Floods All The Soul With Its Melodius Seas


The Ninth Wave
The Ninth Wave by Ivan Alvazovsky

A mind not to be changed by place or time. The mind is its own place, and in itself Can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.

John Milton


by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I pace the sounding sea-beach and behold
      How the voluminous billows roll and run,
      Upheaving and subsiding, while the sun
      Shines through their sheeted emerald far unrolled,
And the ninth wave, slow gathering fold by fold
      All its loose-flowing garments into one,
      Plunges upon the shore, and floods the dun
      Pale reach of sands, and changes them to gold.
So in majestic cadence rise and fall
      The mighty undulations of thy song,
      O sightless bard, England’s Mæonides!
And ever and anon, high over all
      Uplifted, a ninth wave superb and strong,
      Floods all the soul with its melodious seas.

Someone with keen powers of observation counted the waves that come ashore and realized that the ninth wave is the one with the most power and causes the most devastation.  Whether this is based on fact or is a product of sailors and shore dwellers imaginations, the ninth wave has become a metaphor for destruction, either by the power of nature or by the destructive forces of human actions.  Destruction is not an odd theme for artists to illuminate. The saying “worthy of Aivazovsky’s brush”, popularized by Anton Chekhov, is used in Russia for describing something  incredibly beautiful.  I suppose there’s a particular beauty in power beyond our control, even power that causes loss, if we are capable of disconnecting it from the pain of attachment, even the most powerful attachments – love.

Pro tip in interpreting these sonnets.   The line, O sightless bard, England’s Mæonides, is a very wordy way for Longfellow the say that Milton is England’s Homer, the Greek poet Homer sometimes referred to as Mæonides.   In Milton’s sonnet he refers to Latona, which is an alternate name for the Greek Goddess Leto, who conceived Juno and Apollo, a feisty couple of Gods who still battle in our heavens.  I am very fond of Milton’s sonnet below and timely for the lack of leadership that pervades politics and diplomacy here and around the globe.  Men and women everywhere still “bawl for freedom,” but have we the wisdom to manage it when the human condition trends towards selfishness and not a broader democratic approach to safe guarding us from the worst of us, and inspiring us by the best.

Longfellow and Milton both explored the beauty of loss and immortalized it in poetry.  They both experienced loss at the most profound level in their lives and moved forward, resiliency infused into their words, a backbone for their art. Beauty that lacks the fullness of our human experience risks being superficial.  What agony have you endured that had a semblance of beauty?  How does resilience manifest itself in your experience? How does destruction inform your art?

Sonnet 12

by John Milton

I did but prompt the age to quit their clogs
       By the known rules of ancient liberty,
       When straight a barbarous noise environs me
       Of owls and cuckoos, asses, apes and dogs:
As when those hinds that were transform’d to frogs
       Rail’d at Latona’s twin-born progeny
       Which after held the sun and moon in fee.
       But this is got by casting pearl to hogs,
That bawl for freedom in their senseless mood,
       And still revolt when truth would set them free.
       Licence they mean when they cry liberty;
For who loves that, must first be wise and good.
       But from that mark how far they rove we see,
       For all this waste of wealth and loss of blood.

Time Will Find Us Utterly Destroyed

Jorge Luis Borges

I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library.

Jorge Luis Borges

Sonnet of the Garland of Roses

by Federico Garcia Lorca
Translated by Paul Archer

A garland, quick, I’m dying!
Weave it now, sing and moan and sing!
For shadows my throat are clouding
and again the January light comes in.

Trembling bushes and the air of stars
lie between your love and mine,
a dense mass of anemones picks up
an entire year with a muffled moan.

Revel in the open country of my wound,
break apart its reeds and delicate rivulets,
drink from my thigh my pouring blood.

But be quick! And then, together entwined,
with love-broken mouths and frayed souls
time will find us utterly destroyed.

Soneto de al Guirnalda de Rosas

by Federico Garcia Lorca

¡Esa guirnalda! ¡pronto! ¡que me muero!
¡Teje deprisa! ¡canta! ¡gime! ¡canta!
que la sombra me enturbia la garganta
y otra vez y mil la luz de enero

Entre lo que me quieres y te quiero,
aire de estrellas y temblor de planta,
espesura de anémonas levanta
con oscuro gemir un año enter

Goza el fresco paisaje de mi herida,
quiebra juncos y arroyos delicados.
Bebe en muslo de miel sangre vertida.

Pero ¡pronto! Que unidos, enlazados,
boca rota de amor y alma mordida,
el tiempo nos encuentre destrozados.

Don’t ever think for a moment that poetry isn’t dangerous.  Poetry that crosses the boundary from mere words into art, by its very nature is dangerous.  Dangerous for the writer and the reader, a danger that you will be forever changed to your core, subverted.  Is that as good a definition of subversive as any – poetry?

How many poets have lost their lives because their poetry was too subversive for the politics of their times, either by their own hand or their enemies?   Federico Garcia Lorca was a casualty of the Spanish Civil war, his body never found, his execution and likely torture at the hands of the right wing for being a socialist and a homosexual.  Which was the greater crime in the eyes of his judges and executioners?

Lorca and Borges are two of the more prominent Spanish poets, dramatists and writers of their generation. Both used the sonnet form to great effect, but did not limit themselves to the confines of fourteen lines and explored a myriad of poetic forms and styles.  Borges had a wide knowledge of world literature, the connection to Milton with his sonnet below gives it more weight and complexity. Borges was born in Argentina but lived in Europe for much of his lifetime.   His surrealist style opened the eyes of writers around the world to mystical reality that imbibes great writing.   Unlike Lorca, Borges enjoyed a long life, dying in Switzerland that the age of 87.  I wonder if the “luminous mist” surrounded him?

On His Blindness

by Jorge Luis Borges (1899 – 1986)

In the fullness of the years, like it or not
a luminous mist surrounds the unvarying
that breaks down into a single thing
colorless, formless. Almost into a thought.
The elemental, vast night and the day,
teeming with people have become that fog
of constant, tentative light that does not flag,
and lies at wait at dawn.  I longed to see
just once a human face.  Unknown to me
the closed encyclopedia, the sweet play
in volumes I can do no more to hold
the tiny soaring birds, the moons of gold,
Others have the world, better or worse;
I have this half-dark, and the toil of verse.

If I Am A Dog

Federico Garcia Lorca 

Sonnet of the Sweet Complaint

by Federico García Lorca (1898 – 1936)

  Never let me lose the marvel
of your statue-like eyes, or the accent
the solitary rose of your breath
places on my cheek at night.

  I am afraid of being, on this shore,
a branchless trunk, and what I most regret
is having no flower, pulp, or clay
for the worm of my despair.

  If you are my hidden treasure,
if you are my cross, my dampened pain,
if I am a dog, and you alone my master,

  never let me lose what I have gained,
and adorn the branches of your river
with leaves of my estranged Autumn.

Soneto de la dulce queja

by Federico García Lorca

Tengo miedo a perder la maravilla
de tus ojos de estatua y el acento
que de noche me pone en la mejilla
la solitaria rosa de tu aliento.

Tengo pena de ser en esta orilla
tronco sin ramas; y lo que más siento
es no tener la flor, pulpa o arcilla,
para el gusano de mi sufrimiento.

Si tú eres el tesoro oculto mío,
si eres mi cruz y mi dolor mojado,
si soy el perro de tu señorío,

no me dejes perder lo que he ganado
y decora las aguas de tu río
con hojas de mi otoño enajenado.


Night of Sleepless Love

by Federico García Lorca

The night rose with its moon full above.
I began to mourn, and you laughed with contempt.
Your scorn was a god, and my poor lament
was a momentary, shackled dove.

The night fell.  You became a crystal of hurt,
weeping for distances slowly deepening.
My sadness, like a crowd of sores, came creeping
across your sickened heart of dirt.

But dawn joined our bodies on the bed
and with frozen lips pried wide apart
we drank the endless blood we’d shed.

And through the shutters, I saw sunrise start.
And the coral of life, with its branches spread,
arched high above my shroud.


Noche Del Amor Insomne

by Federico García Lorca

Noche arriba los dos con luna llena,
yo me puse a llorar y tú reías.
Tu desdén era un dios, las quejas mías
momentos y palomas en cadena.

Noche abajo los dos. Cristal de pena,
llorabas tú por hondas lejanías.
Mi dolor era un grupo de agonías
sobre tu débil corazón de arena.

La aurora nos unió sobre la cama,
las bocas puestas sobre el chorro helado
de una sangre sin fin que se derrama.

Y el sol entró por el balcón cerrado
y el coral de la vida abrió su rama
sobre mi corazón amortajado.

Sorrows Much Keener Than These


The Blue Bowl

by Jane Kenyon

Like primitives we buried the cat
with his bowl. Bare-handed
we scraped sand and gravel
back into the hole. It fell with a hiss
and thud on his side,
on his long red fur, the white feathers
that grew between his toes, and his
long, not to say aquiline, nose.
We stood and brushed each other off.
There are sorrows much keener than these.
Silent the rest of the day, we worked,
ate, stared, and slept. It stormed
all night; now it clears, and a robin
burbles from a dripping bush
like the neighbor who means well
but always says the wrong thing.

 I find myself this weekend in a small town on the Mississippi River in Iowa, the bars on its main street hopping and the lovely summer August night air soft and warm.   I will let the town go unnamed, as I am not sure I want to let the secret out. There are some towns that deserve some level of privacy and this is one of them.   River towns have a certain vibrancy that comes from the wealth accumulated from the grain terminals and movement of goods and people along its railroads and barges.   The economy in this town not very unlike what prosperity looked like 80 years earlier; main streets success still hinges on the yield of the upcoming crop in the surrounding fields in the nearby counties.

August in corn country is green and lush, but tinges of color are starting to show that signal fall isn’t far away.  But for this weekend, summer is still in command and there is a wedding to attend tomorrow, beer to drink, a dance or two to twirl and the enjoyment of being able to walk from the hotel down main street to where the celebrations will begin, under the clear blue skies of a prairie sun.  Let’s hope the newly weds are still in love in 50 years.

I am missing the funeral of a good friend and a family reunion to be at this wedding. Summer weekends are that precious a commodity that you have to make sacrifices or clone yourself to be all the places you would like to be at one time.  So tomorrow we’ll honor all my family with sacred vows, those present and those passed and toast them all with good cheer.  What are you toasting on this precious summer weekend?   Where are the two places you would most like to be at once on this August Saturday?

Let Evening Come

by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.


No Human Is Inadequate For Art

ddb 200001 040-04
John Milo “Mike” Ford (1957 – 2006)

Against Entropy

by John M. Ford

The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days
Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.
The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

One of the things I enjoy about this project is how I can suddenly come across a writer I have never heard of based on trying to find a sonnet related to a certain topic.  This is how I stumbled across John M. Ford’s outstanding sonnets. In reading several of his poems, and about his life, I instantly was saddened to learn of his untimely early death from complications from diabetes as he sounds like the kind of person I would have enjoyed reaching out and attempting to meet face to face.  He was a fellow Minnesotan, living in Minneapolis, an accomplished celebrated fantasy and science fiction writer, game creator and poet.  I will have to check out my local used book stores and see if I can find some copies of his award winning short stories and novels.  Ford was a passionate supporter of the public library system and I have a feeling is applauding Mayor Carter’s decision in St. Paul to eliminate library fines so that library resources can work for everyone in our community.

Entropy is a natural topic for a sonnet for those of us who like to combine poetry with a bent towards science occassionaly.  Why?  Is it because the entire structure and formality of a sonnet requires that the writer bend a bit of their creativity towards order and away from the natural tendency towards disorder? Entropy is the ability of things to change, particularly man made things but also in nature.  At the molecular level entropy is the tendency of a natural state towards migration, for mixing of elements, for there to become a natural equilibrium of complete fusion, rather than elements segregating. Maybe we should see migration on a human scale as the same natural state of achieving equilibrium as entropy?   How do you think of entropy? What is its opposite in your  mind?


by John M. Ford

Sufficient time for faith and miracles
We find we cannot fit into our days;
And nothing’s left at all that joyous dwells
Inside the heart. The spark of spirit stays
Too small for dreamburst, and all earth may prove
Inadequate for art. No human is
This potent all alone, and fear kills love . . .
Love kills fear, and alone; all-potent, this.
No human is inadequate for art,
For dreamburst; and all earth may prove too small.
The spark of spirit stays inside the heart
That joyous dwells, and nothing’s left at all
We cannot fit into our days. We find
For faith and miracles, sufficient time.

To Jump On The Shore of Death


Olaf Bull (1883 – 1933)


by Olaf Bull

Med ringbjerges øde graanen
ligger et land under lav —
en bleket brokke av maanen
slængt hen i et jordisk hav.

Paa øen steiler en kilde
over det døde land;
dens straaler er store og vilde,
en styrtende lilje av vand!

Men lyt, i de klare dage
naar solen gløder dens skum,
dæmrer en dæmpet klage
gjennem det rene rum.

«Jeg spruter fra hede skaaler,
«jeg dønner fra jordens bryst,
«jeg dømtes med store straaler
«at springe paa dødens kyst,

«hvor ikke paa hundrede mile
«en eneste blomst i knop
«trænger den hede ile,
«som vælder av svælget op!»

Det rinder i maanegløden,
det straalende, sære tegn
paa livets maalløse øde
i lavaens drømme-egn.

Bitter til sidste time
kilden ødsler sit blod,
— der vilde ha dræbt hver kime,
som ramtes av dets flod!

With the desolate grain of the ring mountains
is a low country under
a pale rupture of the moon
thrown into an earthly sea.

On the island, a spring steals
over the frozen land;
its rays are large and wild,
a rushing lily of water!

But listen, on a clear day,
when the sun glows its foam,
makes a muffled complaint
through the pure spirits.

“I sprout from hot bowls,
“I dance from the breast of the earth,
‘I am germinated with big rays
“To jump on the shore of death,

‘Where not in a hundred miles
«A single flower is in bud
“The hot rush needs,
“That swells the throat!”

It flows in the moonlight,
the radiant, strange sign
in the utter desolation of life
in the dream-lava area.

Bitter to the last hour
the source spills its blood,
– that would have killed every germ,
struck by its river!



Come With Me

by Robert Bly

Come with me into those things that have felt this despair for so long—
Those removed Chevrolet wheels that howl with a terrible loneliness
Lying on their backs in the cindery dirt, like men drunk, and naked,
Staggering off down a hill at night to drown at last in the pond.
Those shredded inner tubes abandoned on the shoulders of thru-ways,
Black and collapsed bodies, that tried and burst,
And were left behind;
And the curly steel shavings, scattered about on garage benches,
Sometimes still warm, gritty when we hold them,
Who have given up, and blame everything on the government,
And those roads in South Dakota that feel around in the darkness . . .

A Vision For Thieves

The Mountain Laureate

by J. Logie Robertson

Morning is flashing from a glorious sun
On the broad shoulders of the giant fells
That outreach arms across the narrow dells
And form a silent brotherhood of one
Listening their skylark laureate! New begun
He up the heavens in ever-rising swells
Carries their thanksgiving in song that wells
From his small breast as if ‘twould ne’er be done.
What life his music gives them! They are free
In the wild freedom of his daring wing;
And in the cataract of his song, the sea
Of poetry that fills all heaven, they sing;
He is their poet-prophet in his glee,
And in his work and worth their priest and king!

The wild blueberries were at their peak during my time in Roan, Norway in the high country last week. These are blueberries unlike anything you experience in domesticated production from the grocery store. The plants have found a hard won foothold among rocks, trees, lichen and moss, and thrive to produce one to a small handful of fruit per plant.  The plants can be as short as a couple of inches and the berries though small are loaded to the brim in color and flavor.  We had brought traditional Norwegian potato-fish cakes and I made a wild blueberry sauce to go over the top to give it that special wilderness magic.


by Robert Frost (1874-1963)


“You ought to have seen what I saw on my way
To the village, through Mortenson’s pasture to-day:
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
And all ripe together, not some of them green
And some of them ripe! You ought to have seen!”
“I don’t know what part of the pasture you mean.”
“You know where they cut off the woods–let me see–
It was two years ago–or no!–can it be
No longer than that?–and the following fall
The fire ran and burned it all up but the wall.”
“Why, there hasn’t been time for the bushes to grow.
That’s always the way with the blueberries, though:
There may not have been the ghost of a sign
Of them anywhere under the shade of the pine,
But get the pine out of the way, you may burn
The pasture all over until not a fern
Or grass-blade is left, not to mention a stick,
And presto, they’re up all around you as thick
And hard to explain as a conjuror’s trick.”
“It must be on charcoal they fatten their fruit.
I taste in them sometimes the flavour of soot.
And after all really they’re ebony skinned:
The blue’s but a mist from the breath of the wind,
A tarnish that goes at a touch of the hand,
And less than the tan with which pickers are tanned.”
“Does Mortenson know what he has, do you think?”
“He may and not care and so leave the chewink
To gather them for him–you know what he is.
He won’t make the fact that they’re rightfully his
An excuse for keeping us other folk out.”
“I wonder you didn’t see Loren about.”
“The best of it was that I did. Do you know,
I was just getting through what the field had to show
And over the wall and into the road,
When who should come by, with a democrat-load
Of all the young chattering Lorens alive,
But Loren, the fatherly, out for a drive.”
“He saw you, then? What did he do? Did he frown?”
“He just kept nodding his head up and down.
You know how politely he always goes by.
But he thought a big thought–I could tell by his eye–
Which being expressed, might be this in effect:
‘I have left those there berries, I shrewdly suspect,
To ripen too long. I am greatly to blame.'”
“He’s a thriftier person than some I could name.”
“He seems to be thrifty; and hasn’t he need,
With the mouths of all those young Lorens to feed?
He has brought them all up on wild berries, they say,
Like birds. They store a great many away.
They eat them the year round, and those they don’t eat
They sell in the store and buy shoes for their feet.”
“Who cares what they say? It’s a nice way to live,
Just taking what Nature is willing to give,
Not forcing her hand with harrow and plow.”
“I wish you had seen his perpetual bow–
And the air of the youngsters! Not one of them turned,
And they looked so solemn-absurdly concerned.”
“I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow,
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountain, and when they will crop.
I met them one day and each had a flower
Stuck into his berries as fresh as a shower;
Some strange kind–they told me it hadn’t a name.”
“I’ve told you how once not long after we came,
I almost provoked poor Loren to mirth
By going to him of all people on earth
To ask if he knew any fruit to be had
For the picking. The rascal, he said he’d be glad
To tell if he knew. But the year had been bad.
There had been some berries–but those were all gone.
He didn’t say where they had been. He went on:
‘I’m sure–I’m sure’–as polite as could be.
He spoke to his wife in the door, ‘Let me see,
Mame, we don’t know any good berrying place?’
It was all he could do to keep a straight face.
“If he thinks all the fruit that grows wild is for him,
He’ll find he’s mistaken. See here, for a whim,
We’ll pick in the Mortensons’ pasture this year.
We’ll go in the morning, that is, if it’s clear,
And the sun shines out warm: the vines must be wet.
It’s so long since I picked I almost forget
How we used to pick berries: we took one look round,
Then sank out of sight like trolls underground,
And saw nothing more of each other, or heard,
Unless when you said I was keeping a bird
Away from its nest, and I said it was you.
‘Well, one of us is.’ For complaining it flew
Around and around us. And then for a while
We picked, till I feared you had wandered a mile,
And I thought I had lost you. I lifted a shout
Too loud for the distance you were, it turned out,
For when you made answer, your voice was as low
As talking–you stood up beside me, you know.”
“We sha’n’t have the place to ourselves to enjoy–
Not likely, when all the young Lorens deploy.
They’ll be there to-morrow, or even to-night.
They won’t be too friendly–they may be polite–
To people they look on as having no right
To pick where they’re picking. But we won’t complain.
You ought to have seen how it looked in the rain,
The fruit mixed with water in layers of leaves,
Like two kinds of jewels, a vision for thieves.”

Spring To Burning Speech

Johan Sebastian Welhaven

 Norway’s Dawn

By Johan Sebastian Cammermeyer Welhaven (1807–1873)
Translation by William Morton Payne

OH, like a youth our race with courage bold
Shall yet wax strong behind its mountain rim;
While many an evil giant, fierce and grim,
Shall fall, and lie in death’s embraces cold.

And valorous deeds, like those men did of old,
Shall here once more be praised in song and hymn;
The life renewed of saga-ages dim,
In glowing words shall once again be told.

The word shall turn to act of high emprise;
The thought now hushed shall spring to burning speech
In hall of counsel and the sacred fane.

The noisy shout shall cease, the precept wise
Shall take its place, and, far as sight may reach,
The gleam shall grow into the light again.

Johan Sebastia Welhaven made his name by attacking the crude patriotic poetry popular at the time and espoused the theory that poetry should be beautiful as well as meaningful.  His feud with Henrik Wergeland, a popular nationalist poet, makes more sense when put in the contest that he was romantically involved with Wergeland’s younger sister. This was a good old fashioned machismo showdown of who’s got the bigger swagger and to my mind Welhaven certainly won.  There’s nothing sweeter than besting your rival than by seducing his sister.

His celebration of the romantic tradition inspired other artists of his day, including Edward Grieg and Ibsen. Welhaven opposed the theories of the extreme nationalists and desired that Norwegian culture align itself with the rest of Europe.  Welhaven gave voice to his aesthetic creed in the 1834 sonnet cycle Norges Dæmring (“The Dawn of Norway”), one of which is highlighted above. The sonnets spoke of his love of Norway in tightly constructed sonnets. Welhaven extended his influence into Norwegian culture as an academic by teaching for 26 years at the Royal Frederik’s University in Christiania, delivering lectures on literary subjects.


by Olav H. Hauge

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.

Hope Without An Object Cannot Live

Reppkleiv, Norway

Work Without Hope

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

All Nature seems at work. Slugs leave their lair—
The bees are stirring—birds are on the wing—
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
And I the while, the sole unbusy thing,
Nor honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.

Yet well I ken the banks where amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, O ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!
With lips unbrightened, wreathless brow, I stroll:
And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul?
Work without Hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And Hope without an object cannot live.


The Worst To Please Is A Carpenter

Roan, Norway

Mountain Life

by Henrik Ibsen

IN summer dusk the valley lies
With far-flung shadow veil;
A cloud-sea laps the precipice
Before the evening gale:

The welter of the cloud-waves grey
Cuts off from keenest sight
The glacier, looking out by day
O’er all the district, far away,
And crowned with golden light.

But o’er the smouldering cloud-wrack’s flow,
Where gold and amber kiss,
Stands up the archipelago,
home of shining peace.

The mountain eagle seems to sail
A ship far seen at even;
And over all a serried pale
Of peaks, like giants ranked in mail,
Fronts westward threatening heaven.

But look, a steading nestles, close
Beneath the ice-fields bound,
Where purple cliffs and glittering snows
The quiet home surround.

Here place and people seem to be
A world apart, alone;
— Cut off from men by spate and scree
It has a heaven more broad, more free,
A sunshine all its own.

Look: mute the saeter-maiden stays,
Half shadow, half aflame;
The deep, still vision of her gaze
Was never word to name.

She names it not herself, nor knows
What goal my be its will;
While cow-bells chime and alp-horn blows
It bears her where the sunset glows,
Or, maybe, further still.

Too brief, thy life on highland wolds
Where close the glaciers jut;
Too soon the snowstorm’s cloak enfolds
Stone byre and pine-log hut.

Then wilt thou ply with hearth ablaze
The winter’s well-worn tasks
— But spin thy wool with cheerful face:
One sunset in the mountain pays
For all their winter asks.

I have spent the past week in Roan, Norway, a rural area north of Trondheim, that is a combination of rocky highlands dotted with small dairy farms in the river bottoms.   The beauty of Norway is hard to put into words, hiking in nearly pristine wilderness, the wild blue berries and mountain berries in full splendor this week among the moss and ferns in pine forests. The waters clear and blue, making there way into the fjords, I had the good fortune to be invited to spend some time at a friends, friend cabin that provided precious silence, multiple days with only the sounds of nature except for one or two airplanes over the course of several days. That experience of not being able to hear any man-made noise is a centering, sacred experience, bringing me back to something more basic that calls me to simplify my life.  Having spent several marvelous days in new and old Norwegian mountain cabins, my love of small houses has been rekindled and the urge to build one someplace in Minnesota is strong.


I used this opportunity while in Norway to investigate the legacy of Norway’s literature. Rich as it is with playwrights, (Ibsen) and novelists and poetry (Olav Hauge and Welhaven), outside of Welhaven’s sonnet cycle called Norges Daemring I found English translations of Norwegian poetry a bit slim pickings on the internet.  It may well be that I have not figured out the right search terms or it could be Norwegian poets are unconcerned with English translations and prefer to let people read their work in Norwegian.

Hauge’s work in English has a bit of similarity to William Carlos Williams with a similar dry sense of humor that runs through it.  Everyone in rural Norway it seems is a carpenter as it were, with self made cabins, barns and even houses more the norm than the exception.   As much as I enjoyed the beauty of Norway, I am eager to get home.  The inability to communicate effectively has made me homesick for Minnesota and the beauty of the English language.   Brah!


by Olav H. Hauge
Translated by Robert Hedin

If you can make a poem
a farmer finds useful,
you should be happy.
A blacksmith you can never figure out.
The worst to please is a carpenter.