From My Commonplace Book - 59

Romanesque Arches

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.


What a lovely piece Merry, from the Romanesque to angels (nice to know they are still around - and they are - fairly rare perhaps).
Enid, I'm happy that you like the poem. I appreciate you leaving a comment. You are an angel.

L'engle, too, is an angel.
Ha, ha, me an angel. You are nice, Enid. I do in fact own a pair of gossamer wings, white with blue spots. For now the wings are in the hope chest because I have not figured out how, with the wings on, to get off the ground.
Do angels have to get off the ground blue spots and all on gossamer ??? Keep them in your chest Merry ..... view as you please. !.
Enid;bt6869 said:
Do angels have to get off the ground blue spots and all on gossamer ??? Keep them in your chest Merry ..... view as you please. !.

You're right, Enid. Flight of fancy on my part to think that wings in my hope chest make me an angel. Now that I've given this some more thought, I've decided that rather than an angel, I am more likely a beetle and one that has evolved to the point that the wings have atrophied and are too weak to get my leaden beetle weight off the ground.

(Apologies for my silliness here that undermines, surely, the beauty of Tomas Transformer's poem. )
And beetles lovely coming out here (cautiously along with very wobbly bumblebees - don't I know it - reincarnation and all the rest of it ?). Still a lovely poem. And keep your angels.

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