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Untitled -- Dag Hammarskjöld

Guest poem submitted by Dave Fortin:
(Poem #1716) Untitled
 The mine-detector
 Weaves its old patter
 Without end.

 Words without import
 Are lobbed to and fro
 Between us.

 Forgotten intrigues
 With their spider's web
 Snare our hands.

 Choked by its clown's mask
 And quite dry, my mind
 Is crumbling.
-- Dag Hammarskjöld
        (translated by Leif Sjöberg and W. H. Auden)

I saw this referenced by Arthur Schlessinger in his Kennedy biography, A
Thousand Days.  Hammarskjöld was the UN Secretary General at the height of
the Cold War, seeing first hand the back and forth of a period where Time
itself almost came to an end.  After his tragic death trying to negotiate a
peace in The Congo, his journal of poetry and thoughts, entitled Markings,
was discovered in his home.  It was translated into English by Leif Sjöberg
and W. H. Auden.  THis poem struck me as an insight into the mind of the
negotiator, who has to put up with old intrigues and has to act as a mine
sweeper when attempting to work his way through argument and counter
argument, all the while putting on a "clown's face".

For more on this remarkable and largely forgotten man, see his biography on
the Nobel Prize website at

Dave Fortin.

28 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

M J Abraham said...

It work exquisitely at another level as well . . between individuals
rather than countries . . how distrust engendered by past pain robs
words of meaning and prevents any attempt to break out of current
positions from having a chance of working.

Whether Hammarskjoeld intended this or not . . . but that is the beauty
of poetry . . . when you tease out the essence it is no longer bound to
the specific


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