Extract 3 from Her, by Christine Kjellstrøm Melby


Her — Extract 3

the saltwater lies up against the forest
bit by bit the forest floor slides out into the sand
if the viking ship had been left to lie there in peace
it would have been at sea
in another thousand years


Ho — Utdrag 3

havet ligg inntil skogen
gradvis sklir skogbotnen ut i sanden
viss vikingskipet hadde fått ligge der i fred
ville det blitt sjøsett
om tusen nye år


The Viking ship that is referred to is introduced earlier in «Ho», on the second page of the poem itself, and again on the page immediately preceding that to which this extract belongs; it is a new find, the remains of the ship being dug up by archaeologists working at a site in the forest at the same time as «Ho» unfolds. It is written that the Viking ship has lain there "i tusen år": "for a thousand years".


  1. One would almost always translate "havet" to "the ocean" or "the sea", though "sea" tends to feel best poetically, despite the fact that Norwegian has a different word ("sjø") which is etymologically more similar. Here, though, I have taken some poetic licence in translating instead to "saltwater"; the image of salt from the sea occurs in several places in «Ho», and I think it fits well with the "sand" of the following line. This allows for "sea" to be used at the end of the translated extract without clumsily introducing a repetition that is not present in the original.

  2. The preposition "inntil" does not quite exist in English; it is literally the compound "in to". But Norwegian has a distinction between 'stationary' and 'active/in-motion' forms of prepositions which English does not have, and "inn" is the active form of "in"; "up against" seems to be the natural phrase to use in this context in English, having implicitly something of this sense of movement (or the result of it).

  3. The adverb "gradvis" would more obviously translate to "gradually", whilst literally it could be rendered "degree-wise", that is to say, "by degrees". But "bit by bit" feels best, to me, poetically here.

  4. The same remarks apply to the rendering of "skogbotnen" to "forest floor" here as I made in the translation of Extract 1; the same noun also appears in Extract 2, where it is translated in the same way.

  5. The modal verb "få" is used often and flexibly in Norwegian; "had been able to lie" would be a possible translation of "hadde fått ligge", and, say, "had been allowed to lie" would be still more accurate, but "had been left to lie", if a slightly loose rendering, feels best poetically to me here.

    The repetition of the verb "lie" in the first and third lines is also present in the original Norwegian.

  6. Literally, "sjøsett" is a compound which might be rendered "sea-sat", which is not quite possible in English; the most common translation would be to "launched", though "put to sea" and "set out to sea" are also possibilities which are a little more faithful to the original. Nevertheless, "been launched" sounds a bit incomplete to me here, whilst "been put to sea" and "been set to sea" do not feel qute right either. The concise "at sea" has, I feel, an energy that is better in keeping with the tone of the original.

  7. Literally, "tusen nye år" is "a thousand new years", but this, whilst not impossible in English, would be somewhat unusual, and in so being draw perhaps a little too much attention to itself. I have chosen instead the slightly looser but more familiar construction "another thousand years", which feels a little more natural here than, say, "a thousand years more" or "a thousand more years"; since it is written on the previous page of «Ho» that the Viking ship has lain there "i tusen år" ("for a thousand years"), a comparative phrasing of some kind seems preferable to, say, "a thousand years' time".


See Extract 1 for notes on the work «Ho» ("Her") from which the extract comes.

Extract 3 is from page 33 of my edition, the twenty-ninth page of the poem itself. It is the entirety of that page.

Translated on the 2nd-3rd January 2023.

Last updated: 13:04 (GMT+1), 3rd January 2023