• Til ungdommen/ To our youth

    Posted on July 24, 2011 by Lene Johansen in Blog.

    There is a poem that Norwegians have posted online numerous times since Anders Behring Breivik’s bloody rampage in Norway. It is called Til Ungdommen, or To our youth in English. The translations that are available are not very good, so I offered to do one to help English speakers understand the sentiment. I have to emphasize that this is a ROUGH, FIRST DRAFT, and I will post updates here as I keep flicking on it.

    The last few days have proven that there are significant limits to machine translation, including the fact that Utøya keept being translated as vermin. Utøya is a compound word, consisting of the word Ut (out) and øya (island), while vermin is utøy. Norwegian has a lot of compound words, and machine translation, whether expensive professional tools or online translations engines are not good with them. But this is a rant for another time.

    I would appreciate comments from people with improvement advice. This is a rough first draft that I intend to work on more. I have spent a total of 15 minutes on this first draft, but it is still “good enough for government work” as my fellow translator Dan Lufkin sometimes put it.

    I have also posted a video to a beautiful version of the poem, put to music and performed by Herbjørg Kråkevik. The melody has been milling in the back of my head ever since one of my dear friends sent me the link. Sometimes it makes me cry, sometimes it helps me stop. There has been a lot of meaningless tears the last couple of days. It might help you conceptualize the intent of the poem, because this poem captures a lot of the “naivete” and “innocence” that commentators have attributed Norwegians over the last few days. Those words are not qualities, but intentions for the Norwegian society. It will help us prevent the closing of society that Americans have experienced since 9/11. If Norway experience the same militarization and closing that the U.S. has gone through, that would be the biggest tragedy coming from this meaningless act.

    To our youth

    written by Nordahl Grieg
    translation by Lene Johansen

    Surrounded by enemies,
    enter your time.
    During a storm of blood –
    commit yourself to battle!

    You might ask in anxiety,
    unprotected, honestly:
    what should I fight with
    what is my weapon?

    Here is your armor against violence,
    here is your sword:
    faith in our lives,
    value of human life.

    For the purpose of our future,
    seek it and nourish it,
    die if you have to – but:
    augment it and strengthen it!

    The assembly line of grenades
    inaudibly proceeds.
    Stop this glide towards death
    stop them with vigor!

    War is detesting life.
    Peace is creation.
    Throw all your energy in:
    death shall be defeated!

    Love and enrich through vision
    everything great that were!
    Go towards the unknown
    exerts answers from it.

    Un-built power plants,
    unknown stars.
    Create them, with the bold mind
    of nurtured life!

    Noble is humanity,
    the land is rich!
    If need and hunger is found here
    it is due to deceit.

    Crush it! In the name of life
    injustices shall fall.
    Sunshine and bread and mind
    are owned by all.

    Then weapons will be lowered
    impotently downwards!
    When value of human life is created,
    we create peace.

    The one who carries a bundle,
    on his right arm,
    precious and irreplaceable,
    cannot murder.

    This is our promise
    from brother to brother:
    we will be good to
    the earth of humanity.

    We will take care of
    the beauty and kindness
    as if we carried a child
    tenderly on in our arms!

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2 Responsesso far.

  1. […] a translation of native poem “Til Ungdommen” (”To Our Youth” in English) here. […]

  2. […] Freelance-skribent og oversetter Lene Johansen har lagt ut en engelsk oversettelse av Nordahl Griegs dikt her. […]