Så lunka vi så småningom

Start of Fredman's Song 21, Så lunka vi så småningom. Marche, 2/4 time, 1791. The song refers to "Bacchus's tumult"; the gravediggers discuss whether the grave is too deep, taking swigs from a bottle of brandy.

Så lunka vi så småningom (So we gradually amble) is one of the Swedish poet and performer Carl Michael Bellman's best-known and best-loved songs, from his 1791 collection, Fredman's Songs, where it is No. 21. The song portrays a pair of gravediggers discussing whether the grave is too deep, while taking swigs from a bottle of brandy.

Context

Carl Michael Bellman is a central figure in the Swedish song tradition and a powerful influence in Swedish music, known for his 1790 Fredman's Epistles and his 1791 Fredman's Songs. A solo entertainer, he played the cittern, accompanying himself as he performed his songs at the royal court.[1]

Jean Fredman (1712 or 1713 – 1767) was a real watchmaker of Bellman's Stockholm. The fictional Fredman, alive after 1767, but without employment, is the supposed narrator in Bellman's epistles and songs.[2] The epistles, written and performed in different styles, paint a complex picture of the life of the city during the eighteenth century. A frequent theme is the demimonde, with Fredman's cheerfully drunk Order of Bacchus,[3] a loose company of ragged men who favour strong drink and prostitutes. At the same time as depicting this reality, Bellman creates a rococo picture of life, full of classical allusion, following the French post-baroque poets; the women, including the beautiful Ulla Winblad, are "nymphs", and Neptune's festive troop of followers and sea-creatures sport in Stockholm's waters.[4] The juxtaposition of elegant and low life is humorous, sometimes burlesque, but always graceful and sympathetic.[1] The songs are "most ingeniously" set to their music, which is nearly always borrowed and skilfully adapted.[5]

Song

Melody and verse form

The song is in 2
4
time
and is marked Marche. It has 8 verses, each of 8 lines, with a 4-line chorus repeated after every verse. The rhyming pattern of each verse is the alternating ABAB-CDCD, while the chorus has the pattern EEFF.

Lyrics

Life is hard and then you die, so why not have a drink? Engraving of Sveaborg's Galley Docks by Bellman's contemporary, Elias Martin, 1782

The song makes light of death, urging youths to "heed my word, and take the prettiest Nymph who smiles at you under your arm". The chorus runs "Do you think the grave is too deep? Well, take a swig, take another, ditto two, ditto three, so you'll die happier."[6]

Versions of the second stanza of song 21
Carl Michael Bellman, 1791[7] Paul Britten Austin, 1977[8] John Irons, 2014[9]

Du vid din remmare och präss,
Rödbrusig och med hatt på sned,
Snart skrider fram din likprocess
      I några svarta led;
Och du som pratar där så stort,
Med band och stjernor på din rock,
Ren snickarn kistan färdig gjort,
      Och hyflar på des lock.

Tycker du at grafven är för djup,
Nå välan så tag dig då en sup,
Tag dig sen dito en, dito två, dito tre,
      Så dör du nöjdare.

And thou who standest to thy glass,
All flush'd of face, with hat askew,
Tomorrow shall thy fun'ral pass,
      With mourners black a few.
And thou, beribbon'd noble sir,
Who speakest grand words splendidly,
A coffin lid the carpenter
      Is planing down for thee.

Is the grave too deep? Then take a sip,
Raise the brimming goblet to thy lip!
Yet a sip! Ditto one, ditto two, ditto three ...
      Then die contentedly.

 You at your dram and rummer glass,
with cheeks all flushed and hat awry,
ere long your hearse will slowly pass
       and swathed in black go by!
And you who big words ne’er did shun,
your coat by stars and orders hid,
the joiner’s got your coffin done,
      is planing smooth its lid!

Is the grave too deep, both fore and aft?
Time to take yourself another draught,
once with one you’ve begun, make it two, make it three,
       and die contentedly!

Reception

The song's theme has been compared to the scene in Hamlet with Yorick's skull.[10] Painting Young Man with a Skull by Frans Hals, c. 1626


Bellman's biographer Lars Lönnroth writes that Bellman takes an existential look at life in the song, comparing the tone to the monologue in Hamlet Act 5, scene 1 where the prince laments, holding Yorick's skull in his hands. All the same, he writes, Bellman still turns in the end "to his usual role as the drinking-companion full of gallows humour".[10]

Students of Swedish literature are expected to study Fredman's Songs and Epistles."[11]

The song has been recorded by Fred Åkerström and Sven-Bertil Taube.[12]

References

  1. ^ a b "Carl Michael Bellmans liv och verk. En minibiografi (The Life and Works of Carl Michael Bellman. A Short Biography)" (in Swedish). The Bellman Society. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  2. ^ Britten Austin 1967, pp. 60–61.
  3. ^ Britten Austin 1967, p. 39.
  4. ^ Britten Austin 1967, pp. 81–83, 108.
  5. ^ Britten Austin 1967, p. 63.
  6. ^ Bellman, 1791.
  7. ^ Bellman 1989, p. 205.
  8. ^ Britten Austin 1977, p. 118.
  9. ^ Irons, John. "Time for a Bellman!". John Irons. Retrieved 27 June 2021.
  10. ^ a b Lönnroth 2005, p. 354.
  11. ^ "LITTERATURLISTA V15 LV1150 Moment 2: Klassiker ur Sveriges litteratur". Gothenburg University. Archived from the original on 7 March 2016. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  12. ^ Hassler, page 285

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