Friday 30 April 2021

Kjell Espmark: 'Länge var jag på väg mot exilen'


Long did I journey into exile

banished by Augustus

to lose my life hour by hour.

The ship was already thinning out, day by day,

until it only just touched the waves.

The only thing of any weight was my heart.

It sank like the anchor

at this Black Sea coast.

Scudding clouds sought to wipe out my name,

the gibberish spoken to silence my home tongue.

But my Epistulae insisted on being written –

these shards of sorrow that shimmered.

Kjell Espmark: 'Jag är tyrannen'

I am the tyrant Ardiaius

who was flayed

and impaled on a gorse bush.

But my end was so precisely etched

by a wily champion

that it gained features of a beginning..

And my gaze is so fixed

on what man can do to his fellow-man

that the world will never escape me.

The thoughts swarming inside the helmet

find their way into the heads of the living.




Marie Dauguet: 'Réveil' (Pastorales, 1908)




Partout s’entremêlent, brouillés,

Des rayons troubles et mouillés

A l’ombre mal évanouie.


L’aurore se réveille en larmes;

On entend s’égoutter les charmes

Au bord des routes éblouies.


Au-dessus des orges violettes

Et rosées, un chant d’alouette

Éclate rapide et vivace;


Et, venant des lointains perdus,

Un son de cloche répandu

Moire, en larges ondes, l’espace.





The blurring sun’s rays everywhere

Opaque and moist, twine in the air

With shadows only faintly there.


The dawn awakens full of tears;

The dripping of its charms one hears

From dazzled roadsides in one’s ears.


Above the barley mauve and rose

The skylark’s song just grows and grows

and then vivaciously explodes.


And, coming from some distant place,

A chiming bell spreads out its trace,

Makes waves that shimmer out of space.


Kjell Espmark: 'Långt inne i grottans mörker'


Deep in the darkness of the cave

I painted a bison on the wall

while the woman held up the torch.

The red and the brown

forced out the arched back –

and my hand took fright.

The beast gave a snort

and lowered its head towards me.


Thursday 29 April 2021

Kjell Espmark: 'Impromptu'


It’s a gale-ridden day.

We’ve rowed till the whitewashed walls turned black

but found a way back

to you, to me.

I raise myself slightly so sweaty skin

rustlingly slides off skin

and nestle my heart close to yours:

an earthenware plate tipping over another.


The window is open: May is blue.

In the beam above us death advances

the thousandth part of an inch, with a snap.

But the rosefinch on the naked branch

sings and sings away.

The down on its breast fluffs in the wind.

So much greater its song is

than its quavering body!

Ebba Lindqvist: 'Ikaros' fall'


Ikaros' fall


Ingen såg när han föll.

Ingen vet vad han kände.

Ingen vet om hans jubel att våga

var undergången värd.

Detta att tillhöra livet,

detta att mista livet,

det skall ingen veta.

Det var bara hans.


Och det som hände sedan

var väl ingenting värt.

Inte mer än dagssländans väg över vattnen.

Vingar som vingar - och alla

skall falla.

Aldrig var kvällen så vacker som nu

i solnedgången:

havet skimrande, solens smycke lysande,

skeppet som far förbi.

Alltid far skeppet förbi

mot morgondagen.


Ingen såg vad som hände.

Ingen har tid i livet.

Fiskaren har så bråttom. Han vet,

att i solnedgången biter fisken bäst.

Och med ryggen mot havet står

herden försänkt i bön.

Han har ingenting märkt.

Och bonden som plöjer ser ingenting

utom fåran han följer.


Alla hade så bråttom.

Kvällen var klar och vacker,

och det var ingen som märkte

Ikaros' fall.



Icarus’ fall


Nobody saw him fall.

Nobody knows what he felt.

Nobody knows if his exultation at daring

was worth his perishing.

All this about belonging to life,

about losing life

nobody is to know.

This was his alone.


And what happened later

was probably of no account.

No more than the mayfly’s

path across the waters.

Wings as wings – and all

shall fall.

The evening was never as beautiful as now

at sunset:


the sea glittering, the sun’s jewel gleaming,

the ship that is passing.

The ship always passing

towards the morrow.


Nobody saw what happened.

Nobody has any time in life.

The fisherman is in such a hurry. He knows

that the fish bite best at sunset.

And with his back to the sea the

shepherd stands deep in prayer.

He has noticed nothing.

And the farmer ploughing sees nothing

except the furrow he is following.


Everybody was in such a hurry,

The evening was clear and beautiful,

and there was nobody who noticed

Icarus’ fall.



Marie Dauguet: 'La source' (Pastorales, 1908)


La source


La source, dont bleuit si mollement l’haleine,

     Entre la bourdaine et les coudres,

Et jamais lasse, avec un bruit chantant, de sourdre,

Où parfois pleut du ciel la lumière sereine,


J’aime y conduire lentement, aux soirs d’été,

     Parmi les bois aux vertes roches,

Pour les mieux abreuver, mes grands bœufs déjoutés,

Et dont la corne torse aux rameaux bas s’accroche.


J’aime à voir se pencher leurs deux mufles ardents

     Au niveau de la source bleue,

Où leur souffle se mêle et frissonne, pendant

Que d’un caillou mouillé s’envole un hoche-queue.



The spring


The spring – which gentle breathing causes to turn blue –

     Flows among buckthorn and the hazel trees

And never tires of welling up with loud reprise,

Where from the sky serene light weeps like dew.


It’s where I love to lead on summer evenings, first

     Through woods with rocks of mossy green,

My sparred–with mighty oxen, keen to slake their thirst,

Their crooked horns now tangled in low reeds half-seen.


I love to watch their gleaming muzzles slowly sink

     And touch the spring’s light blue at play,

With which their breath will mix and quiver as they drink,

While from a small moist stone a wagtail flies away.


Wednesday 28 April 2021

Kjell Espmark: 'Kaninen stilla vid sitt hål i gräset'


The rabbit motionless at its hole in the grass

like an etching by maestro Albrecht.

As if the meek had been posted

to guard the path to the lower world.

Scare it off! The land without matter

belongs here around my tailor’s cottage.

Nature is an open book

where the writing conceals the real writing –

in the opinion of the great mystic. Ergo:

cut out what is randomly written with scissors,

especially the white soundless butterflies

which entice the lavender to flower.

The sky that seems to be about to burst

is held together for one hour still by the

thoughtless stitches of the swallows. Rip them out!

Perhaps though the strength of the landscape comes

from the sea breathed in the tops of the ash-trees.

Cut out the sea too! And the trees.

Cut out even the thought of sea and tree.

Finally the evening is silent and white

and everything that is


Kjell Espmark: 'Mitt i livet denna söndag'


In the midst of life this Sunday:

weightless snow, a silent sermon.

The naked tree gleams with bullfinches.

The only sound existing in the world

is the rustling of pecked-out seeds

plummeting down through the branches.

Today’s text is red smudges

brighter that the blood of Christ

and seed-husks falling slowly, slowly.

Death slows down its steps.

No murmuring yet among the clouds.


Kjell Espmark: 'Fem à sex gymnasiaster'


Five or six Sixth Form students

who feigned a music society

to loan records from the educational association

was an irresistible temptation.

When you put on my Concerto for Orchestra

I entered the untidy room

and watched you all get up,

frightened at Bartók’s visit.

You stared at my 49 kilos,

my down-folded soft-leather boots,

but evaded my eyes

as if dazzled by welding flames.

I sat silent for what was about an hour

and raised a warming hand

if anyone tried to ask a question.

Then I abruptly got up and left.

Only in that way

could I remain among you.

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Kjell Espmark: 'Glömskan är glupsk'


Forgetting is voracious.

The one who turns his back on the past

will be hollowed out from behind without noticing it.

Without seeing how what has been and is to be

exist here now and claim us.

You who rest with your head against my arm

while conversing intimately in the dark

still live in a distant city

with some other man. So much longer

we must go on searching for each other!

In the meantime I continue working

on my book about the anatomy of forgetting.

Note how the mirror has been emptied of memories.


Kjell Espmark: 'När jag en junidag drabbades'


When on a June day I was struck

by a pancreas going to pieces

the hospital walls became grey paper

the nurses scurrying ashes

and the air crematorium smoke.

But it framed a miracle:

In my hour of greatest need I saw –

what seemed to be a rowing boat

that was slowly lowered into the room.

It smelt strongly of pitch.

And wanted to take me on board

to be rowed past sleeping waters

to the place where the pike are waiting.


Monday 26 April 2021

Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer: 'Gongula'



Oh Gongula, I have the snippets of my yearnings

a whole eternity and thousand hour-long journeys

from sunken cheeks that emanate the scent of grass,

your high-pitched laughter, fragile as is new-blown glass,

the artless grace of your two lotus eyes so massive

and fluttering smooth gait, your poignantly impassive

existence on a day drenched by the sun once more,

which your unfolding, you and you alone then saw,

and from the transience of all your words so chilling

which on the seven lyre strings through the song went drilling,

now re-discovered in the hope-destroying sand

of a quite empty, sun-scorched and unlikely land

and excavated with chilled instruments, unfolding

with nails that hoped for you. And I now stand here holding

the crumbling fragments of your skin and memory

in hands that are too large by far and loss is free

to gnaw at edges of the lightly, palely written

papyrus. The sole remnant of your song unbitten,

is, bar your name, a fist of stuttering great woe

in partial interrupted statements: ‘Grave.’ ‘Oh no.’

‘The most.’ ‘Because unhappy.’ ‘Said I.’ ‘A quite blinding

insistent wish to die, a pathway to be finding

to dew-encrusted banks down by the Acheron.’

Before the song began your life perhaps was gone.

Oh Gongula, the flakes of broken sighs once uttered

about the voices of blue butterflies that fluttered

in Lesbos’ young spring skies, when every wind was blond

still as the song, and then your peplos, caught by song,

just danced, as did the wind, round you, round every gesture

your Alma Tadema-like staring in this vesture

as, ’gainst a column, you leant like a statue there

of tantalising bronze that twirls a lock of hair,

as if for history you simply stood there waiting

and sombre, ancient Grecian thoughts were contemplating,

I now hold in my clumsy hands in the large hall

of Berlin’s institute and would need to know all

the language of dry forms to read you through their phrasing.

And of your being, which folk painfully were praising

which bore your name ere you were mourned there’s but your name,

that’s catalogued and skilfully transcribed, the same

reposes in card-index boxes and editions.

You’re fleshed out with the aid of metrical positions.

Your filing card says restoration’s overdue.

Oh Gongula, your name echoes the loss of you. 

The greatest ever poet came to your assistance.

In Sappho’s song your life has gained a new existence

So after Sappho’s death you were by no means dead.

It can well be a seaman’s lips your name have said

or murmured, sailing all the way from Mytilene

to Corinth or Priene, somewhere in Cyrene

at some small feast perhaps they sang about your fame

or on Aegina once some fisher hummed your name.

But time can even so erase immortal verses,

for what takes place, takes place: and each event coerces.

A man called Caesar set the city all alight

and old papyri gave the fire yet greater might

with everything consumed by flames, as too the yearning

of Sappho and myself for cheeks no more returning

and naked feet that walked on marble, cool as snow.

And many centuries past your one long ago

you died a second time for good – the fragments lying

in my two hands can only emphasise your dying

because they form a constant memory that you

have been forgotten. But I know I’ve known you too,

oh Gongula. I hear the echo of your shadow

and see that you beget the spring just like a swallow.

So I tear up this verse that time will now reclaim 

and hope that what perhaps survives contains your name.