Monday, February 25, 2008


quite often really, the words of others say what you'd say yourself, if only you found the words.

This poem is by the Finnish-Swedish poet Edith Södergran. The translation is mine, and unfortunately from the Finnish translation only - because I'm too bone-idle to look up the Swedish original.


I, a prisoner to myself, say thus:
life is not spring, dressed in light-green velvet,
nor a caress seldom received,
life is not a decision to go
nor two white hands to hold you back.
Life is a tight ring which imprisons us,
an invisible circle we never cross,
life is a close happiness which passes us by,
the thousands of steps we are unable to take.

Life is to despise oneself
and to lay immobile at the bottom of a well
and to know that above, the sun is shining
and golden birds fly through the air
and the days shoot past swift as arrows.
Life is to wave a short goodbye
and to go home and sleep...
Life is to be a stranger to oneself
and a new land for everyone else who comes.
Life is to neglect one's happiness
and to reject the only moment,
life is to believe oneself weak and not to dare.


trousers said...

That, at certain times, is too close to home. How close your translation is to the original I don't know, but it speaks to me.

Hope you and Dogot are ok x

Anna MR said...

Hei housut - yes, it is a bit (close to home), isn't it. As I was translating it I thought it may actually be a bit obvious, really, as a poem, precisely because it is so close to home. Something being obvious or cliché has never stopped me from liking it though (as long as it's not crap), and I've liked this poem way longer than I knew to spot it as either obvious or cliché, and so cannot come to it objectively. I don't know whether to be glad exactly that it speaks to you, though, as the emotions it deals with are quite desolate - but, well, I sort of am glad if it resonates, not because I'd enjoy the idea of you finding yourself a prisoner lying at the bottom of the well in a general state of deep depression, but because it feels nice to share words that describe a human condition (even when they aren't one's own).

Or something. Oh dear, I was not quite as eloquent there as I had hoped. Yes, thank you, the beautiful Ms Dogot and myself are okay (do have a look at the lovely new shots of her, currently playing e.g. in my flickr slideshow on my right-hand margin), and I hope you are too. (And my translation may lack in literary/poetic merit, and inaccuracies creep in the more languages are traversed, as it were - but as a translation from a translation, it is accurate in content anyway. Employ me, employ me, someone, anyone, as a translator.)


montag said...

Not only did you translate the words, but - to our dismay - you seem to have correctly brought across the pain from soul to soul.

I shall check in on you more often.

Winter shall be soon over and with the onset of the warm and sunny days of... whatever that other season is, life will burst from its prison.

Anna MR said...

Oh, sweet Montag, it is truly delightful to see you - although checking in on me more often may be a frustrating thing as I seem to have enormous breaks these days, off and on, interspersed by sudden bursts of posts. However, please feel assured of the welcome you have here, whether I am posting or breaking.

Yes, the reappearance of the sun is a fine thing and will only get finer now for a while yet. We've had the darkest and wettest (means no snow, okay) winter in recorded history. It has been dismal, Montag, and not terribly conducive to high spirits. I am, however, very talented at moping miserably, off and on, whatever the weather.

As for bringing the pain across - I suppose pain is a thing we all share rather than something to shy away from. It hurts, though, from time to time, does it not?

Hope you are well, Montag. As I said, lovely to see you.