A day tomorrow

Once in a while I get frustrated by a one-way cultural disconnect between my Norwegian and English inheritances. In speaking to a Norwegian, I can refer to, let’s say, “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds…” and he will know what I mean. But the reverse does not apply; and there are many fine concepts and poems in Norwegian that I would love to refer to and have understood. For example, “A picket don’t last forever, you know” – as fine a piece of poetry and as compact a concept as is to be found in any language; and yet it is completely unknown in English. Similarly with Alf Prøysen’s “A day tomorrow”; every Norwegian knows what is meant by “blank sheets and new crayons”, but it’s impossible to cheer up an English-speaker with this reference. So today I’m going to try my hand at translating that song; once it’s on the Internets, at least one can refer to it in a discussion and give a link, even if one doesn’t get the instant understanding that a shared culture gives.

First then the Norwegian original (you can hear it sung here:

Det var en liten gutt som gikk og gret og var så lei.
Hæin skulle tegne Babylon, men lærer`n han sa nei,
hæin ød`la hele arket hæin var tufsete og dom,
men så hørte hæin et sus som over furukrona kom:

Du ska få en dag i mårå, som rein og ubrukt står
med blanke ark og fargestifter tel,
og da kan du rette oppatt alle feil i frå i går
og da får du det så godt i mårå kveld,
og om du itte greier det og æilt er like trist,
så ska du høre suset over furua som sist.
Du ska få en dag i mårå som rein og ubrukt står
med blanke ark og farjestifter tel.

Og så vart gutten vaksin, og hæin gikk og var så lei.
Hæin hadde fridd åt jinta si, men jinta hu sa nei.
Og hæin gret i ville skauen ”detti blir min siste dag”.
Men da kom det over furua det såmmå linne drag:
Du ska få…

Og nå er gutten gift og går og slit som folk gjør flest
med småbruk oppi Åsmarken der kjerringa er hest.
Og hæin syns det blir for lite gjort og streve titt og trutt
og trøste seg med furusus når dagen blir for stutt.

Du ska få en dag i mårå, som rein og ubrukt står
med blanke ark og fargestifter tel,
og da kan du rette oppatt alle feil i frå i går
og da får du det så godt i mårå kveld,
og om du itte greier det og æilt er like trist,
så ska du høre suset over furua som sist.
Du ska få en dag i mårå som rein og ubrukt står
med blanke ark og farjestifter tel.

and then my translation:

There was a young boy once who cried so brokenly.
He wanted to draw Babylon but his teacher told him nay;
he scribbled stupid colours, his day was lost in sullen tears,
but then the wind rose through the pines at end of day:

You shall have a day tomorrow, that clean and unused stands,
with blank white sheets and fresh new crayons too,
and you can then correct them, errors of the day before,
and you’ll face tomorrow’s evening with joy.
And if you cannot do it, and all is just as sad,
still the pine-wind shall comfort you just as now:
You shall have a day tomorrow, that clean and unused stands,
with blank white sheets and fresh new crayons too.

The boy became a man, and cried so brokenly;
he wanted to get married, but his girl had told him nay.
He shouted in the wilderness “This is my final day”,
and the pine-crowns calmed him with the same comforting lay:

You shall have a day…

And now the man is married and toils as most men do
on a smallhold up in Åsmarken where his wife must draw the plow.
And he thinks there is too little done, and strives the whole day through
and takes comfort in pine-crown wind when the hours are too few:

You shall have a day tomorrow, that clean and unused stands,
with blank white sheets and fresh new crayons too,
and you can then correct them, errors of the day before,
and you’ll face tomorrow’s evening with joy.
And if you cannot do it, and all is just as sad,
still the pine-wind shall comfort you just as now:
You shall have a day tomorrow, that clean and unused stands,
with blank white sheets and fresh new crayons too.

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