From a “soul’s diary”

In the words of Edvard Munch

the scream

Photo: Nasjonalmuseet
“The Scream,”Edvard Munch, version held by the National Museum, Oslo.

On the 1895 pastel-on-cardboard version of “The Scream,” there is a striking peculiarity: the poem that Munch wrote and painted onto the frame, describing the experience that prompted the work. 

Munch once described art as the “soul’s diary,” and this poem stems directly from an entry in the painter’s diary, although it’s not verbatim. This is the 1892 diary entry from which the poem originated.

Jeg gikk bortover

veien med to

venner – så gikk

solen ned

Himmelen ble

plutselig blodig rød

Jeg stanset, lente

meg til gjerdet trett

til døden. Over den

blåsvarte fjor og by

lå blod i ildtunger

Mine venner gikk

videre og jeg sto

igjen skjelvende

av angst.

Og jeg følte det

store uendelige

skrik gjennom



I was walking along 

the road with two 

friends — the sun 

was setting

The sky suddenly

turned bloody red

I stopped, leaned 

against the fence, tired 

to death. Over the

the blue-black fjord and city

lay blood in tongues of fire

My friends walked on 

and I stood 

there quaking 

with angst.

And I felt as though a 

vast, endless

scream passed through


This article originally appeared in the Nov. 5, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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