Why is it that the curtains are always closed in the debating chamber of Iceland’s Althingi parliament? This was one of the questions asked during debating yesterday; and the question was followed with a poem.
It was one of the longest serving parliamentarians, Arni Johnsen, who directly asked the president of Althingi why it is that the curtains are always kept closed.
“It makes a difference for people to feel good in this chamber; there is already enough heavy air,” he said, before going on to answer his own question.
“I know full well that the explanation is that the lens cannot stand the reflection [presumably the lens on the single static television camera]. But then someone should just change the lens.”
The MP then proceeded to recite a self written poem about how healthy and invigorating the sunshine is for body and soul and how depressing it is in the darkness in Althingi.
The president of Althingi simply rang her bell to indicate that Arni’s time at the podium was at an end. She did not answer the question, nor indicate whether or not the curtains might be opened in the future.
To translate poetry is a minefield: it is difficult, often loses the essence of a poem and sometimes incurs the wrath of the poet. That is why Arni’s clever poem was not translated, but you can read it in Icelandic below:
Að horfa í birtuna er heillandi og ljúft
og hluti af lífsins sól.
Það er hvíld fyrir sálina og sefar margt hrjúft
er sækir í mannanna ból.
Við lifum hér fyrir luktum tjöldum
í lotlegum gömlum tón.
Það er betra í birtunni að deila völdum
en berjast í rökkri við ljón.
Virðingar forseti, taktu nú tjöldin frá
svo tærleikinn flæði skjótt.
Það er undarleg gjörð og heldur grá
að gera daginn að nótt.
Hver gluggi er gjöf með birtu í bæ
gjöf til að njóta hvers dags.
Birtan er sólblik úr himnanna sæ
og styrkir til betri hags.