Where is the friend I seek at break of day?
When night falls, I still have not found Him.
My burning heart shows me His traces,
I see His traces wherever flowers bloom.
His love is mingled with every air,
His voice calls in the summer wind.
These lines are a translation from Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film Wild Strawberries (Smultronstället). The words are rooted in “Var är den vän som överallt jag söker,” a Swedish hymn written by Johan Olof Wallin and published in an 1819 hymnal.
Bergman’s film tells the story of Isak Borg, an aging physician and professor who is traveling to receive an honorary degree. On his journey, he considers life and meaning, and has several adventures along the way.
The lines I quote come from a scene in which two young men, Viktor and Anders—an aspiring doctor and parson—bicker about each other’s views on religion. Isak breaks up the argument by beginning to recite this hymn, and as his memory fails him, his companions offer lines. I like the way a cheap and sniping argument is resolved in verses that I think retain a strong sense of mystery and beauty.
Alissa Goudswaard lives in Lafayette, Indiana, where she is completing her MA in rhetoric and composition, baking all the cupcakes, and attempting to teach herself guitar. Find this Calvin-grad-turned-stark-raving-Episcopalian online at episcotheque.wordpress.com/ and on Twitter as @episcotheque.