Sunday, 18 March 2018

Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer: 'Sonnet van een verloren duel' in English translation

Sonnet of a lost duel
in which the astrophysicist Stephen
Hawking (1942-2018) is commemorated

The mighty mind was little more than mind
that seemingly for black holes sought to speak.
The unbroken man who could not help but break
was manless most of life in humankind.

God’s degradation was what he embraced
by cynically explaining his creation.
By claiming God too mortal his equation
was QED’d for what God had laid waste.

‘A man’s a man for all that’ each man shares,
though bodiless. The stars were his domain,
and so God made of him a superstar.

And fame led him astray. So unawares
the duel caught him out, his bearers plain
amazed a voiceless bier weighs less by far.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

HCA: 'Gudfaders Billedbog' in English translation

Godfather’s Picture Book

Godfather could tell stories, so many and such long ones, he could cut out pictures and draw pictures, and when Christmas was on the way, he could take out a copybook with blank white pages, on these he would paste pictures, taken from books and newspapers; if he didn’t have enough for what he wanted to relate, he drew them himself. When I was small, I was given a number of such picture books, but the loveliest one of all was the one from ‘the remarkable year when Copenhagen got gas lighting instead of the old train-oil lamps, and this was mentioned on the very first sheet.
‘That book must be kept most carefully,’ father and mother said, ‘it must only be taken out on special occasions.’
On the cover, though, godfather had written:

To tear up the book is hardly a crime,
Other young friends do worse most of the time.’

The nicest thing of all was when godfather himself showed us the book, read aloud verses and other things written there, and related so much more as well; for then the story became precisely a real story.

This is a long story. To see the whole translation, go to here:

Ole Sarvig: 'Kristus i kornet' in English translation

Christ in the corn

I saw the corn last night,
the dreaming corn,
the corn and ears of all mankind ever
in these fields.

I saw it this morning around five o’clock,
when Christ came,
that pale hour, when children are born
and fires break out.

It was so beautiful. They slept so silently.
And Christ passed like a moon through the corn.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Benny Andersen: Little Song for Nina


My life is but a can of beer,
Deposit paid am I,
except when you are oh so near,
you envoy from on high.

My navel’s flab, my belly’s girth,
whose growth I daily fear,
you swear are things of greatest worth –
to me you’re always dear!

But how can ever I extol
your figure without flaw?
I drink your body of its soul
in hipflask swigs galore.

You are my life, my daily bread,
You are my dearest dear.
I’m but a bloke who’s overfed,
who’s standing far too near.

I know that this is of the past.
Another’s your sweet dear.
But you have taught me love at last,
to me you’re always near.

Monday, 12 March 2018

HCA: 'Rolighed' ('Tranquillity')

'Rolighed' was the country residence of the Melchior family, where Andersen spent his last summers


Old Copenhagen grows beyond its ramparts,
It rears up outwards toward the open seas,
‘Tranquillity’ lies here down by the Sound,
From here the names of artists shine world-wide.

Here roses thrive and prosper. And wild vine leaves
Unfold all autumn’s multicoloured glory,
While behind poplars, chestnut trees and elder
A home is glimpsed, steeped in a storied past.
For here was sung: ‘Eleonora Ulfeldt’,
Here once the thinker sat ’neath the white poplar
And listened to the spirit found in nature.

That home is now a small-sized ‘Rosenborg’,
With towers and balconies that face the Sound,
Where Malmö and Landskrona catch the sunshine
And Tycho Brahe’s isle and Gyldenlund.
In caravan procession ships pass by,
Like flocks of swans, seen only on the Sound.

When evening comes and heaven’s stars all sparkle,
Trekronor's lighthouse beam of light sweeps far,
Each vessel on the Sound now lights its lantern,
One seems to see a Venice party-lit,
A floating city of illuminations.
Within four walls here though it is most pleasant,
In hospitality’s so happy home.

Johannes Ewald sang immortally
Of the delights of Rungsted. Oh, if he
Had lived in this our age and in this home,
In this kind heart, surrounded by these friends,
He would have sung a lovely song about
‘Tranquillity’ and Rosenvænget’s roses.

My home from home, around which elders throng,
Where sunshine filled my life, my harp grew strong,
To you in gratitude I bring my song!

Sunday, 11 March 2018

HCA: 'Lykken kan ligge i en Pind' in English translation

Luck can lie in the littlest thing

Now I’m going to tell you a story about luck. All of us know what good luck is: some see it year out and year in, others only in certain years, on a single day – there are even people who only see it once and once only in their lives, but all of us get to see it.
I don’t need to state this, for everyone knows it, that the Good Lord sends each baby and lays it in its mother’s lap – it can be in a fine castle or the living room of someone wealthy, but also out on an open field where the cold wind blows; but not everyone knows, although it is absolutely certain, that the Lord God when bringing the child also brings a lucky gift, a godsend, to it but this gift is not openly placed beside it; it is placed somewhere in the world when one would least expect to find it, but it is always to be found; that is that is the good thing about it. It can be placed in an apple, as it was for a learned man by the name of Newton: the apple fell down, and he discovered his good luck. If you don’t know that story, ask those who do know to tell you it; I have a different story to tell, and it’s a story about a pear.
There was once an unfortunate man who had been born in poverty, grown up in poverty and while in that state had got married. He was a turner by profession, by the way, his particular speciality being umbrella handles and umbrella rings; but that only provided just enough for them to live from hand to mouth.
‘I’ll never be lucky!’ he said. This is a real, true story, and it is possible to name the country and place where the man lived, but that is of no matter.
The red, sour rowan berries were the richest adornment around his house and garden. In it, however, there also stood a pear tree, but it did not produce a single pear, but in spite of this good luck lay in this pear tree, laid in its invisible pears.
One night there was a terrible gale; it was stated in the newspapers that the large stage coach was lifted up from the road by the wind and tossed about like a rag. So it was an easy matter for a bough of the pear tree to get ripped off.
This large branch was laid in the workshop, and the man, just for fun, turned from it a large pear and then another large one, followed by a smaller one and then some quite small ones.
Sooner or later the tree had to bear pears, the man said, and gave them to his children to play with.
One of the necessities of life in a rainy country is of course an umbrella. The entire household only had one to share; if the wind blew too strongly, the umbrella would turn inside out, indeed, it even snapped a couple of times, but the man immediately repaired it; but the most annoying thing of all was the fact that the button, which was to hold it in position when it had been put down, all to often came off, or the ring that had been placed round it got broken.
One day the button came off; the man searched for it on the floor and came across one of the smallest of the pears he had turned, one that the children had been given to play with.
‘I can’t find the button!’ the man said, ‘but this little thing can be just as effective!’ So he bored a hole in it, threaded a string through it, and the small pear held the incomplete ring together well. It was definitely the very best fastener that the umbrella had ever had.
The following year the man was to dispatch umbrella handles to the capital, which was where he normally sent them, and he included a couple of the small, turned wooden pears with their half-ring and asked for them to be tried out, and so it was that they ended up in America. There people immediately noticed that the small pear kept the folded umbrella fastened far better than any button, and now the merchant was asked for all subsequent umbrellas to be held together with a small pear.
Well now, that meant a great deal of work! Pears by the thousands! Wooden pears on all umbrellas! The man had to get down to it. He turned and turned. The entire pear tree was used to make all the small pears! That meant shillings, that meant thalers!
‘My luck lies in the pear tree!’ the man said. He now acquired a large workshop with workmen and assistants. He was always in a good mood and used to say: ‘Luck can lie in the littlest thing!’
That’s also what I say, I who am telling the story.
There is a Danish expression: ‘Put a tiny, stripped wand of wood in your mouth and you’ll be invisible!’ but that tiny piece has to be the right one, the godsend, the lucky gift the Lord God gave us when we were born. I too received such a gift, and I too, like the man in the story, can turn it into into clinking god, into glinting gold, the very best kind that glints out of children’s eyes, that clinks out of children’s mouths, and from the eyes and mouths of fathers and mothers too. They read the stories, and I stand there right in the same room with them, even though I am invisible, for I have a tiny wand of wood in my mouth; if I sense that what I tell them pleases them, well, I too say: Luck can lie in the littlest thing!