The scepter of the elf queen (fragment)

Edith Södergran: The Shadow of the Future

Where is he,

the one I have seen in a joyous dream?

Where is he,

the one whom my helpless arms never reach?

Where is he,

the one whom the shadow on my brow denies?

Where is he,

he who lifts a tired flower from the road

and wraps her in transparent silk

and ties the veils around her feet

and contemplates her lengthily, full of wonder: how did you die, child?

My pale face doesn’t change colour,

on my brow says with heavy letters: she sleeps.

Your tears shall fall on my feet,

they shall run between my knees

as if they’d awoken me to life.


My loneliness

screams aloud from the empty coffin.

It is as if something wants to raise itself with folded hands

and doesn’t have the strength.

And you shall lift my coffin onto two pillars in your wondrous garden.

And you shall order the golden locks on my brow

and smooth the silk on my stomach.

Your hand shall be wet with tears

and you shall say: here I still pick

my wondrous fruits, fine and hard.

And the finest roses you shall pick in your garden.

Is this one fine enough?

You place it in my hand

which holds it comforted as if it was alive and warm.

And a fine green leaf you lay on my bare breast

so I can rest my chin on it as if on a hymn book.

My silky locks

you lift playfully with your hand

and lay them back down on the white silk pillow.

My ear is as if it was listening tensely to a silver sound in the distance.

With a silver-down tassel you touch my shining lips which cover the white teeth.


And you think: you don’t live?

Then you lift me up into your arms and lay me in the grass

and you sit there watching me with tender eyes,

like a mother her child.

You take my livid hand and pull the diamond ring off the finger,

you press the stone into the flesh of my upper arm.

Through red veils you see that I live.

And you open my dress

and lay your hand on my heart to listen.

You undress me,

the silk falls from my shoulders.

You lay my lovely head on your chest as if for a kiss,

but it falls back lifeless.

But you have still more courage, you take my fingers

and bend the joints as if on a child.

Then, a blue tower rises in your garden.

The elves dance around it.

Up among the golden spikes the elf queen walks back and forth.

To the elf queen, to the elf queen! it screams out of your chest.

Elf queen, elf queen, give me an immediate answer.

- - - - - - - - -

The voice of the elf queen is like a flute: hurry up, girls.

The elf girls run forth from far and near.

On the bottom of the coffin they spread golden cloth,

on the edges of the coffin they sit

and on the silk pillow sleeps a small elf girl.

They stand on the lover’s brown foot,

they sit on his head between the brown hairs,

and the bride they climb like a mountain.

He turns away: what does it help me

that the elf girls comb her golden hair,

that they place silvery poppies on her breast.

I let the ring fall ringing back into the coffin.

Are you mad, screams a small elf girl, and pulls a hair out of his head.

There you see the faithfulness of a man!

And the elf girls all rushed up on him

because he stood there like a white ghost.

Highest up stands the elf queen with sparkling crown and raised scepter:

inside the degraded wood lives the cat Elektrus,

ask it to come out and purr the dead back to life!

- - - - - - - -

“Does my flower live? The ring in my hand has seen all sorrow.

Happy I place it again on your finger, you wondrous toy.

You my toy, you place again your white shoes on the ground.

When the moon rises behind the great conifer

we shall run blissfully body by body

out into the dark forest.

Then I shall hold you in my arms

like the promise of a calmer day.”

“Then I shall kiss your brow, you wandering rescuer.

The forest is full of violets,

the spring streams darkly and mumbles thankfully.

This ring shall shine eternally on my finger as a memory. Can we still die?

It is hard to believe it. Life flows in violet blue waves.

You cannot believe that the lightning can squash a giant tree

with titanic noise.”