Sunday 30 December 2018


Lars Gustafsson: XI (Sestina)


Det fanns en tid när varje stund var hel.
Som tennisbollen där den hänger en
nålvass hundradels sekund och väntar
över nätet. Inte “nyss” och inte “snart
utan en tredje, som är allt vi ser.
Det andra är förhoppning eller tid

som var, men inte min, en annans tid.
Det torra slaget gör dig åter hel.
Det är den enda verklighet vi ser.
Förhoppningar och minnen fyller en
till stor del tilfällig personlighet; snart
ser man hur på nästa boll den väntar.

Men vem är det som står beredd och väntar?
All tid äts upp av tankarna på tid
som var, eller att något händer snart.
Förhoppningar och resten minnen. Hel
blir bara den som inte längre ser en
annan boll i bollen som han ser.

En sådan händelse vi faktiskt ser
är mera anonym än någon väntar.
Förgångna år och furstarna som en
gång fanns tycks leva i en stelnad tid.
Med namn gör vi den brustna krukan hel.
Den bärs försiktigt till en brunn som snart

tycks djup och full av starka röster. Snart
är kvar ett ensamt eko och du ser
den ljusa vattenspegeln som är hel.
Där nere ligger den och väntar
så oåtkomlig. Den är du. Din tid
är kort. En enda sten är nog. Och en

blir tusen skärvor som glittrar i en
brunn emot vars gråstensväggar det snart
syns flimrande reflexer. Som är tid.
Den enda tid som vi förstår. Vi ser
i skärvor. I en stelnad pose vi väntar.
Det torra slaget gör dig åter hel.

Vi lever in en namnlös värld. Vi ser.
Vi dör så snart vi minns; dör och väntar.
Det fanns en tid när varje stund var hel.


There was a time each single grain was whole.
As is the tennis ball when hanging a
razor-sharp hundredth of a second, waiting
above the net. Not ‘recently’ or ‘soon’
but a third something, which is all we see.
The rest is expectation or is time

that was, not mine though, someone else’s time.
The clean shot is what once more makes you whole.
This is the sole reality we see.
Expectations and memories fill a
mainly random personality, soon
for the next ball you can see it waiting.

Who is it though that stands there ready waiting?
All time is eaten up by thoughts of time
that was, or something that will happen soon.
Expectations and the rest memories. Whole
is only he who no longer sees a
second ball in the ball there is to see.

Such an event as that we really see
is more anonymous than we were waiting
for. Years and princes existing in a
past age seem to live in a stiffened time.
By name we make the broken vessel whole.
It’s borne with caution to a well that soon

seems deep and full of powerful voices. Soon
only a lonely echo’s left – you see
the water’s gleaming mirror, which is whole.
It lies down there below you waiting,
so inaccessible. It’s you. Your time
is brief. A single stone’s enough. And a

thousand splinters now glitter in a
well against whose grey-stone sides there soon
play flickering reflections. Which are time.
The only time we understand. We see
in splinters. In stiffened pose stand waiting.
The clean shot is what once more makes you whole.

We all live in a nameless world. We see.
We die as soon as we recall; die waiting.
There was a time each single grain was whole.

The sestina follows a strict pattern of the repetition of the initial six end-words of the first stanza through the remaining five six-line stanzas, culminating in a three-line envoi. The lines may be of any length, though in its initial incarnation, the sestina followed a syllabic restriction. The form is as follows, where each numeral indicates the stanza position and the letters represent end-words:
7. (envoi) ECA or ACE
The envoi, sometimes known as the tornada, must also include the remaining three end-words, BDF, in the course of the three lines so that all six recurring words appear in the final three lines. In place of a rhyme scheme, the sestina relies on end-word repetition to effect a sort of rhyme.

Friday 28 December 2018

English translation of Eiríks saga víðförla from the Flatøybok

here begins the saga of
eirik the voyager

Trond was the name of the first king to rule over Trøndelag. He had a son named Eirik, a man well-liked ever since his boyhood, extremely strong, courageous and capable in all matters, and of considerable stature.
It is said that one Christmas Eve Eirik made a solemn pledge that he would travel the whole world in order to find the place that heathen people call The Field of the Immortals, and the Christian Paradise or The Land of the Living. This pledge became common knowledge throughout Norway. The following summer Eirik equips a stately ship from Norway, and sets sail for Denmark. There were twelve men on board. The king of the Danes also had a son called Eirik. Father and son asked Eirik Trondsson to stay with them that winter, an invitation he accepted. The two namesakes kept each other’s company, got on well together, and were similar in many ways. The following spring, the Danish Eirik joined his namesake on the journey, and once more there were twelve of them.
They now set sail, intending to make for Miklagard, which they also reached. At that time, the Greek king was gathering a large army to deal with pirate Vikings that were attacking his kingdom in great strength. When the Greek king heard that the men of the North had arrived, he invited them to court, where he received them with honour. He asked them who they were or where they came from and where they were intending to go. Eirik answered that they were men of the North and king’s sons and wished to see a great deal of the world. Then the Greek king bestowed all kinds of honours on them. And after being there for quite some time, the many great things they had achieved through their good advice and great skill strengthened the power of the Greek king. And when the king saw that they were stronger that most of his own countrymen, he preferred them above others in all matters, showered honours on them and made them his attendants, paying them more than any of his own men. It is affirmed that this was the first time men of the North were honoured in Miklagard.

eirik asks questions of the king

2. It is said that Eirik the Norwegian one day asked the king who had created heaven and earth. The King replied: ‘One created both.’ ‘Who is he?’ Eirik asked.
The king answered: ‘Almighty God, who is one Godhead in three beings.’
Erik said: ‘What do these three beings mean?’
The king said: ‘Observe the sun. It has three properties or beings: Fire, light and heat, and yet there is even so only one sun. Such is also the case with God: The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Even so, He is One in his omnipotence.’
‘Eirik said: ‘It must be a great God who has created heaven and earth. Tell me something about his greatness
The king replied: ‘God is One, inexplicable and invincible. He is above all things and suffers all things and yet holds all the boundaries of the earth in his hand.’
Eirik asked: ‘Does God know everything?’
The king replied: ‘He knows everything, as if it was right in front of his eyes.’ And when the king had said this, Eirik marvelled at God’s greatness.
Eirik asked: ‘Where does God live, in heaven or on earth?’
The king said: ‘He rules over heaven, and there has his kingdom. There is no illness or tears, no death, no sorrow and no poverty. There is constant joy and everlasting bliss and delight, with delicious heavenly dishes that never end.’
Erik asked: ‘Who is there with God?’
The king said: ‘There are heavenly angels who God created in the beginning to serve him. God the Almighty made himself a magnificent hall. That hall he called the kingdom of heaven. Then he created a prison, which is the world where we live. In this world God dug a deep pit, which is hell. In that place there are all kinds of fiery afflictions and there the spirits of the unjust are tormented. Over that pit reigns Satan, the foe of mankind. And Almighty God bound him after his painful death on the cross. He arose on the third day after his bodily death and on the fortieth day he ascended into the kingdom of heaven, where all God’s power is prepared for knights and troops of warriors, all of whom are in duty bound to seek for it and fill the empty space left behind by the angels who had been lost. And that empty space God wishes to fill with righteous men.’
Eirik said: ‘What is the pit that you said was on earth?’
The king replied: ‘It is the ground of death, made ready for sinful people, and it is called hell. In that place there are all kinds of destitution with eternal fire. There wicked people are tortured.
Eirik said: ‘Who are they?’
The king said: ‘All heathens and those who deny God.’
Eirik asked: ‘Why are all heathens wicked?’
The king said: ‘Because they refuse to honour God, their creator.’
Eirik asked: ‘Is it not god that we worship?’
The king said: ‘It is not God, for we have heard of their baseness, of how horribly they died and what criminal lives they led. Their souls are now in eternal fire with inextinguishable anguish.’
Then Eirik said: ‘I have never heard them spoken of in such a way.’
The king said: ‘You are erring in the faith when you have not heard of such things, but if you are prepared to believe in the eternal God, the three in one, then after death you can go with him to eternal bliss.’
‘Eirik said: ‘That is my wish, to attain eternal life after death.’
The king said: ‘This wish will be fulfilled for you if you believe in the eternal God, three in one, and undergo the purification of holy baptism, and then you will be given of his body and blood, and will be made a friend of God. Accept the Christian faith, and honour him properly in all respects.’
Eirik said: ‘It is fitting to do as you request. Can you tell me this when I ask you: Where is hell?’
The king said: ‘Under the earth.’ Then Eirik said: ‘What is above the earth?’ The king replied: ‘The air.’ Eirik said: ‘What is above the air?’ The king replied: ‘The fixed heaven. In that heaven all the heavenly bodies stand like burning fire.’ Then Eirik said: ‘What is above the fixed heaven?’ The king answered: ‘There there is water, fixed as clouds.’ Eirik said: ‘What is there above these waters?’ The king said: ‘The spiritual heaven, and there people believe that the angels live.’ And Eirik said: ‘What is above that heaven?’ The king replied: ‘The heaven of illumination. In that heaven they get to see God himself and his omnipotence, those that are deemed worthy.’
They Eirik marvelled at how wise the king was, and said: ‘Your wisdom is indeed great, vast, unsurpassable! Tell me if you know this: How broad is the compass of the earth?’
The king said: ‘You are of an inquiring turn of mind, Eirik, and wish to find out about a great many things, also such as are unnecessary, little heard of, and virtually unknown. But in order to fulfil your wish, listen to what I am about to tell you, and remember it well. The circumference of the earth wise men reckon to be a hundred thousand rests and a further eighty thousand, with no supports to hold it up, only God’s omnipotence.’
Eirik asked: ‘How far is it between heaven and earth?’
The king replied: ‘You are most inquisitive! It is said that from the earth to the highest heaven there are a hundred thousand and three hundred and eighty five miles.’ Eirik asked: ‘What is outside the earth?’ The king said: ‘A great sea that is called oceanum.’
Eirik said: ‘What is the farthest country in the southern hemisphere of the earth?’
The king said: ‘Indialand is what we say is the end of the countries in that part of the earth.’
‘Eirik asked: ‘Where is the place they call The Field of the Immortal?’ The king answered: ‘We call it Paradise or The Land of the Living.’
Eirik said: ‘Where is this place?’
The king answered: ‘It is in the east, beyond the farthest Indialand.’
Eirik asked: ‘Is it possible to journey there?’
‘Surely not,’ the king said, ‘for a wall of fire stands in front of it that stretches right up to heaven.’
And when the king had said all this to Eirik and more besides, he knelt down before the king and said: ‘I ask you, most noble king, to offer me help for my journey, for it is necessary if I am to fulfil my pledge, for I promised that I would journey south in the world to find The Field of the Immortals, and I understand that I can in no wise get there unless I have you assistance.’
The king said: ‘Stay with us for the next three winters, and then travel, for you clearly need my advice, and obey my counsels in all matters. If you accept baptism, I will help you.’
Eirik asked the king in detail about the reward of righteousness and the agonies of hell. He also asked what people looked like, and where the countries lay, about the seas and about foreign countries from the entire eastern part of the world as well as the entire southern part, about great forests and various islands, about desert countries and all the places they would have to journey through, about strange people and their ways of living and the customs and practices of many peoples, about adders and flying dragons and all kinds of animals and birds, about treasure of gold and precious stones. All these and many other questions the king answered, both well and wisely. After this, Eirik and his men were baptised.

the namesakes part at the stone bridge

3. When three winters had passed, and when Eirik had gained wisdom and knowledge of many things, he travelled to Syria with his followers, taking with him the seal of the Greek king. From then on, they journeyed alternately by ship or horse, although mostly on foot, and thus they travelled for several winters until they finally came to the farthermost Indialand. And wherever they entered an unknown country they were well received and everyone helped them on their way, for with them they had letter and seal from the Greek king and the patriarch in Miklagard, written in all the languages of the peoples they expected to reach. In them it was also stated who they were and what their planned destination was. It also showed just how God’s fortune was with them and how great a friend of God the Greek king was that wherever his letter was read they were fittingly received, and no harm ever came to them. For God’s loving kindness protected Eirik and those with him as well as the good fortune of the Greek king, and by following his wise counsel they were greatly assisted in the exertions of their journey.
When they had travelled a distance of 44 miles into the regions of Indialand, they finally came to the dark regions where one sees stars just as clearly during the day as at night. All around them in that country they found large nuggets of gold. They also saw many marvels in that country. And when they had gone far through dense forests and strange heights, they at last came out of the forest. It grew lighter and lighter, and not far away they saw a large river. Over it there was a stone bridge. On the far side of the river they saw a beautiful land with many flowers and plenty of honey, and they smelled a delicious fragrance coming from there. There was light enough to see across to that land. They could see neither hills nor dales nor mountains anywhere. Eirik then understands that this river divides these countries, just as the Greek king has said. Then he recalled that this river must come from paradise and its name was Phison. And when they drew near to the stone bridge, they saw there an enormous dragon lying on it with open jaws, and they felt that the sound of it was terrifying. Eirik turned and wanted to cross the river in some way, but when Eirik the Dane saw this, he forbade his namesake to cross, saying that the dragon would swallow him on the spot. Eirik the Norwegian said that he was not afraid of the dragon – ‘and I refuse to let him prevent me from undertaking my journey.’
Eirik the Dane said: ‘I beg you, my dearest friend, not to go straight into the jaws of death. Return with us instead, for you are sure to die if you attempt to cross.’
His namesake said that he refused to turn back, and so they bade each other farewell. Eirik the Norwegian now unsheathes his sword and holds it in his right hand, taking one of his followers by the left hand. They get ready and then leap into the dragon’s mouth, and Eirik the Dane thinks he sees the dragon swallow both of them. He now retraces his steps with his men, and after many winters had passed he reached his fatherland, where he told of the last time he had seen Eirik the Norwegian. Now this man became famous for his journey and was held to be the most courageous among men. No more is told about him.

eirik’s visions and revelations in paradise

4. And when Eirik the Norwegian and his follower had leapt into the dragon’s jaws, it was as if they were wading through smoke, and when they gradually emerged from it, they saw a beautiful land, with white vegetation, like purple, with a sweet fragrance and many flowers, with streams of honey flowing everywhere through the landscape. This land was a long, flat expanse. There was always sunlight there, so that it never grew darks, and no shadow ever fell on anything. The air was calm, with a slight breeze at ground level, so that they gradually could better smell the sweet scent. They walked a very long way, wondering it they would find any settlements or towns, or get some idea of how large an area this land covered. Then they saw something that looked like a lone belfry, hanging in the air with no support under it. They approached it. They could then see that there was a tower hanging in the air, and no poles held it up. South of the tower there stood a ladder. They marvelled a great deal at this force and thought it a strange thing. They then climbed the ladder and entered the tower. There they saw the finest cloth woven of the most exquisite fabric lying there, a table beautifully laid with a silver dish on it. On it lay every kind of delicious dish, full of white bread with a wonderful smell. A pitcher stood there, decorated with gold and precious stones. There was a chalice there, full of wine. There were beds there, made up with gold-woven bedclothes and costly carpets. Then Eirik said: ‘This must be the Field of the Immortals that we have searched for with such toil and exertion along many roads and paths.’ They praised God, saying: ‘Great and good is God who lets us see all this!’
After this, they started on the food with a great appetite, and then lay down to sleep. And while he was asleep, Eirik saw the apparition of a young man, handsome and bright. He said to Eirik: ‘Your faith has shown itself to be strong. Tell me how you like this land.’ And Eirik answered: ‘Exceedingly well, of all lands I think that this is the best. But who are you who speaks to me thus? There is a great difference in our intelligence, since you know me and name me by name, but I do not know who you are!’ Then the young man looked at him in friendly fashion and said: ‘I am one of God’s angels, one of those that guards the gate to Paradise. I stood close to you when you promised to travel south in the world so as to find the Field of the Immortals. I was the one who caused you to journey to Miklagard, and according to God’s will and my wish you received baptism, and for that reason I count you to be blessed, since you bore in mind all the Greek king’s recommendations and good counsel that bring good fortune, received his seal, and then washed yourself in the holy Jordan. And the Lord God has sent me to you. I am your guardian angel, and I have protected you on sea and land and during all dangers on your journey and guarded you against all kinds of evil. And we are not humans but spirits that live in the heavenly fatherland. And the place you see here is like a wasteland when compared with Paradise, which lies a short way from here, and it is from there that the river you have seen runs. No one can enter that land alive, for there the spirits of the righteous live. And the land you have found here is called The Land of the Living, but before you came here, God commanded us to guard the place and show you the land of the living to a certain extent, so as to give you a royal reception and reward you for all your exertions.’
Then Eirik asked the angel: ‘Where do you live?’
The angel answered: ‘We live in heaven, where we see God the Holy Spirit, and when necessary we are sent into the world to offer humans our services – nothing about which you never need be in doubt.’
Eirik said: ‘What holds that tower up that I see as hanging in the air?’
The angel says: ‘Nothing but God’s power holds it up. You need never doubt when you see such signs that God creating everything out of nothing.’
Eirik replied: ‘Nor shall I ever doubt that.’ The angel then asked Eirik: ‘Do you wish to stay here or to return to your home country?’
Eirik answered: I wish to return.’ The angel said: ‘Why do you so wish?’ Then Eirik said: ‘Because I wish to tell those I know about such marvellous works of divine power. If I do not return, they will believe instead that I have suffered a painful death.’
The angel says: ‘Even if it is so that sacrifices are made to false gods in the Northern Lands, the time will nevertheless come for the people to be released from their misguided ways, and God will call them to believe in Him. Now I will grant you permission to return to your home country and tell your friends about God’s loving kindness, and what you have seen and heard. They will believe God’s message and all his commandments all the quicker when they hear things related thus. Be diligent in prayer! Then some winters later I can come after you and bear your soul to glory and grant your bones the resting place when you shall await your judgment. Remain here a further six days and rest yourself, after which collect provisions and set out once more for the north.’ Having said that, the angel seemed to disappear from sight.
Eirik did everything the angel had requested of him concerning his stay and departure.

the death of eirik the voyager

5. After the agreed time, they descended from the tower and travelled until they came to the river. Then a great darkness fell over them. They emerged from the mouth of the dragon and started out on their journey. During it they saw many marvels, but nevertheless did not come to any harm, acquired much knowledge, and after four winters arrived in Miklagard. Eirik told the king about his journey, and the king was immensely pleased that he had returned and allowed Eirik to stay there for three winters.
After this, Eirik sets out from Miklagard and travels north to Norway, where everyone is glad to see him safely returned. He was there ten winters, and one day during the eleventh winter he went to prayers early. Then God’s Spirit took him; people looked for him but could not find him. Eirik had told his follower the dream he had had in the tower, and this the man now told everyone. And he believed that it was God’s angel that had taken Eirik and taken care of him.
This Eirik was called Eirik the Voyager. This saga has many reliable men to confirm his own words. Here we now conclude this saga.


The one who first included that tale in this book which he wrote did so because he wished every man to know that it is only faithfulness in God that is certain. Even though heathens gain great glory from the deeds of their mature years, there is a vast difference, because when they end this mortal life they have been rewarded with the praise of man for their success and now must expect to be punished for their crimes and their faithlessness, since they did not know their Creator. But the others who have loved God and put their faith in Him and who have fought for the salvation of holy Christianity have truly gained more praise that the wisest of men, but in addition the best still lies before them, for once they have passed through death’s door, which no one of the flesh can escape, they have gained their reward, which is to share the eternal kingdom with Almighty God for ever more, just as the Eirik of whom we have written here.

Wednesday 26 December 2018

Danish medieval ballad 'Jomfruen i fugleham' in English translation

Jomfruen i fugleham

Jeg ved vel, hvor en skov hun stander,
hun står foruden under fjord;
der gror inde de fejreste træ,
som nogen mand haver hørt.
Så vinder en svend sin jomfru.

Der gror inde de fejreste træ,
som man kalder silje og linde;
der spiller inde de ærlige dyr,
som man kalder hjorte og hinder.

Der spiller inde både hjorte og hinde
og andre dyr så skønne;
der synger så lidel en nattergal
udi en lind så grøn.

Det spurgte Nilaus Erlandsøn,
[som dyren’ er vant at bede],
han lader sin ganger med det røde guld sko,
og did rider han at lede.

Did red Nilaus Erlandsøn
så såre da mon han lange;
der var han i dage tre,
han kunne ikke fuglen fange.

Så sætte han snaren på alle de træ,
som fuglen var vante at være;
den fugl blev i sin’ øjen snar,
han måtte hende dog ombære.

Han sætte snaren på alle de stier,
som fuglen’ var vant at gange;
den fugl var i sin' øjen så snar,
han kunne hende ikke fange.

Han tog øksen i sin hånd,
han ville det træ neder fælde;
der kom den mand, der skoven åtte,
han skød sin skaft imellem.

“Hugger du neder min fæ’rne skove,
og gør du mig den vælde:
jeg lover dig, Nilaus Erlandsøn,
så dyrt skalt du det gælde.”

Det da mælte den skønne jomfru,
hun stod på højen tinde:
“Ungersvend, vilt du lyde mit råd,
da skalt du fuglen vinde.

Hør du, favren ungersvend,
og vilt du lyde mit råd:
du får ikke af vilden fugl,
uden du haver tammen brad.”

Han skar braden af sin bryst,
han hængte det på lindekvist;
hun flagred’ med sin’ vinger, hun lod vel om,
fuld ondt var braden at miste.

Det da var den lidel nattergal,
hun fik det blodige brad;
så blev hun til skønneste jomfru,
der måtte på jorden gå.

Jomfruen under linden stod
i silkesærk hint røde;
ridderen tog hende udi sin arm,
de klaged hverandre deres nød.

Ridderen tog hende i sin arm,
klapped hende ved hviden kind:
“Sig mig, allerkæreste min,
hvem voldte sorrig din?”

“Jeg sad over min faders bord,
jeg legte med roser og liljer;
min stedmoder kom der gangendes fram,
det var ikke med henders minde.

Så skabte hun mig til en lidel nattergal,
bad mig ad skoven flyve;
min’ syv møer i ulvelige,
bad, de skulde fuglen rive.”

Jomfruen under linden stod,
slog ud sit favre hår;
der kom løbendes henders tjenestemøer,
i ulvelige de var.

Nu haver Nilaus Erlandsøn
forvunden båd’ angest og harm;
nu sover han så gladelig
udi den jomfru henders arm.
Så vinder en svend sin jomfru.

The maid in the guise of a bird

I know where there lies a forest,
far out at the edge of the fjord;
therein there grow the fairest of trees
that ever a man has heard.
So does a man gain his maiden.

Therein there grow the fairest of trees,
that one calls wood-willow and lime.
therein there play the noblest of beasts
that one calls the hart and the hind.

Therein there play both the hart and the hind
and other beasts pleasing to see;
there sings so tiny a nightingale
up in a lime so green.

Of this learned Nilaus Erlandsøn.
[a hunting man known for his skill],
he had his steed shod with shoes of red gold,
and yonder he rode for a kill.

Yonder did ride Nilaus Erlandsøn,
so deep-felt was his rapture;
there he stayed for three whole days,
but never the bird did he capture.

Then traps he did set on all of the trees
the bird would choose to alight on;
the bird it grew so keen of eye
the net he never could tighten.

Then traps he did set on all of the paths
the bird would walk on by nature;
the bird it was so keen of eye
he never was able to catch her.

He took his axe up in his hand,
he would the tree have felled;
the man who owned the forest came,
his spear between he held.

“If you chop down my forefathers’ trees
and do me such a wrong:
I promise you, Nilaus Erlandsøn,
you’ll rue the day ere long.”

Then came the voice of the fair maid,
up from the top of the tree:
‘Young man, should you heed my advice,
Then yours the bird shall be.

Hark you well, you handsome man,
and heed you my advice:
without tame flesh you shall not catch
the wild bird in a trice.”

He cut the tame flesh from his breast,
he hung it from a branch of lime;
she flapped her wings, it pleased her well,
to gain such flesh lost no time.

It was the tiny nightingale
the tame bloody flesh she soon found;
then she became the loveliest maid
that ever had trod the ground.

The maiden under the lime tree stood
in silken shift of red;
the knight he took her by the arm,
their woes to each other they said.

The knight he took her on his arm,
her lily-white cheek he did stroke:
‘Oh tell me, dearest to my heart,
who then did such sorrow provoke?”

“At my father’s table I did sit,
with roses and lilies did play;
my stepmother came into the room,
who wanted to have me away.

She made a small nightingale out of me
and told me to fly to the wood:
my seven maids into wolves were all turned,
told to tear the bird if they could.”

The maiden under the lime tree stood,
tossed her fine golden hair;
out ran her seven maids to her,
as wolves they were all still ensnared.

Now has Nilaus Erlandsøn
defeated all fear and all harm;
now without a single care
he sleeps on his maiden’s arm.
So does a man gain his maiden.