Symmachus

Publishing, classics, mood swings

Vilhelm Ekelund

Two books have been published in English containing writings by Swedish author Vilhelm Ekelund, both in excellent redaction and translation by Lennart Bruce:

Agenda (Berkeley, CA: Cloud Marauder, 1976), a selection that “starts with the diary entries in the ‘AGENDA’ [Ekelund’s posthumously published diary for the years 1913–14 (Agenda, Stockholm: Bonnier, 1966)], and continues with a selection of his work throughout the years, including some writings published posthumously” (editor’s preface, p. 6);

The Second Light (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1986), a selection of essays, aphorisms, and fragments from Ekelund’s entire production (republishing all of Agenda 1976, with corrections and many additions). Still in print.

I intend to publish additional annotated translations here; in all likelihood rarely, and little; with a preference for the author’s readings of ancient Greek and Latin literature. The above-mentioned books are warmly recommended for anyone who desires more, and does not read Swedish.

Ekelund’s highly personalised idiom turns his Swedish into a language that is even for Swedes not perhaps foreign, but new and difficult. If the English translations will sound odd, I hope it will not be entirely due to the incompetence of the translator.

*

From Elpidi (1939)

I 51 (p. 33)

The most  u n t r a n s l a t a b l e  line, perhaps the most delightful, in the entire Latin poetry, I thought to be this one, by Horace:

virtus repulsae nescia sordidae.

But see here — how the living meet!

“A noble man has no plans at all; not even a wish. He can, accordingly, never come to shame.”  (E. A. Hermelin)

— Friherre Axel Eric Hermelin (1860–1944) was a brilliant and highly original translator of and occasional commentator on classical Persian poetry and Christian esotericism. The line by Horace (Odes 3.2.17) has been translated into English.

VIII 6 (p. 133)

Those who have seen and felt with  V i r g i l  have all seen him with the eye of folk tradition. The heritage of ancient time’s Asclepian singer’s tradition, in a beautiful, sure hand —: that is Virgil. Such he has won the heart of Dante. And of Hamann, and Swedenborg. And such is the light — the transparency force of a deep-light-imprinted face — that may still set the innermost cords of a Viktor Rydberg in vibration, as if he stood before his most tender secret-laden childhood memory. The new sign of the times with him, which with peculiar energy and concord was taken hold of by tradition and also struck the early Christians, is light of the Orphic light. (But the “Homeric” is of little value; has nothing whatsoever to do with his innermost fate.) He was truly a searcher and a scout, a  v i e w – k e e p e r:  and you might say, that  P a l i n u r u s  represented his greatest skaldic measure. The sea was his world —: as such Horace knew him — and the sea took him.

Palinurus
Johann Georg Hamann
Viktor Rydberg

*

From Atticism–Humanism (2nd ed. 1946)

IV 33 (p. 157)

K á t h a r s i s —: the simple, unresplendent way. Motus in loco natali placidus. Such lay, after all, beneath the Aristotelian explanation of the tragic. It was perhaps with an instinct towards Germanicism and mysticism, that Goethe in his most advanced age turned with such peculiar anticipation towards Aristotle. Only from muse-led experience and a unified view, this word by him may perhaps be understood —: that were he given his life to live again from the beginning, then for the bearing of his inquiry in artistic matters Aristotle would be the guiding star!

A philosopher, somebody said — when I was young — should not only be able to read Greek, he should be able to speak Greek! His intention was correct; that is — to  t h i n k  Greek.

Motus in loco natali placidus: “Movement is tranquil in the place of origin”. The phrase is found in a commentary by Catholic philospher Franz von Baader on Jacob Böhme (Baader, Sämtliche Werke II 397); I am not sure if it is a quotation or Baader’s own formulation. Ekelund may perhaps have seen it in a book by Eric Hermelin, translator of Böhme (see above). This word: Ekelund may be thinking of a letter to Carl Friedrich Zelter, 29 March 1828: “Stünden mir jetzt, in ruhiger Zeit, jugendlichere Kräfte zu Gebot, so würde ich mich dem Griechischen völlig ergeben, trotz allen Schwierigkeiten die ich kenne; die Natur und Aristoteles würden mein Augenmerk seyn. Es ist über alle Begriffe was dieser Mann erblickte, sah, schaute, bemerkte, beobachtete, dabey aber freylich im Erklären sich übereilte.”

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