Skagen read by Klaus Rifbjerg

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Det er mig der har malet

billederne på Skagens museum. 


Jeg sagde til mig selv

der har du dit liv og så

begyndte jeg at male.


Jeg tror det startede med frokostbilledet

jeg blev så sulten

følte mig så hjemme.


Jeg malede Krøyer og Drachmann

Tuxen, Ancher - både hun og ham

og alle andre

helt ned til Tørsleff.


Det var et mægtigt arbejde

men jeg havde det jo godt

så det var ikke noget.


Drachmann hjalp mig lidt

og Krøyer

vi talte meget

og drak en lille smule.


Vi så på Skagen

malede en masse billeder

fik lyset frem

men måske mest en livsform

vores egen

den jeg faldt for.


Jeg husker timerne

med Krøyers kone

under hyldetræerne hos Drachmanns,

bourgognen i de svære glas

og alting set

i sommerbilleder


som var det hele længst forbi.


Jeg husker aftnerne på Grenen

vandene der mødtes

og besværet med at få farven

til at makke ret

det var jo mig der skulle

male alting

ville male alting

før det ikke var der mere.


Der er en duft af død

idyl og linnedskuffer med lavendel

over mine Skagenslærreder,

men det var livligt nok


det var det.

Vi rejste os fra bordet

oven på den lange frokost

og stemmerne var blevet mere sagte.

Vi stod i skumringen

før hver gik hjem til sit

men det var svært at bryde op.


Så vendte Anna Ancher sig

og sagde:

Vi skal sove nu.

Hun tog sin mands arm,

gik med ham igennem lågen

og langsomt fulgte alle efter.

Skridtene forsvandt imellem


værten slukkede sin lampe

det var for sent at male mere.

Translated by John Irons


I’m the one who’s painted
the pictures at the Skagen museum.


I said to myself
that is your life and then
I began to paint.


I think it all started with the lunch picture
I got so hungry
felt quite at home.


I painted Krøyer and Drachmann
Tuxen, Ancher – her and him
and all the others
right down to Tørsleff.


It was a colossal undertaking
but I was feeling fine
so that didn’t matter.


Drachmann helped me a bit
and Krøyer
we talked a lot
and drank just a little.


We looked at Skagen
painted lots of pictures
brought out the light
but most perhaps a way of life
our own
the one I fell for.


I remember the hours
with Krøyer’s wife
beneath the elders at Drachmann’s,
the burgundy in those heavy glasses
and everything seen
in summer images
as if it was all long over.


I remember the evenings at the Prong
the waters that met
and the trouble getting the colours
to toe the line
after all I was the one who was going
to paint everything
wanted to paint everything
before it was no longer there.


There was a scent of death
idyll and linen drawers with lavender
about my Skagen canvases,
but there was plenty of life
back then
there was that.
We got up from the table
after the long drawn-out lunch
and the voices had become more subdued.
We stood in the twilight
before going home our separate ways
but it was hard to take our leave.


Then Anna Ancher turned round
and said:
We’re going to sleep now.
She took her husband’s arm,
went with him through the gate
and slowly everyone followed suit.
The steps died away between
the houses
the host put out his lamp
it was too late to do any more painting.

Translated by Lutz Volke


Ich war es ich

habe die Bilder in Skagens Museum gemalt.


Ich hab mir gesagt

hier hast du dein Leben und



Ich glaube zuerst das Frühstücksbild

ich hatte solchen Hunger

fühlte mich so zu Hause.


Ich malte Krøyer und Drachmann

Tuxen, Ancher - sie und ihn

und alle anderen

bis hin zu Tørsleff.


Ein gewaltiges Stück Arbeit

doch ich fühlte mich wohl dabei

und so machte es mir nichts aus.


Drachmann griff mit ein

und Krøyer

wir redeten viel


und tranken ein paar Schluck.


Wir hatten Skagen vor uns liegen

malten eine Menge Bilder

kitzelten das Licht heraus jedoch

wohl vor allem die Lebensart

unsere Art zu leben

die Art die mir gefiel.


Ich denke an die Stunden

mit der Frau von Krøyer

unterm Hollerbusch bei Drachmanns

Bourgogne in schweren Gläsern

und alles gesehen

in Sommerbildern


als wär das Ganze längst vorbei.


Ich denke an die Abende auf Grenen

an die Wasser die sich trafen und

an die Probleme mit den Farben

daß sie stimmten

ich war es schließlich

der malen sollte alles

malen wollte

bevor es verging.


Es liegt ein Hauch von Tod

Idyll und Wäscheschränken mit Lavendel

über meinen Leinwänden aus Skagen

aber Leben gab es


alles war voll Leben.


Wir erhoben uns vom Tisch

die Stimmen leicht gedämpft

am Ende eines langen Mahls.

Wir standen in der Dämmerung

bevor ein jeder Abschied nahm

doch es fiel schwer zu gehen.


Dann gab sich Anna Ancher einen Ruck

und sagte:

Es ist Zeit fürs Bett.

Nahm ihren Mann beim Arm

ging mit ihm zur Pforte

und langsam folgten alle nach.

Die Schritte verschwanden zwischen

den Häusern

der Hausherr löschte das Licht

zu spät um weiter zu malen.

  • Country in which the text is set
  • Featured locations
  • Impact

    Patriotic songs and poems (Fædrelandssange) can surely only be written by those with an intimate relationship to their homeland. And yet even when they are, are such works always Heimatlieder, the kind of “songs of home” often characterized by a sentimental tone? This is certainly not the case with Klaus Rifbjerg’s work. Although the poems in this collection can be seen as expressing a deep affection for something beloved, they do so in a way that is completely unsentimental and at times even somewhat brittle. And in fact this was precisely what was demanded by a conservative Danish politician in the mid-1960s, who argued that poets should for once write songs dedicated to their fatherland. Rifbjerg responded to this call in his own way and not, of course, to the satisfaction of conservative thinkers. As one scholar puts it, Rifbjerg confronts his inner, psychological landscapes with their external counterparts. Jørgen Bonde Jensen, Klaus Rifbjergs poesi, Copenhagen 1986).

    What is Denmark in the poem Danmark, Trofast? It is an endearing puppy that one would like to pat. It sits in its kennel, not trusting itself to really venture out or too lazy to do so. Before it all of Denmark lies, with its lovely landscapes, cities, villages and islands. A pleasing land, a poetic land, embodied by Frantz Wendt, director of the “Norden” association dedicated to cultural collaboration between the Nordic states, which is symbolized by five swans and headquartered in Hindsgavl Castle on the island of Funen. But why does this “trofast” quality, this loyalty, hide itself from the world? Danmark, Trofast is a declaration of love for the fatherland and motherland and gives poetic voice to Rifbjerg’s more matter-of-fact statement, “I am a Dane through and through.”

    The widely travelled, rambling poet can never cut the ties binding him to his homeland, for this is the land of his childhood. It is to this primal soil that the writer always returns. Kronborg Castle of Hamlet fame is not sung of as the fortress facing Sweden across the Øresund but as something that suggests the memory of a school excursion, a feeling of, among other things, boredom and weariness. Don’t we all remember this from our own outings with parents or our school class? Nevertheless, it is part of a spiritual landscape, a source of strength to which Rifbjerg repeatedly returns — childhood.

    And then there is Skagen, the picturesque landscape where the North Sea and the Baltic (or more correctly the Kattegat) meet. A landscape characterized by the unique quality of light that enchanted the painters of the late nineteenth century. Rifbjerg’s poem Skagen virtually recreates the paintings themselves: artist Peder Krøyer with his wife and dog taking an evening stroll on the beach, or the Skagen painters together at table, raising a glass to life and art. This, too, is part of Rifbjerg’s spiritual landscape. It was there, on the tip of Jutland, that he spent holidays as a child, and where he still spends his summers. Skagen — a moveable feast. However, there is also “a hint of death” in the air. And it is here that the present breaks into the poem: idylls, the land of fairytales — that was once upon time.

  • Balticness
    Anyone born on an island cannot help but have a relationship to water. And anyone born on the island of Amager, which forms part of Copenhagen’s extension into the Øresund, will always be drawn to water, whether to the Baltic, the North Sea or the Mediterranean. In Denmark you are always close to the sea and it is therefore hardly surprising that water is a central motif of Rifbjerg’s poems. In his work the country and its surrounding waters represent an existential elixir. His “fatherland songs” are reflections of his own being.    

    Lutz Volke

  • Bibliographic information
    Rifbjergs digte. Udvalgt af Brostrøm. København: Gyldendal, 2001
  • Translations
    Language Year Translator
    English 2007  John Irons
    German 1991 Lutz Volke
  • Year of first publication
  • Place of first publication