from The Wind out of the Darkness
by Maria Wine
introduced and translated by Arthur Allen
Maria Wine (1912-2003) was abandoned at Jægerspris castle orphanage in Denmark at the age of four, after which she flourished into a dexterous doyenne of Swedish literary modernism. Something of the loneliness and the braveness of her childhood, the fragility of her start in the world, remains woven through her work, and immanent in the poems of her debut collection, Vinden ur Mörkret (The Wind out of the Darkness), published in 1943.
I initially began translating the work of Maria Wine to satisfy my own poetic curiosity. Apart from a few pages of preface in her husband’s last book, Journeys in Dream and Imagination, I could nowhere find her translated into English. It seemed anglophone history had lost her completely in the shadow of her lifelong partner, Artur Lundqvist – Swedish Academy member and first translator of Federico García Lorca and Pablo Neruda into Swedish. Having begun with curiosity, I continued my translations in lockdown conditions with increasingly rapt attention as Wine’s voice began to emerge; personal and magical, a vulnerable subjectivity drawn through the anxious visionary modernism of the Forties. In ‘Titellek’, the final poem in Wine’s final collection (Utan längtan, inget liv, 1997), she looks back over fifty years of writing. It begins: ‘The wind out of the darkness / opened the gate of poetry for me.’ It opened a gate into the garden of Maria Wine for me, and my translations which appear here are all from that first collection: Vinden ur Mörkret.
I am currently editing a final draft of her third collection: Feberfötter, with plans to publish her first three collections together as one book next year, to mark the vicennium of her death.
from The Wind out of the Darkness
‘What do I want?’
What do I want?
The eagle flies over fell and valley,
small birds shake;
I hide from life.
What can I do?
Life feeds on its own cruelty,
people kill each other;
I stand alone and watch.
What do I wish?
The thought sails from cloud to cloud,
wind evades the sea and the land;
I go in rings around my grave.
What must I do?
The butterfly dances in meeting the summer,
shadows cradle the long evenings;
I gather the greying hair of time.
What did I want?
Laughter is freed,
the seed is bound;
I kiss my beloved without pain.
What could I do?
To cry is soothing,
childhood is a blind man’s song;
I sow roses outside the window.
What did I want?
The soil is soft,
the summer gone;
I’m searching for a sister in the same boat.
What should I have done?
The winter is cold,
the lie glows;
I reach towards life with an uncertain hand.
‘At morning’s redness’
At morning’s redness
the mermaid rises from the night-sea,
scattering the weight of water from her body,
till only a few drops glitter like fish-scales on her nakedness.
She settles herself on the strand’s black-shining stones
with her face to the rising sun,
her sea-green hair falls heavily over bare shoulders,
the wind dries it with light hands
and with one last living effort
she fastens the wonderful green in a knot.
There she sits fixed
as though she has grown together with the stones
looking out over her world:
never has such a beautiful woman been seen by day,
never has such a desirable woman been owned by man.
But in the soft darkness of the night
she looses her long hair once more
and sinks quietly into the sea.
‘See the autumn come to you’
See the autumn come to you,
gold courses from the tongue of the sun,
leaves fall aureate from the sky,
the land cracks and gruff seabirds scream
with the snare round their gullets.
Now human hands cleave desperately
at summer’s faded wallpaper,
the night-owl lights the lantern on its brow,
moss grows like a kiss round the woman’s lips
and the cat purrs one last sunbeam
into the old gaffer’s ears.
‘Ramblers in red wind’
Ramblers in red wind –
the leaves gently rustling at your feet,
the air, washed with a cold hand,
broadening all your beaches,
a surge of joy sings within you.
Beautiful birds of autumn orbit round you,
resting in your hand like wet calf-eyes;
the cliff in the waves
awakens from summer’s hazy slumber
and rises proclaiming itself into space.
‘When it stopped raining’
When it stopped raining, we went
out into the garden. The sunbeams reflected
in thousands of dewdrops and in our new-found joy
we let our tongues dance like wee birds in the gliding
raindrops of the ironwork gate. We went naked to the woods
with hands braided together and we drank
the leaves’ fresh coolness with our warm bodies.
Our footprints sank deep in the supple soil
and became small lakes of rain:
for insects to swim in, for birds
to slake their thirst. Black forest-snails
crossed our path and now we saw sun and shade
weave a mesh over the path,
nuzzling the forest’s flowers and trees. The creek
lay so heavy and dreamy, milk-drunk
on the river of heaven; we saw a boat coming
out of the cover of reeds and heard a woman’s laugh
echo from the bank and in the mirror of the lake
we saw raindrops slowly glide over our naked bodies.
‘But now dusk is falling’
But now dusk is falling
blue and long,
the flowers close their beautiful eyes,
the birds fall silent in the forest thicket,
joy drains away in the owl-light silence.
O these long, lovely evenings:
quiet as a cloud escaping over the earth,
forlorn as a beautiful woman’s song!
The beauty that surrounds them and is in them
bewilders my soul and reminds me
of my own deficiency.
O if I were a flower with closed petals,
if I were a stone cut by time’s eternity,
if I were a grain of brilliant sand in the moonlight,
if I were a wave playing lightly on the shore!
Here I want to stand,
receiving your silence and beauty within me.
But something always comes between us.
Is it awareness of my brief life
that makes me want to master you?
Or is it like this:
that living man must walk
side by side with nature
and only as the dead
join in with its beauty and silence.
and yet my hand rests in yours –
but your eyes investigate the distance,
your thoughts follow escaping clouds.
and yet I weep against your shoulder –
but evening is suffering to its end,
your morning begins in another country.
and yet we sail in the same stray boat –
but our longing goes in diverse directions
and there at the crossroads you bid farewell.
and yet your name sings within me,
your laughter lights up the night,
your caresses stay with me –
but you, you live in another country.
‘I have barely had time to build your name’
I have barely had time to build your name
with the white pebbles of the beach
before relentless waves of sea have washed it away –
could I just as easily
rip your name from my heart.
But the heart is not a wave
that comes and goes.
The heart is a mill
that grinds and grinds.
I’m sitting alone by the window,
the moon glows sadly over the land,
sometimes the night-wind strokes my hair
and makes the open window clink.
I hear far-off cows lowing
and somewhere a train bellows.
Insects flutter incessantly against the glass,
drawn by the dull sun of my lamp.
She-cats whine; dark shadows
moving on the roof, a rooster
wakes up too early and crazed,
and I hear in the distance
how a lone hiker scurries away from his own footsteps;
but the night has seized him in the depths of its darkness.
‘Wind howls over the merciless defeat of summer’
Wind howls over the merciless defeat of summer,
tears in the old woman’s torn clothes;
a silver-grey streak shines already in my hair,
and the leaves are bathing in their golden blood.
Nature is suddenly surprised by a deep stillness:
a moment-before-death of waiting.
The trees stand hushed with their arms bare,
the water is washed-out and wistful
as a melancholy eye,
clouds drift uneasily away
and the last birds of passage depart the dying land –
swimming in the red blood of tonight’s sun
will depart for the second page of life.
translated by Arthur Allen
Vinden ur mörkret
Bonniers, 1943, 64 pages
Foreign rights: the Artur Lundqvist & Maria Wine Foundation.
We are grateful to The Artur Lundqvist & Maria Wine Foundation for the permission to publish these translated poems.
Maria Wine (1912-2003) was a celebrated poet who published more than thirty collections of prose and poetry. She received several awards, such as the Bellman Prize (1976) and the Ferlin Prize (1985). Vinden ur mörkret was her first collection of poetry.
Arthur Allen is a poet and translator from Stockport, England, currently reading for a PhD at the University of Edinburgh. Their most recent collection, Twenty Twenty: Treatments for Cut Flowers, placed second in the Erbacce Prize for Poetry 2021, and their debut verse-novel, The Nurseryman, won the Eyelands Book Awards Poetry Prize 2020. Allen's poems have previously appeared in publications including Ambit, Amsterdam Quarterly, Bombay Gin, filling Station and New Scottish Writing.