Thursday, 31 January 2019

Last poem of Lars Forssell's 'Sånger'


Mörker är inte lika mörkt. När han
steg ned i båten bad han oss släcka allt,
facklor och tjärstickor som brann.
Jag svepte manteln om mig. Det var kallt.
‘Det är i beckmörkret jag anar land.’
Och båtshaken sköt färjan ut i natten.
Kring stäven viskade Akerons vatten.
Det återstår nu tretton hjärtslag sand
i timglaset vid rodret. Så jag hinner fram.
Där vi såg svart i svart och kol mot kol
han styrde efter kobbarna som sam
omkring oss, efter pinjernas konturer, mot sitt mål.
I mörkret skrapandet av köl mot strand.
‘Stöd er på mig. Godnatt. Det kostar en obol.’


Darkness is many kinds of dark. When he
came on board all torches and resin-sticks, he told
us, were to be put out. I pulled the
cloak I had round me tightly. It was cold.
‘It’s when it’s black as pitch that I sense land.’
Into the night the boat-hook pushed the craft.
Acheron’s waters eddied, fore and aft.
There are but thirteen heartbeats left of sand
in the rudder hour-glass. Still some time to spare.
Where we saw black on black and coal on coal
he steered by all the swimming islets’ glare
around us, by the pinetrees’ outlines, to his goal.
And in the dark the scrape of keel on strand.
‘Just lean on me. Good night. That’s one obol.’


Sunday, 27 January 2019

Schiller's famous elegy 'Nänie' in English translation

Nänie

Auch das Schöne muß sterben! Das Menschen und Götter bezwinget,
 Nicht die eherne Brust rührt es des stygischen Zeus.
Einmal nur erweichte die Liebe den Schattenbeherrscher,
 Und an der Schwelle noch, streng, rief er zurück sein Geschenk.
Nicht stillt Aphrodite dem schönen Knaben die Wunde,
 Die in den zierlichen Leib grausam der Eber geritzt.
Nicht errettet den göttlichen Held die unsterbliche Mutter,
 Wann er, am skäischen Tor fallend, sein Schicksal erfüllt.
Aber sie steigt aus dem Meer mit allen Töchtern des Nereus,
 Und die Klage hebt an um den verherrlichten Sohn.
Siehe! Da weinen die Götter, es weinen die Göttinnen alle,
 Daß das Schöne vergeht, daß das Vollkommene stirbt.
Auch ein Klaglied zu sein im Mund der Geliebten, ist herrlich,
 Denn das Gemeine geht klanglos zum Orkus hinab.


Naenia

Even the Beautiful dies! That which humans and gods surely conquers
 Vainly seeks to affect Stygian Zeus’ so hard-tempered breast.
Only once did love ever near soften the ruler of shadows,
 And, on the threshold still, grim, cause him to call back his gift.
Vainly would Aphrodite the handsome youth’s wound be staunching,
 Which in his delicate flesh cruelly the wild boar had ripped.
Vainly the eternal mother sought to save the god-like young hero,
 When at the Skaian Gate he perished, fulfilling his fate.
Out from the sea does she rise with all of Nereus’ daughters
 And her lament she intones about her now deified son.
See! All the gods start to weep, the goddesses likewise are weeping,
 Since what is beautiful dies, since what is perfect is lost.
Glorious is it to be but an elegy chanted by loved ones,
 For what is common’s consigned, soundless, to Orcus’ domain.


Thursday, 24 January 2019

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

'Ek het gedink' - Afrikaans poem by Ingrid Jonker in English translation

Ek het gedink

Ek het gedink dat ek jou kon vergeet,
en in die sagte nag alleen kon slaap,
maar in my eenvoud het ek nie geweet
dat ek met elke windvlaag sou ontwaak:

Dat ek die ligte trilling van jou hand
weer oor my sluimerende hals sou voel ...
Ek het gedink die vuur wat in my brand
het soos die wit boog van die starre afgekoel.

Nou weet ek is ons lewens soos ’n lied
waarin die smarttoon van ons skeiding klink
en alle vreugde terugvloei in verdriet
en eind’lik in ons eensaamheid versink.


I’d thought...

I’d thought it possible I could forget you
and in the mild night sleep alone at ease,
naively I’d not grasped that I would get to
awaken at each stirring of a breeze:

That I would feel your soft hand gently grazing
my neck as I lay slumbering in the dark –
I’d thought the fire that I felt in me blazing
would cool down like the star-trail’s silver arc.

Our lives are like a song’s now my belief
in which our parting’s anguished note is plain
and all joy one day flows back into grief
to be engulfed in loneliness again.



Lars Gustafsson: 'Ålen och Brunnen' in English translation

The eel and the well

In old Scania there was a custom:
Young eels from the sea were let down
into the black depths of the wells.
These eels then spent their entire lives
imprisoned in the darkness of the deep wells.
They keep the water crystal-clear and clean.
When on occasions the well-eel comes up,
white, frighteningly large, caught in the pail,
blind and coiling in and out
of its body’s enigmas, unaware,
everyone hurries to submerge it again.
I often feel myself as being
not only in the well-eel’s stead
but well and eel at the same time.
Imprisoned in myself, but this self
already something else. I exist there.
And wash it clean with my twisting,
miry, white-bellied presence in the darkness.


Sunday, 20 January 2019

Medieval Danish ballad in English translation: 'Kongens Søn aff Engeland'




The King’s Son of Engeland


The song does not say anything about where this king’s son of England has been, nor is there any mention of him in our Danish or English histories. But the fact the Sir Bugge (Niels Bugge, c.1300-1358) is named here would seem to place the story at 1330 AD or thereabouts. At that time, Edward III had just come to the throne, and he took Count Wilhelm’s daughter Philippa of Holland as his wife. What voyages were undertaken by the young Lord’s fleet of ships is not known for certain. But it is still in many a man’s memory among those who live at Bovbjerg that in former days such a royal personage from England was shipwrecked there, and that in memory of this Staby Church was decorated with a gilt plaque and a new tower, etc.



The King’s Son of Engeland

The king’s son of Engeland,
Has gold rings bright-gleaming on each hand,
And on his saddle bow gold gleams red.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

And on his saddle bow gold glows red,
A proud fair maiden he shall wed:
The king’s son he has a fine ship made.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The king’s son he has a fine ship made.
Such as never its anchor has weighed;
Twixt port and starboard painted in gold.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Twixt port and starboard painted in gold,
God’s word stood writ for all to behold.
From stern to prow it was gilded there,
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

From stern to prow it was gilded there,
The King’s Son embraced his maiden fair:
Without stood small lions bold of hue.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Without stood small lions bold of hue,
the one was yellow the other blue:
Within the ship there stood a mast.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Within the ship there stood a mast,
five hundred nobles it had cost:
A weather vane this mast did preen.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

A weather vane this mast did preen
Such as the North Sea never had seen:
With bright-red gold were the anchors laid.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

With bright-red gold were the anchors laid,
of pappus wool were the sails all made.
All the ropes that were on board.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

All the ropes that were on board
were firmly fixed with silken cord:
Every rope and every band.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Every rope and every band
were twined by the maiden’s own fair hand:
Their sails were all of finest silk made.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Their mainsail was of finest silk made,
with many port holes the ship arrayed:
And above the sail there stands a cross.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

And above the sail there stands a cross.
May our Lord Jesus watch over us:
The King his son gives sound advice.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The King his son gives sound advice
which he must heed at any price
Be always to honour and glory inclined.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Be always to honour and glory inclined,
Let money not master or govern your mind:
Spare neither silver nor gold red in hue.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Spare neither silver nor gold red in hue
And give your trusty men what they are due:
The king with his son went down to the strand.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The king and son went down to the strand
and knights and men shoved him off from the land:
The king’s son then his hat did raise.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The king’s son then his hat did raise.
Father and mother, God bless you always:
Both father and mother and lady fair.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Both father and mother and lady fair,
May God keep us safely in his care:
They had not sailed all that far from land.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

They had not sailed all that far from land
when a mighty storm assailed the strand:
Dark clouds piled up and gale winds blew,
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Dark clouds piled up and gale winds blew,
Neither land nor shelter the crew then knew,
So they dropped anchor as soon as bidden.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

So they dropped anchor as soon as bidden.
That thirty winters had lain there hidden:
They dropped it into the storm-tossed wave.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

They dropped it into the storm-tossed wave
that twice had been on the holy grave:
You Danish men, be bold of mind.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

You Danish men, be bold of mind,
the rope with silken threads is twined:
He hoped no danger them would stay.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

He hoped no danger them would stay,
The prince began then to chant a lay:
And it was before that midnight came.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

And it was before that midnight came,
the rope so strong was rent in twain:
The prince sat down on the golden chest.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The prince sat down on the golden chest.
His cheek was pale, his mind oppressed:
It was a sorrowful sight to see.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

It was a sorrowful sight to see,
The fine ship reduced to mere debris:
The prince, alive still, reached the land.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The prince, alive still, reached the land,
walked up and down the storm-tossed strand:
The prince he walked and much complained.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The prince he walked and much complained,
I think from injustice I have abstained:
Except I once took a small red steed.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Except I once took a small red steed
from a fatherless maiden, a loathsome deed:
If God should grant I ever come home.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

If God should grant I ever come home,
I shall give her two instead of one:
No sooner had these words been spoken.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

No sooner had these words been spoken
Than his chest was washed up on land unbroken:
And a scullion came along the shore.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

And a scullion came along the shore,
The hurt he caused the prince was sore:
With him he had now all the five men.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

With him he had now all the five men.
Sir Eske Frost himself rode with them:
The tears then coursed down the king’s son cheek.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

The tears then coursed down the king’s son cheek,
Alas, my fate here at Bovbjerg’s bleak!
With me things have gone from bad to worse!
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

With me things have gone from bad to worse,
In Sir Eske Frost’s power I’m accursed.
Had I but come to Sir Bugge’s fief!
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Had I but come to Sir Bugge’s fief,
No knight or squire would have been my thief!
Sir Eske’s scullion is my bane!
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Sir Eske’s scullion is my bane!
I’ll avenge this should I reach home again:
If God should grant I remain alive.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

If God should grant I remain alive,
To the King of Denmark I’ll this ascribe:
As soon as Sir Bugge receives this news.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

As soon as Sir Bugge receives this news,
He will dispatch his two sons in pursuit:
He will dispatch five men withal.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

He will dispatch five men withal
and have him brought back to home and hall:
Sir Bugge he kindly received the young lord.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.

Sir Bugge he kindly received the young lord,
the Danes let him journey to England once more:
Where gifts and great honour were fitting reward.
But the westerly wind blows them in towards Denmark.