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Karlfeldt - poem and life

Erik Axel Karlfeldt. Photo: the Nordic Museum (CC BY-NC-ND)

Lars Anders Johansson is a bourgeois debater and also a musician. Through his music I have come into contact with the poet Erik Axel Karlfeldt. I became interested in his compositions and wanted to learn more.

This summer we went past Tolvmangården in Avesta, where Karlfeldt grew up and where books were on sale. I'm not used to reading poetry, but I hoped that reading a book about Karlfeldt would bring me closer to his poetry. So I bought Karlfeldt - Poem and life by Staffan Bergsten.

Karlfeldt - poem and life

Wikipedia page about Karlfeldt shows a dramatic life and therefore I was very curious. The book's approach is to tell about Karlfeldt's poetry primarily, but the poetry is woven into a fine biography. We get to follow Karlfeldt through his life and see how his poetry developed.

One thing that fascinated me is that all Karlfeldt's poems follow a strict verse and rhyme scheme, like in songs. The poems are like songs without melody.

In the book we learn that Karlfeldt was a womanizer, and had a destructive relationship with his sexuality. He sabotaged his career several times by entering into inappropriate relationships with women.

Sexuality is also present in his poetry. Karlfeldt thus resembled the music stars of his time.

We visited this summer The Zorn Museum in Mora, which by the way was absolutely fantastic. Zorn and Karlfeldt were good friends with similar ideals of masculinity and both were ladies' men.

My approach was successful - I'm extremely curious to tackle Karlfeldt's poetry. I highly recommend this book, not only for the poetry but also for education about what the early 20th century was like.

Here's a poem that was printed in its entirety in the book - Sub Luna.

Sub luna amo.
Dark is my bride,
burns in brown evenings,
dancing in moonlight,
smells like nightglow
under a corn lightning cloud,
cools like the morning dew,
gears as below and new.

Sub luna bibo.
Dark is my beer,
black malted barley its kernel,
the foam as moon glitter flour.
Thoughts and laughter
hover around the pitcher's round,
float like leather flaps,
float like gold leaf in the grove.

Sub luna canto.
Dark is my song,
sighs like waves in the reeds,
rolls as the firing progresses,
stands up defiantly,
sinks back heavy,
ebbs its time and flows,
old and painfully young.

Sub luna vivo.
Dark is my life,
small and common in destinies,
sorrows and pastimes.
Gladly I share
perishable lot of things,
happy to suffer and enjoy
the full measure of life on earth.

Sub luna morior.
Dark is my grave.
Give me to nameless peat
or to wind and sea:
rest in the mole,
or a cut dust,
fluttering like my desire
fluttered towards the moonlit ceiling.

The book available on google books for those who want to read digitally.

First published on

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