Credo

by Erik Knudsen | translated by Michael Favala Goldman

With a trembling planet as a surface
Under a grimy piece of newspaper
I write across telegrams
From Lucifer’s solid castle
And across black portraits
Of all his proud henchmen
These forgotten words: I believe.

I believe the hour of birth is upon us,
That all the wild shouts are contractions.
I believe the dark is enveloped by light
Still hesitating at the edge of night.
I remember ten thousand years ago
On the army road of my memory wander
Men with cannons, men with spears;
Each singing in his mother tongue
The same song. They fall.
But no one bends to help,
No one turns around to look.
They wander on, in step, in step,
Blind as worms, deaf as stones.
They strike with axes, they belch fire,
They fall like straw at the farmer’s scythe.

But what they have to kill will not die;
And the one they seek to avenge will never be avenged.

* * *

The wise men are lost.
Signs and wonders deceive solemnly.
The thought turns dizzily around
And sees an endless open grave.
The memory flies away and finds itself
Under a naked desert sun.
The belief that once was an abyss
Changes, transforms,
Waves approach from the open sea
Crushing the dead granite to foam.
But from the rainbow-colored veil
Rises a star, a newborn fire.
Suddenly we love this life
And see no more deceiving ghosts.
The belief that was an abyss
Is now a star. Human, look
Your world is living reality,
Dear, demanding reality,
And he who loves transforms everything.
And he who loves has eternal life.

Rises a star, a newborn fire,
A new era–

* * *

With a trembling planet as a surface
Under a grimy piece of newspaper
I write across telegrams
From Lucifer’s solid castle
And across black portraits
Of all his proud henchmen
These forgotten words: I believe.


Med en rystende klode som underlag
For et snavset stykke avispapir
Skriver jeg tværs over telegrammer
Fra Lucifers faste borg
Og tværs over sorte portrætter
Af alle hans stolte drabanter
Disse glemte ord: Jeg tror.

Jeg tror at fødselstimen er inde,
At alle de vilde råb er veer.
Jeg tror at mørket er omspændt af lys
Som endnu tøver bag nattens rand.
Jeg husker titusind år tilbage
På min erindrings hærvej vandrer
Mænd med kanoner, mænd med spyd;
De synger på hver sit modersmål
Den samme sang. De styrter omkuld.
Men ingen bøjer sig for at hjælpe,
Ingen vender sig for at se.
De vandrer fremad, i takt i takt,
Blinde som orme, døve som sten.
De hugger med økse, de udspyr ild,
De falder som strå under bondens le.

Med det de skal dræbe vil ikke dø;
Og den de skal hævne får aldrig hævn.

* * *

De vise mænd er faret vild.
Tegn og undere lyver fromt.
Tanken vender sig svimmel om
Og ser overalt en åben grav.
Mindet flyver og finder sig selv
Under en nøgen ørkensol.
Troen der før var klippegrund
Forandrer sig, forvandler sig,
Bølger står ind fra det åbne hav
Og knuser den døde granit til skum.
Men op af de regnbuefarvede slør
Stiger en stjerne, en nyfødt ild.
Pludselig elsker vi dette liv
Og ser ingen dårende spøgelser mer.
Troen der før var klippegrund
Er blevet en stjerne. Menneske, se
Din verden er levende virkelighed,
Dyrebar, krævende virkelighed,
Og den der elsker forandrer alt.
Og den der elsker har evigt liv.

Stiger en stjerne, en nyfødt ild,
En ny tid –

* * *

Med en rystende klode som underlag
For et snavset stykke avispapir
Skriver jeg tværs over telegrammer
Fra Lucifers faste borg
Og tværs over sorte portrætter
Af alle hans stolte drabanter
Disse glemte ord: Jeg tror.

Musical composition by Victor D. Sandiego

Danish author Erik Knudsen (1922-2007) wrote 17 poetry collections along with dozens of pieces for Danish radio, TV, and theater. He was also an editor and a translator of plays and poetry. A staunch opponent to war, Knudsen’s works’ central themes often involve contrasting the beautiful and the inherently valuable with the debatable but seemingly necessary actions of western societies.

Michael Favala Goldman, besides being a poet and jazz clarinetist, is a widely-published translator of Danish literature. Over 100 of his translations have appeared in journals like The Harvard Review and The Columbia Journal. Among his ten translated books are The Water Farm trilogy, Farming Dreams and Selected Poems of Benny Andersen. He lives in Florence, MA.

Comments

By Victor D. Sandiego on Dec 14, 2018 19:12 (UTC)

Thank you Michael for bringing us works from other parts of the world that we might not have had a chance to enjoy otherwise. Your reading really brings it to life.