Transtromer festival continues with text of poem Schubertiana!

I’ve put up a clip of Transtromer talking about this and also reading it, in English, on my facebook Yvonne Cullen’s Writing Train. Here’s the text.

 

“Schubertiana” 

by Tomas Transtromer. (Trans. Kalle Raisanen) 

I. 

In the evening-dark of a place outside New York, a look-out point 

where one glance can encompass eight million people’s homes. 

The giant city over there is a long, flickering snow-drift, a spiral 

galaxy on its side. 

Inside the galaxy, coffee cups are slid over the counter, store-fronts 

beg with passers-by, a crowd of shoes that leave no traces. 

The climbing fire-escapes, the elevator doors gliding shut, behind 

locked doors a constant swell of voices. 

Sunken bodies half-sleep in the subway cars, the rushing cata- 

combs. 

I know, also — statistics aside — that right now Schubert is 

being played in some room over there and that to someone 

those sounds are more important than all those other things. 

I I. 

The human brain’s endless expanse crumpled into the size of a 

fist. 

In April, the swallow returns to its last-year’s-nest under the roof 

of that very barn in that very parish. 

She flies from the Transvaal, passes the equator, flies for six weeks 

over two continents, steers toward this dissappearing point in 

the land-mass. 

And the man who captures the signals of a whole life in some 

fairly ordinary chords by five strings 

the man who makes a river run through the eye of a needle 

is a fat young man from Vienna, called “Little Mushroom” by his 

friends, who slept with his glasses on 

and got punctually behind his writing desk each morning. 

At which the wonderful centipedes of music were set in motion. 

1

“Schubertiana” Tomas Transtr¨omer. (Trans. Kalle R¨ais¨anen) 

I I I. 

The five strings play. I walk home through tepid forests with the 

ground springing under me 

crawl up like an unborn, fall asleep, roll weightless into the future, 

suddenly feel that the plants have thoughts. 

IV. 

So much we have to trust, simply to live through our daily day 

without sinking through the earth! 

Trust the snow clinging to the mountain slope over the village. 

Trust the promises of silence and smiles of understanding, 

trust that the accident telegram isn’t for us and that the sudden 

axe-blow from within won’t come. 

Trust the wheel-axles that carry us on the highway in the middle 

of the three-hundred-times magnified bee swarm of steel. 

But none of that is really worth our confidence. 

The five strings say we can trust something else. 

Trust what? Something else, and they follow us part of the way 

there. 

As when the lights turn off in the stair-well and the hand follows 

— with confidence — the blind handrail that finds its way in 

the dark. 

V. 

We crowd in front of the piano and play four-handed in F-minor, 

two coachmen on the same carriage, it looks slightly ridicu- 

lous. 

Our hands seem to move clanging weights back and forth, as if 

we were touching the counter-weights 

in attempt at disturbing the terrible balance of the great scales: 

joy and suffering weigh exactly the same. 

Annie said, “This music is so heroic,” and it’s true. 

But those who glance enviously at the men of action, those who 

secretely despise themselves for not being murderers 

they don’t recognise themselves here. 

And those many who buy and sell people and think that everyone 

can be bought, they don’t recognise themselves here. 

2

 

Not their music. The long melody that remains itself through all 

changes, sometimes glittering and weak, sometimes rough and 

strong, snail-trails and steel wire. 

The insistant humming that follows us right now 

up the 

depths. 

 

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