Winter 2009

Table of Contents - Vol. V, No. 4


Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Reviews   

Ebba Lindqvist


What the Preacher Saw

This is what the Preacher saw.
All this beauty.
Trees filtering the sunlight.
The vapor in a red tremble
on the kiln-like mountain.
This earth that bounteously
brings forth fruit.
This is what the Preacher saw,
and he understood:
all the rest is vanity.
And all he asked for,
and all he wished his fellow man,
was a handful of tranquility.


Monologue in Hades

(Eurydice to Orpheus)

Who said I was willing to go with you, Orpheus?
Why were you so certain, that you came to find me?
To force me back, step by step?
Once our love was lovely, and never shall it be said otherwise.
But life does not tempt me now. Even up there
in the land of sunlight, cold shadows
will come creeping across the mountain. I know. I remember.
No one felt the coldness of your heart as I did.
The sun has dark spots. Eros has dark wings.
And in the darkness of night I heard, even while on earth,
the barking of the hounds of Hell. -- Don't think I grieve
because you failed, because you turned around to look. Oh, no one
knows your failings as I do. Worn out, you came back,
always came back to me, after the feasts and triumphal processions,
dropped your lyre on the ground, fell into my arms to forget
the bacchantes, the songs, the wine. I, your faithful love, who waited alone.
No songs for me. Never a joy ride in the sunshine.
Never the airy flight of birds. Orpheus came home just too tired.
Don't think that I grieve. I chose a life in Hades.
It was not the viper that chose me. It was I who chose the viper.
I spied it in the meadow among the flowers. I wanted the poison.
I never existed until I came here, to the realm of shadows
Life shoves us up against the wall. Life demands an answer.
Life has words sharp as spears that pierce the heart.
The blood drops so quietly, so quietly, and no one sees how it drops.
And yet--- again and again I repeat it, Orpheus:
Once our love was lovely, and never shall it be said otherwise.
But it was not love I followed. Trembling and pale,
staggering and weary, I followed the lyre and the song.
The song about the sun and the winds. The song about the sea and its waves.
The song of the comeliness of earth, when the poppy opens in spring.
The song about everything the earth gives, but even more
about that it does not give. About something greater than life,
about something greater than the human heart and greater than love.
The song about something more lovely than life.
The song that is greater than love or death.
The song that is greater than song. Oh, all things on earth
will crumble to dust;
I will forget it all, but never the song.
Once, only once, did you play your song for me.
Only once--- in the chilling realm of shadows.
Once I had a life on earth. On earth, oh,
I yield it gladly to those strong enough to live. But
who said I was willing to go with you, Orpheus?
Life does not tempt me now.
I have no longing to return.

-- Translated from the Swedish by Janice D. Soderling


© Janice D. Soderling



Poetry    Translations    Non-Fiction    Fiction    Reviews   

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