Today, I have for you a very interesting song by Cornelis Vreeswijk. I’ve always found it very interesting and have wondered what it’s trying to convey. I mean of course birds are partly a metaphor and partly a comparison for humans and various constraints of their existence, but some things here seem to have different layers of meaning and I don’t know if I get it all right. The lyrics to this song were written by Cornelis, but I’m sure that anyone who has some more interest in his music would pick up that the same could not be true about this interesting tune, and they’d be right, because it was composed by the jazz musician Björn J:son Lindh, who also plays piano here. The song comes from one of my favourite albums as a whole by Cornelis, Poem, Ballader och Lite Blues (Poems, Ballads and a Bit of Blues). One line in this song has quite an unusual grammatical structure, which I find kind of confusing so I translated it in two ways because I’m just not sure which one makes more sense, and perhaps neither is very good.
Birds who are old have their own forest Birds who are sick do not sing anything Birds who are in love do not buy a ring Birds never sit at a bird pub The souls of the birds never know about birds [/The birds never know about the birds’ souls]
Birds who are dead have no grave The one who was a bird was not seen And she who got wings immediately flew away Birds that can remember are a rare species No one can fly on their own when they want The birds’ grandfather eats raw eggs Birds that are sad grow beards Grandpa’s parrot is damn smart He has always been unlucky in love No bird understands what he desires But something’s not quite right somewhere Birds who can fly, I sure love you But I will never fly again
Last month, I shared with you Visa om ett Rosenblad by Cornelis Vreeswijk. Today I thought we could listen to another version of it, sung by Cornelis’ son Jack. If I had to say which version I like more I’d have a really hard time because I find them both really beautiful and gripping, each in its own way. I wrote the translation and shared some thoughts about the song in the post with the original version.
Today I want to share with you a little song from one of Cornelis Vreeswijk’s earlier albums – Tio Vackra Visor och Personliga Persson (Ten Beautiful Songs and Personal Persson) – which isn’t necessarily my favourite song of his (that HAS to be Grimasch om Morgonen) or probably isn’t even in the top 3 of my favourite songs of his, yet I have a little bit of a sentiment for this song, because it’s kind of cute, but also because when I first came across it I thought it was “Bisbis Visa”, and I went by Bisbis before it further evolved into Bibiel/Bibielle. 😀 But it’s obviously not “Bisbis Visa”, ‘cause even Bisbis’ Dad was merely a foetus when this album came out lol. Instead, it is Bibi Andersson’s visa, in whose case it stands for Berit Elisabet).
This whole album of Cornelis is strongly inspired by the first time he spent in Brazil and Brazilian music and culture, because around that time (1968) he was playing in the film Black Palm Trees set in that country. Bibi Andersson was there too as she played one of the main roles – a Finnish girl called Elin Papilla – so they probably got to hang out a fair bit. – As it happens, I’ve read that she did lose her bracelet, so the story’s actually real. 😀 I am sharing Cornelis’ own version, but also that of his son Jack, as I like both a lot. The translation below is Bibiel’s. One line I had a mini problem with was the one with the “blue gaze”, because I don’t recall ever actually seeing anyone using the word “gaze” like this in English, to basically mean eyes, so I’m not sure if it works or sounds odd, but the original Swedish word does literally mean “gaze”, and we also use this word like that in Polish, and putting “eyes” in there felt kind of simplistic.
I have a bracelet which is yours It is of plastic and it is white Now I just wanted to ask you Shall I keep it or not? I have a bracelet which I have hidden It is your bracelet which you have forgotten And where I live I guess you know Come here and look in case you want Come here and look one beautiful day Because you are beautiful and I am weak Well I am weak, for your gaze is blue Come here and take your bracelet then I have a bracelet which is yours It is of plastic and it is white Now I just wanted to ask you Shall I keep it or not?
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.
I feel like I haven’t shared anything from Cornelis in a while so thought I would today, especially that earlier this month (on 8 August more exactly) was his birthday, but sharing his songs usually means I have to translate them if I only can, well lol I don’t have to but I think it’s best to listen to them knowing what you’re listening to, and earlier this month I didn’t really feel like trying to translate anything more complicated cus sensory anxiety. I was actually quite sure that I must’ve shared this song in the past because it’s such a classic in Sweden (and I believe even Norway to an extent), but clearly I haven’t so it’s as good a time as any to introduce you people to this one finally.
In 1978, Cornelis released a double concept album called Felicias Svenska Suite (Felicia’s Swedish Suite), which focused largely on Felicia – a Roman character from the book Varulven (The Werewolf) by Danish-born Norwegian writer Axel Sandemose. Weirdly enough (at least for my little brain) no Swedish record label wanted to release it, if I understand correctly it was because of the connection to that book. I wonder was it a case of Scandinavian sibling rivalry and that Swedes didn’t want to release something that was based on a Norwegian book or is that book somehow anti-Swedish (I’ve always wanted to read it just out of sheer curiosity but I’ve never got to find an electronic copy in any language so I’ve no real clue what it’s about other than Felicia and that she has an affair while being married to another guy) or was there something more complicated going on? Anyways, as a result, he ended up releasing it in Norway. However, this very song I’m bringing you today ended up becoming very popular in Sweden, so eventually, two years later, one Swedish label did decide to release the second half of this double album, titled Turistens Klagan. Something about Varulven must have really put them off though because the songs from the first half were only released in Sweden in the 2000’s, so like almost twenty years after Cornelis’ death.
The song is narrated by a tourist vacationing in Oslo (near Karl Johan’s Street as you’ll find out from the lyrics) who’s quite depressed and tired, I’ve seen interpretations that he’s suicidal, but I guess “quitting” doesn’t necessarily have to mean as much as wanting to die, though it’s certainly possible. What pulls him out of his blues is hearing children singing outside.
Honestly, this is one of quite a few songs by Cornelis that I feel quite ambivalent about. Usually when I do, is because I love them musically or for some other small yet important aspects, but can’t agree with his point of view, since our views on such grave things like politics, for example, differ almost as greatly as they possibly can, which makes it feel a real irony in a way that I ended up developing a faza on him. 😀 But, this song is one of those with which it’s the opposite for me. I like the lyrics, but I just totally don’t care for it musically. It’s just so meh it’s a shame. I’m not sure it’s the right ENglish word to capture exactly what I mean, but I’d say it’s tacky. The melody is sure catchy but doesn’t really grab your attention, and these kids in there are pretty annoying. 😀 Oh yeah, and I think I’ve said on here already that I’m not a fan of the accordion in general, except perhaps for a few odd pieces by Maria Kalaniemi or Kimmo Pohjonen. So yeah, musically this song isn’t quite as frisson-inducing as some others from this album, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way about this song. But perhaps this arrangement is also part of why it ended up being so popular, I feel that a lot of Scandinavian music that was popular and at the same time kind of bordering on folky was a bit kitschy like that, in fact I suppose this was the trend in most of Europe. Some sources like the Swedish Wikipedia credit Franz von Suppé as the additional composer, so this tune must be “stolen” from him, but I don’t know from which piece though I’ve been mildly curious, but not enough to ever go hunting.
The translation below is by Bibielz, and it’s very likely that there are some weird errors in there, but not so much because I didn’t know what something meant or how to put it in English, rather, because I’ve always had a problem understanding what’s the second verse really about, I mean it seems highly metaphorical to me or else I must be ignorant or something. So I just translated it literally except for a couple odd words, as I didn’t know how to do it better. I’ve always been really curious what that verse is about, and thought now that I’d do a translation for you guys, perhaps my mind will open and I’ll figure it out somehow, but I haven’t. I was the best in my class at poem analysis, but overall I don’t think I’m all that good at it at all, my classmates just happened to be even worse. I found a forum thread where people discussed interpretations of just one of the lines in that verse, (about rubbing your skin with nettles so you’ll get warm) and everyone had a different idea. Someone said it could mean something like don’t complain about small things, like, just rub your skin with nettles if you’re cold so you’ll get warm and stop whining. But I don’t think it could be the case because, well duh, it’s a lament, he IS kind of complaining, even if he finds the presence of children to be hopeful, so that would be kind of illogical. Someone else said that it could be about solutions to problems that aren’t necessarily the best ones out there, but that still kind of solve the problem, like there are sure more effective and pleasant ways to warm yourself up than rubbing your skin with nettles but this will also work, for lack of anything better. This is an interesting option but I’m not sure I see how it fits into the whole of this song. And then others yet say it’s just supposed to be comical. Which I think is true, it is likely meant to be comical/humourous in a way, but I doubt it’s the main or only purpose of this verse, because the rest of this song isn’t really comical so my best bet is that the comism is supposed to emphasise something else more important here. And still, we have all those other lines in this verse. What’s the deal with language slipping because the snow is wet though it’s cold? And what’s skiing got to do with that? And, probably the biggest question here, why are fake (or literally “crooked”) nettles and people who sell them so very bad? I wish we could know…
Some children are singing on Karl Johan They sound strong and nice as only children can I myself am under lock and key in my hotel An evening behind the barricade, an ordinary evening Over my head hovers a jet black vulture In the room next to mine a crazy lady is singing And I am tired and doubtful but their song is happy If there will be no kids, I’ll quit. My lady, that language slips in some cases [is?] Because of the snow that is wet though it is cold Big deal, skiing has charm as well Rub your skin with nettles, so you’ll get warm But it should be nettles from the bayside And no fake nettles from the brink of ruin Deliver us from those who sell them As well as these happy children out there. When there are no children, everything is over So what’s the point of standing out? Certainly there has been chaos throughout history But as long as there are children, there is hope.
Yeah I know I shared a song by Cornelis only two days ago, but that one was sung by Sarah Riedel and this one is sung by himself, whereas it was written by someone else, so it’s a different category.
This song, just like the one called Babyland which I shared earlier this month, was written by Jan Ero Olsen from the Norwegian duo Tobben og Ero. I didn’t write a translation of this one, because there are some bits that I’m just not sure how to translate literally. But I can tell you that in this song, the lyrical subject is wondering what the “you” from the title is doing now in her life, and whether she’s perhaps in another relationship and what it might be like, and reflecting a little on his own relationship with her.
Would you believe that I had a dream about COrnelis Vreeswijk last night?! :O This used to be a fairly regular occurrence back when he was my dominant faza peep, and this very normal for me to have dreams about my faza peeps while my faza on them is the dominant one, but my faza on Cornelis faded in 2017 and I still occasionally have dreams featuring him, or even have random minor faza peaks on him, usually for no apparent reason – just because. – This is quite nice, and doesn’t really happen with my other faza peeps, well, I do still get peaks on Gwilym Bowen Rhys, but that’s simply because he’s the most active of my faza people and keeps releasing something on a regular basis.
It was a long, super cool and hilarious dream, if slightly surreal and awkward at times, and I liked it very much, the more that I had it soon after a sleep paralysis session so it had some healing effect on my brain battered by “Ian”and I was able to wake up in a pretty good state, with only a vague memory of the sleep paralysis part, and I was not very impressed when Misha finally woke me up.
Anyway, I’m talking about this because I decided that, for this reason, it would be a good idea to share some song by Cornelis in our song of the day series. And so that’s what I’m doing.
This song comes from the album called Cornelis vs Riedel, and contains fifteen songs which (aside from one) were never released by him or even set to music. The music was composed by jazz musician Georg Riedel, and the songs are sung by his daughter Sarah and Nicolai Dunger. I’ve actually already shared at least three pieces from this album on here, because I really love pretty much everything about it, which may seem weird given that I’m not very much of a jazz person, but this album is still very accessible as a whole even if you’re not, with so much (but not too much, which can sometimes be a very delicate balance) expressivity and the minimalistic arrangements.
This song is for Linnea, who is a recurring person in Cornelis’ various songs and poems, like This one that I shared earlier this year. It is possible that this Linnea has to do with his second wife – the actress Birgitta Gunvor Linnea “Bim” Warne. – I find this song very interesting because listening to pretty much all the Linnea songs that Cornelis has released himself, I guess one can easily get an idea that their relationship was all happy and really fulfilling for both, but this song shows it from a bit of a different angle.
Bibiels decided to try and translate it into English for y’all, although Bibiels can’t say that it’s as good as Bibiels would like it to be, but Bibiels trust that it’s not too bad either.
The thing I really wish for, For which my heart is burning, And what I never ask for, You do not realise. The thing I really want, All while the forest is greening. Sometimes gone during the day, I come when you have fallen asleep, Wake what has gone numb, And which I love tenderly. Do you think you have dreamt? No! But you are being deceived! You wake up and you see me, See me wanting for nothing, But when you refuse to wake up, Or you hear nothing – Know that I would rather die, Than I would ever ask you. The words of love are short, Are you talking or panting? Whenever your clock chimes, I listen to your voice. The roe deer in your chest, Laughs and is gone. You whom my heart longs for, You whom my heart yearns for You unto whom is my desire, Do you promise me and swear, To listen to my request? All while the sea is greening.
Thought I’d share with you a song from Cornelis Vreeswijk, ‘cause I haven’t shared anything by him in a while or so it feels. I think this one is very interesting lyrically. It comes from his album Mannen som Älskade Träd (The Man Who Loved Trees) which was recorded in Tromsø in Norway two years before Cornelis’ death. In this song’s credits it says that it was written by Vreeswijk as well as Jan Ero Olsen, who is a Norwegian musician known from the duo Tobben og Ero. Indeed, if you know Cornelis’ music a bit, you can notice that it doesn’t sound very “Cornelisk” as Swedes would say, where its melody is concerned, but I’d always thought that, well, obviously the lyrics must be Cornelis’, ‘cause there’s ANn-Kat(a)rin Rosenblad in here, a very frequently recurring character in Vreeswijk’s songs and poems. But, a couple days ago, I was reading Youtube comments for this song, and lots of people are saying that it was Ero who wrote the lyrics as well. I’m just not sure if he wrote them particularly for Cornelis, or was it his own song initially that then was adapted by Cornelis like he did with many songs of many musicians, or something like that. I’m more inclined to think the former though, because I haven’t been able to find anything that would look like the potential original.
Below are the lyrics translated by Bibiel:
The ring is closed and in the middle of the ring I am riding away towards Babyland The horse is made of the purest gold The Manege is sprinkled with silver sand The anxiety is behind my back in the evening Somebody has set the ring on fire The silver glitters so wildly from the river Bringing Me Back to Svealand Hey, I’ve gotten a bit off track Help me so that I can find the peace again Outside a cold violin is playing Close the window, Ann-Katarin Ann-Katarin, feel the winds calm down The fire from the ring feels good and warm I think you are the silver that I most long for Let me hide in your bosom Hey, I’ve gotten a bit off track Help me so that I can find the peace again Outside a cold violin is playing Close the window, Ann-Katarin
Sofia Karlsson is someone whose name has already appeared on my blog, twice, actually, but both of these times it was in the context of Cornelis Vreeswijk’s music, as I shared two songs of his that she has covered. Well, today the time has come to share with you guys a song that, as far as I know, is Sofia’s original song, because it’s most definitely not just those two covers of Cornelis’ songs that I like of Sofia’s music. I think Sofia Karlsson is a great singer, and what’s interesting is that despite being a “proper” folk singer (as in, not just folk-ish and sliding on the borders of the genre) her music seems to speak not only to those who generally like folk, but to a much wider audience, because she has been a best-selling artist not only in Sweden, but apparently in Denmark and Norway as well. More interestingly, it was her album Svarta Ballader (Black Ballads) with her arrangements of poems by Dan Andersson, which has made her such a prominent artist and garnered most attention, which is surprising because as far as I know it’s not like Dan Andersson is some extremely popular and widely known Swedish poet. Also I’ve heard her music several times in our Polish Radio Programme 2, whhich, as a classical/jazz/folk/all-round sophisticated stuff radio station does admittedly play a lot of obscure music, but I feel like if some non-Polish-language and non-Anglophone folk music is played in a Polish radio station, the artist has to be someone really successful in their home country, or their music has to be incredibly accessible so that the language barrier doesn’t matter to those to whom it usually tends to do.
Sofia Karlsson is from Stockholm and comes from a very musical family. One little detail that I, being a name nerd, find very cool and interesting about her is that she has an absolutely cute middle name, and I believe a very rare one, which is Blåsippa. Blåsippa is the Swedish name for the plant that is called hepatica nobilis in Latin (no idea if it has a more English-sounding name) and I’ve never come across this name in any other situation. I really like obscure flower names as given names. And I guess it must suit her because it’s an early spring flower, and she was born in early spring as well.
I actually first heard this song thanks to my friend, back when I was still hanging around in the blind online network where I used to blog in the past and stuff. It was when I was finally able to restart my Swedish learnning and became familiar with SOfia’s music, though not all of it yet, and introduced it to said friend, who really liked it, despite speaking no Swedish. And she must have done some further digging herself, ‘cause she found this song before I became acquainted with Sofia’s entire discography, and she in turn introduced it to me and I fell in love with it instantly. I wrote a translation of it for y’all, which is probably not without errors/things that could have been put better but generally wasn’t a very difficult thing to do.
Little Lisa, you turn your gaze towards the street Towards the asphalt, last year’s leaves And the air is heavy when you breathe And tastes old and dead It drips from the lime trees’ branches You are cold and you don’t see anything But you know where you are going Go now, little Lisa, go all the way in You’re walking there so quietly in the shadow And it blends in with your hair And the twilight’s dullest colours Wrestle with the beating rain But then you hear up from the grey A bird whistling a wind And you know that now you must go Go now, little Lisa, go all the way in Sometimes the time has pockets In which you put your freezing hands A little moment of warmth A little moment to live in Little Lisa, you are upstairs in the chamber And everything feels so dirty and small You sit down at the piano Want to play for faith and for hope But the tears are falling on the keys Because you shall leave today It hurts, but you must not hesitate Go now, little Lisa, it will get worse if you stay Little Lisa, you play your tango You live your Norrland blues So the heart jumps and flies And never comes to rest Little Lisa, you must now be brave Play strong and play now For your mum in heaven, for children that shall come Go now, little Lisa, go all the way out And the lonely out on the street They live for themselves and as before Can you feel it in your chest Then you’re still human The line is already drawn Little Lisa, the forests miss you Everything can be yours now The world is waiting to show itself Little Lisa, you turn your gaze to the sky And you hope for sunlight again And I promise that it soon will get better Go now, little Lisa, go all the way home Go now, little Lisa, go all the way home
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.
I’ve shared quite a few songs by Cornelis Vreeswijk on this blog so far, but I believe I’ve never shared any of his interpretations of poems written by Carl Michael Bellman, a Swedish 18th century poet and musician whose works are still popular in Scandinavia. From what I know, part of why he is still well-known in his home country is thanks to Vreeswijk, who sort of gave a new life to some of his works, in particular Fredmans Epistlar (Fredman’s Epistles) which are poems set to, I believe mostly traditional, tunes.
Perhaps the reason why I so far haven’t shared any of those Vreeswijk interpretations of Bellman is that I don’t really find those Bellman’s poems hugely relatable. I mean, I absolutely love this old language, and I like how he portrays Stockholm from so many different sides in those poems and that it all feels still very alive and human and full of humour despite being ages old, but I just can’t say it speaks to me on any deeper level, unlike some of Cornelis’ own music. I remember my first encounters with those epistles and being all indignant and like, gosh, the guy must have had some proper drinking obsession. 😀 Everything there revolves more or less around drinking (alternatively copulating and the like) in various contexts. Of course, when you have a closer look, it’s not the only thing these epistles are supposed to be about, but still, it’s the dominating theme, and as a non-, or hardly-ever-drinker, I just don’t feel it. Perhaps more importantly, I’m not a Swede… well okay, neither was Cornelis, but practically he almost was as he lived in Sweden since the age of 12. Oddly enough, while Bellman isn’t really well-known outside of his home country and if you asked some random Polish folks if they know who he was I doubt anyone would have a clue, Fredman’s Epistles were actually translated into Polish, by Leonard Neuger, and I was even able to get hold of this translation when I was having a major faza on Vreeswijk, and when you have a major faza on someone you want to know as much as possible about the individual and he had quite a strong interest in Bellman so I wanted to read them just out of curiosity and in Swedish that wouldn’t be possible with all that archaic language. Except, I didn’t even end up reading the entire collection in Polish either. I really like reading books written in archaic or obsolete language in Polish but this one felt extremely clunky, often I felt like I couldn’t even quite follow what I was reading. 😀 Maybe I’m less competent in my own language than I think, but it didn’t make me like Bellman anymore. Still, it’s funny how there’s all that fancy, archaic, sophisticated and sublime language, while the themes are what they are, I like disonances like that.
Apart from all the drinking, a very characteristic element of Fredman’s Epistles is a woman called Ulla Winblad (she’s a lot like Ann-Katarin Rosenblad in Vreeswijk’s songs and poems), and she seems to be some kind of a nymph or other deity or something like that but at the same time something like a prostitute, anyway the narrator – Fredman – definitely has a huge crush on her to put it colloquially and simplistically.
This epistle has also to do with Ulla, and while of course there are a few mentions of wine here, it’s pretty low-key and it’s a pastoral so it has a very idyllic feel to it. The melody, apparently, was in case of this epistle written by Bellman himself. A shorter title under which this epistle is known is Ulla, Min Ulla (Ulla, My Ulla) or Ulla, Min Ulla, Säj Får Jag Dig Bjuda (Ulla, My Ulla, Say, May I Thee Offer) and the long name under which it functions on Vreeswijk’s album is the subtitle.
And as we can figure out from this subtitle, what we have here is a scene where Fredman basically sings a serenade to Ulla, sitting on a horse outside her window at lunchtime on a summer’s day in a place north of Stockholm called Fiskartorpet which is some sort of a recreational area. He’s thirsty and apparently also sleepy and invites Ulla to come out to him and eat and promises her all sorts of food. While sitting and eating together, they admire and relish the view of the place, and Fredman asks Ulla “Isn’t it heavenly?”, and she meekly agrees.
This poem, as many others, was inspired by Bellman’s friendship with a wealthy and quite interesting lady called Helena Quiding, who had her summer house called Heleneberg, where she frequently invited him as well as a circle of some other friends, and this house still exists in Fiskartorpet.
I really really like Cornelis’ skillful and delicate interpretation of this piece. He recorded it on his 1971 album with Bellman interpretations called Spring mot Ulla, Spring! (Run to Ulla, Run!).
I guess there have been several English translations of Fredman’s Epistles, but a more recent one was written by Eva Toller, and it’s her translation that I’m including in this piece. She has her own website and you can find it
So as you may know, I’ve recently managed to translate a couple of songs by one of my faza people, Cornelis Vreeswijk, from Swedish, and I’m quite satisfied with the results, and I thought I should try translating this one, as it has fairly easy lyrics and also is one of his more popular and recognisable songs in Sweden, I guess only the one about Cecilia Lind whichh I also shared years ago is more popular. It comes from one of his earlier albums – “Tio Vackra Visor och Personliga Persson” (Ten Beautiful Songs and Personal Persson) from 1968. Even though, being a Christian myself, I don’t agree with a fair bit of stuff he sings about in this song, at the same time I think I do understand why someone would have this kind of perspective on things and even though I don’t agree with some things here, I feel similar about not getting attached to life too much, which is why I like it. Interestingly, the shoes problem seems to be very persistent and intergenerational, because Jack Vreeswijk (Cornelis’ son) also has an original song called “Mina Gamla Skor” (My Old Shoes). 😀
So today I thought we’d listen to a lullaby. I love love listening to lullabies, and not just for sleep. They are very comforting and often have either a fair bit of folklore in them or hide something interesting in between the lines about the times when they were sung/written, kind of like this one although in this one I guess it’s not even hidden very deeply at all but rather straightforward.
This lullaby was written by Cornelis Vreeswijk (one of my faza people, if you don’t know yet) for his son, Jack, and recorded on his debut album in 1964, so exactly the year when Jack was born. It reminds me of very old Polish lullabies, which often go something like this in a nutshell: sleep, my little baby, while you have the time for such luxuries, and while you sleep, grow very big and strong and grow very quickly, so you can start working right away, preferably tomorrow, and help your poor old mother or father because that’s how life works and once you’re big and strong you’ll only get to sleep after you die. I suppose it may not be just a Polish phenomenon but simply something I happened to notice with Polish lullabies specifically.
This lullaby is kind of similar to that pattern, and, given that Cornelis had a lot of knowledge of European folklore and various motives in it and used them a lot, I wonder if he knew about that lullabies actually used to be very much like that in the past and whether this similarity was intended. Here, little Jack, who can’t have more than half a year, is already being made aware of how life generally sucks and is all about making money, so he should take his time to sleep now when he has it. I’m not sure how good a strategy that seriously is to convincing your child to sleep, I’d be afraid I’m going to raise a neurotic and a ruminator who won’t sleep at night because of thinking about all the shitty stuff that is awaiting him in the future, but perhaps that’s just me as I’m a neurotic ruminator myself.
Whether this similarity to old lullabies was or was not intended, surely his main inspiration behind it, just like a lot of his other music, were his strongly socialist views, which shows clearly and I guess especially when you know about his leanings in this direction, but also, since it’s a lullaby, here I feel it isn’t as much in-your-face with the socialism as some of his other songs are. I – being anything but socialist – really love it, which I can’t say about all of his works because I simply do not agree with a lot of stuff in them. Whether you are a socialist or not, I guess most of us agree that adulting is shitty and the idea of being a carefree baby who can sleep the time away, be taken care of, have everything he wants and be free (because for Cornelis, from what we can assume from his other lullaby, one is only free when one is asleep) is more appealing, at least to us escapists for sure.
I also really love this song musically. Vreeswijk, while highly regarded in Sweden for his lyricism, language skills, expression and guitar style, is not considered the greatest composer and I totally agree, usually those of his songs who were composed by other people sound better. Yet there are some absolutely mind-blowing exceptions (I’m thinking “Grimasch om Morgonen” for example, which I’ve shared on my blog before) and “Vaggvisa” is one of them, at least to me. It’s just a simple tune and there’s just Cornelis and the guitar, but there’s something very grand about it.
For comparison, I also want to share with you a cover version from the album Cornelis vs Riedel, where there are Cornelis’ poems in Georg Riedel’s jazz arrangements, sung by his daughter Sarah Riedel and Nikolai Dunger, and a few of his already published songs but with new melodies composed by Riedel. Even though I’m not a huge fan of jazz, I really love this album because there’s just so much real feeling in it, so much care put into it and it’s very friendly for a jazz layman like myself. Their version does not have the same lyrics as the one Cornelis originally wrote for Jack, but they are from the film Rännstensungar (Guttersnipes), where Cornelis played Johan Fahlen and sang this lullaby in this shortened and more neutral, less personalised version to Ninni – the main character. – One day I may also share this song sung by Jack himself.
Below is my attempt at translating the lyrics (the original ones), very literally of course, just to give you an idea what this is about. I’ve always found that metaphor here about working hard as the cat very amusing, ’cause since which time do cats work hard. 😀 I don’t think this is a legit Swedish idiom, never heard of it, and I doubt it especially that it’s “the cat”, so it looks like he means some specific cat. I wonder why is that, perhaps just for the sake of rhyming? As for the factory thing in the lyrics, among quite a few things that Cornelis did before becoming a singer and poet, he did work in a factory for a while.
Today, I have a beautiful Cornelis Vreeswijk song for you (or Swedes would say a Cornelisk song, Cornelisk is an adjective and I like it because it shows how he really is a huge and recognisable part of Swedish culture. I think this is one of my favourites. We could say nowadays that it is so beautifully emo. 😀
It is a very sad and beautiful love song, and if we’re talking Cornelis and love songs, of course we’re also talking Ann-Katrin Rosenblad, to whom he most often dedicates his love songs, and other of his songs often mention her too. If you’re not yet in the know, Ann-Kat(a)rin Rosenblad was his fictional muse, based on the real life one – Ann-Christin Wennerström. – This comes from his debut album – “Ballader Och Oförskämdheter” (Ballads And Rudenesses/Impertinencies) from 1964.
I even managed to translate the lyrics (go Bibielle!!! I guess it’s my fourth Swedish-English translation if I’m counting right) and they surely do tell you what the song is about, but I wonder if it’s just me who feels that the English lyrics are way clunkier than Swedish. Perhaps it’s because it can’t be otherwise, or maybe I could do it better, I don’t know. If you speak Swedish and read this, lemme know.
Also, honestly, ever since I’ve first listened to this song (which was like… 2016 I guess?) and then understood its lyrics fully, I’ve never really figured out what’s the deal with the “sieve” in the lyrics (see translation below). I thought maybe this word has more meanings in Swedish or it’s some idiom or something, but when I was translating this today I couldn’t find anything like that. So I still don’t know. Maybe it means that she was so selective in love or didn’t retain her emotions for long, meaning that she easily fell out of love, or something? I found out that sieve can symbolise virginity, because of a vestal in ancient Rome who proved her virginity by carrying water in a sieve and not spilling any of it. Cornelis read a whole lot and we could say that he was quite nerdy, and there are mythological references in some of his poems and songs. But here it doesn’t seem very likely to be the case. Yeah, I was the best in my class at poem analyses but have always felt like I’m not very good at it actually. 😀
So as you may remember I shared with you yesterday a song from Swedish pop singer Pernilla Andersson, and I said that I might share one more soon, that is her cover of a song originally written and sung by Cornelis Vreeswijk. And so that’s what I decided to do today.
This song is what made me fall in love with the name Saskia so much that if I ever considered having kids, Saskia would be a very serious candidate for a girl. I’d never really come across that name a lot before hearing this.
The song comes from one of Cornelis Vreeswijk’s earlier albums – “Tio Vackra Visor Och Personliga Persson” (Ten Beautiful Songs And Personal Persson). There is a recording of his live performance at an Örebro jazz club called Powerhouse, which was released as an album after his death, where he says that this song was inspired by a real life Saskia he once met in his “green youth”, on the way back home to his wife with whom he was at the time (Ingalill Rehnberg I think based on the timing), he would often stop at some sort of other beer place I don’t really know, to have a few beers with his “good friends and other condemned individuals”. And one time when he was there, there was a girl called Saskia who was working there, and she apparently asked him what was Rembrandt’s wife’s name, so he said that she was called Saskia van Rijn, and then he had free beer for the rest of his stay there. How magnanimously of her… I don’t know though if what they were doing after her work according to the song is also based on facts or not really. His second wife, Bim Linnea Warne, said once that, while he was awfully jealous which is quite well-known, he was very faithful himself, although, as much as I like Cornelis, I can’t help but feel a little doubtful about that. 😀
I love Cornelis’ original version, but Pernilla Andersson also does a really great job. Her song doesn’t have the last couple of verses though.
According to the lyrics, Saskia is cross-eyed, and that’s why she is a subject of ridicule for everyone, which I’ve always found a little surprising because, perhaps I’m totally wrong at all that but I guess strabismus (I suppose that’s how it’s called in English?) isn’t an uncommon thing, it’s also not like a very disabling condition or making one somehow grossly unattractive even if it’s commonly seen as not very beautiful, so while I get that someone could be bullied due to something like this, would that really raise so much attention? In the 60’s? As I said though, I may have no clue, since I’m blind myself and don’t know how much things like that can affect one’s view of a person, it’s just something that I’ve found kind of interesting and strange.
Below is the translation of the song, I wrote it myself but I used
I thought that today I’d share with you this lyrical piece by Cornelis Vreeswijk. I like it a lot because, well, Cornelis being one of my faza subjects, I’ve been very interested in him as an individual, and this song tells us a whole lot about what his love life and relationships generally looked like. I once found a Swedish programme called “Cornelis Och Kärleken” (Cornelis and Love) where a few people analysed in quite an interesting way some of his lyrics that are about love and women – since a lot of his lyrics and poems talk about various women – and how they illustrated the way his relationships looked like. Having had lived a stormy life overall, it was no less stormy and intense with love, because while on one hand he was seeking love and closeness quite desperately, he had some extreme difficulty with forming and maintaining relationships and whenever there was indeed a possibility of having a closer, deeper relationship with someone, he would basically run away almost in panic immediately. It’s flamin’ difficult having fears which conflict with your basic needs. He was also pathologically jealous – largely due to abusing alcohol and all sorts of drugs and other things, many of which can do such things to your brain – so it also wasn’t easy for the other side to be with him for sure.
And in this song, it really shows, in a both lyrical and raw way. Its lyrics weren’t awfully difficult to translate so I tried my best to do it although there may be some errors in here.
My beloved is like a sparkler,
like a sparkler easily ignited.
She burns so hot when she catches fire,
my beloved is like a sparkler,
like a sparkler easily ignited.
Red-hot like a kiln are my sweetheart’s embers,
but no fire is eternal.
Cold it is for the charcoal burner when his kiln dies out,
Today, I will share with you another poem-song written by Cornelis Vreeswijk. With this one, I am sure it was written by him and as it seems originally was intended as a poem and not as a song as it didn’t seem to have a melody. The interesting thing about this poem which later became a song though, that I want to show you, is what came out of that it didn’t have a melody in the first place. Namely now people who cover Vreeswijk have all the freedom in the world to create their own, and here we have almost two different songs, very different in style yet with the same (only slightly varying) lyrics.
The poem – maybe a little surprisingly for someone who would know about Cornelis and roughly about what kinds of things he wrote – is not political, not a protest, not about people/society, not about love, not about Ann-Katrin Rosenblad (his muse) and not even about drinking. It’s, as you can guess from the title, about rain. Little rain. He addresses it in a way that makes you think this rain is a child. It’s a gentle encouragement for it to fall. “Of course the Earth is heavy and cold, but rain anyway”. And when it finally has fallen, the birds are hesitantly starting to sing more and more.
I think it’s very nice, and the two totally different musical versions take two totally differing looks at it.
Jack’s version comes from the same album from which is his last song that I shared with you – “Till Den Det Vederbör” – also written by Cornelis. Jack composed the music to it (or so I assume it was Jack) and it feels very deep but also minimalistic.
And then there’s another version of it composed by Georg Riedel, who is a Swedish jazz musician, and sung by his very talented and sensitive daughter Sarah on their album Cornelis vs Riedel. I’ve already shared a song from this album much earlier that was also sung by Sarah – “Se Här Dansar Fredrik Åkare”. – This is a very carefully made, heartfelt and refined album and both Sarah Riedel and Nikolai Dunger (who is another singer on this album) do a great job, in my opinion, of conveying the feel of each of these songs, as if they really took a lot of time to truly feel them and could relate to them personally. It is a very jazzy album as both Georg and Sarah Riedel are jazz people, which is normally something that would discourage me more or less as I usually don’t have a strong connection with jazz music, but here it doesn’t bother me at all and is great since Cornelis himself also drew from and was inspired by jazz among other genres, and it was his more jazzy songs that convinced me that jazz doesn’t always have to be awful and incomprehensive.
And so I seriously don’t know which version I like more. I wonder which one would be Cornelis’ favourite. And how about you guys? Do you like one of these more than the other?
I’ve decided to share this song with you quite spontaneously, as I didn’t have any other ideas planned. And I have sort of mixed feelings about it because I feel I didn’t research it quite as well as I should, or perhaps there’s just not enough info on this. Usually if I post a song for you guys – and especially if it’s in another language – I try to put it in a context so even if, as it often happens, there is no translation, and I am unable to provide it myself, you can have a basic idea of what it’s about and what was the background of it. Here, I know very, very little.
I was listening to Jack Vreeswijk a while back, as I hadn’t in a long time and wanted to refresh some of his music for myself. And when listening to this song and trying to understand its lyrics (which I always prefer to do when having them written especially if I’m not sure of something and that was the case here) I learned that this was written by Cornelis Vreeswijk (which is actually no surprise when you look at them more closely) and Jack Vreeswijk. In case someone feels confused, Jack is the son of Cornelis. I’ve written a lot about Cornelis Vreeswijk on my blog before as he’s been one of my major fazas but to sum up quickly, he was a Swedish singer, songwriter, poet, guitarist and actor born in Netherlands, he passed away in 1987 (way too early) but his son, Jack, is still alive and also sings as well as composes music, often drawing from his father’s huge legacy and covering his songs not too badly at all (only when you compare him with Cornelis he just… ahem… lacks that charisma a little bit, so this is a clear example why we should not compare people to each other and why following your parent’s career isn’t always the best choice if you do not want to be compared. But don’t get me wrong, I do like Jack. A lot. I just see a lot that people compare him, and I do too, and I’ve heard how on his concerts people are far more enthusiastic about hearing his covers of his dad’s music rather than his own songs. Although maybe it’s just how I interpret or maybe it’s just me who would feel awful about myself and my music if I were in his shoes). I wonder whether this piece was originally a poem to which Jack composed music later on (it does musically sound more Jack-esque) or a poem late enough that Cornelis could somehow write it in collaboration with Jack (I’ve never heard about them ever having such collaborations but who knows, right?…) or a song that was unpublished or somehow very obscure or something. And if it was a poem, was it actually published in any of Cornelis’ poetry books or not? I can’t find any info or hint anywhere about it in another context than it being a song by Jack, but thenn I don’t have Cornelis’ poetry books as such so it’s possible it is there somewhere.
Moreover, I don’t really know the context of the lyrics. I can understand them quite well – although because neither Swedish nor English is my native language I don’t think it would be a good idea if I tried translating something I don’t have much of an idea what it’s more broadly about, also there are some single words I am not sure what they mean in here – and I couldn’t find a translation either.
But I just found this song interesting because the lyrics made me think, they’re intriguing, murky, weird and haunting. I’m not sure I like them as such but I don’t necessarily always love Cornelis’ lyrics, I doon’t have to agree with them and I often don’t, I don’t have to relate, there’s just something else that is not about plain liking. And I’m always excited to see something new from Cornelis (see how some people are so prolific that even after their death it feels like their creativity is a whole endless well), though I’d like to have more of an understanding of it, perhaps I will over time. Also I feel like I haven’t shared anything by Jack in a very, very long time. So basically these are the reasons why I decided to share with you guys a song about which I know next to nothing, and perhaps you’ll like something about it too. 🙂
Here’s another kind of poetic cover sung by Ida Redig. The song was originally written and sung by Mats Paulson in the 60’s, and is quite a classic example of a visa, visa is a Swedish sort of ballad, it’s a bit like a separate Scandinavian music genre. This is a summer visa, and it has a very lullaby-ish feel to it, which I like. But apart from the version by Ida Redig, which is again quite different from the original, I’m also going to show you another one that I like even more than hers, and it is Alexander Rybak’s version. Alexander Rybak is the guy who won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009, he has Belarussian parents but lives in Norway, he sings and plays fiddle, and he sang the song “Fairytale” at the Eurovision. I really like him, and even more so does Zofijka. Alexander’s version is more similar to the original, as well as longer than Ida Redig’s. It comes from his album, which is also called “Visa Vid Vindens Ängar”, and the album is entirely in Swedish, which is fun since his mother tongue is Norwegian. I’ve heard people saying that they don’t like that he has such a strong Norwegian accent on here, but I think it’s very nice! I also have the lyrics for you.
Today is Jack Vreeswijk’s 55th birthday, if I count correctly. Happy birthday, Jack!!! 😍To avoid any confusion, and I guess it can be a bit confusing for the uninitiated, everyone in my surroundings who doesn’t know Jack, so most people, get confused which Vreeswijk is which and, especially that I love the name Jack, they usually think it’s Jack who is my crush. Jack is the son of Cornelis, and he is also a singer, and Cornelis is – besides Jack’s father – the one on whom I’ve had a crush, and whose poems I’ve been trying so desperately to translate to Polish, and he passed away over 30 years ago when Jack was 23 I believe. But Jack is still alive. I think Jack is also great, although luckily in his own way and not a copy cat of his dad, I’m glad he has his own individuality, even though he has made some covers of Cornelis’ songs, I like him a lot. And I think the song I’m going to show you is interesting. As for Gull, it’s a feminine Nordic name. So, let’s celebrate Jack’s birthday and listen to some of his music. 🙂