Matthias Jochumsson - a national icon

Matthías Jochumsson (1835 – 1920) is one of Iceland’s most loved writer and poet. Matthías, who was a clergyman, explored all aspects of writing, being a poet, translator, journalist, dramatist, and editor. His versatility, intellectual integrity, and rich humanity established him as a national figure and on his retirement in 1900 he received a poet’s pension from the government.

Through his religious poetry, his hymns and funeral elegies, and his heroic narrative poems, Jochumsson preached Christian faith and humanity alongside the pagan virtues of the golden age of saga writing. His innumerable translations of didactic lyrics, patriotic poems, and hymns from the Scandinavian languages, English and German illustrate those same qualities. He also translated into Icelandic several of Shakespeare’s plays.

In 1862 he wrote the play, Útilegumennirnir (“The Outlaws,”) later called Skugga-Sveinn after its principal character, which remains the most frequently produced Icelandic play.Jochumsson’s legacy is not only his volumes of hyms but Icelands national anthem Ó, guð vors lands (Our country's God). It was originally was written as a hymn on the occasion of the nationwide celebrations held in 1874 to commemorate the millennium of Iceland's settlement. It went straight to the heart of the nation and became established as the national anthem by tradition.

Sigurhæðir (Hills of Triumph), in the town of Akureyri, is an exhibition dedicated to the reverend and poet Matthías Jochumsson). Matthías had the house built in 1903 and lived there until the end of his life.

The Icelandic National AnthemEnglish translation
by Jakobina Johnson

Our country's God! Our country's God!
We worship Thy name in its wonder sublime.
The suns of the heavens are set in Thy crown
By Thy legions, the ages of time!
With Thee is each day as a thousand years,
Each thousand of years, but a day,
Eternity's flow'r, with its homage of tears,
That reverently passes away.
:,: Iceland's thousand years!, :,:
Eternity's flow'r, with its homage of tears,
That reverently passes away.