Monday 7 December 2009

Svantes viser - a parody of the song in praise of the Danish tongue by Edvard Lembcke (1815-97)


Our muddy tongue is frightful, it has so foul a sound.
With what shall I compare it, in song can praise be found?
A whore well past forty, red-nosed and hair all dyed,
but she is so game and she still holds back the tide.

She places on our lips every word that’s choked and wry
from all love’s hoarsest groaning, to festive drunken cry;
to hearts weighed down by sorrow, or filled with wild unrest,
she grants us all the timely belch that calms our savage breast.

And if in east and west we have searched from first to last
the wisdom of new ages, the wit of times long past,
she tempts and she entices, by her will we must bide.
She is a whore past forty that still holds back the tide.

The foreigners that seek to learn her language with great toil,
they get the feeling it is just like porridge on the boil;
And every time they struggle to say what strikes their ears,
she laughs out loud so heartlessly and all she says is: Cheers!

And all of the poets she gave words’ mighty power
they tyrannise her language, but from an ivory tower.
Each song known by the people and listened to with zest,
is mostly German, English or Spanish at its best.

Each feeble joke that causes a grin to reach our lips,
a gross of them at least she has right at her finger-tips.
each word straight from the belly that back to it can home
has been for many centuries our own tongue’s basic tone.

And words all change in passing before they disappear  
Our dialects forgotten, like snows of yesteryear;
and tongue after tongue all like shooting stars have died;
but she is so game and she still holds back the tide.

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