Monday, 30 September 2013

A typical example of the German writer Theobald Hock (1573-1624)

When certain people get wise

Spaniards get wise in fitting guise –
Before the deed has time to speak;
Italians, rather, wisdom seek
Flagrante; Germans stay unwise
Till deeds are done, when passions rise.

That means, at best: Please be my guest
when dinner’s done – not bad advice!
The knock-kneed steed you’ll wait for twice
Before it comes. Don’t bolt the stall
Until the cow is gone withal.

If only, once the harm was done,
We could immediately get wise,
It would be easy to advise
And help us. Here, though, vain will be
Example, warning, rod or plea.

Others surmise they first are wise
When forty, they deserve full praise
Since they’ve had time to mend their ways
Or made at least a honest try,
Themselves have bettered by and by.

Others by shoal lack time and goal
To search for wisdom, for their part
They tarry in the fools’ great cart
And say: ‘When times lack rhyme and rule
Only th’unwise won’t play the fool.’

Many surmise they must be wise
Like fathers in the past have been,
In nature and in rank and mien,
Or since their views are roughly those
Their much-deluded masters chose.

Or in a daze and empty haze
Think lineage and ancient stock
When taken in one solid block
Will make them wise without a doubt
As if inherited, like gout.

How people and what’s more the land
Are shielded to a great extent
One clearly sees! Where fools are sent
To market, dealers profit much:
The wise world’s full of fools as such.

Friday, 27 September 2013

A poem from 1925 by the Danish writer Sophus Claussen

 
Creation

I am unborn as yet, but am delivered giving birth.
From the life in my work I sense the life in myself,
robbed of this mirror, I am as good as laid in earth.

My calling I have brought with me, of my own I perform nothing,
But I am delivered, and delivered see my debt is paid
to the force from which I derive, and which has delegated me.

The kingdom that has summoned me and from which I derive –
is it an unborn power that delivers itself while giving birth?
Is it a divine splendour, whose fount is sheer glory?

I do not know, but in my blood is the courage of all longings.
I hammer fire out of darkness, liberate the helpless.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

A tightrope walk from Dèr Mouw - physics and metaphysics all in one!

Your muscles, tendons, bones, joints, nerves did squirm
where falsely from distress’ deep abyss
madness observes the fall that is half-wished,
but by the short hairs I had you quite firm;

said: ‘What? You cannot? Or – you’ve lost your nerve?
Don’t Plato’s glaciers shame you so you quake?
Walk on! A granite highroad shall I make
the wire!’ You toed with grace along the curve.

When vertigo sucked down like some black hole,
I gave you infinite series for a pole,
e, π, Maclaurin, or binomium:

Niagara, beneath the plank-bridge sway,
the world-course thundered downwards plumed with spray –
I gave you, Blondin, the equilibrium.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A poem from 'Live', Klaus Høeck's latest (non-slim) volume of poetry

                  freedom

                  after one’s seven
tieth everything is for
                  tuitous i vague
                  ly recall though not
who once said it in the pre
                  vious century
                  and i am inclined
to admit that person is
                  right even though at
                  this very moment
i’m only three days past the
                  demarcation line

                  or perhaps it’s more
a question of a kind of
                  freedom that i am
                  unable to de
fine more closely an uncon
                  straint in individ
                  ual actions even
though the law of necessi
                  ty naturally con
                  tinues to oper
ate along the long course that
                  determines one’s life

                  if that is the case
one’s responsibility
                  increases with age
                  since one has more be
come oneself and the spirit’s
                  thereby been set free –
                  in that case i know
something i cannot under
                  stand up here at pa
                  desø church where the
first snow of winter is fall
                  ing from paradise

Monday, 23 September 2013

A sestina from 'Sonnets' (1977) by the Swedish poet Lars Gustafsson

XI (SESTINA)

There was a time each grain of time was whole.
As is the tennis ball when hanging a
razor-sharp hundredth of a second, waiting
above the net. Not ‘recently’ or ‘soon’
but a third something, which is all we see.
The rest is expectation or is time

that was, not mine though, someone else’s time.
The clean shot is what once more makes you whole.
This is the sole reality we see.
Expectations and memories fill a
mainly random personality, soon
for the next ball you can see it waiting.

Who is it though that stands there ready waiting?
All time is eaten up by thoughts of time
that was, or something that will happen soon.
Expectations and the rest memories. Whole
is only he who no longer sees a
second ball in the ball there is to see.

Such an event as that we really see
is more anonymous than we were waiting
for. Years and princes existing in a
past age seem to live in a stiffened time.
By name we make the broken vessel whole.
It’s borne with caution to a well that soon

seems deep and full of powerful voices. Soon
only a lonely echo’s left – you see
the water’s gleaming mirror, which is whole.
It lies down there below you waiting,
so inaccessible. It’s you. Your time
is brief. A single stone’s enough. And a

thousand splinters now glitter in a
well against whose grey-stone sides there soon
play flickering reflections. Which are time.
The only time we understand. We see
in splinters. In stiffened pose stand waiting.
The clean shot is what once more makes you whole.

We all live in a nameless world. We see.
We die as soon as we recall; die waiting.
There was a time each grain of time was whole.


For an explanation of the sestina form, go to here.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

A sonnet by the Dutch poet
Martinus Nijhoff

 

The Dancer


Beneath my skin a captive beast is fenced
That thrashes and would bite a pathway free;
Its dark blood throbs, and muscles highly tensed
Tremble in such confined extremity.

Until its pain like heat flows through my veins
And forces gestures out whose tempered haste
And maintained elegance screw up its pace
Still more before it hurls aside its chains.

One must be powdered so that in one’s face
The black of open-scorching eyes alone
Betrays the madness of the inner beast.

The mouth, upturned and reddened, must display
A pride so godlike everyone should know
Its broad smile is now totally released.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Another stunning Bloem quatrain

SPRING

Through desolate spring skies the sun broke clear.
A flight of birds dropped in a sudden sheer.
The thinly sown snow melted on the earth.
Heart, you are free: you had no grounds for fear.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Yet another facet of Dèr Mouw

The sun’s translated the whole countryside:
potato fields into if not ornate
yet solid prose; while cornfields add a spate
of lyricism, flaming far and wide;

epic in colour, form and sound, the oak
tells of its sun-hero in epic verse;
the poplars choose the tragical, the terse:
how those who strive high, fate fells at one stroke;

perse gravity of green red-kale infers
humour in what seems droll and quite prosaic;

knowing what’s right, and that he never errs,
the pine nods sagely, genially commends –

From the untranslatable immense descends
sheer praise upon the literary mosaic.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

A small gem from J.C. Bloem

THE NIGHTINGALES

Of life my expectations have been slight,
Joy’s just a thing to which we go on clinging.
What does it matter? – In the cold spring night
Once more the immortal nightingales are singing.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Another butterfly is born - Adwaita

 
Unwilling-willing blind to world's bright dance,
through wildwoods of ideas I grub-like crept:
through reeking, murky reaches no wind swept
no beauty pierced, askew, with sun-forged lance;

full-coloured French and German’s stringy plants
with fibres filled my caterpillar maw;
daunted and tempted, I set out to gnaw:
Baumgarten, Fichte, Strauss and Rosenkranz.

My autumn stormed upon me; and I spun
a thick cocoon from endless, drab distress
to shut the world out. Silently and long

I waited. Till I left the chrysalis
and flit through nature now and my own song:
your yellow swallowtail, Oh Brahman’s Sun!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Poem by the Danish Pietist bishop Hans Adolph Brorson (1694-1764)


Up! Everything that God has made

Up! Everything that God has made,
His glory now be praising,
The smallest creature too is great,
And proves his might amazing.

Though earth’s great kings came forward, clad
In all their might and mettle,
The smallest leaf they could not add
To but a single nettle.

Yea! all the angels with their power,
Like sceptres in high station,
Have never caused at any hour
A speck of dust’s creation.

The smallest blade in vale or wood
No wonder can excel it,
Where should I wisdom gain and could
Find ample words to tell it?

What should I do now when my mind
Is slow in comprehending
How great the host of humankind
Their earthly way are wending.

What shall I utter, when I see
The woods with life abounding,
The many birds that leap with glee
Beneath the heaven’s rounding?

What shall I utter, when I walk
Among the meadow’s flowers,
When all the birds in song do talk
Like thousand harp-string showers?

What shall I utter, when my mind
Down on the sea’s bed merely
So little in its depths can find
And many mouths see clearly?

What shall I utter, when I yearn
To gaze at heaven rightly,
And all my thoughts will upwards turn
To where the sun reigns brightly?

What shall I utter, when I see
How hosts of stars are gleaming,
How mildly each smiles down at me,
And I return their beaming?

What shall I utter, when I soar
In spirit to my Maker?
And see th’angelic hosts in awe
Stand mustered by the acre?

What shall I utter? All I say
Says nothing and seems mindless;
Oh God! Your wisdom rules alway,
As do your power and kindness.

All that’s imbued with spirit shall
Our Maker soon be meeting.
His praise shall sound in hill and vale,
This earthly world completing.

Oh! Praise the Lord all those below
With voice and senses willing,
And all who dwell above now show
Our Maker’s praise in singing.

Let all below with one accord
Join joyfully in winging
Their Hallelujah! Great our Lord –
Amen the heav’ns are ringing.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

An anonymous early Dutch poem, first published in 1544

The dawn in the East is breaking

‘The dawn in the East is breaking.
Light everywhere is found;
Oh how my love knows little
Of where I must be bound.’

‘Oh, could they but be friends those
Who now as foes appear,
From this land I would take you,
My love, my darling dear!’

‘And where then would you take me,
You knight so bold of face?
In my love’s arms I lie in
More virtuous embrace.’

‘In your love’s arms you’re lying?
In faith! No truth you tell.
Seek out the green-leafed linden,
He lies there where he fell.’

The maiden put her cloak on
And to the linden sped,
Where lying on the ground she
Did find her true love dead.

‘And is it here you’re fallen,
All covered with your blood!
That comes from reckless boasting
And pride that bodes no good.

And is it here you’re fallen,
Who solace brought alway!
Now all that you have left me
Is many a mournful day.’

The maiden put her cloak on
And hastened o’er the ground
To where her father’s door stood
That she wide open found.

‘Oh, is there any squire here
Or some man nobly bred
Who’s willing to help bury
my love that now is dead?’

The gentlemen stayed silent,
Of speech they were bereft;
The maiden turned around then,
And shedding tears she left.

Within her arms she held him
And on his mouth did shower
More kisses in a short while
Than in so many an hour.

With his bare sword full-gleaming
The earth she dug away,
With snow-white arms she bore him
And in his grave did lay.

‘To some small far-off convent
I now my way will wend,
Henceforth black veils be wearing
And as a nun life end.’

With voice both clear and ready
The holy mass she sang
With show-white hands so steady
The little bell she rang.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Poem by the Danish writer
Pia Tafdrup

AT THE END OF THE JETTY

Walk from the becalmed centre of the town to the strong harbour wind,
down to the quay and the smell of tar, out onto the jetty to the tall lighthouse
I can see at night when I am torn from my sleep by unknown sounds,
like the skin of a fish is ripped off at one tug
after the head has been cut off with a squelch and thrown away.

Like an invasion from an unknown planet
sea wrack lies washed up on the shore, stinking, bluish-black
in foam-marbled sand between scattered rocks,
a thick rind of extinguished life, a defeated phalanx
dried out and mummified by the sun.

Along the quay and the jetty men are pulling nets up out of the water
and lowering them again in bails with creaking metal wires,
in an afternoon fathers teach sons to fish with these nets
which, domed, like inverted parachutes in single lever racks
are fixed to the quay or pulled out onto the jetty in light carts.

Small fish that flap like autumn leaves in the strong wind
are collected up from the nets and thrown back into the sea,
clusters of small children play in the sand or on a floating dock,
from which they launch their boats with paper sails
laden with hopes of reaching unknown land.




Friday, 6 September 2013

'Ecstasy' from 'Palimpsest'

 
ecstasy
(1910)

stone in ecstasy
and why not if you consi
der the fact that ec

stasy means be
ing taken elsewhere – pulled out
of oneself and hence

not subject to out
side influence as when tak
ing methylenedi

oxymetham
phetamine – after all it
is called being ‘stoned’

The poem is based on a sculpture from 1910-11 by Eric Gill

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

'Res Ipsa' from Klaus Høeck's 'Palimpsest' (2008)


res ipsa
(1983)

the stone from ene
bær-odde i begin by
wrapping in cling film

so tightly and pre
cisely that one cannot see
the film with the na

ked eye after which
 i remove the polystyr
ene again and re

place the stone on the
window-sill once more – so much
for ‘das ding an sich’

The picture being referred to is by Francesco Clemente

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Danish translation of a great poem by Seamus Heaney



 

Postscript

Og til sin tid at finde tid til at køre vestpå
Ind i County Clare, langs the Flaggy Shore,
I september eller oktober, når vinden
Og lyset er ved at bearbejde hinanden
Så havet til den ene side er vildt
Med skum og glitren, og overfladen af en skifergrå sø
Inde i landet blandt stenene lyses op
Af det jordede lynglimt af en flok svaner,
Med fjer pjuskede og krusende, hvidt på hvidt,
Med fuldvoksne brushovedagtige hoveder
Foldede, kammende eller travlt i gang under vandet.
Meningsløst at tro man kan parkere og fange det
Mere grundigt. Man er hverken her eller der,
En ilen gennem hvilken kendte og sære ting passerer
Mens store bløde stød angriber bilen fra siden
Og overrumpler hjertet og blæser det åbent.