I awoke in the night. Drawn by a strange song. It bubbled and splashed. Groaned and cracked. I found myself walking towards the fjord. Cold snow under bare feet made me realise I was in thrall. Stuck in a walking dream. Led by some evil Fay. My body felt sleep heavy. My mind treacle slow.
I managed to throw myself into a snowdrift. The cold woke me fully. Just feets from the water’s edge.
I’m my mind I heard a rumbling laugh. “I’ll get you yet, lass. There’s still time before the spring thaw. Your blood will make me stronger.”
This is a wholly new form for me, so took some work, but you know me. I like these intricate forms. :-)
The Seguidilla began as a popular dance song of Spain. The verse form was established and branched into variations by the 17th century. It has an alternating long short rhythm.
The Seguidilla is: • stanzaic, written in any number of 2 part septets. (7 lines) • syllabic, 7-5-7-5 : 5-7-5 per line. There is a slight pause between L4 and L5 suggesting L4 should be end-stopped. • rhymed by assonance xAxABxB or xAxABAB. x being unrhymed. True rhyme is generally not used. • composed with a volta or change in thought between L4 and L5. • sometimes serves as a conclusion for another verse.
I’m revelling in the fact that Stockholm is white and covered in snow. I chase blinding sunlight on snow whenever it’s there. The lengthening days are noticeable. Still in the core of most northerners lies the longing for spring.
Holy Midwinter Night Your long dark cold is hard Lonely stars sparkle and shimmer Dream dust glimmer on all sleeping In house and barn, the dog in the lonely yard Lending light to inky night, hours deep Think toiling late into midnight hours
Vigil kept by the Moon Bathed in her silver boon, as she wanders her silent whir Midwinter night, when the snow glows white painting on pine and fir Inky shadows and bright light, as snow glows white Shimmering stars on roof thatch All dreaming, only Tomten keeps watch
In the snowy night all is silent Gaia sleeping is White blanket over wood and plain Hiding all life Snug in barrows, as out there All is still, all is frozen
Slowly from afar only The murmur of the waterfall Dreamt as much as heard Winters death as slow soughing
To thrumming of deep meaning Tomten listens, half awake and half in a dream Midwinter Night’s eternal seem Giving visions to hear The ebb and flow, life’s echo, of the eternal time stream
Tomten wonders, from where life came and where it’s going Tomten wonders, if Gods or humans where the source of where the world is is flowing
I had a different vision. But the influence of Tomten was undeniable. And I felt the kind, caring gaze of the farmwifes of my childhood. Living in just that type of isolated farm. Learning me old folktales mostly forgot. They would have smiled at my folly. Hugged me. And told me, if I put myself in the attention of the unseen, I’d best be willing to pay my due. So, I sent a message via my muse that all I wanted was to share the wonder of Midwinter, to give Tomten his chance to deep brooding and rest. Without all those Lutheran work ethic lessons.
The poem is a Golden Shovel. The last words of each line are, in order, words from a line or lines taken, another poem. For my piece I choose the first and the penultimate verse of Tomten by Viktor Rydberg. I started with translating them, since I found no translation I thought good enough. Below you’ll find those two verses.
Midwinternight’s cold is hard Stars sparkle and shimmer All sleeping in the lonely yard Deep into midnight hours The Moon wanders her silent whir The snow glows white on pine and fir Snow glows white on roof thatch Only tomten keeps watch
Silent is wood and plain, all life out there is frozen From afar only the waterfall Heard as slow soughing Tomten listens, and half in a dream seem to hear the eternal time stream Wonders, where it’s going Wonders, where the source is flowing
After untold hours reading I decided to keep the Swedish word Tomte. Even Astrid Lindgrens prose version from 1961 is titled “The Tomten”. Simply because there is no equivalent in English. Tomten is neither gnome, goblin, elf or Robin Goodfellow as in this old translation. Tomten might be mischievous or outright revengeful if treated badly. But mostly he was seen as part of the place, a valued knowledgeable farmer, a paragon of Lutheran work ethics.
Today we see Tomten with a red cap, but Tomten of old was not so garishly dressed – then everyone would have seen him all the time. The poems second verse start with – “Stands there so gray by the barn door, gray against the white drift”
There is also the word Nisse, which today is much conflated with Santa’s Elves. Anyhow, a Nisse was so to speak, never the Tomte in charge on a farm, at least in Sweden.
Right now life feels small, cold and lonely for many, and for me. So I tried for some hope, light and life in today’s Advent Calendar poem.
The midwinter darkness has felt exte oppressive lately. The unseasonable warmth keeps the skies grey and foggy rather than the crisp, nipping, sunny air the season should have (unless there’s snowfall of course). Today I read that the instruments in Stockholm and several other cities have measured ZERO sunhours in December.
So a warming climate makes the winter darkness more oppressive, by denying us the few hours of sunlight, robbing us off the white cover, starving us from reflected moonlight. A full moon can make a clear snowy December night brighter than an overcast December midday.
Some days I have hope for a new spring, perhaps next summer without a pandemic looming. A world coming together on the pandemic and the climate. Other days, when the sun has not been seen for more than a week. I feel cold desolation, touch deprivation and failing hope. A world gone to smoking cinders, cascading ecological disaster, all ending in an egotistic whimper.
Not knowing to hope or despair, over the fact that the human race has its destiny in its own hands.