Monday 31 October 2022

Cycle of memory sonnets by Dèr Mouw


A quite extraordinary sequence of sonnets about memory by the Dutch poet Dèr Mouw can be seen here

Sunday 23 October 2022

Emil Aarestrup: 'Tag dette Kys'




Tag dette Kys, og Tusind til, du Søde,

Lad Øiet tale frit, Amor indskrænker

Kun Stemmens plumpe Sprog; og i hans Lænker

Er Kys, Omfavnelser ei nogen Brøde.


Jo tiere sig vore Læber møde,

Jo meer beruust paa ingenting jeg tænker.

Min Prosa jeg til Cancelliet skjænker,

Og saa kan Riim og Vers elskværdigst gløde.


Vel føler jeg, for Elskovsild tilfulde

Er Formen, skal den være reen og plastisk,

Kun den, som dine Arme aabner, Hulde.


Men for min Tænksomhed et Net jeg fletter,

For mine Viisdomssuk, et ret elastisk,

Og dog et smukt og snævert, i Sonetter.





Accept this kiss, a thousand more, my treasure,

Let eyes be darts, for Cupid muddles letters

To tongue-tie lovers’ speech, while in his fetters

Are kisses and embraces guiltless pleasure.


The more our lips fulfil their fated mission,

The more my thoughts intoxicated hover.

My prose to state officials I hand over,

So rhyme and verse can find their sweet fruition.


It’s true I feel, for passion’s flame is really

Form pure and simple, if it would be plastic,

But that, my love, which your arms open freely.


But for my thoughtfulness a net I fashion -

One for my sighs of wisdom quite elastic -

The beauteous sonnet’s fine and tight-meshed scansion.



Emil Aarestrup: 'Du var den fine Rose'




Du var den fine Rose,

Blegrød i Sommerluften,

Og jeg var Atmosphæren,

Som fyldte sig med Duften





You were the rose in flower,

Pale-red in summer’s radiance,

And I the air around you

That filled itself with fragrance.


Saturday 22 October 2022

Wilma Stockenström: 'Verdampend'




Noudat ek brosser beginne word,

weet ek nie meer so mooi

hoe ek dit het en waar ek hoort.

Die son brand my skouerknoppe

bruin soos beskuit se ronde korsies.

Ek was so ‘n sappige kind!

‘n Hele tagtig persent water

gerangskik om ‘n skelet

nogal met skarniere toegerus

sodat ek die aarde kon bewandel,

vol verwondering kon raak aan

ander saamgestel soos ek: water

water water water water en.





Now that I’m starting to get brittler

I no longer know as well

just how I feel, where I belong.

The sun burns my shoulder knobs

brown like the round crusts of rusks.

I was such a juicy child!

No less than eighty per cent water

arranged round a skeleton

equipped with quite a few hinges

so I could walk the earth,

full of wonder touch others

put together like me: water

water water water water and.





Nu hvor jeg er ved at blive mere sprød

ved jeg ikke ligeså godt som før

hvordan jeg har det, hvor jeg hører til.

Solen brænder mine skulderdupper

brune som skorper på en tvebak.

Jeg var sådan et saftigt barn!

Ikke mindre end firs procent vand

arrangeret rundt om et skelet

udstyret med ret mange hængsler

så jeg kunne vandre på jorden,

fuld af forundring kunne røre

andre sat sammen som mig: vand

vand vand vand vand og.



Friday 21 October 2022

Wilma Stockenström: 'Skeppend'




Eendag toe hou die skepper 

sy skepping soos ’n kind ’n skoelapper 

op sy hand, en bibberend 

spalt die gebrandskilderde vlerke. 

Magtig die kleure wat gloei soos godhede 


gloei, oop, toe, met groot 

vertoon, die vlerke vir dag en nag. 

Die skepper voel nog die pootjies 

fyntjies op sy vingers en wonder 

oor wat hy vermag het: oopvou 


van ’n al, goudstofoortrekte lig, 

en soos skeppendes maar is, bedink 

hy, trots en nederig, nog ene, 

nog ’n lieflike ligsinnige vlinder, 

herhaaldelik, die ewigheid ter wille. 





One day the creator held

his creation like a child a butterfly

in his hand, and quivering

the enamelled wings parted.

Wondrous the colours that glowed as deities


glowed, open, shut, with great

display, the wings for day and night.

The creator still feels the small feet

delicately on his fingers and is astonished

at what he has been capable of: the unfolding


of an everything, gold-dust-covered light,

and as it is with creators, he

conceives, proud and humble, one more

one more such lovely, light-hearted butterfly,

repeatedly, for the sake of eternity.


Thursday 20 October 2022

Emil Aarestrup: 'Det fryser ved Octobers klare Maane'

Det fryser ved Octobers klare Maane


Det fryser ved Octobers klare Maane;

    Den kjælne Sommerflor i Haven døde,

    Selv Georginerne, de stærkest røde,

For Natteblæstens vilde Favntag daane.


Om Himlen Skyerne bestandig graane;

    Sangfuglen tier, Skovens Green er øde,

    Snart frosne Bølger imod Stranden støde,

Kun Uglers hæse Skrig Naturen haane.


Farvel, maa siges nu til alt det Lyse,

    Det Faure, Muntre — Alt, som ei vil fryse,

    Og i den barske Vinterkulde stønne —


Farvel! Farvel! Hvem undres, at det Skjønne

    Nu, da det bliver iiskold Nat ved Polen,

    Som Heliotropen vender sig mod Solen.




In clear October moonlight all lies freezing


In clear October moonlight all lies freezing;

    The closely tended summer flowers hang wilted,

    And e’en the dahlias, those reddest quilted,

In night-wind’s wild embrace swoon without ceasing.


The clouds, forever grey, the skies are plying;

    Each song bird’s silent, forest branch deserted,

    To ice the breaking waves are soon converted,

And but the owl’s hoarse call mocks nature’s dying.


Farewell must now be bid all she’s once chosen,

    The lovely, bright and gay — that neither frozen

    Nor moaning in harsh winter would expire —


Farewell! Farewell! No wonder the desire

    Of beauteous things, in ice-cold polar nighttime,

    Is like the heliotrope to turn to sunshine.


Saturday 15 October 2022




when all is fulfilled

not destroyed

my thin skin

will be taut

on my bones

like the cured leather arm

of the medieval monk

in a dublin crypt

though i will be torched

in the fullness of time


'Ic sie den dach opdringen' (Een schoon Liedekens Boek van 1544)


Ic sie den dach opdringen


Het viel eens hemels douwe

Voor mijns liefs vensterkijn.

Ick en weet gheen schoonder vrouwe,

Si staet int herte mijn.

Si hout myn herte bevangen,

T’welck is so seer doorwont;

Mocht ic haer troost ontfanghen,

So waer ic gansch ghesont.


Die winter is verganghen,

Ic sie des meys virtuyt:

Ic sie die looverkens hangen,

Die bloemen spruyten in’t cruyt.

In gheenen groenen dale

Daer ist genoechlijc zijn,

Daer singhet die nachtegale

Ende so menich voghelkijn.


Ic wil den mey gaen houwen

Voor myns liefs veynsterkijn

Ende scencken myn lief trouwe,

Die alderliefste mijn.

Ende segghen: ‘lief, wilt comen

Voor u cleyn vensterken staen.

Ontfaet den mey met bloemen,

Hi is so schoone ghedaen.’


T’meysken si was beraden,

Si liet haer lief in,

Heymelic al stille,

In een cleyn camerken.

Daer lagen si twee verborghen

Een corte wijle ende niet lanc.

Die wachter op’ter mueren

Hief op een liet, hi sanck:


Och, isser yemant inne,

Die schaf hem balde van daen.

Ic sie den dach op dringhen,

Al in dat oosten opgaen.

Nu schaft u balde van henen

Tot op een ander tijt;

Den tijt sal noch wel keeren,

Dat ghi sult zyn verblijt.


Swighet, wachter, stille

Ende laet u singhen staen.

Daer is so schoone vrouwe

In mijnen armen bevaen.

Si heeft mijn herte genesen,

Twelc was so seer doorwont.

Och wachter goet gepresen,

En make’s niemant condt.'


Ic sie den dach op dringhen:

T’scheyden moet immer zijn.

Ic moet mijn dageliet singen:

Wacht u, edel ruyter fijn,

Ende maect u rasch van henen

Tot op een ander tijt;

Den tijt sal noch wel comen,

Dat ghi sult zyn verblijt!'




The day will soon be breaking


Past my love’s window gently

There fell a heavenly dew.

Her beauty so intensely

My heart it does renew.

My heart she has quite captured,

Hurt sore by many a wound;

Were it by her enraptured,

It would once more be sound.


The winter is fast waning,

I see May’s growing power:

I see the green leaves straining,

The force in every flower. 

In yonder verdant vale now

Is pleasure pure and true,

There sings the nightingale now

And birds of every hue.


I’ll fetch a May sprig to her,

At my love’s window stand

And plight my troth unto her,

The dearest in the land.

And say: ‘dear heart, come to me

And show yourself at last.

Receive May’s fine flowers, truly 

In beauty unsurpassed.’


The maiden stood there ready,

Her chamber door ajar,

With silent steps and steady

Her love stole in to her.

The two lay safe and sound, though

Their time was brief, not long.

The watchman on his rounds now

Began to sing this song:


Oh, time it is for waking,

for lovers to make haste.

The day will soon be breaking,

I see it in the east.

Young man, refrain from staying,

You have but little choice;

They’ll be a time for maying,

When your heart shall rejoice.


Oh watchman, stay your singing,

And do not show your face.

A maiden, sweet and clinging,

Lies in my fond embrace.

She’s healed my heart from sorrow,

Which once was wounded sore.

Oh, watchman, first tomorrow

Announce the day once more!


The birds will soon be winging:

Each parting has its time.

My song I must be singing:

Arise, you horseman fine,

Young man, desist from staying,

You have but little choice.

They’ll come a time for maying;

When your heart shall rejoice.



Friday 14 October 2022

Lars Gustafsson: 'Stenkista'




Stone caisson



At a funeral

I met, for the second time in my life,

Uncle Sune.


He had a wonderfully heavy head

one of those heads

you  know you would appreciate


holding in your hands and turning thoughtfully

even as a hosed-down cranium.

What are you up to now? my uncle said.


And I, caught in the middle of a rainy summer:

Building a stone caisson* by the shore of Hörende lake.


(Which on that day was perfectly true

I’d actually been working on

it for weeks, to avoid doing something else.)


My uncle, with that heavy head,

looked up with fresh interest.


Really nothing else

than an old crofter from Småland:

‘Laying down a caisson. Heavy work that.’




I later realised that such knowledge was unusual

Most people are completely ignorant


when it comes to stone caissons.

They think you’re talking about sarcophagi,


huge coffins of stone, neatly plinthed up

in old wearisome cathedrals,


repositories for no longer actual

rulers or insane princes


who we have no need of here.


Nordic Familybook, second edition,

naturally has plenty of information as always.


The caisson consists of a joined-together box

of sturdy timber that is towed out


to the fresh water spot you want for it.

A quay. A bridge. Wood does not rot under water.


It is then finally sunk with heavy stones,

providing the abutment you were looking for.


In a cruelly changing world.

Many old quays and bridges in Sweden,


the wise book from 1904 says,

still rest on this type of foundation.




I’m still busy filling mine

with all kinds of heavy stones.


When I was very young

I did not really exist anywhere.


Now, with all these heavy stones on board,

with more coming every year, dead friends,


dead relations, dead expectations,

not to mention the great blocks of what’s unfinished 


that will soon start to be dimly visible above the surface

everything is pretty much fixed.


(‘Laying down a caisson. Heavy work that.’)


But this caisson and I

are not exactly the same thing.


I laid it where it lies,

as the saying is,

‘with the intention of avoiding discovery.’



(* The Swedish word ‘kista’ also means ‘coffin’)