Friday 30 January 2015

Another stave church, at Kvernes, as seen by C.O. Jellema.

Translation from Dutch into English here, and into Danish here.

A poem by the Norwegian poet Rolf Jacobsen

Stave churches

I believe in the dark churches,
those that still stand like pitch-fires in the forests
bearing with them a scent as of deep-red roses
from times that maybe possessed more love.
The soot-black towers I believe in, those with a sun-burnt smell
and ancient incense in-branded by centuries.
     Laudate pueri Dominum, laudate nomen Domini.

Axes dubbed them and silver bells rang in them.
Someone carved them with dreams, gave them wings to roam with
through ages and mountains. They break like billows around them.
Now they are ships, with crow’s nests toward the East Indies,
Santa Maria, Pinta and Niña when the days darkened
near the world’s end, years away from Andalusia.
     Laudate pueri Dominum, laudate nomen Domini.

Fear everywhere, even Columbus is frightened now
that mirages seek to entice them and the wind’s the hissing of serpents.
The stars stare immovably down with iron eyes of madness,
all the days are evil, all hope of rescue is gone, we though keep
sailing, sailing, sailing.
     Laudate pueri Dominum, laudate nomen Domini.

A recent poem by Hester Knibbe

Let us set fire to

the old letters, see all the beautiful
rain-sodden sun-bleached words and lines
go up in flames while unashamedly

retaining their content. We have
known happiness, oh how we have known –
              Let us

explore before long other cities, through new
streets with musicians and sleepers on benches
stroll, grow accustomed depart.
              Let us

eat there drink and give

the singer enough for him to get drunk
the beggar what is his due.

To see the original and hear Hester Knibbe read the poem aloud, go to here.

Thursday 29 January 2015

Another highly pietistic hymn from Brorson

Peace in Jesu’s death we surely

Peace in Jesu’s death we surely
could and should and ought to feel.
Of this his each wound securely
serves as pledge and proof and seal.
Tell all sinners now heart-riven
Peace is here, so freely given!

Simply come, you who are sighing,
faint and tired from threat of law!
From Christ’s wounds aren’t you descrying
their true meaning is far more?
He you from your pain did sever,
So, my heart, you’re free for ever.

Now farewell to all your raging
and your thunder, Sinai!
All my pain he is assuaging,
from chastisement sets me free.
Every drop of blood that’s flowing
copious grace on me’s bestowing.

Jesus! let the soul but tarry
in your great pain’s sweet relief;
let your pierced side safely carry
all my longing, hope, belief!
Then in paradise your dying
I’ll be ever glorifying.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

A poem by David Koker (1921-45)

To see this poem in translation, go to here.

At the Jewish cemetery in Prague, Oscar Levertin (1862-1906)

To see the poem in translation, go to here.

Yet one more Brorson

Who’ll accuse, indict me?

Who’ll accuse, indict me
have me tried and slight me
on Mount Sinai?
Though my sins conceding,
I to Christ am speeding,
which shall set me free.
For if tried
where Jesus died,
he will vanquish those who’d spite me,
who’ll accuse, indict me?

Who’ll condemn and curse me?
May I now immersed be
in Christ’s blood, set free.
God is judge almighty
and his verdict’s rightly:
He released shall be,
in Christ’s blood
he is made good –
Satan, sin and death dispersed be!
Who’ll condemn and curse me?

Monday 26 January 2015

A poem by the Norwegian writer Rolf Jacobsen


It was that evening with the fireflies
when we stood waiting for the bus to Velletri
that we saw the old couple kissing each other
under the plane tree. It was then
you said, half into the air
half to me:
Whoever has loved long
has not lived in vain.
And it was then I caught sight of the first
fireflies in the dark, sparkling
with flashes of light around your head.
It was then.

Sunday 25 January 2015

A poem by Karin Boye


Salt, bitter salt
the sea is, and clear and cold.
Deep down, there’s much that moulders,
the sea though cleanses all.
Wild, beast of prey wild
is the surf in its glittering bound,
but no human thoughts have ever
the sea-song’s full-bodied sound.
Strong, endless and strong
is the mighty march of the waves,
and strong with the unending sea
each gentle transient wave.
So give your life to the sea. There’s
life-blood required of a man,
though lastly, deep in the depths, he
will gain rest that none other can.

Friday 23 January 2015

Brorson of the day

O Holy Ghost! immensely

O Holy Ghost! immensely
my heart yearns for its home,
that precious gem,
where all which pains intensely
you grant me to disown.
O Holy Ghost! immensely
my heart yearns for its home.

But ah, those seas restraining!
How can I find a way
past reefs unseen
and currents keen
my stronghold safely gaining?
I shall though, come what may.
But ah, those seas restraining!
How can I find a way?

This thought shall quell my fearing:
I’ll soon in heaven stand.
My faith make brave
to flout each wave,
and safe the ship be steering,
you know just what I can!
This thought shall quell my fearing:
I’ll soon in heaven stand.

A poem from the just-published Cathedra sequence by Albert Hagenaars

the tombstones of saint-denis

The light of Abbot Suger, ever new, falls on
canopies and tombstones, the vacant faces
of kings. Their graves are subject to

an emptiness greater than that of life.

Further down, in the crypt, their
amassed remains now acidify, sealed
off from the viruses of a belief

more menacing, penetrating

than that of the zealot from Geneva,
the arguments of the Enlightenment
or the yapping goddess of the Revolution:

our probing of DNA, nanos and the universe.

This gleaming marble, wearing away
in staring, suggests how we too might shine,
in a glow that knows neither day nor night

for love is deep, deeper than stone is dense.

Taken from the four-language collection Cathedra, the original Dutch by Albert Hagenaars.
For more information, consult his website at

Thursday 22 January 2015

At a guess - the only hymn that includes a honey cake. By Brorson (1739).

God’s kingdom’s gospel is so sweet

God’s kingdom’s gospel is so sweet,
as honey cake its flavour;
if in one’s heart it finds a seat
where one this food can savour,
it is the soul’s own honey fare
makes light the heart and free from care
and in Christ’s eyes most pleasing.

The word so sweet for which we crave
God’s mouth and heart have given,
it is a kiss that God us gave
when to despair we’re driven,
it is the strength of God’s own heart,
a honeyed cure that makes depart
sin’s every pus-filled abcess.

If you by sin are sore oppressed
which here your soul has smitten,
this heav’nly word’s to you addressed,
come, read what has been written:
As true as God lives ever more,
he never will your sighs ignore,
but lovingly receive you.

Just place this word upon your tongue
and to your pain apply it,
you’ll move God’s heart if truly sprung
from your heart’s depths you sigh it;
in Jesu’s name accept God’s grace
and hasten to its sweet embrace
for it is granted gladly.

Come, settle like a busy bee
in this word’s meadow-flowers,
the strength within seek earnestly,
suck deep for many hours,
there honey freely is bestowed,
the blood that from Christ’s wounds once flowed
in God’s word is discovered.

You think, if you’d an upright heart
no doubt would e’er assail you,
but when you feel lust’s wicked dart
deep down, you heart will fail you,
your heart will quickly grow quite weak,
because you lack the strength you seek
to banish sin for ever.

Your greatest sin can never face
or match at any hour
the mighty kingdom of God’s grace,
his true word’s living power;
he who has faith God’s grace shall know
no matter he be high or low
or where on earth he’s living.

An Easter hymn by Brorson

Listen, you whose weeping

Listen, you whose weeping
in salt tears is steeping
where your Saviour lies,
banish tears and sadness,
now come days of gladness,
joy and peace your prize!
He aright
has used full might
all death’s shields to break and shatter,
and completely scatter.

He has risen truly
from the dead, will duly
greet triumphantly;
angels you can find there
nothing else remains where
his grave used to be.
Your gaze stay
on where he lay!
There you should all pain be flinging
that your heart was wringing!

Come, draw nearer, merely
bury all that nearly
made your courage fail!
To his flock make haste now,
tell with joyful words how
he has made death quail!
Say to each
who’s fearful, teach
each disciple, from death’s prison
Jesus Christ is risen!

Tell your heart stop fretting,
be its pain forgetting,
there’s no need for dread;
He has quenched the fire,
risen to inspire,
Jesus, who was dead.
He broke free,
his bride may she
likewise all her foes be smiting,
be in God delighting.

If your sins are many,
Christ says: every penny
of the debt is paid.
Anger off is driven,
grace now freely given,
be no more dismayed;
Jesus died,
and swept aside
all death’s wrath and tribulation
for your sole salvation.

Sin, can you but glower?
Hell, where is your power?
Death, where is your sting?
Christ is fully glorious,
I am now victorious,
them he down did fling!
God, who gave
at Jesu’s grave
us this victory amazing,
we will e’er be praising.