Poetry by Knut Hamsun

With Red Roses

With hands outstretched I am knelt
despite having heard your nay.
Take these flowers with gratitude felt
for with them you adorned my way.
I behold you now like these roses aflame
though my eyes you refuse to meet;
perhaps for you many memories came
some of sorrow and some sweet.

Your tears like rain left my mind in a haze
your smile was my sun anon,
you created upon the earth beauty with your ways,
and my soul in your garden lives on.
It flowers—it flowers in that garden today
and with a fragrant plea.
O come, and cast all your sorrow away,
and keep my love only!

In One Hundred Years All Is Forgotten

Tonight I’m adrift, conflicted, and in doubt,
I feel like a capsized boat,
and for all I suffer and moan about
I have found no antidote.
***But why should I feel so rotten?
***In one hundred years all is forgotten.

I sing songs and prance about in pride
and live my life as a beautiful novel.
Like a full-grown troll I eat at God’s side
and drink like the Devil’s apostle.
***And why not live a life so misbegotten?
***In one hundred years all is forgotten.

It is best to end this struggle without delay
and to the sea with my tormented soul I will head.
There the world will find me one day
by the bitterest of drownings dead.
***But why come to an end so ill-gotten?
***In one hundred years all is forgotten.

No, it is better to wander on and stay alive
and write a new book every year
and for the noblest lines continue to strive
until I die a writer of great revere.
***If that’s all there is, where then do I begin:
***In one hundred years all is forgotten.

The Skerry

The boat glides now
towards a skerry,
an isle in the sea
with luxuriant shores.
Flowers grow there
never before seen,
they stand like strangers
and watch me moor.

My heart has become
a fabulous garden
with flowers like these
on the island now.
They talk with one another
and whisper strangely,
like children meeting
with laughter and bows.

Perhaps I was here
at the dawn of time
as a white Spiraea
waiting to be found.
I know that fragrance
from long ago,
it makes me tremble,
that memory profound.

I close my eyes,
the recollection fades
my head onto
my shoulder falls.
The night is thickening
over the island,
the sea is thundering—
Nirvana’s thunder calls.

Let Spring Sound Out Over the Earth

I do not know why
my heart feels not right,
It keeps me awake
this sluggish night.

Now pounding my pulse,
like a hound crying,
Now it lies quiet,
as though it were dying.

I lift the curtain:
azure is the day,
From the bathhouse eaves
the icicles gently sway.

I move softly through the fields
and listen to its ring,
So strange and trembling
the music of spring.

Spring comes on nicely in the fields,
the animals awakening to giggle and flirt,
the fir trees all cracking with resin,
that life’s elixir dripping into the dirt.
The stars above silent and pale as comes the day,
The birds below now beginning to play.

It brightens everywhere
as one by one the stars homeward return,
and from beyond the world’s edge
a vast fire breaks forth to burn.
The sun, the sun, God’s flaming eye,
resting upon a river on high.

By what sorcery is the Earth aroused?
All its bosoms heaving,
all its limbs stirring,
and all hearts hard beating.
Morning mist rises from the river along,
to much howling and brawling, a tumult in song.

Behold, spring comes to the valley.
The lean bear awakens from sleep to roar,
and high over the western mountains
the royal eagle does soar.
In all houses is preparation on for the youth
to wed in chastity and truth.

Let spring sound out over the Earth!
And within this music of nature so vast
comes a humming from my heart,
of thanks for each spring gone past.
My chest throbs to its hoofbeats and cheers,
and my eyes well up with tears.


Knut Hamsun

Knut Hamsun (1859-1952) was born in Gudbrandsdalen, Norway, and grew up in poverty in Hamarøy in Nordland, north of the Arctic Circle. His novels Hunger (1890), Mysteries (1892), and Pan (1894) established his position as one of Norway’s preeminent novelists, with Hunger widely regarded as the first modern novel. He went on to publish verse dramas, travelogues, and a book of poetry. His later masterpiece Growth of the Soil (1917), for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1917, expressed his belief that farming the soil, as opposed to city life and civilization, would best lead to man’s fulfillment. Hamsun died in poverty, ostracized by Norwegian society for his association and support of Nazi Germany during the second World War.

Peter Dahlstrand

Peter Dahlstrand (b. 1975) was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin of Swedish descent. He received an education in philosophy and finance and lived some years abroad in France before returning to the United States to work as a futures trader. His success as a trader, but increasing disinterest in the profession, led to extensive travel in South America as well as work in Alaska as a commercial fisherman and truck driver. He assisted in the translation of Correspondence: The Letters of Albert Camus and Jean Grenier and is in the process of preparing a philosophical work and various literary works for publication.

English translation copyright (c) Peter Dahlstrand, 2017.