Monday, October 10, 2016

Dan Andersson (1888-1920): "Visa" ("Song")

The river Pajso, in Dalarna

[Image source:]

With the kind of serendipity that I've noticed before when mixing up my reading on my travels, I find that Dan Andersson, the Swedish poet, translated Baudelaire (whose poems I was reading at around the same time), and died accidentally of hydrogen cyanide poisoning (which has a vague connection with my post on bitter almonds).

Andersson wrote music for some of his own lyrics. Many others have been turned into songs, as for instance on Sofia Karlsson's well-received 2005 album Svarta Ballader.

Here's the poem I melodized myself. I'm not the first to try it, though I haven't tracked down anyone else's music yet.


       C                     Am7
Min kärlek föddes i lustfyllt vår,
     F               A7       Dm        G
på strander av lekfullt dansande vatten,
       G#                              G            C
och vildhonung drack jag i ungdomens år
     C     Em7  Am  Em       G7    C
på äng  -  ar   våt  -  a av dagg i natten.

       C                         Am7
Min kärlek föddes vid Paiso älv,
      F         A7              Dm         G
där laxarna hoppa och gäddorna jaga.
        G#                              G            C
Där vart den en visa som sjöng sig själv,
     C     Em7  Am  Em       G7          C
en vild  -   es rus  - och en spelmans saga.

                       Dm7   G7                          C
Den sjöd i mitt blod             varje svallande vår,
 E7             Am7                  Dm7    G7  
på - nytt - född att locka och vinna,
                           Dm7    G7              C
den sjöng där all världen         i vinrus går
       F                        G7
och jord och himmlar brinna.

         C               Am7
Men aldrig mera älskar jag så
         F            A7             Dm      G
som i rosornas år, som vid Paisos vatten,
         G#                              G            C
min kärlek är gammal och börjar bli grå,
      C     Em7  Am  Em       G7          C
och hittar ej    vild - honung mera i natten.

C .. Am7
F A7 Dm  B7 Em
C  G
F6        C     Em7  Am  Em       G7          C


My love was born in pleasure-filled spring,
on shores of playful dancing water,
and I drank wild honey in the years of my youth
in meadows wet with the dew of the night.

My love was born beside the river Paiso,
where the salmon leap and the pike hunt.
It was a ballad that sang itself,
a wild intoxication and a minstrel's saga.

It seethed in my blood each burgeoning year,
new-born to entice and to attain,
it sang where the whole world reels with wine
and the earth and the heavens are burning.

But never more shall I love like that,
as in the years of the roses, beside Paiso's waters,
my love is old and begins to go grey,
and finds no more wild honey in the night.


C.D. Locock did a rhyming translation of this poem in A Selection from Modern Swedish Poetry (1929):

My love was born in the sweet of the year,
By the banks of a rippling, hurrying river;
Wild nectar I quaffed in my youth-days there,
In dew-drenched meads where the moonbeams quiver.

My love was born where the salmon leap
In Paiso's river of waters dancing;
And it grew to a melody sung in sleep,
A wild man's revel, a tale entrancing.

It seethed in my blood like a draught divine,
Born anew with each Spring's returning,
When the world goes reeling, as drunk with wine,
And Earth and Heaven are burning.

But never more have I loved as then
In the moon of roses by Paiso river;
My love goes grey, nor findeth again
Sweet nectar in meads where the moonbeams quiver.

Seeking to match the original's meter and rhyme, Locock was inevitably less than literal. The hunting pike have disappeared; on the other hand he introduces the quivering moonbeams. The latter is a desperate expedient to cope with the very commonplace rhyme in Swedish of "vatten" (water) with "natten" (the night). (Feminine rhymes are the norm in Swedish, but much more tricky in English.)


The river with the Finnish name Paiso or Pajso is near Grangärde in the Forest Finn region of southern Dalarna (one of a number of such regions in Sweden and Norway).

 On his father's side Andersson was himself a descendant of the Finnish migrants who came here in the 16th-17th centuries to cultivate new land (by slash and burn clearance).

The unique version of Savonian Finnish spoken by these settlers and their earlier descendants is now extinct, but the culture of the Forest Finns lives on:

They are a defined national minority and they have their own flag

Flag of the Forest Finns

Dan Andersson came from a poor background and is considered a proletarian author. His poems are still popular in Sweden.


Sofia Karlsson singing "Till my syster", words and music by Dan Andersson:

And here's one of Dan Andersson's Baudelaire translations, "Moesta et errabunda", performed by Sofia Karlsson with Göteborgs Symfoniker. The music is by Sofie Livebrant.

Baudelaire's original poem, along with some English translations:

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