Black Ballads

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Black Ballads  (1917) 
by Dan Andersson
Translation by C.D. Locock in Modern Swedish Poetry

A Musician's Last Journey


Ere the rosy morning brightens over Himmelmora's crest,
See a dead man faring forth from Berga By:
And silent o'er the hillside they bear him to his rest,
Beneath the dawning grey, the chilly sky.
And their boots go heavy-heeled through the rose-bespattered field,
And heavy heads are bowed as tho' in prayer.
From the desert spaces' Need comes a Dreamer who is dead,
Through dewy meads that shine with flowers fair.


"He was strange and he was lonely," say the four dark bearing men,
"And often lacked he resting place and bread."
"Lo, a King!" say the roses and are trodden down again.
"Lo, a King, and a Dreamer that is dead!"
"We are slow," say the bearers, "and mile on mile it seems,
Ever sultrier grows the day this morning tide."
"Walk ye warily, speak softly," sigh the willows by the streams,
"Maybe it is some flow'ret that has died."


But when thro' green Spring woodlands the pitch-black coffin swings,
Runs a silence through the morn-awakened fields,
And the West Wind stays to listen who it is such escort brings,
Mid the roses, with such footsteps heavy-heeled.
"T'is but Olle, the musician,'" sigh the whispering forest trees,
"For ended is his homeless day."
"Oh, would I were a hurricane," replies the gentle breeze,
"I would pipe him on his journey all the way!"


Over ling and yellow marshes sway the dead man's stiffening bones,
Sway wearily the sun's pale rays beneath:
But when evening's lovely coolness falls on bilberries and stones
Sounds the tramp again on Himmelmora Heath:
Tramp of four tired men, who in grief march home again,
With their heads bowed low as if in prayer.
But deep upon their track see the roses trampled back,
Through the dewy meads that shine with flowers fair.


"He is gone," say the bearers, "and his mother bides forlorn
In Torberga behind the poorhouse bars."
"We are trampled 'neath your footsteps, with your heavy shoes are torn,"
Cry the rose-buds, pointing to their scars.
"It is Death that has gone dancing over Himmelmora Heath,"
Each thistle by the clover pasture moans:
"He has ground you all to garbage his clumsy boots beneath,
While he danced with the Dreamer's bones."


O'er the grass and the grey roof-tops like a whisper comes the night,
With her few pale stars' wretched fire:
And East across the moor land to the tarn goes down a light,
Goes a song through the lily-sprinkled mire.
Far and wide the black storm thunders, and round the islet there
Chant the waves of the desert spaces' Need:
O'er the dark and angry waters, lo, the night sounds call to prayer,
For a Dreamer, a Musician, lies dead.


This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.