"Fever Poem" by Knut Hamsun

my translation of "Feberdigte" from Det Vilde Kor, 1904

I find myself rushing,
to the crossroads of everything I am led,
of her, of earth and God.
To herself she opened the door,
A farewell then said, –
she was gone, nothing more.

Now autumn comes over the Lord's land,
days sunless, oppressive, black,
Life gives and takes back,
everything comes to naught in the chorus of the damned.
    But man lives so long.

Now gathered at the house and in the barn heaped
The grasses and grains are cut, the harvest resumed,
The leaves fall, everything is consumed,
by death's roar overwhelmed in defeat.
    But man lives so long.

May God punish you, Alvilde,
my passion you snuffed out,
your word you took back,
and so cruelly led me about.
Once more the road for me is long,
without sun and without song.
May God punish you, Alvilde.

May God uplift you, Alvilde,
Giving thanks for our time.
You called me your boy,
so many names you made mine.
Your hand and mouth you offered me,
for a moment you and I would together be.
May God uplift you, Alvilde.

Listen here, what is this silent dread
now slipping into my senses unsaid,
that through the whites of my eyes does sneer,
that leaves my mouth pale and contorted in this way?
At the wellspring of fate, is that where I drunkenly lay?
O God, inside me such a world of madness and fear.

For some time I sit and don't know what to say:
The grain is cut and the leaves fall, but why is it thus?
Why does the life of summer disintegrate into dust?
Why does grass grow if it is only to decay?
I go on thinking in this way.

Grain exists so that man's hunger is allayed
and grass turns green so that it may wither to hay.
And the leaves of the grove from the hot sun provide shade.
But why should I scatter seeds of joy, I say,
If in the end I am only to pass away?

I cried out and demanded of the foaming sea;
to the forests and mountains and rushes near,
to the stones and storms and vast heavens I made my plea,
and to anything able to hear:
Why was I born into this life here?

But the heavens and storms and stones said nothing to me.

Alvilde, I remember that last night,
    You shouted: Kneel!
    I drank from your shoe
    Everyone laughed, even you.
I did it just for the pleasure you would feel.

Alvilde, then you held out a flower.
    But I continued out.
    The look you gave me
    stung pleasantly.
I went homeward in the darkness, stumbling about.

Now the autumnal wind is howling
    like a rain soaked hound against my windows,
a chill trickles through my veins
    colder than the wind outside blows.
There is released within me
    the stench of a poisonous flower in bloom,
and the odor moves like a breath
    lingering on in my nostrils.
It sprouts from the garden of hatred.

It is boiling, it is boiling. I try
    in vain to fall asleep,
I hear the flag line's neverending
    banging against the pole,
the creaking of doors, a sneaking about
    on tiptoe, there are footsteps in the hall,
my heart suddenly pounds
    like the baying a of hell hound.
It is boiling, boiling, boiling.

Alvilde, get my cloak and my cap with the feather on top,
I have decided to go out on a ride.
Hold the stirrups steady, slave, while I climb atop
and then run on foot at my side.

I go to seek out and examine these winds so strong
that blow over the mountains wide,
it is me on horseback, it is me galloping along
and you running like a dog at my side.

Hey now, keep the pace, I tell you I am in a rush,
Riding on a tour of my kingdom this day.
Then you collapse, Alvilde, so I bind you tightly thus --
Dear God, the girl will die if I ride on in this way.

It is boiling, it is boiling, this weather and wind.
Then a knocking I hear, but from where?
Come in!
But outside the door no one is there.

I see the first day of creation,
the smoking newborn world,
I myself am alive.
Appearing at the Earth's outermost limit,
and from the clouds looking down over all that was created,
an expressionless face . . . . .
I ask when in my life did I lay in darkness?
Onward, my blood horse, I ride as on an anvil,
I am made of red bricks, red as blood,
I have eaten the yellow lining of my hat.
Say, isn't that a knocking at the door?

That fog I see, is it the land of the dead?
There is a lifeless sea out there
and in the middle of the sea an island born blind:
it is the land of the dead.
I come, I spread out my arms
and sink with you evermore .  .  .  .  .

So many days have now gone by, and the days they quickly pass.
    My soul is cold and tough and remade
    with the spring the autumn gale did fade.
I no longer complain, to everything I nod silently and smile to the last.

Why should sorrow be allowed to rumble down the hills like boulders,
    stopping a wayfaring soul from moving on?
    With this defiant heel I stomp upon
that sorrow I have no place for on my good, old shoulders.

I wander into the woods, a ruler without lands or people,
    an elevated spirit, a bent man,
    a fallen foot, a clenched hand,
and with my sword salute myself as my conqueror's equal.

But late at night I sit and hear the scythes being honed
    and footsteps upon the earth are near.
    In the faraway clouds a face does appear.
From the wasteland an organ thunders and a last, long mass is intoned.

1 comment:

  1. Holy Jesus.I

    The Swedes are God's chosen people.


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