Social Protest Lit.: Bjornstjerne Bjornson, from “Beyond Human Might”

indexExcerpt from a play by Bjornstjerne Bjornson entitled “Beyond Human Might” from Book IV called “Out of The Depths.” This chapter is focused on man’s pursuit of remedy for social injustice:

(Here a young clergyman is speaking to a crowd of miners in the midst of bitterly fought strike)

Bratt: Here it is dark and cold. Here few work hopefully, and no one joyfully. Here the children won’t thrive–they yearn for the sea and the daylight. They crave the sun. But it lasts only a little while, and then they give up. They learn that among those who have been cast down here there is rarely one who can climb up again.

Several: That’s right!…

Bratt: What is there to herald the coming of better things? A new generation up there? Listen to what their young people answer for themselves: “We want a good time!” And their books? The books and the youth together make the future. And what do the books say? Exactly the same as the youth: “Let us have a good time! Ours are the light and the lust of life, its colors and its joys!” That is what the youth and their books say.–They are right! It is all theirs! There is no law to prevent their taking life’s sunlight and joy away from the poor people. For those who have the sun have also made the law.–But then the next question is whether we might not scramble up high enough to take part in writing of a new law. (This is received with thundering cheers.) What is needed is that one generation makes an effort strong enough to raise all coming generations into the vigorous life full of sunlight.

Many: Yes, yes!

Bratt: But so far every generation has put it off on the next one. Until at last our turn has come–to bear sacrifices and sufferings like unto death itself!



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