The Global Human: Social Comments

Tomas Tranströmer (1931–2015)

Posted in Poetry by Solveig Hansen on 2015/03/28

Tomas Tranströmer, Swedish poet and winner of Nobel Prize in Literature (2011), has died at the age of 83. He was known as a master of metaphors, capturing the corners of the human mind and adding a sense of wonder to the journey of life.

Sometimes we need to land and warm ourselves, even only for a while. “There’s so much we must be witness to,” he wrote in Summer Meadow, “Reality wears us so thin, but here is summer at last: a large airport – the controller brings down planeload after planeload of frozen people from outer space.”

His poems often have a religious quality to them. In Romanesque Arches, we are reminded that we are always underway, constantly creating and recreating ourselves, opening “vault behind vault,” like in a cathedral. “You’ll never be complete, and that’s as it should be.”

Enjoy Romanesque Arches, translated by Robert Bly, read by Rudi A. Bach, music by Jan Garbarek and The Hilliard Ensemble:

 
Romanesque Arches

By Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly

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 ashamed 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.
 

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