'The carillon plays, and the town listens quiet.
Such silver-pure sounds our world has never heard.
Such beautiful playing has no one, so elaborate no one.
O master, divine one, you, a miracle you have worked!'
'A man works no miracle, but God, God alone.
A man works no miracle, but God with his hand.
As dust are our lives, and our deaths a shadow's shadow.
Only he deserves reverence here in earthly life's land.'
Then spoke the town's prince: 'My carillon is glorious.
With honour does the town raise its summits to the skies.
That never you may lend your art to another,
as pledge, O master, I demand your eyes.' -
'My hand was made to work, my spirit to create,
for a hundred more carillons to life I was waked.
See here! My eye gleams with the fire from above,
which no prince may light, if once it is slaked.'
'There awaits all you wish for, that men can give you
of carefree days at my covered board
- cruel was I never - , only not the hours of toil.
Be pleased with your fate - know, I stand by my word.' -
'I suppose, mild prince, I must try your mildness.
I bow to the power of your princely discretion.
But one more time let me see my work and rejoice!
O powerful, o mild one, grant my plea satisfaction!'
Up he stepped to the bell-tower, and down again,
and the executioner took his eyes, then he led him away.
In his pain he was mute; but more mute his bells.
And never again did the carillon play.
Then said the town's prince: 'You shall die for your
you thief, who stole from the town its voice's fair laud.
On thousands your wretched eyes, your pride you've
He said: 'May I die! I have avenged God.'
into English by David McDuff in "Karin Boye: Complete poems".
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.