Posted by: Sarah | May 12, 2011

Yes, We Love This Country!


It’s true…we do love this country but that’s not what this blog post is about.  

It’s Norway’s Constitution Day next week.  On the 17th May 1814 Norway declared their independence and the new National Anthem was played for the first time.  It’s called “Ja, vi elsker dette landet” or in English “Yes, we love this country”. 

Now Eliot and I need to get in practice because we don’t know the Norwegian Anthem as well as we should.  The 17th May is a public holiday in Norway and we will travel into Oslo for the parades and celebrations.  I’m trying to hire a bunad and buy as many flags as I can hold.  Eliot just wants to keep a low profile.  Either way, we need to learn the Anthem so we don’t stand out like sore thumbs.

I figured I should share this with readers so you all feel in the national spirit on the same day :-)  Enjoy – all of the official English lyrics are below but normally Norwegians only sing verses 1, 2 and 8:

Yes, we love with fond devotion,
This our land that looms.
Rugged, storm-scarred o’er the ocean,
With her thousand homes.
Love her, in our love recalling,
Those who gave us birth.
And old tales which night, in falling,
Brings as dreams to earth.
And old tales which night, in falling,
Brings as dreams, as dreams to earth.

This country Harald united
with his army of heroes,
this country Håkon protected
whilst Øyvind sung;
upon the country Olav painted
with his blood the cross,
from its heights Sverre spoke
up against Rome.

Farmers their axes sharpened
wherever an army advanced,
Tordenskiold along the coastline thundered
so that we could see it back home.
Even women stood up and fought
as if they were men;
others could only cry
but that soon would end!

Sure, we were not many
but we were enough,
when we were tested sometimes,
and it was at stake;
we would rather burn our land
than to declare defeat;
just remember what happened
down at Fredrikshald!

Hard times we have coped with,
were at last disowned;
but in the worst distress, blue-eyed
freedom was to us born.
It gave (us) father’s strength to carry
famine and war,
it gave death itself its honour –
and it gave reconciliation.

The enemy threw away his weapon,
up the visor went,
we, in wonder, to him hastened,
because he was our brother.
Driven forth to a stand by shame
we went to the south;
now we three brothers stand united,
and shall stand like that!

Norseman in house and cabin,
thank your great God!
The country he wanted to protect,
although things looked dark.
All the fights fathers have fought,
and the mothers have wept,
the Lord has quietly moved
so we won our rights.

Yes, we love this country
as it rises forth,
rugged, weathered, above the sea,
with those thousand homes.
And as the fathers’ struggle has raised
it from need to victory,
even we, when it is demanded,
for its peace will encamp (for defence).

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Responses

  1. Whispering: I might be wrong but I don’t think the national anthem was written until 1850 or 1860 something… and Norway was not independent until 1905 (can’t remember the date – which we for some reason do not celebrate)… Feel free to update your article if you fancy, and just delete my comment!
    Btw – I had totally forgotten that there were that many verses! :-)

    • Yes – I’m a bit confused by this one because whilst Norway broke from Sweden officially in 1905, it seems that some agreement called the Constitution Of Norway was put in place earlier than that (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Norway). I think I need to read a little more about this and figure out how signing that Constitution on 17th May 1814 in Eidsvoll was involved in the connection that broke with Sweden in 1905. Any Norwegian history teachers reading this blog? Can you help?

      • Now you are asking difficult questions… :-) I think the signing of the constitution was a step towards breaking the union with Sweden, the Sweds were apparently not pleased about it. Why the union still lasted until 1905 I don’t know – I can imagine it takes time to negotiate these things? I have better brush up on my history… :-)

  2. I understand this can be a bit confusing as it goes back to the napoleanic wars. Norway was under danish rule, and Denmark had joined the war on Napoleon’s side. (actually the british did a preemptive strike on Copenhagen.) the swedes however fought at the end of the war against the french, and at the congress of wiena were promised Norway as spoils of war. The norwegians however saw this as a chance to become independent after 400 years of danish rule, and gathered in a congress in Eidsvoll where they wrote an constitution based on the american and the french from the revolution. although a bit more religiusly biased.

    the swedes did not like that at all and invaded with an modern army of 60 000 well trained men under the command of the swedish adopted crown prince Jean Baptiste Bernadotte(Karl Johan). After a series of succsesive (for the swedes) battles in the summer against a small norwegian army (to some degree armed with pitchforks), peace were made in the fall. The swedes needed a quick peace, as they were afraid that the british, who wanted a peacefull norway close to them, would simply decide that norway could rule itself. So they acsepted the norwegian constitution of 17 of may, with some changes, allowing for a swedish king.

    Thus started the Union with sweden, with the same King but different parliaments and goverments, exept for the foreign departements and embasyes wich were swedish. Things were changing throughout the century and norwegian natiolism rose. the national anthem were written in the 1860’s by bjørnstjerne bjørnson. and in 1884 we managed to get parlamentarism instadet,(the chooses the cabinet). this is also the birth of political partys in norway, Venstre who wanted norwegian independence and høgre who wanted to keep the union.

    Norway tried to succseed in the 1890s but when the swedes threathened with war they backed down. they spent the next decade beefing up the defences, and in 1905 norway had a pretty modern army and navy(and didn’t spend a dime more on them untill ww2). in 1905 a shipowner from Bergen, christian Michelsen, became prime minister, and started a fight with the swedish king Oscar 2 about embassies and foreign diplomacy. When they didn’t reach an agreement, Michelsen resigned, and when the swedish king tried to appoint a new cabinet, there were none that the storting agreed to.(thus why 1884 were so important). And on june 7’th the storting said something along the lines of “thus since the King have failed in his duties to apoint a prime minister and cabinet of norway, the union between norway and sweden has ceased to be”. becoming known as the revolution in a by sentence. we had a referendum where although the women didn’t have the vote yet, they still had their own version of the referendum where thay basically voted the same way as the men. and we got a danish prince as a king. who was married to the daughter to the british king, and it was only when the british blessed the norwegian independence that the swedes backed completely down.

    so 17’th of may is constitution day, but june 7’th is independence day.

    gah, this became a much longer explanation than intended, and still it misses so much. hope it helps though

    • Knut – this is ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! What a fantastic summary and thank you so much for explaining this to me. It’s Norways History In A Nutshell. I thought about paying a visit to Eidsvoll at some point. Apparently there’s a museum that talks about the history but I don’t think I need to now. What I didn’t realise is just how involved the Brits were in all of this and how close Norway was to becoming independent in the 1880s. After Danish/Swedish rule and occupation of German in WW2 I can now see why May 17th is such a day of national pride for the Norwegians. We had such a fantastic time in Oslo. This history lesson just brings it all to life! Thank you.

  3. Wow – that is a great explanation! I think we should celebrate June 7th as well though! :-)

  4. […] 17th of May is a big day in Norway.  It’s the National Day.  Last year Eliot spent it alone because I was working hard in Frankfurt meeting Richard Branson […]


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