An extract Translated from Swedish by
Gudrun Brunot

On her estate, inherited through countless generations,
a withered, widowed countess sat, depressed;
drank elderflow’r tisane and other medications,
her bones could forecast sunshine, rain, or thunder cloud formations.
Her days, in short, seemed dull at best.

And then, one day, this fancy her possessed -
for she was plagued by gout and bored to desperation;
saw every wall space in the room with fam'ly portraits dressed -
looked at her chambermaid and thought:
"This room can't lift my spirits, despite its gilted leather.
What if, by talking to this goose, I some diversion sought?
Assuredly, I shall not find it gazing at the weather.
And, though the sluggish creature lacks the sense
to grasp sophisticated discourse,
It could make me forget my nerves are tense.
My lineage should impress her, though she's dense."

"Susanna," said the countess, "listen now!
You sweep this room most every day
and see that portraits hang here, I would say,
But all you do is stand there like a cow
and gawk in such a way
I doubt you fully understand
whose cobwebs you remove with your coarse hand.

In front, the rightmost one of all the frames -
my great-grandfather, the well-traveled President -
a connoisseur of flies, yes, knew their names
in Greek and Latin - to their full extent -
to the academy he sent
a worm straight from the Orient.

Next, placed in that corner through neglect,
the late ensign, my only, cherished son,
whose tomb in precious marble we’ll erect.
In dance and posture, what a paragon!
With him the family’s hopes are gone.
He pigtail cues invented, seven!
An open window let in a breeze
that gave him a chill, his last word a sneeze.
So now, alas, he is in heaven.
Do pay attention, please:

My lady great-grandmother, the countess,
known in her time for matchless loveliness.
This is no lie, but truth, as I was told:
When Queen Kirstin was to be crowned,
this lady here, it has been found,
arranged the royal petticoats, each fold.

This lady with the Spanish lace cape here
is my grandtante, child - this old man in the furred robe, dear,
so grave in deportment and dress,
An oncle - once with the Russian Tsar played chess.

Now, to the left, how might I best portray
the Colonel, my late spouse...
A skilled hunter of grouse…
Renowned and eminently talented."

To hear the rest of the poem, click here.