Sunday, 18 February 2018

HCA: 'Spørg Amagermo'er!' in English translation

‘Ask the market-dame’

There was this carrot, as old as old,
So knobbly, so heavy and stout,
That nevertheless was so frightfully bold,
Would wed a young carrot no more than a sprout,
So sweet, her beauty scarcely in bud,
A root of the finest pure blood.
– The wedding day came.
The food and drink, priceless, lived up to its name
It cost not a single pound sterling;
They all lapped up moonlight and dined on dew,
Sniffed flower-scent too
That from field and meadow came swirling.
– Old carrot he greeted them all with a bow,
His speech like a clock went on whirring,
The words they ticked away tickety-tock;
Young carrot she sat there silent in shock,
With neither a smile nor a sigh, just a stare,
Young and fair.

If this you’d disclaim,
Ask the market-dame!

A large red cabbage performed the rite,
White turnips wore bridesmaid’s attire;
Cucumber and sparrowgrass made a fine sight,
Potatoes comprised the whole choir.
The guests all joined in when the dancing came.
Ask the market-dame!
Old carrot without shoes and stockings he pranced,
Cer-rack! he split down the middle,
Was dead on the spot, he should never have danced,
Young carrot, entranced,
Found this turn of good fortune a riddle.
She was a widow now, happy was she,
Now she could be what she wanted to be,
She could swim young and fair in a soup tureen,
Quite serene.

If this you’d disclaim,
Ask the market-dame!

Saturday, 17 February 2018

HCA: 'Laserne' in English translation

The rags

Outside the paper-mill stood heaped-up stacks of rags, gathered together from far and wide; every single piece had its story to tell and was busy telling it, but one simply can’t listen to all of them. Some rags were from Denmark, others from foreign parts. Here a Danish rag lay right next to one from Norway, one was pure Danish, the other broad Norwegian, and that was the amusing thing about them, every sensible Norwegian and Dane would say.
They recognised each other from their closely related languages, despite the fact that they were as different, the Norwegian claimed, as French from Hebrew. ‘We go to the hills to get it rough-hewn and straight from the shoulder, whereas the Dane concocts his own sugary, insipid clattering.’
The rags talked away, and rags are merely rags in every country – just something in a heap of rags.
‘I’m Norwegian!’ the Norwegian one said, ‘and when I say I’m Norwegian I think I’ve said sufficient! I am tight-knit as the ancient mountains of old Norway, the country that has a constitution like that of free America! it stirs my fibres to think of what I am and causes my thoughts to ring out in words like granite!’
‘But we have a literature!’ the Danish rag said. ‘Do you understand what that is?’
‘Understand!’ the Norwegian rag repeated, ‘Maybe I should lift this lowlander mountain-wards and illuminate him with northern lights, rag that he is! When the ice thaws under the Norwegian sun, Danish pear-barges come up to us with butter and cheese, very fine commodities! and Danish literature is what they use as ballast. We don’t need it! one prefers to do without flat beer where fresh springs gush, and here we have a well that is still untapped, not popularised throughout Europe through newspapers, cameraderie and writers’ trips abroad. I speak without shillyshallying, and a Dane must accustom himself to the untrammeled sound, which he will some day through a Scandinavian clinging to our proud rocky landscape, the ancient knoll of the world!’
‘A Danish rag would never think of talking like that!’ the Danish rag said. ‘It is not our nature. I know myself, and I am like all our rags, we are so good-natured, so modest, we think so little of ourselves, and that admittedly doesn’t profit us at all, but I can assure you, I am completely aware of my own good nature, but I don’t talk about it, that mistake no one could accuse me of. I am soft and pliable, can put up with anything, speak well of everyone, even if there is not much good to be said of most others, but that’s their business! I always make light of it, for I’m so gifted!’
‘Don’t talk to me in that soft, pasty lowland language of yours, I find it quite nauseating!’ the Norwegian rag said and let a gust of wind loosen it from the pile and transport it to another one.
Both of them eventually became paper, and it so happened that the Norwegian rag became paper on which a Norwegian wrote a loyal love-letter to a Danish girl, and the Danish rag became a manuscript for a Danish ode in praise of Norway’s might and glory.
So something good can also come out of the rags, once they have left the rag-pile and been transformed into truth and beauty, they gleam in fine mutual understanding, and that’s certainly a blessing.
That’s the story, it is quite entertaining and does not offend anyone – except the rags.

Monday, 12 February 2018

HCA: 'Dandse, dandse, Dukken min' in English translation

Dance now, dance now, doll of mine

‘Yes, well this song is one for very young children!’ Auntie Malle assured them; ‘with the best will in the world, I’m unable to keep up!’
But little Amalie could; she was only three years old, played with dolls and brought them up to be just as wise as Auntie Malle.
A student used to come to the house help her brothers with their lessons; he spoke a great deal to little Amalie and her dolls, talked quite differently from all the rest; it was so amusing, the young girl found, though Auntie Malle said that he didn’t know how to converse with children; their little heads couldn’t possibly grasp all he said. Little Amalie could, and she even learnt a whole song by heart from the student: ‘Dance now, dance now, doll of mine!’’ and she sang it to her three dolls, two of them were new, one was a young lady, the other a young man, but the third doll was an old one called Lise. She also got to hear the song and was even mentioned in it:

Dance now, dance now, doll of mine!
Isn’t this young lady fine!
And her escort looks a treat,
With his hat and gloves so neat,
Trousers white and jacket blue,
Big-toe corn from tight-laced shoe.
He’s so fine, and she’s so fine.
Dance now, dance now, doll of mine!

And there’s Lise here as well!
Last year’s doll’s a grand old gell,
Hair quite new, it’s made of flax,
Forehead rubbed quite clean with wax;
She now looks quite young once more.
Come, old friend, and take the floor!
You shall dance, the three of you.
So we can enjoy the view.

Dance now, dance now, doll of mine!
Get your steps right, keep in line,
Point your toes and keep quite trim,
Then you’ll look both sweet and slim!
Curtsey, turn and round you spin,
It’s so healthy for the skin!
An entrancing sight to see.
Keep on dancing, all you three!

And the dolls understood the song, little Amalie understood it, the student understood it; he had composed it himself and said that it was quite excellent; only Auntie Malle didn’t understand it; she was well past the stage of childlike jollity – ‘mere frivolity’ she said. Not so Amalie, she sings it. She’s the one we’ve got it from.

HCA: 'Nissen og Madamen' in English translation

The Pixie and the Missus

You already know the pixie, but do you know the missus, the gardener’s missus? She was well-read, knew poems by heart, could write them with ease herself; only the rhymes, ‘the clinchings’ as she called them, caused her a little trouble. She was good at writing and speaking, she could have easily been a vicar, well, a vicar’s wife at least.
‘The earth is beautiful decked in its Sunday gown!’ she said, and that thought she had pleasingly fashioned, complete with ‘clinchings’, in the form of a song, both beautiful and long.
The fully-trained teacher Mr. Kisserup – his name is of no bearing here – was a nephew visiting the gardener; he heard her poem and benefited from it, he said, and greatly so. ‘You have soul, Madam!’ he said.
‘Twiddle-twaddle!’ the gardener said, ‘don’t start putting ideas into her head! a woman should be a personage, a respectable personage, and mind pots and pans, so that the porridge doesn’t get burnt!’
‘The taste of burnt bits I remove with an ember!’ the missus said, ‘and those of yours with a small kiss. Anyone would think your sole interest is cabbage and potatoes, but you love flowers!’ and then she kissed him. ‘And flowers are soul too!’ she said.
‘You just mind your cooking pot!’ he said and went out into the garden, that was the cooking pot he minded.
But the teacher sat with the gardener’s missus and talked with her, her lovely words ‘The earth is beautiful’ he almost turned into a whole sermon, in his own way.
‘The earth is beautiful, “it shall be subject unto you”, it is written, and we became its masters. One is so through the soul, the other through the body; one is placed in the world like an exclamation mark of astonishment, another as a dash, which leads one to ask what is he doing here? One becomes a bishop, the other just a poor teacher, but everything shows prudence. The earth is beautiful and always decked in its Sunday gown! That was a thought-provoking poem, Madam, full of feeling and geography!’
‘You have soul, Mr. Kisserup1’ the missus said, ‘ and plenty of it, I assure you! One realises things about oneself when talking to you.’
And they went on talking, just as beautifully and finely; but out in the kitchen there was someone else talking, it was the pixie, the little grey-clad pixie with his pointed red cap – you know him! The pixie was sitting in the kitchen and was a pot-watcher, he was talking, but nobody heard him except the large black pussy cat, ‘The Cream Thief’ as the missus called him.
The pixie was so angry with her, for he knew she did not believe in his existence; she had certainly never seen him, but with all her reading she must surely know that he existed and show him just some degree of attention. It never occurred to her to place as much as a spoonful of porridge out to him on Christmas Eve, his forefathers had always got that, what’s more from missuses who had no reading at all; the porridge had lashings of butter and cream floating around on top. The cat slobbered into his beard at the mere mention of it.
‘To her I’m no more than a notion!’ the pixie said, ‘which is quite beyond my comprehension. She simply denies me! I’ve found this out on the quiet and now I’ve found out some more; she’s sitting prattling away to the boy-whipper, the teacher. I say the same as hubby does: ‘Mind your cooking pot!’ She doesn’t do that; now I’m going to make it boil over!’
And the pixie blew into the fire, so it flared up and burnt more brightly. ‘Shwuu-lup-upp!’ and the pot boiled over.
‘Now I’m going in there to pick some holes in hubby’s socks!’ the pixie said. ‘I’ll unravel a big hole in toe and heel, that’ll give her something to darn, should she not be about to compose a poem: mistress of poetry, darn hubby’s hose!’
Now the cat sneezed; he had a cold, although he was always clad in fur.
‘I’ve unlocked the door to the larder,’ the pixie said, ‘there’s some boiled cream in there as thick as pap. If you don’t want to lap the pap up, I will!’
‘I’ll get the blame and the beating,’ the car said, ‘so let me lap up the cream too!’
‘First the lapping, then the slapping!’ the pixie said. ‘But now I’m going to go into the teacher’s room, hang his braces on the mirror and put his socks in the washbasin, so he’ll think the punch was too strong and he’s a little fuddled. Last night I sat on the woodpile by the dog kennel; I get a lot of pleasure out of riling the watchdog; I let my legs hang down and dangle. The dog couldn’t reach them, no matter how high he leapt; that annoyed him; he barked and barked, I dingled and dangled; it was quite a sight. This woke the teacher up, he got up three times and looked out, but he couldn’t see me, even though he was wearing glasses; he always sleeps with them on.
‘Say miauw when the missus comes!’ the cat said. ‘I don’t hear all that well, I’m sick today.’ ‘You’re sick for a lick!’ the pixie said, ‘lick your sickness away! but dry your beard afterwards so it’s not got cream in it! Now I’m off to eavesdrop.’
And the pixie stood by the door and the door was ajar, there was nobody in the room except the missus and the teacher; they were talking about what the teacher so nicely refer to as that which should be placed higher than the pot and pan in every household: the gifts of the soul.
‘Mr. Kisserup!’ the missus said, ‘in that connection I now intend to show you something I have never shown to a living soul, let alone to a male personage, my little poems, some of them are admittedly quite long, I have called them: ‘Clinchings by an Honest Gentlewoman!’ I so much like good, old-fashioned words.
‘They should indeed be cherished!’ the teacher said; ‘ one should root the German out of our language.’
‘Oh, I do, I do!’ the missus said; ‘you will never hear me say “cruller” or “puff pastry”, I say “beignet” and “choux”.’
And out of her drawer she took a writing book with a light-green cover and two ink-blots.
‘There is much seriousness in this book!’ she said. ‘I have a very keen sense of the sorrowful. Here now we have “The Sigh in the Night”, “My Afterglow”, and “When I claimed Klemmensen” (my husband); you can skip that one, even though it is deeply felt and conceived. ‘The Duties of a Housewife’ is the best piece; all extremely sorrowful, that is my forte. Only one piece is jocular, contains some cheerful thoughts, such as one gets occasionally, thoughts about – you mustn’t laugh at me! – thoughts about being a poetess; that is known only to myself, my drawer, and now also to you, Mr. Kisserup! I am very fond of poetry, it comes over me, it titillates, takes over and is in charge. I have expressed this by the title “Little Pixie”. I’m sure you know of the old superstition about the house pixie who is always up to things in the house; I have imagined that I myself was the house, and that poetry, the feelings in me, were the pixie, the controlling spirit; I have sung of his power and greatness in “Little Pixie”, but you must pledge your solemn word never to reveal this to my husband or anyone else. Read it aloud, so I can hear that you can make out my handwriting.’
And the teacher read and the missus listened and the little pixie did too; he was eavesdropping, you recall, and had just arrived when the title was being read: Little Pixie.
‘It’s to do with me!’ he said. ‘What can she have written about me? Well, I’ll pinch her, pinch her eggs, pinch her chickens, chase the fat off the fatted calf: Just you watch me, missus!’
And he listened with pursed lips and was all ears; but everything he heard about the splendour and power of the pixie, his dominion over the missus, was referring to poetry, you understand, but the pixie went completely by the title, and the little fellow’s smile grew broader and broader, his eyes lit up with joy, there was something almost distinguished about the corners of his mouth, he lifted his heels, stood on his toes, because a whole inch taller than before; he was delighted by what was being said about the Little Pixie.
‘The missus has soul and fine breeding! How unjust I have been towards her! She has placed me in her “clinching”, it will be printed and read! Now the cat won’t be allowed to drink her cream, I shall do it myself! One drinker less than two is always a saving and I will introduce that, out of reverence to the missus!’
‘How like a human he is, that pixie!’ the old cat said. ‘One sweet miauw from the missus, a miauw about himself, and he changes his mind completely. ‘She’s a sly character is the missus!’
But she wasn’t sly, it was just the pixie who was human.
If you can’t understand this story, just ask, but don’t ask the pixie – or the missus, for that matter.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

HCA: 'De smaa Grønne' in English translation

The small Greenies

In the window there stood a rose bush, only recently it had been in the bloom of youth, now it looked poorly, it was suffering from something. In had got lodgers that were eating it up; a highly respectable billeting, though, in green uniform.
I spoke to one of those billeted, he was only three days old and yet already a great-grandfather. Do you know what he said? What he said was true – he spoke of himself and the entire billeting.
‘We are the strangest regiment of earth’s creatures. In the warm season we give birth to live young; the weather’s fine; we get engaged immediately and hold a wedding. As the cold season approaches, we lay eggs; the tiny ones lies snugly. The wisest of the animals, ants – we have a great respect for them – study us, evaluate us. They do not eat us straight away, they take our eggs, place them in the hill they share with their family, bottom floor, place us identified and numbered, side by side, layer upon layer, so that every day a fresh one can come out of the egg; then they place us in stables, pinch our hind legs, milk us, so we die; it is most agreeable! They give us the most delightful name: ‘sweet little dairy cow!’ All creatures with antlike common sense call us this except for human beings, and that we feel is an outrage, it’s enough to make us lose all our sweetness – can’t you perhaps write something about that, put them right about it, these human beings! – they look so stupidly at us, view us with tainted eyes because we eat rose-leaves, while they themselves devour every kind of living creature, everything that grows and turns green. They give us the most frightful names, the most horrible names; I won’t mention them, ugh! it turns my stomach! I can say what they call us, not while I’m in uniform, and I’m always in uniform.
I was born on a leaf of a rose-bush; and the entire regiment live off the rose-bush, but it lives on in us, it belongs to a creature of higher standing. Humans cannot stand the sight of us; they come and kill us with soapy water – that is a horrid beverage! I think I can smell it. It is terrible to be washed when one is born not to be washed!
Humans! You who look on us with your stern soapy-water eyes; consider our place in nature, our ingenious equipment for laying eggs and supplying young! We were blessed and told: ‘to go forth and multiply!’ We were born in roses, we die in roses; our entire life is poetry. Do not label us with the name you find most revolting and nasty, the name – I refuse to say it, to name it! Call us the ants’ dairy cow, the rose-bush regiment, the Greenies!’
And I, fellow humans, stood looking at the bush and at the small Greenies, whose name I will not utter, I refuse to insult a rose-citizen, a large family with eggs and living young. The soapy water I was going to wash them with, for I had come with soapy water and evil intent, I will now whisk it until it foams and blow bubbles with it, look at all the radiant colours, perhaps a fairytale lies in each and every one of them.
And the bubble became so big and brilliant, and it was as if a silver pearl lay at the bottom of it. The bubble soared, floated, flew against the door and burst, but the door sprang open and there stood Mother Fairytale herself.
‘Well, now she can tell a better story than I could about – I refuse to say the name! – the small Greenies.’
‘Green-fly!’ Mother Fairytale said. ‘Everything must be named by its proper name, and if one does not dare do so in ordinary life, one won’t be able to in fairytales.’