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Poems by Gunnar Ekelöf

Gunnar Ekeloef and Leif Sjoeberg, translated from the Swedish by W.H. Auden

Gunnar Ekelöf is considered one of the greatest lyric poets Sweden has produced. He was born in Stockholm in 1907, and died last year, at the age of sixty. His ashes were buried in Sardis. He published fifteen volumes of poetry, and translated Eliot, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Auden, Whitman, and Joyce into Swedish. A bilingual version of A Moelna Elegy: Metamorphosis (1960) will be published by Unicorn Press later this year.

The poems printed below are part of his last published work, the trilogy Diwan; Fatumeh; Vägvisare.

—Leif Sjöberg

Five times I saw the Shadow
And greeted her as we passed,
But the sixth time
In a narrow alley of the lower city
Suddenly she stood before me
Barring my way
And began to revile me
In the coarsest language
Then she asked:
“Why have you rejected me?
Why have you not lain with your Shadow?
Am I so repulsive?”
To which I answered:
“How can a man lie with his Shadow?
It is customary
To let it walk two paces behind him
Until the evening.”
She smiled scornfully
And pulled her black shawl tighter about her face:
“And after sunset?”
“Then a wanderer has two shadows,
One from the lantern he has just left behind him
And one from the lantern he is just approaching:
They keep changing places.”
She smiled scornfully and laid her hand on the neighboring wall:
“Then I am not your Shadow?”
I said: “I do not know whose shadow you are”
And meant to walk on
But, lifting her hand, she showed its black impression
In the moonlight on the white wall
And said again:
“Then I am not your Shadow?”
To which I answered:
“I see who you are.
It is for you to take me
Not for me to take you”
She smiled scornfully. “Beloved,” she said
“At your place? Or at mine?”
“At yours,” I answered.

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