Friday 31 March 2023

Karin Boye: 'Jag vill möta...'


Jag vill möta...


Rustad, rak och pansarsluten

gick jag fram –

men av skräck var brynjan gjuten

och av skam.


Jag vill kasta mina vapen,

svärd och sköld.

All den hårda fiendskapen

var min köld


Jag har sett de torra fröna

gro till slut.

Jag har sett det ljusa gröna

vecklas ut.


Mäktigt är det späda livet

mer än järn,

fram ur jordens hjärta drivet

utan värn.


Våren gryr i vinterns trakter,

där jag frös.

Jag vill möta livets makter




I would meet…


Upright, armed, encased in armour

I strode out –

though with chain-mail forged of shame and

fearful doubt.


I would cast aside my weapons,

sword and shield.

All the outer hostile husk that

kept me chilled.


I have seen the dry seeds at long

last unfurl.

I have seen the light-green leaves as

they uncurl.


Tender life has force with which no

iron contends,

surfacing from earth’s deep heart with

no defence.


Where I froze in winter wastes dawn

springs afresh.

I would meet life’s mighty forces



Karin Boye: 'Havet'




Salt, bittersalt

är havet, och klart och kallt.

På djupet multnar mycket,

men havet renar allt.

Vilt, rovdjursvilt

är bränningens glittrande språng,

men ingen människas tankar

är höga som havets sång.

Starkt, evigt och starkt

är vågornas väldiga tåg,

och stark av det eviga havet

var mjuk förgänglig våg.

Så ge ditt liv åt havet.

Det kräver blod av sin man,

men sist, djupt i det djupa,

får ingen en vila som han.



The sea


Salt, bitter salt

the sea is, and clear and cold.

Deep down, there’s much that moulders,

the sea though cleanses all.

Wild, beast of prey wild

is the surf in its glittering bound,

but no human thoughts have ever

the sea-song’s full-bodied sound.

Strong, endless and strong

is the mighty march of the waves,

and strong with the unending sea

each gentle transient wave.

So give your life to the sea. There’s

life-blood required of a man,

though lastly, deep in the depths, he

will gain rest that none other can.


Karin Boye: 'Så drivs vi, vilsna själar, fram'


Så drivs vi


Så drivs vi, vilsna själar, fram

från lägerbål till lägerbål,

vet ingenting om nästa rast

och ingenting om resans mål —

vet, att här växlar natt och dag,

tung kväll och väldig soluppgång,

och att vår resa än syns kort

och än för obarmhärtigt lång.


Jo, vi vet mer: en sömnlös natt

lyssnar vi tyst i hemlig skräck

in i vårt inre, till ett sorl

som av en underjordisk bäck

eller en snäckas svaga sus,

där ändå hela havet hörs,

och i vår bävan slutar vi

att fråga vilken väg vi förs.


Så drivs vi, vilsna själar, fram

från lägerbål till lägerbål,

vet ingenting om nästa rast

och ingenting om resans mål,

men känner att vårt hjärta dras

oemotståndligt utan val

in mot ett okänt hemmets hav,

som sorlar djupt i snäckans skal.



We’re onward driven


We’re onward driven, souls astray,

from campfire flame to campfire flame,

know nothing of each resting place

and nothing of our journey’s aim –

know night and day here alternate,

the evening’s load, the mighty dawn,

and that our journey may seem short

or sometimes brutally long-drawn.


We know yet more: one sleepless night

in silent, secret fear we seem

to hear within a lapping sound

that purls like some submerged small stream

or the faint roaring of a shell

that yet contains the whole great sea,

and in our dread no longer keep

on asking what our path might be.


We’re onward driven, souls astray,

from campfire flame to campfire flame,

know nothing of each resting place

and nothing of our journey’s aim,

though sense our heart is inward drawn,

a force we have no means to quell,

toward the home’s still unknown sea

that purls deep down within the shell.


Sunday 26 March 2023

Henrik van Veldeke: 'Der scone somer geit ons ane'


Der scone somer geit ons ane


Der scone somer geit ons ane,

des is vele manech vogel blide,

want sie vrouwen sich te stride

den sconen tiit vele wale te entfane.

recht is jaerlanc dat der hare

wenke den vele suten winden:

ich bin worden wale geware

nouwes louves ane der linden.



Glorious summer we sense is near


Glorious summer we sense is near,

which many birds greet with joyful voice,

vie with each other as they rejoice

in welcoming best this time of year.

the eagle rightly at this season

invites the south wind gentle and mild:

my eye is also with good reason

by yellow-green linden leaves beguiled.


Saturday 25 March 2023

Henrik van Veldeke: 'In den tiden van den jare'


In den tiden van den jare


In den tiden van den jare

dat die dage werden lanc

ende dat weder weder clare,

so ernouwen openbare

merelare heren sanc,

die ons brengen lieve mare,

Gode mach her’s weten danc

dé hevet rechte minne

sonder rouwe ende ane wanc.


Ich bin blide dore here ere

die mich hevet dat gedaen

dat ich van den rouwen kere,

dé mich wilen irde sere.

dat is mich nu also ergaen:

ich bin rike ende grote here,

sint ich moeste al ombevaen

die mich gaf rechte minne

sonder wiic ende ane waen.


Die mich drombe willen niden

dat mich lieves iet geschiet,

dat mach ich vele sachte liden

noch mine blitscap niewet miden,

ende ne wille drombe niet

na gevolgen den onbliden.

sint dat sie mich gerne siet

die mich dore rechte minne

lange pine dougen liet.




At the season of the year


At the season of the year

when the days grow bright and long

and the skies once more turn clear

when anew we start to hear

blackbirds chirp their piping song

with glad tidings for our ear,

may to God all praise belong

from all hearts that love revere

free from sorrow, glad and strong.


I ascribe my joyous fate

to the one who’s brought me out

of my sorrow-laden state,

lifting off its crushing weight.

Such a change has come about:

a great lord I now equate,

all restrictions I can flout

since pure love she did donate,

free of refuge and of doubt.


Those who envy show or hate

for this wonder safely stowed,

I can calmy contemplate

for my joy they can’t deflate,

or cause me to take the road

joyless feet negotiate. 

Since her favour she’s bestowed

she who through true love of late

on me anguish did unload.


Friday 24 March 2023

Henrik van Veldeke: 'In den tiden dat die rosen'


In den tiden dat die rosen


In den tiden dat die rosen

tounen manech scone blat,

so vloeket men den blidelosen

die wroegere siin ane maneger stat,

want sie der minnen siin gehat

ende den minneren gerne nosen.

van den bosen moete Got ons losen !


Men darf den bosen niewet vloeken.

hen wirt dicke onsachte wé,

want sie warden ende loeken

alse dé sprenket in den sné.

des siin sie vele die mere gevé,

doch ne darf es nieman roeken,

want sie soeken peren op den boeken.



In the season that the roses


In the season that the roses

many a fine leaf do display,

one does curse the host of joyless

whose wrath waxes every day,

who from hatred love would slay

and would harm love’s faithful servants.

God preserve us from such perverts!


Such folk there’s no point decrying,

since their ire will bring them woe,

for they lurk there always spying,

laying bird-traps under snow.

But the thrush by then is flown.

Their efforts are in vain, love teaches,

as they reach for pears in beeches.


Wednesday 22 March 2023

Hendrik van Veldeke: 'Scone wort bit soeten sange'



Scone wort bit soeten sange


Scone wort bit soeten sange

troosten dicke swaren moet.

die mach men gerne halden lange,

want sie siin ons altoos goet.

ich singe bit vele droeven moede

dore die scone ende die goede.

op heren troost ich wilen sanc:

sie hevet mich mistroost, des is te lanc.


Here stonde bat dat sie mich trooste

dan ich dore sie gelage doot,

want sie mich wilen ere erlooste

uut maneger angestliker noot.

alse sie't geboetet, ich bin here dode,

mare iedoch so sterve ich node.

hebbe ich ane here noch goeden troost,

ich sal van allen sorgen siin erloost.




Pleasing words to tuneful singing


Pleasing words to tuneful singing

can relieve a dreary mood.

in our thoughts they long stay clinging

for their influence is good.

Now my song is sad in mood,

Lovely though she be and good.

Once for solace was my singing:

she caused grief to halt my clinging.


Worse had solace been if suffered

than from envy to face death.

formerly much help she proffered

when from dread I gasped for breath.

I for her would fain meet death,

yet would live till my last breath.

should I spurn her help if proffered,

gone were all the cares I’ve suffered.

Tuesday 21 March 2023

Henrik van Veldeke (12th century): 'Die da horen minen sanc'



Die da horen minen sanc


Die da horen minen sanc,

ich wille dat sie mich’s weten danc

stadelike ende ane wanc.

die ie geminden ofte noch minnen,

die siin blide in manegen sinnen.

des die dombe niene beginnen,

want sie die minne niene dwanc

noch here herte ne rachte binnen.



Those who hear my song aright


Those who hear my song aright,

from them I wish for unfeigned delight

instantly and without fright.

those who once loved or still do today

truly are happy in every way.

others quite stupidly fail to start,

for love could never despite its dart

manage to pierce them to the heart.




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).