Árstíðir – Heyr himna smiður – 13th century Icelandic hymn sung in a train station

This hymn, performed by the band Árstíðir in the echoing chambers of a train station is truly beautiful (I found it via this tweet). I looked in the comments on Youtube and found out the lyrics of this 800 year old hymn:

Hear creator of the heavens
what the poet begs.
Come softly to me
your mercy.
I trust in you,
you have created me.
I am your servant
you are my lord.

God, I trust in you
to heal me.
For the least, my king,
we need you the most.
Take, my God,
so powerful and inquisitive,
the sorrow out of our hearts.

My king, watch over me,
we need you the most.
For every moment
to hold ground.
Set the son of a maiden,
a beautiful matter.
All the help from you
in my heart.

This is written in a very violent time in the Sturlunga-age in Iceland. A few families were having disagreements over power and the man who wrote this poem was a member of one of those families. He was in the Ásbirninga family and his name was Kolbeinn Tumason. It is said that he wrote this just prior to “Víðinesbardagi”, a battle in 1208. He said this poem over and over, so often that the people around him memorized it.

By Andreas Tille (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

One comment

  1. They are fantastic, aren’t they, Bryony? I have all their music (I am fan of many things Icelandic) and this is one of their stand-out tracks. It reached No.1 in Iceland, and has been used as the theme-tune to a popular Icelandic TV programme. It is also a very well-known hymn, which I have sung in the Hallgrimskirkja (central cathedral in Rejkyavik) … though not to this tune (which is *much* better).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s