Danish hymn-writing is something quite special. It is a strong, living tradition that Danes make use of in life’s moments of joy and sorrow. Community singing is a feature of both secular and religious life in Denmark, and it is perfectly normal to begin a meeting by singing a well-loved hymn, even if one is not a religious person. Expressions and images from hymns are also part of the everyday language – ‘Sorrow and joy hand in hand go together’, for example, is a much-used expression that derives from a hymn by Kingo.
The prime aim of this anthology has been to make a representative selection of four fashioners of Danish faith. Although Danes are familiar with many of their hymns, the unabbreviated versions of many of them may come as a surprise, as may the wide range of what they actually wrote. The English translations will grant non-Danish speakers around the world access to a vital aspect of the Danish religious and cultural heritage – and maybe even encourage them to take a peek at the originals as well.
John Irons was born into a Methodist family with a strong hymn-singing tradition. After completing his education, he left England fifty years ago, since when he has mostly lived in Denmark. He has been a professional translator for over thirty years, one of his specialist areas being the translation of poetry.
Jørn Henrik Petersen is a professor whose special areas are economics, social sciences and history. He is a leading expert on the history of the Danish welfare state and the importance of hymns in this context.
Anne-Marie Mai is a professor of Nordic literature whose special areas include the history of Danish literature and the Danish hymn-writers. Jørn Henrik Petersen and Anne-Marie Mai have written an introduction to the anthology that traces the history of Danish hymn-writing.
The poet Klaus Høeck has acted as consultant both for the editors and the translator.