By Dorthe Sondrup Andersen, master's degree in literature and culture writer, 2006
From Gorm the Old to yesterday
Players and fans alike - they all sing along cheerfully when the national anthem is played before an international football match. It clears the lungs and hypes up the team, but the phenomenon itself is actually a splendid illustration of the fact that poetry stands up to the ravages of time much better than many other things. The text is written by the poet of the golden age, Adam Oehlenschläger.
A song for every season...
In fact you almost have to stuff your ears with cotton wool if you don’t want to listen to old Danish poetry. “Welcome here, new year of grace” (Vær velkommen, Herrens år) blasts from every television and radio set just after midnight on New Year’s Eve and there are special songs for Shrovetide and others for Easter.
On Midsummer Eve we gather faithfully around the bonfire and join in to sing “This country we love” (Vi elsker vort land). And there’s no Christmas Eve without the whole family joining hands to dance round the Christmas tree while trying to remember the words of the hymns “Bright and glorious is the sky” (Dejlig er den himmel blå) or “A babe is born in Bethlehem” (Et barn er født i Bethlehem).
...And every age
We are not just reminded that Danish poetry is alive by the changing seasons, it follows us throughout our lives. We don’t mind skipping church festivals, but for family celebrations and the suchline many a guest has tried his or her hand at writing a song for the occasion that fits the melody of “Here I stand with tinkling bells galore” (Jeg er havren, jeg har bjælder på). And for most people a wedding is not complete without “How sweetly beckons the path ahead” (Det er så yndigt at følges ad) being sung.
Here and now
Poems are never better than when sung or read aloud. This is also true of Ivan Malinowski’s little poem about gnats dancing over the water level of the fjord. Even if you are sitting in front of your pc at this very moment, try to whisper these lines: "and silently pecks an invisible beak / at the mirror’s film of wind and salt / soon bursts all "
List of the 24 lyrical works
1. ‘Ebbe Skammelsøn’, folkevise
2. ‘Germand Gladensvend’, folkevise.
3. ‘Hver har sin Skæbne’ af Thomas Kingo.
4. ‘Den yndigste Rose er funden’ af H.A. Brorson.
5. ‘Til Siælen. En Ode’ af Johs. Ewald.
6. ‘Indvielsen’ af Schack Staffeldt.
7. ‘Hakon Jarls Død’ af Adam Oehlenschläger.
8. ‘De levendes Land’ af N.F.S. Grundtvig.
9. 'Rosa unica’ af Chr. Winther.
10. ‘Paa Sneen’ af Emil Aarestrup.
11. ‘Jeg hører i Natten den vuggende Lyd’ af Holger Drachmann.
12. ‘Ekbátana’ af Sophus Claussen.
13. ‘Aften’ af Jeppe Aakjær.
14. ‘Den danske Sommer’ af Thøger Larsen.
15. ‘Det er Knud, som er død’ af Tom Kristensen.
16. ‘Læren om staten’ af Jens August Schade.
17. ‘det underste land’ af Gustaf Munch-Petersen.
18. ‘Anubis’ af Thorkild Bjørnvig.
19. ‘Regnmaaleren’ af Ole Sarvig.
20. ‘Øjeblik’ af Morten Nielsen.
21. ‘Sidenius i Esbjerg’ af Frank Jæger.
22. ‘Myggesang’ af Ivan Malinowski.
23. ‘Personen på toppen’ af Per Højholt.
24. ‘Violinbyggernes by’ af Henrik Nordbrandt.
Read more about the origin of the works in Kulturkontakten nr. 1/2, 2006
The committee's justification
By the Committee for Literature, 2006
“Where words are lacking, a verse can suddenly help...”
Literary canons are formed all the time, and this particularly evident in the field of lyric poetry. Obvious canons have existed for several hundred years, especially those collected in Den Danske Salmebog (‘The Danish Psalter’) and Højskolesangbogen (‘Songbook for Schools’). The both of these canons have been part of an institution that used sung poetry in particularly integrated ways. Institutions have of course updated and revised their canons, but you will find poetry that has been in their collections for almost 500 years. In other areas of the lyric poetry canon, it is somewhat different. These poems are instead kept in a tradition that is passed on from generation to generation by enthusiastic lyric poetry readers, younger poets’ knowledge of older predecessors, the education system’s retention of a number of essential texts and the ongoing and steadily changing anthologies of poems.
In some cases, there is one fairly specific text that can be called canonical, and in other cases it is rather lyrical poetry authorship that can be termed such. From Emil Aarestrup, Sophus Claussen, Frank Jæger, Thorkild Bjørnvig and Per Højholt, we have had to be content in selecting one significant poem. The criteria for the subsequent draft of a lyric poetry canon has been the following:
In keeping with the appointed assignment, the selection has been limited to 24 texts.
1. Authors that are already represented in other canons are excluded here, despite the fact that they may well have written principal works of lyrical poetry (example: Johannes V. Jensen).
2. Each author is only represented with one text, even though their canonical status is often due to entire poetry collections or lifelong efforts.
3. The selected texts summarise something essential in their authorship.