Jeanette Lee Atkinson on Karl Ragnar Gierow (1980) page 8
A sceptic´s way
”Väktarsånger” was conceived as a personal vision of world events, but Heimdal-Gierow’s sub specie aeternitatis perspective counteracts the actuality of the subject. Nazism is never named specifically. Instead, Gierow depicts a kind of collective masochism. Humanity tortures and deforms itself. Such abstraction was by no means unique to Gierow. Of his contemporaries in Sweden only Gullberg and Lagerkvist referred explicitly to Nazism in poetic works.7 Abstraction is found in the works of the German exiled writers and is the most salient feature of the literature of the so-called ”inner emigration” in Nazi Germany. The ambivalence of Sweden’s role in the war combined with Gierow’s tendency toward speculation may explain the abstraction in his wartime verse.
The poems in the section ”Nordisk vinter” (Nordic Winter) are overtly political, but even they are ambivalent. On the one hand Gierow portrays Scandinavia’s neutrality as self-satisfied passivity that will not preclude its demise. In ”Nordic Winter” he writes:
We huddle inside Europe’s frozen nook,
five aging folks, in winter’s dusky night,
with wind and darkness waiting at the door,
we fluff our feathers out. and pass the time.
We sit, each for himself, in firelight glow.
We hear the fingers fumbling at the catch,
and we shall one by one go toward the door,
with very little hope of coming back. (1936)
On the other hand, in texts such as ”Ett land” (A Land), ”Övervintring” (Wintering), ”De stora orden” (The Great Words) and ”Folksaga” (Folk Saga) Gierow appeals unabashedly to a simple patriotism. Ultimately, however, the ”mobilization” which he supports is an inner preparedness rather than military defense: ”You’ll find that border on map nor chart / That border runs right through my heart,” he writes in ”Försvarsförbund” (Defense Pact).