Hällristningen

Flydda språk som ljöd kring offrens tjurar

Kan vi aldrig ana eller finna

Ord för skördeväder, hagelskurar,

har gått bort med ord för man och kvinna.

Hur lät namnet på den långa båten

revbenspantad, avklätt tydligt ristad.

Hur lät ordet mjölk, vad hette solen.

Hur lät kärlekssången, sinnesorden,

ord för ögon näsa mun och öra,

sommarorden som i språket levde,

vinterordens snö och höstens äpple?

Hur lät namnet på den tunga döden

Vi kan se, men vi kan inte höra.

This is a poem by Harry Martinson, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1976. I found it in the Vitlycke Museum and copied it out. The original is in Dikter om Ljus och Mörker which can be found and brought over the web from Swedish second hand bookshops. I don't much like my translation; but it is better than nothing.

The words that rang around the sacrificial bulls

have flown: we'll never hear them, can't imagine

the sounds for harvest weather, showers of hail:

They're dead, along with words for man and woman.

How did they sound the name they called their long boat

that's carved here with its naked wooden ribs?

We'll never hear what milk was, or the sun's name,

their love songs, words for senses, or the words

for eyes, nose, mouth and ear. How did they sound?

The words of summer that lived on their tongues,

their words for winter snow and autumn apples.

How did they sound the name of weighty death?

Here we can see that word; we cannot hear it.

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