Carl Sandburg’s “Chicago” translated into danish with love, respect and awe.                  And then some.

Up till then my acquaintance with Mr. Sandburg seemed as minuscule as those cars milling by down there like ants at the foot of what then still was respectfully called The Sears Tower. Since then a new tenant has gained the right to deface it by sticking its name to the façade and title. It is now known as The Willis Tower and that only makes sense when it rains, because then it’s wet. The building is still a good symbol for the only line I by then had heard of Sandburg’s poem though: “big shoulders”. On the skydeck at the top of that majestic skyscraper there were a few more lines of the poem and in the following years I collected more lines and I learned what that poem ment to the city and its citizens. When I read it, I get it. I can see, feel and smell Chicago in those lines, I recognize the smiles and I hear the demeanor of its voice. I am very lucky that it welcomes me over and over again. Because I love it. It makes me feel at home.

Being half-bred by a german and a Dane and brought up literally on and around the border of those two nations, makes me belong to a minority in both places always and forever and because of that I like to think that I possess an inherent duality when it comes to, not only the languages, but also in my sense of nationality. The soil of my childhood has my principal pride but the geography of my soul has been taught to be tolerant of others, accepting of differences and sensitive to the bigotry of xenophobia for more or less the same reasons. As all that background to my essential integrity slowly decays in contemporary danish culture, idiocy becoming standard, intellect rendered duller by the second and politics growing backwards to the standards of the Europe of 1940’s,  Chicago steps in with new lessons for me to learn. I travel far just to find myself. For that I’d like to express my gratitude towards this new city-home of mine, where diversity is a virtue and a means to an end rather than a source of discontent and fear, by taking Sandburgs words to one of my mother tongues.

Maybe there’s hope for rotten Denmark. Maybe one day it’ll reconcile with its dwarfishness, realize the sun outside the cave and maybe find a gentle giants shoulders to climb. Maybe this 100-year-old poem can’t be understood by a Dane that hasn’t traveled. Maybe I’ll translate it to german then.

CHICAGO
Du slagter af svin til verden,
værktøjsmager, ophober af hvede,
jernbanens hersker og mellemmand for Amerikas gods.
Du urolige, hæse, larmende
by af brede skuldre.
De fortæller mig, at du er ond, og jeg tror dem,
for jeg har set dine letkøbte kvinder lokke bonderøvene under gadens lys.
Og de fortæller mig, at du er uærlig, og jeg svarer:
Ja, det er rigtigt, for jeg har set dine pistolmænd dræbe
bare for at gå fri og dræbe igen.
Og de fortæller mig, at du er brutal og mit svar er:
På ansigterne af kvinder og børn
genkender jeg de mærker din hensynsløse sult efterlader.
Og efter at have svaret således vender jeg mig atter en gang mod dem
der vrænger af denne min by, vrænger tilbage og siger til dem:
Kom an og vis mig bare én anden by der med løftet hoved synger så stolt
over at være i live og så rå og så stærk og så snedig.
Som kaster sine magnetiske forbandelser i grams,
midt i sliddet af job efter job.
Høj, dristig og hårdtslående har du her en fighter
i lysende kontrast til de små bløde byer;
Glubsk som en hund med tungen ud af halsen, slubrer du efter handling,
snedig som en vildmand der kæmper mod ødemarken,
barhovedet,
skovler du,
du bryder op,
du planlægger,
du bygger, river ned, genopbygger.
Under røgen med støv i hele fjæset, ler du med hvide tænder.
Under skæbnens frygtelige byrde, griner du som kun en ung mand griner.
Latter som kun en uvidende slagsbroder griner, der aldrig har tabt en kamp,
skrydende og grinende, fordi under hans håndled er der stadig en puls
og under hans ribben banker folkets hjerte,
grinende!
Du griner ungdommens urolige, hæse, larmende grin.
Halvnøgen, svedende
og stolt af at være slagter af svin, værktøjsmager, hvedens ophober,
jernbanernes hersker og mellemmand for Amerikas gods.

Advertisements

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s