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The Icelandic national anthem, "Ó, Guð vors lands", was originally written for the 1874 marked the millennary anniversary of the settlement of the first Norseman in Iceland, Ingólfur Arnarson. The original title of the song was, translated "A Hymn in Commemoration of Iceland's Thousand Years". The lyrics were inspired by Psalm 90, which was the chosen text for the commemoration services.

The first four lines are:

Our country's God! Our country's God!
We worship Thy name in its wonder sublime.
The suns of the heavens are set in Thy crown
By Thy legions, the ages of time!

(taken from the English translation by Jakobina Johnson)

The poem was written by the Reverend Matthías Jochumsson (1835-1920), who was on a journey at the time, and wrote the first verse in Edinburgh and the two following, that he didn't think too highly of himself, in London. The very common practice today of singing only the first verse would, then, probably have been to his liking.

Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson (1847-1926) composed the music. Sveinbjörnsson had recently settled down as a music master and pianist in Edinburgh when his old school friend Jochumsson came to stay with him the fall of 1873. Jochumsson showed the lyrics of the first verse to his friend, but the composer felt unable to make the music for them. Having been pressured repeatedly during the winter, he finally presented the tune, a short time before the millennary celebration.

Iceland at the time, still under the Danish crown, had no national anthem, but used the song "Eldgamla Ísafold" by Bjarni Thorarensen (1786-1841) when singing the praise of their country. However, the poet's taunting mentions of Denmark and the fact that the tune used was that of the British national anthem, made it an unlikely choice for an Icelandic national anthem.

"Ó, Guð vors lands" was finally established by tradition as the national anthem in the period between Home Rule and Independence (1904-1918). The anthem was played at the ceremony of official proclamation of Iceland's sovereignty. (From 1918 the country remained in personnel union with Denmark until it was proclaimed a republic on June 17, 1944).

Actually, it seems that the tune Sveinbjörnsson had so much pressure on him to deliver, is rather hard to sing, and according to the website of the Icelandic government offices, people therefore often turn to other patriotic songs with tunes more friendly of the voice chords of the average patriot. The one and only national anthem remains, however,

Ó, Guð vors lands

Ó, guð vors lands! Ó, lands vors guð!
Vér lofum þitt heilaga, heilaga nafn!
Úr sólkerfum himnanna hnýta þér krans
þínir herskarar, tímanna safn.
Fyrir þér er einn dagur sem þúsund ár
og þúsund ár dagur, ei meir:
eitt eilífðar smáblóm með titrandi tár,
sem tilbiður guð sinn og deyr.
%Íslands þúsund ár,%
eitt eilífðar smáblóm með titrandi tár,
sem tilbiður guð sinn og deyr.

Ó, guð, ó, guð! Vér föllum fram
og fórnum þér brennandi, brennandi sál,
guð faðir, vor drottinn frá kyni til kyns,
og vér kvökum vort helgasta mál.
Vér kvökum og þökkum í þúsund ár,
því þú ert vort einasta skjól.
Vér kvökum og þökkum með titrandi tár,
því þú tilbjóst vort forlagahjól.
%Íslands þúsund ár%
voru morgunsins húmköldu, hrynjandi tár,
sem hitna við skínandi sól.

Ó, guð vors lands! Ó, lands vors guð!
Vér lifum sem blaktandi, blaktandi strá.,
Vér deyjum, ef þú ert ei ljós það og líf,
sem að lyftir oss duftinu frá.
Ó, vert þú hvern morgun vort ljúfasta líf,
vor leiðtogi í daganna þraut
og á kvöldin vor himneska hvíld og vor hlíf
og vor hertogi á þjóðlífsins braut.
%Íslands þúsund ár% verði gróandi þjóðlíf með þverrandi tár,
sem þroskast á guðsríkis braut.


Main sources:
http://www.mfa.is/embassy/mfa.nsf/form/content.html?openForm&wt=4c01454e47004b0130322e30332e30352e3034
http://www.stjr.is/interpro/for/for.nsf/pages/upplysingar-thjodsongur-3/

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