When my dear friend Olle sent me this beautiful photo today, I could not help but to think of the many Swedish poems and poets I love. Few are translated into English but I found this one by Pär Lagerkvist, “Det är vackrast när det skymmer” – “It is fairest in the gloaming air” , that I think fit this pic. so well. Lagerkvist (1891-1974) received a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1951 and was educated at my alma mater Uppsala University.
It is fairest in the gloaming air
(Det är vackrast när det skymmer)
It is fairest in the gloaming air.
All the love the heavens bare
is collected in a dusky light
above the earth,
above the city light.
All is love, caressed by hands.
The Lord himself will vanish distant strands.
All is near, all is far away.
All is given
man for today.
All is mine, and all shall be taken away from me,
within moments all shall be taken away from me.
The trees, the clouds, the earth I face.
I shall wander—
alone, without a trace.
Original by P. Lagerkvist, published in the collection Kaos, 1919.
English translation by P.O. Kristensson, 2011.
I also like Gustav Fröding (1860 -1911). He too studied at Uppsala University, although never taking a degree. He was a journalist though he spent long periods in sanatoriums for the treatment of nervous disorders. Fröding liberated Swedish verse from traditional patterns, uniting conversational style language with a rich musical form, and is probably the Swedish poet I love the most.
The Old Mountain Troll
The evening draws on apace now
The night will be dark and drear;
I ought to go up to my place now,
But ’tis pleasanter far down here.
Mid the peaks where the storm is yelling
‘Tis lonely and empty and cold;
But ’tis merry where people are dwelling,
In the beautiful dale’s green fold.
And I think that when I was last here
A princess wondrously fair,
Soft gold on her head, went past here;
She’d make a sweet morsel, I swear!
The rest fled, for none dared linger,
But they turned when far off to cry,
While each of them pointed a finger:
“What a great, nasty troll! oh, fie!”
But the princess, friendly and mild-eyed,
Gazed up at me, object of fright,
Though I must have looked evil and wild-eyed,
And all fair things from us take flight.
Next time I will kiss her and hold her,
Though ugly of mouth am I,
And cradle and lull on my shoulder,
Saying: “Bye, little sweet-snout, bye!”
And into a sack I’ll get her,
And take her home with me straight,
And then at Yule I will eat her
Served up on a fine gold plate.
But hum, a-hum! I am mighty dumb,–
Who’d look at me then so kindly?
I’m a silly dullard–a-hum, a-hum!
To think the thing out so blindly.
Let the Christian child go in peace, then;
As for us, we’re but trolls, are we.
She’d make such a savory mess, then,
It is hard to let her be.
But such things too easily move us,
When we’re lonely and wicked and dumb,
Some teaching would surely improve us.
Well, I’ll go home to sleep-a-hum!
This last poem is also written by Gustav Fröding, but in Swedish — I don’t dare to translate… It was the first poem I ever read. I was in junior hight at this time grappling with bullies and trying to find a way to cope. Gustav Fröding helped me, and so did my love for nature.
En klang som av små violiner
går svag som susning i hassel och björk,
och månen på ängarne skiner,
men skogen är midnattsmörk.
Det skymtar, det svävar som böljande hår,
det dansar på yra eteriska tår.
Ti ta! Ti ta! Ti ta!
Det skymtar som barmar och halsar,
det lyfter på släp som av silke och flor,
det vajar, det viftar och valsar
i nätta, bevingade skor.
Vem är det, som håller sin vindlätta bal
vid midnattens timme i månsilversal?
Ti ta! Ti ta! Titania!
Listen to me reading the poem: