The Fathers

Erik Axel Karlfeldt

From the poetry collection Wilderness and Love Songs from 1895.

Their names are not on the leaves of the heather
- ...they lived in squalor and peace...
but I can still see their long line
all up in the primordial gray time.
Yes, here in the old Iron Bear country
they broke fields on the banks of the river
and ore from the mine next door.
They knew not servitude, understood not mugs,
they sat like queens in their own house
and took their festive rest.
They kissed girls in the spring of life,
one was their faithful bride.
They honored the king, they feared God
and dogoed in silence, satiated with years.

My fathers! In the hour of pain and temptation
...I found strength in the thought of you.
As you have cherished and loved your inherited pound,
I want to smile contentedly at what fate brings.
At the beckoning abundance of pleasure
I have thought of your struggle, of your meagre bread:
do I have the right to ask for more?
It has cooled like bathing in the flowing river,
when against lust I fought myself tired,
it has taught me to fear my own flesh
more than the evil of the world and Satan himself.

My fathers, I see you in the hour of dreams,
and my soul is afflicted and weak.
I've been pulled like a herb from its seed,
half in need, half willing your cause I betrayed.
Now I capture the tones of summer and autumn
and gives them the playful voice of wisdom:
let go, it's also a mission.
But does my poem ever ring out
a song of storms and water jumps,
a thought manly and bold,
there are larkspur and spring light from poor heath
...and sighs from the depths of the forest...
you have sung it quietly through many ranks
by the sound of the axe, behind the fords and plough.

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