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!

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