Little over a week ago, the world experienced one of the moments where its axis’ revolutions seemed to temporarily suspend; everything and everyone stopped still and looked with disbelieving eyes, thought with perplexed minds and felt with compassionate hearts towards Norway. In the aftermath of the two attacks, shockwaves are still being felt far and wide as the country comes to terms with its losses and the window for the rest of us ever enlarges, as news coverage continues and the unimaginable – which thankfully still is for most of us – becomes increasingly, devastatingly real.
In spite of living in an age of media saturation, it remains impossible to be desensitised in the wake of such events; in fact, the hundreds of images and horrifying details that have come into public consciousness through the scores of television cameras and newspapers seem to have had the contradictory effect of making what occurred seem even more incomprehensible. Alongside the incongruous link between the real and the almost-inconceivable comes another, more heartening contradiction. Just days after the world’s view of Norway became defined by painful-to-see images of wreckage and the walking wounded, signs of optimism appeared; the quite frankly miraculous first-hand accounts of those who survived against the odds, the silent tributes of a nation bathed in candlelight, the incredibly moving sight of the ‘rose march’ – where over 150,000 people lined the streets of Oslo, holding single red and white roses aloft in remembrance of their compatriots, both close and distant. Impacting on a different but still deeply powerful level, a testament to the country’s peaceable nature – the very best of the human spirit emerging undaunted in the face of the very worst.
Words as well as images have played a vital part in going some way to comforting collective sorrows and uplifting spirits in a time of such tragedy – just hours afterwards, the country’s Prime Minister giving a speech in turns poignant, understated, rousing and filled with unshakeable strength; this strength also in evidence in the one-line statements and mottos of the mother tongue, translated to say several different things with the same meaning behind them all – that while destruction may surround, nothing can destroy their unity. Words may never accurately describe events that are indescribable, but they can provide inspiration and hope for better things to come. As a nation, Norway is already demonstrating incredible hope, so this poem by William Cullen Bryant serves as a further dedication to those bravely facing the darkness, with the promise of light shining through.
Blessed Are They That Mourn
Oh, deem not they are blest alone
Whose lives a peaceful tenor keep;
The Power who pities man, hath shown
A blessing for the eyes that weep.
The light of smiles shall fill again
The lids that overflow with tears;
And weary hours of woe and pain
Are promises of happier years.
There is a day of sunny rest
For every dark and troubled night:
And grief may hide an evening guest,
But joy shall come with early light.
And thou, who, o’er thy friend’s low bier,
Dost shed the bitter drops like rain,
Hope that a brighter, happier sphere
Will give him to thy arms again.
Nor let the good man’s trust depart,
Though life its common gifts deny, —
Though with a pierced and bleeding heart,
And spurned of men, he goes to die.
For God has marked each sorrowing day
And numbered every secret tear,
And heaven’s long age of bliss shall pay
For all his children suffer here.
William Cullen Bryant (1794-1878)