Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tomas Transtromer's SONG

I told Gretchen I had read a poem at lunchtime that transported me-- with images, movements, a crashing horse on the sea, gulls like ragged sailcloth.  Gosh.  Gretchen said I should put it on the blog:  yes.

Here are the first six stanzas of Tomas Transtromer's Song.  The translation, from the Swedish, is by Robert Hass in his book of poems, Time and Materials.  Vainomoinen is the mythic singer of the songs of the great Finnish epic, The Kalevala.  You can read the entire poem at this link:  SONG  .


Dressed in the ragged sailcloth of dead ships,
Flecked gray with the smokes of outlawed coasts,
The white flock swelled, the swarms of gulls cried out:

Alarm!  Alarm!  There's something overboard.
They crowded tight to form a signal flag
That, fluttering, reads:  Look sharp!  There's booty here!

So the gulls steered across the water-widths,
Blue pastures striding in the waves' white foam,
A streak of phosphor straightway to the sun.

But Vainomoinen on his ancient journeys
Sparkles on sea swells in the ancient light,
His horse's hooves so swift they're hardly wet.

And back of him the green forest of his songs:
The oak tree poised to leap a thousand years,
A great mill turned by birdsong, and the wind

Imprisons each of the trees in its own roar.
Immense pinecones glimmer in the moonlight
When the sentinel pine ignites and flares.

A great mill turned by birdsong!  Wow.

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