Eye to eye

Issue 3/1993 | Archives online, Fiction, poetry

A selection of previously untranslated poems by the Finland-Swedish modernist poet Gunnar Björling (1887–1960), introduced by Birger Thölix

Like silent sounds sail passes after sail.
But the night’s globe stands
and just as open stands the wide sea
and all the days expire in morning brightening.
Like a thing not expired
a life-warm scent throbs
through my limbs
and my hand is filled with tablets to read
and new hearts burn.


Pure poetry is thought, foolish you who do not know it, you
                                  know your sciences.
But in every word light is poetry.
That vault that braces itself around you and widens yearning,
                                  gives the heart life,
is vision and thought, won from bloodfire. Creative flames from a
                                  struggle, like chieftains' duel.
Pure poetry is duty's life and thought's temperance
and those wild perspectives.


I do not write literature, I seek my face and my fingers.
I came like the shadow of my labour’s joy,
I came like the yearning for the great life-poem
and I carried my poem
like a life’s day broken in pieces
like a life’s day that flowed in new forms, rich and made whole,
like a murmur of the days taken together,
of the people I live with.


O sea’s rock!
o gull on wide wave-beats;
o my shore
my home:
my love’s steadfastness, you
barely raised above the waters.


You, I call
you, light in days grey
in heavy winter’s nights
I call you in the weak summer’s light
you, you I call
in the years’ childhood time
in the evening’s summer
you, the quieter and near
you, you whisper around me
or whistle, cry
you are the night’s murmuring
and the day’s meaning
you, my own heart’s meaning
you, my home, my house
– a person’s speech
a hand, a voice
and eye’s light
like all.


Eye to eye
it is gliding past
no one knows them the lines of being
everyone is many
and, splintered, nothing becomes whole
with the ruler
but I seek a visage nuances
and humanday the flickering the footsteps
a rainfall a flake a sandgrain among sandgrains
grave silence and heaven and song.


Now is not dead
it is a voice
barely shimmering
in this lightnight
and between sky and sea.


Shadow me well
here in parkday so good
In the linden avenue twittering
itself dove in the trees
Shadow me well
here, and so good

O all of us when the days expire
to see can it light up
all of it
who wills it and that
the birds expire?


Translated by David McDuff

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