Tuesday 26 April 2016

A Norwegian classic 'Pigen paa Anatomikammeret' (1836) by Henrik Wergeland

Pigen paa Anatomikammeret

– – Jo det er Hende! O lys hid!
Og slip ei Kniven end paaglid
       i denne Armes Hjerte!
O, der er rædsom Vittighed
i Lampens Blik, som stirrer ned
       paa denne døde Smerte.

Saa kold, dengang den aanded, saae
den stolte Verden jo derpaa?
       Og frække Øine skar
det Slør igjennem tidligt, som
den stakkels Piges Fattigdom
       af gyldne Drømme bar.

Som Blomst i Isen frossen ind
jeg seer et Træk paa denne Kind,
       som vel jeg bør at kjende.
Thi Fryden i min Barndomsleeg,
før altfor høit min Skulder steeg,
       – o var den ikke Hende.

Tversover boed’ hun for os,
i Armod født, som i sit Mos
       paa Taget Stedmorsblommen.
Fornemme Folk kun fatted’ svært,
at Blod saa fagert og saa skjært
       af Fattigfolk var kommen.

Ak, mangt sligt Aasyn dog jeg saae
som Maanedsrosens Pragt forgaae,
       som Sommerfuglestøvet!
Dem Skjebnens Haand for haardt vel tog,
og Syndens Spor dem overjog
       som Sneglens Sliim paa Løvet.

The girl in the dissection room

– – Yes, it is her! Oh light here, quick!
Let not the knife yet even flick
       across this poor girl’s heart!
Oh, what cruel irony does glow
in this lamp’s gaze that stares down so
       on dead pain set apart.

So cold, yet when it breathed did not
the proud world gaze at it a lot?
       And bold eyes soon sliced through
the veil of golden dreams that she
the poor girl against poverty
       wore when as child she grew.

Like flower frozen in the ice
this cheek bears traits that in a trice
       should be well-known to me.
For childhood games that brought me joy,
before I was no longer boy,
       – Oh surely it was she.

She lived just opposite from us,
of humble birth, like in its moss
       the roof’s heartsease could thrive.
Fine folk could hardly contemplate
that blood so fair and delicate
       from paupers could derive.

Ah, many a face as this saw I
like monthly rose’s splendour die,
       as butterfly-dust brief!
Fate’s hand too firmly must have grasped,
and sin’s trace to such lives have clasped
       like snail’s slime on the leaf.

Monday 25 April 2016

Jeppe Aakjær's 'Jeg bærer med smil min byrde' in English

I bear with a smile my burden

I bear with a smile my burden,
I carry with songs my load,
I’m just like the untamed herdsman
who cattle to grass would goad.

Look, dew from the north is drifting
out over the bowed fields of corn,
the sun from the earth is lifting
its disc among oxen's curved horns!

Past glittering meadows I’m gazing
across to the fjord turning blue,
the craft sailing there find quite dazing,
but fail to find words that speak true.

The shawn to my lips I press tightly,
its sound let bleat o’er the lea,
till springs in the grove babble brightly,
and bucks begin braying with glee!

How can you keep brooding and weeping
while all of God’s heaven is blue!
My heart with joy can’t stop leaping
at grassblades sprinkled with dew.

Saturday 23 April 2016

The poem 'Jordaan' by Anneke Brassinga in an English version

Jordaan, Amsterdam

Palmgracht’s colonnade, a heaven-reef the cloudshore
reaching out to, distantly oncoming, an evening sea 
whose mother-of-pearl I tinged with my fiery glow now

I was welkin and revelation, radiance was I where
trembling summer verdure warped and wefted in water-
mirror-ripples, the contrailing swallows high above flitted

through warm breeze of earth’s breathing – now light
began to dwindle into gloaming and I
perceived: this waiting alone has been your presence.

 To see the poem in the original, go to here

Tuesday 19 April 2016

'Waarover spreken' - a poem by Hugo Claus


What to speak about tonight? And preach
in a land we recognise, tolerate,
seldom forget.
That country with its droll beginnings,
its clammy climate, its sapless stories
about the old days,
its inhabitants, greedy till their final fall
among the cauliflowers.
They keep on multiplying
in a paradise of their own imagining,
hankering for happiness, shivering, mouths full of porridge.
Just as in nature
which depilates our puny hills,
scorches our pastures, poisons our air,
the guileless cows graze on.

Speak about the writings of this land,
printed matter full of question marks
on the patient paper
that time and again is shocked by its history
and so resorts to concealing shorthand.
Speak about the curtains
that people draw around themselves.
But still we hear them, the stinking
primates that stalk each other in rooms.
Just as in nature
the hibiscus gives off no scent,
that the innocent cows do, becoming bogged
in the piss-logged earth.

Speak in that land of glittering grass
in which man,
intemperate worm,.dreaming carcass,
dwells among the corpses which dead as they are
remain obedient to our memory.
Just as our nature expects a single,
simple miracle that one day will finally
explain what we were,
not only this remote spectacle
thrown together by time.

Speak about that time which, they said,
would mark as a brand and palimpsest?
We lived in an aged of using
and being usable.
What defence against such?
What festive arse-feathers?
What cellar song? Perhaps.
Say it. Perhaps.
A few swift scratches in slate
and that’s the outline of your love.
Fingerprints in the clay are her hips.
Phonemes of joy sometimes sounded
if she, when she, called you like a cat.

Speaking about her presence
wakens the blue hour of twilight.
Just as in nature
the merciless, glassy, blue azure
of our planet seen from Apollo..
And though from simply speaking
your festive cap begins to feel heavy
and the lifeline in your palm
starts festering
still, notwithstanding, nevertheless
honour the flowering
of the shadows that inhabit us,
the shadows begging for consolation.
And still stroke her shoulder blade.
Like the back of a hunchback
Still hankering for a ferocious happiness.