Til Min Ven, digteren Gustaf Munch-Petersen, der faldt som Frivillig i Spanien

January 14, 2015

Til Min Ven, digteren Gustaf Munch-Petersen, der faldt som Frivillig i Spanien

This is quite possible my favourite poem, ever…
It is an elegy written by Tom Kristensen, to his friend, the poet Gustaf Munch-Petersen that joined the international brigades in the Spanish Civil War. I have added my own translation which is mostly a direct translation, though I have altered a few things to make it sound better. I welcome suggestions for alternative wording, it would be awesome to get an English version with some of the same flow as the Danish.

Pludselig ser vi det hele.
God er en pludselig død.
Pludselig ser vi, hvad halsløs,
tankeløs ungdom betød.
Kort var din hastige vej fra
kroppen og tanken til ord.
Kortere endnu din vej fra
liv til den støvede jord.

Ordene kom fra det indre,
ingen af os kan forstå.
Ingen besindigheds vægte
bærer dit prosadigt på.
Det, som du sagde, var sandhed
samme sekund, det blev til;
ikke et tænksomt: jeg tænker;
kun et halsløst: jeg vil.

Her skal vi andre nu vandre
gennem et ælte af kunst,
blive en kedelig gældspost
uden mæcenernes gunst, .
blive en støvhob af gloser
skrevet af tvang og af pligt,
medens du hviler, skudt ned, skudt ned,
dit livs ubesindigste digt.

To My Friend Gustaf Munch-Petersen, Who Fell As A Volunteer In Spain

Suddenly we see it all
Good is a sudden death
Suddenly we see, what reckless,
thoughtless youth meant.
Short was your swift path from
body and mind to word.
Shorter yet your path from
life to the dusty earth.

The words came from within,
None of us can understand.
On no scale of restraint
your prose poem now stand.
The things you said became truth,
same second it came to being;
not a thoughtful: I think;
only a reckless: I will.

Here we must wander
through a mire of art,
become dreary arrears
bereft of the grace of the gods,
become a dust cloud of glossaries
written by coercion and duty,
while you rest, shot down, shot down,
your life’s most reckless poem.

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