Sunday 28 April 2013

Biørn Christian Lund - unknown author of one of Denmark's best-loved hymns

It was the clergyman Biørn Christian Lund (1738-1809), strongly influenced by the Moravian Brotherhood, who wrote the original hymn in 1764. It had 31 verses, the first of which was this:
Naar jeg gethsemane her faaer
I øie og dens frugt
jeg i et paradiis da gaaer
Og lugter livsens lugt.

[When here Gethsemane my eyes
should glimpse, likewise its fruit
I then walk in a paradise
And smell life’s scented root.]

As early as 1778, the poem was shortened to the last four verses, which then were passed on by word of mouth until gradually knowledge of the original author was lost. It was in this way that Grundtvig eventually came into contact with the hymn and – with the exception of some later adjustments – gave it its present-day form.

Music to the hymn was later written by Carl Nielsen, who also immortalised the tune by using it as a theme with variations in his wind quintet, op. 43.

Min Jesus, lad mit hjerte få
en sådan smag på dig,
at nat og dag du være må
min sjæl umistelig!

Da bliver nådens tid og stund
mig sød og lystelig,
til du mig kysser med din mund
og tager hjem til dig.

Mit hjerte i den grav, du lå
til påskemorgen rød,
lad, når det aftner, hvile få
og smile ad sin død!

Før så mig arme synder hjem
med din retfærdighed
til dit det ny Jerusalem,
til al din herlighed!

Oh Jesu mine, may my heart learn
for you to hunger so
that night and day my soul will yearn
you never to forgo!

Then mercy’s time and hour shall be
most sweet and joyous too,
until one day your kiss takes me
from this life home to you.

In that same grave where you did bide
till Easter morn’s first breath,
may my heart rest at eventide
and smile at its own death!

Then take me home, poor sinner I,
in righteousness and love
to your Jerusalem on high,
to glory up above!

Spring poem by the Danish writer Johan Ludvig Heiberg (1791-1860)

Nu løvsalen skygger
og dagen er lang;
hver småfugl nu bygger
i blomstrende vang.

Kun kærlighedsguden,
den stakkel, er blind;
han flagrer mod ruden,
man lukker ham ind.


Now bowers offer shadow
and days need less rest,
in spring’s flowering meadow
each bird builds its nest.

Love’s god’s on the wing, though
he’s blind as can be;
flits there at the window,
is let in for free.

Thursday 25 April 2013

A poem by the German writer
Ludwig Tieck (1773-1853)

Im Herbste

Feldeinwärts flog ein Vögelein
Und sang im muntern Sonnenschein
Mit süßem, wunderbarem Ton:
Ade, ich fliege nun davon.
Weit, weit
Reis ich noch heut.

Doch als ich Blätter fallen sah,
Da sagt ich: Ach, der Herbst ist da,
Der Sommergast, die Schwalbe, zieht,
Vielleicht so Lieb' und Sehnsucht flieht
Weit, weit
Rasch mit der Zeit.

Doch rückwärts kam der Sonnenschein,
Dicht zu mir drauf das Vögelein,
Es sah mein tränend Angesicht
Und sang: Die Liebe wintert nicht.
Nein, nein!
Ist und bleibt Frühlingsschein.

In Autumn

Into the fields a small bird flew
And in glad sunshine it anew
Did sing with sweet and wondrous tone:
Farewell, for I will soon be gone:
I’m bound today.

Yet when I saw the leaves all fall,
I said: Ah, autumn’s cruel call,
The swallow, summer’s guest, departs,
As love perhaps and longing hearts
So fast,
Their time won’t last.

The sunshine though returned again
And right up close the small bird came,
It saw my face so full of tears
And sang: Love does not winter here.
Oh no!
It's always springtime's glow.

One more von der Recke

In springtime there buds a lime so green

In springtime there buds a lime so green
with lilies and violets too;
where sits a maiden fair as a queen
who sews with the sun in view.

With spring sun one could her best compare
like apples her cheeks are round;
When at the mirror she shakes her hair
like lime-blossom does it float down.

She is a mirror of purest glass,
no flaw or stain dulls its shine;
she plays on the strings with a hand as fast
as sunlight on branch of lime.

As sunlight’s caught in the lime-leaves’ dance,
she captures both sense and mind,
her magic spell has me quite entranced,
my heart is to her consigned.
And my heart is to her consigned.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

A Danish choir favourite - Jeg veed jeg vorder dig aldrig kjær - in English. Written by Ernst von der Recke

I know I’ll never be dear to you

I know I’ll never be dear to you
to please you I can’t aspire,
for you and I are like day’s bright hue
and like night’s great darkness entire.

As night’s sole yearning is from afar
in search of daytime to wander,
my thoughts and longings, where’er you are,
will follow you and grow stronger.

And could I but gather from deep sea bed
pink coral sprays in profusion,
I’d trade them all for your lips so red
that caused me such grief and confusion.

And though I picked flowers of every size,
a myriad flowers most sightly,
from north to south I would find no eyes
whose clearness stood out so brightly.

May guardian angels watch over you,
and heav’n to bless you conspire,
for you and I are like day’s bright hue
and like night’s great darkness entire.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Poem by Kira Wuck

Loneliness smells of calf’s liver in a baking dish
the smell sticks to every corner of the house
snow and tall trees mark off roads
You can’t get away before everything thaws
that’s why people get married quickly here

Sometimes someone hacks a hole in the ice
to see if he’s still alive
in the sauna friendships are exchanged for beer
Words are as scarce as the light
when anyone asks anything
I stick mine under the snow

In the kitchen I drink the last dregs
in the wine glasses waiting to be washed up
boiled pig’s heads gape at me
snow is swept off roofs

I hide slightly tipsy under the table-cloth
pick the innards out of a roll
look at where the walls touch each other

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Grundtvig's church of living stones

The church, that ancient house, will stand

The church, that ancient house, will stand
though its towers may keep on falling,
many lie ruined, deep in sand,
yet their bells still go on calling,
calling the young as well as old,
mostly to those with wearied soul
whose longing is rest eternal.

No house that human hands have raised
can be the Lord our God’s temple,
the tabernacle can, though praised,
but as shadow it resemble.
Yet God a wondrous dwelling made,
formed it from merely earthly clay,
raised it from dust by his mercy.

We are his house and church, a shrine
built out of stones that are living,
who, ’neath the cross, baptism combine
with faith in heartfelt thanksgiving.
Were we but two or three, e’en so
he’d choose to build and dwell below
amongst us in all his glory.

We with our king can meet and pray
in the humblest hut if need be,
can say with Peter: Here I’d stay,
though the world were offered freely;
close as his word, he’ll ne’er depart,
he is our mouth, likewise our heart,
o’er time and space king and ruler.

Houses which churches have as name,
built all in praise of our Saviour ,
where to his arms oft children came,
as home we cherish and savour.
Wonderful things are spoken there,
the pact concluded that we share
with him who grants us all heaven.

The font baptism calls to mind,
the altar joys of communion,
God’s word where faith and hope combine
with his love in mystic union,
the house of God, whose word endures,
Christ, who eternal life ensures,
God’s living Son, our Redeemer.

May then God grant, where’er our home,
always when church bells are pealing,
people in Christian faith will come
to where they can hear when kneeling:
Not as the world sees, you see me,
all that I say will come to be,
my peace I leave with you always!

Monday 15 April 2013

Poem by the Swedish writer
Erik Beckman (1935-95)


The big voice roars above me:
A stroke of happiness goes over Falsterbo.
   I see a double-bass that’s heavily belaboured.
   Round suns or cheeses shoot off from its strings
      I hide myself in dad’s old black piano
      and with a comb poke at the strings inside it.
         Dust and rust and a musty smell descend on me
         along with an untuned F-sharp from the 1800s.
The big voice moves along and uncle-rumbles:
A stroke of happiness goes over Falsterbo.

The little voice pipes close to me:
A stroke of happiness goes over Abisko.
   I see a little fiddle fiddling down there.
   It is a muted sound of need and northern lights.
      I pound it to death with the heel of my boot
      and play Jumpin’ in the sun on double manuals.
         The pedal-organist pounds the pedals up and down.
         A spider trembles on its ceiling thread.
The little voice creeps over death’s threshold piping:
A stroke of happiness goes over Abisko.

I grow into a youth, highly erotic, searching
on dad’s map for Falsterbo and Abisko.
   A young man is erotic. He stands at the window
   seeking and conducting. The young girl
      is erotic. Cycling grammar school teachers
      fall over each other in a heap in the street.
         A mixed-up sound of saxophone and harpsichord,
         policeman’s whistle and frightened cycle-bells.
I give them a fortissimo and everybody screams.
The sun burns into my father’s map of Sweden behind me.

Afterwards we sit and comment on what happened
gathered in generations round the 60-watt bulb:
   How the midwives themselves became prolific
   and the tinned sardines gave birth to young.
      How soundlessly all flights of birds moved
      southwards and northwards over a mapless country.
         How all voices fell silent and went into exile,
         became mute sheep in flocks on some alien planet.
The violinist in us draws his bow and everybody hums:
doh re mi fa so. Then even the children fall silent.

Friday 12 April 2013

Calendar poem of the day,
by Victor Vroomkoning


Zoals ze daar ’s morgens
op de stoep tegen elkaar
aan geleund warmte zoekend
in hun plastic jassen staan
te wachten, grijs,
vormeloos, vol afgedankt
leven, tegelijk broos
en weerloos. Je zou ze
weer naar binnen willen
halen, je ouders
wachtend op de bus.


The way they stand waiting
there on the morning door-step
leaning against each other,
seeking warmth in their
plastic coats, grey,
formless, full of cast-off
life, frail and so
assailable. You would
like to fetch them back
inside, your parents
waiting for the bus.

Thursday 11 April 2013

One of my MA poems

the visit

brother mike phoned
‘you’d better take a plane
ma hasn’t long’
we did the four-hour drive
in his car
edging towards each other

ma slowly opens her eyes
‘oh john’ she says
(for the first time since childhood
i am not just ‘dear’)
as if i had been out of the room
a couple of minutes only
‘i’ve had this dream
i was in holland and
the canals were frozen over and
people were skating’

she leans towards the side of the bed
where i am sitting
her loose hospital shift
exposing one perfect brown nipple
the one time
i have seen it since
the unfocused gaze
of my first days
‘it was such a lovely dream’

sudden intimacy
who is this person?
i wonder


bror mike ringede
‘bedst du tager et fly
ma har kun kort tid tilbage’
vi kørte de fire timer
i hans bil
kantede os ind mod hinanden

ma åbner langsomt øjnene
‘du john’ siger hun
(for første gang siden barndommen
hedder jeg ikke bare ‘skat’)
som om jeg kun havde været
udenfor værelset et par minutter
‘jeg har haft denne drøm
jeg var i holland og
kanalerne var tilfrossede og
folk skøjtede’

hun bøjer sig frem mod den side af sengen
hvor jeg sidder
hendes løstsiddende sygehustøj
blotter én perfekt brun brystvorte
første og sidste gang
jeg har set den siden
det ufokuserede blik
af mine allerførste dage
‘det var sådan en dejlig drøm’

pludselig intimitet
hvem er denne person?
undrer jeg

Tuesday 9 April 2013

Grundtvig – the Danes as world champions at self-deprecation

Far higher are mountains in other lands found

Far higher are mountains in other lands found
than here where a hill is thought striking.
But Danes of the North find that grass-covered mounds,
and lowlands are more to their liking.
The lofty and wind-swept may suit all the rest,
to stay down to earth is what serves us Danes best.

Far lovelier, we are prepared to believe,
are foreign climes which we know barely.
But Danes are at home where beech comes into leaf
by shores strewn with fair blue-eyed Mary,
from cradle to grave our most beautiful sight
is fields in full bloom in the waves’ glittering light.

Far greater may deeds be for money or fame
by foreigners done, or their scions.
Though never in vain were shields borne by us Danes
with hearts and with three passant lions.
Let eagles for worldly power sharp talons wield!
we’ll not change our banner, we’ll not trade our shield.

Far cleverer folk may be found anywhere
than where every sound and strait’s glinting.
For household use though we have good sense to spare,
we won’t make us godlike by thinking.
As long as the heart burns for truth and what’s right,
time surely will show that our minds were quite bright.

Far higher, and nobler, and finer the words
that foreigners’ lips may be spouting.
Of what’s high and lovely can Danes though be heard
to speak and to sing without shouting.
Our native tongue may not strike home to a hair,
but melts the heart more than their tongues cleave the air.

Far more of that ore that’s so white or so red
did others extract or were selling.
But every Dane eats of his own daily bread
no matter how humble his dwelling.
And as for great riches, we’re on the right track
when few have too much, fewer still suffer lack.