Helga Kress: The Sweet Singer: On Images and Words in a Poem by Jónas Hallgrímsson
"Ég bið að heilsa" ("I send my greetings") by Jónas Hallgrímsson (1807–1845) is the first known sonnet in Icelandic literature. It was composed in the spring of 1844 in the small Danish town of Sorø, where Jónas lived for a time, and was published shortly thereafter in Fjölnir, a periodical that he and his colleagues had founded in Copenhagen. A comparison of the poet's autograph with the printed version (which became the basis of all subsequent editions of the poem) reveals that the editors made fundamental alterations in the text that distorted its meaning. The central image in the original manuscript is that of a migratory bird, which the poet addresses as "söngvarinn ljúfi" (sweet singer). The poet, living abroad, asks the bird, as it flies on the southerly winds, to convey his greetings to his native country (and his beloved) in the far north. The editors, however, changed "söngvari" to "vorboði" (herald of spring), thus erasing the poem's controlling analogy between poet and singer, poem and song, as well as the metonymy of the singer for the sonnet itself (literally "little song"). In the original poem the singer and the sonnet are inseparable, bringing a new metrical form to Iceland which marks the advent of modernity in the country's literary history.
Keywords: Jónas Hallgrímsson, autographs, editions, lyric analysis, Icelandic literary history