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The Heritage Trails are presented courtesy of CKUA Radio Network and Cheryl Croucher

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Stephansson House, Part Four

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Stephan Gudmundsson Stephansson is sometimes called the Shakespeare of Iceland.

Yet the poetry for which this man is revered was written during the four decades that he homesteaded at Markerville, in Alberta.

As historian Lisa Mort-Putland explains, his early work often focused on nature and the landscapes of Alberta.

His poetry is written in verse. He wrote eight volumes of poetry in his lifetime. And like I said, he was an insomniac - he usually wrote at night. And in Icelandic, the poems are said to be very, very beautiful. They have a great metre and rhythm to them, and they do lose a lot in translation.

But I think that the poetry, even in English, is very, very beautiful. And people have a great sense of the spirit in the writing:

From its source in the rugged Rockies

The Red Deer River flows,

'Twixt hollows, hills and valleys

Oe'r Alberta's eastern slopes.

Stephansson was both vocal and articulate, and not afraid to speak up on many topics.

As he became more famous, he was also called away to Iceland and to Winnipeg and to other settlements to talk and to read his poetry and his thoughts. Because he was quite a wise man, while uneducated in the traditional way, he had great feelings about Iceland and about the Church, about settlement, and about Canada as a nation. So he was quite a well-known speaker, and he would leave the farm, sometimes for weeks at a time, leaving his poor wife Helga to run the business of farming, which must have been quite the struggle for her.

But Helga was not forgotten by the Icelandic people who loved her husband's poetry.

Stephansson was invited to Iceland for a poetry reading, where he was supposed to stay just a few short weeks, and ended up staying the majority of the summer. And the Icelandic people recognized his fame and his talent much earlier on than the Canadians, and in honour of him staying in Iceland so long, they sent a beautiful Icelandic costume to Helga, his wife, which was actually made with real gold thread and buttons and assorted jewelry, which was more than Helga had ever seen before, and was certainly not something that she would wear around the farmstead.

The farmer-poet Stephan G. Stephansson died in his farmhouse at Markerville in August of 1927.

On the Heritage Trail,

I'm Cheryl Croucher.

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