Peder Olsen Feidie’s lament from 1835

Peder Olsen Feidie from Leikanger in Sogn lived at Jørgen’s Hospital for 17 years, from his admission on 9 July 1832 until his death on 27 April 1849. This lament from 1835 was the first of four that he wrote and had printed by the printer Chr. Dahl in Bergen while living at the hospital. The song is a rare eyewitness account of conditions at the hospital during the 1830s, from the perspective of one of the residents.

Portrait of Nils Olofsson, 15 years old. © Image courtesy of the Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library, Karolinska Institutet.
There are no images of Peder Olsen Fedie. This is Nils Olofsson. He was 15 years old in 1816 and also came from Sogn.
Photo: © Image courtesy of the Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library, Karolinska Institutet.

About the song
The song tells Feidie’s life story, from a carefree childhood to his unhappy years at St. Jørgen’s Hospital. ‘I think of my youth, / when the world felt so gentle, / when life felt so merry,’ he writes in the third verse. He was about 15 years old when he was diagnosed, which he describes as follows: ‘Then sorrow entered my soul, / Through my heart, marrow and bones (…)’

The song’s 24 verses tell of how his mother cried for him, how others condemn the sick, and how they had to stay in the hospital without chance of recovery. He describes the suffering of the sick. He himself is losing his sight and wants God to make an ointment for his eyes. Feidie describes how he would walk around the hospital ‘when everything was quiet,’ and hear ‘sounds of sorrow’ from the residents wailing their troubles and woes. He also describes strangers bringing gifts, and he thanks the authorities for caring for those who had to leave their loved ones.

First and foremost, Feidie’s lament is a very religious text that testifies to the strong belief in God held by himself and the other residents at the hospital. They all had a common hope of salvation on the day they would meet their God and be freed from their troubles.

Below you can read selected verses from Peder Olsen Feidie’s song.

A Lament

I dream of when I was a lad,
Of all the happy times I had.
A joy it was to live.
But fortune quickly changed her face
And sorrow then did joy replace.
For me and many more
This fate has lain in store.

I was not yet fifteen years old.
My mind was full of joys untold.
Then were they all cut short.
Pain overcame me and did start
Quickly to pierce marrow bone and heart.
Oh, it was hard to bear
This burden lain on me.

Then for my father God did send,
His misery was now at an end.
His days on earth were done.
Four children stood around his grave
And watched with silent faces brave,
As his tired bones were laid
In their earthly resting place.

From one another we must part,
For it was clear in even mother’s heart
That I was burdensome.
Long hours of vigil has she kept,
And often times till weak has wept
O’er me and other trials
As you know best, O Lord.

For other illnesses found here
Wise doctors on the scene appear,
Who understand disease.
To hospital the sick are brought
And for their plight a cure is sought
Thus their ills are relieved,
And all their wounds are dressed.

We, however, can no doctors get.
Here must we stay and wait and fret,
Until out time is up.
Peter from prison did escape
Because on God’s grace he did wait.
O God, break now the chains
Which bind our limbs with pains.

Sometimes I softly walk about
The silent house at evening time:
Sorrowful sounds I hear.
One bitterly cries ‘woe is me’,
Another sighs and groans
That he must creep away to bed.
Tell me O God – how long?

One is covered in sore on sore,
Another is dumb – speaks no more,
A third hobbles on crutches,
A fourth no daylight now can see.
A fifth all his fingers has lost.
Surely, now it is clear
What we must suffer here.

In St Jørgens Hospital here,
Sufferings over a hundred bear
And wait to be set free.
O Holy Ghost our Helmsman true,
Steer us all our sufferings through
And to heaven lead us,
For there we are set free. 

All Rights Reserved