Sunday, 12 March 2023

Sophia Elisabet Brenner: 'Det Qwinliga Könetz rätmätiga Förswar'

The Castalian Spring


The justified defence of the female sex

against the unfounded accusation of men

composed on the occasion when

His Royal Majesty’s

loyal subject Lieutenant Colonel of a Cavalry

Regiment in Pomerania/

Honourable COUNT/


was united in marriage with

The honourable LADY/


in Stockholm

on 27th of June Anno 1693.



     YOU Calliope once convinced me long ago/

Though scarcely to my gain/ to become known so widely/

By placing your lute in my hands to help and guide me

     So everywhere fame of my rhyming skills might grow.


     Though, as I well recall/fine hours there did abound

When in my youth you and your Sisters I neglected/

To what I would most cherish felt quite disaffected/

     Which was to please you and establish solid ground.


     A ground/on paper founded/on which you are sure/

(All envy, threat of bliss/ yea death itself disdaining/

The ravages of time for evermore restraining)

     A lasting name and memory can rest secure.


     All this I shall not deal with, and quite rightly so/

Goddess, the value of your reasons now discerning/

All your advice approve, agree with those of learning/

     If just this once my pen can cause some joyfulness to flow.


     To write this very eve a worthy wedding song/

Whose source from the Castalian Spring is fully welling/

Whose syllables and words are suitable and telling/

     Whose meaning is succinct/ its rhyme unforced and strong. 


     Quite few/ I know it well!/ with such a gift are blessed/

If I though am to keep the promise I have stated/

Then just this once let me see something fine created/

     And mongst those sparsely sown perhaps then be assessed.


     Not for my own sake but so joy at this fine feast/

Where branches of two noble trees have been united

In heaven and on all the earth and troth been plighted/

     May by a poem fit for heroes be increased.


     A poem where of Astrild’s tricks there is no sign/          

To which end help me choose a subject quite specific/

As of events and dates I could be too prolific/

     Praise Lilier’s courage and the bride’s ancestral line. 


     But since the world is well acquainted with this sphere/

And their ancestral lines outshine all reputation/

I will instead attempt to find for my oration

     What less will tax the mind/ be pleasing to the ear.


     I find it worth the effort and a fitting act/

If through good reasoning we could refute completely

And prove quite false what many claim so indiscreetly/

     That women love the best/but most conceal the fact.


     I found some days ago a shortish written note/

Though much more than enough to set my mind disputing/

And make me feel the view expressed there needs confuting

     Though in another tongue than that in which I quote.


     I swear he says at first I always had believed/

Yes, truly was convinced that I was right in thinking

That men with passions burn,/ with women from them shrinking/

     That we from nature stronger urges have received.


     In spite of this, I ask myself increasingly/

To what extent the weaker sex feels passions strongly/

Perhaps is far superior, assessed quite wrongly/

     As what now follows seems/to show that this may be.


     For scarcely have they reached their twelfth or thirteenth year/

Than they with secret thoughts of love plague their existence/

Choose one as friend and one as husband with persistence.

     But should it so transpire that twenty years draw near/


     God help us, now we hear them counting every day

They long/ yearn/ pray/ their time on scheming is expended/

Though if they are not loved/ in secret are offended/

     As if consumed by ash-topped fire they waste away.


     I am not someone though who would apportion blame/

Or any unjust sentence on the others tender/

What worth would the poor sex have were there no male gender? 

     No wonder that they yearn so highly is my claim. 


     And what else jokingly, unjustly he professed/

I for the sake of brevity his words will ration/

Though that our sex is skilled in other things than passion

     He offers ample proof of/ all admit when pressed


     What an unruly guest/what torment love inspires

Which on arrival reason quite subdues, confuses

The mind and senses, weakens judgment, quite bemuses/

     Leads will itself astray and furthers its desires.


     Is this then women’s work? Of weakness a true sign?

Do maidens know at once how they can tame such tyrants?

And to conceal such fire? This nothing seems to warrant/

     Were someone to convince such was their design


     He must perforce admit/though this he truly hates!

That such weak creatures/can display a great acuteness

Yes, often outdo men in showing more astuteness/

     For to do otherwise than what the heart dictates


     Is quite some feat and certainly requires much more

Than one would think us capable of overcoming/

Of cloaking it in shades opposed to those forthcoming/

     Despite the stronger sex oft boasts much on that score? 


     You honourable pair who on this day intend

Your pure love to the whole world now to be maintaining/

You best of all about yourselves could try explaining

     Who rightly can avow this/ I or my loved friend.


     You/ Mister Bridegroom/ should be highly satisfied

If in your noble bride you find the flame of yearning

That so consumes your heart/ for if you share that burning/

     The match is faultless and your knot of bliss is tied.



To see the original poem, go to here.



The Castalian Spring lies close to the Oracle of Delphi. In ancient times, it was believed that water from this spring could cleanse the souls of the visitors to the popular Temple of Apollo, located only 500 metres away.


A Swedish synonym for Amor is Astrild, coined by the writer Georg Stiernhielm. It is made up of the Icelandic words ást (love) and ild (fire). The name became highly popular in Swedish literature in the 17th and 18th centuries (e.g. Bellman). 



Monday, 6 March 2023

Dèr Mouw: 100 poems in translation

 To see the anthology, go to here

Dèr Mouw: '’k Zend, imker, dikwijls mijn gedachtenschaar'


’k Zend, imker, dikwijls mijn gedachtenschaar

uit zwermen, als de nacht te schitt’ren staat

van wereldbloemen, die ontluiken laat

de Grote Ziel, ontzaglijk visionair.


’k Ben vreemd in elke aanwezig en vergaar,

wat mij van eeuw’ge essentie tegenslaat:

zo geurt dan in mijn ziel, een honingraat,

de witte roos van Berenike’s Haar.


Mijn liefde leidt hun halfbewuste zwerm

naar sterreperken langs de Melkwegberm,

mijn pauwoog, mijn mystische nachtkapel:


zij dragen naar hun huis de heil’ge vracht,

en kneden uit mijn woorden, wit en zacht,

mijn verzen samen, cel naast sterlichtcel.



I, beekeeper, oft send my host of thoughts 

out swarming when the night stands glitt’ring clear

with world-flowers, which the Great Soul lets appear

and bloom, a visionary vast and fraught.


I’m strangely present in each one out there,

and cull eternal essence as they roam:

then in my soul’s a scent, a honeycomb,

the white rose  found in Berenice’s hair.


The semi-conscious swarm my love lets stray

to star-beds bordering the Milky Way,

my peacock, mystic moth in night’s deep well:


they bring back to the hive their sacred load,

and, white and soft, my words then knead and mould

to form my verse, cell next to starlight cell.


Wednesday, 1 March 2023

Marie Dauguet: 'La prairie permanente' (1908)


La prairie permanente


En mars, après un bon et soigneux déchaumage,

Nous sèmerons dans un sol argilo-calcaire,

La flouve, le lupin, l’agrostide vulgaire

Qui forment un solide et résistant fourrage.


Par ces aubes mouillées, qu’un soleil gris éclaire,

Nous herserons les champs soyeux comme un plumage,

A qui nous donnerons ensuite un fort roulage

Pour bien tasser la graine et la couvrir de terre;


Tandis qu’entre les pas, où du brouillard se drape,

Des grands bœufs patients, la lavandière happe

Sa proie; et qu’à l'orée du bois couleur de perle,


S’est éveillé soudain, si pensif et si doux,

A travers les bourgeons éclatés tout à coup,

Réjouissant nos travaux, le flageolet d’un merle.


Les Pastorales, 1908



The permanent pasture


In March, the stubble ploughing carried out with care,

In clay and limestone soil we’ll sow sweet vernal grass,

Along with common bent and lupin everywhere,

Which form resistant forage that is not too sparse.


In these dew-moistened dawns, lit by a sun that’s grey,

We’ll harrow fields to silk-like plumage on a bird

Which afterwards are rolled to smooth the ruts away,

So that the seed is firmly packed when it’s interred;


While among the hoofprints – that morning mists still wreathe –

Of the large patient oxen, the wagtail will seize

its prey; and by the woods with pearly hues beset


There all at once awakes – so pensive and so blithe –

Above the bursting buds, explosively alive,

Rejoicing in our toil, the blackbird’s flageolet.


Hans Christian Andersen: 'Det er ganske vist!'


It’s Absolutely True!


‘It’s a terrible story!’ a hen said – and that was down in the part of town where the story had not taken place. ‘A terrible story in a henhouse! I dare not sleep on my own tonight! it’s a good thing there are so many of us on the perch together!’ Then she repeated the story, and the feathers of the other hens stood on end and the cock let his comb fall. It is absolutely true.

But let’s begin at the beginning, and that was at the other end of the town in a henhouse. The sun set and the hens flew up; one of them, she was white-feathered and short-legged, laid her prescribed eggs, for she was a respectable hen in every possible way, and when settling on the perch, she preened herself with her beak, and a small feather fell off her.

‘There it went!’ she said, ‘the more I preen myself, the lovelier I’ll probably get!’ And that was only said in jest, for she was the cheeriest among the hens, albeit, as stated, highly respectable; and then she fell asleep.

It was dark all around, the hens sat next to each other, and the one closest to her couldn’t sleep; she both heard it and didn’t hear it, as one must in this world to live with any peace of mind; but she couldn’t refrain from telling her other neighbour about it: ‘Did you hear what was said? I’m naming no names, but there is a hen who wants to pluck out her feathers to look more attractive! if I was a cock I would despise her!’

And right above the hens sat the owl with her owl-husband and owl-children; they have sharp ears in that family, they heard every word their hen-neighbour said, and they rolled their eyes and mother-owl fanned herself with her wings: ‘Now don’t you listen! but you probably heard what was said, didn’t you? I heard it with my own ears, and it will take a great deal of hearing before they fall off! One of the hens has so forgotten what is appropriate for a hen that she’s pulling out all her feathers and letting the cock watch her do it!’

Prenez garde aux enfants!’ the father-owl said, ‘that’s not suitable for children!’

‘I’ll just have to tell the owl opposite about it! She’s keeps such highly respectable company!’ and off the missus flew.

‘Hoohoo! Oohooh!’ they both hooted, right down into the opposite neighbour’s dovecote to the pigeons. ‘Have you heard it! Have you heard it! Oohooh! there’s a hen that’s plucked off all her feathers for the sake of the cock! she’ll freeze to death if she hasn’t already done so, oohooh!’

‘Where? where?’ cooed the pigeons!

In the opposite neighbour’s yard! I almost saw it myself! it’s really too indelicate a story to tell! But it is absolutely true!’

‘Yes true, true, ever so true!’ the pigeons said, and cooed down to their henyard: ‘There’s a hen – well, some say that there are two, who have pulled out all their feathers so as not to look like the others and to gain the cock’s attention by doing so. That’s a risky game – one can catch cold and die of a fever – and both of them are dead!’

‘Wake up! wake up!’ the cock crowed and flew up onto the fencing, his eyes still full of sleep, but he crowed even so: ‘Three hens have died of unrequited love for a cock! they’d plucked off all their feathers! it’s a nasty story, I’ll not keep it to myself – pass it on!’

‘Pass it on!’ the bats squeaked, and the hens clucked and the cocks crowed: ‘Pass it on! pass it on!’ and so the story passed from henhouse to henhouse and finally came back to the place where it had actually started from.

‘Five hens,’ the story went, ‘have plucked off all their feathers to show which of them had grown thinnest from unrequited love for the cock, and then they pecked each other till the blood flowed and they fell down dead, to the shame and disgrace of their family and considerable loss for their owner!’

And the hen who had lost the little loose feather naturally didn’t recognise her own story, and since she was a respectable hen, she said: ‘I despise those hens! but there are more just like them! Such a thing shouldn’t be hushed up, and I’ll do all I can to make sure the story gets printed in the newspaper and known all over the country, that’s what the hens have deserved, and their families too!’

And it got into the newspaper and was printed and it’s absolutely true: A small feather can become five hens!


Wednesday, 22 February 2023

Marie Dauguet: 'Musique slave' (revised version)


Musique slave


C’est le concert doux des voix pleureuses,

Vieux chagrins résignés et tendresses

Que l’on méconnut et la tristesse

Des élans réprimés. Effleureuses

Voix sourdes, pleurez comme les ifs

Embrumés qu’échevèle un vent convulsif.


C’est le concert tout en lancinances

Des désirs contraires et la ronde

Des corbeaux et des folles arondes

Par le ciel fleuri d’incohérences:

Rouges pompeux, tristes violets

Dont se mêlent, en accords faux, les reflets.


C’est le concert vraiment sans mesures

Des baisers profonds et des morsures;

Le vibrement nerveux des ciguës

Sous l’archet des bises ambiguës

D’avril où reluit un soleil blond

Que voile une averse blême de grêlons.


C’est surtout l’écart entre le rêve

Et le réel qui, sans nulle trêve,

Par des accents forcenés s’exprime,

Comme une blessure s’envenime,

Puis éclate enfin en gémissant

Et remplit l’horizon noir d’un flot de sang.



Slavonic music


It’s soft voices in concert that weep,

Old resigned heartaches, each fondness

That one failed to see and the sadness

Of urges repressed. You brushing, deep

Muffled voices, shed tears as do yews,

Misted when convulsive gusts of winds abuse.


It’s the concert completely awry

Of conflicting desires and the round

Cawed by crows and mad swallows when found

In a whirled, incoherent tall sky:

Pompous reds, sad mauves without end

Where, in false chords, all their reflections now blend.


It’s the concert with no measured pace

One of biting and heavy embrace;

Hemlock’s nervous quivering that grows

Under north winds’ ambiguous bow

In April, where sun’s gleam becomes pale

When veiled in a violent shower of hail.


It’s above all the cleft between dream

And the real that no truce will redeem

That’s in furious accents expressed,

Like a wound which germs start to infest

And which groans as it bursts in a flood

And fills the black skyline with red-gushing blood.



Tuesday, 14 February 2023

P.C. Boutens: 'Perelaar'



De bloesemwitte perelaar

Laait uit de dunne schemering

In vlammende verheerlijking,

Geen boom in bloei meer, maar


Een naakte stofontstegen hulk

Omhuifd en overstraald

Met vuren sneeuw ontdaald

Aan blankbestervende avondwolk -


Herkent ge uzelf weêrspiegeld, ziel,

Die staat in aardsch geluk ontdaan,

Uw bloed in bloesem opgegaan

Tot dauw die uit den hemel viel?


Nog aardewortlend aardevrij,

O glimlach lach- en tranenblind,

Die liefdes wegen open wint

Aan leven en aan dood voorbij...


Stil, achter dooven spiegelbrand

Vangt ijmker nacht den dagverloren zwerm

Der sterrebijen aan den hemelberm

In de gekorfde schaduw van zijn hand.





Through the approaching evening shade

Blazes a pear-tree, blossom-white,

Transfigured in its flaring light,

A tree no more, remade


A vessel, whose ethereal shroud

And hood is sequin-cloaked

With fiery snow invoked

From banks of fading evening cloud -


Is this a mirror to your eye,

Soul, unconcealed in earthly bliss,

Your soul in rising blossom-mist

As dew descending from on high?


Still earthbound, yet from earth released,

Smile that is blind from tears and joy,

Gaining an entrance to love's ways

Past life and death's extremities...


Calmly, behind the gutting brand,

Does night the keeper hold at heaven's verge

The swarm of star-bees, lost to daytime search,

Cupped in the hivelike shadow of his hand.





Ett päronträd står vitt i blom,

Blossar nu upp i skymningen,

Fullbordad är förvandlingen:

Trädet förnimmes som


Ett naket skepp med dunlätt skrud

Och kåpa övertänd

Av eldsnö återvänd

Från kvällens moln, som suddas ut -


Värnlösa själ, av lycka tärd,

Ser du din egen spegelbild,

Ditt blod som stigit blomsterlikt

Dalar som manna från sin färd?


Trots sina rötter nästan fri,

Leende blint av skratt och sorg,

Som öppnar kärleksstigens port

Och glider liv och död förbi...


Lugnt, bakom facklans matta brand,

Samlar biodlarn natten in sin svärm

Av stjärnbin, glimmande vid himlens bräm,

I kupad skugga av sin välvda hand.





Det blomsterhvide pæretræ

Flammer med ét i skumringen,

Fuldbyrdet er forvandlingen:

Træet forandret til


Et nøgent skib med fjerlet skrud

Og hætte, overklædt

Med ildsne dalet ned

Fra aftensky, som viskes ud - 


Ser du dig selv genspejlet nu,

Værgeløs sjæl i paradis,

Dit blod, der steg som blomsterdis

Og dalede som himmeldug?


Trods sine rødder næsten fri,

Smil som er blindt af fryd og sorg,

Som åbner kærlighedens port

Og glider liv og død forbi...


Blidt, bagved faklens matte brand,

Fanger nu natten med sin vogterånd

I kuppelskyggen af den hule hånd

Sin stjernebisværm tæt ved himlens rand.



                DER BIRNBAUM


Durch eine leichte Dämmerung

Flammt jetzt in weißer Blütenpracht

Der Birnbaum auf, der, kaum vollbracht,

Aus Baum in Blüte in


Ein kahles Schiff verwandelt steht,

Umhüllt und überstrahlt

Von Feuerschnee, genährt

Von einer späten Wolkenschicht -


Hast Du Dein Spiegelbild erkannt,

Wehrlose Seele, weich vor Glück,

Dein Blut, das blütenähnlich stieg

Und mannagleich den Heimweg fand?


Noch erdverwurzelt erdbefreit,

O Lächeln lach- und tränenblind,

Das nun den Liebesweg gewinnt

An Leben und an Tod vorbei...


Still, hinterm fahlen Spiegelbrand,

Fängt Imker Nacht den tagverlornen Schwarm

Der Sternenbienen an dem Himmelsrain

In den gekorbten Schatten seiner Hand.





spring evening 

white phosphor beads

cling to black branches

a ship



this time

a shimmering

of transient soul-moths


or in flight


and out of time

a firmament

of star-bees


by the night