Thursday 5 April 2018

Benny Andersen: 'Oppe i årene' in English translation

on in years
You find yourself getting on in years
as it’s referred to
as if you were taking an exam
and the subject chosen’s your life
or have clambered up onto a highish hill
with a wonderful view and overview
Pull the other leg!
On in years?
You sit there buried in years
up to your ears in years
and fed up with the old days to your back teeth

The old days aren’t the slightest bit old
Oh no, in the old days the old days were old days
really OLD old days
In my childhood the old days had a ring
of accolades and offended honour
raised drawbridges
bottomless moats
fair maids and boundless fidelity
deceit and swordplay and outdoor galleries
gradually replaced
by Tordenskjold and Musketeers
Admiral Nelson’s blind eye
‘Each bird its special song must find’
Countess Danner
Florence Nightingale
Ellehammer four-feet airborne
bottom- and hope-less trenches in Flanders
the advance did not come in quick succession
but as creeping metastases
as early as my youth old days began to
merge suspiciously with
that of my parents in the twenties
but who could smell a rat back then
we weren’t brought up that way

And as time passed time marched on
but the old days moved faster
under cover of night
so today my childhood can be viewed
at the Worker’s Museum
my youth can be consulted
in already antiquated encyclopedias
reduced to a third of the price
sure to be available soon on a floppy

And all your old friends
are suffering severely from old days
‘Can you remember when in the old days
we really went to town?’
You realise that the poor bloke
is referring to something that took place
only twelve to fourteen years ago
what else can you reply than
swiftly hither my crossbow!
And when your guileless grandchild begs
‘Grandpa, tell us about the old days!’
what else can you possibly reply than
Not now, my treasure
they only start tomorrow so I’ll
tell you about them on Sunday!

On in years?
Come off it.

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