Sunday, 31 March 2019

HCA: 'Metalsvinet' in English translation

The Brass Boar

In the city of Florence, not far from piazza del granduca, there is a transverse street – I think its name is porta rossa– in which, in front of a kind of bazaar where vegetables are sold, there lies an artistically fashioned brass boar nicknamed Il Porcellino; fresh, clear water runs from the mouth of the beast which, because of age, is quite blackish green, only the snout gleams as if it had been polished until it shone, and this it in fact the case – by the many hundreds of children and poor people who seize it by the snout with their hands and put their mouth to that of the beast in order to drink. It’s an absolute picture to see the well-formed beast be embraced by a half-naked boy that places his young lips against its snout.
Anyone coming to Florence will easily find the spot, he only needs to ask the first beggar he sees about the brass boar, and he’ll find it.
It was a late winter’s evening, the mountains lay decked with snow, but there was moonlight, and moonlight in Italy has a light intensity that is just as strong as a dark winter’s day in northern Europe, in fact it is stronger, because the air gleams, the air uplifts, whereas in the North the cold, grey leaden roof presses us down to the earth, the cold, wet earth that one day will do likewise on our coffin.
Over in the count’s castle garden, under the roof of the stone pines, where thousands of roses are in bloom in the winter, a small, ragged boy had been sitting the entire day, a boy who could be the epitome of Italy, so beautiful, so smiling and yet so suffering; he was hungry and thirsty, no one gave him a small coin, and when it grew dark and the garden was to be closed, the porter chased him away. For a long time he stood dreaming on the bridge over the Arno river gazing at the stars that were sparkling in the water between him and the magnificent marble bridge. He went over to the brass boar, half-knelt, threw his arms around its neck, placed his young lips to its gleaming snout and drank great draughts of the fresh water. Nearby lay a couple of lettuce leaves and few chestnuts, which served as his supper. There was no one to be seen in the street; he was completely alone, he sat down on the brass boar’s back, leant forwards, so that his curly little head rested on that of the animal, and before he even realised it himself fell asleep.
It was midnight, the brass boar moved, he heard it say quite clearly: ‘you, young lad, hold on tight for now I’m going to run!’ and then it ran off with him; it was an amusing ride. – They first came to piazza del granduca; and the bronze horse that bore the count’s statue gave a loud whinny; the many-coloured coats of arms on the old city hall gleamed like transparent pictures, and Michelangelo’s David whirled his sling; it was a strange life that came into motion! The bronze groups of Perseus and the Rape of the Sabine Women stood there all too alive; a cry of mortal anguish from them sounded over the magnificent, lonely square.
At palazzo degli Uffizi, in the cloister when the nobility gathers for the carnival celebrations, the brass boar came to a halt.
‘Hold on tight!’ the animal said, ‘hold on tight, for now we’re going up the flight of steps. The little boy didn’t say a word, he was half quaking and half blissfully happy.
They entered a long gallery, he knew it well, he had been here before; the walls were resplendent with paintings, there were statues and busts, all of this bathed in the most beautiful light, as if it were day, but the most wonderful thing of all was when the door of one of the side rooms opened; yes, this splendour the boy was to remember; though on that night everything shone quite wonderfully.
A lovely, naked woman stood here, as beautiful as only nature and the greatest master of marble could form her; she moved her lovely limbs, the dolphins leapt around her feet, immortality shone from her eyes. The world calls her the Venus de Medici. On either side of her stood marble statues of handsome men; one of them was whetting his sword, he is called the Grinder, the other is a group of wrestling gladiators; the sword was being sharpened, the gladiators were wrestling for the goddess of beauty.
The boy was as if dazzled by all the brilliance; the walls were radiant with many colours, and everything was life and movement there. The image of Venus showed itself in duplicate, the earthly Venus, so curvaceous and fiery, as seen by Titian. The images of two lovely women; the beautiful, unveiled limbs stretched out on the soft cushions, their breasts heaved and heads moved so that the plentiful locks settled round the round shoulders, while their dark eyes flashed incandescent thoughts; but none of those depicted dared step completely out of their frame. The goddess of beauty herself, the gladiators and the sharpener remained in their places, for the haloes radiating from the Virgin Mary, Jesus and St. John bound them. The holy images were no longer images – they were the holy figures themselves.
What lustre and what beauty one room after the other! and the young boy saw them all; the brass boar went step by step through all that splendour and magnificence. One view superseded the other, only one image could be held fast in one’s thoughts, and mostly at the sight of the glad, happy children that were depicted – the young boy had once nodded to them in broad daylight.
Many people easily just pass by this picture, although it is a treasure trove of poetry: it is Christ who is descending into Limbo, but it is not those in torment that one sees around him, no, it is the heathen; the Florentine Angiolo Bronzino has painted this picture; most marvellous of all is the expression of childlike certainty that they are to go to Heaven; two young children are already embracing each other, one reaches down to another one further down and points to himself, as if saying: ‘I am to go to Heaven!’ all those who are older stand there, hopefully, or bow down humbly in prayer before the Lord Jesus.
The boy stood there looking at the picture longer than at any other one, and patted the brass boar which clang! clang! leapt down the stairs with him.
Thank you and blessings in return!’ the brass boar said, ‘I have helped you and you have helped me, for only with an innocent child on my back do I get enough strength to run around! yes, see, I even dare go in under the light cast by the lamp in front of the image of the Virgin Mary. I can carry you anywhere except into the church! but outside it, when you are with me, I can look in through the open door! do not get off my back, for if you do, I will lie there dead, just as you see me in the daytime in porta rossastreet!’
‘I will stay with you, my amazing animal!’ the young boy said, and then they shot off at breakneck speed through the streets of Florence, out to the square in front of the Santa Crocechurch.
The great double door flew open, the light shone from the altar, through the church, out onto the lonely square.
A strange lustre emanated from a sepulchral monument in the left aisle, thousands of moving stars formed what was like a halo around it. A resplendent coat of arms adorned it, a ladder gules on a chief azure, it seemed to gleam like gold. This was the grave of Galileo, a simple monument, although the ladder gules on a chief azure is a significant coat of arms – it is as if it were that of art itself, for here the path upwards is always on a glowing ladder, but to heaven. All the prophets of the spirit ascend to heaven like the prophet Elijah.
In the right-hand aisle every sculpture on the rich sarcophagi seemed to have come to life. Here stood Michelangelo, there Dante with a laurel wreath on his brow; Aflieri, Machiavelli rest here side by side, these great men, the pride of Italy. It is a magnificent church, far more beautiful than Florence’s marble cathedral, though not as large.
It was as if the marble raiment moved, as if the great figures even raised their heads and looked in the night, amidst singing and music, up towards the many-coloured, gleaming altar, where cassock-clad boys swung golden thuribles; the strong fragrance streamed out of the church onto the open square.
The boy stretched out his hand towards this lustre, and at that very moment off shot the brass boar; he had to hug on tight, the wind roared past his ears, he heard the church doors creaking on their hinges as they closed, but immediately he seemed to lose consciousness, he felt an icy coldness – and opened his eyes.
It was morning, he had slid half-way off the brass boar, which stood where it always used to stand, in porta rossa street.
Fear and dread seized the boy at the thought of the person he called mother, she who had sent him out yesterday and said that he was to procure some money, for he had none; he was hungry and thirsty; once more he threw his arms round the brass boar’s neck, kissed it on its snout, nodded to it and then walked away, to one of the narrowest streets, only wide enough for a well-laden donkey. A large, iron-mounted door stood ajar, here he went up a brick staircase with dirty walls and a smooth rope as a railing, and came to an open gallery plastered with hanging rags; a staircase led from her to the courtyard, where from the well heavy iron wires were linked to all the storeys of the house, and the one bucket swayed next to the other, while the block and tackle squeaked and the bucket danced in the air, so that the water sploshed down into the courtyard. Again he went up a dilapidated brick staircase; – two sailors, who were Russians, leapt vigorously down it and nearly bowled the poor boy over. They were returning from their nocturnal amusements. A not so young but strongly built female figure, with a mass of black hair followed them. ‘What have you brought home with you?’ she said to the boy.
‘Don’t be angry!’ he begged her, ‘I’ve got nothing, nothing at all!’ – and he seized his mother’s dress, as if he wanted to kiss it; they entered the small room: we have no wish to describe it; only to say that a jug with handles stood there with coal-fires, marito, as it is called, which she took on her arm, warmed her fingers and nudged the boy with her elbow. ‘Of course you’ve got money!’ she said. –
The child cried, she kicked him with her foot, he wailed loudly; – ‘Stop your noise, or I’ll smash your bawling head in!’ she said and swung the fire-pot she was holding at him, the boy ducked down low with a shriek. Then the woman next door came in, she too had a maritoon her arm. ‘Felicita! What are you doing with the child?’
‘The child’s mine!’ Felicita answered. ‘I can murder him if I feel like it, and you too, Gianina!’ and she swung her fire-pot at her; the neighbour lifted hers to ward this off, and both pots crashed into each other, so that the shards, coals and ashes flew all over the room; – but the boy was already out of the door in a trice, across the courtyard and out of the house. The poor child ran until finally he was completely out of breath; he stopped at the Santa Croce church, the one whose double doors had opened for him in the night, and entered. Everything was gleaming; he knelt down at the first grave to the right, it was that of Michelangelo, and soon he was sobbing loudly. People came and went. The mass was read, no one took any notice of the boy; only a rather old citizen stopped, looked and him and then went off like the others.
Hunger and thirst tormented the young boy, he was quite weak and ill; he crept over to a corner between the wall and the marble monument and fell asleep. He did not wakeup until it was almost evening, when someone shook him, he leapt up, and it was the same old citizen standing before him.
‘Are you ill? Where do you live? Have you been here the whole day?’ were just a few of the many questions the old man put to him; they were answered, and the old man took him with him to a small house close to one of the side-streets; it was a glovemaker’s workshop they entered, his wife was sitting there industriously sewing when they arrived; a small, whiteBichon Bolognese, cropped so close that one could see its pink skin, jumped up and down on the table, and made a leap towards the small boy.
‘Innocent souls recognise each other,’ the woman said and stroked both the dog and the boy. He was given something to eat and drink with these kind people, and that said he could sleep the night there; the following day the father, Giuseppe, would have a word with his mother. He was given a small, humble bed, but that was a royal luxury to him, for he often had to sleep on the hard stone floor; he slept oh so well and dreamt about the wonderful pictures and the brass boar.
Next morning, father Giuseppe went out, and the poor child was not so happy about that, for he knew that this meant he was to be taken to his mother, and he cried and kissed the agile little dog, and the wife nodded to both of them. –
And what message did father Giuseppe come back with? he spoke a great deal with his wife, and she nodded and patted the boy. ‘He’s a delightful child!’ she said. ‘He can surely become a fine glovemaker, just as you did! and his fingers are so fine and flexible. The Holy Virgin has decided he is to be a glovemaker!’
And the boy remained there in the house, and the wife personally taught him how to sew; he ate well, he slept well, he grew cheerful and started to tease Bellissima, as the dog was called; the wife raised a threatening finger at him, scolded him and was angry, and this the boy took to heart; he said thoughtfully in his small room that faced the street, hides used to be dried there; there were thick iron bars across the windows, he couldn’t sleep, the brass boar was in his thoughts, and suddenly outside he heard: ‘Scrabble, scrabble!’ yes, it must be, surely! he leapt over to the window, but there was nothing to be seen, it was already all over.
Help Signore to carry his paint-box!’ the mistress said the next morning to the boy, when the young neighbour, the painter, came lugging it along with him, as well as a large, rolled-up canvas; the child took the box, followed the painter, and they took the path to the gallery, went up the same stairs he knew well from the night when he rode on the brass boar; he knew the statues and pictures, the lovely marble Venus and those who lived in colours; he saw once more the Virgin Mary, Jesus and St. John.
They now stood in silence in front of the painting by Bronzino where Christ descends into Limbo and the children around him smile in the sweet certainty of heaven; the poor child also smiled, for he was in his own heaven here.
‘Well, off home with you!’ the painter said to him, when he had already stood there for so long a time that the painter had put up his easel.
‘May I see you paint?’ the boy said. ‘May I see how you get the picture over there onto that white canvas?’ –
‘I’m not going to paint!’ the man replied and took out his black crayon – his hand moved swiftly, he sized up the large picture, and despite the fact that he only drew a thin line, Christ stood there floating, just as in the coloured picture.
‘Be off with you now!’ the painter said, and the boy walked quietly home, sat up on the table and learnt how to sew gloves.
But all day long his thoughts were in the hall of pictures, and therefore he came to prick his finger, was ham-fisted, but he didn’t tease Bellissima on the other hand. When evening came and the street door stood slightly ajar, he crept outside; it was cold but lit by stars so beautifully and brightly; he walked off through the streets were it was already quiet, and soon he was standing in front of the brass boar; he bent down over it, kissed is shiny snout, and sat up on its back; ‘you marvellous beast,’ he said, ‘how I have longed for you! We must go off for a ride tonight.’
The brass boar lay there motionless, and the fresh water gushed out of its mouth. The little boy sat up there as its rider, when something tugged at his clothes; he looked down to one side, Bellissima, the little, short-cropped dog had slipped out of the house with him and followed the little boy without him noticing it. Bellissima barked, as if to say, see, I’m here with you too, why are you sitting up there? No glowing dragon could have frightened the boy more than to see the little dog on this spot. Bellissima out on the street and without being dressed, as the mistress called it – what would become of it? The dog was never allowed out in the winter time without being put into a small sheepskin specially cut and sewn for it. This could be tied round its neck with a red ribbon that had a bow and small bells on it, and it was also fixed under its stomach. The dog almost looked like a young goat when, dressed up in the sheepskin, it was allowed to trot alongside the Signora. Bellissima was with him and undressed – what would become of it? All his fantasies had evaporated, but the boy kissed the brass boar even so, took Bellissima on his arm, the creature was shivering with the cold, and ran as fast as he was able.
‘You there, what are you running off with!’ two gendarmes he met with shouted out, and Bellissima gave a bark. ‘Where have you stolen that lovely dog?’ the asked and took it away from him.
‘Oh, please give it back to me!’ the boy wailed.
‘If you haven’t stolen it, you can say back home that the dog can be fetched from the station,’ and the named the location and went off with Bellissima.
What a terrible state of affairs. He didn’t know if he ought to jump into the Arno river, or go home and admit everything. They would beat him to death, he thought. ‘But I will gladly be beaten to death; I want to die, for then I will come to Jesus and the Virgin Mother!’ and he went home, mostly so as to be beaten to death.
The door was shut, he could not reach the knocker, there was no one in the street, but a loose stone lay there, and he thundered on the door with it; ‘Who’s there!’ they shouted from inside. –
‘It’s me!’ he said, ‘Bellissima’s gone! let me in and beat me to death!’
What a scare, especially for the mistress, because of poor Bellissima; she immediately looked over at the wall where the dog’s garments normally hung – the little sheepskin still hung there.
‘Bellissima down at the station!’ she shouted out loud; ‘you wicked child! How did he get out of the house! He’ll freeze to death! That fine creature among those coarse soldiers!’
And father Giuseppe had to be off at once! His wife moaned and the boy cried; everyone in the house gathered, including the painter; he took the boy between his knees, questioned him, and in bits and pieces he was told the whole story about the brass boar and about the gallery; it was difficult to make head or tail of. The painter consoled the young boy, pleaded with the old woman, but she would not be satisfied until her husband returned with Bellissima, who had been among the soldiers; then everyone was happy, and the painter patted the poor boy and gave him a handful of pictures.
Oh, they were marvellous pictures, amusing heads! but best of all, there was one of the brass boar itself, as large as life. Oh, nothing could be more wonderful! with just a couple of strokes it  stood there on the paper, and even the house behind it was suggested.
‘If only one could draw and paint! then one could bring the whole world to oneself!’
The next day, the first moment he was on his own, the young boy grabbed hold of a pencil, and on the white side of one of the pictures he tried to reproduce the drawing of the brass boar – and he managed it! a bit askew, a bit topsy-turvy, one leg thick, the other one thin, but it was possible to make it out – he was joyously happy with it! The pencil refused to go as straight as it should, he noticed; but the following day another brass boar stood next to the other one, and it was a hundred times better; the third was so good that anyone would recognise it.
But things went badly with his glove-sewing, slowly with his errands about town; for the brass boar had now taught him that it was possible for all pictures to be transferred to paper, and the city of Florence is a whole picture book if one wishes to leaf through it. On the piazza della Trinitàthere stands a slender column and on the top it stands the goddess of justice, blindfolded and with a pair of scales; soon she was down on paper, and it was the glovemaker’s little boy that had put her there. His collection of pictures grew, but it consisted only of dead objects so far; then one day Bellissima jumped in front of him: ‘stand still!’ he said, ‘then you’ll be wonderful and be in one of my pictures!’ but Bellissima refused to stand still, so he had to be bound; his head and tail were bound, he barked and starting jumping about, the string had to be tightened – then came the Signora.
‘You wicked boy! the poor creature!’ was all she managed to utter, and she shoved the boy aside, kicked him with her foot, banished him from her house – he was the most ungrateful brute, the wickedest child; and in tears she kissed her little, half-strangled Bellissima.
At that moment the painter came up the stairs and – here is the turning-point in the story.
In 1834, there was an exhibition in Academia delle artein Florence; two painters exhibited side by side, collected a great number of onlookers. In the smallest painting, a small, cheerful boy was depicted who was sitting drawing; as his model he had a small, white, close-cropped lap-dog, but the animal refused to stand still and so it had been bound with twine, at both head and tail; there was life and truth in that painting that couldn’t help appealing to everyone. The painter, people said, was a young Florentine who was said to have been found on the street as a young child, been brought up by an old glovemaker, he had taught himself to draw; a now famous painter had discovered his talent when the boy was about to be chased away because he had bound the mistress’s darling, the little lap-dog, and made it his model.
The glovemaker-boy had become a great painter, this picture was proof of that, and even more so did the larger one next to it; here there was only a single figure, a ragged, attractive boy sitting asleep in the street; he was leaning up against the brass boar in porta rossa street. All those looking at the picture knew the spot. The child’s arms rested on the boar’s head; the little boy slept so soundly, the lamp in the picture of the Virgin Mary cast a strong light onto the child’s pale, wonderful face. It was a magnificent painting, surrounded by a gilt frame, and in the corner of the frame there hung a laurel wreath, but among the green leaves there twined a black ribbon, a long black mourning crape hung from it. –
The young artist had recently died!

Friday, 29 March 2019




A couple of days back, I received a mail from CO USA, asking me about a shared ancestor, Edgitha. It’s not a name you can easily forget. Did I know if – and if so at which cemetery – she and her husband were buried in British soil? I managed to find a possible location. Today my US ‘relation’ writes that the cemetery has confirmed that they lie buried there. ‘It’s strangely satisfying when things about your (distant) past fall into place,’ I wrote back. It is. Our common ancestor, Henry Irons (1825-1883) may well be chuckling in his grave.
It is a lovely early spring evening. The pigeons are planing like paper darts in slow motion, the sparrows are chittering away, and I feel a ‘consanguity’ with all living creatures. Anyone, no everyone, I meet I am distantly related to. There is no Creexit. It’s time to drain the water off the local butcher’s home-smoked tenderloin, do the carrots and cauliflower al dente, rake through the rice and tell my wife dinner’s ready.

Monday, 25 March 2019

Joachim du Bellay: 'Les Regrets' in English translation

Sonnet XXXI – Les Regrets

Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage,
Ou comme cestuy là qui conquit la toison,
Et puis est retourné, plein d’usage et raison,
Vivre entre ses parents le reste de son aage !

Quand revoiray-je, hélas, de mon petit village
Fumer la cheminée, et en quelle saison,
Revoiray-je le clos de ma pauvre maison,
Qui m’est une province, et beaucoup d’avantage ?

Plus me plaist le séjour qu’ont basty mes ayeux,
Que des palais Romains le front audacieux,
Plus que le marbre dur me plaist l’ardoise fine,

Plus mon Loyre Gaulois, que le Tybre Latin,
Plus mon petit Lyré, que le mont Palatin,
Et plus que l’air marin la doulceur Angevine.

Sonnet XXXI - Regrets

Happy, like Ulysses, the one whose journey’s done,
Or like that man of fame who gained the golden fleece
And then returned, more seasoned and more wise, to Greece
To live among his own with all his battles won!

When will I see, alas, the smoke from chimneys rise
Once more in my small village, at what time of year
I see once more the plot of my poor home so dear
That is to me a province – more, despite its size?

More pleasing is the place my ancestors have built
Than Roman palaces, their grandeur and their gilt,
More than the marble’s hardness does my fine slate please,

More than Tiber’s swift waters, my Loire calm and still,
More my Lyré so small than the Palatine Hill,
And more than strong sea-air, the Angevine soft breeze. 

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Thor Sørheim: 'Tapt terreng' in English translation


Jeg nøler ikke med å komme
på etterskudd når løvtrærne samler seg
bladløse på kollene og rimet har festet
et fuktig lag på brukarene, jeg går

langs strandkanten og hører isen
legge seg med dumpe smell, det er
vinteren som skyves inn i et mørkt
pakkhus, tunge dører åpnes

og lukkes igjen, lenger og lenger
inn i kulda, jeg stritter imot
når hyllemetrene fylles med vissent
gras og uavhentede kjærlighetserklæringer,

det tar tid å vente på den blå frostrøyken
som skal klarere alle papirer, litt etter litt,
og feste en rosa fraktseddel på vest-
himmelen skrått over grantrærne.


I do not hesitate to trail
behind when the deciduous trees gather
leafless on the hillsides and rime has fixed
a moist coating to the bridge piers, I walk

along the shore and can hear the ice
settling with thudding reports, it is
winter that is being shoved into a dark
warehouse, heavy doors being opened

and shut once more, farther and farther
into the cold, I offer resistance
when the shelf space is filled with withered
grass and unfetched declarations of love,

it takes time to wait for the blue frost-smoke
that is to clear away all papers, little by little,
and fix a pink consignment note to the western
sky obliquely above the spruce trees.

Thor Sørheim: 'Komposthaugen' in English translation


Jeg legger vissent løv og de tynneste kvistene
lagvis i bingen, strør over med kalk, rosebladene
som falt fra altfor tidlig, sparer jeg til en siste hilsen,

jeg hører ingen stemmer, men bjørka er blitt gul,
og varmen i komposten vil stige når materien råtner,
så lenge som mulig vil jeg gå barbeint i graset,

jeg har aldri sett en brennende tornebusk,
død blir til jord og jord blir til nytt liv, jeg er aldri
i tvil om når jeg nærmer meg hellige steder.


I place withered leaves and the thinnest of twigs
in layers in the bin, sprinkle lime on top, the rose petals
that fell off far too early I save for a final greeting,

I can hear no voices, but the birch has turned yellow,
and the heat in the compost will rise as the matter rots,
as long as possible I will walk barefoot in the grass,

I have never seen a burning bush,
death becomes earth and earth becomes new life, I am
never in doubt as to when I am approaching holy places.

Friday, 22 March 2019

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing's poem 'Die Biene' in English translation

Die Biene

Als Amor in den goldnen Zeiten
Verliebt in Schäferlustbarkeiten
Auf bunten Blumenfeldern lief,
Da stach den kleinsten von den Göttern,
Ein Bienchen, das in Rosenblättern,
Wo es sonst Honig holte, schlief.

Durch diesen Stich ward Amor klüger.
Der unerschöpfliche Betrüger
Sann einer neuen Kriegslist nach:
Er lauscht’ in Rosen und Violen;
Und kam ein Mädchen sie zu holen,
Flog er als Bien’ heraus, und stach.

The Bee

When Cupid back in ages Thracian
Love-struck with creative elation
Through meadows bright with flowers leapt,
The smallest of the gods did sting him,
A bee which, to rose-petals clinging,
And now not seeking honey, slept.

This painful sting made Cupid shrewder.
The inexhaustible deluder
His ruse of war now took to wing:
In violets and roses hidden,
Should a young maid pass by, unbidden
He would as bee fly out, and sting.

Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Jacobus Revius: 'Antichrist' (1630)


    Should e’er the shaggy snow not coat the Alps so high,
Should e’er the summer’s warmth be turned to shiv’ring cold,
Should e’er the sky above from earth its dew withhold,
Should e’er all living beasts the Oceans lick quite dry,
    Should e’er the far North Pole as lodestone fail to attract,
Should e’er the grey-furred wolf with timid sheep keep faith,
Should e’er maid turn to man, or man with maid change place,
Should e’er the earth stretch round the heavens’ endless tract,
    Should e’er the sun and moon their orbits fixed exchange,
Should e’er a human hand high heaven’s hand outrange,
Should e’er the Seraphim their Maker fail to trust,
    Should e’er the Lord’s great might and goodness helpless lie,
Should e’er God’s Son once more upon the cruel cross die,
Then will the Antichrist God’s children grind to dust.

 To see the original poem, go to here.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Marjoleine de Vos: 'Wer jetzt kein Haus hat' in English translation


Begraven worden ergens, nu vooruit
ik weet wel waar het fluitekruid met luchtig kant
het voorjaar vult. Maar hoe te sterven eerst
hoe weten waar het oog graag rust
waar alles zo dat je besluiten kunt
om weg te gaan.

Is dat je leven fout geleefd werd
af te zien aan geen vertrouwde plaats
die voorbestemd lijkt voor vaarwel?
Als je een huis gebouwd had, dan wist je 't wel.


To be buried somewhere, well okay
I know well where cow parsley with its slender stem
now fills the spring. But how to die means you first
need to know where the eye would rest
where all is right for you to then decide
to take your leave.

Is that your life’s been wrongly lived
seen from the lack of a familiar place
that seems predestined for farewell?
Had you but built a house, you would know full well.


The title comes from a Rilke poem. To see it in German and English, go to here

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Inger Hagerup: 'Vi holder livet' in English translation


Vi holder livet i en knyttet hånd.
Vårt hjerte må bestandig ha det sånn.

Det tåler gjerne spott og overlast
når bare det får holde noe fast.

En mann, et barn, en drøm skal være vår
og evigheten måles ut i år.

For i vår gåtefulle, blinde angst
blir alle ting erobring eller fangst.

Vi bærer skrekken med oss natt og dag,
den bleke skrekk for hjertets nederlag.


Life with a clenched fist we hold onto tight.
For every heart this is a constant plight.

It copes with mockery and overload
as long as it has something firm to hold.

For husband, child or dream we persevere –
eternity’s but measured year by year.

For out of our quite blind and baffling fear
all’s viewed as catch and conquest crystal clear.

Our dread we bear within us night and day
the pale dread of our heart as helpless prey.

M. Nijhoff: 'Con sordino' in English translation

Con sordino

She said to me: ‘You are a prince in bed.’
Upon the frozen pane ice flowers were sprayed.
Nestling between cools sheets as if unmade,
Our body by fatigue now lay outspread.

After this snow the whole world’s born anew
And this night over I’m once more a child.
Be kind to my simplicity whose mild
Voice speaks like medieval paintings do.

See behind pines the castle turrets stand,
And like a slanting beam on the horizon
The sunlight breaking over pious land!

A knight through meadows canters with his love:
He whistles to his dogs, she sees the falcon
Now risen from her gauntlet soar above.

To see the original poem, go to here