Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Calendar poem of the day by
P.A. De Genestet


Oh land of filth and fog, of vile rain chill and stinging,
A sodden fetid plot of vapours dank and damp,
A vast expanse of mire and blocked roads clogged and clinging,
Brimful of gamps and gout, of toothache and of cramp!

Oh dreary mushy swamp, oh farmyard of galoshes,
With marsh frogs, dredgers, cobblers, mud gods overrun,
With every shape and size of duck that therein sploshes,
Receive this autumn dirge from your besnotted son!

To mud your claggy climate makes my blood set slowly;
Song, hunger, joy and peace are all withheld from me.
Pull your galoshes on, ancestral ground most holy,
You – not at my request – once wrested from the sea.

Klaus Høeck - 75th birthday today!


                  no rules without an
exception – isn’t that what
                  people always say? –
                  but in that case the
exception itself becomes
                  a rule – ah yes schwamm
                  darüber and it
is precisely that which i
                  am doing right now
                  by crossing the krus
aa border although the pro
                  ject’s name is: denmark

                  because no total
ity can be described from
                  within (the old prob
                  lem) but not from with
out either since the person
                  describing is him
                  self part of the to
tality (das alte pro
                  blem) is himself dan
                  ish – what then so i
drive a bit in the german
                  maze – eingangausfahrt

                  or denmark seen from
gottorp castle as in the
                  old days with the count
                  y prefect poet’s
eye and as now with my grey
                  green cloudy gaze: ach
                  das kleine däne
mark wie ich liebe dich – a
                  long the motorway
                  home again to but
ter and bacon – vielen dank
                  für ihren besuch

To see this collection, and six others, in English translation, go to here.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Bob Hanf

This is a section from a long poem 'Christiaan Philippus' mijmeringen over de nachtzijde van het leven' written by Robert (Bob) Hanf, (1894-1944).

Amsterdam, home-town unmatched,
by the ruling proles, no less,
sponged on, plundered to excess!

Here I’d still have gone on living
though I’d known this in advance.
Here’s my home. For joy and grieving,
fame, and scorn, and dreamt-of chance
(fame and scorn too but mind’s weaving),
all of this you caused to dance
in canals’ reflecting shine,
in the wide, deserted waters
at the quayside. The old houses
in your nights loomed at close quarters
yet seemed strange; and the moon, in-
quisitive, peeked through slim boughs that
softly swayed on trunks, which smoothing
rain now lent a bronze-green tone;
these, like water-gods aligned,
from their element now risen,
stand, in wavering light imprisoned
like dead people turned to stone.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

A poem by the Dutch writer
Martin Reints

Old meeting room

On the pushed-together tables
stands a tray with cups

a glass bowl with sachets of milk-powder
a glass bowl with sachets of sugar
and a packet of tea-bags

thermos flasks, cabinets from a distant past
a flap-over fallen into disuse like

an easel in the south of France
where the air shimmers with the heat
so that the cypresses look like filmed cypresses

an empty, undulating landscape with stone walls
and desolate country cottages

museums with old attendants on folding chairs and
successful directors who
walk past while looking at the paintings

cars in car parks
school buses with schoolchildren.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

And yet again a 'Morning Song' from B.S. Ingemann!

see the stork on his farm-roof nest

See the stork on his farm-roof nest,
O’er meadows and fields he’s gazing.
A lovely spring day will us soon have blessed,
My long-yearned for season’s here with beauty amazing.

Hear the stork on the farm roof clack,
From woods the glad cuckoo’s calling.
When trees are in leaf it means May Day’s back;
Now Whitsun sun gilds the waves with lustre enthralling.

Now the stork leaves his farm-roof nest;
Through green meadows struts and gazes.
When May Day is here he’s a much-loved guest;
He brings us the time of year whose beauty amazes.

Off the stork flies when autumns nigh;
Next year he’ll be back to cheer me.
You summertime guest! Delay your goodbye!
Oh welcome, fair time of year my heart loves so dearly!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Another B.S. Ingemann poem

now all god’s birds from their sleep awake

Now all God’s birds from their sleep awake,
They fly from their nests and start singing;
They praise the Lord God, every effort they make
To thank him for life and for light with their trills sweetly ringing.

On church roof chirrups the swallow gay,
Round houses close by cheeps the sparrow;
They call out: Good morning! they call out Good day!
They call out: God’s peace! God be praised! And shoot off like an arrow.

The small bird’s song to Our Lord is plain;
He knows every soul he’s created;
The praises of poor folk he does not disdain;
He sees what his creatures though tongueless would dearly have stated.

Our God most dear, you see us all too!
You hear in your heaven our voices;
When birds from their nests every day fly anew,
You hear infant praises as part of your throng that rejoices.

This poem has been taken from Ingemann's 'Morgen- og Aftensange'. For other poems from this collection of poems, set to music by Weyse, see the index. 

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Dèr Mouw and the Panorama

I hear the gold-framed painting say to me
inaudibly, while I observe what’s shown me:
‘I hang in nothingness, am semblance only
of oak and meadow, cloud and heath and sea;

in me has Brahman’s thought attained what he
in your reality likewise had wished to.
With cosmic Self-Awareness I’ll enrich you;
sink through my semblance into Being – free.’

The Panorama though spoils consecration,
irks with sly, spooked and false representation –
surly and vexed, I seek the honest street

where, joy made keener by unsullied truth,
with clicks and clatter, squeals and shrieks uncouth,
life motors, cycles, trams at breakneck speed.

An explanation of what the Panorama is can be found here.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Grundtvig book launch today!

Grant me, God, a tongue to praise you

Grant me, God, a tongue to praise you,
that resoundingly displays you
with a psalmist’s art!
so that I may feel with gladness
he who lauds you knows no sadness,
has an upright heart!

Heav’n your glory is proclaiming,
may I too in praise be naming
you when day is nigh!
and when evening bells are ringing
may my song like larks be winging
through the twilight sky!

There’s no man or beast whatever
for your loving kindness ever
ample praise can show,
you to us in joy and sorrow
give both now as on the morrow
more than angels know!

At your marvels we but wonder,
at your wisdom all must ponder
who have had full share,
only fools seek to conceal
everything with you is real
and beyond compare!

As the grass is every sinner,
ends while he is but beginner,
fades while yet it’s spring,
even heavens are time’s minion,
but in your divine dominion
you are always King!

All your foes will soon be shattered,
yea, as chaff they will be scattered
to earth’s farthest end,
while old age will without ceasing
witness wondrous powers increasing
with your trusted friend!

Foes scarce reel before they tumble.
O’er their graves we, glad and humble,
listen to your word:
As a palm or cedar growing,
righteousness is outward flowing,
covering the earth!

See, from your great forcing houses,
outdoors where the storm carouses,
planted shoots take root!
And, when white as snow appearing,
they will for their Lord be bearing
all their winter fruit!

Even though the days be dour,
in your orchards there will flower
every shoot and bud,
in old age their fruit be bearing,
with the hills and woods declaring:
God is wise and good!

Friday, 8 November 2013

A poem by the Danish writer
Piet Hein


A grassy plain that to the gaze
could match a billiard table’s baize.
A group of gentlemen outdoors
most dignified in grey plus-fours.

They stand a bit. They walk a bit.
They watch a bit. They drive a bit.
They look for that small ball in vain.
They walk a bit. And stand again...

Oh, you to whom this game we owe,
so well the human heart you know!
How smart the game we give the role
of an excuse to take a stroll!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Another famous Grundtvig song


Is light but for the learnèd few
to try and spell unstriven?
No, heav’n would bless all others too
and light’s a gift from heaven,
the sun will with the farmer go
the learnèd few eschewing,
it best lights up from top to toe
the one who’s up and doing.

Is light the planets’ sole domain
no sight and speech possessing?
Is not the word our mouth can frame
a light where souls find blessing!
Thereby all spirits we behold,
as sun’s rays bodies brighten,
it strikes like lightning in the soul
and does from clouds enlighten.

Does light on certain terms alone
deserve our praise so poorly?
Is light not everywhere a boon!
For it is life’s eye surely!
Shall we because of errant ways
in spirit’s vault of heaven
on pitch-black darkness rather gaze
than on sun’s blazing beacon!

No, from the North was never heard
that light we would be dimming!
like northern lights in free-born word
’twas seen in heaven gleaming,
and shall at northern pole be seen
not only here ’mongst mortals;
midsummer’s valiant sun’s bright sheen
defies black midnight’s portals!

Enlightenment shall be our joy,
though reeds alone be brightened,
but first and last with common voice
may all life be enlightened;
it has its source in common deed
and grows as it is tended,
may it our common council feed
till evening star is ended!

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Dutch poetry calendar's poem of the day - by Gerrit Komrij


Poets, we read them and our eyes stay dry.
Where are the times of lifeblood freely shed?
Where songs full of compassion’s heartfelt cry?
The litanies – where now? All gone. Quite dead.

Blood turned to grit and slag. Tears turned to glass.
Sorrow was pasteboard. What now sold a treat
Were grimace, shriek and brutal pain. (En masse,
Per piece, you name it). Vinegar was sweet.

The poet, nowadays, is just a freak.
He clowns around and poses in full view.
What’s left: a single-track, obsessive streak.
The wounds he licks. The music too.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

A personal favourite - by the Swedish writer Erik Axel Karlfeldt (1864-1931)

Song after the harvest

Here dances Fridolin,
on sweet wine he is drunk but serene,
on his fields’ yield of grain, berries’ juice like champagne,
and the tune of a waltz wild and keen.
See, with tight-fitting frock coat and tails on his arm,
how he dances each girl at the ball so warm,
till she leans – like a poppy whose drooping stem wanes –
on his breast, tired and blissfully calm.

Here dances Fridolin,
and the wine makes his memory keen –
here his father and forebears found solace so strong
in the fiddle’s high-droning careen.
But you sleep now, old ancestors, on such a night,
and the hand that made strings sing is no longer light,
and your lives and your times are a murmuring song
in which sighing and joy both take flight.

But here dances Fridolin!
See your son, he is strong, lithe and lean,
and with farmers speaks plainly the language they know,
but with learnèd folk Latin’s routine.
Through your new land’s bright gold does his scythe sweep apace,
and his joy is as yours if his barn should lack space,
and his lass he lifts high, like his kin long ago,
toward the harvest moon’s red saucepan face.

A poem by the Swedish writer
Ragnar Thoursie (1919-2010)

Your eyes are

Your eyes are a clear sky seen from the fish
waiting at the bottom of a well:
Clouds drift across its billows, quays
and gulls, falling swallows,
a spring lark. And when the underwater
observer moves the film of the surface ripples
slightly – But stones that fall
frighten more the one looking upward
than your cleft and once more
shieldlike raised
mirror of water and clouds.
Many a wanderer has bent down
over you: a dark face seen against dreams;
relieved his thirst and muddied
the flowing vein of clearness;
but gone on his way with water-touched tongue
and firstly raising a cairn.

Time to stop all this November obsession - the kill-off poem from Henrik Nordbrandt

The year has sixteen months: November
December, January, February, March, April
May, June, July, August, September
October, November, November, November, November.

Monday, 4 November 2013

On Kingo's death Dorothe Engelsbretsdatter wrote this poem

Simple female remembrance
of the widely famous poet
whose sorrowful demise
many quick minds do regret

                  So testifies
                  this simple-minded poetess

Ah! Kingo is but dust again,
                  Who wrote hymns so ensnaring!
That he for his praiseworthy pen
                  In heaven palms is bearing;
Such blissful words: of great address,
                  In song and lamentation
That many a limb cured from distress –
                  Yet dust is now his station.
The troubled solace-thirsting soul
                  Your spirit, hand can quicken!
This the remorse-crushed reed makes whole,
                  consoles the heart that’s stricken.
Adroitly me and all alive
                  The fear of God you’re teaching,
Your songs of praise good harvest give
                  We laud God through your preaching.
How well! How well! did you employ
                  The pound God you entrusted,
The outcome clear you now enjoy
                  Your voice has upwards thrusted!
You gained a place in Sion’s choir
                  And took your seat with honour
From so much worldly ill that’s sired
                  Midst sin and grief: and gone were
Your great high office rank and state,
                  A sad end to your story,
You now have charge o’er things more great,
                  And risen to high glory.
You faithful worker, you gain there
                  Reward for all your labour
And can life’s crown in peace now bear
                  Delights forever savour!
Full rest and peace and joy you’ve found,
                  Off former unrest shaken,
You sleep until the trump shall sound
                  and from the grave awaken.
Devout, with spirit’s solace filled
                  You knew the art of prayer
Though death your sweet voice may have stilled
                  And great the loss we share
E’en so do choruses ring out,
                  Each Christian soul rejoices!
And all continue to sing out
                  While they have tongues and voices.
I die, and live convinced that I
                  At God’s throne shall refind you.
There shall we sing the two of us
                  What God gives us a mind to!
Hallelujah, with angels chime,
                  Triumph and great rejoicing,
We both join in when it is time:
                  Your soul, all sweetly voicing!
For heaven I the earth would leave
                  ’Mongst the devout be dwelling
And have the Saviour me receive,
                  That is my wish compelling.
Both joy and glory that ne’er cease
                  May He you now be granting:
Farewell, God’s man, you left in peace
                  And choruses I’m chanting.

A great Norwegian Kingo admirer - Dorothe Engelbretsdatter (1634-1716)

Weary of the world,
and desirous of heaven

You souls who as did Simeon
                  For heaven so are yearning,
Take leave of this world’s Babylon,
                  This sin-cacked prison spurning,
Refuse not from this deep abyss
In peace to journey unto bliss,
                  When God’s hour is approaching.

We are like some poor flock of owls
                  In places of confusion,
Laboriously we roam and prowl
                  Where rest is but illusion;
Here on this earth is no sure rest,
Nor is there any feathered nest.
                  In Meshech we are strangers.

Oft must our life, so full of care,
                  Beneath the cross be bowing,
Delight that once has been our share
                  Now woe is disendowing;
Change after happiness would spy
Where tares among the wheat do lie
                  And put a stop to gladness.

Some lustful souls do well withal,
                  Find life a bed of roses,
While others are but sorrow’s thralls,
                  Bear crowns of thorns, not posies;
Complaint, constraint and wounds full sore
Do through their restless skin now bore
                  Till death the knot’s untying.

All sin and sorrow pass away,
                  The grave has proof that’s soothing,
When finally the earth and clay
                  The diggers’ spades are smoothing;
For then the body’s found its nest,
For then the soul at last knows rest,
                  And all feuds have their ending.

So now, earth that laments and grieves,
                  That is a trap of evil,
Good night! For heaven I now leave,
                  Rejoice at this upheaval.
There shall eternal joy be mine,
There shall Hosannahs sweetly chime
                  Among the hosts of angels.

In sin and grief mankind you chain,
                  Yea! cause the soul’s frustration
Begone! Limed grave, stronghold of pain!
                  Sion’s palace is my station.
By harmful sinful deeds dismayed,
The many stumbling blocks arrayed
                  That block my pathway forwards.

Come, longed-for Death! Cut through life’s straw,
                  You as your Lord’s gatekeeper
Shall open heaven’s mighty door
                  Though you are too life’s reaper;
If God deems that my time is come,
That sufferings enough are done,
                  That I can cease my weeping.

Almighty God! I cry aloud,
                  Our time here you’ve allotted,
By blessed hour and burial shroud
                  All agony is blotted;
From thralldom’s yoke by mercy freed,
With life’s course fully run indeed,
                  There comes a final treasure

Help’s granted him who to the end
                  resists the world’s beguiling.
A trustful helmsman will e’er fend
                  Against the ocean’s wiling,
He’d rather drown in his dire need
Than let his hand the storm-waves heed
                  That would the helm be seizing.

Oh, Jesus, by your death may I
                  From this world now be leaving,
Let my soul to your bosom fly
                  From sin and days of grieving;
My corpse grant space within my grave,
So I, without my pilgrim’s stave
                  May at your side be resting.

When you on Judgment Day shall fetch
                  The dead to life eternal,
 Touch my grave too with hand outstretched
                  And grant me grace supernal,
May the last trump wake me from sleep
And you my body safely keep
                  Amongst the blessèd chosen.