On edge, by Kolbein Falkeid


On edge

It has become so quiet.
The world whirls as before,
but in the cyclone's centre
everything holds its breath.

The little charmers no longer graze.
A predator scents prey.



Det er blitt så stille
Verden hvirvler som før,
men i syklonens sentrum
holder alt pusten.

De små gledene har sluttet å beite.
Et rovdyr værer bytte.


  1. The adjective "Anspent" is a modification of "spent", which one might typically translate as "tense", by the adverb "an", the use of which is rather subtle in Norwegian; in this case, it expresses something like that the tenseness is actual, that we have a situation in which tenseness is present. The slightly loose translation to "On edge" is the best way I have found to express something of this nuance in English, whilst the rhythm and feeling of the phrase also, I feel, are reflective of the original.

  2. In Norwegian, one can use either "er" ("is") or "har" ("has") when forming the present perfect tense. The difference between the two constructions is subtle, but use of "er" typically has a little greater immediacy and vitality; a little more emphasis on the present. It is "er" that is used here in the verb ("er blitt") that I have translated to "has become", but since modern English does not have this distinction, the latter is the only possibility! Fortunately, it seems to work fine poetically.

  3. The penultimate line of the poem is tricky to translate. The phrase "De små gledene" is typically used to refer to "the small pleasures" of life, but the imagery of "å beite" ("to graze") would seem to exclude this sense from possibility; instead, it seems (especially given the final line of the poem) that what is intended is a characterisation of an unspecified grazing animal.

    It would be more usual to translate "glede" to "delight", in which case "De små gledene" would become "The little delights", but "The little charmers" seems to me to be an expression that would be more likely to be used in this context. One could consider translations which differ syntactically, such as "The charming/delightful little ones", but the rhythm and weight of the line seems best when remaining close to the original, as is the case for "The little charmers".

  4. The translation of "har sluttet å" to "no longer" is slightly loose too; more literal would be "have stopped", for example. Again, though, I feel that "no longer" leads to a more natural line in English, with a rhythmical flow that is closer to the original.

  5. In English, the first part of the word "predator" has the same root as "prey", and the same is true in Norwegian: the "rov" in "rovdyr" ("predator") means "prey". Nevertheless, a different, more common in modern Norwegian, word, namely "bytte", is used instead here. It would be nice to be able to reflect this in the English translation too, but any other choice of word than "prey" seems to lead to an incorrect poetic feel. Use of "bytte" is the natural, usual construction in Norwegian, and use of the corresponding phrase in English seems significantly more important for the poetry of the line than trying to reflect the etymological subtleties.


The poem is originally from «En annen sol» ("Another sun", or "A different sun") from 1989, which can be viewed at the Norwegian National Library's site: «Anspent» is on page 57 of the original text (56-57 of the online text).

Translated on the 26th and 27th of September 2022.

Last updated: 00:52 (GMT+1), 11th January 2023