Arnulf Øverland, the Norwegian poet. His maybe most powerful poem. “You must not sleep!”
In this video, he reads out the poem himself.
His voice and the soulfulness in it…….. it gives me goose bumps.
Together with the words, he makes me cry. Time and time again.
Such clarity of thought. Communicated with such depth of feeling.
He has my total respect and admiration.
This video has English sub titles.
The visual side of it is…. okay, but lacking in my view. Too monotonous. A bit lazy.
Here is an other version of the visual side. Which has some good ideas and some ideas I don´t get.
The music set to it is emotionally fitting in my view. And we get the poem in writing. Which I always appreciate in videos of things where the words carry important meaning.
Here is an English translation of the poem.
Written by Lars-Toralf Storstrand
Dare not to sleep!
I was awakened one morning, by the quaintest of dreams
‘twas like a voice, spoken to me
It sounded afar – like an underground stream,
I rose and said: Why do you call me?
Dare not to slumber! Dare not to sleep!
Dare not believe, it was merely a dream!
Yore I was judged.
The gallows were built in the court this evening,
They’ll come for me — 5’ in the morning
This dungeon is teeming,
And barracks stand dungeon by dungeon
we lie here, awaiting, in cold cells of stone,
We lie here, we rot, in these murky holes.
We know not ourselves, what does lie ahead
Who will be the next one they’ll reach for.
We moan and we shriek: But do you take heed?
Is there none among you who’ll hearken?
No one can see us,
None know what befalls us.
None will believe – what the day will bring us!
And then You defy: This dare not be true!
That men can be utterly evil.
There has to be some one with merits pure
Oh, brother, you still have a great deal to learn
They said: You will give your life, if commanded
We’ve given it now, for naught it was handed
The world has forgotten, we’ve all been deceived
Dare not to sleep in this hour – this eve.
You oughtn’t go to your business hence,
Or think: What’s your loss – or what is your gain?
You oughtn’t attribute your fields and your kine,
Nor say you’ve enough – with all that is thine.
You oughn’t abide, sitting calm in your home
Saying: Dismal it is, poor they are, and alone
You cannot permit it! You dare not, at all.
Accepting that outrage on all else may fall!
I cry with the final gasps of my breath:
You dare not repose, nor stand and forget
Pardon them not – they know what they do!
They breathe on hate-glows, and evil pursue,
They fancy to slay, they revel with cries,
Their desire is to gloat, when our world is at fire!
In blood they are yearning to drown one and all!
Don’t you believe it? You’ve heard the call!
You know how infants will soldiers remain,
While dashing through streets, fields, chanting ‘bout pain
Aroused by their mothers‘ assurance of glory
They’ll shelter their land – and they’ll never worry
You know the fatality of the lies,
that glory and faith and honor abides
You discern the dauntless dreams of a child,
A saber, a banner, he’ll flaunt them so wild,
And then they’ll leave home for a rainfall of steel,
‘Till last they hang ragged on barbed wire will,
Decaying for Hitler’s Aryan call,
That is what a man’s for – after all…
I couldn’t imagine – too late now it is
My sentence is just: The verdict’s no miss
I believed in prosperity, dreamt about peace
In labor and fellowship; love’s fragrant kiss
Yet those who don’t die on the battlefield,
Their heads for the axeman, will certainly yield
I cry in the gloom – if only you’d knew
There is but one thing – befitting to do
Defend yourself, while your hands are still yearning,
Protect your offspring – Europe is burning.
I shook from the chill. To dress, up I rose
Without stars were shining, so far, yet so close
‘twere simply a brilliant ray in the east,
Admonishing warning from the dream that just ceased
The day that soared up from earths furthermost strand
Augmenting with blood — and with firebrand
It grew with terror – like a breath that was lost
It seemed like the starlight – was slain by the frost.
I weighed: Something is imminent – and it’s dire
Our era is over — Europe’s on fire!
Arnulf Øverland, «Den Røde Front», Tiden Norsk Forlag 1937.
Translated by Lars-Toralf Storstrand.
I finish this post with one last videoclip, of the man himself, Arnulf Øverland.
Being interviewed by a Danish journalist.
No English sub titles here.
But it gives you an impression of this brave poet.
Remember he published his poem first time in 1936, while Hitler´s fascism was on the rise.
In the interview he talks about how, when he was young, poetry was all about “feeling the spring, being one with the nature”, the subject matter was flowers and love, but he felt at that time that poetry should be about things people had a need, a craving, to hear about.
He thought it was a poets task to bring the public and litterature closer to eachother, to connect with the reader, and touch on important social issues, such as f.ex. the poverty which was a big part of Norwegian´s lives at that time.
He also talks about the tendency of modernist poets to drop rhymes and rhythm, and says it can have its use, but rhythm has such a strong effect, that it´s strange to him they choose to drop it to the extent they do.
And he thinks that once the meaning of a poem becomes cloudy and the reader has to guess what the writer has meant, and even the writer may not himself have a clear vision of the meaning in his words… then he cries off, he says.
But he says he is an old man now, one becomes milder with age, soon he will go to heaven, so he is practicing being good, and does therefore not want to critisize the young people but allow them to continue their own path until they themselves discover it can be a good thing to write so that the reader can understand what they mean.
And there are already signs, he says, that some of the young ones are trying to work with rhyme and rhythm again, with good outcome…
One of the greatest Norwegian poets. Arnulf Øverland.