Cornelis Vreeswijk – “Till Linnea Via Leonard Cohen” (For Linnea Via Leonard Cohen).

Hey people! 🙂

Today I thought that I’d share with you one of the songs that Cornelis Vreeswijk wrote to a woman called Linnea. All these Linnea songs are more or less erotically charged, and I always liked to think that this Linnea is at least based on his second wife – the actress Bim Warne – whose actual name was Birgitta Gunvor Linnea, and because I’ve always got the impression that, despite all the usual relationship storminess that was pretty much the norm in his life, his relationship with Bim was best out of his three wives. Besides, the album “Linneas Fina Visor” (Linnea’s Fine Songs) on which most if not all (can’t remember exactly) of the Linnea songs were released, came out when they were still a couple. And I still don’t know whether that is actually the case, but years later I read something that implied quite strongly that it’s possible. Especially that he based a lot of his characters on real life people. There’s also another version of this song called Till Gunnel. Honestly though, I’ve always been intrigued by what’s Leonard Cohen got to do with this, and I can only assume that, since Vreeswijk borrowed a lot of songs or melodies or motives etc. from other artists who wrote and/or sang in other languages, that includes “Nancy” by Cohen, so perhaps in some way it’s also the case with this one, perhaps it’s based on some song that was originally Leonard Cohen’s or something like that. But because I don’t really have much of an idea about Leonard Cohen’s music, I’ve no idea if this is true.

I thought I wouldn’t be able to write a translation for this, but I did it, and it wasn’t even all that difficult, though I did have several issues witt it. There’s one line that I absolutely cannot make out what it’s supposed to mean so I had no better option than to leave it out. In some places I feel like my English wording is a little off but I had no better ideas. Then there is the line that I translated as “Of my mother’s only son” but have a problem with the “of” because there’s actually the Swedish word “på” used in the original, which is typically translated as on, but it doesn’t really make sense to me. I of course know that prepositions work very differently from one language to another, but even in Swedish I feel like the word “av”, which would literally translate as “of” to English, would make much more sense here. So either my Swedish is a lot less advanced than I think (not that I think it’s actually, properly Advanced, but you don’t have to be extremely advanced to understand prepositions in a language I believe 😀 ), or I don’t understand the sense of this line, or perhaps “på” can be used instead of “av” in some more poetic contexts like here.

Another line I had ann issue with was about the pen that floats, where I left out a word because I had no idea what to do with it. The original word is “värdig” and it literally means worthy. Can a pen be worthy? Perhaps it’s supposed to mean something like that that it’s dear to him in a way, or deserving of appreciation, because it’s the pen with which he writes songs for Linnea and no other pen would suit this? That’s what came to my mind, but I doubt that it’s actually true. Perhaps in this case “värdig” is meant to be an adverb, but then it should be “värdigt”. You can have adverbs that look like their adjective counterparts in Norwegian, but I don’t think I’ve seen it in Swedish (well, unless an adjective ends with a “t” but that’s irrelevant here). So what is most likely imo is that the word “värdig” must have a wider scope than what I’m aware of.

Here’s the translation:

 

Linnea, what do you want to hear?

I forget it every time

I have something in my ear

That maybe can become a song

It quivers in the guitar

It asks for a beautiful grasp

Now I open the case

And kiss your lower lip

Sit still and quiet, Linnea

Here comes a beautiful verse

(…)

Chases me here and there

A crumhorn and two timbals

Disappear far away

The guitar shivers in the arms

Of [?] my mother’s only son

An Eskimo opens a window

Then the whole room becomes cool

Out flow seductive vapours

That rhyme was ingenious

You know I can keep the heat

I guess you know that I know it

I am as hot as Saturn, at least

And strong as a magnet

Now this song is soon over

You notice it already yourself

My pen floats forward (…)

Like the timber in some river

Sit still and quiet and wait

Remain in your picture frame

Because when I am done writing, Linnea

The pen is as good as lame [?]

Now all the stars become matt

And stiffen like tinfoil

On the deserts dry and flat

Watering holes spring up

Darkness gives way to the night

And it is not day yet

Linnea, here is your song

Linnea, and here am I

4 thoughts on “Cornelis Vreeswijk – “Till Linnea Via Leonard Cohen” (For Linnea Via Leonard Cohen).”

  1. This whole being “advanced in a language” to understand prepositions is like biscuits and candy to me. [as in I will chew over it].

    Did Cornelis’s pen feel *un*worthy at that point?

    Would it be also “Only son of my mother” [but that might wreck the rest of the song if we put it that way].

    I love the whole poetic structure of the lines which cover the stars.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, I don’t think “on vs of my mother’s…” in Swedish would have made much of a difference here, at least definitely not in the structure of the song. But perhaps it actually does make some noticeable aesthetic or other more subtle type difference for people who are more rooted in the language or native speakers.

      Like

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