Monday 30 November 2015

Lars Gustafsson's 'small wingèd singers'

Spring’s joyous choir of birds

Dedicated to Staffan Söderblom

Ah those joyous voices of birds in spring!
How well I too remember the choir
of those small wingèd singers

They were borne in on a special tray
by schoolmaster Gustav Edin,
extremely dusty, increasingly pale in colour
and – it might possibly seem –

somewhat overambitiously
sparrow and nightingale, hawk and pied fly-catcher,
meadow pipit and dipper –

And from a gramophone record
from Radio Sweden, much over-used,
all their joyous voices were played

I never learnt
to distinguish one chirp from the other

And now in October the dull voice
of the curlew is all that is left

I did however
finally learn that one

Friday 27 November 2015

A favourite Komrij poem - Fietstocht


The distant post office was my pole star.
Not for its airmail stamps or for the print
On foreign postmarks – no, much more by far
As upstairs library it did full stint.

On Tuesday and on Thursday afternoon,
I’d disappear across that spacious floor
And,wreathed in smiles, I’d re-emerge quite soon,
Equipped with my supply of books once more.

My head now whirling  with a new sensation
At some first line that I had swiftly glanced,
I guessed, while biking, what would then ensue.

The pedals, though, were pounded till they danced
To get home all the faster, since I knew:
A book is better than imagination.

Thursday 26 November 2015

One of the best-known Danish Christmas carols - Ingemann's 'Dejlig er Jorden'

Fair is creation
marvellous God’s heaven,
blest the souls in their pilgrim throng.
Through realms of earthly
loveliness onward
we go to paradise with song!

Ages lie waiting,
ages quick in passing,
generations that form a throng.
Music from heaven
never falls silent
in this the soul’s glad pilgrim song

Angels first sang it
to the wond’ring shepherds,
sweet was from soul to soul its sound:
Peace and rejoicing
be to all people,
for us a saviour now is found!

Tuesday 24 November 2015

Brorson to start the Christmas season

My heart is always roaming

My heart is always roaming
Where once the Christ child lay,
And on that stable homing
My thoughts collect each day.
A refuge for soul’s fretting,
My faith’s most treasured seat,
I’ve no way of forgetting
You Christmas night so sweet.

My heart’s delight and palace
Shall you, dark stable, be,
Where each day I gain solace
From earth’s cruel mockery,
Best weigh there free from danger
The nature of my praise
When thoughts of Jesu’s manger
So set my heart ablaze.

But, ah! What shall I utter
When thinking with a sigh
That heaven’s Lord in but a
Poor manger had to lie,
That heaven’s joy and splendour,
God’s word of precious worth,
Derision now engender
Upon this wretched earth!

A pearl that’s lost with zeal is
Sought out until it’s found,
The diamond’s bright appeal is
Best seen atop a crown,
No grape is thrown down surely
’Mongst branches that are dry:
Shall I see God then poorly
In some mean stable lie?

Why not in halls appointed
With all that’s fine and grand?
(They had, if you’d but pointed,
Been decked at your command)
Why would you not be swathed in
Bright light that formed a band,
And let earth’s kings come craving
To kiss you by the hand?

Why did you keep from raising
A welkin as your tent,
And have star-torches blazing,
Oh hero, heaven-sent?
Why was not on display too
A guardian angel host,
That in silk quilts would lay you,
As did befit you most?

No! Jesu’s bed’s a stable
At this good Christmastide,
Where beggars if they’re able
From winter’s cold will hide,
And all the hay he lay in
Was meant for beasts alone,
He did not have a say in
A thing to call his own.

It is beyond all reason
That Jesus, God and man
This vale of woe as prison
Must suffer for a span,
He, who will judge for ever
The living and the dead,
Has got no place whatever
Where he can lay his head.

A nest has e’en the sparrow,
A safe place to call home,
Nor needs the fleeting swallow
For night-time shelter roam.
Nor does a lion know anguish,
Its cave has rest in store;
Shall then my Saviour languish
On some strange stable’s straw?

Ah! Come! I will throw open
My heart, my soul and mind,
A thousand sighs have spoken,
Come, Jesus, come and find!
It is no unknown chamber,
You bought it with your blood!
Here will you sweetly slumber
In my heart swathed for good.

Your resting-place so holy
Shall strewn with palm-sprigs lie,
My bridegroom, for you solely
I will both live and die.
Come! let my soul find bliss in
The fount to which it’s wed,
A thousand times be kissing
Your sweet mouth rosy red.

Monday 16 November 2015

Poem by Paul Celan - Die Winzer

Die Winzer

For Nani und Klaus Demus

Sie herbsten den Wein ihrer Augen,
sie keltern alles Geweinte, auch dieses:
so will es die Nacht,
die Nacht, an die sie gelehnt sind, die Mauer,
so forderts der Stein,
der Stein, über den ihr Krückstock dahinspricht
ins Schweigen der Antwort –
ihr Krückstock, der einmal,
einmal im Herbst,
wenn das Jahr zum Tod schwillt, als Traube,
der einmal durchs Stumme hindurchspricht, hinab
in den Schacht des Erdachten.

Sie herbsten, sie keltern den Wein,
sie pressen die Zeit wie ihr Auge,
sie kellern das Sickernde ein, das Geweinte,
im Sonnengrab, das sie rüsten
mit nachtstarker Hand:
auf daß ein Mund danach dürste, später –
ein Spätmund, ähnlich dem ihren:
Blindem entgegengekrümmt und gelähmt –
ein Mund, zu dem der Trunk aus der Tiefe emporschäumt, indes
der Himmel hinabsteigt ins wächserne Meer,
um fernher als Lichtstumpf zu leuchten,
wenn endlich die Lippe sich feuchtet.

The Winemakers

For Nani and Klaus Demus

They harvest the wine of their eyes,
they press out what’s wept, this included:
the night wills it so,
the night against which they’re leaning, the wall,
the stone so demands,
the stone, over which their crutch speaks out into
the hush of the answer  –
their crutch that just once,
once in the autumn,
when the year swells to death, as grape,
that speaks once through the muteness, down into
crafted thought’s mineshaft.

They harvest, they press out the wine,
time too they squeeze like their eye,
they cellar what’s dripping, been wept,
in the sun-lined grave, which they stack
with night-strengthened hand:
that a mouth might thirst for it, later –
a late-mouth that looks like their own:
crooked toward, lamed to that which is blind –
a mouth to which the drink foams up from the depths, while
the sky sinks down into the waxen sea,
to gleam like a candle-stump seen from afar
when at last the lip gains some moisture.