Bjornstjerne Bjornson

William Morton Payne
Bjornstjerne Bjornson [with

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Title: Björnstjerne Björnson

Author: William Morton Payne
Release Date: October, 2003 [Etext #4582] [Yes, we are more than one
year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on February 11,
Edition: 10
Language: English
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Björnstjerne Björnson 1832-1910 by William Morton Payne, LL.D.
Translator of Björnson's "Sigurd Slembe" and Jaeger's "Ibsen," Author
of "Little Leaders," Etc.
To Mary

When the date of Björnson's seventieth birthday drew near at the close
of 1902, the present writer, who had been from boyhood a devoted
admirer of the great Norwegian, wished to make an American
contribution to the world-wide tribute of gratitude and affection which
the then approaching anniversary was sure to evoke. The outcome of
that wish was an essay, summarizing Björnson's life and work,
published in "The International Quarterly," March, 1903. The essay
then written forms the substance of the present publication, although
several additions have been made in the way of translation, anecdote,
and the consideration of Björnson's later productions. So small a book
as this is, of course, hopelessly inadequate to make more than the most
superficial sort of survey of the life work of that masterful personality
whose recent death is so heavy a loss to all mankind.
W. M. P. Chicago, May, 1910.

Eight years ago, taking a bird's-eye view of the mountain peaks of
contemporary literature, and writing with particular reference to
Björnson's seventieth birthday, it seemed proper to make the following
remarks about the most famous European authors then numbered
among living men. If one were asked for the name of the greatest man
of letters still living in the world, the possible claimants to the
distinction would hardly be more than five in number. If it were a
question of poetry alone, Swinburne would have to be named first, with
Carducci for a fairly close second. But if we take literature in its larger
sense, as including all the manifestations of creative activity in
language, and if we insist, furthermore, that the man singled out for this
preëminence shall stand in some vital relation to the intellectual life of
his time, and exert a forceful influence upon the thought of the present
day, the choice must rather be made among the three giants of the north
of Europe, falling, as it may be, upon the great-hearted Russian
emotionalist who has given us such deeply moving portrayals of the
life of the modern world; or upon the passionate Norwegian idealist
whose finger has so unerringly pointed out the diseased spots in the
social organism, earning by his moral surgery the name of pessimist,

despite his declared faith in the redemption of mankind through truth
and freedom and love; or, perchance, upon that other great Norwegian,
equally fervent in his devotion to the same ideals, and far more
sympathetic in
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