Með silfurbjarta nál / With bright silver needle

from Flúr by FUNI

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Text: Rev. Stefán Ólafsson (1619 - 88). Tune: Bára Grímsdóttir.

These verses are taken from a much longer poem called Nýársgjöf Guðríðar litlu Gísladóttur (‘New Years gift for little Guðríður Gísladóttir’). The poem reveals a lot about attitudes to the roles that young women fulfilled in 17thcentury Iceland. In 2007, the National Museum of Iceland mounted an exhibition of traditional textile arts titled ‘Með silfurbjarta nál’. Bára was commissioned to write a tune for these verses and we performed it at the exhibition opening.


English translation

I am not giving you a button
decorated with a golden leaf,
nor a festive
decorated headband
for a new year‘s gift.
Now I am sending you,
high born bride
but still a child,

small poems, dear girl,
I shall offer to you,
while others use
more elaborate forms.
I ask you, Guðríður
to remember
the ljúflingslag.

Avoid chattering
virgin pure in heart.
One can shame oneself
with few words.
Hear many things
but say little.
Two are the tools for hearing
but the tongue is alone.

Even though you feel relaxed
train yourself with hard work.
A helpful hand
is pleasing to the Lord.
If you do something useful
when you are young,
you will rest easy
in old age.

I pray you learn
best embroidery
such as a woman
ought to know.
Sit firmly established
with a bright silver needle,
at your finger tips
and sew all kinds of stitches.

Cut out clothes,
hem snow-white linen,
curl collar fabric,
mould hat form.
Make saddle accessories,
cushion, saddle cloth,
ribbon and tapes
to weave twill check work.

Decorate long light
coloured curtains
with weird and wonderful
changing colours.
Cross stitch and florentine (stitch)
sew into tight woven linen,
eye stitch and couching
also darned net and straight darning.

Cut out, wrap all
with Irish lace embroidery,
drawn thread work and most tracery
to make the border.
All wool work
and knitting art.
dye soft white fleece
in many ways.

Be of sound mind,
and inner strength
with increasing age
in the new year.
God sends you
a flock of his angels,
that, as always
watch over you.


from Flúr, track released April 2, 2013
Vocal, Bára Grímsdóttir
Guitar, Chris Foster


all rights reserved



FUNI Reykjavik, Iceland

FUNI, an old Icelandic word meaning flame or fire, are Bára Grímsdóttir & Chris Foster. Since 2001, they have been breathing new life into great songs that have been hidden away in old recordings, old books and manuscripts for too long. They also add new songs to the tradition. Bára and Chris tour widely in Europe, as well as Iceland and Britain. They have also played in China and the USA. ... more

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