Friday, 30 August 2019

Dèr Mouw: a translation poem

Het hele landschap heeft de zon vertaald:
’t aardappelveld in niet hoog artistiek,
maar deeglijk proza; kleurige lyriek
geeft ’t koornland in een stijl, die vlamt en straalt;

episch in vorm, in kleur, in klank, verhaalt
de eik van zijn zonneheros in epiek;
de populieren zoeken ’t in tragiek,
hoe op ’t geen hoogstreeft, ’t noodlot bliksemstraalt;

paarse ernst van groene rooie-kool herhaalt
de humor van wat klein schijnt en komiek;

wetend wat recht is, en dat híj nooit faalt,
knikt wijs de den welwillende kritiek –

Uit de onvertaalbare ontzaglijke daalt
één lof op ‘t literaire mozaiek.

The sun’s translated the whole countryside:
potato fields into if not ornate
yet solid prose; while cornfields add a spate
of lyricism, flaming far and wide;

epic in colour, form and sound, the oak
tells of its sun-hero in epic verse;
the poplars choose the tragical, the terse:
how those who strive high, fate fells at one stroke;

perse gravity of green red-kale infers
humour in what seems droll and quite prosaic;

knowing what’s right, and that he never errs,
the pine nods sagely, genially commends –

From the untranslatable immense descends
sheer praise upon the literary mosaic.

Monday, 26 August 2019

Ludvig Holstein: 'I solen gaar jeg bag min plov'

Sang bag ploven

I solen går jeg bag min plov.
Jeg nikker til den grønne skov,
Hvor du, min lykke, gemmer dig.
Mit hjerte ler og gemmer sig
Og gemmer sin lyksalighed
Til sol går ned, til sol går ned.

Min lykke vågner ung og ny
Som lærkesang ved morgengry.
Hver aftenstund den smykker sig.
Men kun for mig du smykker dig.
Og nætternes lyksalighed
Er dagens gyldne hemlighed.

Jeg pløjer op det gode muld.
Men ingen ser det gyldne guld,
Som i mit hjerte gemmer sig.
Jeg gemmer mig, jeg gemmer dig,
Jeg gemmer vor lyksalighed
Til sol går ned, til sol går ned.

Song behind the plough

In sun’s warm glow I plough the land,
I greet the trees as green they stand,
where you, my joy, are hiding still.
My heart’s full glad and hides as well
And hides its bliss from everyone
Till setting sun, till setting sun.

My joy awakens young and new
Like lark-song in the dawn’s pale blue.
Each evening it adorns itself.
You though for me adorn yourself.
And all the bliss of every night
Is daytime’s secret golden-bright.

I plough the rich earth, turn each fold,
But no one sees the golden gold
That hidden in my heart does dwell.
I hide myself, you hide as well,
I hide my bliss from everyone
Till setting sun, till setting sun. 

Jeppe Aakjær: 'Høgen'


Vær hilset Høg over Granetop,
du stolteste Fugl i Skoven!
Du stirrer trodsigt mod Himlen op,
din Flugt er vild og forvoven.

Du kløver Brisen i vilden Lyst,
mens grønligt Øjnene spejde;
du hugger dit Næb i din Fjendes Bryst,
og aldrig du skjænker ham Lejde.

Du er en Røver for Gud og Mand,
i Blod du sølede Hammen;
du ser med Foragt paa den vrikkende And,
der spejler sin Fedme i Dammen.

Jeg elsker vel ej din blodige Klo,
men Flugtens Sus om din Bringe,
dit vilde Blik fra dit stolte Bo
og Solens Blink paa din Vinge.

The Hawk

My greeting, hawk above fir-trees high,
you proudest of birds in the forest!
Defiant you stare straight up at the sky,
your flight is as wild as it’s lawless.

You cleave the breeze with a wanton zest,
with greenish eye ever scouting;
you sink your sharp beak in your quarry’s breast,
its right to survive always flouting.

A brigand you are before God and man,
your body blood-red from the slaughter:
the duck’s waggling rump with contempt you scan,
reflected down there in the water.

No love of your bloody claw have I,
but your flight-smoothed breast in all weathers;
your savage gaze from your home on high
and the glint of the sun on your feathers.

Friday, 23 August 2019

Torild Wardenær: 'The fiddlers'

The fiddlers

There’s a great deal we never get to know anything about. The fiddlers for example.
For that reason, there is not anything special to say about them. All we have heard is this:
They came to town one afternoon. They were going to stay at Hotel Union, and for a while
reception was full of dark-dressed men with embroidery on their jackets and their fiddles
safely stowed away in black cases.
Nobody opened them and played on their instruments right then. It would probably not
have been appropriate. It is almost certain that one or other of them must have felt like 
striking up a tune.
Anyway, it didn’t happen. But later, when they had all been given rooms, some
scattered notes could be heard coming from various rooms in the west wing.

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Torild Wardenær: 'Sifong'


Siphong, siphong. The word popped out. It did. He was just standing there, and the word popped
out without warning: siphong, siphong. Twice, no more.
What do you say?
He tried it out again. No one directly contradicted him. He laughed. Became excited. He had
not been drinking champagne, only black coffee.
He looked at himself in the mirror, pronounced the word slowly and noted his facial expression.
Shaped his mouth first into a smile. Then made a round opening, like he mimicked to very small children.
It looked odd, but sounded good: siphong, siphong!
Instead of good afternoon and be seeing you, he shouted it to his friends. They were standing on
the loading verge and they replied: what? both of them. He waved and repeated the greeting. They
waved back.
On the bus he said the same when he was given his change. Siphong. The driver looked up and
nodded to him. Said: OK. And let the heavy bus swing out as light as a feather from the edge of the pavement.

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Anneke Brassinga: Rosie's oration

Rosie’s oration

Ever seen a wrinkled sea-gull? Wrinkly sea, yes, stone
and bone, but walled-eye horse, hollow-gob donkey
no. Well, help each other keep peepers skinned! Fair to assume

humanity exists as species? Not as yet satisfactorily demonstrated
by independent sources, it being much too intersubjectively
limited, with bulging eyes copiously magnifying vain dazzling

can never plainly be concluded – without one contribution
of potencies dormant in wintering sugar beet as well as
the industrially freeze-dried tea rose – that dubious parasite,

conceitedly believing its own word, has the right to posit itself.
Well now, it unmistakably would seem related to the rose: it too
becoming crumpled in its utmost state, and shedding

sweet tears even, before the final snap. Likewise geranium and jasmine.
In short, QED: humanity, no, merely an overwhelming
quantity, falling outside all botanical categories, consequently

rushing around in panic, bellicose, in earliest
and final stages abusively not clinging to the illusory
public spirit, sweetly vegetating as seen fit, specimens.

Torild Wardenær - poem from 'I pionértiden' (1994)


Kan vi dette språket nå, efter mange år i landet? Gebrokkent spør vi. Har hørt at det er et
verdensspråk. Anvendbart overalt, hvis vi behersker det. Vi blir nå her. Øver og øver.
Utvider langsomt det lille ordforrådet mens vi tolker hverandres blikk og geberder.
Bak våre stotrende munner; læremesterens hemmelige munn, ofte taus.


Can we speak this language now, after many years in the country? We ask haltingly. Have heard that it is a
world language. Viable everywhere, if we master it. We’ll stay here now. Practise and practise.
Slowly enlarge our sparse vocabulary, while interpreting each other’s looks and gestures.
Behind our stuttering mouths: the secret mouth of the mentor, often silent.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Rilke: 'Das ist die Sehnsucht'

On a house gable in the Netherlands

Das ist die Sehnsucht: wohnen im Gewoge
und keine Heimat haben in der Zeit.
Und das sind Wünsche: leise Dialoge
täglicher Stunden mit der Ewigkeit.

Und das ist Leben. Bis aus einem Gestern
die einsamste von allen Stunden steigt,
die, anders lächelnd als die andern Schwestern,
dem Ewigen entgegenschweigt.

R.M. Rilke (Die frühen Gedichte, 2. Auflage 1909)

Longing is this: to dwell in fluctuation
and have no home in time one can foresee.
And wishes this: the calm of conversation
twixt daily hours and all eternity.

And this is life. Till from the past day’s surging
the loneliest of all its hours ascends,
which, from its many sisters’ smiles diverging,
towards the eternal its own silence sends.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

T. van Deel: Mondriaan


Dit is geen boom, dit is het metrum
van de boom. Een eenvoud waartoe alles,
ooit, moet herleid om heel en afgerond
begrijpelijk te zijn. Ook de gemberpot
en de vuurtoren, de zee en het duin
lieten zich zo uit beeld en gelijkenis
bevrijden. Het denken geeft een hand
aan wat het oog aanschouwt: geraamte
dat het vlees ontstijgt, vlees als
een voorwaarde voor ’t bot.


This is no tree, this is the measure
of the tree. A simplicity to which all things,
at some point, must be reduced to be wholly
and fully comprehensible. The ginger jar
and lighthouse, the sea and the dune could 
also thus be liberated from image and
likeness. Thought lends a hand
to what the eye observes: a skeleton
that transcends the flesh, flesh as
a prerequisite for the bone.

To see more poems by T. van Deel, go to here

Dèr Mouw: August poem

It’s end of August, Sunday. – Blue-hazed air
round distant pine trees in late afternoon;
toward glowing stubblefield, now fiery-plumed,
from grit-path dust clouds flees a scuttling hare.

Old-fashioned dahlias, like giant taws,
glow the entire length of the farmhouse wall
in perfect line; and chittering swallows call
around the barn, across the path’s wire-gauze.

The sand’s still loose from Saturday’s keen rake;
edged with the cautious footsteps that folks take;

a shadow-point of bean-leaf now quite spare
lies in the path’s traced furrows here and there;

in muffled gusts through the closed window come
fleeting strains played on a harmonium.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Miriam Van hee: 'Het karige maal'

The frugal meal

Under the lamp at table
we sit silently eating; our hands
coming and going like white flecks;
our ringed fingers aimlessly
toying with the familiar bread.
There is no joy nothing unusual
about the sound of our
knives and forks.

And naturally we know nothing
of the happiness of travellers
in an evening train.

To see the original poem, go to here

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Simon Grotrian: 'Ode til et Egetræ'

Ode to an oak-tree

Oak-tree, I pay homage to you
and place myself next to you
you greet me, I can hear the low murmur, like the boulevards
seeping round the peace of the park.
We read your purpose leaf by leaf, before you lose the summer
in folios to a gale and turn into a skeleton.
Your roots are shadow-branches, you have four dimensions
the corners of the earth meet in your crown
where they tussle
I can hear the sizzling, loud like a tablet.
And your trunk is an extensive tethering stake for giants
green shoots can explode inaudibly in your upper frame.
Old friend, your voice lay buried in a bog
but your suppleness has made you black as the earth’s shadow-beings.
Potential coffins, tables wait for a chain saw
you great burnt photo of my sorrow
that keels over.
For you land at my feet, and I remain standing, alone.

Jess Ørnsbo: a page from 'Tidebogen' (The Book of Hours)

HCA: 'Keiserens nye Klæder'

The Emperor’s new Clothes

Many years ago there lived an emperor who was so terribly fond of beautiful new clothes that he spent all his money on being elegantly dressed. Only if he got the chance to show off his new clothes did he show any interest in his soldiers, the theatre or going for a drive in the woods. He had a dress coat for every hour of the day, and just as one says about a king that he is in council, one always said in his case: ‘The emperor’s in the royal wardrobes!’
It was extremely pleasant in the great city where he lived, every day many strangers came – and one day two swindlers did; they pretended to be weavers and said they were able to weave the loveliest cloth one could imagine. Not only were the colours and pattern exceptionally beautiful but the clothes sewn from the cloth had the remarkable ability to become invisible to each and every person who was unfit for his office, or who was inadmissably stupid.
‘A fine sort of clothes to have,’ the emperor thought; ‘ by wearing them I could find out which men in my empire were unfit for the office they hold and I would be able to distinguish between clever and stupid people! Yes, that cloth must be woven for me at once!’ and he gave the two swindlers a great deal of money in advance to begin their work.
They set up two looms and pretended to be working, but they hadn’t anything at all on them. Without more ado, they demanded the finest silk, and the most magnificent gold – this they kept for themselves and they worked away at the empty looms until late at night.
‘I wonder how they’re getting on with the cloth!’ the emperor thought to himself, but he had a distinctly uneasy feeling when he recalled that anyone who was stupid or unfit for his office wouldn’t be able to see it – he didn’t think that he really needed to worry about himself, but he decided even so to send someone first to see how things were progressing. Everyone in the whole city knew what a strange power the cloth had, and everyone was eager to find out how incompetent or stupid his neighbour was.
‘I’ll send my worthy old minister to the weavers!’ the emperor thought, ‘he’s best able to see what the cloth looks like, for he’s an intelligent man, and no one attends to his office better than he does!’
Now the worthy old minister entered the room where the two swindlers were working at the empty looms. ‘Good gracious me!’ the old minister thought, opening his eyes wide: ‘I can’t see anything!’ But he didn’t say that.
Both swindlers asked him to be so kind as to step closer and asked him if he didn’t think it was a lovely pattern and delightful colours they were weaving. They pointed to the empty loom, and the poor minister’s eyes were as wide-open as ever, but he couldn’t see anything, for there wasn’t anything to see. ‘Good lord!’ he thought, ‘Am I stupid, perhaps! I’ve never believed so, and no one must ever know about it! am I unfit for my office perhaps? No, it will never do for me to say that I can’t see the cloth!’
‘Well, have you nothing to say about it?’ said the one who was weaving.
‘Oh, it’s splendid! too enchanting for words!’ the old minister said, peering through his glasses, ‘this pattern and those colours! oh yes, I shall certainly tell the emperor it appeals to me exceedingly well!’
‘A pleasure to hear it!’ both of the weavers said, and they now named the colours by name as well as the quite exceptional pattern. The old minister listened carefully, for he would have to be able to say the same when he got back to the emperor, and he did just that.
Now the swindlers asked for more money, more silk and gold – they needed it for the weaving. They stuffed everything into their own pockets, not a single thread ended up on the loom, but they continued to weave on the empty loom as before. After a short while, the emperor sent another worthy official to them to see how the weaving was coming along, and if the cloth would soon be ready. Exactly the same thing happened as with the former official: he looked and looked, but since there was nothing apart from the empty loom, he couldn’t see anything. ‘Yes, isn’t it an exquisite piece of cloth!’ both the swindlers said, and they showed and explained to him the delightful patterns that were not there at all.
‘I’m not stupid!’ the man thought, ‘so is it my office that I’m unfit for? That’s bad enough! but I mustn’t let anybody notice that!’ and he praised the cloth he couldn’t see, and assured them how pleased he was with the lovely colours and the delightful pattern. ‘It’s simply too enchanting for words!’ he said to the emperor. Everyone in the city talked about the magnificent cloth.
Now the emperor wanted to see for himself while it was still on the loom. With a whole host of carefully selected men, which included the two worthy officials who had been there before, he went to both of the cunning swindlers who were now weaving with all their might, but without a single thread.
‘Yes, it is magnificent!’ both the worthy officials said. ‘Perhaps His Majesty would look at what patterns, what colours we have here!’ and they pointed at the empty loom, for they believed that the others could probably see the cloth.
‘What’s all this?!’ the emperor thought, ‘I can’t see a thing! but this is terrible! am I stupid? am I unfit to be emperor? that would be the worst possible thing that could happen to me!’ – ‘Oh, it’s extremely beautiful!,’ the emperor said, ‘it has my highest approval!’ and he nodded contentedly and gazed at the empty loom – he didn’t want to say that he couldn’t see anything. The whole retinue he had with him looked and looked, but they got nothing more out of it than all the others, although they said, just like the emperor, ‘oh, it’s very beautiful!’ and they advised him to wear these wonderful new clothes for the first time at the great procession that was about to take place. ‘It’s magnifique! exquisite, excellent!’ went from mouth to mouth, and everyone was extremely pleased about it. The emperor gave each of the swindlers a cross of the order of chivalry to hang in his buttonhole and the title of squire of the loom.
The whole night before the morning of the procession the swindlers sat up and had more than sixteen candles lit. People could see they were busy getting the emperor’s new clothes finished. They pretended to take the cloth from the weave, they snipped in the air with large scissors, they sewed with sewing needles without thread and finally said: ‘Just look, now the clothes are ready!’
The emperor, with his gentlemen in waiting, came to see for himself and both the swindlers raised one arm in the air as if they were holding something and said: ‘Look, here are the trousers! here is the dress coat! here the cloak!’ and so on and so forth. ‘It’s as light as gossamer! one would almost think one was wearing nothing at all, but that of course is its special virtue!’
‘Yes,’ all the gentlemen in waiting said, but they couldn’t see anything because there wasn’t anything to see.
‘If His Imperial Majesty would now be kind enough to remove His clothes, we will put on His new ones over here in front of the great mirror!’ The emperor took off all his clothes, and the swindlers behaved as if they were putting on each item of the new clothes they said had been sewn, and the emperor turned this way and that in front of the mirror.
‘Good heavens, how well they suit Your Majesty! what a perfect fit they are!’ they all said. ‘What a pattern! what colours! it is a gorgeous costume!’
‘They are standing outside with the royal canopy to be borne above Your Majesty in the procession,’ the head master of ceremonies said.
‘Yes, well, now I’m really dressed for it!’ the emperor said. ‘Don’t they sit well on me?’ and turned an extra time in front of the mirror! for now it was to seem as if he really was contemplating his finery.
His chamberlains, who were to bear his train, groped along the floor with their hands, as if they were picking up the train, they walked forward holding the air, they didn’t dare let anyone notice that they couldn’t see anything.
Then the emperor walked in procession under the lovely canopy and everyone in the street and at the windows said: ‘Good heavens, how incomparable the emperor’s clothes are! what a delightful train his dress coat has! what a marvellous fit!’ No one wanted anyone to notice that he couldn’t see anything, for then he would have been unfit for his office, or have been very stupid. None of the emperor’s previous clothes had ever been such a success.
‘But he hasn’t got anything on!’ a small child said. ‘Good gracious, just listen to the innocent child,’ his father said; and each person whispered to the next one what the child had said.
‘But he hasn’t got anything on,’ every single one who was there cried out. This gave the emperor the shivers, for he suspected they were right, but he reasoned: ‘I’ve simply got to stick the procession out.’ And the chamberlains walked on bearing the train that wasn’t there.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

Klaus Høeck: 'Dylan Forever'

To see the entire collection in English translation, go to here

Monday, 12 August 2019

Ruben Nilson: 'Fimpen och tändstickan'


Down in a gutter on a square, midst litter, dirt and waste,
there lay a flattened, weeping stub, and nearby, quite displaced,
there lay a little matchstick from Krüger’s matchstick town:
stray souls night’s masquerading had heartlessly let down.

‘Excuse me, lovely stub,’ said he, ‘A humble match am I
who in life’s treadmill has been spared, although I here do lie,
In Krüger Manufactory’s machine I had my birth,
from nothing he created us – and thus amassed great worth.’

‘Oh my, how riveting, good day,’ the stub said with finesse.
‘I’m from a fine old family, the Chesterfields, no less.
It’s simply a mistake I’ve been discarded, I surmise,
When young one burns so ardently – and that explains my size.’

‘Ah well, young lady, also I have ancestry that’s fine,
Three Stars the matchbox label said, I too am of that line,
and I have brothers everywhere – in every town and shire,
we conflagrate, illuminate, set everything on fire.’

‘If only!’ she said frenziedly, ‘you me could but ignite,
‘you’d taste a full-blown Chesterfield once I am well alight,
and though I’m not as dazzling-white as formerly when young,
I still have my aroma and a taste to please the tongue.’

But both fell silent suddenly when, full of fright, they glanced
a higher being who controlled a sweeper that advanced,
and in a cloud of swirled-up dust the two were forced apart,
and no one felt the matchstick’s pain, the stub’s cries from the heart. 

A landfill, though, at Riddersvik was where the two progressed,
midst trash and refuse side by side they lay there tightly pressed,
out came the sun and set alight the matchstick’s fiery top,
the stub she then went up in smoke – the match burnt down nonstop.

Listen to Fred Åkerström sing this song on Guldkorn vol. 2!

Sunday, 11 August 2019

HCA: 'Dandse, dandse, Dukke min!'

Dance now, dance now, doll of mine

‘Yes, well this song is one for very young children!’ Auntie Malle assured them; ‘with the best will in the world, I’m unable to keep up!’
But little Amalie could; she was only three years old, played with dolls and brought them up to be just as wise as Auntie Malle.
A student used to come to the house help her brothers with their lessons; he spoke a great deal to little Amalie and her dolls, talked quite differently from all the rest; it was so amusing, the young girl found, though Auntie Malle said that he didn’t know how to converse with children; their little heads couldn’t possibly grasp all he said. Little Amalie could, and she even learnt a whole song by heart from the student: ‘Dance now, dance now, doll of mine!’’ and she sang it to her three dolls, two of them were new, one was a young lady, the other a young man, but the third doll was an old one called Lise. She also got to hear the song and was even mentioned in it:

Dance now, dance now, doll of mine!
Isn’t this young lady fine!
And her escort looks a treat,
With his hat and gloves so neat,
Trousers white and jacket blue,
Big-toe corn from tight-laced shoe. 
He’s so fine, and she’s so fine.
Dance now, dance now, doll of mine! 

And there’s Lise here as well!
Last year’s doll’s a grand old gell,
Hair quite new, it’s made of flax,
Forehead rubbed quite clean with wax;
She now looks quite young once more.
Come, old friend, and take the floor!
You shall dance, the three of you.
So we can enjoy the view.

Dance now, dance now, doll of mine!
Get your steps right, keep in line,
Point your toes and keep quite trim,
Then you’ll look both sweet and slim!
Curtsey, turn and round you spin,
It’s so healthy for the skin!
An entrancing sight to see.
Keep on dancing, all you three!

And the dolls understood the song, little Amalie understood it, the student understood it; he had composed it himself and said that it was quite excellent; only Auntie Malle didn’t understand it; she was well past the stage of childlike jollity – ‘mere frivolity’ she said. Not so Amalie, she sings it. She’s the one we’ve got it from.