Monday 29 August 2016

'Was wirst du tun, Gott, wenn ich sterbe?' A favourite from Rilke's 'Stundenbuch'

Was wirst du tun, Gott, wenn ich sterbe?
Ich bin dein Krug (wenn ich zerscherbe?)
Ich bin dein Trank (wenn ich verderbe?)
Bin dein Gewand und dein Gewerbe,
mit mir verlierst du deinen Sinn.

Nach mir hast du kein Haus, darin
dich Worte, nah und warm, begrüßen.
Es fällt von deinen müden Füßen
die Samtsandale, die ich bin.

Dein großer Mantel lässt dich los.
Dein Blick, den ich mit meiner Wange
warm, wie mit einem Pfühl, empfange,
wird kommen, wird mich suchen, lange -
und legt beim Sonnenuntergange
sich fremden Steinen in den Schoß.

Was wirst du tun, Gott? Ich bin bange.

What will you do, God, when death takes me?
I am your jar (when something breaks me?)
I am your drink (when taste forsakes me?)
Your clothes, your task that can’t negate me,
Your sense is lost if I’m not there.

Apart from me you’ve no house where
you’re met with words both warm and friendly.
I’m what from your tired feet slip gently –
the velvet sandals that you wear.

Your flowing cloak will cease to wrap.
Your gaze – which my cheek with warm feeling
and cushion-like would be receiving –
will come, search long for me, at evening
and place when sun's last rays are leaving
a heap of strange stones in its lap.

What will you do, God? Fear comes stealing.

Sunday 28 August 2016

A short poem by Ebba Lindqvist


Jag ville ge dig en gåva
jag gett till ingen förut.
Så ger jag dig min ensamhet,
den varar till livets slut.


A gift I wanted to give you
I’d given no one before.
So I give you my loneliness,
it lasts until life’s no more.

A poem by Ebba Lindqvist (1908-1995)

Icarus’ fall

Nobody saw him fall.
Nobody knows what he felt.
Nobody knows if his exultation at daring
was worth his perishing.
All this about belonging to life,
about losing life
nobody is to know.
This was his alone.

And what happened later
was probably of no account.
No more than the mayfly’s
path across the waters.
Wings as wings – and all
shall fall.
The evening was never as beautiful as now
at sunset:

the sea glittering, the sun’s jewel gleaming,
the ship that is passing.
The ship always passing
towards the morrow.

Nobody saw what happened.
Nobody has any time in life.
The fisherman is in such a hurry. He knows
that the fish bite best at sunset.
And with his back to the sea the
shepherd stands deep in prayer.
He has noticed nothing.
And the farmer ploughing sees nothing
except the furrow he is following.

Everybody was in such a hurry,
The evening was clear and beautiful,
and there was nobody who noticed
Icarus’ fall.

Saturday 27 August 2016

Absentia animi - a long poem by Ekelöf

absentia animi

In autumn
In autumn when one says farewell
In autumn when all gates are open
              onto meaningless enclosed fields
where unreal fungi decay
and waterlogged wheel-tracks are on their way
to nothing, and a snail is on its way
a tattered butterfly is on its way
to nothing, which is a finished rose
the smallest and ugliest. And the crane-flies, the
                                      stupid devils
frail-legged, intoxicated by the lamp’s evening gleam
and the lamp itself that sighs languishing
around light’s vacant sea, thought’s arctic sea
in long waves of
silently murmuring foam
of series divided by series
from nothing through nothing to nothing
sum countersum summa summarum abrasax abraxas Sum
(like the sound of a sewing machine)
And the spiders spin their web in the silent night
and the crickets chirp
Unreal. Meaningless.

                                      In autumn
There is rustling in my poem
Words do their duty and lie there
Dust falls over them, dust or dew
till the wind whirls up and lays (them) down
              (and) elsewhere
anyone who insists on seeek the meaning of everything
              has long since realised
that the meaning of the rustling is the rustling
which in itself is something quite different from
wet wellingtons through leaves
absent-minded footsteps through the park’s carpet
of leaves, lovingly sticking
to wet wellingtons, absent-minded steps
You stray, go astray
Do not be in such a hurry
Pause a while
In autumn when
In autumn when all gates
then it happens that in the last slanting ray
                                      after a day of rain
              at long intervals hesitatingly
                                      as if caught out
a remaining blackbird sings in a tree-top
for nothing at all, for its throat’s sake. You see
its tree-top stand out against the sky’s pale background
close to a lonely cloud. And the cloud swims
like other clouds but also as if left over, hors saison
and essentially long since elsewhere
and in itself (like the song) already something
                                      else than
Eternal rest
              Meaningless. Unreal.
Meaningless. I
sing sit here
about the sky about a cloud
I wish nothing more for myself
I wish myself far far away
I am far off (among the evening echoes)
I am here
Sum countersum summa summarum
You and I

Oh far far off
there swims in the bright sky
above a tree-top a cloud
in happy unconsciousness!
Oh deep down in me
from the surface of the black pearl-eye
in happy half-consciousness
an image of a cloud!
It is not that which is
It is something else
It exists in that which is
but is not that which is
It is something else
Oh far far away
in that which is beyond
there exists something near!
Oh deep down in me
in that which is near
there exists something beyond
that which is beyond-near
in that which is on-this-side-of-distant
something neither nor
in that which is either or:
neither cloud nor image
neither image nor image
neither cloud nor cloud
neither neither nor nor
but something else!
The only thing that exists
is something else!
The only thing that exists
in this that exists
is that which in this
is something else!
(Oh the soul’s lullaby
the song of something else!)

non sens
non sentiens non
terque quaterque
vel abracadabra

Abraxas abrasax

Sum countersum summa summarum that becomes some again
Unreal. Meaningless.

And the spiders spin their net in the silent night
and the crickets chirp

                            In autumn

You can hear this poem being read here. The version used for the translation is to be found in Svensk Poesi (2016), pp. 652-655.