Sunday 30 June 2019

Stefan George: "Es lacht in dem steigenden jahr dir"

Es lacht in dem steigenden jahr dir
Der duft aus dem garten noch leis.
Flicht in dem flatternden haar dir
Eppich und ehrenpreis.

Die wehende saat ist wie gold noch ·
Vielleicht nicht so hoch mehr und reich ·
Rosen begrüssen dich hold noch ·
Ward auch ihr glanz etwas bleich.

Verschweigen wir was uns verwehrt ist ·
Geloben wir glücklich zu sein ·
Wenn auch nicht mehr uns beschert ist
Als noch ein rundgang zu zwein.

Late scent in the fast-rising year from
The garden laughs softly to you. 
Braids in your fluttering hair some
Ivy and speedwell’s blue. 

The ripe swaying corn is still golden
Perhaps not so tall and so hale ·
Roses still greet unwithholden ·
Though their bright sheen’s somewhat pale.

Let’s choose to conceal what is owed us ·
Let’s vow that our joy’s always new·
Though nothing more is bestowed us
Than just a saunter for two.

Set to music by, among others, Einojuhani Rautavaara: Serenade no. 3

Henrik Wergeland (1808-45): 'Med en bouquet'

Med en bouquet

Den har ei Sjel, som ikke troer,
       Naturen er en aaben Bog,
at Mossens blege Klippeflor
       saa vel som Rosen har sit Sprog.

Det kjender Du, min Elskte, vel.
       Du Drømmen seer i Klokkens Bund.
Du fatter Liljens tause Sjel
       og Ordene fra Rosens Mund.

Lad da din skjønne Fantasi
       blandt Somrens Blomster sværme om!
For Hende, Blomster, taler I!
       Hun er jo selv saa favr en Blom.

Paa Morgenrødens Høie groe
       kun Roser lige hendes Kind,
paa Lysets Bjerg, hvor Engle boe,
       kun Liljen reen som hendes Sind.

Og ikkun hist, hvor Dagens Blaa
       frembryder som en Kilde klar,
saa fagre Blaavioler staae
       som hendes søde Øienpar.

With a bouquet

He has no soul who won’t believe
       that Nature is an open book,
that moss’s pallid rock-flowers have,
       like roses, voice as well as look.

My love, you know this as of old.
       The bell-flowers dreams to you disclose.
You know the lily’s silent soul,
       the words soft-spoken by the rose.

Let then your fantasy now seek
       midst summer flowers to roam so free!
And flowers, for her I charge you speak!
       For such a lovely flower is she.

On hills where dawn’s flush casts its spell
       there grow but roses like her cheek,
on peaks of light, where angels dwell,
       but lilies pure as she is meek.

And only there where blue of day
       like spring so clear does now arise,
grow violets in blue array
       as lovely as her pair of eyes.

Saturday 29 June 2019

Lars Gustafsson: 'Sång om världens djup, ögats djup, livets korthet' in English

Song of the world’s depths, the eye’s depths, life’s brevity

The moral law within us. The starry heavens above us.
But there exist starry heavens below us also.
Galaxy under galaxy ever deeper in an endless well
that our still medieval world picture forgets.
It still connects heaven with upwards,
fails to understand that if there are stars above us
there are stars below us also. That
glimmer in the dark. The moral law also must exist
below us as well as above us, a law for those
who endlessly fall, angels plunging in the
comet tails of their long hair, collapsing suns,
astronauts asleep on board their spaceships,
the Christians on board their cathedrals, asleep
in their sepulchres, huge coffins of marble
and black basalt, and all on its way through the
maelstroms of the deep, towards resurrection’s shore,
which through endless topographical involutions,
endless mapping of the set into itself,
is precisely the shore we have never left.
Here all of us sit, invisible, knights with greaves
and astronauts in protective helmets och
Heraclitus, the little bent old man at his acrid fire
of hard olive-wood, all sit at the same shore
watch the bleak at play, sense the faintly acrid smell
of sunken logs of timber, see smoke from a laundry fire
stretched out by the first autumn wind across the lake.
How fast must the falling angels fall
to keep pace with us on our shore?
Do they glow with the heat of falling? Or with the force
that propels them? And is this moral law for
the endlessly falling, for the unfathomable depths
and their more or less voluntary travellers
on a par with the law for the eternally rising?
Indeed, much is obscured in the far too dense
willow avenues of East Prussia, far too shallow
is many a marl-pit: there is a duty,
certainly, but its negation exists as well.
How right to forgo ego and speech! How
right to create an ego for oneself where there was none,
how right to assert oneself, how right to harbour desire!
Philosophers love to determine how the crofters,
day-labourers, the individual soldiers, the magnificently
liveried servants up at the back of light carriages
are to have things, and most of all, I would point out,
what they are to be able to wish for themselves:
everything from the duty to plough for free
to the pelargonias in the window which we,
that is to say the crofters, are to enjoy
with a dispassionate gaze. Exit Immanuel.
Abysmal snowstorm of galaxies below us,
insatiable desire within us, for all that can be desired,
to all that this darkness, which is that
of the other person, can offer in the way of lust,
secret knowledge, seduction, hatred.
Oh Sister Messalina! There is a needle-point!
And on this needle-point we live, like the angels!
(Perhaps we even are angels, Sister Messalina?)
The great, secretive suns live and die
are lit and extinguished in their mysterious depths,
as long as the Well suffices, and the dark
masses of the gravitational collapses cave
powerfully in on themselves at the boundary where
time’s slender thread is stretched out and becomes a
vast landscape, where space is contracted
to a needle-point. There we live in
eternity, oh Sister, under this Second Law,
a law for those that endlessly fall, gleaming,
and fill for ever this darkness with their gleam.
Oh Heraclitus, so short the November day is,
it grows dark over the lake, Your fire has started
stands out more strongly in the dark, You yourself 
disappear among flickering shadows. With ancient
signs the familiar constellations appear
in the sky, November’s wind moves among the reeds’
brittle stems, which move with an
ever drier sound. And across the western sky
the track of a falling angel like some script.
Oh Master Heraclitus, it is time for us,
over the fire, to warm a tankard!

Tuesday 25 June 2019



‘put your skates on!’

Ma likes to give me shopping errands. I take the linen bucket bag, collect her list of shops to be visited (no supermarkets exist, not even the one place to turn ‘self-service’ has done so yet), and since Ma knows I love to stop and note car numbers in my little notebook, she always adds ‘And put your skates on!’
Which I do, literally. My roller skates are strapped on at the heel and pushed into metal holders at the toe, holders that can be tightened with a square key. I take them off at every shop. I am not popular. The skates have metal wheels. The more you skate, the squarer they get. I skate a lot. The paving stones take their toll. 
Five years after the end of the war, there are still hoardings up covering bombed-out premises on Hatch End’s single street. I buy a small loaf for fourpence farthing at Chowen’s (For Goodness’ Sake Eat Chowen’s Cake!), clatter past the cycle shop, now stocking Brocks fireworks (the only brand worth buying) for Guy Fawkes’ Night, cross Cornwall Road and skate past the petrol station and the one hotel, with a pub and an off-licence where ‘alcoholic beverages’ can be bought at specified hours. Such is never consumed in our house. Drink is of the devil. Pa relaxes the devil’s rules several years later for Stone’s Ginger Wine, sweet madeira and a bottle of hock (liebfraumilch) at Christmas. Petrol is rationed. Sweets are rationed. So it goes.

On my return, Ma always greets me. ‘What took you so long, dear?’ ‘Life,’ I feel like answering. And the cars were nearly all black.

Antjie Krog: 'digter wordende'

digter wordende 

om op ’n oggend wakker te word binne-in klank
met vokaal en klinker en diftong as voelspriet
om met aarselende sorg die effensste roerings
van lig en verlies in klank te kalibreer

om jouself meteens gekniel te vind
bo-oor die hoorbaar kloppende wand
van ’n woord – soekend na daardie presiese
moment wat ’n versreël volloop in klank

wanneer die betekenis van ’n woord swig,
begin gly en hom eindelik oorgee aan geluid
van dan af smag die bloed na die inkantasie
van taal – die enigste waarheid staan gevél in klank

die digter dig met haar tong
sy haal asem – ja, diep uit haar oor

becoming a poet

one morning you awake in the midst of sound
with vowel and consonant and diphthong as antenna
with hesitant care you calibrate the tiniest
flutter of light and loss into sound 

suddenly find yourself kneeling
above the audibly throbbing wall
of a word – searching for the precise
moment that a line of verse fills up with sound

when the meaning of a word succumbs,
begins to slide and finally submits itself to sound
from that moment the blood yearns for language as
incantation – the sole truth stands couched in sound 

the poet writes with her tongue
she fetches breath – yes, deep out of her ear

Monday 24 June 2019

Terje Johanssen (1942-2005)

Det lange livet

Livet er så langt, av og til
varer det i flere måneder
avbrutt av høyt gress,
dype elver
og kyss
som varer like lenge som et eple
i det lille sekundet mellom sommer og høst

Long life

Life is so long, from time to time
it lasts for several months
interspersed with tall grass,
deep rivers
and kisses
that last just as long as an apple
in the split-second between summer and autumn

Sunday 23 June 2019

Eva Jensen (1955-2016)

Framfor meg på bussen sat ein mann med gult hår.
Eg bøygde meg sakte fram og kyssa han i nakken. Det var
akkurat så godt som eg hadde trudd. Han lét avisa falle ned
i fanget.
Sjåfør! Få ho ut!
Eg lente meg like sakte tilbake og såg ut.
Eg meiner det var sol den dagen.

In front of me in the bus was a man with yellow hair.
I leant gently forwards and kissed the nape of his neck. It was
just as good as I’d imagined. He let his newspaper fall
into his lap.
Driver! Get her out!
I leant back just as gently and looked out.
I think it was sunny that day.

Klaus Høeck: Poems from 'Blackberry Winter' (1987)


natsværmeren drages mod lyset
for at finde mørket dybere ind
i dén flamme der netop forhindrer
den i at se dét mørke
som den allerede flyver rundt i


the moth is attracted to the flame
seeking to find the dark held even deeper
within that flame which precisely prevents
it seeing the very dark
which it already is flying round in

     nu sortner solen
midt i brombærvinterens
     mest hvideste krat

     the sun now darkens
right in blackberry winter’s
     whitest of scrubland


jeg tager en ring med
ni perler i indfatningen:
otte små omkring een stor
dén placerer jeg i en
aluminiumbeholder der
normalt bruges til filmnegativer
så skruer jeg omhyggeligt
låget på og beslutter mig til
aldrig mere at åbne denne cylinder


i take up a ring with
nine pearls comprising its setting:
eight small around a big one
this ring i place inside an
aluminium container which
is normally used for film negatives
then i meticulously screw
on the lid and make the decision
never again to open this cylinder


til henrik

først da den kaffekop
jeg havde drukket af i over ti år
smadrede i tusinde stykker
blev jeg klar over at også jeg
skulle have skrevet en slags
kinesisk digt om porcelænslandskaber
nu da det var for sent
fordi jeg først i dét øjeblik
så at der ver malet
et eller andet mønster i den blå glasur


to henrik

not till the coffee cup
that i had drunk from for more than a decade
shattered into a thousand pieces
did i realise that i as well
ought to have written a chi
nese-like poem about porcelain landscapes
now that it was too late
since it was only in that instant
i saw that a hand had
painted some kind of pattern in the azure glaze

     at elske det du
elsker er åbenbart ik
     ke nogen let sag
     først på den anden
side af beherskelsen
     ved du hvad lyst er
     først på besindel
sens anden side ved du
     hvad kærlighed er
dér hvor vinteren
bløder sort af dé brombær
     du ikke spiste


     to love that which you
love would appear not to be
     a simple matter
     only on the far
side of selfcontrol do you
     know what desire is
     only when you are
beyond selfcomposure do
     you know what love is
     there where the winter
bleeds black with those blackberries
     you left uneaten

tusind morgenfruer
den ene ved
siden af den anden
smukkere endnu for hver
gang gentagelsen finder sted
lige dejlig hver eneste gang

du får øje på dens glorie
har du set een morgenfrue
har du set dem alle
har du set alle morgenfruer
har du dog kun set een

a thousand marigolds
standing next to
each other row on row
yet more beautiful each time
that the repetition takes place
as lovely every single time

you catch a glimpse of its halo
if you have seen one marigold
then you have seen them all
if you have seen all marigolds
you have but seen the one


     der er en ømhed
som sårer hjertet mer end
     et samuraisværd
     en maskulin hen
givenhed mer grusom end
     en rose i blomst
     der er et liv som
ikke kun måles i år
     men i kærlighed
     i kortere glimt
men klarere så du sand
     heden mer end vi



     there is a tender
ness that wounds the heart more than
     a samurai sword
     a masculine de
votedness more cruel than
     a rose in full bloom
     there is a life which
is not solely measured out
     in years but in love
     in shorter glimpses
but more clearly you saw the
truth more than we did 

Saturday 22 June 2019

P.C.Boutens: 'Skylark'


Blijft gij nooit één blanke uchtend,
Leeuwrik, zingen hier beneên,
Die uw nachtlijk nest ontvluchtend
Door de zilvren neevlen heen

Vleuglings vindt de gouden wegen
Waar uw aadmenjuichen wordt,
Tot uw zang in vuren regen
Naar de koele vore stort;

Zingt gij nooit de rode smarten
Van de duistre aardenacht,
Wordt het bloeden onzer harten
Wel gestelpt, maar  nooit verklacht?...

In het ijle blauw verloren
Volgt mijn oog niet meer uw vlucht,
Maar uw antwoord dwaast mijn oren
Met zijn zaligend gerucht:

Steeds, uit vreugd  of smart gerezen,
Heeft de ziel uw vreugd  verstaan,
En tot uwe vreugd genezen,
Ons gemeen geheim geraên:

Alle smart omhooggedragen
Meerdert vreugdes gouden schat:
Slechts de vleuglen die ons schragen,
Zijn van aardes tranen nat.

FIrst published in De Gids, December 1909, subsequently included in the collection 'Carmina', published 1912


Do you never  one bright morning,
Lark, stay here below to sing,
You who from your night nest soaring
Through the silver mists will wing

Up to golden paths ascending,
Where your breath erupts in song
Which as fiery rain descending
Finds cool furrows’ depths ere long;

Do you never sing the crimson
Pains of each dark earthly night,
Is our bleeding hearts’ vermillion
Stemmed but ne’er lamented quite?...

Lost in pale blue sky’s great vaulting,
Your small speck my eyes now miss,
But your answer, ear-assaulting,
Stupefies my mind with bliss:

Rising out of joy or sorrow,
Joy your soul has always gained,
Healed into your joy each morrow
Our shared secret ascertained:

All pains skyward-borne declare us
Joy’s gold treasure will accrue:
Nothing but the wings which bear us
Still wear tears of earthly dew.