Saturday, August 11, 2012

Evert Taube, Calle Schewens Vals / Calle Schewen's Waltz

Calle Schewens Vals / Calle Schewen's Waltz


I Roslagens famn på den blommande ö
där vågorna klucka mot strand
och vassarna vagga och nyslaget hö
det doftar emot mig ibland,
där sitter jag uti bersån på en bänk
och tittar på tärnor och mås
som störta mot fjärden i glitter och stänk
på jakt efter födan gunås.

         G              (F#)G C              G
On a flowering island in Roslagen’s bay,
           G                 C6             G
where wavelets are lapping the shore,
            G                        (F#)G  C             G or E7*
and the reeds are a-tremble, and newly cut hay,
       Am7            D6                  G
its fragrance surrounds me once more,
Em           A7            D                  
I sit in my arbour outside on a seat
Em                   A7            D     - D7
and gaze at the gulls in the bay,
            G                       (F#)G  C          G or E7*
and the terns as they dart in the glittering sea;
         Am7              D6            G             - G7
let’s all have some dinner, they say.

[*You have a choice here. I think I prefer the folkier G for most of the song, reserving the graceful E7 only for its penultimate line.]


Själv blandar jag fredligt mitt kaffe med kron
till angenäm styrka och smak
och lyssnar till dragspelets lockande ton
som hörs från mitt stugugemak.
Jag är some en pojke, fast farfar jag är,
ja rospiggen spritter i mig!
Det blir bar värre med åren det där
med dans och med jäntornas blig.

            C        E7*               F
Meanwhile I relax with my coffee-and-Crown,
        G7                 (B)  C                   
I’m mixing it tasty and strong;
      C              E7*          F          
enticed by the distant accordion’s sound
        G7                               (B) C
that comes from my cottage salon.
       C            E7*                  F                
I‘m still just a boy, though a grandfather too;
             G7                      (B)  C
yup, the old feeling runs in my veins.
     C                                   F
It only gets worse with each year that goes by,
               G                                  C     - D7
when the dancing and glancing begins!

*or Ddim

Se måsen med löjan i näbb han fick sitt!
Men jag fick en arm om min hals!
O, eviga ungdom, mitt hjärta är ditt,
Spel opp, jag vill dansa en vals!
Det doftar, det sjunger från skog och från sjö ,
I natt skall du vara min gäst!
Här dansar Calle Schewen med Roslagens mö
och solen går ner i nordväst.

(chords as verse 1)

Ahoy there, that gull's got a fish in his beak!
Well I've got an arm on my neck!
O Youth everlasting, I'm still yours to seek.
Strike up, fit a waltz to my steps!
There’s a song from the sea and a scent from the glade;
tonight I want you as my guest!
Calle Schewen is dancing with Roslagen’s maid,
             Am7                 D6              G         -B7
and the sun drops down in the north-west.


Då vilar min blommande ö vid din barm
du dunkelblå, vindstilla fjärd,
Och julinattsskymningen smyger sig varm
Till sovande buskar och träd
Min älva, du dansar så lyssnande tyst
och tänker att karlar är troll
den skälver, din barnsliga hand, som jag kysst,
och valsen förklingar i moll.

       Em                        B7                Em
My flowering isle now sleeps on your breast,
        Em               D7                   G       - B7
you evening-blue, wind-becalmed sea;
       Em                                       B7          Em
and summer-night twilight comes stealing to rest
         Em           Am            Em
over slumbering bushes and trees.
       E7                               Am        Em
My elfin, you’re dancing so silent, so chaste,
       D              Em             B7
you think all us menfolk are false.
        Em                            B7                 Em
Your childish hand shrinks away from my kiss,
          Em           Am          Em      - D7
and a minor key enters the waltz.


Men hej, alla vänner som gästa min ö!
Jag är både nykter och klok!
När morgonen gryr skall jag vålma mitt hö
och vittja tvåhundrade krok.
Fördöme dig, skymning, och drag nu din kos!
Det brinner i martallens topp!
Här dansar Calle Schewen med Roslagens ros,
Han dansar när solen går opp!

(chords as verse 1)

But hey, all you good friends who visit my isle,
I ’m not quite so mad as I look!
Tomorrow I’ll have my hay hung up to dry
and sift through my two hundred hooks.
It's time for you, night-time, to give up the ghost,
there’s fire in the pine's lofty top!
Calle Schewen is dancing with Roslagen’s rose,
         Am7        D6                 G
he’s dancing as sunrise comes up!

Evert Taube (1890 - 1976) is Sweden's most famous troubadour, and this is one of his best-loved songs. It was first published in the collection Ultramarin (1936). Essentially a troubadour means a singer/songwriter, though naturally the musical mode in Sweden in the 1920s is quite different from the US in the 1960s. Accordions, waltzes, tangos and polkas are the right sort of context.  Taube's delivery, like Dylan's, was almost sprechgesang - he left it to others to set his beautiful melodies free. Taube was the son of a Gothenberg (harbour) pilot, and the grandson of a ship's captain. "Taube" was a petty gentry-name; he was not working-class. He first attempted to make a career as an artist in Stockholm (c. 1906), but Taube's father, disturbed about his son's Bohemian excesses, ordered him to go to sea or get a proper job. He chose the sea, working across the world and eventually for five years in South America (mainly in Argentina on canals and irrigation works). Here he learnt the guitar (along with Spanish, French and Italian - to add to the English he'd already learned in North Shields). Back in Stockholm, where he worked as writer, journalist and illustrator, he made his first recordings  in 1918.

Calle Schewen's Waltz was a commissioned song in celebration of that gentleman, president of some sort of drinking club that Taube wanted to join - something like that, anyway. Like most reasonably well-off Stockholm clubmen, Calle Schewen had his own island on the archipelago. Older men pursuing much younger women, slightly creepily and on the whole unsuccessfully, is a common motif in Taube's songs. In this case I interpret the maid as imaginary throughout, perhaps ultimately becoming transformed into the spirit of the archipelago itself.

People say that the reason the song is so popular is its lyrical evocation of the short summer night of July. That's true, but it isn't just a matter of choice poetic expressions. The evocation depends for its effect on spacious but immaculate pacing, the seamless combination of narrative with waltz-form (episodes and all).

Live performance of Calle Schewens Vals by Peter Harryson , Skansen 2008:

The chords relate to my own rendering (below). I transposed the music from D to G. Then, because of the low notes in the fourth verse, I capo'd it up to B. I seem to have changed the melody a little, but not much.

Calle Schewen's Waltz by Michael Peverett

This is a free translation, the main aim is for it to be singable and make sense. Some details have disappeared from it: e.g. the fish is a bleak; the pine is a dwarf-pine, so its top isn't so very lofty.

"Roslagen" - refers in a general way to the northern part of the Stockholm archipelago. "Ros" means "rose" (as in the song's penultimate line), though that isn't the origin of the name. So it;s purely a coincidence that when I spent a week there in 2014 I was very struck by all the wild roses (they don't grow up in Norrland, the area of Sweden I know best).

"coffee-and-Crown"  - Crown (Kron) was a popular brand of brännvin (spiced grain vodka). Swedes still drink plenty of brännvin, but mixing it with coffee seems to have been a 1930s craze which subsequently fell out of favour.

Another English translation, from the site of the American Union of Swedish Singers.

More Evert Taube translations by me: 

Evert Taube, Rosa på bal / Rosa at the ball

Evert Taube, Sommarnatt / Summer Night

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