Friday 27 February 2015

Another poem by Erik Spinoy

At the jewish cemetery

many of the stones lie overturned. Their lie
does not seem random to me, nor their fall
as being caused by gravity, but rather by
a power that has an underlying reason.

So that each slab or tombstone there lies
thwacked down with a purpose – a soul – and waits
on the bühne of the cemetery till someone
who comprehends comes in from the wings.

But what then am I doing here? None of these
stone bodies moves at all, no voice is to
be heard that pierces their grey outlines.
We always stand as strangers next to one

another. From them to me no gesture reaches out
that can be long enough.

To hear the translation read, go to here

Wednesday 25 February 2015

A poem by the Norwegian clergyman Petter Dass (1647-1707)

Petter Dasse’s Lament
concerning his illness of six years

A body full of grit and stone
Countless infirmities has known;
And yet I ween with pen or quill
One never can describe such ill.

Such is the life I’ve now acquired,
Of pain I am both sick and tired.
At times I wish my end were nigh:
I long for death, yet do not die.

The burden that my back has bent
Is known to God omniscient,
While others can go forth and back:
I am the one stretched on the rack.

The beast that each day pulls the plough
Is better off than me, I vow;
Should it withstand its daily toil,
Nothing at night its peace will spoil.

All day my pain won’t let me think,
At night I cannot sleep a wink,
My life is almost rent in twain,
When may I e’er find rest again?

Shall I squeeze out a single drop,
My mind beside itself says stop;
’Tis like an awl or knife that cuts
Stabbed ’twixt my member and my guts.

For six years weakness has held sway,
I have not had a quiet day.
Oh God of Mercy, grant me peace:
Year seven me from gaol release!

The Sabbath comes each seventh day,
Prepare my case, Jesu, I pray
That for my trials I after this
May share with you an hour of bliss.

I your disciple beg reprieve,
That from your school I may have leave,
As master you were sometimes brash,
But God be praised for every lash!

If I, oh God, have made you wroth
You now have flayed me, by my troth,
I’m now oppressed by countless hurts
And well receive my just deserts.

What are such wages when compared
With what from no man should be spared.
A thousand years of torment can
Ne’er pay the debt incurred by man.

When though on others my eyes play
Who are of selfsame ore and clay,
I find their sufferings are nought
With pains compared with which I’m fraught.

Each seems to have sufficent load
But when apportioned what I’m owed
’Tis weighed by merest ounce and jot,
And double weight would seem my lot.

Yes, wondered must have many a one
Just what the wretched man has done
That day and night so pained is he:
Shall he thus an example be?

Is there then no one in the land
As great a sinner as this man?
To injury they insult add
And many deem him to be bad.

No matter what their judgments be,
My illness stays the same to me;
Should heaven, sea and sky and earth
Take pity, it’s of little worth.

My wife, who time and time again
Has heard me sigh and e’er complain,
Knows hardly, faced with such duress,
Where she would be for piteousness.

My son and daughter, family,
Relations, can’t have failed to see
Just how much sighing and brave tears
I have endured down through the years.

And should my pain need proof entire
And testimonials require,
Ask every trunnel, every board
That in my bed is neatly stored.

Ask every house-beam for sure proof,
Ask walls and joints, ask rafters, roof,
Ask chairs and tables – all will tell
Just how things are with me as well.

Though childbirth often is unkind
To women when they are confined;
Once to their child they’ve given birth
Their pain gives way to joyous mirth.

I though have carried and have fed
The foetus that will leave me dead,
For six years borne it undesired,
It’s hardly odd that I’ve grown tired.

Oh God, our Saviour and our King,
Who can transform most everything,
Transform my pain while I’ve yet breath!
To life or to a blessed death.

To hear the translation read, go to here

Sunday 22 February 2015

Another poem by Pär Lagerkvist

Det blir vackert där du går

Det blir vackert där du går
marken, stigen,
stranden som du följer,
allt tycks ljusna, glädjas,
allt som ser dig.

Kan väl jorden glädjas
för att någon stiger på den,
trampar på den,
en som den älskar?

Fråga inte mig.
Jag ser blott skenet,
hur det dröjer kring dig,
svävar över marken,
som om jorden log.

Stig på den,
som gläds att se dig lycklig.
Blott inte hårt,
som om du visste
att du var älskad.

There is beauty in your wake

There is beauty in your wake,
field and pathway,
sea-shore that you follow –
all grows light, rejoices,
all that sees you.

Can the earth rejoice then
just at someone walking on her
stepping on her,
one she loves dearly?

Do not ask me. All
I see’s the glowing,
how it lingers round you,
floats above the field as
if the whole earth smiled.

Walk on her,
your happiness delights her.
Though not too hard,
as if you knew now
that love enfolds you.

Saturday 21 February 2015

A poem by Anna Enquist

Plea to the artist

My solid ground of tongue and sound
is time-bound. Not so she. I ask

your help. When with my warm
hand’s blood-filled weight I’d touch her

nothing’s there. Your palette’s fourteen
colours, your brush of fox’s hair –

caress her forth now, at her ear
green shadow and her neck a trace

of yellow ivory. Find her a place
in your canvas threads. Then call

me in. You’re at the window staring.
I stand five feet away and see.

She looks at me.

To hear the translation read, go to here

Friday 20 February 2015

A poem from Anne Brassinga

To god

God almighty, I’d be well shot of you.
I love you not, nor do I love the word,
the now made flesh, well-kneaded, tender-simmered
meatball of fair poetry. All that would claim to truth
and fain be worshipped I’ll refute

until my tongue be parched. For I’m a wordwright,
I work holes and fissures tight, hammer bulkheads
against fate’s lightning strikes, sink nails
where your thunder threatens, and curse the wiles
of the deadly serpent that you send, oh God.

I shall stand there, face to face
when your dark mirror breaks; but as David
with his slingstone. As long as I last I’ll protect
my heart, the shaky stronghold at the ravine you are
so wondrously creating – by scoops of your hand.

I mark off world, resist all higher power
and thieving urge: you filch the dear lives constantly
of all those dear to me and those with whom I like to share
the rage at leaving, the taste of which you’ve put
way back in the first kiss – your death, your ash, your soot.

To hear the translation read, go to here.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Ah, memories of schooldays

‘par un ciel livide...’

french lessons with gavin brown
sixty plus
tweed jacket
tobacco stained walrus moustache
often started late

trailing his gown
stinking of his pipe
he would shuffle in
install himself at his desk
and ask how far we had got

with what, sir?
with what we had been doing

whose turn is it to read?
younger’s, sir
younger was asleep at that point

‘par en ciel livide...’
what colour’s that, younger?
red, sir
wrong, sir – fetch the Larousse!!

we always answered wrong
for the bible to be consulted
it led to haywire random words
words we would never need:
the top sail of the mizzen mast
of a three-masted schooner
the splitter of a pelton wheel
whatever that is
a bottle of hay
should you ever need it for your horse

livid, it transpired is the colour of lead
even though englishmen turn livid with anger

after our class had left school
one of us got a letter
from gavin brown
asking us all to forgive him

why? i wondered
my exam results were admittedly disastrous
half those of german
but who else in that bastion of order
would teach us
the utter randomness of existence –
the splitter of a pelton wheel?

Tuesday 17 February 2015

A poem by Arjen Duinker


On the one hand there’s the thing.
On the other hand there’s the mystery.
More about the thing and the mystery I do not know.

How in the name of whatever,
How can I know anything more about them?
And this knowledge is small knowledge, I would add,
A small idea at most, small
In its consequences for time.
If on the one hand there’s the thing
And on the other hand the mystery,
The world is explicit.

The street is the street where I come across friends,
The flowers bloom as they must bloom, with blossoms,
The wind blows wherever it wishes,
And the lack of more knowledge
Than that on the one hand there’s the thing
And on the other hand the mystery
Is to me an inexhaustible source of joy.

To hear the translation, go to here

Monday 16 February 2015

A well-loved poem by the Dutch poet J.H. Leopold

Round my old house tall poplars crane

Round my old house tall poplars crane
‘my love, my love - where are you now’
a narrow lane
of wet leaves, and the fall to come.

And on and on the dull refrain
‘my love, my love - where are you now’
of rain on rain
past grieving, and the wind is dumb.

The house is hollow, dark and bleak
‘my love, my love - where are you now’
with whispered creaks
of attic beams that will not cease.

Inside sits someone hunched and lined
‘my love, my love - where are you now’
whose eyes are blind
whose mind finds neither rest nor peace.

To hear this translation read, go to here

Sunday 15 February 2015

Lenngren lambasts the clergy

See didn't spare the clergy either. See here.

Friday 13 February 2015

Anna Maria Lenngren in good form as usual

Till fru ***, som är rädd för ormbett

Ni anser ormbett som en fara –
Men om ett sådant djur er stack,
Så kan ni säker derpå vara
Att ormen straxt af etter sprack.

For Mrs ***, who is afraid of snakebites

A snakebite you regard as frightening –
If such a creature did its worst,
You can, though, rest assured like lightning
The snake from venom then would burst.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Another one from Anna Maria Lenngren

Gunild’s spectacles

Since she, with nose both pinched and squeezed,
       Through glass discs by the urge to read
The Holy Scripture has been seized,
       Old Nick must for us intercede,
       For just as they enlarge the words
In her great velvet-covered book
       With silver hooks,
       She now takes far too large a look
At every fellow mortal’s faults upon this earth.

A typical barbed little poem from Anna Maria Lenngren

For Lise, who requested to be portrayed as a nun

I thought you’d be content, as you’re full grown, to be
A dazzling Venus in my picture;
But since you now request of me
That as a nun I shall depict you,
This thereby halves the difficulties I foresee,
For, lovely Lise, since I’d not offend good taste,
Your portrait as a nun should reach but to the waist.

Monday 9 February 2015

Friday 6 February 2015

A poem from 6 February in Klaus Høeck's '1001 POEMS'

     one swears by the soul
of one’s dead mother but it
     ought rather to be
     by her body (by
     her ashes) since it
is the flesh which will rise a
gain on the day of judgment
     and it is thus the
     body which can be
     lost for all eter
nity under the cold si
     licon of the stars