by Tomas Transtromer
Tourists have crowded into the half-dark of the enormous Romanesque church.
Vault opening behind vault and no perspective.
A few candle flames flickered.
An angel whose face I couldn't see embraced me
and his whisper went all through my body:
"Don't be afraid to be a human being, be proud!
Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.
You'll never be complete, and that's as it should be."
Tears blinded me
as we were herded out into the fiercely sunlit piazza,
together with Mr. and Mrs. Jones, Herr Tanaka and Signora Sabatini;
within each of them vault after vault opened endlessly.
In 2011 Tomas Transtromer (Swedish, born 1931) won the Nobel Prize in Literature. For much of his adult life he worked as a psychologist, mainly serving juvenile offenders. In 1990 he suffered a stroke that left him without use of his right hand and unable to talk. He has continued to write and to play the piano with his left hand. This translation of "Romanesque Arches" is by Robert Bly and comes from the collection he selected and translated, The Half-Finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Transtromer. American poet Robert Bly and Tomas Transtromer have been friends since the 1950s.
From My Commonplace Book - 59
Blog entry posted by Merry, Mar 24, 2012.