Monday 29 August 2011

A poem by the Swedish writer Tomas Tranströmer

From the rock*

I stand on the rock and look out across the bay.
The boats are resting on the surface of summer.
“We are sleepwalkers. Moons adrift.”
So say the white sails.

“We slip through a sleeping house.
We softly slide open the doors.
We lean towards freedom.”
So say the white sails.

Once I saw the wills of the world sailing.
They held the same course – a single fleet.
“Now we are scattered. Nobody’s escort.”
So say the white sails.

* It is difficult to know if the Swedish word 'berg' in the title should be translated as rock or hill. The poem refers to the 14 sqkm island of Runmarö in the Stockholm skerries. It is almost rhombic in form, with a steep drop down to the west and gently sloping terrain towards the east. The highest point on the island is about 35 metres a.s.l. The Swedish Wikipedia entry on the island has a possible candidate for the rock:

Lotsutkiken in Styrsvik is a lonely shack on a bare heel of rock south of the steamboat jetty. It has a view of the bay that stretches for miles and miles, and until 1912 was the look-out post of the Berghamn pilots.

Another website refers to this 'heel of rock' as a 'bergknalle' = bare hillock.

Staffan Bergsten, in his recent book 'Tomas Tranströmer, ett diktarporträtt' (2011), mentions that Tranströmer took over his maternal grandfather's pilot's shack on the island. I am indebted to Ivo Holmqvist for this information.

PS. have just found Robin Fulton's translation of this poem on the Internet. He calls the poem 'From the Hilltop' and starts with 'I stand on the hill...'. Probably the best solution.

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