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Julius B. Baumann: A Biographical Sketch
By John Heitmann  (Volume XV: Page 140)

At the age of twenty Julius B. Baumann came from Norway to the United States.

He had been a fisherman and laborer in his native Norway, and manual labor became his portion upon arriving in this country.

Though he found neither time nor opportunity to attend any of our schools or colleges, he acquired a wide degree of learning, became an outspoken American patriot, developed into a writer of marked ability, and came to exert an indirect influence on American literature. He became, moreover, an intellectual guide and moral and spiritual leader among his people.

He reached his compatriots by the songs he wrote, by his poems that flowed into the hands of people in America who could read the Norwegian language. His poems were frequently memorized, sung to well-known melodies, and became the mental possessions of the people.

His gift as a poet was manifested from early boyhood, and was cultivated to the end of life. Even during withering illness his mind expanded in song, and some of his tenderest poems were written during his last days. When too weak to write he partially dictated some of his songs, among them the following:

Thanks for the Flowers

The fragrance is sweet from the chalice of roses,
The ferns and the baby-breath, laughingly gay.
They are filling my mind with a balm that discloses
Such joy in my soul that I sing, and I pray.

I pray for the sympathy that is relieving
The sorrow and anguish of those in distress.
I sing with deep gladness, though scarcely perceiving
How I can my gratitude fully express.

And soon on the tenderest pillow I slumber,
With summer, and flowers, and sun in my dream.
The ship of my dreams from the shores without number
Sails into its port on a gold-billowed stream.

With the exception of his poems "The Pioneer," and "Haalogaland," Baumann did not produce any descriptive, narrative, or dramatic writings.

He sang of love, of faith, of contentment and beauty. He dwelt on earth among the common people. He knew their problems, voiced their hopes, their longings, and their aspirations, making their daily life beautiful, enabling them to see the rays of sunshine behind clouds of toil and hardship. His poems were written in Norwegian. On the following pages are a few indifferent translations.

The World is Good

Wonder of wonders! Yes, that is our world.
And I always considered it so.
Yet folk may be odd, their sense somewhat twirled,
And wish somewhere else they might go.
It is simply because they have not understood
What they often call evil, in fact may be good.

The thunder may roll with an earthquaking roar
As though elements were in revolt;
The heavens are riven and split to the core
By lightning's shattering bolt.
Then sourpuss mutters, with face grimly set:
"Now see what a hell of a weather we get!"

Then God moves a cloud from his heavenly door,
And rolls out his sun on its way;
The fields bloom with gladness as ever before,
And dress in their festive array.
Then sourpuss growls as he sinks in his seat,
"We are burning to death in this terrible heat."

Then summer, with arms full, is waving in view
All the blessings that love did create,
When autumn comes smiling, with rich golden hue,
And with bountiful reaping early and late.
Then sourpuss grumbles, "Now this is a fight,
With winds from the North we'll have killfrost tonight."

In a somewhat different mood he wrote the following:

Let Us Dance

Come, let us dance in the light from above.
Life is delightful for all when they love.
Can we not dance, we can play and sing
Happy through fields in the air of spring.

Birds joyfully sing in the tops of trees,
Chirping in rhythmic dance in the breeze.
Though having no wings, we can reach the height
Where true love dwells with its pure delight.

The dance of the summer may tiresome seem;
Then under the gleam of the stars we may dream,
Dream of the charming years youth did bring,
Dream about flowers, and love, and spring.

When Baumann came to the United States the pioneer era was approaching an end, and the tide of immigration was ebbing. The adventure of acquiring land, the toil of building homes and cultivating new fields, the effort of founding schools and building churches well-nigh monopolized the energies of our people. A great deal of bitterness had been engendered by ecclesiastical strife. Political and religious disputes had occupied the minds of men. There was a need for a spiritual awakening, and perhaps unconsciously Baumann's voice strongly tended towards that aim. His melodious poems extolled the reverence of God, and the love of wife and children, the enjoyment of friendship, the gratitude for health, and the pride in homely, everyday work. He also sang of memories from childhood in the land of the midnight sun, and of contentment and pride in our work and achievements in America. One dominating note in a number of his poems was appreciation of the freedom and opportunities offered to his people by the United States. Thus he could sing:

Our land, this our star-spangled vast estate,
To thee we our song and our life dedicate.
Here hope shines on life; here devotion we give;
Here joyful and active in freedom we live.

There was no conscious endeavor on his part to be a new voice in the wilderness, or to be original. Like Tennyson he "sang because he must." He simply poured himself out in song, followed the impulses of his heart, and gave words to the fancies of his imagination.


Could I but heal one festering sore
Torn in some heart by anguish and sorrow,
Songs I would sing, and with joy restore
A happy today and tomorrow.

Could I but plant in the gloom-filled mind
Glimpses of faith, like a star agleaming,
Poems of joy I would write till I find
Faith that from fear is redeeming.

Could I but conjure a single smile
Into the faces where tears are flowing,
Poems of cheer I would sing, to beguile
Anguish, till hope may be growing.

Could I but light in the hate-filled heart
Sparks of the love that redeems and releases,
Songs I would sing with the poet's art,
Sing love songs till hatred ceases.

Cheerfully mocking himself and his youthful ambition he wrote:


At early dawn I seemed to see
That when I had to manhood grown
A palace would belong to me,
And I as king sit on a throne.

The sun rose high. In youthful dreams
I saw my celebrated name
Flow round the world like sunlit streams,
With honor, and with noblest fame.

At noon I saw with slight dismay
My vanished dreams devoid of worth.
But then, 'mid manhood's work and play
I found the greatest wealth on earth.

And now, when slanting sun-rays fall
Into my humble life's domain,
I would not trade my lot with all
The kings and realms the world contain.

Nor with the greatest fame or place,
Or wealth or power in any style
Would I exchange my wife's embrace,
Or lovely children's happy smile.

No thought of bitterness, no note of disappointment, nor any hint of controversy can be found in his poems. They are surcharged with an urge to kindness and forbearance. In the scramble for material gain his gentle voice was heard offering a prayer for greater achievement:

I ask no riches with red lurid light.
They are but tinseled toys with transient splendor,
But give me, Lord, the will and wondrous might
To be my brother's guide and staunch defender.
When he is weak, and falters on the road,
Then let me help him, Lord, to bear his load.

During the religious controversies among the contending Norwegian church organizations, Baumann was frequently urged to take sides. In answer to one such request he wrote:

Among ourselves, let there be peace,
And song of joy, and love, and cheer,
So while our welfare we increase,
We build a greater Norway here.

To another religious leader, he wrote:

Oh no, my friend, let it be understood,
I like to see Christians uniting.
We are all sinners, but God is good,
And cannot approve of our fighting.
So let us humbly our pride subdue
And try to be godlike, and just, and true.

At his own happy Christmas celebrations, he would sometimes compare his lot with that of the poor and unfortunate; the following expresses one of these moods:

Christmas Eve

You, who are sitting cozy and warm
In festive homes, glad and contented,
Think of your brother, in city or farm
In some naked, cold room he has rented.

You, who are dwelling in wealth of light,
With Christmas trees brightly shining,
Think of your brother sitting tonight
With darkness in heart, and repining.

You, who tonight are in festive mood,
With food and with drink satiated,
Think of your brother who has no food,
And from neighbors and friends separated.

You have tonight no true Christmas joy
If neglecting your suffering brother.
For happiness you create, and enjoy
When sharing your gifts with another.

Let therefore hand and heart freely go
To the needy, whatever the reason.
Only through love can your happiness grow,
And give you a glad Christmas season.

The poems of Baumann were scattered broadcast. He neither expected nor received any material remuneration. When a poem of his appeared in a Norwegian-language newspaper, it was copied by every other Norwegian periodical and newspaper in this country. In such manner his songs came into nearly every home where that language was known. The versification of his poems was fluently simple, the sentences short, and most of them could be sung to well-known melodies.

Throughout the United States, wherever people from Norway had made their homes, the name of Julius B. Baumann was known, his songs were appreciated, and love and respect returned to him like a wave. From people in all stations of life he received letters of congratulation, not only from the United States, but from Canada, South America, Australia, South Africa, and several countries of Europe. It is safe to say that, until the appearance of Rølvaag's Giants in the Earth, Baumann was the most widely known, the most beloved and appreciated Norwegian writer in America.


Not much is known of Baumann's forbears. Johannes Baumann, his father, was an energetic and able fisherman; he owned boats and equipment and a controlling interest in a sailing vessel. In the latter venture he was a partner of Per Kristian Glein, a well-known skipper and merchant on the island of Dønna.

Dønna is on the northern coast of Norway, close to the polar circle. From it have come several persons renowned in Norway, among them the poet Jon Klaboe, the brilliant historian Dr. Anton Chr. Bang, Professor Axel Coldevin, Rector Egil Aakvik. From Dønna also came men who have gained prominence in America, among them Ole E. Rølvaag, the author, and Julius J. Olson, who for many years was a justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

On this island the elder Baumann met his wife, Barbro Susanna, the mother of Julius. As the foster daughter of Per Kristian Glein, she had been reared in a home of culture and refinement. She was undoubtedly a remarkable woman, who was to endow her son with imagination, kindness, devotion, and a keen intelligence. The poet's love for his mother bordered on adoration. He wrote numerous poems to her, of which more than fifty are extant. All of them defy translation. The following is an example:


Who are you, the angel
Who watches and guides
My steps, and my song?
When my respite is short
And the pathway is long?
When darkness is falling
And danger comes near
From the threatening forces
Of anguish and fear?
    It is mother,
    My mother.

Johannes Baumann was considered a successful and prosperous man. His sailing vessel represented a considerable fortune, and, moreover, he carried on board his vessel large amounts of money for the purchase of fish, food, and equipment. There were few banks in northern Norway at that time, and it was necessary to have cash on hand for purchases.

The spring fishing at Finmark in 1870 proved a failure. Like other buyers, Johannes Baumann sailed to the Murman coast of Russia, where the fishing was reported good. While he was stationed in the harbor of Shebuska, a gale of such violence arose that thirty vessels were wrecked, and he barely escaped with his life. Returning to Norway, he landed at the city of Vadsø. Three of his brothers were stationed at Kiby, about three American miles from the city. On their advice he decided to remain there until he could recover his financial losses, and accordingly he bought the only available house, a small, one-room cottage.

In this cottage the poet was born on Christmas Day, 1870. He has stated whimsically that it could not be said that he saw the light of day when he came into the world, even though it happened at noon on Christmas Day, for it was so dark that his father officiated by carrying lighted tallow candles.

Like most people of the North, he became a worshipper of light. The changing coloring of sea and mountains from hour to hour, and the flashing brilliance of northern lights in all the colors of the rainbow create a display of splendor that is never forgotten. The many varieties of birds, the mystery of their mating, the selection of places for their nests and their skill in building them; the manifold coloring, size, and shape of their eggs, the wide differences in their songs of courtship and of warning were absorbing matters.

Julius was barely ten years old when his father died. He and his brother, Johan, had to work on land and sea to support the family.

Busy from morning until night, doing a man's work though yet a child, he nevertheless found some time for study. Though the youngest of his class, he was given the place of honor on confirmation day, and the minister declared he had an exceptional knowledge of the fundamentals of religion. He was granted a two-year scholarship at the amts school, an institution of learning corresponding approximately to our high school. At the close of each semester he returned to Kiby and resumed his work as fisherman. Though his earnings were sufficient for necessities, he could not accumulate much money.

The first poem of Baumann's of which a record remains was written on Midsummer Day in 1888. He was seventeen years old, and having decided to leave Kiby and the Far North, he had returned from Vadsø, principally to say good-by to his mother. The custom, once common in many European countries, of honoring the birthday of St. John and at the same time celebrating the summer solstice by building fires on high hills was at that time prevalent throughout Norway, especially in the country districts.

Baumann's one heirloom from his father was a small boat, old and worn and almost useless. He decided to sacrifice it at a St. John's fire, but he had some compunction about doing so. Thoughts of his father's struggles, of the dangers encountered in storm and darkness at sea in this little boat, and of his mother's anxiety while his father was away crowded his mind. This boat had become an object of love and admiration for its sturdy qualities.

Julius expressed these thoughts in a poem, simple, tender, and natural. It painted a touching picture of his father's struggle and his mother's wakeful anxiety. He personified the boat and endowed it with almost heroic qualities, while at the same time he endeavored to justify sacrificing it. Such a poem cannot be successfully translated; its charm would be lost.

Julius' mother encouraged his going away, knowing that a fisherman's life had no appeal for her son. As she wanted him to see the island of Dønna, where her youth was spent --- in her opinion the most beautiful place on earth --- he went there. His mother's foster parents had died and new people occupied their home. He found none of his mother's childhood friends, and he quickly left the island, disappointed. On a neighboring island he found work as a fisherman, first with nets and then with a crew of eighteen, outfitted with a sailing vessel and several boats, using seines or sweep nets for the herring catch. He had occasion to sail during the summer season along a large part of the coast of northern Norway, and he came to know the country and the people. During the following winter he was a member of a crew of a vessel fishing cod on the banks of the Lofoten Islands.

In the spring of 1889 Julius Baumann became a private tutor to the children of a wealthy family, and later that year he was appointed assistant postmaster at Osen, some distance north of Trondhjem. Shortly before Christmas, two young men came on a visit from America to their childhood home. They became acquainted with Julius, and offered to pay his transportation to the United States. Apparently he had not thought previously of emigrating from Norway. He liked the two young men, and both of them remained his friends through life. His decision to go to America was actuated by an urgent longing for new scenes and fresh fields of endeavor; and by the latent hope of returning to Norway to enter the University of Oslo.

In his narrative poem "The Pioneer" Baumann's own sentiments are probably reflected in those of the old homesteader and Civil War veteran:

In youth I said good-by to hearth and home.
This new and mighty country seemed alluring.
Besides, I had the craving wish to roam
Away from Norway's fiords and mountain dome.
The dreams of youth are rosy and assuring.

The friends Baumann accompanied to the New World and the people he met upon his arrival were laboring men; most of them worked at sawmills in summer and in logging camps in winter. They were helpful; they took an interest in his welfare, and got him a job in a sawmill. He went directly to Drummond, Wisconsin, arriving in the afternoon of April 22, 1891. At noon the next day he started work piling lumber. In the fall he went to a logging camp, where he had his first sight of a pine forest. His impressions found words in a poem, of which the first stanza reads about as follows:

Give me your hand, child, and humbly we wander
Into the forest's magnificent hall,
List to its voices with reverent wonder,
Our footsteps on thousand years' mosses will fall.

When summer came, Baumann decided to take a look at the prairies and the wheat fields. Near Valley City, North Dakota, he worked on a farm during harvesting and threshing. When this work ended he returned to Mason, Wisconsin. Depression had settled upon the country. Many were unemployed; wages were low. Bitterness born of fear and envy sank like slow poison into men's hearts. The saloons became social centers and political clubs, where for a nickel a man could get a glass of beer and free lunch.

With an aching heart Baumann saw men spending their pennies for drink, while their families were neglected. He succeeded in getting young as well as old to join temperance lodges and other societies. He arranged entertainments, wrote songs, and managed theatrical performances. He established singing societies, debating and public-speaking clubs, and a hand-written newspaper. Of the songs he wrote during that period only a few fragments can be found. His activities at Mason came to an end when the sawmill burned to the ground in the summer of 1894.

A fire refugee, he returned to Drummond. There he found his friend Edvard Skille, who let him share his room. Baumann got a job as inspector and recorder of building timber, at higher wages than he had had before, and he became acquainted with and engaged to the young lady who was to become his wife. She also was a forest fire refugee. In the conflagration that destroyed Hinckley, Minnesota, many lives were lost, and the survivors scattered for temporary shelter. Among those who came to Drummond were the Potterud family. Their daughter, Marie, was approaching eighteen, and according to contemporary opinion, was a beautiful girl. Less than three months after her first meeting with Baumann, their engagement was announced.

Edvard Skille, a mathematical genius of wide and largely self-acquired learning, is one of the brilliant men who remain comparatively unknown, unhonored, and unsung. His "Metric Calendar" has been described by eminent scientists as a most remarkable and epoch-making work, which some time in the future may be accepted as the universal measure of chronology. It calls for no irregularity, no variation for unnumbered thousands of years. The serious objection to this calendar is that it is based on a five-day instead of a seven-day week.

Baumann's association with Skille, a modest, mature, and truth-seeking man, had a profound influence on his thinking, a debt that he gratefully acknowledged in at least two poems to his friend, among them a stanza of dedication to his second volume of poems, Fra vidderne. The following is a rather inadequate translation:

Edvard Skille

Because your hope was beacon to my view;
Because your faith so oft my thought illumed;
Because your will like lightning found the true;
Because your warm heart words and acts perfumed;
Because you faithful friendship radiated,
--- I have to you these poems dedicated.

While Julius Baumann occasionally was disposed to build castles in the land of imagination, his fiancée was practical and kept both feet on the ground. His association with her on the side of sentiment, and with Skille on the side of mathematical reasoning tended to develop a practical and well-balanced judgment.

After returning to Drummond he again became active in lodge work, edited the hand-written paper, and arranged numerous festive programs. In this paper and at meetings and entertainments he is reported to have written reams of prose and poetry, most of which is undoubtedly lost. In the fall of the following year the lumber company requested Baumann to take charge of certain operations at Cable, Wisconsin. There he devoted his spare time to the study of geology, botany, and American history. Being dissatisfied with conditions in the little village, and seeking wider horizons, he resigned his position in the spring of 1896 and went to North Dakota. After finishing harvesting and threshing he secured work in a lumber camp near Hibbing, Minnesota.

In February, 1897, he received an offer from the lumber company to go to Drummond as chief lumber scaler, and he at once accepted.

Spring came. He had a good position, with fair wages. And on May 26, 1897, he was married to Marie Potterud at Ashland, Wisconsin, in the presence of Edvard Skille and his future wife.

Baumann remained at Drummond until March, 1899, when the Weyerhaeuser Company offered him a better position at their large sawmill at Lake Nebagamon. That Wisconsin village, situated on the shores of the lake bearing the same name, was then a flourishing place. A variety of large trees cover the surrounding hills and are reflected in the clear water of the lake. The village was new, clean, and attractive. Because of the many advantages for his family, Baumann accepted the offer. He bought a new house and moved into it with his wife and baby daughter.

Again he became active among the young people, established societies and stimulated interest in music, singing, various studies, and public speaking. As leader and organizer it devolved upon him to arrange programs for meetings and celebrations. He himself invariably became the main part of each program. Most of this work had to be done at night. At the mill he was busy ten or more hours every week day. He seemed tireless; he was always cheerful and humorous and the life of every party. His presence was eagerly sought at gatherings of all kinds.

Through Baumann's active work in many organizations, not only temperance societies, but the Nordlands Lag, Sons of Norway lodges, and business associations, he gained experience in presiding, in answering questions, and in making extemporaneous talks, gradually developing into a very effective speaker. He had a strong, pleasing voice, and graceful, appealing manners. He seldom if ever used manuscript. A few minutes of study was for him sufficient preparation. To the end of his active days he could, even without notice, make a splendid talk, keeping the audience tense with interest, and between tears and laughter.

He was rather tall, slender and erect. A shock of dark brown hair waved from a high forehead over a large, well-shaped skull. His face seemed rather small, with a strong chin, a sensitive mouth, large blue eyes, and altogether gracefully formed features.

In 1907 the sawmill at Lake Nebagamon was dismantled, and Baumann then secured a position in the same company's store at Cloquet, Minnesota, the principal lumbering center of the Northwest. In February, 1910, the county commissioners of Carlton County, Minnesota, by unanimous vote appointed Baumann register of deeds of the county to fill an existing vacancy. The fact that he, a non-taxpaying resident who had been less than three years in the state, was selected to fill one of the most attractive offices in the county speaks volumes about the popularity and esteem in which he was held. He was re-elected to the office each succeeding term, and held the position to the end of his days. After his death his widow was appointed to fill the vacancy.


Baumann, prior to his coming to the United States, had learned a little of American history and had become an admirer of such men as Benjamin Franklin and Abraham Lincoln. He was, of course, familiar with the prevailing opinion about America voiced in Norway, as well as in other countries of western Europe; namely, that the United States was a land devoid of culture. Until recent years that conviction was prevalent in western Europe among everyone from peasant to savant. The few voices to the contrary were drowned in the clamor of vituperation. The conundrum was frequently propounded: Is the United States the least civilized of the civilized countries, or the most civilized of the uncivilized countries? Among Europeans with some pretense to education such an opinion of America was held a truism, and many of them, upon coming here, expected to find savages. Many foreign-language newspapers reflected that opinion.

Baumann read some of these papers and for a short while was tempted to accept their assumptions. After having been in this country about three months, he started reading American books. One of the first volumes he tried to master with the aid of the dictionary was Alexander Johnson's The United States, Its History and Its Constitution. He also read O. A. Buslett's history of the Fifteenth Wisconsin Regiment (Der femtende regiments historie og virksomhed under borgerkrigen) and stories of the war between the states. He gradually became keenly interested in American history. He borrowed books from Norwegian friends, and from officials of the lumber company; he read with avidity, and became an ardent admirer of America. In several poems written in Norwegian, he preached patriotism and expressed a love of this land. He often appealed to pride of race and ancestry as compelling reasons for loving America. The following are indifferent translations of two of such poems:

Norway's Migrating Sons

As Norway's vikings sailed afar to wage
Their fight for fame, and gain, in distant regions,
So we came here to claim our heritage,
That Leif had left for us mid Vinland's legions.
Here we a new, great Norway shall attain,
Here we shall wealth and fame and power gain.

Like Norway's spruce, defiant, strong, and tall,
We must stand forth and bid all wrongs defiance.
We honor forbears best when we, and all,
On honesty shall place complete reliance.
As heritage from fathers strong and bold,
Our word must always be as good as gold.

As Norway's glowing sun and northern light
Gave god-like flames to fathers' eyes and senses,
So let us here, through courage, will, and might,
Be known as Odin's son who far advances.
Let memories, reflecting honor, stand
And urge us to achievements in this land.

Our New Homeland

As vikings Norway's wandering sons
Fared forth on many an expedition.
They sailed afar by stars and sun
Till Vinland rose before their vision.
They landed. In accustomed manner
They firmly planted Norway's banner
Whose colors, after time's long lag,
Were woven in our nation's flag.

And then for thousand years this land,
Of which our people took possession,
Reposed unknown from strand to strand,
Forgotten during world's depression.
Leif's records told to many nations
Of land in West, with clear notations
Of this our land, which Leif had found,
This land with fruit and fertile ground.

We came again, and so at length
Possession took of Vinland's spaces.
With courage, ax, and plow, and strength
We cleared, built homes in different places.
In war and peace, with firm desire
We fought, and built a world empire.
And here, with faith and joy we find
Activities for might and mind.

Here shall our race renewal gain,
In strength and vigor unabated.
The Nordic prowess will remain
As when it Norway's fame created.
Here we shall honor, and forever
Revere our fathers' great endeavor,
Who wrote with blood their noble page
And left us Freedom's heritage.

Should we again be faced with war,
Among ourselves or other nations,
Our sons will gather as before
With valor in the field formations.
Like Colonel Heg, whose fame expanded
When only Norsemen he commanded.
So, for our flag, and for our land
We'll always make a valiant stand.

While working in northern Minnesota in the winter of 1896, he managed to write a short story, which he called "Lap-Jon." He sent it to Reform, a Norwegian-language newspaper published at Eau Claire, Wisconsin, which accepted the story and printed it in the issue of January 4, 1897. Ole Broder Olson, who was then editor of Reform, wrote Baumann at the time, saying, "There can be no doubt that you are especially gifted in that direction, and I want to encourage you to write." Considering that this letter was written to a stranger, a lumberjack working in the northern pineries, one cannot but wonder at the perception of that busy editor.

When Baumann received the offer at Drummond that was mentioned previously, his mind was filled with thoughts of his old friends, his new job, and his fiancée. Reveries formed themselves into songs, and numerous of these children of his fancy vanished before they could be preserved. He would scribble something hastily on a piece of paper, show it to a friend, and forget about it. That such impulsive creations might be of general interest and have a permanent value seems not to have entered his mind. The momentary exhilaration of creation was sufficient. He always gave himself freely and scattered his spiritual children like seeds to the air.

The following poem is one such, happily preserved by a friend, and brought to Baumann's attention when he published his first book of poems:

My Lily

A lovely lily, pure and white,
Stood by a clear and flowing rill
That babbled softly day and night
O'er stones and pebbles with a will.

I called this lovely lily mine,
She was my first sweet childhood's dream.
She was so modest, white, and fine,
And pure as water in the stream.

The gentle summer wind would seek,
As though in playful mood made free,
To steal a kiss upon her cheek,
Which troubled her deep modesty.

Each morn she got a sunshine kiss
Upon her dew-wet mouth,-- and oh,
Her eyes would gleam with raptured bliss,
And on her throat a roseate glow.

I sat so oft in transport deep,
In ecstasy of youthful love,
Meanwhile the lily fell asleep
In peace and light as from above.

The midnight sun stood round and red
And low above horizon's ring.
Bright light into the night it shed,
And strewed its gold on everything.

Then I was in my paradise,
Like splendid palace made to bless.
In song I could all eulogize
And dream of joy and happiness.

Alas, my lily fell asleep,
And withered in the autumn's chill.
My loss was sore, my grief was deep.
But lovely memories linger still.

Julius' elder brother, Johan Baumann, came from Norway to Lake Nebagamon in 1901. He was a man of discernment who had mastered five unrelated languages, and whose artistic sense found expression in painting. He was a lover of poetry, and he urged Julius to allow his gift full development. He spoke about publishing available poems, but realized that it would be difficult to find a publisher. When he returned to Norway, he made Julius promise that henceforth he would keep copies of whatever verses he might write.

About a year later Julius decided that, to please his mother and surprise his brother, he would publish a small collection of his poems at his own expense. This book, Digte, appeared early in 1909, issued by Fremad Publishing Society of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. The volume was received with enthusiasm by the Norwegian press. The author was hailed as the greatest singer and the foremost literary light among his people in the United States. From writers, from farmers, from miners, from prominent men Baumann did not know personally, such as D. G. Ristad, Professor Julius Olson, R. B. Anderson, O. A. Buslett, as well as from his friends, Waldemar Ager and Ole E. Rølvaag, he received letters of praise and congratulation. The demand for his book exceeded his fondest hopes.

His second volume, Fra vidderne, appeared in 1915 under the imprint of Augsburg Publishing House, and won immediate acclaim. It was awarded the prize given annually for the most meritorious literary work in the Norwegian language. The newspapers were liberal in their reviews, and numerous tributes in prose and poetry came from many parts of the world. {1}

His thoughts became engrossed with building a new house. The family needed more room, and the children a playground. Space was also in demand for the many visitors from far and near. Baumann acquired a tract of land in Woodland Park on the outskirts of the village of Carlton. There, in a grove of pine trees, he built a comfortable house. He spent all his spare time clearing the yard and removing the numberless rocks and piling them in heaps that gradually became a fence. There he listened enraptured to the twitter of birds, saw the rosy glow of morning and the gilded clouds of sunset, heard the soughing sounds of the forest, and the symphonies of wind and woods. Memories fused themselves into a bridge between childhood days and the present, and brought a satisfying sense of homecoming. During such reveries his mind expanded in song, and he wrote many poems to his wife and children. Because of their tenderness and delicacy of expression they are extremely difficult to translate. The following stanza may serve as an example:

To My Wife

Whenever a wreath to my brow was presented,
        You occasioned it, you!
Whenever I managed good thoughts to be planted,
        You managed it, you!
Whene'er I made choice to the best for protection,
        You selected it, you!
And when I in life made the noblest selection,
        You helped with it, you!

He had security and contentment. His home life was ideal, his children were bright and precocious, and he had numerous devoted friends. He was the trusted adviser of the farmers, who came from all parts of the county for counsel and guidance, bearing gifts of gratitude. He could therefore sing with happy conviction:

Our World

I listen to birds as they joyfully sing,
And see but a world that has roses to bring.
There may be a man who wailingly sneers,
And dubs our good world a vale of tears.

I greatly enjoy all the flowers that grow,
Not giving a thought to the cold or the snow,
And yet there are folk who complainingly say,
The sky and the clouds appear dismally gray.

I know as a truth that is good and profound,
That a lovelier world can never be found.
Yet some folk are willing the thought to embrace
That the world of beyond is a happier place.

I Can Love

I can love each bud that life is lifting
On bending branches in the vernal days.
And when autumn's color scheme is shifting,
Every leaf I can again embrace.

I can love each flower that is unclosing
When the suns of spring caress the land.
When the latest bloom its fragrance losing,
I can fold it tenderly in my hand.

I can love each plant that's growing
In the fields or gardens men may keep.
When the winter's icy winds are blowing,
I can fondly kiss each plant to sleep.

Baumann's home became the center of literary and intellectual activity among his compatriots, a gathering place for devotees not only of literature, but of other forms of art. He was a gracious host and a charming conversationalist.

He was always busy. His extensive correspondence, conducted in three languages, English, Norwegian, and Finnish, spanned the world. His work at the office was exacting. The night was almost the only time he could devote to correspondence or poetry, and even the nights themselves were taken up by meetings of committees and associations. Several fraternal societies required not only his presence, but his participation in their programs, and he was always in demand as a speaker at American, Finnish, and Norwegian gatherings.

His wife relates that before Christmas one year Baumann received requests from five different publications for poems for their Christmas issues, but he had been so busy that he had not felt inclined to write anything. Late one night he remarked regretfully that he had not fulfilled the requests of his friends, the editors of the publications. Smilingly Mrs. Baumann suggested, "I'll bet you could write a poem this minute." Her husband leaped to his feet, found pencil and paper, and, apparently without effort, in a few minutes he wrote the poem, "Mother's Christmas." He read it to his wife, laid it aside, went to bed, and at once was fast asleep. The following is an attempt at translation:

Mother's Christmas

I know my mother now sits in her home
With Christmas candies for light,
Far in the North, where storm waves foam,
And where midday is dark as the night.

She carefully places behind her ear
Into snow-white locks the bows of her glasses,
While memory's legions like angels appear
In delightfully lingering masses.

She looks at the candle, as though in dream
And notes its lessening shimmer,
While beautiful thoughts on memory's stream
Unceasingly glow and glimmer.

Now lovely smiles on the wrinkles grow,
Like gleams through gathering shadows,
But slowly they fade in the fading glow,
Like sunset on autumn meadows.

A hymn now is sounding -- I seem to hear
The wonderful voice of my mother,
The loving voice that sounds in my ear
Though we are far from each other.

The candle dies, and there is no light,
But a star on the heaven is gleaming.
I know that in love, and in faith tonight
She visits her son in her dreaming.

Nearly all of his poems were written on the inspiration of the moment; this was typical of his personality. Thoughts, witticisms, oratorical outbursts, brilliant aphorisms, and poetry -- everything came welling from him spontaneously like water from a spring.


Baumann was well acquainted with the principal Norwegian-American authors and he was a personal friend of Waldemar Ager and Ole E. Rølvaag. Both of them frequently visited at his home. He admired their literary ability, their vigorous though greatly different styles, their productiveness, and their integrity. He admired, too, their personal charm, their mental vigor, and their rugged individuality. He disagreed, however, with many of their views, and as a result many lively discussions took place. Both Ager and Rølvaag were for a time intensely Norwegian and deemed it essential for the welfare of their people to remain wholly Norwegian, and to retain not only honorable traits of character, but also their old-country customs, their language, and their religion. To become absorbed in American life at the expense of their former national characteristics was to these two men a sign of weakness. The many immigrants who were guilty of that defect, as these authors deemed it to be, were seriously as well as humorously, at times even bitterly excoriated in their writings.

While Baumann was intensely interested in everything pertaining to Norway and to the welfare of his countrymen, he disagreed emphatically with the attitude of his writing friends, and deplored the ridicule heaped on Norwegian farmers, laborers, and people in other walks of life, not only by Ager and Rølvaag, but also by Simon Johnson and Johannes Wist. He frequently argued the point with some of them. It was perhaps in the hope of changing their viewpoint that he wrote the following:

Norwegian-American Literature

There lies in American soil a seed
Pregnant with growth, and glowing.
It cannot grow and display its wealth
Until the sunshine of love shall melt
The ice that prevents its growing.

When coldness may vanish some vernal day
And stilled be the footsteps of duty
That tramples the field, we shall behold
Luxuriant flowering that will unfold
With wondrous display of beauty.

And then will the fertile, but dormant seed
Expand into fullness of glory.
Resplendent its numerous blooms will glow,
Their fame and fragrance to Norway will flow
As an ever-remembered story.

This poem was prophetic. After the appearance of Rølvaag's Giants in the Earth and Ager's "Gamlelandets søn-her," their fame did in full measure "flow" to Norway.

Shortly after the publication of Ager's novel, Paa veien til smeltepotten, Baumann and Ager invited the writer to lunch at a Duluth hotel. The lively discussion at the lunch table was continued afterward at the writer's office. Waldemar Ager, like Baumann, was witty and humorous. The friendly discussion, punctuated by laughter, took a wide range. At length Ager said:

"Very well, Julius, let us take your view. What happens? Yes, I will tell you. Our people will be neither Norwegians, nor Americans, but mere substitutes. Just about like a man we will call Lars. He wanted to be very much American and was therefore eager to be present at public gatherings and conventions. Once he was chosen as a substitute for one of the delegates. Proud of his new dignity he went home, but found his wife asleep and dared not wake her to unburden himself. When he came down for breakfast in the morning he said pompously, Marit, do you realize whom you slept with last night? Oh, you old fool, she answered, of course I had to sleep with you. No, Marit, Lars announced with dignity, you slept with a substitute."

After the laughter had subsided, Baumann responded: "That was a good story. But now, look at our men in the halls of Congress, and in the governors' mansions, and our engineers, our doctors, and our judges. You find no substitutes among them. Why not write about such men, and about the folk who are building America, who are transforming our forests into human habitations and the wilderness into gardens. Wouldn't that be a nobler subject than that of picking imagined flaws in our behavior, and painting worthless curiosities?"

Ager laughed, "You are a fortunate fellow, Julius, who sees everything in a rosy tint in which all shadows disappear; and you refuse to recognize the shadows."

Though Baumann protested the assertion, the talk gradually drifted into other subjects, and they parted as mutually admiring friends.

Shortly after the appearance of his novel, Hundeøine, Waldemar Ager came to Duluth for the purpose of delivering a lecture. Baumann and the writer met him at the train, and then proceeded to the writer's home, where some hours were spent prior to the lecture.

After some general conversation, a number of stories, witticisms, and bantering remarks, Ager turned to Baumann:

"Seriously now, Julius, I want to thank you for your kind letter of appreciation, but I seemed to sense an undertone of disappointment."

"Oh, no," responded Baumann, "you are just fishing for more compliments."

"A good idea," Ager laughed, "and I could probably stand a lot of that."

"Well, you certainly deserve a compliment for your marvelous ability to dig up human curiosities. Men like your Christian Pedersen can be found, I believe, only in the most vivid imagination."

Ager laughed heartily. "There you are. I thought your letter was more poetry than fact."

"Oh, no," Baumann responded rather seriously, "I meant every word of it. Because your book shows some improvement. Though I had hoped you would write about able men, sensible men like yourself, strong men doing interesting work, and leading somewhat normal lives."

"Like lumberjacks?" Ager inquired, laughing. "Exactly," Baumann answered seriously.

"It may interest you, Julius, that I have been gathering some facts and stories about men working in sawmills and lumber camps," Ager stated.

Baumann rose impulsively. "Here is my paw, Waldemar! I congratulate you! There you have a subject worthy of your genius and your wonderful ability as a writer."

Ager's novel Hundeøine was subsequently translated into American and issued by Harper and Brothers under the name I Sit Alone.

When funds were being raised for the purchase of a lifesaving ship to be presented by the "Nordlands Lag" of America to the people of northern Norway, a meeting was arranged in Duluth, at which Baumann and Rølvaag spoke to a large audience. Both spoke in Norwegian. After the meeting, they were in the company of the writer until train time.

Rølvaag was at that time writing and editing a section of a Norwegian-language newspaper under the heading "For fedrearven" (For the Preservation of Our Ancestral Heritage). Being greatly interested in the subject, he urgently requested his friend to write a poem for his columns. Baumann answered evasively that he would think about it, and then added with enthusiasm, "I want to tell you again, Ola, that you made a corking good speech."

Rølvaag shook his head and answered dejectedly: "It was your fault, Julius. I was carried away by your eloquence, but when I quit speaking and sat down I felt ashamed; it was really a scandal. If that talk should be reported, I would be ruined."

Baumann laughed heartily: "How you talk, Ola! I tell you, that was a splendid speech. And if you write a book like that, about the salty old sinning giants you mentioned, you will be famous. Did you notice the audience? They sat spellbound. They became more enthusiastic than any Norwegian audience I have seen. It was simply great, Ola."

Rølvaag smiled. "You are always generous, Julius, but as to writing a book, when you are in America you have to write about people in America as you see them."

"Very well," Baumann answered, "there are a lot of that kind of fellows who have come to America."

"Yes," Rølvaag admitted soberly, "here are too many of that kind of men, and that is one of the tragedies of emigration. They should have remained at home, and used their ambition, their strength and ability for their native land."

"Tragedy of emigration!" Baumann countered explosively. "Why not rather call it the blessing of immigration, or the exhilaration of new achievements? Here they met challenges and opportunities they never would have encountered in the old country, and here they have accomplished great things."

Rølvaag smiled: "You still have your American enthusiasm, Julius, and you are a poet. You see everything in a fantastic light. But don't forget to write me that poem."

"All right, Ola, I will try to write you some verses, and I would like to have you promise to write a novel about those funny old fighting sinners you spoke about."

"All I can promise," was the smiling answer, "is that I will think about it."

Rølvaag did not at that time start writing that novel, but Baumann wrote a poem he called "For fedrearven." In it he says that we have built our new homeland under the protection of law, and this land now stands before the world, free, and great, and beautiful, and into its building we Norwegians have managed to put that part of our ancestral heritage that would best serve this adopted country of ours.

In one of the groups of men whom Baumann frequently met at his home and in Duluth were J. J. Fuhr, John Skadberg, I. N. Sodahl, and the writer. Fuhr had been connected with newspapers and theaters in Norway, and had come to America as a correspondent for an Oslo paper, and as a lecturer. He settled in Duluth, bought the Duluth skandinav and Superior tidende, and started another paper in Grand Forks and two in Canada. He entered into an agreement with the governments of the Dominion of Canada and the province of British Columbia to promote settlement of the Peace River Valley with people from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Holland. All arrangements had been made and the parties had met at Winnipeg to execute the contract when Fuhr suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and passed away the same day.

John Skadberg was a brilliant lawyer who died at the age of twenty-six.

I. N. Sodahl was a musician, the founder and director of Normanna Male Chorus, a man who was widely read and had a discerning interest in literature. He was genial, witty, courteous, and a perfect host.

At a meeting of this group in Fuhr's home, John Skadberg gave a withering review of a recent book by a Norwegian-American author, characterizing it as unethical, immoral, un-American, and even irreligious. Baumann, who had read the book, said that in the main he agreed, but would not express his criticism so strongly; and he presented it from another point of view. He suggested that it might serve a good purpose if Skadberg would write his criticism, stating that it applied to most Norwegian-American authors, and then publish it in the Duluth skandinav. Skadberg demurred, but Fuhr declared himself willing to write such an article, to be approved by those present. At a subsequent meeting, after a hilarious discussion in which they amended the article somewhat, they agreed that it should be signed merely by the letter "S."

The article produced a storm of protest. Practically all of the authors and many of their friends ridiculed Mr. "S." A lively discussion ensued, and it took a wide range. Writers from various parts of the country entered the argument.

Rølvaag was one of the first to answer "S," but he withdrew from the discussion when he somehow ascertained the identity of the critics. Most of the contributions appeared in Duluth skandinav, but several appeared in Deeorah-posten and other papers. Most of Ager's opinions appeared in Reform.

Baumann greatly enjoyed the discussion that he had promoted and even submitted contributions over his own name. Such an interest was manifested in this literary controversy that Duluth skandinav secured several hundred new subscribers from different parts of the United States and Canada.

After receiving several letters from Rølvaag urging Baumann and the writer to make him a visit at his summer home, they accepted the invitation one day in the middle of August, 1922, and were received with the joyful cordiality typical of Rølvaag and his lovely wife. Their cottage, located between two lakes in Itasca County, has a splendid setting.

We men enjoyed fishing, and one calm, beautiful day, while the boat was drifting on Big Ole Lake, Rølvaag remarked that he had asked us to come because he wanted to discuss a serious problem that had occupied his mind. He was suffering from a sense of frustration and was seriously thinking of resigning his position at St. Olaf College. After detailing his reasons for such a move, he said, "Now, boys, tell me what you think of it."

Without hesitation, and with uncommon seriousness Baumann responded, "No, no, Ola, you must not even think of doing that!" He explained his objection, and emphasized it by repeating, "You must stay at St. Olaf, Ola, and you must continue teaching and writing, especially writing."

The fish were not biting, the boat was drifting, and the talk veered from one subject to another. Baumann, who never smoked, said laughingly, "Now you two smoking old cronies, imagine you are again fishing at Lofoten, fill your pipes, smoke, and let me preach." Then, addressing himself to Rølvaag, he began:

"You say you are sore and disappointed, and largely without hope. Have you never understood the reason? Let me tell you, it is no wonder. You have felt a call to be a prophet. Like Jeremiah you have been crying Woe! Woe! over our people. The Jews stoned Jeremiah. Served him right. Now your people seem ready to stone you. And can you wonder at it? You have made wrong appraisals. You have seen and not understood. What should be praised, you have often condemned.

"Let me direct your view to new horizons. Look about you! Behold a marvel! The wilderness being transformed to a garden! Why, man, the conquest of Normandy by Rollo and a few Norsemen was nothing to compare with the conquest of the Northwest, largely by Norsemen. No poet followed Rollo. His praises were not sung, his deeds were not given the wings of words. He would have been an unknown personage in history, had not his grandson become William the Conqueror.

"Now, look about you! You are a brilliant writer. You have seen something of America. You know the people. You are an American yourself. And you are a Norwegian. Therefore, you must not continue to allow the Norsemen's marvelous deeds in America to share the fate of Rollo. You have the ability to sing a paean of praise of their acts. You know them. You have glimpsed parts of their achievements. You have the ability to portray it. That is a theme for you. That is something to fire your imagination and inflame you with enthusiasm. Write a book about the salty old giants you spoke of so convincingly in Duluth, and especially about their acts in America. I understand Ager has quit picking faults and is now writing a rousing story about lumberjacks. That will undoubtedly be great. Now you, like Ager, have to change your tune. You know fishermen and you know farmers. Write about their struggles, their dreams, and their achievements. Get enthused about them, and write, and all your disappointments will vanish."

Ole smilingly responded, amid puffs of smoke: "A very good sermon. But now, Julius, my dear father confessor, tell me this: You are a poet, people listen to your every word, so tell me, why haven't you done what you now preach and direct me to do? Explain that to me, will you?"

"There you are," Baumann chuckled, "and you are right. But don't forget that I have tried. I have been singing their praise. But my voice is weak; it has no wide reach. And our language in this country is passing. Necessarily so. Fewer and fewer read it. And poetry is a luxury. A novel must be written -- many, many novels. The theme is so vast. And write in American. That's the only way to reach the people."

After some moments' pause Ole replied: "Your preachment is convincing, though I don't know whether I am ready to agree with you, but tell me, Julius, how do you see it? How would you approach it?"

Waving his arm, Julius answered in a trance-like tone. "Oh, I see fishermen, day laborers, tenant farmers, people with empty hands but with courage and determination coming from Norway, landing on our shores, trudging westward in want, in danger, in poverty, but looking with hope to new horizons. They know nothing about farming, nothing about the people, nothing about the land, and not a word of the language. But they have faith and courage, and the will to conquer difficulties. They are sustained by hope, they work, they experiment, they experience joy and love, and sorrow. They meet new problems always. Undismayed, they overcome them. They conquer themselves, their longing, their woes, their dismay and disappointments. And they conquer the forest and the prairies. Lord, what a theme!"

At that moment a fish caught Ole's line.

"There you see," exclaimed Julius with a hearty laugh, "the fish says Amen to my sermon."

Later that evening, while Rølvaag, Baumann, and the writer sat on the sloping bank below the cabin, admiring the sunset and the idyllic scene, the subject came up again amid banter, song, and a cheerful exchange of ideas. Rølvaag opened the subject:

"What would church people think of such a book, Julius?" "All of our people are more or less religious," Baumann answered. "They have faith in God, because they have faith in themselves. They are broad-minded, and they know life, because they have varied experience. Just remember your audience in Duluth. They were church people, but they never enjoyed a sermon half as much as your speech."

Smilingly Rølvaag shook his head. "I must have lost my head that time."

"No, Ola, you were your real self that time."

Rølvaag laughed, and then suggested that we tell some of our experiences when we were fishermen at Lofoten, and along the coast of Norway. The night was far advanced when we parted and sought repose.

Next day when the good-bys were said, Baumann held Ole's hand and said gaily, "And don't forget to write that book."

Ole answered laughingly, "All right, Julius, don't expect too much, but I may try some day."

During the following weeks Rølvaag started writing the book that later was translated into American and became known as Giants in the Earth.


Every monument erected, every marker on one's grave
Should bear witness of the service to humanity he gave.

This couplet from a poem written by Baumann for the laying o£ the cornerstone of Carlton County's new courthouse epitomizes his views on the duties and responsibilities of man. To render assistance, to help and contribute to the welfare of his fellow man was his aim and ambition. That ideal led him into active work in temperance societies and fraternal organizations, in the belief that it might tend to promote brotherhood and human happiness. Frequently he cited the maxim of the Greek philosopher: "Happiness is the greatest good."

Because of this sense of obligation and of his modesty and humility, he always wondered at receiving praise for his poetry or for any other of his accomplishments. He refused to seek political preferment. He was elected for one term after another as register of deeds of Carlton County by overwhelming majorities, at times unanimously, though he consistently refused to do any campaigning. Friends and delegations urged him to run for state or national offices, but he invariably declined.

He was kindness and gentleness personified, and his cheerful disposition and lovable qualities won all hearts. He was unable to subscribe to the creed of any church, and he was not a member of any religious organization. Nevertheless he willingly worked, when he was needed, to further the interests of the churches in the communities where he lived. The clergymen were his friends, and one of them said, "Though Julius refuses to join the church, I consider him the best Christian I have known."

He was a many-sided man, complex in brain but single in soul. Aside from being a poet, he was an organizer, an orator, and a master of the storyteller's art. He read widely and was a deep student of literature. He was also a student of various sciences, notably geology, philosophy, and history. He was physically strong and mentally independent, cringing to no one, stating his opinion without hesitation, even when he knew it might be to his own disadvantage.

He was fearless in fighting for what he deemed right, and tireless in opposing what he thought wrong. His sympathy was on the side of the poor and of the unfortunate slaves of appetites or perverted ideas. He appealed always to the nobility and betterment of mankind. With Promethean fire he forged winged words of hope for a happier and grander day not only for his people, but for humanity. Though Baumann always retained his interest in Norway, he became an eager American patriot who poured out praises of the new homeland, not only in song, but in speech.

For several months no one, except possibly his wife, knew that he was gravely ill. Active and cheerful as ever, he attended meetings of various organizations, and was ever ready, when called, to make a speech, tell a story, or recite a poem. Unless specially requested to do so, he never recited poetry written by himself. When at length it became known that he was suffering from a serious illness, friends and admirers came to pay tribute to his genius. Letters, telegrams, and poems came from all sections of our country, and from other continents.

Though his physical strength was failing, his mind remained vigorous and active, and he wrote a number of happy, spirited songs. To the very last, when he scarcely had sufficient strength to hold the pen, he managed to give form to the thoughts and the fancies of his active imagination.

Throughout the protracted illness his joyous, lovable personality remained unchanged. He was happy to see visitors; his talk was animated; he laughed easily, and was ready to discuss almost any subject except his own physical condition. His mind remained unclouded. He died October 3, 1923.

On the grave of Julius B. Baumann the fraternal society "Sons of Norway" erected a monument in the form of a massive granite shaft, bearing a bronze plaque with a fine bust (in relief) of Baumann, modeled by the sculptor Paul Fjelde. On October 3, 1926, the monument was unveiled by the poet's daughter, Mrs. Juanita Nickerson, in the presence of a great throng of people, many of whom had come from neighboring states. Wreaths from many organizations were placed on the monument. Singing societies from Superior, Wisconsin, Minneapolis, Cloquet, and Duluth rendered songs, and short talks were made by representative men. The president of the Supreme Lodge of the Sons of Norway, in his speech of dedication, called special attention to the fact that members of the society had spontaneously and voluntarily provided all the funds for the monument. Thereupon he stated:

"From the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Boston Harbor to the Golden Gate; from the wide expanse of the prairies; from the forest regions; from valleys, plain and ocean-side they have come to pay their love and respect to a beloved brother, and they have appointed the officers of the Order here present to set apart, unveil and dedicate a monument of enduring granite and bronze to the memory of Julius B. Baumann."

The poet is the only one who has been thus honored.


<1> A collection of Baumann's poems entitled Samlede digte (Collected Poems) was published in 1924 by the Augsburg Publishing House.

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