Dec 03 2008

Rolf Jacobsen – Moon and Apple

Published by at 10:15 am under Ivan's Story,Poetry

Moon and Apple
by Rolf Jacobsen

English version by Robert Bly

When the apple tree blooms,
the moon comes often like a blossom,
paler than any of them,
shining over the tree.

It is the ghost of the summer,
the white sister of the blossoms who returns
to drop in on us,
and radiate peace with her hands
so that you shouldn’t feel too bad when the hard times come.
For the Earth itself is a blossom, she says,
on the star tree,
pale with luminous
ocean leaves.

— from The Winged Energy of Delight, Translated by Robert Bly

/ Photo by Athena’s Pix /

It’s past the summer season of apple blossoms and even the autumn of ripe apples (or, for those of you south of the equator, it’s much too early), but something about this poem spoke to me today. The blossoms of the apple tree glowing beneath the shining moon. And a reminder to us all that even when things seem difficult, the Earth itself — and each one of us — “is a blossom… on the star tree.” If we are blossoms, that must mean we are quietly ripening with the seasons, and in the natural unfolding of things we will become sweet fruit in the cosmos.

Rolf Jacobsen, Rolf Jacobsen poetry, Secular or Eclectic poetry Rolf Jacobsen

Norway (1907 – 1994) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Christian : Catholic

Rolf Jacobsen’s poetry often explored modern subjects: urban life, cars, industrial machine. But Jacobsen’s view of the technological 20th century was nuanced and expressed a melancholy awareness of how nature, quiet, and the interior life were overlooked in this new enthusiastic haste.

Jacobsen was born in Oslo (then called Kristiania). His father was a dentist and his mother a nurse. He was raised for part of his childhood by his uncle, a railway engineer. Jacobsen studied several years at the University of Oslo without graduating.

He married in 1940 and had two sons. He appeared to be happily married, and wrote several poem about his married life.

World War II was turbulent for Jacobsen. Like many in Nazi-occupied Norway, he became a member of the Norwegian Nationalist Socialist Party. When the Germans were defeated, he was spent nearly four years in prison for his affiliation with the occupiers.

Afterward, he settled in Hamar, north of Oslo, and became a bookseller and journalist. During this period he converted to Catholicism. Only after several years did he return to poetry, writing with renewed compassion, continuing to meditate on the shifting pace and focus of life in the modern era, becoming a greatly loved and respected poet later in life.

(I’ve never been to Norway, but in my early 20s I worked for a company called Rail Europe in the United States, and as part of my job I intimately memorized the maps of Europe. Something about seeing the city names of Oslo and Hamar feels like a strong flashback to that era of my life, traveling the rails in my imagination…)

More poetry by Rolf Jacobsen

4 responses so far

4 Responses to “Rolf Jacobsen – Moon and Apple”

  1. Mithraon 03 Dec 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Dear Ivan

    What I also got from the poem is rebirth. Every year there is rebirth. Life might seem hard but the change will come. Blossoms are beautiful and apples are delicious. Gifts from nature to remind us of how in all sadness there could be renewal of spirit, mind and soul.

  2. Ruthon 18 Dec 2008 at 7:06 am

    This is a stunning piece of work in a very mystic way. My father died on the 12 December 2008 – the day when the Moon was at its largest to people on Earth for some years. My mother always said my father was affected tempermentally by the lunar cycles; and although we joked about it, at the back of my mind I feel it was true. He was also a great gardener and loved his apple tree. For me I do hope this signifies rebirth, it has been a very reassuring poem at a difficult time.

  3. Ivan M. Grangeron 18 Dec 2008 at 4:13 pm

    As you may know, my father also died just a few months ago, so I understand what you are going through. Along with her quiet loveliness, the moon teaches us one of the most difficult lessons, the cycles of gathering and then letting go… but with the promise of a new fulness again. My blessings to you and your family and to your father’s spirit…

  4. Ruthon 24 Dec 2008 at 9:58 am

    Thank you for your kind words Ivan. My father was cremated on Monday and his ashes were scattered yesterday. I returned to the Garden Of Remembrance early this morning where it was so peaceful. I could sense his relaxation and that was a comfort to me. As you say, we learn to let go but I am a believer in some sort of afterlife (whatever religion anyone is) as the power of the human soul is too strong just to vanish entirely. Your kind words are appreciated – I will visit this site more often as it has given me much comfort.

    Bless you


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