Tuesday, 2 February 2016

An early poem by the Swedish writer Lars Gustafsson

A mysterious disappearance

It is written: In March 1858 a man,
resident of Gnarp, which is a remote hamlet,
bought bullets, cord and powder for a smallish sum,
one noted down that thus can still be read.
Probably he wanted to shoot courting black grouse.

The trail now disappears among the pines,
here we lose sight of him,
not temporarily but for good,
and every hope that he exists there,
like a dark and threadbare figure,
still on his way across bogs, through cowberry sprigs,
and that we one morning could meet him, is futile.

You must understand me, consider this:
We will never get to know who he was,
and if our face just for a moment,
late one evening when tiredness loosens the bindings,
and lets us see that we are no one or are everyone,
were to absorb his features into its own, his eyes,
we would not notice it or be confused.

After having gone off in search of birds,
he is for all days and all nights to come quite lost.

from: The Balloonists (1962)

To see the original poem, go to here

1 comment:

John Irons said...

Remark for those who have a Dutch poetry calendar and have found Bernlef's translation (2 March) into Dutch - it contains an error in line 5.

Vermoedelijk wilde hij voor de sport op korhoenders gaan schieten.

The original Swedish line is:

Troligen ville han skjuta orre på spel.

This is a reference to the courting of black grouse, not to any form of sport of shooting game.

Orre[2] (Tetrao tetrix) är en fågel i familjen fälthöns och underfamiljen skogshöns.[3] Orren är en stannfågel som förekommer i norra Palearktis, främst i hed- och myrlandskap i anslutning till skog. Den är nära släkt med kaukasisk orre. Inför häckningen, som sker tidigt på våren, spelar orren på specifika spelplatser.

The last sentence means. Prior to breeding, which takes place in early spring, the black grouse lekks (a technical term which looks suspiciously scandinavian to me. (to leik is also yorkshire dialect for to play, for example). presumably, while this courtship is going on, the birds are easy targets.