Sunday 15 November 2009

Den danske sang - Jens Vejmand

Carl Nielsen wrote music for many Danish poems.
Here is one of the most famous of them:

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.

To hear a snatch of the song in Danish, sung by Aksel Schiøtz, go to here.


Anonymous said...

Wow, what a beautiful translation.

Anonymous said...

And much better than my poor efforts