How soft your fields so green
Can whisper tales of gore
Of how we calmed the tides of war
We are your overlords
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Colorful rooftops line Reykjavík
So it was a quiet night on our little kingdom's island fortress. From our ramparts, we watched the sun dawn, yawning as we were about to end our night guard duty. In the quiet of a North Atlantic ocean morning, we heard the fog pierced first by the sound of approaching oars. And our spines froze as we heard what could only be the battle cry of an approaching warrior ship. It sounded like:
We'd never heard anything like it. The closest we could come to describing it was to quote the poet Walt Whitman: "I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world." We'd never heard an actual yawp before, but this was it. And when the fog parted to reveal the armored Viking ships, we stalled for time, for our numbers were few and our relief shift had yet to be summoned. We tried to reason with them, asking whence they came and what their mission was, but they only said:
"We come from the land of the ice and snow,
From the midnight sun where the hot springs blow."
And then we just tossed our spears and surrendered on the spot. Anybody who comes from a place like that, is one tough mother. We knew we'd been defeated. They were our overlords!
This song is the essential Led Zeppelin song. It was usually played either for the opening or the closing encore of live shows they performed from 1970 until 1972. The place which "Immigrant Song" invokes is Reykjavik, Iceland, where they performed the opener for their tour of Iceland, Bath, and Germany in 1970. After starting there, Robert Plant wrote the song as a kind of tribute to their appreciative Iceland audience.
Central Reykjavík, Iceland
A large part of the passion Plant brings to his compositions springs from his love of Norse mythology, Welsh mythology, Viking lore, and heroic fantasy in general. One of his chief inspirations is J. R. R. Tolkien. One can find references to both The Lord of the Rings
and The Hobbit
in such songs as "Battle of Evermore," "Misty Mountain Hop," "No Quarter," and "Ramble On." Although Plant is of English birth (West Bromwich, to be specific), he grew up along the Welsh border, so this obviously influenced him. But with his poetic lyrics, soaring vocals, and soulful delivery, he could have grown up anywhere and been influenced by anything and still be Robert Plant.
This song is an icon, even more so than Stairway to Heaven
. Fans took a line from the song, and for the rest of its days "Hammer of the Gods" was the official nickname of Led Zeppelin, even extending to the biography Hammer of the Gods: The Led Zeppelin Saga
by Stephen Davis. For a while, it seemed like this was the fight song or victory song for every high school marching band, every football team, and half of the professional wrestlers.
Warning: Hearing "Immigrant Song" pop on the radio by surprise can pump you up unexpectedly. If you hear it while driving, you're likely to push 'er up to 80 and start weaving through the traffic. If you hear it while biking, you'll start jumping the parking meters. If you hear it while cooking, you're likely to whip that Hollandaise sauce into a paste when the recipe only said to stir it gently. It can make vacuuming the living room turn into an epic battle of good housekeeping over evil dirt, but you're also going to have to pay for those holes you've knocked into the wall. When Linus Torvalds (a Finland native) heard this song come on while he was coding, the result was the Linux operating system. And so on. Just watch yourself.
We welcome our new Viking overlords!
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