da læst, grublet over og kanske tildels også forstået. Gennem disse skrifter blev man endvidere bekendt med en polemik, som Heiberg i sin tid havde ført imod professor Øhlenschlæger og imod digteren Hauch i Sorø. Lejlighedsvis erfarede man deraf også, at J. I. Baggesen (forfatter af „Gjengangerbrevene“) allerede tidligere havde åbnet et lignende felttog imod den store digter, som havde skrevet både „Axel og Valborg“ og „Hakon Jarl“.
   Megen anden for en kritiker nyttig viden lod sig også uddrage af disse skrifter. Af dem lærte man f. ex., at en ret kritiker var på smagens vegne forpligtet til at føle sig forarget over hiater. Blev i et eller andet vers et sådant uhyre påtruffet, kunde man være sikker på, at de unge kristianiensiske kritiserende Jeronimusser, ligervis som Holbergs egen, udråbte deres: Hillemænd, verden står ikke til påske!
   Og så havde den datidige norske hovedstadskritik en særegen ejendommelighed, hvis udspring jeg længe ikke kunde blive klog på. Vore kritikere plejede nemlig, hver gang en begyndende forfatter udgav en bog eller fik et lidet teaterstykke opført, at geråde i en ustyrlig vrede og at gebærde sig som om der gennem bogens udgivelse eller stykkets opførelse var tilføjet dem selv og de aviser, de skrev i, en blodig fornærmelse. Som sagt, jeg grublede længe over denne besynderlighed. Endelig fik jeg rede i sagen. Ved nemlig at læse det danske „Månedskrift for Literatur“ blev jeg opmærksom på, at gamle etatsråd Molbech i sin tid havde plejet at betages af en svær vrede, når en ung digter udgav en bog eller fik et skuespil opført i København.
   Således, eller omtrent således, var den domstol beskaffen, der nu i dagspressen tog sig for at stille „Gildet på Solhaug“ for kritikens skranke i Kristiania. Den var for størstedelen sammensat af unge mænd, der i kritisk henseende levede på lån fra diverse kanter. Deres kritiske tanker var for længe siden tænkte og udtalte af andre; deres meninger var for lang tid siden formuleret andetsteds. Lånegods var hele deres æstetiske teori; lånegods var hele deres kritiske metode; lånegods var i et og alt, i stort og i småt, den polemiske taktik, de gjorde brug af. Ja, lige til sindsstemningen, så var den lånt. Lånt, lånt var det alt sammen. Det eneste originale ved dem var, at de evig og altid benyttede lånegodset forkert og i utide.
   At dette kollegium, hvis medlemmer kritisk livnærede sig ved lån, troede at måtte i digterisk henseende forudsætte noget lignende hos mig, kan ikke forundre nogen. Et par aviser der oppe, og muligens flere, fandt da også ganske rigtig ud, at jeg havde lånt dette eller hint fra Henrik Hertz’s skuespil „Svend Dyrings hus“.
   Denne kritiske påstand er grundløs og uefterrettelig. Det er åbenbart benyttelsen af kæmpevisernes versemål i begge stykkerne, som har foranlediget den. Men hos mig er sprogtonen en ganske anden end hos Hertz; diktionen i mit stykke har et ganske andet klangpræg end i hans; over det rytmiske i mit stykke vifter en let sommerluft; over det rytmiske hos Hertz ruger der høstvejr.
   Heller ikke, hvad karakterer, handling, eller overhovedet hvad det faktiske indhold angår, findes der mellem begge stykker nogen anden eller større lighed end den, der er en nødvendig følge af, at stoffet til dem begge er hentet ud fra kæmpevisernes trange forestillingskreds.
   Med fuldt så stor eller vel endnu større føje kunde man påstå, at Hertz i sit „Svend Dyrings hus“ havde lånt et og andet, og det ikke så lidt endda, fra Heinrich v. Kleist’s „Käthchen von Heilbronn“, der er skrevet i begyndelsen af dette århundrede. Käthchens forhold til grev Wetter-Strahl er i alt væsentligt det samme, som Ragnhilds til ridder Stig Hvide. Ligesom Ragnhild drives også Käthchen af en gådefuld, uforklarlig magt til at følge den mand, hun elsker, på alle hans veje, til lønligt at liste sig efter ham, til viljeløst at lægge sig ned og sove i hans nærhed, til naturnødvendigt at vende tilbage til ham, så ofte hun end jages bort. Hertil kommer det overnaturliges indgriben på flere andre måder både hos Kleist og hos Hertz.
   Men er der nogen, som tviler på, at man i den endnu ældre dramatiske literatur, med en smule god eller ond vilje, måtte kunne opdrive et skuespil, om hvilket det kunde påståes, at Kleist derfra havde lånt et eller andet til sit „Käthchen von Heilbronn“? Jeg tviler i al fald ikke derpå. Men deslige påvisninger vilde være ørkesløse. Det, der gør et kunstværk til sin ophavsmands åndelige ejendom, det er, at han har påtrykt værket sin egen personligheds stempel. Jeg mener derfor, at til trods for de antydede lighedspunkter er „Svend Dyrings hus“ lige så ubestridelig og udelukkende et originalværk af Henrik Hertz, som „Käthchen von Heilbronn“ er et originalværk af Heinrich v. Kleist.
   Den samme ret gør jeg for mit eget vedkommende gældende med hensyn til „Gildet på Solhaug“. Jeg håber også, at man for fremtiden vil lade enhver af de tre navnefættere få beholde ubeskåret, hvad der med rette tilhører ham.
   Georg Brandes har ved given anledning betegnet „Gildet på Solhaug“ i dets forhold til „Svend Dyrings hus“, ikke som bygget på noget lån, men som tilblevet under en påvirkning, en indflydelse, udøvet af en ældre digter på den yngre. Hans udtalelser om mit arbejde er for resten så velvillige, at jeg herfor, som for så meget andet, har al grund til at være ham takskyldig.
   Men ikke desto mindre må jeg fastholde, at sagen i virkeligheden heller ikke forholder sig således, som Brandes har opfattet den. Henrik Hertz har aldrig i nogen særlig grad tiltalt mig som dramatisk digter. Jeg kan derfor ikke få i mit hoved, at han nogensinde skulde, mig uafvidende, have kunnet øve nogen indflydelse på min egen dramatiske produktion.
   På dette punkt og i denne forbindelse kunde jeg indskrænke mig til at henvise til dr. Valfrid Vasenius, docent i æsthetik ved universitetet i Helsingfors. I sin afhandling for den filosofiske doktorgrad: „Henrik Ibsens dramatiska diktning i dess första skede“ (1879) så vel som i sit værk „Henrik Ibsen, ett skaldeporträtt“ (343 sider. Jos. Seligmann & comp. Stockholm. 1882.) har han gjort rede for sit grundsyn på mit her omhandlede skuespil, – i sidstnævnte skrift suppleret med, hvad jeg under et samvær i München for tre år siden i al korthed meddelte ham. Hertil kunde jeg, som sagt, henvise.
   Men for god ordens skyld vil jeg dog selv på de følgende blade i omrids fortælle „Gildet på Solhaug“s tilblivelseshistorie.
   Her er den:
   Jeg indledede denne fortale med en oplysning om, at stykket er skrevet i sommeren 1855.
   Året i forvejen havde jeg skrevet „Fru Inger til Østråt“. Beskæftigelsen med dette drama havde nødsaget mig til literært og historisk at fordybe mig i Norges middelalder, navnlig da i den senere del af samme. Jeg forsøgte, så godt det lod sig gøre, at leve mig ind i hine tiders sæder og skikke, i menneskernes følelsesliv, i deres tænkesæt og udtryksmåde.
   Denne periode er imidlertid ikke særdeles tiltalende at dvæle ved i længden; den frembyder heller ikke synderlig stof, der egner sig for dramatisk behandling.
   Jeg tyede derfor også snart over til selve sagatiden. Men kongesagaerne og over hovedet de strængere historiske overleveringer fra denne fjerne tidsalder fængslede mig ikke; jeg kunde dengang ikke for mine digteriske øjemed gøre nogen dramatisk brug af stridighederne mellem konger og høvdinger, mellem partier og flokke. Det skulde først komme senere.
   Derimod fandt jeg i rigt mål i de islandske ætte-sagaer, hvad jeg behøvede som menneskelig iklædning for de stemninger, forestillinger og tanker, der dengang opfyldte, eller i al fald mere eller mindre klart foresvævede mig. Disse gammelnordiske literære bidrag til vor sagatids personalhistorie havde jeg hidtil ikke kendt, knapt nok hørt dem nævne. Da faldt mig ved et tilfælde N. M. Petersens, i al fald for sprogtonens vedkommende, fortræffelige oversættelse i hænde. Ud fra disse ætte-krøniker med deres vekslende forhold og optrin mellem mand og mand, mellem kvinde og kvinde, over hovedet mellem menneske og menneske, slog mig et personligt, fyldigt, levende livsindhold imøde; og ud af denne min leven sammen med alle disse afsluttede, enkelte, personlige kvinder og mænd fremstod i min tanke det første rå, tågede udkast til „Hærmændene på Helgeland“.
   Hvor meget der af enkelthederne udformede sig i mig, véd jeg ikke længer at opgive. Men jeg husker godt, at de to skikkelser, jeg først fik øje på, var de to kvinder, som senere blev til Hjørdis og Dagny. Et stort gilde med æggende og skæbnesvangre sammenstød skulde der være i stykket. For øvrigt vilde jeg af karakterer, lidenskaber og indbyrdes forhold optage alt det, der forekom mig at være mest typisk for sagalivet. Med et ord, – hvad der i Vølsungasagaen var blevet episk omdigtet, vilde jeg, dramatisk, ligefrem gengive.
   Nogen hel, sammenhængende plan udkastede jeg vel ikke dengang. Dog stod det klart for mig, at et sådant skuespil var det første, som nu skulde skrives.
   Men så kom der adskilligt imellem. Det meste deraf var vel af personlig natur og formodentlig det stærkest og nærmest afgørende; men jeg tror nok, det heller ikke var ganske uden betydning, at jeg just på den tid beskæftigede mig med indgående at studere Landstads samling af „Norske folkeviser“, der var udkommet et par år i forvejen. De stemninger, jeg dengang befandt mig i, forligedes bedre med middelalderens literære romantik end med sagaens kendsgerninger, bedre med verseformen end med prosastilen, bedre med det sprogmusikalske element i kæmpevisen, end med det karakteriserende i sagaen.
   Således skede det, at det formløst gærende udkast til tragedien „Hærmændene på Helgeland“ foreløbig forvandlede sig til det lyriske drama „Gildet på Solhaug“.
   De to kvindeskikkelser, plejesøstrene Hjørdis og Dagny i den påtænkte tragedie blev til søstrene Margit og Signe i det fuldførte lyriske drama. Disse to sidstnævntes afstamning fra de to sagakvinder, vil let falde i øjnene, når der først gøres opmærksom derpå. Slægtsligheden er umiskendelig. Tragediens den gang kun løst planlagte helt, den vidt berejste og ved fremmede kongehoffer vel modtagne høvding, vikingen Sigurd, omformede sig til riddersmanden og sangeren Gudmund Alfsøn, der også har færdedes længe i fremmede lande og levet i kongens gård. Hans stilling mellem de to søstre blev ændret i overensstemmelse med de forandrede tidsomstændigheder og forholde; men begge søstrenes stilling lige over for ham forblev væsentlig den samme, som i den oprindelig påtænkte og senere fuldførte tragedie. Det skæbnesvangre gilde, som det i mit første udkast havde været mig så magtpåliggende at male, blev i dramaet den skueplads, på hvilken personerne helt igennem optrådte; det blev den baggrund, imod hvilken handlingen hævede sig frem og meddelte det samlede billede den grundstemning, jeg havde tilsigtet. Stykkets afslutning dæmpedes og formildedes visst nok i overensstemmelse med dets art som drama og ikke tragedie; men mellem rettroende æsthetikere turde der kanske alligevel kunne tvistes om, hvor vidt der i denne afslutning ikke er blevet tilbage et drag af uformidlet tragik som et vidnesbyrd om dramaets udspring.
   Herpå skal jeg imidlertid ikke videre indlade mig. Jeg har kun villet hævde og fastslå, at det foreliggende skuespil, lige så fuldt som alle mine øvrige dramatiske arbejder, er et naturnødvendigt udslag af min livsgang på et bestemt punkt. Det er opstået indenfra og ikke formedelst nogen ydre påvirkning eller indflydelse.
   Således og ikke anderledes hænger det sammen med tilblivelsen af „Gildet på Solhaug“.

Rom, i April 1883.
Henrik Ibsen.




in English

Archer (1908):

INTRODUCTION

     Exactly a year after the production of Lady Inger of Ostrat--that is to say on the “Foundation Day” of the Bergen Theatre, January 2, 1866--The Feast at Solhoug was produced. The poet himself has written its history in full in the Preface to the second edition. The only comment that need be made upon his rejoinder to his critics has been made, with perfect fairness as it seems to me, by George Brandes in the following passage:[1] “No one who is unacquainted with the Scandinavian languages can fully understand the charm that the style and melody of the old ballads exercise upon the Scandinavian mind. The beautiful ballads and songs of Des Knaben Wunderhorn have perhaps had a similar power over German minds; but, as far as I am aware, no German poet has has ever succeeded in inventing a metre suitable for dramatic purposes, which yet retained the mediaeval ballad’s sonorous swing and rich aroma. The explanation of the powerful impression produced in its day by Henrik Hertz’s Svend Dyring’s House is to be found in the fact that in it, for the first time, the problem was solved of how to fashion a metre akin to that of the heroic ballads, a metre possessing as great mobility as the verse of the Niebelungenlied, along with a dramatic value not inferior to that of the pentameter. Henrik Ibsen, it is true, has justly pointed out that, as regards the mutual relations of the principal characters, Svend Dyring’s House owes more to Kleist’s Kathchen von Heubronn than The Feast at Solhoug owes to Svend Dyring’s House. But the fact remains that the versified parts of the dialogue of both The Feast at Solhoug and Olaf Liliekrans are written in that imitation of the tone and style of the heroic ballad, of which Hertz was the happily-inspired originator. There seems to me to be no depreciation whatever of Ibsen in the assertion of Hertz’s right to rank as his model. Even the greatest must have learnt from some one.”
     But while the influence of Danish lyrical romanticism is apparent in the style of the play, the structure, as it seems to me, shows no less clearly that influence of the French plot-manipulators which we found so unmistakably at work in Lady Inger. Despite its lyrical dialogue, The Feast at Solhoug has that crispiness of dramatic action which marks the French plays of the period. It may indeed be called Scribe’s Bataille de Dames writ tragic. Here, as in the Bataille de Dames (one of the earliest plays produced under Ibsen’s supervision), we have the rivalry of an older and a younger woman for the love of a man who is proscribed on an unjust accusation, and pursued by the emissaries of the royal power. One might even, though this would be forcing the point, find an analogy in the fact that the elder woman (in both plays a strong and determined character) has in Scribe’s comedy a cowardly suitor, while in Ibsen’s tragedy, or melodrama, she has a cowardly husband. In every other respect the plays are as dissimilar as possible; yet it seems to me far from unlikely that an unconscious reminiscence of the Bataille de Dames may have contributed to the shaping of The Feast at Solhoug in Ibsen’s mind. But more significant than any resemblance of theme is the similarity of Ibsen’s whole method to that of the French school--the way, for instance, in which misunderstandings are kept up through a careful avoidance of the use of proper names, and the way in which a cup of poison, prepared for one person, comes into the hands of another person, is, as a matter of fact, drunk by no one but occasions the acutest agony to the would-be poisoner. All this ingenious dovetailing of incidents and working-up of misunderstandings, Ibsen unquestionably learned from the French. The French language, indeed, is the only one which has a word--quiproquo--to indicate the class of misunderstanding which, from Lady Inger down to the League of Youth, Ibsen employed without scruple.
     Ibsen’s first visit to the home of his future wife took place after the production of The Feast at Solhoug. It seems doubtful whether this was actually his first meeting with her; but at any rate we can scarcely suppose that he knew her during the previous summer, when he was writing his play. It is a curious coincidence, then, that he should have found in Susanna Thoresen and her sister Marie very much the same contrast of characters which had occupied him in his first dramatic effort, Catilina, and which had formed the main subject of the play he had just produced. It is less wonderful that the same contrast should so often recur in his later works, even down to John Gabriel Borkman. Ibsen was greatly attached to his gentle and retiring sister-in-law, who died unmarried in 1874.

     The Feast at Solhoug has been translated by Miss Morison and myself, only because no one else could be found to undertake the task. We have done our best; but neither of us lays claim to any great metrical skill, and the light movement of Ibsen’s verse is often, if not always, rendered in a sadly halting fashion. It is, however, impossible to exaggerate the irregularity of the verse in the original, or its defiance of strict metrical law. The normal line is one of four accents: but when this is said, it is almost impossible to arrive at any further generalisation. There is a certain lilting melody in many passages, and the whole play has not unfairly been said to possess the charm of a northern summer night, in which the glimmer of twilight gives place only to the gleam of morning. But in the main (though much better than its successor, Olaf Liliekrans) it is the weakest thing that Ibsen admitted into the canon of his works. He wrote it in 1870 as “a study which I now disown”; and had he continued in that frame of mind, the world would scarcely have quarrelled with his judgment. At worst, then, my collaborator and I cannot be accused of marring a masterpiece; but for which assurance we should probably have shrunk from the attempt.

W. A.


THE FEAST AT SOLHOUG (1856)

THE AUTHOR’S PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

     I wrote The Feast at Solhoug in Bergen in the summer of 1855--that is to say, about twenty-eight years ago.
     The play was acted for the first time on January 2, 1856, also at Bergen, as a gala performance on the anniversary of the foundation of the Norwegian Stage.
     As I was then stage-manager of the Bergen Theatre, it was I myself who conducted the rehearsals of my play. It received an excellent, a remarkably sympathetic interpretation. Acted with pleasure and enthusiasm, it was received in the same spirit. The “Bergen emotionalism,” which is said to have decided the result of the latest elections in those parts, ran high that evening in the crowded theatre. The performance ended with repeated calls for the author and for the actors. Later in the evening I was serenaded by the orchestra, accompanied by a great part of the audience. I almost think that I went so far as to make some kind of speech from my window; certain I am that I felt extremely happy.
     A couple of months later, The Feast of Solhoug was played in Christiania. There also it was received by the public with much approbation, and the day after the first performance Bjornson wrote a friendly, youthfully ardent article on it in the Morgenblad. It was not a notice or criticism proper, but rather a free, fanciful improvisation on the play and the performance.
     On this, however, followed the real criticism, written by the real critics.
     How did a man in the Christiania of those days--by which I mean the years between 1850 and 1860, or thereabouts--become a real literary, and in particular dramatic, critic?
     As a rule, the process was as follows: After some preparatory exercises in the columns of the Samfundsblad, and after the play, the future critic betook himself to Johan Dahl’s bookshop and ordered from Copenhagen a copy of J. L. Heiberg’s Prose Works, among which was to be found--so he had heard it said--an essay entitled On the Vaudeville. This essay was in due course read, ruminated on, and possibly to a certain extent understood. From Heiberg’s writings the young man, moreover, learned of a controversy which that author had carried on in his day with Professor Oehlenschlager and with the Soro poet, Hauch. And he was simultaneously made aware that J. L. Baggesen (the author of Letters from the Dead) had at a still earlier period made a similar attack on the great author who wrote both Axel and Valborg and Hakon Jarl.
     A quantity of other information useful to a critic was to be extracted from these writings. From them one learned, for instance, that taste obliged a good critic to be scandalised by a hiatus. Did the young critical Jeronimuses of Christiania encounter such a monstrosity in any new verse, they were as certain as their prototype in Holberg to shout their “Hoity-toity! the world will not last till Easter!”
     The origin of another peculiar characteristic of the criticism then prevalent in the Norwegian capital was long a puzzle to me. Every time a new author published a book or had a little play acted, our critics were in the habit of flying into an ungovernable passion and behaving as if the publication of the book or the performance of the play were a mortal insult to themselves and the newspapers in which they wrote. As already remarked, I puzzled long over this peculiarity. At last I got to the bottom of the matter. Whilst reading the Danish Monthly Journal of Literature I was struck by the fact that old State-Councillor Molbech was invariably seized with a fit of rage when a young author published a book or had a play acted in Copenhagen.
     Thus, or in a manner closely resembling this, had the tribunal qualified itself, which now, in the daily press, summoned The Feast at Solhoug to the bar of criticism in Christiania. It was principally composed of young men who, as regards criticism, lived upon loans from various quarters. Their critical thought had long ago been thought and expressed by others; their opinions had long ere now been formulated elsewhere. Their aesthetic principles were borrowed; their critical method was borrowed; the polemical tactics they employed were borrowed in every particular, great and small. Their very frame of mind was borrowed. Borrowing, borrowing, here, there, and everywhere! The single original thing about them was that they invariably made a wrong and unseasonable application of their borrowings.
     It can surprise no one that this body, the members of which, as critics, supported themselves by borrowing, should have presupposed similar action on my part, as author. Two, possibly more than two, of the newspapers promptly discovered that I had borrowed this, that, and the other thing form Henrik Hertz’s play, Svend Dyring’s House.
     This is a baseless and indefensible critical assertion. It is evidently to be ascribed to the fact that the metre of the ancient ballads is employed in both plays. But my tone is quite different from Hertz’s; the language of my play has a different ring; a light summer breeze plays over the rhythm of my verse: over that or Hertz’s brood the storms of autumn.
     Nor, as regards the characters, the action, and the contents of the plays generally, is there any other or any greater resemblance between them than that which is a natural consequence of the derivation of the subjects of both from the narrow circle of ideas in which the ancient ballads move.
     It might be maintained with quite as much, or even more, reason that Hertz in his Svend Dyring’s House had borrowed, and that to no inconsiderable extent, from Heinrich von Kleist’s Kathchen von Heilbronn, a play written at the beginning of this century. Kathchen’s relation to Count Wetterstrahl is in all essentials the same as Tagnhild’s to the knight, Stig Hvide. Like Ragnhild, Kathchen is compelled by a mysterious, inexplicable power to follow the man she loves wherever he goes, to steal secretly after him, to lay herself down to sleep near him, to come back to him, as by some innate compulsion, however often she may be driven away. And other instances of supernatural interference are to be met with both in Kleist’s and in Hertz’s play.
     But does any one doubt that it would be possible, with a little good--or a little ill-will, to discover among still older dramatic literature a play from which it could be maintained that Kleist had borrowed here and there in his Kathchen von Heilbronn? I, for my part, do not doubt it. But such suggestions of indebtedness are futile. What makes a work of art the spiritual property of its creator is the fact that he has imprinted on it the stamp of his own personality. Therefore I hold that, in spite of the above-mentioned points of resemblance, Svend Dyring’s House is as incontestably and entirely an original work by Henrick Hertz as Katchen von Heilbronn is an original work by Heinrich von Kleist.
     I advance the same claim on my own behalf as regards The Feast at Solhoug, and I trust that, for the future, each of the three namesakes[2] will be permitted to keep, in its entirety, what rightfully belongs to him.
     In writing The Feast of Solhoug in connection with Svend Dyring’s House, George Brandes expresses the opinion, not that the former play is founded upon any idea borrowed from the latter, but that it has been written under an influence exercised by the older author upon the younger. Brandes invariably criticises my work in such a friendly spirit that I have all reason to be obliged to him for this suggestion, as for so much else.
     Nevertheless I must maintain that he, too, is in this instance mistaken. I have never specially admired Henrik Hertz as a dramatist. Hence it is impossible for me to believe that he should, unknown to myself, have been able to exercise any influence on by dramatic production.
     As regards this point and the matter in general, I might confine myself to referring those interested to the writings of Dr. Valfrid Vasenius, lecturer on Aesthetics at the University of Helsingfors. In the thesis which gained him his degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Henrik Ibsen’s Dramatic Poetry in its First stage (1879), and also in Henrik Ibsen: The Portrait of a Skald (Jos. Seligman & Co., Stockholm, 1882), Valsenious states and supports his views on the subject of the play at present in question, supplementing them in the latter work by what I told him, very briefly, when we were together at Munich three years ago.
     But, to prevent all misconception, I will now myself give a short account of the origin of The Feast at Solhoug.
     I began this Preface with the statement that The Feast at Solhoug was written in the summer 1855.
     In 1854 I had written Lady Inger of Ostrat. This was a task which had obliged me to devote much attention to the literature and history of Norway during the Middle Ages, especially the latter part of that period. I did my utmost to familiarise myself with the manners and customs, with the emotions, thought, and language of the men of those days.
     The period, however, is not one over which the student is tempted to linger, nor does it present much material suitable for dramatic treatment.
     Consequently I soon deserted it for the Saga period. But the Sagas of the Kings, and in general the more strictly historical traditions of that far-off age, did not attract me greatly; at that time I was unable to put the quarrels between kings and chieftains, parties and clans, to any dramatic purpose. This was to happen later.
     In the Icelandic “family” Sagas, on the other hand, I found in abundance what I required in the shape of human garb for the moods, conceptions, and thoughts which at that time occupied me, or were, at least, more or less distinctly present in my mind. With these Old Norse contributions to the personal history of our Saga period I had had no previous acquaintance; I had hardly so much as heard them named. But now N. M. Petersen’s excellent translation-- excellent, at least, as far as the style is concerned--fell into my hands. In the pages of these family chronicles, with their variety of scenes and of relations between man and man, between woman and woman, in short, between human being and human being, there met me a personal, eventful, really living life; and as the result of my intercourse with all these distinctly individual men and women, there presented themselves to my mind’s eye the first rough, indistinct outlines of The Vikings at Helgeland.
     How far the details of that drama then took shape, I am no longer able to say. But I remember perfectly that the two figures of which I first caught sight were the two women who in course of time became Hiordis and Dagny. There was to be a great banquet in the play, with passion-rousing, fateful quarrels during its course. Of other characters and passions, and situations produced by these, I meant to include whatever seemed to me most typical of the life which the Sagas reveal. In short, it was my intention to reproduce dramatically exactly what the Saga of the Volsungs gives in epic form.
     I made no complete, connected plan at that time; but it was evident to me that such a drama was to be my first undertaking.
     Various obstacles intervened. Most of them were of a personal nature, and these were probably the most decisive; but it undoubtedly had its significance that I happened just at this time to make a careful study of Landstad’s collection of Norwegian ballads, published two years previously. My mood of the moment was more in harmony with the literary romanticism of the Middle Ages than with the deeds of the Sagas, with poetical than with prose composition, with the word-melody of the ballad than with the characterisation of the Saga.
     Thus it happened that the fermenting, formless design for the tragedy, The Vikings at Helgeland, transformed itself temporarily into the lyric drama, The Feast at Solhoug.
     The two female characters, the foster sisters Hiordis and Dagny, of the projected tragedy, became the sisters Margit and Signe of the completed lyric drama. The derivation of the latter pair from the two women of the Saga at once becomes apparent when attention is drawn to it. The relationship is unmistakable. The tragic hero, so far only vaguely outlined, Sigurd, the far-travelled Viking, the welcome guest at the courts of kings, became the knight and minstrel, Gudmund Alfson, who has likewise been long absent in foreign lands, and has lived in the king’s household. His attitude towards the two sisters was changed, to bring it into accordance with the change in time and circumstances; but the position of both sisters to him remained practically the same as that in the projected and afterwards completed tragedy. The fateful banquet, the presentation of which had seemed to me of the first importance in my original plan, became in the drama the scene upon which its personages made their appearance; it became the background against which the action stood out, and communicated to the picture as a whole the general tone at which I aimed. The ending of the play was, undoubtedly, softened and subdued into harmony with its character as drama, not tragedy; but orthodox aestheticians may still, perhaps, find it indisputable whether, in this ending, a touch of pure tragedy has not been left behind, to testify to the origin of the drama.
     Upon this subject, however, I shall not enter at present. My object has simply been to maintain and prove that the play under consideration, like all my other dramatic works, is an inevitable outcome of the tenor of my life at a certain period. It had its origin within, and was not the result of any outward impression or influence.
     This, and no other, is the true account of the genesis of The Feast at Solhoug.

Henrik Ibsen.
Rome, April, 1883.

[1] Ibsen and Björnson, London, Heinemann, 1899, p. 88.
[2] Heinrich von Kleist, Henrik Hertz, Henrik Ibsen.




Abbreviations:

GPS -

Gildet på Solhaug (The Feast at Solhaug; 1856)




Abbreviations for the whole library.


Bibliography:

Archer, William and Morison, Mary (1908), "The Feast at Solhoug"; this version is based on the reprint in Ibsen (1911), The Works of Henrik Ibsen: The Viking Edition, vol. 1, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, pp. 191-290.

Ibsen, Henrik (1856), "Gildet på Solhaug"; second revised edition 1883; this version is based on Henrik Ibsen (1898), Samlede værker: første bind, Gyldendalske Boghandels Forlag (F. Hegel & Søn), København, pp. 123-215.



Credits:

Input by Fredrik Liland, Oslo, 2011.


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