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Du gamla du fria – Sweden’s national anthem Posted by on Jun 5, 2012 in Culture, Current Events, History

So – are you all geared up for a big Swedish celebration tomorrow?  Sweden is preparing for the national day (Marcus gave us all the details here!) and apart from a day off work for everyone, there will be celebrations held all over the county – and outside! Flags will be waved, speeches will be held…and of course, our national anthem will be sung across the country.  With the Eurovision success fresh in mind and Euro 2012 and the Olympics waiting around the corner, this might be a good time to brush up on your “Du gamla, Du fria”-knowledge! Confident, me? You bet, this is Sweden’s year! Euphoria!

Anyway. Some facts for you:

The text of the Swedish National Anthem, “Du gamla, Du fria” was written by folklorist and ballad writer Richard Dybeck (1811-77) and set to a folk tune from the province of Västmanland in the middle of the 19th century.  The song was  originally named “Sång till Norden” (“Song to the North”) and in 1938, the Swedish public service radio started playing it at the end of transmitting in the evenings. This actually gave the song its status as a national anthem and we have sung it ever since.  But “Du gamla, du fria” is not Sweden’s official national anthem. We sing it purely because of tradition and if we all of a sudden felt like changing it,  I suppose we could.

I’m quite happy with it, though. I think it’s a strong and powerful anthem, not to difficult to sing and although the lyrics aren’t completely straight forward, it sounds grand…and Swedish!

What do you make of it?

Du gamla, du fria, du fjällhöga Nord,
du tysta, du glädjerika sköna!
Jag hälsar dig, vänaste land uppå jord,
din sol, din himmel, dina ängder gröna,
din sol, din himmel, dina ängder gröna.

Du tronar på minnen från fornstora dar,
då ärat ditt namn flög över jorden.
Jag vet, att du är och du blir vad du var.
Ja, jag vill leva, jag vill dö i Norden!
Ja, jag vill leva, jag vill dö i Norden!

Translation. Hrm, not completely straight forward, right?

Thou ancient, thou freeborn, thou mountainous North,
In beauty and peace our hearts beguiling,
I greet thee, thou loveliest land on the earth,
Thy sun, thy skies, thy verdant meadows smiling.
Thy sun, thy skies, thy verdant meadows smiling.

Thy throne rests on mem’ries from great days of yore,
When worldwide renown was valour’s guerdon.
I know to thy name thou art true as before.
In thee I’ll live, in thee I’ll die, thou North Land,
In thee I’ll live, in thee I’ll die, thou North Land.

This is a clip from Sweden’s national day two years ago, at Skansen in Stockholm. Can you spot the royals? As an addition, you get some lovely view of Stockholm as well!

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  1. Judy:

    So what is the “official” national anthem really? I always thought it was “Du gamla, du fria.”

  2. Rastik:

    Judy: I’d think there’s no official anthem, as it was (until 2009) with swedish official language – everyone used it, but it was not written in any law.

  3. Caroline Green:

    How sad that people feel excluded by this – I lived in Sweden for six years when I was young – and I really felt part of Sweden and Swedish traditions. In fact I still do after very many years. You can certainly share other countries’ traditions as well as those you were born with, without diminishing either. Caroline G.

  4. Pam:

    Very nice “translation,” because you can sing it along with the music of the anthem. However, it might be good to let Swedish language learners know that it isn’t a literal translation. It may be obvious to some, but not all.

  5. Christopher:

    Pam – literal translations often fail to capture the spirit of the song. This one does it beautifully. Also, as a native Swedish speaker, I must say the text deviates extremely little from the text of the Swedish one. The meaning is still the same 🙂

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