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Learn Edith Södergran with Molly Sandén Posted by on Apr 8, 2020 in Uncategorized

The first post of each month means it’s time for a music moment! We’ll do Today I’ll share a song inspired by a poem written by finlandsvensk poet Edith Södergran. She wrote “Vierge moderne” as an anthem to celebrate the coming a modern, independent woman… well as modern as 1916 could get.  We’ll read the poem and hear its poppy interpretation by one of the biggest pop stars on the Swedish scene today, Molly Sandén. 

Left – Edith Södergran, Photo: Wikimedia commons
Right: Molly Sandén, Photo: Bandsintown.se

Edith Södergram was born to Swedish-speaking Finnish parents. For the first part of her life, they lived in St. Petersburg where she went to a German-speaking school… talk about multilingual, eh? This spurred Södergran to take an interest in international literature; French symbolism, German expressionism, and Russian Futurism, for you literary nerds out there 😉

She released her first collection of poetry,  Dikter / Poems in 1916 at the age of 24.  She received almost no critical acclaim on the Swedish scene and unfortunately her contemporaries pretty much disregarded her completely during her lifetime. Södergram died at the age of 31 but was able to publish five collections of poetry before her death in 1923. It was only after her death that she was seen as a trailblazer for modernist Swedish literature. In an article for The History of Nordic Women’s Literature, Ebba Witt-Brattström asks,

“How do you explain the odd sense of giddiness that you experience when encountering the poetry of Edith Södergran? At first you think you are on solid ground, secure in a narrative of love where men are clueless about women’s souls: “Take the longing of my narrow shoulders” […] Before long, however, you’ve been flung into the cosmos: “I walk on sun, I stand on sun, / I know nothing but the sun.”

The poem we’ll look at today is from her first collection of poems and actually has a French title, “Vierge moderne / Modern Virgin.”

Jag är ingen kvinna. Jag är ett neutrum.

Jag är ett barn, en page och ett djärvt beslut,

jag är en skrattande strimma av en scharlakanssol…

Jag är ett nät för alla glupska fiskar,

jag är en skål för alla kvinnors ära,

jag är ett steg mot slumpen och fördärvet,

jag är ett språng i friheten och självet…

Jag är blodets viskning i mannens öra,

jag är en själens frossa, köttets längtan och förvägran,

jag är en ingångsskylt till nya paradis.

Jag är en flamma, sökande och käck,

jag är ett vatten, djupt men dristigt upp till knäna,

jag är eld och vatten i ärligt sammanhang på fria villkor…

 

 Ebba Witt-Brattström notes again that “Vierge moderne”,


identifies the polarisation between a traditional idea of a woman matched with the narrator’s unwillingness to fill that role. This poem echos a paradox that Södergran often touched on; a revolution of the woman’s identity. 

Hear Molly Sandén’s interpretation this poem with her song “Jag e (Vierge Moderne) here:

 

What did you think of this week’s poem and musical interpretation? Write in the comments below! 

The English translation of “Vierge moderne” is here:

I am no woman. I am a neuter.

I am a child, a page and a bold resolve,

I am a laughing stripe of a scarlet sun…

I am a net for all greedy fish,

I am a toast to the glory of all women,

I am a step towards hazard and ruin,

I am a leap into freedom and self…

I am the whisper of blood in the ear of the man,

I am the soul’s ague, the longing and refusal of the flesh,

I am an entrance sign to new paradises.

I am a flame, searching and brazen,

I am water, deep but daring up to the knee,

I am fire and water in free and loyal union…

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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.


Comments:

  1. Bernadette Glabus:

    This poem could have been written today. Absolutely superb portrait of women. The musical interpretation is fantastic, and does great justice to the poem. Very emotional, so true.

    • Chelsea B:

      @Bernadette Glabus My thoughts exactly, Bernadette! I’m SÅ glad you connected with the poem and song 🙂


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