Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Lars Gustafsson: 'Ålen och Brunnen' in English translation

The eel and the well

In old Scania there was a custom:
Young eels from the sea were let down
into the black depths of the wells.
These eels then spent their entire lives
imprisoned in the darkness of the deep wells.
They keep the water crystal-clear and clean.
When on occasions the well-eel comes up,
white, frighteningly large, caught in the pail,
blind and coiling in and out
of its body’s enigmas, unaware,
everyone hurries to submerge it again.
I often feel myself as being
not only in the well-eel’s stead
but well and eel at the same time.
Imprisoned in myself, but this self
already something else. I exist there.
And wash it clean with my twisting,
miry, white-bellied presence in the darkness.


Sunday, 20 January 2019

Medieval Danish ballad in English translation: 'Kongens Søn aff Engeland'




The King’s Son of Engeland


The song does not say anything about where this king’s son of England has been, nor is there any mention of him in our Danish or English histories. But the fact the Sir Bugge (Niels Bugge, c.1300-1358) is named here would seem to place the story at 1330 AD or thereabouts. At that time, Edward III had just come to the throne, and he took Count Wilhelm’s daughter Philippa of Holland as his wife. What voyages were undertaken by the young Lord’s fleet of ships is not known for certain. But it is still in many a man’s memory among those who live at Bovbjerg that in former days such a royal personage from England was shipwrecked there, and that in memory of this Staby Church was decorated with a gilt plaque and a new tower, etc.



The King’s Son of Engeland

The king’s son of Engeland,
Has gold rings bright-gleaming on each hand,
And on his saddle bow gold gleams red.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

And on his saddle bow gold glows red,
A proud fair maiden he shall wed:
The king’s son he has a fine ship made.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The king’s son he has a fine ship made.
Such as never its anchor has weighed;
Twixt port and starboard painted in gold.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Twixt port and starboard painted in gold,
God’s word stood writ for all to behold.
From stern to prow it was gilded there,
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

From stern to prow it was gilded there,
The King’s Son embraced his maiden fair:
Without stood small lions bold of hue.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Without stood small lions bold of hue,
the one was yellow the other blue:
Within the ship there stood a mast.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Within the ship there stood a mast,
five hundred nobles it had cost:
A weather vane this mast did preen.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

A weather vane this mast did preen
Such as the North Sea never had seen:
With bright-red gold were the anchors laid.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

With bright-red gold were the anchors laid,
of pappus wool were the sails all made.
All the ropes that were on board.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

All the ropes that were on board
were firmly fixed with silken cord:
Every rope and every band.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Every rope and every band
were twined by the maiden’s own fair hand:
Their sails were all of finest silk made.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Their mainsail was of finest silk made,
with many port holes the ship arrayed:
And above the sail there stands a cross.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

And above the sail there stands a cross.
May our Lord Jesus watch over us:
The King his son gives sound advice.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The King his son gives sound advice
which he must heed at any price
Be always to honour and glory inclined.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Be always to honour and glory inclined,
Let money not master or govern your mind:
Spare neither silver nor gold red in hue.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Spare neither silver nor gold red in hue
And give your trusty men what they are due:
The king with his son went down to the strand.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The king and son went down to the strand
and knights and men shoved him off from the land:
The king’s son then his hat did raise.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The king’s son then his hat did raise.
Father and mother, God bless you always:
Both father and mother and lady fair.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Both father and mother and lady fair,
May God keep us safely in his care:
They had not sailed all that far from land.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

They had not sailed all that far from land
when a mighty storm assailed the strand:
Dark clouds piled up and gale winds blew,
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Dark clouds piled up and gale winds blew,
Neither land nor shelter the crew then knew,
So they dropped anchor as soon as bidden.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

So they dropped anchor as soon as bidden.
That thirty winters had lain there hidden:
They dropped it into the storm-tossed wave.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

They dropped it into the storm-tossed wave
that twice had been on the holy grave:
You Danish men, be bold of mind.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

You Danish men, be bold of mind,
the rope with silken threads is twined:
He hoped no danger them would stay.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

He hoped no danger them would stay,
The prince began then to chant a lay:
And it was before that midnight came.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

And it was before that midnight came,
the rope so strong was rent in twain:
The prince sat down on the golden chest.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The prince sat down on the golden chest.
His cheek was pale, his mind oppressed:
It was a sorrowful sight to see.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

It was a sorrowful sight to see,
The fine ship reduced to mere debris:
The prince, alive still, reached the land.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The prince, alive still, reached the land,
walked up and down the storm-tossed strand:
The prince he walked and much complained.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The prince he walked and much complained,
I think from injustice I have abstained:
Except I once took a small red steed.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Except I once took a small red steed
from a fatherless maiden, a loathsome deed:
If God should grant I ever come home.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

If God should grant I ever come home,
I shall give her two instead of one:
No sooner had these words been spoken.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

No sooner had these words been spoken
Than his chest was washed up on land unbroken:
And a scullion came along the shore.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

And a scullion came along the shore,
The hurt he caused the prince was sore:
With him he had now all the five men.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

With him he had now all the five men.
Sir Eske Frost himself rode with them:
The tears then coursed down the king’s son cheek.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The tears then coursed down the king’s son cheek,
Alas, my fate here at Bovbjerg’s bleak!
With me things have gone from bad to worse!
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

With me things have gone from bad to worse,
In Sir Eske Frost’s power I’m accursed.
Had I but come to Sir Bugge’s fief!
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Had I but come to Sir Bugge’s fief,
No knight or squire would have been my thief!
Sir Eske’s scullion is my bane!
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Sir Eske’s scullion is my bane!
I’ll avenge this should I reach home again:
If God should grant I remain alive.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

If God should grant I remain alive,
To the King of Denmark I’ll this ascribe:
As soon as Sir Bugge receives this news.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

As soon as Sir Bugge receives this news,
He will dispatch his two sons in pursuit:
He will dispatch five men withal.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

He will dispatch five men withal
and have him brought back to home and hall:
Sir Bugge he kindly received the young lord.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Sir Bugge he kindly received the young lord,
the Danes let him journey to England once more:
Where gifts and great honour were fitting reward.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.