Jerome Berglund: “Chimney Sweeping”, Translation of Gunnar Wennerberg’s “Sotarne”

Photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash
<The first soot boy is lying in the sunshine on a roof>

Now I’m up here again on this plateau,
High on a roof with brush and scraper. 
Thinking, if tumbled to alley below
Then the people would stop and gape here. 
But my safety does not lack, 
Lying here upon my back 
Along the ridge stretching like a pup; 
And if I fell free, 
I think he’d catch me; 
Otherwise, let our Lord take me up.

 	<The other soot boy comes up from a chimney on the neighboring roof>

Hey, are you slacking off, you rascal, 
Silent as a brick wall, forgetting your crying?
You must indeed have been fed quite well, 
To tarry there relaxed happily digesting.
Maybe you can spare 
Some morsel to share? 
Then toss piece ‘cross the street, I’ll catch it thus!
Ah . . . very good throw. 
Thanks to you I owe. 
Now we’ll scream and shout like there’s four of us. 

                    Both bellow the soot cry.

Ah! Ha! 
Olej! Ola! 

<The first soot boy>

So, our laboring’s complete for today. 
Now go home and knock the soot off of thee! 

<Second soot boy>

No, wait, let me offer you, I do pray 
A quart of ale for that bite you gave me.


That’s the ticket! hurray! 
Chimney sweeping’s okay, 
Soot boy need not work both day and night pieces; 
Sometimes difficulty 
Strains him excessively,
So he does exclusively what he pleases. 

Gunnar Wennerberg was an acclaimed Swedish poet, composer of music, educator and statesman who lived from 1817 to 1901.  A statue of him was presented to the city of Minneapolis in 1915 by an association dedicated to preserving the memory of his accomplishments. 

Jerome Berglund resides just down the street from the park in which he first chanced upon a statue depicting the author of these pieces, which catalyzed a life-changing journey to deliver an important volume of literature from his forefathers’ language into his present tongue.  His own writing publications include short stories, dramas, haiku and prose poetry, online and in print.


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