Monday, 6 July 2020

Dan Andersson: 'Benkvarnen'

The epilogue is so short that I can squeeze another Dan Andersson in:


Benkvarnen

Det står ett gammalt ruckel vid Hattmomarjaån
det lägsta och simplaste på orten,
dit vandra hundra hästar och karlar fjärranfrån,
och välta sina benlass i porten.

Och mjölnaren är gammal och vet vad han vill,
och tröttnar väl aldrig att mala –
när han vilar sig då lyssnar han leende till
hur de dansande stenarna tala.

Och han säger att när stenarna dansa över ben,
som ha slutat att hoppa eller springa,
så sjunga de, så klinga de som klockor av sten,
till en ärofull begravning de ringa.

Och han säger att hans kvarn är som människans liv:
Ett evinnerligt snoende öde,
och att kugghjulens gnissel likna trätor och kiv,
men att benmjölet liknar de döde.

Ty det lägger sig att sova när vandringen är slut -
det sparkar ej mera eller hoppar;
av det spröda och hårda som funnits förut
finns blott snövita, stoftfina kroppar.

Och om somliga gå ut till en darrande dans,
till den sista och gladaste av alla,
om de skimra som pärlstoft i aftonens glans,
så tröttna de dock snarligt och falla.

Kanske stundar det uppståndelse till kommande vår?
Kanske spelar det och viskar i träden?
Det som dog för en vecka sen och maldes i går,
kanske gungar det till nästårs i säden?

Men stenarna gå evigt sin gnisslande gång,
och dammet bolmar skyhögt i porten,
och mjölnaren säger att benkvarnens sång,
är den gladaste som sjungits på orten.


The bone-mill

At Hattmomarja river there stands a run-down shack
the lowest and the simplest to be found there,
a hundred men and horses from far and wide still track
and tip their load of bones on the ground there.

The miller there’s an old man, his mind fully set,
he tirelessly grinds without cursing –
when he rests he listens, smiles as he hears the duet
of the dancing two mill stones conversing.

And he says that when the stones dance away over bones,
once they’ve ended their leaping and their springing,
then sing aloud, they sound as if they’re bells made of stone,
to an honourable funeral they’re ringing.

And he says that his mill is like all human life:
Just a twisting fate, endless once started,
and the cog-wheels’ harsh creaking is like quarrels and strife,
but that bonemeal is like those departed.

For it lies there and will rest when its journey is done –
it ceases now its leaping and straining;
what was formerly fragile and hard is all gone –
there’s but snow-white, fine powder remaining.

And though some of them to quivering dancing should go –
e’en the merriest, the one least like stalling  –
though they shimmer like pearl-dust in evening’s soft glow,
will quickly tire and soon will start falling.

Is the Resurrection due perhaps when spring comes our way?
Will the trees then all be rustling and playing?
That which died just a week ago, was ground yesterday,
will perhaps in next year’s grain it be swaying?

But endlessly the stones creak, keep grinding along,
the dust still billows sky-high that’s found there,
the miller too claims that the bone-mill’s slow song
is the merriest of those sung around there.

Dan Andersson: 'Epilog'














EPILOGUE

Good night – sound sleep I wish to you,
to all you wayfaring men.
We cease our singing and part – more than true
should never we meet once again.
Just a little and poorly I’ve sought to convey
what burned deep within, though its flame’s almost through,
but the love that was there, it knows no decay –
good night – sound sleep to you.

Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson (1832-1910): 'Kjærlighetsvise'

Two surprises came when I saw this poem. Firstly that it was Norwegian - I knew it from an EP recorded way back in the 1960s by the Danish singer Frode Veddinge. Secondly that the author was none other than Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson:


Kjærlighetsvise

Holder du av mig,
holder jeg av dig
alle mine levedage;
sommeren var kort,
græsset blegner bort,
kommer med vor lek tilbage.

Hvad du sa ifjor,
husker jeg i år,
sitter som en fugl i karmen,
kakker på og slår,
synger litt og spår
lykke under solevarmen.

Litli-litli-lu!
Hører du mig nu,
gutten bakved bjørkehejen?
Ordene vil gå, —
mørket faller på,
kanske du kan vise vejen.

Sjo-i, sjo-i, hyss!
sang jeg om en kyss? —
Nej, det gjorde jeg visst ikke.
Hørte du det, du?
kom det ej i hu, —
jeg vil lade avbud skikke.

Å, god nat, god nat!
drømmen har mig fat,
den om dine milde øjne
og de tause ord,
som av kroken fór, —
å, de vare så forfløjne!

Nu jeg lukker til.
Er det mer, du vil?
Tonerne tilbake trille, —
lokker mig og ler, —
vilde du mig mer?
Aftnen er så varm og stille.


Love song

If you love me true,
I will love you too
till my days on earth are over;
summer hurried past,
grass pales far too fast,
through our play we them recover.

What you said last year
I recall so clear,
like a bird outside it’s sitting,
on my pane it raps,
chirps, predicts perhaps
sun-warmed joy that’s unremitting.

Littly-littly-loo!
Can you hear me coo,
lad behind the birch-hedge hiding?
Words will fade away, –
night now follows day,
maybe you can do the guiding.

Shoo-ee, shoo-ee, miss!
did I say a kiss? —
No, a word like that confuses.
That’s what your ear caught?
pay it not a thought, —
I will send you my excuses.

Oh, good night, good night!
sleep now holds me tight,
your mild eyes I dream of nightly
and the words unsaid,
that escaped and fled, —
scatterbrained they flew so lightly!

Now it’s time to close.
No more words than those?
All the notes the air’s retrieving, —
how they tempt me sore, —
are you out for more?
Such a warm and tranquil evening.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

 The best-known example of an outsider in Danish literature is Svante, a figure created by  Benny Andersen. He shot to fame with the recording made of the songs by Poul Dissing in 'Svantes Viser', which appeared in 1973. But the songs are part of a whole epic about Svante. To see the whole book in English, go to here.

To listen to Poul Dissing singing this song in Danish, go to here.



SVANTE’S DRINKING SONG

Night is so cold.
Life is so short.
Friends move out further
off than they ought.
My tongue’s all mouldy, my soul’s lost its pep.
And each time I move it’s a backward step
You must just keep your spirits primed.
I am drunk and I’m feeling fine.

Cobbles for bread.
Traffic like shears.
Zips and not buttons.
Music that sears.
Stars that are sooty and grins that don’t fit
and porter and belches and aquavit.
You must just keep your spirits primed.
I am drunk and I’m feeling fine.

Tiredness and tears.
Shouts like coarse rope.
Hands quite rejected.
Hope without hope.
Toothache. Insomnia. Gastric distress.
But life’s worth a hangover still, I guess.
You must just keep your spirits primed.
I am drunk and I'm feeling fine.


Saturday, 4 July 2020

Dan Andersson: 'Spelmannen'

Spelmannen

Jag är spelman, jag skall spela på gravöl och på dans,
i sol och när skyar skymma månens skära glans.
Jag vill aldrig höra råd och jag vill spela som jag vill,
jag spelar för att glömma att jag själv finnes till.

Jag vill inte tröska råg och jag vill inte repa lin,
ty den hand som stråken skälver i skall hållas vek och fin.
Ni får inte ge mäj bannor eller kalla mäj för lat,
fast jag stundom hellre hungrar än jag spelar för mat.

Jag vill inte gräva jorden, jag vill inte hugga ved,
jag vill drömma under häggarna tills solen hon gått ned.
Och i kvällens röda brand ska jag stå upp med min fiol
och spela tills ert öga lyser hett som kvällens sol.

Jag ska spela när ni gräva era kära ner i jord,
jag ska spela hela sorgen i en visa utan ord.
Och det svarta som var döden och som hälsat vid er säng,
det skall forsa som en strömmande sorg från min sträng.

Jag ska följa genom dalarna i höstens höga natt,
och i rök från hundra milor ska jag sjunga som besatt.
Och när natten böljar becksvart över skogstjärnens skum,
mina basar skola ropa djupt ur mänskosjälens rum.

Tre sorgens strängar har jag – den fjärde har gått av,
den brast i en skälvning på den bästa vännens grav.
Men ända in i döden vill jag följa er med sång –
och jag vill dö och jag vill spela till uppståndelse en gång.

To hear Thorstein Bergman sing this song, go to here

The fiddler

I’m a fiddler, play at dances, at a funeral or wake,
in sunshine or when clouds cause the moon’s soft gleam to quake.
I refuse to take advice and I will play when I decide,
I play just to forget that I’m alive here inside.

I’ve no wish to thresh cut rye and I’ve no wish to gather flax,
for the hand that makes strings quiver shall stay soft and free of cracks.
You must never call me lazy, never curse the way I feel,
though at times I’d rather starve than have to play to earn a meal.

I’ve no wish to till the land, my axe for chopping wood to whet,
rather dream beneath bird-cherry trees until the sun has set.
And in evening’s crimson fire to stand up tall when day is done
and stroke my fiddle’s strings till your eyes burn like evening’s sun.

I shall fiddle when you bury those you love the most ere long,
I shall garner grief and sorrow into one great wordless song.
And the blackness that was death and which stood there beside your bed,
it will gush out like a stream of pure grief which my strings spread.

I shall join the long cortege through autumn dales in night-time rest,
and to smoke from hundred charcoal stacks shall sing like one possessed.
And when night o’er foaming forest stars sends billows black as coals,
All my bass notes will call deeply from the depths of human souls.

I’ve still three strings of sorrow – the fourth I cannot mend,
it quivered till it broke at the grave of my best friend.
But even unto death I’ll always follow you with song –
and I will die and keep on playing till the Last Day comes along.

Norwegian medieval ballad: 'Sven Svane'

Sven Svane han ganger seg et stykke utpå veg,
der møtte det hannem en vandringsmann.
«Å hør nå min vandring hva jeg spørger deg
og om du på de spørsmåla vil svara meg.»

«Å hvo er nå rundar hell det rundaste hjul?
Og hvo sjunger fagrest utav alle kreatur?
Og hvo er nå hvitare enn svanen?
Og hvo roper høyere enn tranen?»

«Og sola er nå rundar hell det rundaste hjul,
og engla sjunger fagrest utav alle kreatur,
og månen er hvitare enn svanen,
og tora roper høyere enn tranen.»

«Og vet du nå dette så vet du fulla mer.»
Sven Svane tok gullringen utav fingeren ner
og ga så den vandringsmann for svara.
Og dermed skiltes båe desse kara.

To listen to Alf Cranner sing this song, go to here


Sven Svane went walking down a lonely country road,
He there met a wayfarer that had no fixed abode;
Good day to you, traveller, and listen to me do,
Please say if these riddles four mean anything to you:

And what is yet rounder than the wheel that’s most round?
And who in creation are the fairest singers found?
And what is yet whiter than is swan’s down?
And what cry is louder than the crane’s sound?

‘The sun is yet rounder than the wheel that’s most round,
And angels in creation are the fairest singers found,
The moon is yet whiter than is swan’s down,
And thunder’s cry is louder than the crane’s sound.’

‘If this you know truly, you need know nothing more.’
Sven Svane took off the ring of gold he always wore
And gave him for answering correctly,
And then they both went on their way directly.

Friday, 3 July 2020

Jeppe Aakjær (1866-1930): 'Jens Vejmand'

Jeppe Aakjær wrote a poem/song in 1905 about a roadman called Jens Vejmand, based on a real-life character Jens Nielsen (1832-1901), who was employed under Ringkøbing County in west Jutland and given the responsibility for a section of the road between Herning and Holstebro. He worked on this until de died. It is said that Jeppe Aakjær paid his successor 25 øre to tell him about his predecessor. The song was set to music by Carl Nielsen two years later and became immensely popular.


Jens Vejmand

Hvem sidder der bag Skjærmen
med Klude om sin Haand,
med Læderlap for Øjet
og om sin Sko et Baand?
Det er saamænd Jens Vejmand,
der af sin sure Nød
med Ham’ren maa forvandle
de haarde Sten til Brød.

Og vaagner du en Morgen
i allerførste Gry
og hører Ham’ren klinge
paany, paany, paany,
det er saamænd Jens Vejmand
paa sine gamle Ben,
som hugger vilde Gnister
af morgenvaade Sten.

Og ager du til Staden
bag Bondens fede Spand,
og møder du en Olding,
hvis Øjne staar i Vand —
det er saamænd Jens Vejmand
med Halm om Ben og Knæ,
der næppe ved at finde
mod Frosten mer et Læ.

Og vender du tilbage
i Byger og i Blæst,
mens Aftenstjærnen skjælver
af Kulde i Sydvest,
og klinger Hammerslaget
bag Vognen ganske nær —
det er saamænd Jens Vejmand,
som endnu sidder dér.

Saa jævned han for andre
den vanskelige Vej,
men da det led mod Julen,
da sagde Armen nej;
det var saamænd Jens Vejmand,
han tabte Ham’ren brat,
de bar ham over Heden
en kold Decembernat.

Der staar paa Kirkegaarden
et gammelt frønnet Bræt;
det hælder slemt til Siden,
og Malingen er slet.
Det er saamænd Jens Vejmands.
Hans Liv var fuldt af Sten,
men paa hans Grav — i Døden,
man gav ham aldrig én



Jens Roadman

Who’s sitting by the shelter
with hands where rags do cling,
with eye-patch made of leather
and shoes held on with string?
It’s no one but Jens Roadman
who must, shall he be fed,
transform with his own hammer
the hard stones into bread.

And should you wake one morning
as dawn begins to soar
and hear a hammer clanging
once more, once more, once more,
It’s no one but Jens Roadman
on old legs once so true
who sends wild sparks a-flying 
from stones now wet with dew.

And should you travel townwards
behind the farmer’s mares,
and pass beside an old man
eyes watering with tears –
It’s no one but Jens Roadman,
straw-clad round legs and knees,
who seeks in vain for shelter
so he won’t have to freeze.

And should you journey homewards
while showers and gales molest,
the evening star a-trembling
from cold in due southwest,
and hear the hammer singing
behind you close somewhere –
It’s no one but Jens Roadman 
who still is sitting there.

And so he smoothed for others
the road that’s hard to go,
but when it came to Christmas
his arm said to him ‘No.’
’Twas no one but Jens Roadman,
his hammer fell from sight,
they bore him o’er the heath on
a cold December night.

There stands within the churchyard
a board now half-decayed;
that skews obliquely sideways,
its paintwork faint and frayed.
It’s no one but Jens Roadman,
his life was full of stones,
but on his grave they gave him
not one to mark his bones.

Listen to the 1941 recording with Aksel Schiøtz here