Tuesday Poem - Tomas Transtromer: Midwinter - from The Sad Gondola

A blue light streams
from my clothes
at the heart of winter
with its clinking tambourines
of ice.
I close my eyes.
And now the world
is soundless.
And through a crevice
the dead
are smuggled across the border.

Tomas Transtromer
from 'La Lugubre Gondola'

[Trans. © Kathleen Jones]

Funeral gondola in Venice

Original Swedish:


Ett blått sken
strommär ut från mina klädder.
Klirande tamburiner av is.
Jag sluter ögonen.
Det finns en ljudlös värld
det finns en spricka
där döda
smugglas över gränsen.

Transtromer: an innate joy

This poem is from Tomas Tranströmer's collection 'La Lugubre Gondola' [the sad gondola or the sorrow gondola, Sorgegondolen in Swedish] - a title taken from a piece of music by Franz Liszt.  It refers to the black funerary gondolas of Venice, transporting the dead out to the island cemetery - they slip across the water like illegal immigrants slipping across from one world to another.  Tranströmer wrote these sorrowful, elegiac poems after he had a stroke at the age of 66 and lost the power of speech.  He became very much aware of his own mortality, though he was to live for seventeen more years and be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2011.  He died last week, March 26th, aged 83.

The Tuesday Poets are an international group, based in New Zealand, who try to post a new poem every Tuesday and take it in turns to edit the main website. If you'd like to see what the other Tuesday Poets are posting, please take a moment to click over to the hub.  

Anyone doing NaPoWriMo?  Write a poem a day for 30 days.  Quite a challenge!


  1. A very moving poem but quite beautiful. Wonderful that he could put his energies into writing like that.

    1. It is very moving Helen. And wonderful that he could keep on writing even though he couldn't speak. A fantastic poet!

  2. I love your translation of it, really brings the poem to us.


  3. a very interesting information, with this insight we are getting, thanks a lot for various information
    pengobatan tradisional sembuhkan tbc,


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