Saturday 16 October 2021

Lars Wivallius: 'Ak, Libertas' (1632)



Ah, Libertas, you noble thing!

Few are there who have known you!

And though you lacked most everything,

no one should e’er disown you.

Better that starving and stone-cold

in wilds you were discovered

than dressed up in the finest gold

and by such great care smothered.


Yes, a poor bird that’s caged indoors,

thus robbed of freedom’s treasure,

though he by nature song adores

is saddened beyond measure

when he can hear birds free to fly

and sing as God endows them,

in green fields they rejoice and cry

as tongue and kind allow them.


Though he can dine until replete

and peace not be a stranger,

he’d rather hunt for scraps to eat

in mountains full of danger.

Out in the wilds he’d rather roam,

and up in trees be perching

than call a king’s strong walls his home

and mercy e’er be searching.


On a green branch he’d rather sit,

though faint with hunger singing

Christ’s praise aloud than eat one bit

Of food a master’s bringing.

He’d rather sleep high in dry trees

with sweet rest all he’s needing

than lie on soft beds at his ease

with humans there to feed him.


Yes, wondrous things are often heard

with nightingales around one.

Better to stay a forest bird

than have royal courts surround one

and in a golden cage to dwell.

Such life is sad and wasted.

All creatures know this far too well

that good and ill have tasted.


A stag for rich men’s pleasure born

with antlers gilded brightly

and one midst thistles, stones and thorns

that highland food seeks nightly

in handsomeness and majesty

and strength they greatly vary.

Sounder of limb is he that’s free

to roam fields green and airy.


A stag that wears a golden band,

hears plucked strings sweetly singing,

and one that must through dales and land

with hills and rocks be springing,

they do not share the same bold zest

or dance with equal relish.

Freedom is good, freedom is best!

Ah, were it mine to cherish!


You heavens and great firmament,

with me share this great sadness!

My loss of fortune’s permanent,

As is my freedom’s gladness.

In chains and fetters I am bound,

soon two whole years I’m banished,

for a young maid in Denmark found

my world’s completely vanished.


To all who’ll hear I this lament,

both rich and poor in station,

for her from two lands I lie pent

and in two sovereign nations

have languished almost two whole years,

imprisoned and in anguish.

Alas, my youth just disappears,

and joyless here I languish.


Whenever thoughts of this draw near

and I bewail my ending,

hot tears will on my cheeks appear

from both my eyes descending.

When I my youthful years review

since I have been convicted,

with sorrow is my mind shot through,

my heart is sore afflicted.


Whenever too my heart likewise

its fatherland considers,

my spirit gives a thousand sighs

and from great pain it shivers,

Since I maybe, oh Swedish land,

the native soil that bore me,

can’t serve you now with mouth and hand –

perhaps till death comes for me.


What help are all my travels made

to far-off destinations?

What use are books I’ve read and weighed,

my frequent ills’ duration?

Can I experience employ,

a wayfarer’s life-story?

And is it not a vain, false ploy,

this world’s much boasted glory?


Ah, Phoebe, follow not your course,

your brightness cease from showing,

Your great light turn off at its source,

Your stars, put out their glowing!

Be sorrowful, you skies on high

you woods and leas be caring,

you mountains and deep valleys, sigh

with me, my grief be sharing


You birds that fly in air so clear,

You creatures gently grazing,

Bewail with me my youthful years,

all goddesses amazing!

You fish that swim deep down in all

the lakes and mighty oceans,

grieve now with me, both great and small,

if you should have the notion!


You youths who live in Sweden’s land

each young girl and fair maiden,

grieve now with me, as best you can,

your eyes with tears be laden!

It is as if I’d ne’er been born

and never had a mother,

all favour is reduced to scorn

in old friends, I discover.


For me the battle now is lost,

sweet words and thoughts are banished.

Love of a maiden all has cost,

what I’ve amassed has vanished.

The whole world would me now forsake

and mortal pain have proffered,

and all this for a maiden’s sake

who me her heart once offered.


Now freshen, winds that softly blew,

cold zephyrs leave your slumber!

Let cries of grief ring out from you,

woodland trees without number!

And, echo, please resound away

with my profound complaining

and this lament both night and day

thereby make self-sustaining.





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