In which I share a story-gift: "The Tomten" a poem for farmers

This sweet little Swedish poem was published in 1881 by Viktor Rydberg. I was happy to find a good translation, and now what I really want is a Tomten for my own little farm!

The Tomten

The midwinter night’s cold is hard,
The stars glisten and gleam.
All are sleeping in the lonely home
Deep in the midnight hour.

The moon wanders in its quiet path,
The snow shines white on fir and spruce,
The snow shines white on the roofs,
Only the Tomten is awake

Stands there so gray by the barn door,
Gray against the white snowdrift,
Looks, as many winters past,
Up at the moon’s face,
Looks at the woods, where fir and spruce

Draw a dark wall around the home,
Ponders over a wondrous riddle,
Though it can’t be answered
Combs his hand through beard and hair,
Shakes his head and hat

“No, this riddle is much too hard,
No, I cannot solve it.”
Shortly casts off, as he usually does
These quizzical thoughts,
Makes himself busy,

Goes to attend to his duties in the barn
Goes to the grain pantry and tool shed,
Checks all the locks –
Cows dream in the moonlight,
Summer dreams in the stalls;
Forgetful from bit and whip and reins
Horse in the stall has also a dream:
The trough he leans over
to be filled with fragrant clover

Goes to the pen for lamb and sheep,
Sees, how they sleep within;
Goes to the chickens, where the rooster stands
Proudly on his highest perch;

Karo is cozy on his doghouse straw
Awakens and gently waves his tail,
Karo knows his Tomte,
They are good friends.

Tomten sneaks in finally to see,
The dear people of the house,
Long and well he has noticed that
They honor his diligence;

Then tiptoes to the nursery
Approaches to see the sweet little ones,
Nobody can deny him that,
his greatest joy.

So he has seen them, father and son,
Already through many generations
Sleep as children; but from where
Have they descended?
Kin soon followed kin,
Blossomed, aged, departed – but where?

The riddle that cannot be solved
Returns to him.

Tomten wanders to the loft of the barn:
Where he has his home and foothold
High in the loft with the scent of hay
Near to the swallow’s nest;

Now certainly empty
But in the spring with leaf and bloom,
She will probably come back
Followed by her sweet spouse.

The mid winter’s cold is hard,
The stars glisten and gleam
All are sleeping in the lonely home
Well into the morning hour

The moon lowers its quiet path,
The snow shines white on fir and spruce,
The snow shines white on the roofs,

Only the Tomten is awake.


  1. Just lovely - thank you!

  2. Beautiful. I have a huge weak spot for fairy stories :)


Post a Comment

To err is human. To be anonymous is not.

Popular posts from this blog

In which we take (metaphoric) coals to Newcastle by boat and barge

In which it's that time again: we're headed for Sawmill Flats to build trails