Vol. 6: Translating Decadence

Black Feathers and Poison Wine Decadent Aesthetics in Davíð Stefánsson’s Poetry

Published 2024-04-18


  • Davíð Stefánsson,
  • Icelandic Literature,
  • Nordic Decadence,
  • Poetry,
  • Translation


Davíð Stefánsson (1895-1964) is a poet whose work marks a turning point in early twentieth-century Icelandic literature. This essay offers five new English translations from his first collection Black Feathers (Svartar Fjaðrir,1919) and introduces a new decadent perspective. Decadence is widely regarded as flourishing in emergent modern societies, but, as this essay shows, its influence extended beyond western Europe. Written in a remote place, Stefánsson’s decadence speaks to an aesthetic of emptiness and atemporality. These poems broaden our conception of decadence and evidence a rich cultural hybridity, showing the influence of various traditions including symbolism, the Gothic, folk-songs, and decadence.


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