ODYSSEUS AT THE MAST

 
Bind me, you warriors,
to the vessel's mast,
draw tight the ropes
secure and fast!
Commands nor prayers
shall none harken to.
Death's temptation for me,
The wax for you.
Wax in your ears,
the oar in your hand -
no songs can reach you
from danger's land.
Until you are past and you
set me free again,
you have no chieftain
and I have no men.
King Agamemnon,
hope of Hellas' dugs,
would have steered - with silent wave
and firm earplugs.
Ajax would have sailed
near the monsters' call
boldly among his bold ones
to his ruin and fall. 
They all remain kings
for as long as they can.
None but me is a 
lonely man.
Stronger than honour
and power and control
it lures me, the knowledge
I riskily stole.
It cannot be used
for every day's need,
it cannot be given away
cannot be bequeathed.
Bind me well, you warriors,
but leave my ears alone!
All that's heard, seen and felt
shall become my own.

Translated into English by David McDuff in "Karin Boye: Complete poems".

Swedish original



Copyright © 2005:
Translation from Swedish into English: David McDuff

Published with the permission of:
David McDuff, translation.
May and Hans Mehlin, Layout.

For more information, please visit the website of David McDuff and his own pages with the translations.