By HENRIK STRANDSKOV
This song [written for the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Danebod Folk Meeting in 2021] is not just a tribute to the early Danish settlers on the great American prairie. I think of it more as a bittersweet acknowledgment that, as substantial as their achievements were, those settlers built their lives on a foundation of both cultural and ecological disruption. For instance, it is not an accident that we sing about the farmer’s gratitude to God (and presumably his pride in his own industriousness) in the same stanza that reminds us of the Lakota pony (now vanished) and the rich native prairie habitat (now destroyed). I hoped that those who sing this song will think about their heritage, recognize both the positive and negative aspects of it, and dream about building a future that (somehow) atones for the past wrongs that helped create our current prosperity.
The song is intended to be sung to the tune of the pop-folk song "I'll Never Find Another You." That song was written by Tom Springfield in 1964 and became a hit for the the Seekers in 1964-65. (I think of the Seekers as the Australian Peter, Paul, and Mary.)
There was rich land waiting,
Five thousand miles away;
And our great grandparents
Wept tears, but could not stay
In that ancient northern kingdom,
So lovely and so small –
When they heard the endless prairie’s lonely call.
Then where once the larkspur,
Wild rose, and sorrel blew;
Where Lakota ponies
Brushed through the morning dew;
Now two oxen pulled a steel plow
And broke the prairie sod,
And a sweating farmer thanked his gracious God.
Those vast seas of grasses
Will never roll again -
For the wild rye and the bluestem
Were of no use to men;
But their wheat and oats and barley
Bought house and church and town,
And this new land sown with dreams was now their own.
Meadowlark and sparrow
Still sing their ancient song,
And we too share our voices
With generations gone,
Their old songs are ever with us,
But new songs will arise,
And our dreams will soar across the endless skies.
In anticipation of the Danebod Fall Meeting in Tyler, MN, the opening song for this issue is one that was written by Henrik Strandskov for last year’s seventy-fifth anniversary of the meeting. His introduction draws attention to the poignant tension of the lyrics. The last stanza could easily refer to the singing at West Denmark Family Camp. The report by Elinor and Henrik Strandskov has accompanying photos, including the one on the cover, that illustrate some of the activities at this year’s camp, all of which were held out-or-doors.
In the third and final installment of “The Granly Story,” Ida Larsen describes how, despite the hard economic conditions in which the Mississippi colony began, the community activities of this Danish American settlement provided a social cohesion that nourished the spirit.
Flocks of people looking for a new home do not always find a welcoming atmosphere to put down roots. In “FLIGHT,” Hanna Broadbridge tells of a new museum in Denmark that is dedicated to the memory of German refugees who were held in camps after World War II. As the exhibits stimulated Hanna to reflect, she passes on to us the question of how we are to treat people who come from other countries.
Robert Jensen brings other questions for reflection in “What is the World? Who are We? What are We Going to Do about It?” His religious belief may be unorthodox, but the spirit of his message, originally delivered at his Presbyterian church, speaks to how people of God should see themselves in relation to Creation.
The poem “Thirsty Garden” by Maria Pavlik that closes the issue may also stir reflection on how we may or may not pay attention to our relationship with the Earth, which sustains us..
Bridget Lois Jensen