Tuesday, 7 July 2020

Johan Herman Wessel (1742-1785) 'Vaaren'


O’er nearly all the earth spring’s glory folk proclaim.
A sorry proof of what’s so oft said in the main:
That taste in this our land (our globe is here my meaning),
If not the worst, to reckon good is idle dreaming.
Should I be given leave, this then is my intent,
To show the world’s high praise of spring is praise ill spent.
Pure Christian love, nought else, might see me entertaining
The urge to give my neighbour’s taste a little planing.
(To polish taste, I think, one tends to use a file;
But planing seems to me to better fit my style.)
Seldom do I believe what’s done so by too many;
And yet such endless songs exist, they’re two a penny,
Which praise sweet days in May, that I, on pleasure bent,
Would make for Flora’s meadow – and behold! I went.
It did not take me long the East Gate to be leaving,
Soon after which I stopped, so I might deeply breathe in
The balsam whose delights are often sweetly sung,
And rapturously I cry: You scent of flowers, come!
Oh Zephyr, on your silken wings it here be bringing!
At which I have Aeolus in my visage springing,
Who wroth, since I his cousin Zephyr so did greet,
Blows dust, whose scent to tell from balsam’s were no feat.
The west wind does not blow, my hurt soon let me know it,
As gently on the reader as upon the poet.
But though I little good from Flora now dared hope,
Judged by the welcome with which I now tried to cope,
My piety gave me strength to advance though gales were swishing,
My hope, with due attention, was to go on wishing
For beauty of some kind perhaps to come my way
That could the verdict on my neighbour’s taste allay.
And in this pious hope, the dust brushed off or shaken
That recently my vision quite from me had taken,
I now beheld green fields – they were – Good Lord, I mean: 
You know what fields all tend to look like when they’re green.
The highly curious man, whose time is soon outdated,
Can at such wonders though quite soon his gaze have sated;
My eyes’ poor substitute for such a sight was blurred
Since they still smarted from the dust they had incurred.
But hark! And can that be the merry lark I’m hearing,
What eye has just now lost may yet my ear be cheering.
What’s this?! It’s only sound I hear in this bird’s trill,
As if a tuned piano’s being struck at will.
In vain would cows, pigs, sheep with roaring, grunting, bleating
With their accompaniment the fine song be completing.
And every voice could call the other’s voice its peer, 
But for the music’s sake I stand no longer here.

Still was my neighbour’s taste worth some show of kind favour;
Still from one more attempt my piety did not waver. –

To see the original Norwegian poem, go to here

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