You’ve left the big storms
behind you now.
You didn’t ask then
why you were born,
where you came from, where you were going to,
you were just there in the storm,
in the fire.
But it’s possible to live
in the everyday as well,
in the grey quiet day,
set potatoes, rake leaves,
carry brushwood.
There’s so much to think about here in the world,
one life is not enough for it all.
After work you can fry bacon
and read Chinese poems.
Old Laertes cut briars,
dug round his fig trees,
and let the heroes fight on at Troy.

by Olav Hauge



At evening the woods of autumn are full of the sound
Of the weapons of death, golden fields
And blue lakes, over which the darkening sun
Rolls down; night gathers in
Dying recruits, the animal cries
Of their burst mouths.
Yet a red cloud, in which a furious god,
The spilled blood itself, has its home, silently
Gathers, a moon-like coolness in the willow bottoms;
All the roads spread out into the black mold.
Under the gold branches of the night and stars
The sister’s shadow falters through the diminishing grove,
To greet the ghosts of the heroes, bleeding heads;
And from the reeds the sound of the dark flutes of autumn rises.
O prouder grief! you bronze altars,
The hot flame of the spirit is fed today by a more monstrous pain,
The unborn grandchildren.

by Georg Trakl


We’ve come so far, thought the astronaut
as he swam around the capsule in his third week
and by accident kicked a god in the eye
–so far
that there’s no difference anymore between up and down,
north and south, heavy and light.
And how, then, can we know righteousness.

So far.
And weightless, in a sealed room
we chase the sunrises at high speed
and sicken with longing for a green stalk
or the heft of something in our hands. Lifting a stone.

One night he saw that the Earth was like an open eye
that looked at him as gravely as the eye of a child
awakened in the middle of the night.

by Rolf Jacobsen

Up on Top

After stumbling a long time over impossible trails
you are up on top.
Hardship didn’t crush you, you trod it
down, climbed higher.
That’s how you see it. After life has tossed you
away, and you ended up on top
like a one-legged wooden horse on a dump.
Life is merciful, it blinds and provides illusions,
and destiny takes on our burden:
foolishness and arrogance become mountains and marshy places,
hate and resentment become wounds from enemy arrows,
and the doubt always with us becomes cold dry
rocky valleys.
You go in the door.
The pot lies upside down in the hearth,
it sprawls with hostile black feet.

Translated By Robert Bly
by Olav Hauge

I Wait For You

I wait for you. The years in silence pass
And as the image, one, I wait for you again.

The distance is in flame — and clear one as glass,
I, silent, wait — with sadness, love and pain.

The distance is in flame, and you are coming fast,
But I’m afraid that you will change your image yet,

And will initiate the challenging mistrust
By changing features, used, at long awaited end.

Oh, how I will fall — so low and so pine,
Unable to overcome my dreams’ continued set!

by Alexander Blok

The Aerial City

At daybreak there spread through the heavens
Pale clouds like a turreted town:
The cupolas golden, fantastic,
White roofs and white walls shining down.

This citadel is my white city,
My city familiar and dear,
Above the dark earth as it slumbers,
Upon the pink sky builded clear.

And all that aerial city
Sails northward, sails softly, sails high ;
And there on the height, some one beckons, –
But proffers no pinions to fly.

by Afanasy Fet
Translated by Babette Deutsch & Avrahm Yarmolinsky


Under the trimmed willows, where brown children are playing
And leaves tumbling, the trumpets blow. A quaking of cemeteries.
Banners of scarlet rattle through a sadness of maple trees,
Riders along rye-fields, empty mills.

Or shepherds sing during the night, and stags step delicately
Into the circle of their fire, the grove’s sorrow immensely old,
Dancing, they loom up from one black wall;
Banners of scarlet, laughter, insanity, trumpets.

by Georg Trakl
Translated by James Wright & Robert Bly

The Vastness of the Universe

I am the speeding spark of light
flung by God from the forge of Chaos.
I soar on wings swifter than wind
Above the paths of the pulsing stars.

Faster! Faster! to find the place
Where cosmic waves crash ashore:
To cast anchor off that empty coast,
That far frontier and final reach
Of created things: – the edge of heaven.

I watched the stars in the womb of youth
Rise from the still streams of heaven,
Eager to make their million year
Race through the thin ethereal blue.

Later they flickered faintly behind me
As I rushed on to the rim of worlds.
I peered with anxious eyes about me:
Now I was steering through starless voids.

Faster! Faster! to find the place
Where Nothingness reigns and inane Chaos,
Wending my way on wings of light,
Steering toward port with steady courage.

As I dart on through dim greeness,
I encounter clouds of cosmic dust.
Behind me I hear, hushed in distance,
Dark cataracts of dying suns.

Suddenly, something comes swiftly towardme
Through empty night – an image that speaks:
“Stay, oh traveller tiered with flight!
Tell me, wanderer, what are you seeking?”

“My way leads on to the worlds where you come from!
My flight is destined to those distant shores,
That far frontier and final reach
Of created things: – the edge of heaven.”

“Cease your search, sojourner! and
your futile wandering through wastes of ether!
Know that ahead of you lies nothing
But infinite tracts of endlessness.”

“Cease your search, sojourner! and
your futile wandering through wastes of ether!
Behind me, too, lie torrents of stars
And infinite, empty endlessness.”

Oh eagle-mounting imagination!
Cease your soaring, descend to earth!
Oh swift voyager, venturesome poet:
Tired of creating, cast your anchor here!

by Jónas Hallgrímsson


There is a precise total for all the grains of sand on earth,
as well as for the starry worlds above our heads
(supposedly the same for each), if only we knew it,
but it’s more important to know that the grains of sand
grow constantly in number and the deserts are getting bigger.
A touch
of violet has mixed itself into the pink of sunset.

Sand is white as milk and soft
as a bowing of violins.
Sand kisses your foot
and trickles over your palms like clean water.
At Bir el Daharrem hills and valleys are made of bronze.
At Thebes and Asmara dead cities lie under the sand.

Sand is crushed mountains and the ashes of everything that has
The sand dunes cross hot countries like stripes of fire.
Sand covers the planets. Moonbeams are reflections in sand.
Sand is the last thing on earth.
Time sleeping.

by Rolf Jacobsen

Suddenly Summer Is Over

Suddenly summer is over,
the swans are all leaving —
white as the snow, they are winging
their way to the sunlands.
Singing is echoed by silence
in sad mountain valleys.
Birds of ill-omen sit brooding
above our house gables.

Suddenly God turns your good friends’
gladness to sorrow,
faithful defender of Iceland
and friend of its people!
Once you sat merry among us,
admired and loquacious;
sorrow now hosts in our houses
and haunts all our roadways.

Only one comfort: the ugly
owls cannot triumph,
jeering an age-stricken eagle
whose eyes must watch ravens
holding a caucus on hummocks —
not hawks on the cliff-tops!
Well, you have winged to the sunlands —
the world has grown darker.

Seeing the sudden departure
of souls that we cherish,
let us be blithe and light-hearted
and look toward our homeland!
Armies in heaven sing anthems
each time their general
summons from this world’s ensnarements
a soul that he treasures.

Men here below will remember
how many you gladdened,
gentle and kind, energetic,
genius in verses!
God give you gladness yourself, now,
in gatherings of spirits;
Bjarni, goodbye! The Lord keep you,
who brought us salvation.

by Jónas Hallgrímsson

A Girl Sang a Song

A girl sang a song in the temple’s chorus,
About men, tired in alien lands,
About the ships that left native shores,
And all who forgot their joy to the end.

Thus sang her clean voice, and flew up to the highness,
And sunbeams shined on her shoulders white —
And everyone saw and heard from the darkness
The white and airy gown, singing in the light.

And all of them were sure, that joy would burst out:
The ships have arrived at their beach,
The people, in the land of the aliens tired,
Regaining their bearing, are happy and reach.

And sweet was her voice and the sun’s beams around….
And only, by Caesar’s Gates — high on the vault,
The baby, versed into mysteries, mourned,
Because none of them will be ever returned.

by Alexander Blok
Translated by Yevgeny Bonver & Dmitry Karshtedtn

On a hay rick in lands of South

On a hay rick in lands of South,
I lay, while facing skies of night,
The choir of stars, alive and couth,
Was trembling, spread at every side.

The earth, mute as a dream half-hidden,
Was fast receding into space,
And I, as if the first in Eden,
Alone met the black night’s face.

Did I race to the depth profound,
Or did the stars race strait to me?
In mighty hands, it seemed me how,
I hanged above abysmal sea.

With heart, so sinking and bewildered,
I measured with my look a depth,
Into which, every moment sighted,
I sink, and nobody helps.

by Afanasy Fet
Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

The Rats

In the farmyard the white moon of autumn shines.
Fantastic shadows fall from the eaves of the roof.
A silence is living in the empty windows;
Now from it the rats emerge softly

And skitter here and there, squeaking,
And a grey malodorous mist from the latrine
Follows behind them, sniffling;
Through the mist the ghostly moonlight quivers.

And the rat squeak eagerly as if insane
And go out to fill the houses and barns
Which are filled full of fruit and grain.
Icy winds quarrel in the darkness.

by Georg Trakl
Translated by James Wright & Robert Bly

A December Wish

You hear the sound of carols from afar.
Bright bulbs and tinsel, cinnamon and cloves.
Beyond a hill of snow you see a star.

Here you can look at stacks of Christmas trees,
buy nuts and raisins, fruit from nearby groves,
cards inscribed in gold: “joy, love and peace.”

And you can eat kielbasa from a spit
as fat drips sizzling in makeshift stoves
and zlotys are exchanged and butts are lit.

Here you can watch fat women slaughter fish
if you stand in the line and bear the shoves,
pretending that you really have a wish.

And for a moment you can close your eyes
and can forget the cold that pierces gloves
and see a diamond necklace in the skies,

or Jesu here among the city doves.

by Leo Yankevich

The Dagger

Yes, I like you, my knife of damask pledge,
My friend so bright and so cold,
A thoughtful Georgian forged you for his revenge,
A free Circassian then sharpened for a row.

You had been trusted me by lily-like a hand –
A sign for memory – in time of separation,
And now no blood has dripped from you on land,
But crystal tears – the pearls of depravation.

And looking strait at me, the black and immense eyes,
Filled to their rims with the mysterious woe,
Like your reflective steel in light of fire-dance,
Were sometimes darkness – sometimes glow.

On roads, you are friend – the voiceless passion’s grant,
And for a traveler – the object to rely on:
I will be never changed – my soul will be hard
As you, as you, my friend of iron.

by Mikhail Lermontov
Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

The Last Love

Oh, how, in the ending years
Is love more tender and superstitious —
O shine! O shine, my parting rays
Of the evening sun, of the last heart wishes!

The darkness cuts half of the sky;
And only the West has the roving glow,
Oh, time of evening, do not fly!
Enchantment, be prolonged and slow!

Let blood in veins has a thinner staff,
But a heart preserves the gentle passion —
O you, my last and tender love,
You are my bliss and desperation.

by Fyodor Tyutchev
Translated by Yevgeny Bonver, September, 1995