Cornelis Vreeswijk – “Fredrik Åkares Morgonpsalm” (Fredrik Åkare’s Morning Hymn).

   Hi people! 🙂 

   Today I’d like to share with you a song by Cornelis Vreeswijk which always gives me very mixed feelings whenever I listen to it. Not that it’s the only one song by him that I feel rather ambivalent about. On one hand it’s so depressive that it’s beautiful and gripping and I love it, but on the other it’s also so depressive that it feels absolutely endlessly dark and hopeless, and when I look at it from my perspective, which is one of a dysthymic and generally glitchy-brained individual but far more importantly of a Christian, it makes me feel properly sad for all the people who have died, are dying and will die without realising or acknowledging one thing that actually matters about our earthly lives, namely where they  lead, especially for those who think there’s just nothing. The thought of such emptiness and nothingness afterwards can be comforting, and I used to wish that it could be the case, because living for eternity even if I’d be happy (whatever happy even meant for me then) felt like it would only be a wearying, never-ending chore. But now I know it’s not like that and something is a lot better than nothing, and if we have souls then it doesn’t make sense that they would just die together with bodies. And it makes me sad that, very often, such people have no one who will pray for them after they die, like among their family or friends and such so even if they do get to purgatory they’ll have to spend ages there. But it also makes me feel grateful and very appreciative and happy that I was raised Christian, and that I can pray for such souls after they die and realise their situation but can no longer help themselves in any way, I really like doing that and trying to be somewhat helpful for people this way, and I can pray for people like that who are still alive for their souls to be moved. 

   The last verse in this song says «Put spruce twigs by my grave», and when I was going to Sweden with my family a couple years ago on holidays, I decided to take it very literally. While we do have a lot of trees around our backyard, there’s no spruce, but my grandad has several spruces so I took some twigs from one of them with me to Stockholm, bought some beautiful flowers while there and left all of them at Cornelis’ grave. We also wanted to bring a candle like the ones we light in Poland on graves but I was not sure if it’s a thing in Sweden so we didn’t, although it turned out that it is a thing. We also went around that cemetery and prayed for everyone whose grave we saw. I just did that to kind of say: «I’m Bibiel and I’m here and I listen very carefully and I really care, even though I’m Polish and no one else in my country (other than Jacek from Helsinki who’s also dead now) seems to know who you are, and even though we think very differently about almost all the important things, and even though I’m a rightist, and even though I’m gen Z so you died before I was even born». 😀 Cuz like why not? I really liked being able to go there and do that. 

   There are quite a few songs by Cornelis that feel quite depressive, but I think this one is the most. I guess it’s because it’s very rare for him not to include at least a little bit of humour or irony in his songs, so even if they deal with very difficult topics, there’s a bit of a distance. This one, meanwhile, is deadly serious. The lyrical subject – Fredrik Åkare – is obviously well-known to people who are acquainted with Vreeswijk’s songs and poems, since he’s one of the recurring characters, most well-known from «Balladen om Herr Fredrik Åkare och den Söta Fröken Cecilia Lind» (The Ballad About Mr. Fredrik Åkare and the Sweet Miss Cecilia Lind), which is extremely popular in Sweden and was the first song by Cornelis that I heard. Fredrik Åkare is said to be based on Cornelis’ younger sister’s husband, but often he also seems to be like Vreeswijk’s alter ego or something similar and I think it makes all the sense to assume that here he’s more like the latter. 

   I remember this song struck me as  beautiful but also weird when I heard it for the first few times (I mean what’s the deal with all them spruce twigs and all that?)  and I was really curious how all those bits I didn’t feel like I really understood should be interpreted. While I am still not sure of everything, the Swedish Internet holds surprisingly many essays or however things like that should be called in English, all about Cornelis and his works, so I was able to learn more about this song from some of them. As it turns out, there used to be a tradition in Sweden where, on the day of a funeral, people would sprinkle spruce twigs all the way from the dead person’s house to the church. Also I guess that isn’t the case with English, but in Sweden, the person who leads and oversees a funeral was/is literally called a marshal. During a funeral he held some sort of staff decorated with flowers, hence the staff in the lyrics. I was wondering whether I should try to translate the marshals as something that would make more sense in English regarding a funeral but in the end left it as is, since I do literal translations here after all so I guess it should be consistent. 

   Sprinkle spruce twigs on my bed
and let me be born naked.
My mother was not awake
and I was not afraid.
At the bottom of the bitter shafts
live those who fear power.
If the cold gets too severe
put spruce twigs in my bed.
Sprinkle twigs on my writing desk
And take a gulp of the ink.
Come to me under the covers,
share my loneliness
Now we are the same age.
Come, let the visor fall.
Come, light a little flame.
Sprinkle spruce twigs on us.
Sprinkle spruce twigs by my gate,
Hang the key on the hook.
Who asked you to borrow the book?
Return it! Quickly!
You restorer of peace
with sound and Russian firecrackers,
you snow that fell last year
Put spruce twigs on my chair.
Put spruce twigs by my grave.
Let no priests be heard.
Do what has to be done.
Marshals, break my staff.
So it falls in the end though
three shovels on my coffin lid.
Now I must leave.
Put spruce twigs by my grave.

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