Sunday 31 July 2011

Poem of the day in the Dutch poetry calendar, by Henriëtte Roland-Holst

I too, now somewhere in my middle years,
have lost my bearings in life’s forest dark;
No earthly wisdom though’s revealed the path
that leads away from pain and doubting fears,

nor borne me up; no heav’nly eyes have shone
down on me from those brighter climes above -
rays watching over me with tender love,
and raising me to realms where truth is won.

I have no other guide than my own mind,
no sure support than single faithful hands
that lift my spirits when my strength gives way;

no envoy strengthens me from better lands
than the soft swish of hope I sometimes find
can, winglike, stroke my cheek and fade away.

Thursday 7 July 2011

Poem by the 17th century Swedish post Lars Wivallius

Dirge over this dry and cold spring

A dry and cold spring speeds summer’s demise,
of winter food us depriving.
Grant help, heav’nly King, see spring how it flies
and little joy we’re deriving.
Sun warm us, don’t harm us!
For winds chastise
and cold the summer is riving.

This is the first of the twenty-two stanzas. For a full version, go to here

Wednesday 6 July 2011

What constitutes craftmanship?

I wonder if anyone noticed that Gustafsson's 'Sestina' operated within strict formal constraints? That there are only six rhymes throughout, which vary during the sestets and are compressed into internal and end rhymes in the final tercet?

Here is another scheme:

xXxxX, xXxxX
xXxxX, xXxxX
xXx, xXx

the capitals indicate stress, the different colours different rhymes.

Who is capable of writing a wonderful poem of 22 stanzas within these constraints? The next blog will tell you. The poem is from 1642.

Sunday 3 July 2011

A sestina from the collection 'Sonnets' (1977) by Lars Gustafsson


There was a time each grain of time was whole.
As is the tennis ball when hanging a
razor-sharp hundredth of a second, waiting
above the net. Not ‘recently’ or ‘soon’
but a third something, which is all we see.
The rest is expectation or is time

that was, not mine though, someone else’s time.
The clean shot is what once more makes you whole.
This is the sole reality we see.
Expectations and memories fill a
mainly random personality, soon
for the next ball you can see it waiting.

Who is it though that stands there ready waiting?
All time is eaten up by thoughts of time
that was, or something that will happen soon.
Expectations and the rest memories. Whole
is only he who no longer sees a
second ball in the ball there is to see.

Such an event as that we really see
is more anonymous than we were waiting
for. Years and princes existing in a
past age seem to live in a stiffened time.
By name we make the broken vessel whole.
It’s borne with caution to a well that soon

seems deep and full of powerful voices. Soon
only a lonely echo’s left – you see
the water’s gleaming mirror, which is whole.
It lies down there below you waiting,
so inaccessible. It’s you. Your time
is brief. A single stone’s enough. And a

thousand splinters now glitter in a
well against whose grey-stone sides there soon
play flickering reflections. Which are time.
The only time we understand. We see
in splinters. In stiffened pose stand waiting.
The clean shot is what once more makes you whole.

We all live in a nameless world. We see.
We die as soon as we recall; die waiting.
There was a time each grain of time was whole.

Friday 1 July 2011

Another poem by the Swedish poet Gunnar Mascoll Silfverstolpe.

Gårdens själ

Jag stannar plötsligt mitt på trädgårdsgången
en sommarkväll, då jag är sjutton år.
En våg av gyllne skönhet tar mig fången.
Jag känner att jag darrar där jag står.
I gröna lövverk aftonsolen lågar,
och rymden är en rymd i skylös vila.
Med guld på vingen gårdens svalor pila
i tvära kast och långa, mjuka bågar.
Och genom svalkan ångar som en brygd
en doft av timjan, timotej och klöver.
I lätta, blonda dagrar står den bygd,
som sommarnatten snart skall sjunka över.

Så rikt och fullt kan alltså garden tona,
så rikt och fullt och helt, att jag kan tycka
att svallet över päronträdets krona
är som ett löfte om en häftig lycka.
Det känns som hjärtat vidgat sina gränser,
och för en brinnande, en flyktig stund
med allt som doftar här och allt som glänser
min skygga ungdom slutit ett förbund.
Den gamla gården vill ett hjärta väl.
Den sett så många mänskor i det farna
– och så en afton kan den plötsligt klarna
och slösa givmilt med sin friska själ.

The soul of the farm

While on the garden path I stop enraptured
one summer evening, when just seventeen.
By surging golden beauty I am captured.
I feel how I am trembling at the scene.
In trees’ green leaves the evening sun is flaring,
The sky above is one of cloudless calm.
Wings tinged with gold, the swallows of the farm
make sweeping arcs or veer with lightning daring.
And through the coolness like a brew there steams
a scent of thyme, of timothy and clover.
In flimsy light the countryside still gleams
which summer night will soon be sinking over.

So rich and full, then, can the farm appear,
so rich and full and whole that I can sense
the radiant flush that crowns the pear-tree here
can promise happiness that is intense.
The heart feels it has gone beyond its knowing
and for an instant, blazing but intact,
with all the scents and everything that’s glowing
my timid youth has made a lasting pact.
The old farm wants to cheer the human heart.
It’s seen so many lives of yesteryear
– and can one evening suddenly grow clear
and its live soul unsparingly impart.

From the same collection as the former poem, to be located here