Archive for December 17th, 2018

Monday, 17 December 2018

The House-Goblin (Tomten) by Abraham Viktor Rydberg

Cold is the night, and still, and strange,
Stars they glitter and shimmer.
All are asleep in the lonely grange
Under the midnight’s glimmer.
On glides the moon in gulfs profound;
Snow on the firs and pines around,
Snow on the roofs is gleaming.
All but the goblin are dreaming.

Gray he stands at the barnyard door,
Gray by the drifts of white there,
Looks, as oft he has looked before,
Up at the moon so bright there;
Looks at the woods, where the fir-trees tall
Shut the grange in with their dusky wall;
Ponders — some problem vexes,
Some strange riddle perplexes —

Passes his hand o’er beard and hair,
Shaking his head and cap then:
“Nay, that riddle’s too hard, I swear,
I’ll ne’er guess it mayhap then.”
But, as his wont is, he soon drives out
All such thoughts of disturbing doubt.
Frees his old head of dizziness.
And turns him at once to business.

First he tries if the locks are tight,
Safe against every danger.
Each cow dreams in the pale moonlight
Summer dreams by her manger.
Dobbin, forgetful of bits that gall,
Dreams like the cows in his well-filled stall,
Leaning his neck far over
Armfuls of fragrant clover.

Then through the bars he sees the sheep,
Watches how well they slumber.
Eyes the cock on his perch asleep,
Round him hens without number.
Carlo wakes at the goblin’s tread,
Wags then his tail and lifts his head;
Well acquainted the two are,
Friends that both tried and true are.

Last the goblin slips in to see
How all the folk are faring.
Long have they known how faithfully
He for their weal is caring.
Treading lightly on stealthy toes,
Into the children’s room he goes,
Looks at each tiny treasure:
That is his greatest pleasure.

So has he seen them, sire and son,
Year by year in that room there
Sleep first as children every one.
Ah, but whence did they come there?
This generation to that was heir,
Blossomed, grew old, and was gone — but where?
That is the hopeless, burning
Riddle ever returning.

Back to the barn he goes to rest,
Where he has fixed his dwelling
Up in the loft near the swallow’s nest,
Sweet there the hay is smelling.
Empty the swallow’s nest is now,
Back though he’ll come when the grass and bough
Bud in the warm spring weather,
He and his mate together.

Always they twitter away about
Places through which they’ve travelled,
Caring naught for the goblin’s doubt,
Though it were ne’er unravelled.
Through a chink in one of the walls
Moonlight on the old goblin falls,
White o’er his beard it wanders;
Still he puzzles and ponders.

Forest and field are silent all,
Frost their whole life congealing,
Save that the roar of the waterfall
Faintly from far is stealing.
Then the goblin, half in a dream,
Thinks it is Time’s unpausing stream,
Wonders whither ‘t is going,
And from what spring ‘t is flowing.

Cold is the night, and still, and strange,
Stars they glitter and shimmer.
All yet sleep in the lonely grange
Soundly till morn shall glimmer.
Now sinks the moon in night profound;
Snow on the firs and pines around,
Snow on the roofs is gleaming.
All but the goblin are dreaming.

From: Stork, Charles Wharton (ed. and transl.), Anthology of Swedish Lyrics From 1750 to 1915, 1917, The American-Scandinavian Society: New York, pp. 114-117.
(https://archive.org/details/anthologyofswedi00stor/)

Date: 1881 (original in Swedish); 1917 (translation in English)

By: Abraham Viktor Rydberg (1828-1895)

Translated by: Charles Wharton Stork (1881-1971)

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