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The Spirits of the Young

Posted on August 12, 2011 at 11:35 AM

Subject: The recent bombing of Oslo and attack and murder of young people at Utøya



As families and loved ones say their farewells to those murdered, as the injured continue their difficult recoveries, and as all who were affected in Norway and beyond struggle to come to grips with the implications of what occurred, I took a pen in hand. This is natural for a writer. Everyone has their own way to grieve. And it is noted that the grieving process is especially important, and will vary from person to person.


One way I cope in life is by visiting literature I love. When I first saw some of the footage of one of the first memorial services, which took place in the Domkirke, I was drawn to reflect upon a piece of Victorean literature I have always loved, Alfred, Lord Tennyson's The Lady of Shallot. This poem, which is classified as 'fantasy literature,' was inspired by Arthurian legends, and has, itself, inspired many writers, poets and artists since Tennyson penned it.


I took my cue from his verses, and have composed a likeness, retaining many of his beautiful images. This likeness is, I think, a suitable tribute to the spirits of the young people who were there that day, both those who died and those who lived. I also mean to embrace those affected in Oslo. With the stories of those affected still coming out, it is, it seems, the miracle of life and love that is continually before us, square and center stage.


Should you wish to read it, I hope you like it, and that you find it helpful to you. I would like to formally publish it at some time in the future, and of course, be paid for that effort. I am also open to revising it, and will do that if I think it improves it. For now, I will post it here, in part, so that it can be shared with others who may find comfort, love and peace in reading it now:


The Spirits of the Young



Nearby to Tyrifjorden lie

Long fields of wheat and also rye

That cloak the land and meet the sky.

And near the fjord, a road runs by,

A road that runs to Oslo.

Now up and down the people go,

Gazing where the roses blow,

‘Round an island there below,

Utoya, it is called.


Willows whiten, birch trees bow,

Little breezes dusk and plough,

Rippling through the fjord’s cold waters,

By the island’s grass green bowers,

Flowing north of Oslo.

On the island, camps and buildings

Overlook a flowered shrine,

And the morning isle empowers

Dreams and spirits of the young.


By the margin, blue ridge-veiled,

Slide heavy trucks and trains,

The commerce of a nation hailed;

Its ships and planes the world has sailed.

They’re driving down to Oslo.

But who hath seen that spirit’s hand?

Or at a window seen them stand?

At Utoya, known throughout the land,

For the spirits of the young?


Only reapers, reaping early,

In among the bearded barley

Hear a song that echoes clearly

From the fjord and island, nearly

Down to Oslo.

And by the moon, the reaper, weary,

Piling his sheaves in uplands airy,

Listening, whispers, “’Tis the fairies,

And the spirits of the young.”


There, they weave by night and day,

A magic web, all colors gay.

The young have heard a whisper say

A curse is on them if they stay,

And look downward to Oslo.

They know not what that curse may be.

The fairies weave on, steadily.

And little other care have they,

The spirits of the young.


Yet, moving through a mirror clear

That hangs before them all the year,

Shadows of the world appear.

There, they see the highway near,

Winding down to Oslo.

There the cold fjord’s eddies swirl,

And there a sleepy village churls,

And the red coats of the market girls

Pass onward in a throng.


Sometimes children pass them by,

Or business people, gals and guys,

The elderly, in busses, cars,

A boy holding a girl in his arms –

They all go by to Oslo.

And sometimes through that mirror blue,

The youths themselves ride, two by two.

The fairies watch them as they do,

The spirits of the young.


The fairies in their web delight,

And weave the mirror’s magic sights.

Yet often in the silent nights,

A funeral with plumes and lights

Goes by to storied Oslo.

And when the Moon is overhead,

Come two young lovers, lately wed.

“I am so sick of shadows,” said

These spirits of the young.


They gathered at the island green

To meet their futures, yet unseen.

Unglimpsed but bright, their social dreams,

On a red shield of labor, streamed

Their banners down to Oslo.

And policies of caring grace

Were balanced against, not race,

But human need, a human face,

A Nation’s needs, that’s all.

In the gray and cloudy weather,

Their leaders shared the purple heather,

Engaging tales of public service,

Fellowship, one flame, together,

Shining down to Oslo.

Participation, love of place,

Growing self-confidence and grace

Engaged them in their meetings, moved

The spirits of the young.


Too many shots that tragic day

Rang out from one who made his way

To Utoya - to make a play

Whose actors fall in death away.

From under years of hatred flowed

A senseless rage as on he ploughed.

He flashed his ‘badge,’ secret ill will,

He crossed onto the isle, to kill

The spirits of the young.


‘Twas then they left their colored looms,

The fairies scuttling to stop the doom.

They watched the water-lily bloom,

They saw a uniform, a gun,

And cried out to Oslo.

Out flew the web and floated wide,

The mirror cracked from side to side.

“The curse is come upon us,” cried

The spirits of the young.


Beneath the bright gray sky, wind straining,

Rocky shore, with green woods waning,

The fjord stream, cold, began complaining

Heavily, with low clouds raining

Over bombed Oslo.

Then down they came and found no boat,

Into the water jumped, swam, floated,

Were caught unawares on land or sea,

The spirits of the young.


And down the fjord’s dark blue expanse,

Like children, seers in a trance,

Came those who cleared and beat mischance,

With dark and glassy countenance,

Crying out to Oslo.

And at the closing of the day,

The dead, injured and safe ones lay,

Down in a darkness far away,

The spirits of the young.

Some spirits scattered, snowy white,

And loosely flew up, left and right,

Through leaves and flowers, falling light

Upon them, through the noisy night.

They floated down to Oslo.

And as their boat wound along,

The mountains and the fields among,

The people heard them sing a song,

The spirits of the young.


They heard a carol, mournful, holy,

Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,

Until their blood was frozen slowly

And they closed their eyes, wholly,

Turned towards Oslo.

For ‘ere they reached the other side,

Or spied their home or family ties,

Singing their song of love, they died,

The spirits of the young.


From churches’ eaves and balconies,

By garden walls and galleries,

As gleaming shapes, they floated by

Their mountains, fields, their seashores, sky,

Silently from Oslo.

Then out upon the wharfs they came,

The police and people - Prince and plain,

And then it was they saw their names,

The spirits of the young.


Who is this? What happened here?

And in the lighted palace near,

Died the sounds of summer cheer,

And all who saw them cringed with fear

And sadness through Oslo.

The King and Queen and all who saw

Wept and wept. Then spread the awe

Of those whose stories were then told,

Tales of bravery and heroism bold,

Of the spirits of the young.


Who are these? What happened here,

The stories of these heroes tell:

Who sprung with love and caring near

To those who otherwise would fall?

Who road into the danger zone

To grasp the arms of those forlorn?

Who chose an instant’s infinite grace

To face a demon in a place

Now known forever as the space

Of the spirits of the young.

Above the island’s lush green boroughs

Hovers the love of many. Those

Who passed away on that sad day,

And those who come anew, to say,

We won’t be stopped by fear and hate,

Nor stop our path to Oslo.

Meanwhile, the fairies to their bowers

Repair, wherein they spend the hours

Weaving on looms of colored flowers,

For the spirits of the young.


They carry forth their woven threads,

And in them they embrace the dead,

Lift up their spirits, overhead,

Assure them that their spirits live,

Above and beyond Oslo.

The spirits fly to fathers’ homes,

And visit mothers’ gardens, roam

Among our sacred places, play

In light and energy all day.


The spirits call to all of us:

They kiss the Nordic evening dusk.

“Be all that you can be among

All peoples of your blessed land,”

They say, and so their song is strong,

Forever striving, never undone.

Their gods embrace them as they tone,

‘Never forget our love: far-flung.’

-The Spirits of the Young


With attributions to Alfred, Lord Tennyson and ‘The Lady of Shallot’


June Edvenson, 2011

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Categories: English Stuff, International Miscellaneous