Yale Class of 1975

Poetry Project, Week 8

A Child

I was a small child
And I played at the beach
Two men in dark clothes
Walked past
And said:
Good morning, little child,
Good morning!

I was a small child
And I played at the beach.
Two blonde girls
Walked past
And whispered:
Come along, young man,
Come along!

I was a small child
And I played at the beach.
Two laughing children
Walked past
And called:
Good evening, old man,
Good evening!

— Steinn Steinarr from Three Modern Icelandic Poets: selected poems of Steinn Steinarr, Jón úr Vör, and Matthías Johannessen by Jón úr Vör and Marshall Brement. Reykjavik, Iceland. 1985. (translated from Icelandic by Marshall Brement)

Gunnar Knapp: I found this poem in a book of Icelandic poetry which I bought during a visit to Iceland about 20 years ago. It’s a simple poem, but it really struck me at the time and seems to become more meaningful to me with each passing year.

I was also quite intrigued to read about the translator, Marshall Brement, who struck me as a fascinating example of how a person can be intellectually curious and actively engaged in the arts even while pursuing a professional career.

“Marshall Brement (1932-2009) was a career United States Foreign Service officer who served as United States Ambassador to Iceland in 1981–1985 and, after retirement, was a professor at the University of Virginia. . .Brement graduated from Brooklyn College with a Bachelor of Arts in 1952 and earned his Master of Arts at the University of Maryland in 1955. His foreign languages were Russian, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), French, Spanish, Icelandic, and Indonesian. He was the first American Ambassador to publicly address the Icelandic people in their own language…” [Note: the rest of Gunnar’s excerpt and entire article can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Brement SJF]