What are the lyrics to the Danish national anthem, and why does Denmark have two official songs?

7 July 2021, 16:52

Denmark national anthem: what are the lyrics, and why are there two Danish national anthems?
Denmark national anthem: what are the lyrics, and why are there two Danish national anthems? Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Denmark is one of only two countries in the world with two official national anthems. Here’s everything to know about ‘Der er et yndigt land’, which you’ll hear at sporting events.

When Denmark faces England at the Euro 2020 football championship, a gently majestic refrain will cue in the 8pm kick-off.

‘Der er et yndigt land’, which translates to English as ‘There is a lovely country’, is the civil national anthem of Denmark, and the one most commonly heard at sports matches.

Its lyrics were written in 1819 by Adam Oehlenschläger, and set to music by Hans Ernst Krøyer in 1835. The classical composer Carl Nielsen also composed an alternative melody, but it didn’t really stick.

After its first performance to the Danish people in 1844, the beautiful piece quickly gained popularity and was adopted later that year by the government as a national anthem – but not the national anthem.

Denmark is one of only two countries, along with New Zealand, to have two national anthems. The other official song is ‘Kong Christian stod ved højen mast’, which as a national and royal anthem tends to be heard on military and royal occasions.

Read more: The world’s greatest national anthems

What are the lyrics to Denmark’s civil national anthem, ‘Der er et yndigt land’?

While originally published with 12 verses, later editions of ‘Der er et yndigt land’ just have the first, third, fifth and last verses. At today’s sporting events, only the first stanza and last lines of the fourth verse are sung, with the last line of each verse repeated once.

Der er et yndigt land,
det står med brede bøge
nær salten østerstrand
nær salten østerstrand
|Det bugter sig i bakke, dal
,det hedder gamle Danmark
og det er Frejas sal

Der sad i fordums tidde
harniskklædte kæmper,
udhvilede fra strid
udhvilede fra strid
|Så drog de frem til fjenders mén,
nu hvile deres bene
bag højens bautasten

Det land endnu er skønt,
thi blå sig søen bælter,
og løvet står så grønt
og løvet står så grønt
|Og ædle kvinder, skønne mø'r
og mænd og raske svende
bebo de danskes øer
bebo de danskes øer

Hil drot og fædreland!
Hil hver en danneborger,
som virker, hvad han kan!
som virker, hvad han kan!
Vort gamle Danmark skal bestå,
så længe bøgen spejler
sin top i bølgen blå
sin top i bølgen blå

What do the lyrics mean in English?

There’s a beautiful country
It stands with wide beeches
Near the salty eastern beaches
Near the salty eastern beaches
It bays in the back and valley
It’s called Old Denmark
And it it Freya’s hall

Who sat in former times
The armour dressed fighters
Rested from the fight
Rested from the fight
then went up to the enemies injury
Now resting their legs
Behind the menhir of the hills

The country that’s still great
because blue is the sea that waves
and the foliage is so green
and the foliage is so green
and noble women and beautiful virgins
and men and healthy swains
inhabit the islands of the danish
inhabit the islands of the danish

Hail king and motherland
Hail any Danish citizen
who gives what he can
who gives what he can
Our old Denmark will endure
as long as the beech-tree mirrors
its treetop in the blue waves
its treetop in the blue waves