The Great Day of Prayer
In Denmark we have many Bank Holidays in the spring. Not many people are actively Christians but they would be reluctant to see these holidays cancelled. One of these special days is this so-called “Great Day of Prayer” this Friday 30 days after Easter. The day before on Thursday evening we have a tradition is that you get warm fresh bread rolls.
In former times the prayer day was also day when people were fasting. The baker shops were closed so these freshly baked rolls were bought in advance the day before. In Copenhagen it was a custom to go out for walks on the green banks. This custom started in the 1700s because of the beautiful bell ringing from our cathedral of Copenhagen and the green landscape of spring.
A poet Poul Martin Moeller (1794-1838) from the Romantic period wrote a spring song that I loved as a child. It’s connected with this holiday as he is describing his longing for love as he watches the young women walking in the green spring evening. I have always been a kind of lonely type so I identified with the young poet when I was young. I bought the song performed by the Danish Radio Girl Choir for you to hear and another choir from YouTube. This morning I was lucky to hear it from my favorite radio channel DR/P2.
In Denmark we have a treasure of songs like that on the four seasons, nature and Christianity and our population knew these songs and they were song on many occasions at schools and at meetings and at family gatherings. The melodies were used with new texts made specific for a celebration in the families. My maternal grandfather was very skilled in that and could make poetry to every situation in the family like at christening, birthdays and weddings and wedding anniversaries. Since the seventies children have not learnt these fine songs at schools any more so when somebody has written a song not all can sing it.
I would like to show you a slide show from Copenhagen with my pictures taken some years ago.
The song is called “Green is the hedge of spring”. I have translated it so you can have an idea. Unfortunately I haven’t practiced to make rhymes. I just wanted you to understand the text.
The hedge of spring is green
The cloak is thrown away
Maidens flock to the banks in the sun
The air is so clear
Their desire is seen on their silk dresses
The lapwing is hatching its eggs
The willows are growing beards
The violet peeps out at the bank
The goose with her small ones teaches them to walk
The magpie wawes its tail in the wind
The fellow with his bride enters the garden
On her green shoes she seems to dance
Oh so light
Her feet are so neat
The boy is selling green wreathes
The stork is busy
High on the farmer’s gable
The red feet sharpen his beak
The butcher with his wife
Walks leisurely with his silver plated “meerschaum” pipe
Lovely little maidens
Red, white, blue
Send their glances like darts
and like war flags
In the affectionate cape
Silk ribbons are waving from the lily neck
Evening is arriving
while the beauties walk away
Let them not catch a cold
What a lovely stream
The bosom is tender
My heart can be felt on the waist-coat
In the silent night
As a huge ducat
The moon sprinkles gold on all branches
Alas the lovely ones disappeared from everywhere
It’s hard to walk home alone
The most used melody is by our composer Niels W. Gade whom we celebrate this years on his 200 years’ anniversary. Carl Nielsen our most famous composer also put this poem into melody.
I found some Koebke paintings from the Romantic period at the mid 1800s painted a few years after the poem was written. The paintings are all from Copenhagen.