Tuesday, 11 October 2011

First Tranströmer

Here's a poem by Tomas Tranströmer, this year's Literature Nobel Laureate. (I aim to read as much of him in the next few weeks as is available to me). Judging by the poems included on his own author 'bsite, music is a 'thing'. This is 'Lugubrious Gondola Number 2', translated by Robin Fulton in 1990:
Two old men, father-in-law and son-in-law, Liszt and Wagner, are staying by The Grand Canal
together with the restless woman who married King Midas
the man who transforms everything he touches into Wagner.
The green chill of the sea forces its way up through the palace floors.
Wagner is marked, the well-known Mr Punch profile is wearier than before
the face a white flag
The gondola is heavily laden with their lives, two returns and one single.

One of the palace windows flies open and the people inside grimace in the sudden draught.
Outside on the water the garbage gondola appears, paddled by two one-oared bandits.
Liszt has written down some chords that are so heavy they ought to be sent
to the mineralogical institute in Padua for analysis.
too heavy to rest, they can only sink and sink through the future right down
to the years of the brownshirts.
The gondola is heavily laden with the crouching stones of the future.

Peep-holes, opening on 1990.

March 25. Anxiety over Lithuania.
Dreamt that I visited a large hospital.
No staff. Everyone a patient.

In the same dream a new-born girl
who spoke in complete sentences.

Beside his son-in-law, who is a man of the age, Liszt is a moth-eaten Grand Seigneur.
It's a disguise.
The deep that tries on and rejects different masks has picked out this one for him.
The deep that wants to step in, to visit the humans, without showing its face.

Abbé Liszt is accustomed to carrying his own suitcase through slush and sunshine
and when the time comes to die no one will meet him at the station.
A warm breeze of highly gifted brandy carries him off in the middle of some task.
He is never free of tasks.
Two thousand letters per year!
The schoolboy writing out the wrongly spelt word a hundred times before he can go home.
The gondola is heavily laden with life, it is simple and black.

1990 again.

Dreamt that I drove 200 kilometres for nothing.
Then everything grew large.
Sparrows big as hens sang deafeningly.

Dreamt that I drew piano keys
on the kitchen table. I played on them, silently.
The neighbours came in to listen.

The keyboard which has kept silent through the whole of Parsifal (but it has listened) is at last allowed to say something.
Sighs . . . sospiri . . .
When Liszt plays this evening he holds down the sea-pedal
so that the green power of the sea rises through the floor and flows into all the stones of the building.
Good evening, beautiful deep!
The gondola is heavily laden with life, it is simple and black.

Dreamt that I was to start school but came late.
Everyone in the room was wearing a white mask.
Impossible to tell who the teacher was.
About music, and dreams, and hospitals (Tranströmer had his celebrated, or infamous, stroke in 1990; I don't know whether this poem pre- or antedates that). About weight, but delivered with impressively fluid gracefulness. Gondolas, eh? Ah, Gondolas.

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