Hannes Hafstein was born on December 4th 1861 in Hörgárdalur in the north of Iceland. He studied law at the University of Copenhagen, after having graduated from the school Lærði skólinn in Reykjavík (now M.R. in Lækjargata close to here), finishing his law degree in 1886.
Hannes Hafstein started writing poetry at a young age, and most of his best known poems are from his student years. He took a seat in the Icelandic Parliament in 1900 and led the Home-Rule Party when the Danish government granted the country home rule in 1904. That same year Hafstein became the first Minister for Iceland that, and he served as such until 1909, and again from 1912-14. Iceland was under the Danish Crown until 1944, it became a sovereign state in 1918, but didn‘t gain full independence until 1944.
As mentioned above, he started writing poetry at a young age. His first poems were published when he was 18, and his first collection of poetry appeared in 1893. After Hannes became a busy official and politician, and later CEO of the bank Íslandsbanki, he for the most part stopped writing poetry. His collected poems were published in 1916. Hannes was a spokesman for realism, but in spite of that his poetry is quite romantic in style, filled with strong emotion and a lust for life.
Hannes Hafsteinn was married to Ragnheiður Stefánsdóttir (1871-1913) and they had ten children. Hannes moved into the house at Grundarstígur 10 a few years after the loss of his wife, and lived there with his children, his mother and mother-in-law until he passed away on December 13, 1922. A statue of Hannes Hafstein can be seen in front of the Prime Minister's Office Lækjargata.
I love you, storm, as you roar on the field
And rustling gladness from deep groves yield
And kink and crumble each brittle gray limb
And brace up the birches as you skim.
You scour the drifts from hollow and rise
And send clouds scudding from sun-warmed skies;
You blow spark to flame and flame to full blaze
And fling gold spangles on coves and bays.
You bellow the sails and jostle the freight;
You shine and freshen, early and late,
And drive out the listless, muggy, and stale
And muster all spirits brisk and hale.
And as you sweep on in your victory
I feel endurance abound in me.
I love you, force that makes the waves tower;
I love you, sheer fog-clearing power!
I love you, I love you, eternal strife,
And offer my song, roiling with life.
Swiftly, you sky-faring freedom, storm on!
My spirit flies with you, glad and strong.
Translated by Sarah Brownsberger (unpublished).
More infromation at hannesarholt.is