Wednesday 30 June 2010

A suite of poems by the Swedish writer Lennart Sjögren

Crow suite

Searched out my soul
creatures with crow’s wings
the three-legged
and every other possible thing
outside the normal.
Everything outside the normal.

Was submerged in my soul
a late-Roman pair of twins
with wolf fangs
and the fish of fishes.
They copulated with each other
and what wasn’t given birth to
because of these acts.


Had lived peacefully quite some time
had sought my food among the classical
and even the refuse bin had a classical touch.
Had spent quite some time among
the embalmed
where right was right and evil was evil.


Come for a night into my soul
dwarves with cow-horns in their forehead
spiders with faces of closest friends
and my own portrait
brought in by wood-lice.
Talking lilies and stone barriers.

And self-flagellators
the shipwrecked on the island of death.

Come down into my soul: the female weepers
the female laughers
but something to weep or laugh about
wasn’t visible just then.
Even so they were at hand as a deliverance.

And I thought that all that was now taking place
did so in an age
that was not only that of man.

And I listened to the far-off hills
and I heard there
the utterly clear laughing
and utterly clear weeping


All the low-slung frogs came leaping
those who at night form
one great protracted clucking –

A clucking for all forms of what is alive
not least the hybrid forms.
And I asked myself if I was a frog
in the circle of frogs
a monkey in the monkey cage.
Or a crow
in the cunningly laid snare.


This very night
an old well-known discus thrower
descends from his marble plinth
he is tired of the white
he asks for the pig’s snout
the crayfish’s leg.
And the pair of twins with wolf fangs
do not hold him back
nor does the fish of fishes.
He then flings his discus
way, way beyond the stands.
What do the marble staircases say then
what do the city planners say.

After staying there for a while down in
the world of the crayfish
he makes his way back to the marble
what one once has abandoned cannot be recovered
all that easily.

And it was not the night
that then gained its completeness
and it was not the night’s morning
but it certainly was a seduction.
Yes, it was like a resurrection from the
graves of time.

And the dream of the discus thrower
to be sculpted stone once more
came to nothing.
Far too uncertain and sown with doubt
was his craving for the stone
and far too many memories existed in the wind
above the square.
he left the stone for good
and went to those free in the disease.
Laugh oh my soul, he said
try a laugh at the moment of abandonment.


Then I heard once more
how the plains and more distant mountains laughed
and I went out to meet them.

And I went to the old snake –
she the female snake among the boulders
with her cleft tongue
she who sloughs her skin
and swallows her food whole
she with her inflexible smile
who guards the origin of the world.

She looked at me playfully
and held out the poison to me
when I approached.

Be of good cheer, she whispered.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Here's one by Brorson!

Up! Everything that God has made

Up! Everything that God has made,
His glory now be praising,
The smallest creature too is great,
And proves his might amazing.

Though earth’s great kings came forward, clad
In all their might and mettle,
The smallest leaf they could not add
To but a single nettle.

Yea! all the angels with their power,
Like sceptres in high station,
Have never caused at any hour
A speck of dust’s creation.

The smallest blade in vale or wood
No wonder can excel it,
Where should I wisdom gain and could
Find ample words to tell it?

What should I do now when my mind
Is slow in comprehending
How great the host of humankind
Their earthly way are wending.

What shall I utter, when I see
The woods with life abounding,
The many birds that leap with glee
Beneath the heaven’s rounding?

What shall I utter, when I walk
Among the meadow’s flowers,
When all the birds in song do talk
Like thousand harp-string showers?

What shall I utter, when my mind
Down on the sea’s bed merely
So little in its depths can find
And many mouths see clearly?

What shall I utter, when I yearn
To gaze at heaven rightly,
And all my thoughts will upwards turn
To where the sun reigns brightly?

What shall I utter, when I see
How hosts of stars are gleaming,
How mildly each smiles down at me,
And I return their beaming?

What shall I utter, when I soar
In spirit to my Maker?
And see th’angelic hosts in awe
Stand mustered by the acre?

What shall I utter? All I say
Says nothing and seems mindless;
Oh God! Your wisdom rules alway,
As do your power and kindness.

All that’s imbued with spirit shall
Our Maker soon be meeting.
His praise shall sound in hill and vale,
This earthly world completing.

Oh! Praise the Lord all those below
With voice and senses willing,
And all who dwell above now show
Our Maker’s praise in singing.

Let all below with one accord
Join joyfully in winging
Their Hallelujah! Great our Lord –
Amen the heav’ns are ringing.

A well-known hymn by the Danish writer Grundtvig, in the true Kingo and Brorson tradition

To rightly bid the world farewell

To rightly bid the world farewell
at life’s first dawn or evening knell
is hard for us to fathom.
It never would be learnt on earth,
were you not with us in your word,
Oh Jesus, as in heaven.

Though solace oft I found with you,
when my heart quaked, and tears broke through,
and worldly waves did thunder,
my soul to dust yet seeks to cling,
my heel the serpent yet does sting,
though you its head did sunder.

Oh Jesus, Master, brother sweet!
Death’s bitterness you know complete,
for you all death did vanquish.
You know us fully, every one,
know well, time’s sands that ever run
our hearts do fill with anguish.

Oh come, as once you did, I know
you will yourself quite clearly show
in all your Father’s glory,
were it at dawn or evening knell,
I’d rise up with but brief farewell
your heav’nly cloud before me.

But should death come before you do,
come secretly, remember too
the grave will all things darken!
Enhalo me, that darkness end,
anoint the eye of your sick friend,
so I may see God’s garden!

In the last night watch, come, draw near,
arrayed in clothes of one who’s dear
and sit down close beside me,
and speak with me, as friend to friend,
of where we soon will meet again,
forget what pains us direly!

Come as you wish! For well I know
you’ve said your voice may here below
reveal you to creation:
that voice, though all the world should rage,
which makes our heart within us blaze
and melt in consolation.

Oh, let me at my final hour
hear from your mouth that with great power
can speak of life and spirit:
how heaven beckons constantly,
how in your halls a chair for me
awaits which I’ll inherit!

Ere death with icy hand should strive
’twixt dust and spirit to divide,
and make heart’s warmth grow dimmer,
with trusting eagerness I’ll rest,
as does the child at mother’s breast,
embraced by my redeemer.

(for a hymn by Kingo, see 06.12.09)

Tuesday 22 June 2010

A poem by the Swedish writer Lars Gustafsson

An early summer day at Björn Nilsson’s grave
(Midsummer 2005)

Väster Våla graveyard in the light of early summer
and with the kindly southwesterly wind over

Brusling’s meadows that must have been there
that mild morning in the sixties

when we invented the Monster in Bo Gryta.
The monster was a huge mole, and we needed it

to have something to write about in Expressen.
(It was one of those irritating weeks

when everything refused to happen,

world history hesitates or meditates
on what the next really lousy surprise

is to look like and no star had broken his leg.)

Bo Gryta is a deep-hole in the Åmänningen lake
To be found a few kilometres outside

the villages of Bodarne and Vretarne, on a line
between the former Boda harbour, where the wreck

of an ore smack that capsized and sank is said
to lie, though no one knows where, and Dentist’s Point.

How deep is this deep-hole? Nobody knows.
Many have tried with plummet and line.

And when the line came up, snipped
just as elegantly as with a razorblade

or the chain they tried instead,
the cut just as shiny and neat

from what can only be
extremely large teeth, the attempts

were abandoned. Christopher Middleton
described them in his poem ‘The Mole’.

This really had an effect:
for a couple of summers latter a busload

of Englishmen, eccentrics and experts
came for the monsters of the deep. They sounded

and took notes. Per Brusling offered them coffee,
now an old man who knows quite a lot about the lake.

The summer wind passes over Björn Nilsson’s grave.
And I’m afraid I am the only one left who knows

how it really happened.

The expedition returned
deeply convinced that this giant mole

not only gigantic and malevolent,

is also sly, extremely sly,
and knows how to hide in murky depths

whenever anyone comes there
in search of it.

Friday 18 June 2010

A poem by the Dutch poet Hanny Michaelis

Amongst the other trees,
luxuriant green colossi,
that one, scantier of bud each year
and now merely a finely ramified
skeleton, frail enlargement
of a leaf in autumn
wasted down to the very nerve.

A caricature of Goethe’s
green-golden tree of life,
but closer to the truth.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Klaus Høeck's variations on a theme by Grundtvig, from 'In Nomine'

        i walked abroad one
summer’s day to hear all kinds
        of transistorra

dios blaring at full volume from
rugård landevej and my own

too for that matter from here
inside the green labyrinth well mixed up

        stirred and thoroughly
blended with songs of birds that
        through my heart could sear

        songs of birds that through
my heart could sear at three ’o
        clock in the morning

(before the devil’s up and a
bout and even the holy spirit’s

still asleep drunk on roses on him
self and on the damp scent of grain)

        i listened in ex
celsis and from far below
        in the deep green vales

        in the deep green vales
beneath the heart and the a
        bysses of the mind

grundtvig’s hymns blossom and set
their hips and their itching powder and their

living word along with their
ultimative demands made on the flesh

        and on the soul that
attempts to conceal itself
        midst the nightingales

        midst the nightingales
that are not singing any
        more (since midsummer

has long since passed like a secret
fire at the back of the head) among

the trees in the garden of udby
rectory i count the beats of

        the cuckoo’s heart and
of my own and all those small
        birds that speak so clear

        and the other birds
that speak so clear and that sing
        and cheep and chirp and

chatter and kick up a racket
from morning to evening and cackle

and crow i drown out completely with my
very own variation

        on the old danish
folk song: ‘i walked abroad one
        summer’s day to hear’

        and the other birds
that speak so clear i ask the
        following question:

will you lend me your wings when the time
comes in gratitude for all the

grain and white bread and sunflower
seed will you – you small jackinaboxes

        so my soul can fly
away up to paradise
        midst the nightingales?

        midst the nightingales
and the fires caused by pyro
        maniacs in lang

eskov amidst summer light
ning and caravans we extravagant

ly frittered away our lives on what
is referred to as nothing: long

        walks that took us out
to the sea and excursions
        in the deep green vales

        in the deep green vales
beyond any form of sense
        and of utili

tarianism midst mozart’s
horn concertos and forgetmenots

behind trinitatis’ tremen
dous mirrors we wasted our time on

        what is referred to
as nothing: songs of birds that
        through my heart could sear

        i walked abroad one
summer’s day to hear a fair
        ytale that i know

extremely well but that even so
is new every time it is told

(almost like evening church bells peal
ing or like the folk high school song book)

        by the tall trees in
the forest and all those small
        birds that speak so clear

(for a translation of Grundtvig's original poem, go to here)

Wednesday 16 June 2010

A poem by the Flemish writer Peter Holvoet-Hanssen

The magician comes

Picture a southern terrace in let’s say Marseilles
you occupy a lousy room in the Rue de Mazenod
eat and drink like a jolly frog with an imaginary companion
look up, rub your eyes: no richly rhymed rhetorics
Dutchman, the Flying Dutchman ties up at the quay

A seigneur descends the gangplank in a natty cape
his trunk advances jauntily beside its master
the cutlery stands to attention at the Marseillaise
and your friend chokes on his bouillabaisse
you knew the magician would come

His palace is as big as your imagination, picture it to yourself
it is enthroned in creamy clouds like Nephelokokkugia
the female slaves there lick his wand, he flicks pearls at their navels
thrusts his little battering ram between the guru’s chubby cheeks
throws him into a dungeon so dark even the enlightened one shudders

When the magician comes

You do not fear his wrath – you’re lucky, you certainly had it coming
even more, you smash all the plates at his feet
you fill his boots with pastis before he can even say ‘abra...’
you place him in front of a carnival mirror and paint his portrait
he genially crooks the corners of his mouth, finds it ‘impressionnant’

You imitate a sunset, most impressionist
until he starts to nod – dismount your easel while he’s still asleep
for if he suddenly starts, sea horses will run aground
if his balls nag, consumptives will shag themselves sound
if you summon him, you’ll be astounded

The magician comes

Tuesday 15 June 2010

The last Heaney translation for the time being


Da du sprang i,
Dirrede lyset af Toscana
Og svingede gennem bassinen
Fra øverst til nederst.

Jeg elskede dit våde hoved og knusende crawl,
Din fine svømmerryg og -skuldre
Der brød overfladen gang på gang
Dette år og hvert år siden.

Jeg sad med tør hals på de varme sten.
Du var uden for min rækkevidde.
Den modnede klarhed, den druetunge luft
Tynnede ud og skuffede.

Gudskelov for den langsomme nedtyngning,
Når jeg holder dig nu
Er vi tætte og dybe
Som atmosfæren på vandet.

Mine to hænder er loddet vand.
Du er min hukommelses håndgribelige,
Smidige odder
In øjeblikkets bassin,

Der drejer for at svømme på ryggen,
Med hver tavse, lårrystende spark
Som gentipper lyset,
Hæver køligheden ved din hals.

Og pludselig er du ude,
Tilbage igen, opsat som altid,
Tung og sprælsk i din opfriskede pels,
Sættende aftryk på stenene.

Friday 11 June 2010

Opening poem of 'Rib Cities' by the Swedish poet Eva Ström

The floods

The floods have not reached us
not wiped out the roadway, not overflowed the fields

The squalls have not reached us
not torn up trees by the roots, not

blocked the roads, tossed the train from the rails
Three thousand railway workers have not cleared

one thousand one hundred trees. No stable roof has blown off
near Petersborough, no aircraft was forced

to make a second landing attempt with terrified
passengers. No Sharon Black, 40, was still shaking

when saying the words: I honestly thought
I was going to die. The entire reality

from Aberdeen to Dover, from Dublin
to the English Channel was enacted in the

virtual emptiness that unexplored is called your brain
And you shut your eyes and said: Where you are is not death

where death is you are not. But the water continued to rise
and the two schoolboys at Robertsbridge, East Sussex

continued their arduous path through the expanses of water
leading their bikes through the vast defoliation

since the river had once more burst the embankments
and inundated the land one could not see

until Stan Lewis stepped out onto the staircase of his shop in Bewdley
to feed seven swans floating on a mirror of calm.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

One more Danish translation of Seamus Heaney

Field Work


Where the sally tree went pale in every breeze,
where the perfect eye of the nesting blackbird watched,
where one fern was always green

I was standing watching you
take the pad from the gatehouse at the crossing
and reach to lift a white wash off the whins.

I could see the vaccination mark
stretched on your upper arm, and smell the coal smell
of the train that comes between us, a slow goods,

waggon after waggon full of big-eyed cattle.


But your vaccination mark is on your thigh,
an O that’s healed into the bark.

Except a dryad’s not a woman
you are my wounded dryad

in a mothering smell of wet
and ring-wormed chestnuts.

Our moon was small and far,
was a coin long gazed at

brilliant on the Pequod’s mast
across Atlantic and Pacific waters.


Not the mud slick,
not the black weedy water
full of alder cones and pock-marked leaves.

Not the cow parsley in winter
with its old whitened shins and wrists,
its sibilance, its shaking.

Not even the tart green shade of summer
thick with butterflies
and fungus plump as a leather saddle.

No. But in a still corner,
braced to its pebble-dashed wall,
heavy, earth-drawn, all mouth and eye,

the sunflower, dreaming umber.


Catspiss smell,
the pink bloom open:
I press a leaf
of the flowering currant
on the back of your hand
for the tight slow burn
of its sticky juice
to prime your skin,
and your veins to be crossed
criss-cross with leaf-veins.
I lick my thumb
and dip it in mould,
I anoint the anointed
leaf-shape. Mould
blooms and pigments
the back of your hand
like a birthmark –
my umber one,
you are stained,
stained to perfection.



Hvor gråpilen blegnede i enhver brise,
hvor den rugende solsorts fuldendte øje kiggede,
hvor én bregne altid var grøn

stod jeg og så dig
tage stien fra portbygningen ved vejkrydset
og række ud for at lyfte hvidt vasketøj ned fra tornbladsbuske

jeg kunne se vaccinationsmærket
stramme på din overarm, og lugte kullugten
fra toget der kommer imellem os, et langsomt godstog,

vogn efter vogn fuld af storøjet kvæg.


Men vaccinationsmærket har du på låret,
et O som er helet ind i barken.

Bortset fra at en dryade ikke er en kvinde
så er du min sårede dryade

i en moderlig lugt af våde
og ringormede kastanjer.

Vår måne var lille og fjern,
var en længe betragtet mønt

skinnende på Pequods mast
tværs over Atlantens og Stille Havets vande.


Ikke slamstriben,
ikke det sorte udkrudtsvand
fuld af ellekogler og koparret løv

Ikke vild kørvel om vinteren
med dens gamle afblegede skinneben og håndled,
dens hvislelyd, dens skælven.

Ikke engang sommerens beskgrønne skygge
tyk af sommerfugle
og svampe buttede som en lædersadel.

Nej. Men i en stille hjørne,
fastgjort til dens stenpudsede mur,
tung, draget mod jorden, lutter mund og øje,

solsikken, drømmende umbra.


Lugt af kattepis,
med åbne lyserøde blomster:
jeg trykker et blad
af blodribsen
mod bagsiden af din hånd
så at den tætte langsomme sviden
af dens klæbrige saft
kan grunde din hud,
og dine årer kan
krydsskraveres med bladårer.
jeg slikker min tommelfinger
og dypper den i muld,
jeg salver den salvede
bladform. Muldet
blomstrer og pigmenterer
bagsiden af din hånd
som et modermærke –
min kære umbra,
du er bejdset, bejdset
til perfektion.

A Danish translation of a poem by Seamus Heaney


En røn som en læbestiftsminket pige.
Mellem sidevejen og hovedvejen
Elletræer i våd, dryppende afstand
Står ud fra sivene.

Der er dialektens dyndblomster
Og immortellernes absolutte gehør
Og det øjeblik hvor fuglen synger helt tæt
På musikken af det der sker.

To see another poem by Seamus Heaney in Danish go to 09.11.09