This night is somewhat abbreviated, so you’re getting the entire text.
I’ve been in Upsala,” said the Moon: “I looked down upon the great plain covered with coarse grass, and upon the barren fields. I mirrored my face in the Tyris river, while the steamboat drove the fish into the rushes. Beneath me floated the waves, throwing long shadows on the so-called graves of Odin, Thor, and Friga. In the scanty turf that covers the hill-side names have been cut. There is no monument here, no memorial on which the traveller can have his name carved, no rocky wall on whose surface he can get it painted; so visitors have the turf cut away for that purpose. The naked earth peers through in the form of great letters and names; these form a network over the whole hill. Here is an immortality, which lasts till the fresh turf grows!
“Up on the hill stood a man, a poet. He emptied the mead horn with the broad silver rim, and murmured a name. He begged the winds not to betray him, but I heard the name. I knew it. A count’s coronet sparkles above it, and therefore he did not speak it out. I smiled, for I knew that a poet’s crown adorns his own name. The nobility of Eleanora d’Este is attached to the name of Tasso. And I also know where the Rose of Beauty blooms!”
Thus spake the Moon, and a cloud came between us. May no cloud separate the poet from the rose!
Upsala is a city in Sweden and is actually spelled Uppsala. The river there is not called the Tyris, but the Fyris. As the story states it is in a flat land area so the description of the plain in this story fits with real life.
Uppsala is the religious center of Sweden, but before Christianity came into being there was a large temple there to the Æsir gods, that’s Odin, Thor, and Friga mentioned in this story. I’m not all up on Norse mythology, but it would make sense to see this place as a grave of the gods because it’s where they once were and were then supplanted by Christianity.
Onto this person this poet speaks of– the name Eleanora d’Este is not this person. Eleanora d’Este lived years previously in Italy and was the duchess of Ferrara. Tasso was an Italian poet. He was taken in by Eleanora and her sister. He was later admitted as part of the family. Tasso was a well-known poet and is still widely read, thus why he is mentioned in relation to our nameless poet in this story. The reason his name bears the nobility of the duchess of Ferrara is because she essentially took him in and labeled him a member of her family.
I can’t say one way or the other whether people actually cut the peat away to leave their names in the landscape, but it would be an interesting thing to find out.
In this story we’re looking at this landscape where the Norse gods used to dwell, but we contrast this with a tender poet. He’s here alone. He’s here to be in a place without witnesses. He dares to speak the name of this woman he loves; it’s a woman he’s obviously not supposed to care for as much as he does. Look, I say woman because the poet is male, but that may not be the case. This poet might be talking about a man. We know the name is associated with a count. Is the name that of the count or is that name the name of the count’s wife? Either way, it’s an illicit love that the poet should not have.
This poet either came out to these lonely plains, the graves of Thor and Odin, to either get himself drunk on mead with a love he cannot have or offer something up unto these dead gods to make his love be possible. In the end, it doesn’t really matter which it is. Either way, he’s pining for someone he shouldn’t be pining for. He came out here alone because he didn’t want anyone to be witness to his desire for someone he’s not supposed to desire. The moon saw all though.
This man is human and sometimes humans want things we can’t have. It’s a form of torture. Maybe we didn’t do it intentionally, but it happened. It can feel awfully lonely to have such a large and burning secret. To speak its name might give the slightest bit of relief with the whole thing. We may not want our peers to know that we have this desire that we cannot fulfill. It makes us feel small that we cannot accomplish all the things we set our mind to.
This moon is getting all up in people’s business.
Love Poetry…is it your thing or not?
What do you think the poet hoped to accomplish by going out into the middle of nowhere and whispering the name of the person he cannot have?