Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Sometimes HCA gets carried away!

The Swan’s Nest

Between the Baltic and the North Sea lies an old swan’s nest and it is called Denmark; in it swans were and are born whose names will never die.
In olden times a flock of swans flew here over the Alps down to the Milan’s green plains where it was a fine place to live – the flack of swans was called Lombards.
A second flight, with gleaming feathers and faithful eyes soared down towards Byzantium, placed itself round the Emperor’s throne there and spread out its large wings as shields to protect him. It was given the name Varangians.
From the coast of France a cry of fear could be heard for the bloody swans that with fire under their wings came from the North and which begged the people: ‘Deliver us from the wild Normans!’
On the meadow-fresh sward of England down by the open shore there stood the Danish swan with a triple crown on its head, it stretched out its golden sceptre over the land.
On the coasts of Pomerania the heathens bent the knee, and the Danish swans came with the flag of the cross and with drawn sword.
All that was in ancient times, you say.
Closer to our our time mighty swans have flown from the nest.
There was a gleam through the air, a gleam of the countries of the world, the swan scattered the dawning mist with the powerful beating of its wings, and the starry vault of the sky became more visible, it was as if it came closer to the earth – this was the swan Tycho Brahe.
‘Yes, back then!’ you say, ‘but in our own times!’ Then we saw swan fly with swan in a glorious great flight. One let is wing sweep over the golden harp’s strings and it sounded throughout the North, Norway’s mountains raised themselves higher in the light of the olden tmes; there was a sighing in pine and birch; the gods, heroes and noble women of the North stood out once more against the deep, dark forest floor.
We saw a swan beat with its wing against the marble rock, so that it broke and forms of beauty bound within the stone were revealed in broad daylight, and people in countries round the world craned their necks to see these mighty figures.
We saw a third swan spin threads of thought that are now linked from country to country round the world, so that words fly at lightning speed between them.
The Lord God holds dear the old swan’s nest between the Baltic and the North Sea. Let mighty birds seek to come through the air to tear it asunder: ‘This shall never be!’ Even the downless young form a circle on the edge of the nest, this we have seen, they hack their own breasts till the blood flows, they fight beak and claw.
Centuries will yet pass, swans fly from the nest, be seen and heard around the world before the time comes when in spirit and truth it can be said ‘this is the last swan, the last song from the swan’s nest!’

Monday, 29 May 2017

Stefan George poem in English and also a Swedish version by Vilhelm Ekelund

Wir schreiten auf und ab im reichen flitter

Wir schreiten auf und ab im reichen flitter
Des buchenganges beinah bis zum tore
Und sehen aussen in dem feld vom gitter
Den mandelbaum zum zweitenmal im flore.

Wir suchen nach den schattenfreien bänken
Dort wo uns niemals fremde stimmen scheuchten ·
In träumen unsre arme sich verschränken ·
Wir laben uns am langen milden leuchten

Wir fühlen dankbar wie zu leisem brausen
Von wipfeln strahlenspuren auf uns tropfen
Und blicken nur und horchen wenn in pausen
Die reifen früchte an den boden klopfen.

In beech-tree avenue’s rich tinselled light

In beech-tree avenue’s rich tinselled light
We stroll until we almost reach the gate
Through railings in the field outside we sight
The almond tree in second blossom’s spate.

We search for benches where no shadows lie
There where strange voices never drive away ·
In dreams our arms embrace as time goes by ·
We drink our fill of each mild-gleaming ray

Feel gratefully how sunlight-traces here
Drip down on us to tree-tops’ soughing sound
And only gaze and listen when we hear
The ripe fruits’ gentle knocking on the ground.

Vi vandra upp och ned den gamla bokallen

Vi vandra upp och ned den gamla bokallen.
Septemberglansen varm i gyllne rikedom
dess kronor lyser milt, och ifrån gångens grindar
se vi för andra gång vårt mandelträd  i blom.

Och bänken är där, fri från skugga står den mitt i
det vita ljuset, runt omkring är trädens brus,
och våg på våg går sakta skridande förbi oss
och söver in oss ljuvt i sina rytmers sus.

Vi sitta lyssnande och slutna tätt tillsamman
och sjunka sakta ned i denna klangvågs svall
och väckas endast när i vindens paus och saktning
mot marken dämpat slår den mogna fruktens fall.

'Sorgen' from Ekelund's collection 'Melodier i skymning' (1902)


In the cemetery hyacinths and tulips are in flower
– hyacinths cool and gleaming in the shade by
the dark-green cypress, tulips flaming like open
red hearts up from the naked soil. It is
spring, people die every day, and with each passing
evening the scent grows stronger and stronger from the
many new clusters of flowers.
       All this ostentatious grief, how coarse! How loud-
       – There lies a grave at the very outermost
edge of the cemetery, all on its own in the stony
ground. It is scarcely a grave, there is no beautifully
shaped mound over it, it is quite simply a
hollow and nothing else; – with earth and tussocks
tossed haphazardly and hastily around
it. No wreaths lie on the grave, all that marks it
is a simple, crude batten, a strip of wood with a
wrongly spelt name cut into it with a knife:
       I walk out there in the evenings, and my heart
feels humble at the sight of this lonely grave lying
there as if on sufferance, with no intention to appeal
to the sympathy of one living, so far removed from
the clamorous grief of the wealthy...
       It is like a poem to me, that grave.
A symbol of quiet grief, so movingly simple as
grief is – grief that only wishes to hide far
away from everyone, be spared all well-meaning
words, die in silence far far away in the farthest
corner of the wood like a mortally wounded animal.
Perhaps there is no one except me in the whole wide
world who thinks of this grave; nobody ever
comes here...

(To download a pdf of this and Ekelund's collected poems, go to here)

Ekelund pares down Goethe to a minimum

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Ekelund again - the convalescent heart

'Cor inquietum' poem by the Swedish poet Vilhelm Ekelund

Aldrig kan själens
längtan stillas,
icke jordens riken,
brusande städer
och hafvens glans
förmå att lindra
dess eviga oro.
O, hvem spelar
dessa toner,
denne svidande musik
på mitt hjärtas
strängar, spända
allti, alltid
alltför hårdt?

Nothing soul’s longing
e’er appeases,
none of earth’s dominions,
dull-roaring cities
or oceans’ gleam
can soothe completely
its fixed agitation.
O, who’s playing
all this music,
these so sorely smarting notes
on my aching
heartstrings, tautened
always, always,
far too tight?