PETTER DASS (1647-1708), the "father" of modern Norwegian poetry, was the son of Peter Dundas, a Scottish merchant of Dundee, who, leaving his country about 1630 to escape the troubles of the Presbyterian chursh, settled in Bergen, and in 1646 married a Norse girl of good family. Petter Dass was born in 1647 on the island of Nord Hero, on the north coast of Norway. Seven years later his father died, and his mother placed him with his aunt, the wife of the priest of another little island-parish. In 1660 he was sent to school at Bergen, in 1665 to the university of Copenhagen, and in 1667 he began to earn his daily bread as a private tutor. In 1672 he was ordained priest, and remained till 1681 as under-chaplain at Nesne, a little parish near his birthplace; for eight years more he was resident chaplain at Nesne; and at last in 1689 he received the living of Alstahoug, the most important in the north of Norway. The rule of Alstahoug extended over all the neighbouring districts, including Dass's native island of Hero, and its privileges were accompanied by great perils, for it was necessary to be constantly crossing stormy firths of sea. Dass lived here in quietude, with something of the honours and responsibilities of a bishop, brought up his family in a God-fearing way, and wrote endless reams of verses. In 1700 he asked leave to resign his living in favour of his son Anders Dass, but this was not permitted; in 1704, however, Anders became his father's chaplain. About this time Petter went to Bergen, where he visited Dorothea Engelbrechtsdatter, with whom he had been for many years in correspondence. He continued to write till 1707, and died in August 1708. The materials for his biography are very numerous; he was regarded with universal curiosity and admiration in his lifetime; and, besides, he left a garrulous autobiography in verse. A portrait, painted in middle age, now in the church of Melhus, near Trondhjem, represents him in canonicals, with deep red beard and hair, the latter waved and silky, and a head of massive proportions. The face is full of fire and vigour. His writings passed in MS. from hand to hand, and few of them were printed in his lifetime. Nordlands Trompet (The Trumpet of Nordland), his greatest and most famous poem, was not published till 1739; Den norska Dale-Vise (The Norwegian Song of the Valley) appeared in 1696; the Aandelig Tidsfordriv (Spiritual Pastime), a volume of sacred poetry, was published in 1711. The Trumpet of Nordland remains as fresh as ever in the memories of the inhabitants of the north of Norway; boatmen, peasants, priests will alike repeat long extracts from it at the slightest notice, and its popularity is unbounded. It is a rhyming description of the province of Nordland, its natural features, its trades, its advantages and its drawbacks, given in dancing verse of the most breathless kind, and full of humour, fancy, wit and quaint learning. The other poems of Petter Dass are less universally read; they abound, however, in queer turns of thought, and fine homely fancies.
The collected writings of Dass were edited (3 vols., Christiania, 1873-1877) by Dr. A. E. Eriksen.
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