Thursday 30 April 2020

Werner Aspenström: 'Ögonvittnet'


A short essay about the painter Monet

Monet goes out to paint.
‘It is a source of great joy and great suffering.’

Monet wants to paint what he sees.
It ought to be possible to see the River Seine.

Though everything we fix is already in the past.
No one can descend twice into the same stream of light.

Monet takes on what shimmers, steams,
the fleetingly beautiful, the dove-like neck.

A sharp knife he is unable to paint.
a brown ruler, a black cast-iron horizon.

He is besotted by snowflakes.
They melt when they are noticed.

The meadow’s black and white cattle, closely observed:
they are grazing rainbows.

The landscape is constantly changing.
‘I use up and waste a great deal of paint.’

A field of corn can be blue.
It is always harvest time for the one who grows light.

Poppy. Monet asks the children to fetch new canvases.
They come running like firefighters.

National Day, seen from the balcony:
A great waterfall of flags, human specks.

In Le Havre the sun chances to be red.
Monet rescues three very transient boats.

Round Belle-Ile the breakers are high.
Monet ties himself to the rock, trusses his easel with stones.

He now finds himself close to, and yet outside.
The dream: closer. To be buried in a bell-buoy.

There is no everlasting God. The altar dark.
Waves of light wash over the cathedral.

Truth flutters. The bricks tick like clocks.
‘An eternal torture and nothing else.’

The evening grows grey. The cathedral shrinks like a snail.
Monet lies sleepless. Where is the sun at night?

This is a whole life chasing a swarm of bees!
In poplars. In fishing boats. In haystacks. In parasols.

In the canals of Venice. In Dutch windmills.
In the parliament building in London.

In the cafés in Paris the theories of the day are consumed
by prismatic bodies, colour-playing countenances.

People start saying that Monet’s pictures are perfect,
Monet knows that his life is a failure.

It is impossible to paint what one sees,
write what one feels, eat what one hungers for.

His friends disperse. His wife dies.
‘I raise the walls higher around my land.’

What remains: the world’s light in the waterlily pond.
Then the eye refuses to see. Then the hand fumbles.

Claude Monet the painter will soon become blind.
He burns his last pictures of water.

And the water burns. Against the law of nature,
as a token of respect.

Werner Aspenström: 'Den svåra texten'


Deus absconditus, come out of your hidey-hole
and help the vicar of this local congegration
whose duty it is on the Sunday ahead
to preach on the Resurrection.
He has lain awake half the night,
not because he doubts
but because he truly believes.
Come out,
help him ponder the given words
just as the bishop himself does
and the popular pastor
and all of us sceptics within the congregation
who in scanty numbers will put in an appearance –
particularly if the weather is fine,
since we in sacred cars on countless roads
will have absconded.

Tuesday 28 April 2020

Werner Aspenström: 'Jag tittar hastigt in i en kyrka'


The cantor mainly just to practise
sits squeezing squirts of summer hymns
out of silver udders.
In the stall under the balcony the caretaker’s wife
has started on a woollen cardigan for a grandchild.
A swallow that has strayed in through an aperture
follows me out through the door.
What’s going on in the woods far off?
In Umbria the rose bushes are glowing.
In Bergslagen pine and spruce are growing
around water-filled quarries.
No one can say who the paternal grandfather was.

Werner Aspenström: 'En ovanlig dag'


The spring sun flowed out across Sweden
as if it was paid by the acre.
Everything was better than last time.
Far outside the three-mile limit
one saw herring dancing in galoshes.
Not even the dove sat still
on a lily-stem.* 

* Reference to a Swedish folk song:
Duffuan sitter på Lilie quist/Hon sjunger så fagert om Jesu Christ
(The dove sits on the lily stem/She sings so sweetly of Jesus Christ)

Monday 27 April 2020

Werner Aspenström: 'Drömmen om den store tärningen av is'


Not only isolated farms but whole villages,
yes, a royal residence with city hall and cathedral
lay frozen inside the large ice-cube.
I shall be slow to forget that dream.
Visible but sealed off everyday life went on inside there.
Sounds that otherwise carry far and wide,
the howling of chained dogs out in the country,
the shrieks and laughter from schoolyards and funfairs in the city,
thudding pile-drivers… None of it was heard.
A whistle in his mouth, a ticket-collector went
from carriage to carriage, slamming the doors behind him.
Slowly, as in the silent film era, the train started to move.
Unaffected by the ice quiet fires burned.
Otherwise it can sound like pistol shots
when bonfires suddenly crackle and sparks leap out.
What surprised me most was the absolute clarity.
Scratched and uneven were the window panes
I had seen until then.
The misting from our desire obscures what we see

Werner Aspenström: 'Ansiktet'


Here a woman’s standing combing her hair,
her extremely long, chestnut-brown,
her crackling hair.

And here a child’s sitting on a floor waiting
for the face, hidden behind the crackling curtain
to become visible again.

The same eyes! The same nostrils! The same mouth!

The infant child shrieks.
The grown-up child swallows its shriek.
The aged child mumbles.

Werner Aspenström: 'Målaren'


As a widower he could stay standing on the dirt road
and let his gaze follow a cloud
till it died.
All that remained of his wife’s letters were read-bare tatters.
Had he not been prevented by started canvases,
brushes and plaintive colours
he could have come to terms with the truth
about dirt roads, clouds and impossibilities.
(No one shall succeed!)
Was life a dream?
Yes, life was a dream, with hard outer edges.

Sunday 26 April 2020

Ingemann: 'Fred hviler over land og by' (full version)

Fred hviler over land og by

Fred hviler over land og by,
ej verden larmer mer:
fro smiler månen til sin sky,
til stjerne stjerne ser.

Og søen blank og rolig står
med himlen i sin favn,
på dammen fjerne vogter går
og lover Herrens navn.

Det er så stille og så tyst
i himmel og på jord,
vær også stille i mit bryst,
du flygtning, som der bor!

Slut fred, o hjerte, med hver sjæl,
som her dig ej forstår,
se, over by og dal i kvæld
nu fredens engel går.

Som du, han er en fremmed her:
til himlen står hans hu,
dog i det stille stjerneskær
han dvæler her, som du.

O, lær af ham din aftensang:
fred med hver sjæl på jord!
Til samme himmel går vor gang,
adskilles end vort spor.

Fred med hvert hjerte, fjern og nær,
som uden ro mon slå!
Fred med de få, som mig har kær,
og dem, jeg aldrig så!

Fred med hver Aand, som hader mig!
Den skal mig elske vist,
Naar samlet i Guds Himmerig
Vi ham lovprise hist.

1672 fik de såkaldte "blegemænd" tilladelse til at anlægge deres pladser på en strækning mellem nuværende Blegdamsvej og Sortedamssøen. Dammene, som lå her de næste 200 år, blev nummereret i rækkefølge begyndende sydfra. I dammene kunne de hvide varer fugtes, hvorefter de blev lagt til blegning i solen. Tjenestepigerne blev sendt herud et par gange hvert år.

Digteren B. S. Ingemann skildrede også fænomenet: “Og Søen blank og rolig Staar med Himlen i sin Favn. Paa Dammen fjerne Vogter gaar og lover Herrens Navn”. Den i verset omtalte vogter var ansat for at passe på, at de udlagte hvidevarer ikke blev stjålet. Han skulle regelmæssig blæse i et kohorn, således at folk vidste, at han var vågen. Hos Carl Ploug omtales kohornet som en "Blegdamstuba".

Peace rests o’er town and countryside

Peace rests o’er town and countryside,
no worldly noises mar:
at its own cloud the moon smiles wide,
till star can gaze on star.

And smooth and shining lies the lake,
the sky in its embrace,
on bleach greens guards keep distant wake
and praise the God of grace.

It is so still, with all at rest
in heav’n and here on earth,
be also still now in my breast,
you fugitive since birth!

Make peace, oh heart, with every soul
that fails to read you here,
And peace’s angel now behold,
o’er town and vale so near.

Like you, he is a stranger here:
his mind’s on heaven set,
yet in the tranquil starlight clear
like you, he lingers yet.

Oh, learn from him your evening song:
peace with each soul on earth!
We for a common heaven long,
although our paths diverge.

Peace with each heart, both far and near,
that restlessness may gnaw!
Peace with the few that hold me dear,
and those I never saw!

Peace with each mind that hates me yet!
That hate will turn to love,
When in God’s heaven we are met
And sing his praise above. 

Saturday 25 April 2020

Jacob Frese: 'Förakt öfwer werldsens fåfängelighet'

Disdain at the vanity of the world 

Begone world with your vanity!
     I give you my farewell:
There is another world for me/
     Where my tired soul would dwell;
Your gaudy baubles are a lie; 
Poor wretch who in your snares must die;
You barren world, goodbye! 

Pleasure       Though Nain of pleasures you are named,
     Their burden pains us all:
The joy and sweetness for you claimed 
     Are nought but bitter gall. 
Your gaudy baubles are a lie; 
Poor wretch who in your snares must die;
You blinding world, goodbye! 

Honour         Your honour is a cloud which gleams/ 
     But swiftly drifts away. 
That changes with each breeze it seems/
     And lasts a single day. 
Your gaudy baubles are a lie; 
Poor wretch who in your snares must die;
You bare-faced world, goodbye! 

Riches          Your riches are a short-lived loan/
     A stream that swiftly strains, 
Where back and forth the waves are thrown; 
     With no one at the reins.
Your gaudy baubles are a lie; 
Poor wretch who in your snares must die;
You brazen world, goodbye!

Trust            How certain is your faithfulness? 
     How long-lived is your peace?
Your faith’s distress and faithlessness, 
     Peace strife that does not cease. 
Your gaudy baubles are a lie; 
Poor wretch who in your snares must die;
You bogus world, goodbye!

Farewell! Your flattery I scorn/
     And view it with disdain. 
Your risky ways I have forsworn :
     I mock your splendour vain. 
Your gaudy baubles are a lie; 
Poor wretch who in your snares must die;
You barren world, goodbye!

Thursday 23 April 2020

ZKV 44: Goodbye PA! (pa knew it meant 'God be with you')


ryge – røg - røget vb.
1) (tobacco etc.) smoke;
2) (disinfect) fumigate;
3) (conserve) smoke e.g. fish;
4) (emit smoke) the chimney/volcano is smoking;
5) (move swiftly) he rushed downstairs, he jumped out of bed;
6) (disappear, stop working) go to pot, go up in smoke, go phut;
7) (go bankrupt) go bust.

It’s around midnight in mid-April 1980. I’m in bed in Sweden and downstairs the phone rings. It’s brother Mike. ‘Bad news, I’m afraid. Pa’s died.’ I go up and tell the wife. ‘Not now. Tell me in the morning.’
I fly over a couple of days before the funeral, to be held on St. George’s Day. Appropriate in a way, that’s Pa’s only first name.
What memories? Pa dressed in a shroud in his coffin. The moons of his thumbs beautiful. Ma accidently hauling the garage roof down while my head is in the way. Blood. Psalm 23 sung in a full church. Mike and I not allowed to be coffin bearers – all done professionally. I want white and red roses, but have reluctantly agreed to the Swedish colours, which means a weird bouquet of daffodils and irises. The drive to the crematorium after the service for a ghoulish coffin ride into the oven. Outside, I look up at the church tower (the crematorium is a make-over) and discover a kind of chimney emitting smoke. Pa is being converted into ashes to strew on beds of heather. ‘Dér røg far’ (Pa gone up in smoke) I think to myself.

Jacob Frese (1691-1729): 'Ofreds Klagan'

Strife’s lament

Ah, where’s the golden age gone by,
     When here peace had its dwelling,
When bliss as rain came from on high
     When bounty still was swelling,
When all our land with honey flowed
     When milk our bodies nourished,
When heaven’s lap us all bestowed/
     And wishes freely flourished.

Such peace has long since turned to strife/
     And concord has been routed/
Alas, all joy has left our life/
     (I mourn this, but can’t doubt it)
Our land’s become a wilderness:
     Our paradise has vanished:
Our kingdom’s rich in wretchedness/
     And grace and justice banished.

I saw a man with sword in hand
     Upon a red horse riding/
All amity he did disband
     War was his aim presiding;
Around him was a raging flood
     That swamped the Earth entirely;
It was the vanquished Northmen’s blood
     In our lands smitten direly.

Ah, if my weary eyes could be
     A source of tears unpausing:
Ah, if the rivers in the sea
     Might through my veins be coursing; 
The vanquished folk in Israel
     I’d then be truly mourning.
Each stream would then interpret well
     The tears my eye are spawning.

O Prince of Peace, O GOD Divine/
     Why dost thou curse us roundly?
As thou’st decreed, we now decline
     To lose our way profoundly.
Forbear! Oh let thy just wrath cease;
     In happiness transplant us;
Grant concord; Ah, were there but peace!
     Both peace and joy, God, grant us!

Wednesday 22 April 2020

Nanne Nauta: 'Petersons Vogelgids van alle Europese vogels'

Petersons Vogelgids van alle Europese vogels

Ik zag de slechtvalk stijgen van het Stadskantoor,
jagen langs de kliffen bij Downmacpatrick,
jan-van-genten duiken bij Dursey Island,
bovenkomen bij Cap Fréhel,
een griel weglopen uit de weilanden van Cersay
naar de schorren van Tavira,
de grote trap op de heuvels van Castro Verde
kijken naar de steppen van Trujillo,
een zwarte ooievaar opstijgen uit de kloven van de Taag
naar de stranden van Skala Kalloni,
de middelste bonte specht uit Limonos
aankloppen bij een witrugspecht in Askim,
een grote zaagbek in de haven van Brännö lonken
naar het vrouwtje in de plassen van Meijendel,
en leerde, met een Amerikaanse gids, Europa kennen.

Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe

I saw the peregrine rise from the Council Offices,
hunt along the cliffs near Downmacpatrick,
northern gannets dive near Dursey Island,
surface near Cap Fréhel,
a stone curlew scurry out of the Cersay meadows
towards the salt marshes of Tavira,
the great bustard on the hills of Castro Verde
gaze towards the pampas of Trujillo,
a black stork soar up out of the fissures of the Tagus
towards the shores of Skala Kalloni,
the middle spotted woodpecker from Limonos
rap on the door of a white-backed woodpecker in Askim,
a goosander in the harbour at Brännö ogle
the female in the pools of Meijendel,
and, with an American guide, got to know Europe.

Tuesday 21 April 2020

Werner Aspenström: 'Bergsbyn'


A frighteningly beautiful sunset
caused the window panes to gleam
and the milk churns to glint
in a mountain village in Austria, seen from the train.
They assuredly had alpine cows up there,
sheep and goats up there
nocturnal dreams up there
of plunging down from vertical cliffs
and ten metres from tragedy
being transformed into swallows.