Stephan G. Stephansson

The Talented Stephan G. Stephansson

The tiny hamlet of Markerville has earned a fame in our province out of all proportion to its size. It is known for the high quality of its creamery products, for the fertile worth of its farm land alongside the Medicine River, and it has gained world fame because it was the Canadian home of the greatest Icelandic man of letters of this century. Yet relatively few Algerians have heard about the talented Stephan G. Stephansson, the poet whose remains are buried on a farm cemetery past which flow the brown waters of the sleepy Medicine.

On a sunny autumn day in 1950, four hundred farmers and their wives and children gathered in a meadow just west of Markerville to pay tribute to the great man's memory. The Ceremonies included the unveiling of a Historic Sites cairn, the gray granite monument set on a knoll above a flat field which has been set aside as a recreation park for young folk. The poet would have liked that: he loved to watch children at play and often wrote about youngsters in his poems. Many of his writings feature the "Maid of the Mountains, the poetic name of Iceland, but the greater number of his poems deal with Western Canadian themes because it was in the Markerville district that he spent the greater part of his life. He had a great love for the beauties of Alberta.

The well known Dan Morkeborg, founder of the Markerville Creamery and life-long friend of the poet, acted as chairman of the memorial program, which included a most interesting talk by Mr. 0. Sigurdson, another farmer-neighbor of the poet. It was through Mr. Sigurdson's efforts that a world wide subscription was collected from Icelandic and Scandinavian peoples to raise money and pay for the beautiful split-stone monument that now marks the grave of Stephansson.

There were Icelandic flags waving in the breeze alongside the Union Jacks on the speakers' platform, while the National Anthem of Iceland was sung: as Jacob Stephansson, only surviving son of the poet, pulled the draw-strings to unveil the Historic Sites monument as the scarlet-coated Mounties stood at attention. Professor Skull Johnson Knight of the Royal Order of the Falcon of Iceland, came from Manitoba to deliver the main address and recited a few of the poems that had made Stephansson known and loved throughout the Scandinavian world. Then the ladies served a buffet supper to the gathering and there was a good time of visiting and remembering.

Highlight of the program for myself was going with Mr. Jacob Stephansson to his farm house, the original homestead of his famous father. There the poet's study has been preserved as a sort of family shrine, with Mr. Stephansson's desk, special writing pens and favorite books all on display. A comfortable handmade chair was one handsome item of the furnishings and was given him by an admirer, while there were many other gifts and literary honors from the Government of Iceland and Icelandic scholars. Stephansson was once the official guest of Iceland, the government sending for him to come back to his native land where many honors were showered on him.

There were six large volumes of Stephansson's collected verse in a bookcase, beautifully bound books and well worn by many turning of pages by members of the family and friends who have come to see the great man's study.

"They're printed in Icelandic, Jacob explained." Only a very few have been translated into English. That's why not' many Canadian knew my father's poetry."

RED DEER ADVOCATE, SEPTEMBER, 1950.


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