DAGERMAN’S DAILY DOSES
Over the course of seven years, Stig Dagerman published almost on a daily basis verse poems in the Syndicalist Arbetaren (The Worker). They were headlined Dagerman’s Dagsedel (Dagerman’s Daily Doses) and commented on current affairs. The rhymed poems were often bitingly satirical, but style and mood varied, and sometimes they became lyrical meditations on topics more far-reaching and general. Dagerman came to pen over 1,300 dagsedlar. In spite of his struggle with writer’s block related to other assignments (novels, articles), he was always able to deliver his verse poems. The unpretentious, short format, requiring immediate delivery, allowed him to be impressionistic and playful, fashioning rhymes as he saw fit.
Dagerman’s dagsedlar gained much popularity during his life-time and could be heard, read by Stig himself, on a Saturday night radio show. Listen But no collection of dagsedlar was published until after Dagerman’s death, his publisher worried that they were not sufficiently literary. However, when a selection was finally released, Dagsedlar received much popular acclaim, and many of the poems have for Swedes become the hallmark of Dagerman’s writing. The Stig Dagerman Award committee, for example, uses his poem ”En dag om året” (One Day a Year) as the headline for its annual ceremony. And a long list of Swedish musicians , of all styles and genres, have been inspired to put Dagerman’s dagsedlar to music. Listen to one example here.
Flykten valde oss
Fågeln väljer flykten. Vi valde den icke.
Flykten valde oss. Därför är vi här.
Ni som ej blev valda – men ändå frihet äger,
hjälp oss att bära den tunga flykt vi bär!
Bojan väljer foten. Vi valde att vandra.
Natten var barmhärtig. Nu är vi här.
Ni är för många, kanske den frie trygge säger.
Kan vi bli för många som vet vad frihet är?
Ingen väljer nöden. Vi valde den icke.
Den valde oss på vägen. Nu är vi här.
Ni som ej blev valda! Vi vet vad frihet väger!
Hjälp oss att bära den frihet som vi bär!
April 21, 1953
Flight Sought Us Out
A bird seeks flight. We did not.
Flight sought us out. That’s why we’re here.
You who were not sought out – yet possess your freedom,
Help us carry the heavy load of flight!
A shackle seeks a foot. We chose to go forth.
The night was merciful. Now we are here.
You are too many, might say those who are free and safe.
Can there be too many who know what freedom is?
No one seeks destitution. We did not.
It sought us out along the way. Now we are here.
To you who weren’t sought out: We know the weight of
Help us carry the load of being free!
Stig Dagerman’s “Flykten valde oss” (Flight Sought Us Out) has of late received much attention in Sweden. It was originally a commentary on the massive flows of refugees following WWII, but has found new relevance through the current European refugee crisis. The poem has been widely quoted, recited and sung , channeling sentiments in support of refugees and immigrants seeking entry to Sweden. The poem is also often used in teaching Swedish as a second language. Listen to three adolescents from different parts of the world reading ”Flykten valde oss” on youtube.
The dagsedel to the right, “Höst”(Autumn) – a mediation on life’s passing – was written only weeks before Dagerman’s death. It was published on October 26, 1954. The last lines of the poem, inscribed onto his tomb stone, read: “To die is to briefly journey from branch to onto solid ground.
Inspired by the current abortion debate, in which a learned professor informed us of how many regiments had been lost to the country’s armed forces as a result of abortions.
Sleep my baby, don’t be sad
cause you’ve got no Mom or Dad.
Time will heal such trifles.
Dream of battles myriad,
dream of guns and rifles.
Listen to the bugle’s call!
Dream away: you’re still too small
for marching into battle.
When you’re big you’ll see it all
and have your own death rattle.
Sleep, my baby, do not cry;
there’s time before you need to sigh
And moan and bleed, God willing.
All of us are born to die,
and some to do the killing.
March 3, 1953 Translation by Laurie Thompson
Almost four hundred people are reported
missing in Sweden every year.
A brother’s reported as absent.
A sister’s gone without a trace.
She speaks with a local accent,
And he has a scar on his face.
He belongs to the young generation,
And she is not very old.
That’s all. There’s no more information.
Oh, yes: it’s getting quite cold.
From the chill, barren wasteland that’s out there
Comes no sound save an anguished bird’s cry.
Four hundred souls are there somewhere:
They could easily be you or I.
March 12, 1954
Translation by Laurie Thompson
The Holy City
On Christmas Eve two small children froze
to death in a Rome slum.
The Holy City was frozen,
The holy night chilly as sin.
Two children froze stiff in a hovel:
They couldn’t find room at the inn.
The stars kept on shining so brightly;
No shepherds came seeking a stall,
There were no three kings; no one noticed
An occurrence of interests at all.
It happens quite rarely that angels
Come singing their songs at your door.
The Holy City was frozen,
But Holy, the same as before.
December 28, 1950.
Translation by Laurie Thompson
Translations and Editions
- Swedish Dagsedlar, Federativs förlag 1954; Prisma 1966; Norstedts 1983, 1990, 2017
- English Pithy Poems, The Lampeter Translation Series: 4, Wales, 1989. Translation by Laurie Thompson.
Daily Doses, Lampeter, Wales, 1990. Translation by Laurie Thompson.
- French Billets Quotidiens, Éditions Cent Pages, 2002. Translation by Philippe Bouquet.
In his preface to the Swedish 2017 edition of Dagsedlar, the Syrian
poet Adonis writes:
In your name many children ask:
Who will now write us a story that begins with that of which
you’ve already spoken:
“Once upon a time there was a street where all the houses were
Once upon a time there was a grown-up who didn’t carried a
gun.” (from Fräulein Saga April 9, 1953)
(excerpt, translated by Lo Dagerman)
Den hemlösa människan
Haren har sitt husrum i skogen
Och igeln har bo på sten
Och musen har våning på logen
Och fågeln som känt på en gren.
Men husvill blir Svensson rätt snarligt.
Ja, Svensson har mindre tur
Och detta är mycket förklarligt
ty Svensson är inte ett djur.
Fåglarna kvittrar i bona
Och ekorren gnor i sin topp
Och ingen betalar en krona
för att ha ly för sin kropp
I lä för stormar och fara
var svärdfisk får vila sitt svärd.
Hemlös är människan bara
i människans konstiga värld.
October 11, 1950
The hare has its home in the forest
and the leech dwells on a rock
the mouse rooms in the barn loft
And the bird as we know on a branch.
Mr. Smith, however, is homeless.
His luck is considerably less.
It has its obvious explanation
as Mr. Smith isn’t a beast.
The birds chirp in their tree nests
the squirrel enjoys his view
and none pays a single dinero
for shelter of body and soul.
In safety from storms and peril
A swordfish can rest its sword.
Only man is the one going homeless
In his weird man-made world.
translation Lo Dagerman
Den nya kärleken
Två mekaniska sköldpaddor – deras hjärnor
Är elektriska och ögonen fotoceller – har
blivit förälskade i varan och reagerar nu
häftigt på varje försök att skilja dem åt.
Och det är alltid en tröst.
Gott att den finns någonstans.
Vad människors ögon är kalla
mot fotocellernas glans!
The New Love
Two mechanical turtles – their brains electrical
and their eyes photocells – have fallen in love
and now violently react to every attempt at
Your tears get cold, Kassandra.
A fridge is the human breast.
But the machines love each other.
And that is a comfort, at least.
We all need consolation.
Good that it can somewhere be found.
How human eyes look frosty
beside photocells’ brilliant glow!
Hur lätt illusioner förödas!
Nu vet vi vad robotar vet:
De ädlaste känslor födas
bäst med elektricitet!
Roboten stiger ur arken,
Stumt längtande efter att bli far.
Poliser, låt utrymma parken
för elekriskt älskande par!
Bryt icke strömmen för andra.
Stor sak att ej kärleken dör.
Maskinerna älskar varandra.
Det är mer än människor gör.
October 27, 1950
Illusions die quite easily!
We now know what robots know:
The noblest of feelings are born
with the help of electricity!
The robot descends from the ark,
with a mute desire to reproduce.
Officers, clear out the park
for electrically love-struck couples!
Don’t cut the power for others.
It’s of import that love doesn’tdie.
The machines love each other.
That’s beyond what humans can do.
Translation Lo Dagerman