Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Shetland Poem by Rhoda Butler: 'Ebb draemin'



Dir a clear lift da-day an a fresh wind blaain,

Sicca day whin A’m blyde ta be here be me len,

Lookin at Dury Voe risin an faain,

As da saat-brak loops high ower da point a da Taing.

An sittin doon idda ebb wi da maas an da shaalders,

A’m a bairn again, an da years faa awa,

For hit seems Faider Time is jöst faalded his airms,

An hardly been laevin a fit-mett avaa.


I draem a da days whin I linkit ower Hjaarawil;

Da scent a da hedder, da smell a da mör;

Days whin me hert wis as light as a fedder,

An me heaviest burdeen wis da claes at I wör.

Or caain da kye at da height a da simmer,

Swappin a gowan ta nug dem alang;

Playin furt till da light wis nae mair as a glimmer,

Makkin maist a da bounties at every day brang.


Whin da voe lay platt calm wi a fine voar moarneen,

As da dew wis still glansin ower wub an ower girse,

I wid staand klined alang da aest gavel, een glinderin,

An lö ta da dunters layin-aff below wirs.

Nae discontentment an nae towts a langer,

Nae kyempin or töllyintöllyin or da unken ta faer,

An nae need ta lay up da skabbilaas edder,

For aa at I sowt wis aside me right dere.


I can mind seein da fok kerryin waar ta da middeen,

An dellin da rigs – mebbe fower till a paet;

Dan idda hömin, ootmaagit, an wi löfs haet an sweein,

Dey med hame-ower at last for a weel aerned saet.

Or oot skreevlin coarn wi da mönlight in hairst-time,

Da sprees an da gaffin at aye lightened wark,

Dan da wyshin an penkin an gyaain oot coortin,

At trave every year wi da nights gittin dark.


I mind da coorse days an da gola-laek wadder,

Whin da sea wid be faksin an gyaan idda green,

Dan in ta da fine waarm ön a da fire,

Ta tird da weet soss for a shift dry an clean.

Sae wirsit ta wind an a sok ta be makkin,

Or a kishie a lambs’ kell ta cut fine an smaa,

Keepin time wi da gramophone up idda coarner,

Playin hill-billy music an fiddlers anaa.


Tho da blackbird still kyemps wi da laverik singin,

Da bröls a da kye is lang geen fae da Lea,

Yit here for a meenit da pendulum stops swingin,

Pittin new life an strent gyaan mirlin trowe me.

For everyeen man hae his ain bonhoga,

Dat steede at wis led whin his life wis begun,

Da boo-sten at staands tho da waas might be roanin,

Aert-fast, an aye dere ta be biggit apun.


An love böst ta be dere ta hadd aa-thing tageeder,

Ta light up da gaet fae da cradle ta grave;

An still on, ta dat Light at’s beyond understaandin;

Oot-lestin Time, an da scars he might laeve.

An tho monny dear faces be geen fae aroond me,

An nae langer dir fit-stramp be heard idda wye,

Dir love still gies strent ta geng on, an be keenan,

Dat alto oota sight, dir jöst waitin ower-by.



There’s a clear sky today and a fresh wind blowing,

Such a day when I’m glad to be here on my own

Looking at Dury Voe rising and falling,

As the spray-foam runs high over the point of the Ness.

And sitting on the foreshore with the gulls and the shallows,

I’m once more a child, and the years far away,

For its seems Father Time has just folded his arms,

And hardly been leaving a footprint at all.


I dream of the days when I strode over Hjaarawil;

The scent of the heather, the smell of the moor;

Days when my heart was as light as a feather,

And my heaviest burden the clothes that I wore.

Or calling the cows at the height of the summer,

Swishing a ragwort to nudge them along;

Playing outdoors till the light was no more than a glimmer,

Making the most of the bounties that every day brought.


When the inlet lay dead-calm on a fine spring morning,

While the dew was still sparkling on cobwebs and gorse,

I would stand right up against the east gable, eyes peering,

and listening hard to the eider conversing below our house.

No discontentment and no doubts or longings,

No competing or quarrelling or fear of the unknown,

And no need to build castles in the air either,

For all that I sought was beside me right there.


I recall seeing folk bearing kelp in the afternoon,

And digging the fields – maybe four at a time;

Then in the twilight, exhausted, and with palms hot and stinging,

They at last made for home for a well-earned rest.

Or out stacking corn in the moonlight at harvesting,

The gaiety and guffawing that always lightened the work,

Then the wishing and preening and going out courting

That thrived every year when the nights became dark.


I recall the rough days of stormy skies and wild weather

When the sea had great waves breaking right up to the grass,

Then in to the fine warmth of the fire,

To throw off wet clothes for a shift dry and clean.

Then woollen yarn to be twining and socks to be making,

Or a straw basket of lamb’s fleece to cut fine and small,

Keeping time with the gramophone up in the corner,

Playing hill-billy music and fiddlers and all.


Though the blackbird still vies with the lark at singing,

The lowing of cows is long gone from the Lea,

Yet here for a minute the pendulum stops swinging,

Sending new life and strength quivering through me.

For everyone must have his own childhood homeplace,

The cornerstone laid when his life was begun,

The stone that still stands though the walls might be crumbling,

Earthfast, and always there to be built upon.


And love must be there to hold all things together,

To light up the footpath from cradle to grave;

And further, to Light that is past understanding;

Outlasting all Time, and the scars it might leave.

Though many dear faces be gone from around me,

And no longer their footsteps be heard in the way,

Their love still gives strength to keep on, and be knowing,

That though out of sight, they are just waiting close by.


Monday, 14 September 2020

Torild Wardenær: 'Velde' (XVI-XIX)



Mauled, and at one with the belly of the night 


It is jónsvaka, the Wake of St. John,

the cells crackle,

in the sky

a hungry moon rises. 


What was this credo once again,

this pledge?

Oh yes: Be bold! Do that which is good!


I come forward,

willing to sign this humanistic manifesto, but

40 billion cells in a 1.2 kg brain weigh down

my body reels under the weight,

and the cells’ fireworks sparkle so strongly that

I am blinded, have to sign with a shaky pen, and

before the letters of my surname have been scrawled down,

the voracious moon casts itself over me, eats me raw,

camouflages me, mauled, and at one with the belly of the night





In the annals of the avian order


In an article in ‘Science’ I read that sleep repairs the Schwann cells.

I then sleep, and dream that I am eating a handful of the red berries from

the Manzanita bush.

Although the berries are not known to have a hallucinogenic effect, I see a

concubine. She hangs up one silk screen after the other with painted

landscapes on them: jagged mountain ranges, bays, cherry blossoms,

circling birds.


On the banks of one of the azure lakes a crow is flapping in distress.

It pecks me on the wrist when I straighten out the crooked wing,

feed it with a piece of bacon. Then it rises into the air, and the silk rustles.


While I’m still asleep, the crow sits somewhere where I can’t see it.

It observes me, notes my white countenance, memorises

my hand and the piece of bacon.

It places me among those incapable of flying, and thus low down in its hierarchy.

But with three authoritative caws I am nevertheless inscribed in the annals of

the avian order.





My Norse name has attracted two ravens to it 


My Norse name has attracted two ravens to it.

They settle, one on either shoulder.

Their beaks crush calcium to dust while they caw

about the black holds of the universe, and the barren north side

of a limestone mountain.


They blind time with their jet-black plumage,

crap on all they come across: eye cavity and cranium, script and flesh.

They crunch away at text upon text – a poem from 1994, reminder lists

and user manuals.

An X-ray report from 2007 is torn to shreds, but I manage to read:

Normal bone structure. Beak-shaped acromion.

Somewhat reduced AC joint with slight ossifications,

subchondral sclerosis.


The birds clearly have something to do with this pathology.

They sit heavily on my shoulders, know most things, but

not if my skeleton in the future, painstakingly excavated

with archaeological spoons, is to be dated with the aid of the C14 method,

Nor if the world history of this body is to be noted down at some point.

Nor do they know if language will end up failing badly, will be too late

out, and simply babble away about lyrebirds or a sunken Atlantis.





Password II


The mussels, what about them, long-since consumed,

the finches, with their triangular beaks,

Felix, the black Labrador from 1981,

and the mongrel Piffi, who guards the house in Snorre’s Lane,

the nameless cat that got lost in January, the great spotted woodpeckers,

the tenderness for the dun horse,

the tireless hamster in the wheel,

the eagles above the island on Easter Day,

the orange cardinal in the lemon tree,

a northern mocking bird in Tom’s garden,

white herons in Bavaria,

all the chickens I have eaten, the salmon, the trout,

once in fish pens, in cages, in mountain lakes,

all the humble vegetables,

the unassuming sunflower seeds and blood-red pomegranates,

all that has lived and lives.


If a line simply long enough is given to anchor everything to language,

it could strike a wavelength where violins would drive it further forward,

perhaps in towards a password, towards what is not uncovered in the text,

scarcely readable as it is on the computer screen or this book page,

sheet upon sheet of paper,

the paper: once a tree in the forest, first silent, now a medium, and the violins,

they too once trees in the forest, inarticulate then, but

now tuning towards oscillations that will gather

into writing or cantatas or an atmospheric phenomenon,

or just disappear into an immense sky,


the sky, the very pensioner that only lets a fraction of all the accumulated

wealth sift down over us – rain, light, ions,

the sky that lets the unbridled clouds vaporise from the sea,


the sea, which everything is dependent on now, and where cusk and sea horses fight,

side by side, in the great battle for the future. 

Torild Wardenær: 'Velde' (XIII-XV)



The quartz sparkles under me, and Erica tetralix, the heather that
smells so sweet, has become almost transluscent after over three thousand summers.

All are in the same boat on this rock engraving, for an elongated ship has been
carved here, and it is this ship which is to transport sun and
stick humans through days and lands of the dead.

Here the bronze-age kids used to swarm. Their high-pitched cries, in an
Indoeuropean language, flew across the water: ‘flounder, fish, catch’ – so close that I
can almost hear them. The gulls seem to be familiar with their strange-sounding
proper names, have borne them with themselves through the ages, and now
they imitate them, and screech them riotously at each other.

But the fjord glitters in cautioning fashion, and I harden myself against the evening
and the diminishing gull cries. For the string their sounds quiver along, between
wild and controlled, is the same string I sense that I am vibrating together with,
that which produces oscillation upon oscillation, that which causes the ship to
sail, and also the fjord to ruffle and darken now towards the island.

And nothing gladdens me more than this: that we are in the same boat,
that we shall sail under this clear-cut sun for a while
and not thereafter.



When past and future come to blows to form one of these bloody moments,
I clear out of the house before something more fatal can take place.
I run until I reach top speed, and the endomorphins send a clear message:
Do not doubt, this is now, life itself.

I gain new courage, greet the troops as I pass by, an army of living beings
at their station. Run across the square, pass the harbour area with its
sea-going ships, pass the 19th century building that houses
exhibited oil paintings of the coronation in Byzantium, still lifes of crows and
begone scenarios with shepherds and stone pines. I end up as expected in
a cornfield, hold myself camouflaged there for a while, but am recognised by
a red neck-stain and brown top-feathers as I continue to hunt along the
treeless wetlands.

When it begins to ache in my hamstrings and muscles, I fling myself onto
the grass, make a trap out of leaves and earth-coloured material, place it out
in the terrain.
Into it several examples of organic life stray,
along with quantities of unidentified atoms, and
when the catch starts to become immense,
I have to release it,
into the wide expanse of landscape,
into uninhibited time.


Flight towards the 873rd hang-out

When the unsecured frontiers, with forestland, big cities and barrens,
spread heavily out around us, it would be safest to stick to a feather-light
centre, gaze straight ahead, become one with the molecules.

But the distinctive odour we give off, of serum and protein, lets nocturnally
active creatures pick up our scent, and the allegedly feather-light centre
dissipates, as do the unreliable cumulus clouds.

Knees and elbows, stiffened with cartilage and magnesium, rattle and
shake and reveal us further. Teeth chatter, neurons fire off
warning shot after warning shot to no avail, and flight towards yet another
hang-out, perhaps the eight hundred and seventy-third, is inevitable.

Dan Andersson: 'Kom, lyssna...'

Kom, lyssna på stormen som rytande talar,
på berg som i ödslighet ensamma stå!
Högt rullar hans rop över natthöljda dalar,
högt visorna klinga och marscherna gå!

Han går som en svartmålad brigg genom natten,
bland klippor och rev över stenbeströdd mark.
Vart går han? Jag vet ej -en gud står vid ratten,
allsmäktig, befallande, stjärnströdd och stark.

Han seglar väl kanske till soluppgångstiden,
han lägger väl till för att vila en gång.
Det styr väl i hamn när all natten är liden,
det finns väl en strand fastän vägen är lång.

Come, hark to the storm as his roars deeply rumble,
to desolate mountains away beyond where!
O’er dales decked in darkness his cries loudly tumble,
his songs ring aloft and his marches all blare!

He moves like a black-painted brig through night’s realm now
midst rocks and midst reefs over stone-studded ground.
Where to? I’ve no knowing – a god’s at the helm now.
all-powerful, commanding, both star-strewn and sound.

Perhaps until sunrise he’ll stay a sea-rover
and moor up somewhere if rest’s call becomes strong.
There’s surely a harbour when night’s trials are over
and surely a shore though the way there is long.

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Hans Adolph Brorson: 'Skal Kærlighed sin Prøve staa'


If love shall stand the final test


If love shall stand the final test,

it must assuage your foe’s wild breast;

that you are mild when he’s irate

is Christian love in its pure state.


That lesson is as sour and tart

as to our nature is death’s dart,

seems much too heavy and too stern

for Adam’s flint-hard race to learn.


Yes, if we trust in our own might,

we’ve quickly armed ourselves to fight

and cannot stem the raging flood

of fury in the old Adam’s blood.


Oh let the heart do penance sweet,

in Jesu’s blood both merge and beat!

Then will the gentle mind of Christ

as imprint in the soul be pressed.


When we through faith’s strong fire and light

our Jesu’s heart can find aright,

that he for his own murderers prayed

when they but mockery displayed,


when in the heart’s depths we collate

our many sins and their great weight

which God forgave us at one breath

in Jesu’s suffering and death,


when this the Spirit makes quite clear,

then in the soul’s ignited here

a love that has so strong a glow

that it embraces every foe.


This love has such a blazing heat

all earthly ash it will defeat,

the soul to God will make return –

the fifth commandment then we learn.


Oh, with a fervent heart may I

sweet Jesus, love you till I die

and to your wounds draw close, for so

most gladly will I love my foe!