Wednesday 10 August 2011

Final version of the poem by the Swedish poet Wivallius

Dirge over this dry and cold spring (1642)

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.

Good May-rain set free, let drizzle allay,
let warm dew feed plants that famish!
let drought banished be, let frost cease to flay
and cause all young flowers to languish.
Your curse flee, show mercy!
For those I pray
who serve and fear God with anguish.

Let weather forlorn and drought so unkind
not force red roses to perish,
let fields meant for corn the farmer not find
so barren they no man can nourish!
Make danger a stranger,
and always mind
the earth’s young crops so they flourish!

Let heaven’s great door wide open now swing
help clouds that would be ascending,
let us soon hear sweet nightingales sing
whose lays the cold’s been preventing!
Let voices rejoice as
young hearts take wing!
Let children’s dance know no ending!

Let folk hand in hand now dance, one and all,
let summer’s butterflies flutter!
On petals let stand, on leaves sweetly sprawl
moist pearls too lovely to utter!
let twitter and chitter
goldfinches small
with finest wagtails that scutter!

Give comfort and joy, let larks call and play,
let summer’s swallows not perish.
Our sad breasts alloy that only dismay
now feel, though Sweden we cherish!
Give summer, late-comer,
give good green hay,
let cuckoos cry out with relish!

When daybreak is near, or mild eventide
sees day with night alternating
We luring calls hear at summer’s divide,
God’s creatures dance, play, are mating!
in rivers there quiver
salmon and ide
their spawning anticipating!

Our days make them long, our nights make them clear,
let light, warm drizzle be falling
enticing to song all birds that have here
been mute in winter appalling!
let couples, redoubled
both far and near
rejoice, now summer is calling!

Make fruitful each crop, each creature beguile
o’er town and village when faring,
The ploughman’s limbs hop and dance all the while
he thin-spun linen is wearing.
Each thrush in dale gushes
and folk all smile
and many a trumpeter’s blaring.

Oh, sun ever bright, you poor man’s true friend,
your rays nobody denying,
light up our dwellings with summer again
let cold and drought off be hying!
Hard-pressed though soon blessed go
women and men
where’er sun’s warmth they are spying.

Our sorrows make brief, the ploughman befriend,
let green deck forest and valley,
from drought grant relief, and moisture now send
so farmers’ hearts soon may rally!
Rejoicing, let voices
in joy ascend
that yet but mournful words tally!

Let green clothe the trees, let fruit fill the earth,
ensure no need can oppress us,
to quickening breeze full-scented give birth
from field, mead, forest to bless us!
Grant garlanding, dancing
with measured mirth,
let bright-hued beds convalesce us!

Let grass become lush and flowers fair to see,
let ermines frolic and revel,
let cool breezes brush us far out at sea,
let soft winds hat-strings unravel!
In meadows find beds or
in green-clad lea
for those that nightly do travel.

Let craftsmen display the skill of their hand
and journey safe from all stealing,
let merchants find way on water and land
to where they fain would be dealing!
By nosegays and pathways
the joy expand
which high and low may be feeling!

Let days become warm! Let herdsmen still keep
their watch in pleasant shade hunching,
while shaking an arm at goats and at sheep,
on apples and berries lunching!
From ploughshare to bough fair
in one wide sweep
let oxen stare, their cud munching!

Let livestock now graze, from stalls oxen prise,
to forests drive cattle willing!
Let working beasts gaze ’neath God’s open skies,
let ploughmen rejoice while tilling!
Let fields share full yield where
the final prize
is ripe corn ready for milling!

Their meadows let flower, their furrows turn green,
their granaries help replenish!
With farmers in power, no soldier has seen
from lack of bed he need perish.
Wrath cease now, give peace now!
Both lad and colleen
know endless joys they can cherish.

Let crowding bees hum round flower and leaf
while honey sweet they’re extracting!
The air though is dumb from screams and sore grief
where armies war are enacting.
Wrath cease now, give peace now,
God grant relief,
to stop our foes from impacting!

O’er war you are king, o’er all you are lord,
o’er heaven’s stronghold presiding.
And thus everything I do you accord.
Help us on foot or when riding!
Make flourish and nourish
what’s cold and flawed!
You are our solace abiding.

Oh God, we have sinned against you, forgive
our many failings’ confusion!
Let penance rescind them, for we would live
our new lives free from illusion.
Though wroth, be you loath our
hearts to misgive,
though free from harmful delusion!

Restrain our desires, and teach us through prayers
to rightly use what you’ve given!
Whatever transpires, pray lessen the cares
of those to frugal life driven,
assist and resist not
the hand that bears
a bowl that’s empty and riven!

Grant them a good year, and o’er them let reign
your sun that seasons does sever,
the moon too so clear, let wax and let wane
that its pure light they lack never!
But those who oppose you,
the sick disdain,
may each house shun them for ever!

For a parallel text file of this poem go to here

1 comment:

John Irons said...

Dear John Irons,

My compliments on your wonderful, congenial translation of Lars Wivallius´ Klagevisa över denna kalla och torra vår.
It must have meant a lot of work to translate even the rythm and his use of rhymes to enjoyable English.

I wanted to explain to American relatives how much summer and especially midsummer means to us Swedes.
The best expression I could find was this poem by Wivallius. Whenever I read it it brings tears to my eyes.
You can imagine my surpise when I found your excellent translation.

Thank you so much!

Warm regards,

Torbjörn Malm