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Express Train
by P. G. R. Nair Bookmark and Share
 

Born in Oslo, March 08, 1907, Rolf Jacobsen is considered the father of modern Norwegian poetry. Jacobsen's poems record the extraordinary changes that take place as we move from an agrarian to an industrial society. Garnering the highest praise of critics, Jacobsen won many of Norway's and Sweden's most prestigious literary awards, including the Swedish Academy's Dobloug Prize and the Grand Nordic Prize, also known as the "Little Nobel." But he also has earned a wide popular audience, because ordinary readers can understand and enjoy the way he explores the complex counterpoint of nature and technology, progress and self-destruction, daily life and cosmic wonder.  "North in the World" is an outstanding collection of his poetry brilliantly  translated by the American poet Roger Greenwald . The below poem is drawn from this book.

Rolf Jacobsen interweaves the natural and the technological with a dark tone in this wonderful poem. Very often, the train is presented as the site of observation by a person who travels. Beyond, outside the window, there are towns, cities, and in this case a Norwegian landscape of villages, provoking a philosophical reflection on the life of their inhabitants, life deprived of love, unfulfilled, with an enormous potential that waits for liberation. This is a thought that must have crossed the minds of many of us when we have seen rows of lit houses  in the distance fleeing past us at express speed as dusk descends. Those are lives in motion that pulsate with untold stories of humanity. Yet, our thoughts focus on our destination and  times of arrival.

This is a poignant poem that captures a fleeting vision and transforms it  into an enduring meditation on our numbness, loneliness and isolation.

























Ref: North in the World: Selected Poems of Rolf Jacobsen - A Bilingual Edition. Translated and edited by Roger Greenwald. University of Chicago Press, 2002. ISBN 0-226-39035-7. Winner of the Lewis Galantière Award from the American Translators Association.

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March 17,2013
More by : P. G. R. Nair
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Comments on this Poem Article

Comment Yes, Sir. This indeed is a wonderful poem of great depth. I am mystified reading it. Its poignancy has an addictive charm which mandates repeat readings.

I remember you posted another beautiful poem on fb a couple of years back. Can't recall whose it was. That again was about a train traversing the countryside. Trains, it seems, are a soulful animal presence.

Madathil Rajendran Nair
01/25/2018 00:00 AM

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