Jeanette Lee Atkinson on Karl Ragnar Gierow (1980)
”A sceptic´s way”
Karl Ragnar Knut Gierow was born in the southwestern port city of Hälsingborg on 2 April 1904. His poetry first appeared in a school publication when he was seventeen. At the University of Lund Gierow belonged to the circle around the student paper Lundagård, in which he published numerous poems. He attracted critical attention first with Solen lyser (The Sun Is Shining; 1925), a collection of pallid but graceful and melodious verse. In general these poems reveal more youthful self-consciousness and posing than deep thought or experience, but they do show a considerable formal talent. Some progress is made in the 1928 volume Den gyllene ungdomen (The Golden Youth). The majority of the poems are still vague and impressionistic, but in the last section of the book, ”Vandrare på vägen” (Wanderer[s] on the Journey), something of the mature Gierow is visible. The image of the wanderer, unsure of the goal but committed to the journey, became one of Gierow’s most pregnant metaphors for the enigma of human existence.
The somber tone of Den gyllene ungdomen, a radical shift from the carefree optimism of Gierow’s first volume, reflects the scepticism and relativism that pervaded post-World War I Europe. Gierow, whose major subject was philosophy, was deeply affected by the speculation over the validity of existing notions of ethics and metaphysics which flourished especially during his university years. He found a counterinfluence to attacks on the very notion of values in Nicolai Hartmann’s theories of philosophical ethics.¹ To a large extent Gierow’s oeuvre can be understood as an ongoing attempt to gain insight into the nature of morality. He never quite got over the sense of ideational rootlessness and consequent uncertainty of purpose articulated in Den gyllene ungdomen. The wisdom that ”our life has a finish, but no goal,” which concludes the title poem of the volume, is the only wisdom that poet Gierow ever feels safe in expressing.