At the change of the year

by Carl Boberg and translated by Mark Safstrom

Out on a seaside cliff I stood
Watching the roaring, frothy flood,
The sea’s assault on the coast.
Then across the sky, blue and bright,
A winged caravan took flight
Toward heaven’s edge in the west,
Toward distant flocks of small white clouds
Hiding the sun beneath their shrouds.

This sight did grip my soul with power.
I still feel how I felt that hour,
As restless caged swallow,
Longing for freedom from his pen,
To fly his drills outside again,
Across the sky, to and fro.
But chains still held this prisoner’s feet
And to his dreams he did retreat.

Just as a bird’s long migration,
Leads him to a distant vision,
Beckons him incessantly,
Is not this life a flight through time,
Some days are anguish, some sublime,
Tumbling toward eternity?
All the while the sun descends
Until the clock its labor ends.

How full of change this march of years,
Today is joy, tomorrow tears,
What shades and lights we witness!
Now the heavens are bright and blue,
Now distressing clouds pass through,
Our vistas open, compress.
At times emotions writhe and reave,
As those at Moses’ grave did grieve.

But praise to God for each new day,
For every trial that comes our way;
These winds propel us forward.
This sorrow blows us toward our goal,
Our future joy, a faithful soul,
And leads us ever homeward.
The journey’s hard, but harbor’s seen,
When winter’s o’er, the earth stands green.

Weep not too long for flowers lost
When biting cold and early frost
Your garden’s splendor ruin.
Weep not too long when brittle bands
That bind you to these earthly lands
One by one will weaken.
This frees the trav’ler up to see
That harbor in the stormy sea.

When flowers from last spring will go,
And summer’s blooms are tucked in snow,
And fall’s misty breath rolls in;
In this harbor it’s spring today
The same tomorrow, yesterday,
A haven for all within.
Those who’ve found this refuge place,
Already know it’s Christ’s embrace.

Carl Boberg (1859-1940), a popular evangelist to youth in Sweden and member of parliament, published numerous collections of devotional poetry and prose. Boberg is most know for his internationally cherished hymn, “How Great Thou Art” (O, store Gud).

See all articles by Carl Boberg

Mark Safstrom is Chief Editor of Pietisten, and an assistant professor of Scandinavian Studies at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois.

See all articles by Mark Safstrom