Gunnar Wennerberg: Translations by Jerome Berglund

The camp follower.[i]

              She sets up her table during the break.

 Like the bird I am merry and free,

Though bent over my baskets which annoy;

Keep the canteen running properly

For the troupe; that is my only great joy.

If it marches, I shall be marching too,

With steady steps to the beat of the drum.

And when it does pause, I also rest, whew!

And take up a cheerful song, will I hum.




Then they will sit down in a circle with glee

Jokes and gab about their marching orders bellow,

The goblet is passed around the assembly;

“Cash reimbursement I shall have, my good fellows!”  

But my soldier, who stands by me grizzled,

Reprobate that he is, wets his whistle

And every bit

Takes on credit. . .

                         Signal to break camp is heard.

                                Wrap it up!

                                Now jump to it.

Hustle you gits,

Look alive private!

Hurry up!

Artillery. . . into formation, split!


But he’ll probably be my husband . . . ja ha!

Then the market center ceases to be;

With elation I then do shout: hoorah!

For the whole, the entire company.





On a palace[ii] balcony in Venice on the Grand Canal at twilight, Enrico and Anna are waiting for their gondola.




Behold, signora, look at the singular way

Past the skerries moon is upward running;

The wind is dormant, the waves silent on the bay . . .

Will the gondolier not be coming?




The hour at which he was to be expected,

Has passed; however, we will still allow

Another, until tonight's fog is projected

Slowly lowers, around Brenta,[iii] its shroud.


              Enrico impatient.


Are there not crowded at docks round the moat

Surfeit of gondolas for your subpoena?

Why must you then wait for specific boat,

Manned by that oarsman who is from Fusina?[iv]




Because I remember, in Santa Clara[v]

In our youthful days so carefree

How we would sing sacred songs by Caldara[vi] . . .

Therefore, his rowing pleases me.




Cara Anna,[vii] that average gondolier

Does ill deserve so excessive an appraising:

Is not, for coxswain who can merely steer

Through the lagoons, a fickle disposition king?




But, Enrico, I must remind you as graceful

As can you yourself once said, agreeing:

“Few gondoliers today are near as faithful

As he, and are contented so being”.




Yes, I thought so then . . . But, now Anna please,

Look out at the sea, a storm brews in this locale

Clouds move in from Fusina on a breeze . . .


            Both anxiously.


It is getting dark on Venice’s Grand Canal –




And a boat, as this murky dusk envelopes,

Easily capsizes on unseen rocks I fear.




Say prayer with me then, that San Marco[viii] helps,

And can forgive trespasses of the gondolier![ix]




San Marco, please help the gondolier!



The shepherd girl.

                    On the road leading up to the woodland’s entrance.


These hardships cause me much distress![x]

These hardships!

Far away within the forest,

Everything is in bloom, verdant grass to you can be blessed.

Such hardships!


But a wolf thereabouts rests

So horrible, whose size does impress,

   “With teeth he gnaws best,”

 Mother does attest,

    “And stares at guests,” 

   Continues her address,

 “And has such long claws to invest.”

“So, so long!” mother expressed.


These hardships cause me much distress!

These hardships!

Far away within the forest

Likely lives one who, with longer claws, could us protect.

Such hardships!






[i] According to Av Christer Johansson, ‘markententerskor were women who ‘in various ways lived and worked close to the staff of the armed forces, both in peacetime and in wartime. This group of people consisted of the wives of officers and soldiers and their servants, who cobbled shoes, laundered clothing, and orchestrated the mess hall.’
[ii] One of the central landmarks in Northern Italy, built in the Gothic style, where Republic's highest authority the Doge once resided.
[iii] A river that runs to the Adriatic sea, immediately south of the lagoon in Venice, from Trentino. 
[iv] Neighborhood in the Veneto region.  The etymology of its name translates roughly to 'workshop of slipping', referencing its role as a liminal place of transition – where a machine allowed marine crafts to migrate between the Lagoon and the river Brenta, which the borough resides at the ancient mouth of.
[v] The Basilica di Santa Chiara is a church in the town of Assisi in central Italy, which contains the remains of Saint Clare, celebrated disciple of Saint Francis who founded the Order of Poor Ladies.
[vi] Antonio Caldara is a Venetian composer in the baroque style, who began as a chorister at St Mark's Basilica and rose to many illustrious positions.  He wrote many operas, including ‘Faithfulness in love conquers treachery’, whose aria 'Sebben, crudele' ('Although cruel') – in which a noble waxes poetically upon his wife's infidelity – remains popular and is still performed in concerts, and has been recorded by the likes of Baker, Gigli, and Bartoli.
[vii] Italian for:                        ‘Dear Anna.
[viii] One of the six areas (subdivisions termed ‘sestieri’) the historic city of Venice is divided into.  This region is highly frequented by tourists due to its containing many famous landmarks, including Saint Mark's Basillica and Square, numerous important churches and Palazzos.  Contemporarily, it has figured as a colorful backdrop into numerous video games, such as the second Assassin's Creed and the classic arcade brawler Tekken.
Mark the evangelist and saint is the author to which the eponymous gospel is ascribed authorship traditionally.  Purportedly, he was the founder of the Alexandrian church in Egypt, a stronghold which proved of critical strategic import to the growth of Christianity at its advent.  A winged lion is used to represent him symbolically, and he has a feast day celebrated in late April.  It's worth noting another of the four evangelists, Luke, is shrewdly referenced in the first poem in this section.
[ix] Figuratively, the overdue boatmen they await is presumably Charon, who ferries newly arrived souls over the river Styx to Hades.
[x]Kovalle mina kor!’ and ‘Kovall!’ are Finnish, and translate more simply to ‘Hard for me’ and ‘Hard! 

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