Thursday 28 February 2019

A poem by Marno Balemans in the original and in English translation


à Albert Hagenaars

Les lettres sont les pierres, en syllabes taillées
Elles se transforment en mots pour ciseler les vers
Les piliers de la strophe, de l’édifice les nerfs
Embelli de statues et de chapelles voûtées

Le rythme et la cadence, litanies récitées,
La rime sonore et riche résonne comme une prière
Les métaphores images des vitraux de lumière
Des psaumes, des paraboles aux fidèles enseignés

Mais le poète n’est point un pontife qui sermonne
C’est le sculpteur de pierres, les gargouilles il façonne
C’est le graveur des stalles, le peintre des triptyques

Son poème est un chant, la musique avant tout
Qu’il compose mot à mot, aux lettres il se voue
Bâtisseur, il érige des cathédrales gotiques


to Albert Hagenaars

The letters are the stones, in syllables once dressed
They transform into words for chiselling the verse
The pillars of the stanza are the building’s nerves
Adorned with statues and with vaulted chapels blessed

The rhythm and the cadence, litanies intoned,
The rich and vibrant rhymes resound just like a prayer
The metaphors paint images of stained-glass glare
Of psalms, of parables to faithful souls made known

The poet neither preaches nor pontificates
He fashions stone, the grinning gargoyles he creates
He carves the stalls, the triptych figures he perfects

His poem is a hymn, is music above all
that’s written word by word, in letters that enthrall
Gothic cathedrals are the buildings he erects.

Tuesday 26 February 2019

The medieval Danish ballad of Torkil Trundesen and gentle Adelitz

To see the entire ballad in both Danish and English, go to here

Sunday 24 February 2019

The Swedish medieval ballad 'Sorgens makt' in English translation

Sorgens makt

Liten Kerstin och hennes moder, de lade gull i bår,
– vem bryter löven av liljeträd –
liten Kerstin, hon sörjer sin fästeman ur grav.
– I fröjden eder alla dagar.

Han klappade på dörren med fingrarna små:
‘Statt upp, liten Kerstin, tag låsen ifrå!’

‘Med ingen så haver jag stämma satt,
och ingen så släpper jag in här om natt.’

‘Statt upp, liten Kerstin, tag låsen ifrå!
jag är den ungersven du förr så hållit av.’

Och jungfrun, hon månde så hastelig uppstå,
så lätt tager hon den låsen ifrå.

Så satte hon honom på rödan guldskrin
och tvådde hans fötter i klaraste vin.

Så lade de sig i sängen ner,
de talade så mycket, de sovo inte mer.

‘Och hanarna börja nu att gala,
de döde få ej längre hemma vara.’

Och jungfrun steg upp och tog på sig sina skor,
så följde hon den ungersven över långan skog.

Och när som de kommo fram till kyrkogård,
då började försvinna hans fagergula hår.

‘Och se, sköna jungfru, hur månen upprann!’
Så hastelig den ungersven från henne försvann.

Då satte hon sig ner allt uppå hans grav:
‘Och här skall jag sitta, tills Herren Gud mig tar!’

Då hördes svara den ungersven:
‘Och hör du, liten Kerstin, gå hem igen!’

For var och en tår som du fäller uppå jord,
min kista hon bliver så full utav blod.

Men var gång på jorden du är i hjärtat glad,
– vem bryter löven av liljeträd –
min kista hon bliver så full av rosors blad.’
– I fröjden eder alla dagar.

The power of grief

Little Kerstin and her mother laid gold on the bier,
– who breaks off leaves from a lily-tree –
little Kerstin from his grave mourned her true love so dear.
– Then all your days shall you rejoice.

With fingers so small on the door he did knock:
‘Arise, little Kerstin, and undo the lock!’

‘To hold a tryst here did I no one invite,
And to no one my door will I open at night.’

‘Arise, little Kerstin, the lock now undo!
for I’m the young man that you once loved so true.’

As quick as she could did the maid now arise
and opened the lock on her door in a trice.

On a chest of red gold she prepared him a seat
and in finest clear wine did she wash both his feet.

Then into her bed did the both of them creep,
they talked through the night, there was no time for sleep.

‘The cocks I can hear are beginning to crow,
no longer in homes may the dead tarry now.’

The young maid arose and her shoes she put on,
she went through the wood where her young man was gone.

And when at the churchyard he stopped and did stay,
his fair blond hair then started fading away.

‘Oh look, lovely maid, how the moon’s end is near!’
At which did the young man so fast disappear.

Then did the maid sit herself down on his tomb:
‘I’ll stay here till for me the Lord God shall come!’

To this could the young man be just heard to say:
‘Little Kerstin, please heed me, return home I pray!’

For each single tear that you happen you shed,
my tomb will start filling with blood that’s bright red.

Each moment however your heart gladness knows
– who breaks off leaves from a lily-tree –
shall my tomb fill with petals that come from the rose.’
– Then all your days shall you rejoice.

Friday 22 February 2019

Dutch 14th century poem: 'Het daghet in den Oosten' in English

The dawn in the East is breaking

‘The dawn in the East is breaking.
Light everywhere is found;
Oh how my love knows little
Of where I must be bound.’

‘Oh, could they but be friends those
Who now as foes appear,
From this land I would take you,
My love, my darling dear!’

‘And where then would you take me,
You knight so bold of face?
In my love’s arms I lie in
More virtuous embrace.’

‘In your love’s arms you’re lying?
In faith! No truth you tell.
Seek out the green-leafed linden,
He lies there where he fell.’

The maiden put her cloak on
And to the linden sped,
Where lying on the ground she
Did find her true love dead.

‘And is it here you’re fallen,
All covered with your blood!
That comes from reckless boasting
And pride that bodes no good.

And is it here you’re fallen,
Who solace brought alway!
Now all that you have left me
Is many a mournful day.’

The maiden put her cloak on
And hastened o’er the ground
To where her father’s door stood
That she wide open found.

‘Oh, is there any squire here
Or some man nobly bred
Who’s willing to help bury
my love that now is dead?’

The gentlemen stayed silent,
Of speech they were bereft;
The maiden turned around then,
And shedding tears she left.

Within her arms she held him
And on his mouth did shower
More kisses in a short while
Than in so many an hour.

With his bare sword full-gleaming
The earth she dug away,
With snow-white arms she bore him
And in his grave did lay.

‘To some small far-off convent
I now my way will wend,
Henceforth black veils be wearing
And as a nun life end.’

With voice both clear and ready
The holy mass she sang
With snow-white hands so steady
The little bell she rang.

Monday 18 February 2019

'Den dyre Kaabe' - a song from Queen Sophia's Song Book

Den dyre kaabe

Thett war skiønnen iomfrue,
hun ganger y lunden saa ienne:
møder hinder fouveren unger-suend
udi thi grønner enge.
:: Alt om en somerssens morgenn. ::

‘Well møtt, fowerenn ungen-suend,
udi thesse grønner ennge!
thager y begis wor kabe,
y reder oss enn seng theraff!’

‘Ieg breder icke min kabe under thig,
thend er aff skarlagen grøenn:
bliffuer hun et sind y dogenn bløtt,
hun rømper y huer end søem.

Ieg breder icke min kobe under thig,
hun er af skarlagenn niu:
allenn stod meg XV mark,
ieg kiøbtenn y Stackholems biu.’

‘Mynn moder hun bour her nør y by,
hun haffuer thi bolster fem:
y bider meg, fouveren unger-suend,
men ieg henther oss ien aff dem!

Min moder hun boer her nør y biu,
hun haffuer thi bolster ni:
y bider meg, fouvren unger-suend,
men ieg henther oss ien aff di!’

Hun slou kobenn øffuer hanns hoffuit,
bad, hannd skulde stannde och bide:
hun gick bourt, hun kom icke igienn,
hun sueg hannom under lide.

Hun slo kobenn offuer hanns hoffuit,
bad, hannd skulde bide enn stund:
hun gick bourtt, kom aller igienn,
hun sueg hannom mange fald.

Bourtt tha gick thenn skiønne iomfrue,
saa hierthelig hun loe:
hindis kabe thend war aff gyldenn-støcke,
hindis kiorttell paa iorden drog.

Hand stod ther y dag, hannd stod ther y tho,
udi thi grønne ennge:
icke kom thend skiønne iomfrue
med kleder thill thieris sennge.

Thett stod saa fra paaske
och enndthill pindtz-dags thide:
icke tha thuorde thennd unger-suend
thill kierkenn for thend iomfrue ride.

Thennd suend hannd kom for kiercke-døer,
och hand thennd iomfrue kiende:
‘Huor bleff the goude wille, wy haffde thill-sammell?
hui fick thet saa skiden en ende?’

‘Thett matt thu thacke din kabe for,
hun war aff skarlagen ny:
allen stod deg femttann marck,
thu kiøbt-en i Stackholoms by.

Thet matt thu thacke din kabe for,
thu hagde then alt saa kier:
hagde hun bløffuen y dogen bløtt,
hun hagde rømpet y huerende søm.

Hør thu, herre Mognos!
alt om thu wilt mig thro:
ieg bød theg enganng ett hoffmandtz-bud,
thu thuord icke thage ther-emod.

Hagde ieg werit en skiøn unger-suend som thu,
och hagde meg en iomfrue møtt:
hagde min kobe werit aff gyllden-støcker,
y dogen thuorde ieg hinder bløtt.’

:: Alt om en somerssens morgen. ::

The costly cloak

There was a beautiful maiden
she walks in a grove on her own:
a handsome man chances to meet her there
in green meadows all alone.
:: All on a bright summer morning.::

‘Well met, you fine and handsome young man,
out in these meadows so green!
take you our cloaks and make us a bed
that’s fit for a king and his queen!’

‘My cloak I will never spread under you,
it’s made of best scarlet so green:
were it made the merest bit moist by dew
it would come apart at each seam!

My cloak I will never spread under you,
of fine new scarlet it’s wrought:
full XV marks by the ell it cost –
in Stockholm town it was bought.’

‘My mother lives near in the town due north,
five cushions no less does she own:
just wait for me, you handsome young man,
while I fetch one now for our throne!

My mother lives near in a town due north,
nine cushions no less does she own:
just wait for me, you handsome young man,
while I fetch one to grace our throne!’

Over his head she spread his cloak,
she bade him wait and stand still:
off she went, and did not come again,
she tricked him below the hill.

Over his head she spread his cloak,
she bade him wait for a while:
off she went, and did not come again,
she tricked him there with great guile.

Off the lovely maiden went,
laughed at him then with great mirth:
her cloak it was of gold brocade
her kirtle it touched the earth.

He stood there one day, he stood there two,
out in the meadow so fair;
the lovely maiden ne’er returned
with clothes for to line their lair.

So things stood from Easter
right up to Whitsuntide:
the young man all that time for the maid
to the church did not dare ride.

The young man came then to the church,
where he recognised the maid:
‘What became of the goodwill we once shared?
why have I been so betrayed?’

‘That you must thank your fine cloak for
the one of new scarlet wrought:
that cost you XV marks by the ell
and in Stockholm town was bought.

That you must thank your fine cloak for,
that too dear to you has been:
the one that if moistened by the dew
would come apart at each seam!

Just listen here, Sir Magnus!
Believe it or not, it’s true:
You did not dare accept what I
most graciously once offered you.

Had I been a handsome man like you,
and a maiden I had met:
though my cloak had been of gold brocade
with dew I’d have let it get wet.’
:: All on a bright summer morning. ::