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Silent nights, mild-mannered stars – in a world full of distrust

All the traditions have to start somewhere. Maybe like this: late in the autumn of 1818 is the provisional organ used in the town of Oberndorf since the church some forty years earlier eldhärjats so water-damaged (according to other sources råttbiten) that it is not possible to play on, at least not under the patriarch. You have to improvise, something must surely be sung during the holy night, and the solution gets to the organist tonsätter a poem that ward kaplan wrote. The idea is that they should make melody together; two guitars, a duet under the gentle stars, and when they begin to repeat, none of them sure that the hymn will be a success.

the spare moments writing religious poetry, has a bad reputation – his superiors are trying since a year back to get him fired because he is in the service flirts with the women and $ ambiguous songs and the organist, a more hard-working nature, thinking sometimes that this musical partnership may not benefit his career.

the thing is that not only is the church organ that is broken. Two years earlier, the city of Oberndorf divided in half: the northern half has gone to the kingdom of Bavaria; the south, a leftover remnant, is left in Austria. A european experience: hardly a war over, barely has a tyrant been overthrown, until the victors are gathered around a desk where the draws crooked lines along the utrullade kartbladen – whereupon, the borders are moved again.

The where christmas in 1818, is like a premonition of christmas a hundred or two hundred years later. There is so much that needs to be healed. But how should a polarised society grow together again, what do you make of all the mutual distrust? Now Napoleon is defeated, but the conflict between revolutionaries and reactionaries is just in its infancy. Soon, it shall take the entire continent hostage. Censorship is already high pressure, as well as the ideologues.

In between when the duo practice his psalm will kyrkvaktmästaren past with a stack of firewood. He is limping a little, perhaps it is a krigsskada. The chaplain can be a part of such, his father was a musketeer, a little tin soldier in the vast armies of Leo Tolstoy marching off to the drum rolls only to then be wiped out on the misty battlefield. When the janitor gone, they take up the guitars again. Without anything said, they feel that their appearance, how improvised it might be, has a purpose. For the hymn is about a child being born, a birth that expels the darkness and the lifting of the death.

We leave them there, a moment only, and beats up Mikhail from bulgakov's ”The white guard”, a novel that begins with the fateful chord: ”Magnificent and frightening was the year 1918 after the birth of Christ, the second year after the revolution”. December civil war Russia, in december in Kiev. Or no, the place where everything takes place is called the consistent City, exactly so, not otherwise, a large ”S” and the definite form which either implies that the other cities are pale copies of this unattainable ideal, or, on the contrary, that their name may change, that the story which should be told at the same time takes place also in other cities.

the last act in the conflict that a hundred years later, the earliest flared up again. Kiev is a cosmopolitan enclave in the administrative center in rural Ukraine. A stronghold of liberalism and individualism. A snug, half bourgeois and half aristocratic world in which the tile is Dutch and boksamlingarna inherited.

While the refugees from the crumbling Russian empire to the currents there, the last sanctuary, is also approaching the other through the neighbouring forests – the yellow vests, a fragile coalition of ärkekonservativa peasants and the communist was fighting rödgardister. They will, eventually, conquer the city and crush everything they find in their stövelklackar. What is left is only the stars, called it in slutpassagen: ”the stars will remain, also when the shadow of our bodies and our deeds are gone.”

It is a strange genre in the 1900-century literature, all these stories of doom. When you read Bulgakov and the many other authors who – in line with the to last the century progresses –

submits a similar testimony you cannot doubt that the observation is correct. Civilization wiped out time and time again, there is always those who found meaning in their existence, their world shattered by those who only found meaning in the abstract idévärldar and the last clinging to the things of the world, at the Dutch tiles, in order that those things symbolize life's confusing, unfathomable beauty. Nowhere embodied there where more poignant than that of the Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert in his poem ”Report from a besieged city” writes:

still, we have just the place attachment to the place

than we are temples of the ruins of the houses and the property lies opposite the wraiths

if we lose the ruins, there remains nothing

Towards the end of the poem – which was written in 1982, at a time when no one could imagine that Central europe's dictatorships would disappear before the decade was finished – formulated a kind of promise that is projected in the future:

and if the City falls, and only a single escape

he shall carry the City within himself on the landsflyktens roads

he shall be the City

You do not know what role we ourselves assigned in all of this. If only the ruins remain, on everything of value gone, are we latter-day readers, perhaps, barbarians, a wild hop that stövlat in after the great destruction and now root around in the ashes and at random pulls out some burnt bokryggar which we pretend to decipher, while we really keep them up and down.

christmas eve skips we are the kind of reflections. Better to return to St. Nikola in Oberndorf, a church which, incidentally, been built too near the river, the constant floods corrode and hold the foundation, will soon crumble and be demolished. Fixed at that point, the improvised julpsalmen as gitarrduon finally in front of the 24 december 1818, to be spread over the entire world, the epitome of christmas traditions: ”Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht”.

If you can swear in the church: it is no great poetry, but unmistakably a amatörs verses. Fixed when the hymn eventually lands in the far-away Sweden, a miracle occurs. The translator, a true protestant, casts a dejected glance at the original baroque chaos – the vagaries of the images without the hint of a pattern stacked on other images – and decides to bring a modicum of structure. And clear scenangivelser, to begin with the interior: the star gentle shining on the child in the straw and under the watchful pious two. The perspective shifts then to the night outside of the manger: it is populated by angels and shepherds and space sounds in a word.

The ones that interest me the most are the watchful pious two. Maybe talking to the angels, the truth, perhaps, is a saviour born, actually it is unimportant. For the two in the stable is that all the other parents, they will love their baby whatever it will be by him. And somewhere is ”silent night” also about it, about the surprising love – greater than any other feelings – that you didn't know existed, but which meets a in the same moment holding the baby in his arms. What mistakes we made, the love justifies our lives. And even if we during the past year, were reminded that the planet is not self-healing; so are reborn in the world again and again, in the night, every night, in the stables.

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