Monday 30 March 2020

Erik Knudsen: 'Schack Staffeldt'

Schack Staffeldt

You light candles in all the windows
So as not to see the grinning predators.
But the daughters of the night call you out, lure you 
with golden apples and shameless orchids.
Your shadow grows fantastically, skims
the Milky Way, swings across the moon’s torso.
An organ plays in soughing deciduous trees.
You listen in close to your naked heart
And hear an echo from memory’s mountain caves.
The stars laugh with delighted eyes.
One of them is you. But which?
A fever in the blood. A longing for home. – If only you could
be free of your dead weight! pull your thoughts up by the root!
Calmly in the distance
An objective mainland sways. – If only you dared
Leap out of your damned volcanic island!
Your breast is heavy with lava.
No delivery, no flight.
You are sore constricted between heaven and earth,
Groan under the weight of a thousand atmospheres.
The candles flicker behind the wet window-panes.
You have no tears, no reality.
The dream is your only element.
But you are alert and lucid.
Without a telescope
you find yourself:
An extinguished planet in a sea of fire.

Schack von Staffeldt (1769-1826). 'Staffeldt was not held in high regard in his own time but is acknowledged as one of the most important Romantic Danish poets by later generations' (Wikipedia).
Check the index for translations into English of poems by him. Here's one to start with.

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